Thursday, December 29, 2016

Despair and Triumph in Hitler's First Miracle Year:

The  excerpts below (1,000 words)  include the first two paragraphs  and  sections on "Were Germans Too, Hitler's Intended Victims?" and "Hitler's Homosexuality."

Sections not included in this post
Hitler's Anti-Semitism
Hitler's Lebensraum
Hitler Finds a Career
The Wobbly Weimar Republic
The Beer Hall Putsch
Rare Opposition to Hitler Noted
Parole for Hitler and Escaping Deportation
Effect of Hitler's Homosexuality on His Policies
Another Book
(Complete footnotes are provided with the full text.)

Despair and Triumph in Hitler's First Miracle Year:

A Review-Essay on Peter Ross Range's 1924

December 2016 by Ronald Bleier
I was agreeably surprised to find that my modest expectations for a book dealing with a single year of Hitler's life were more than exceeded by Peter Ross Range’s 1924: The Year That Made Hitler (Little, Brown; 2016). I regard Range’s book as one of the most important works on Hitler's political development. Range's lucid and well-paced narrative details the critical events during the thirteen months between November 1923 and December 1924. By the end of 1924, at the age of thirty-five, Hitler rose from the ashes of his failed Munich beer hall putsch, emerging from prison unbowed and confident, poised to pick up the reins of his Nazi Party and drive it to its next level.

Range's focus on Hitler's consequential year also opens the way to examining some of the elements that will figure for the remainder of Hitler's career:  his key anti- Semitism and lebensraum watchwords; his homosexuality and his fateful plans for Germany, Europe, and the whole world.

Were Germans, Too, Hitler's Intended Victims?

Jews of course were not Hitler's only victims. Among the 60 million WWII deaths were also eight million Germans.[  Were the Germans who died merely collateral damage, or were they also Hitler's intended victims? Joachim Fest, one of Hitler's German biographers, tellingly wrote in 2004 of Hitler's "hatred of the world and his thirst for extermination."[1] 

In March 1945, a month and a half before ending his life, Hitler issued his scorched-earth orders for Germany, similar to the orders he issued as his troops retreated from occupied territory. (Hitler had ordered the destruction of Paris, but mercifully his orders were not carried out.) But when it came to similar orders for Germany, Albert Speer, Hitler's senior minister for armaments, objected, arguing that Hitler had no right to doom  Germany's future.

Risking his life, Speer spoke up forcefully, actually upbraiding Hitler for his demonic plans: "No one," said Speer, "has the right to take the viewpoint that the fate of the German people is tied to his personal fate. . . . At this stage of the war it makes no sense for us to undertake demolitions which may strike at the very life of the nation."

Hitler's reply (as reported by Speer) was as cold as ice. Since Germany had fallen to its eastern enemy, asserted Hitler, she didn't deserve a future.

If the war is lost, the people will be lost also. It is not necessary to worry about what the German people will need for elemental survival. On the contrary, it is best for us even to destroy these things. For the nation has proved to be the weaker, and the future belongs solely to the stronger eastern nation. In any case, only those who are inferior will remain after this struggle, for the good have already been killed.

Hitler's last testament, written shortly before he committed suicide, can also be read as a disguised acknowledgement that by engaging in war, he was responsible for the destruction of Germany. In his testament he wrote that the Jews were “the real people to blame for this murderous struggle," calling upon Germany and the Germans "to observe the racial laws precisely and to resist pitilessly the world-poisoner of all peoples, international Jewry."

Hitler used the device of his last public pronouncement, typically a special moment of sincerity, to deflect blame away from himself onto the Jews. One clue is his use of the meaningless intensifier "real" when he wrote: "the real people to blame would be the Jews!" The real person to blame was of course himself. Ever the ultimate cynic and con-man extraordinaire,  Hitler attempted to obscure his use of Allied personnel and Allied weaponry as his means of killing his own people and destroying his country. His last testament, was indirectly his sardonic boast that he was going to his death knowing that he had accomplished much more of his agenda of destruction, suffering, and death than he could have expected to fulfill ten years earlier.

Hitler's Homosexuality

German professor Lothar Machtan's exposé in The Hidden Hitler (2001) has convinced many “by the sheer weight of direct and  circumstantial evidence,"[5]  that Hitler was a homosexual --  of the type that could not bear the slightest intimacy with women. (Hitler's homosexuality is not addressed in Range's book.) In Machtan's view, Hitler was able to conceal his sexual nature because he relentlessly pursued and destroyed whatever evidence he could find. He was also determined to silence, even by means of murder, those who could expose him. When he became Chancellor of Germany he made a point of confiscating the six-volume file kept on him by the Munich police.[Similarly, in 1938, when Germany absorbed Austria into Greater Germany in the Anschluss, Hitler sent agents to confiscate the files that the Vienna police had compiled,  presumably because in addition to whatever else, it contained records of his sexual contacts.

In Explaining Hitler (1999), Ron Rosenbaum stresses that Hitler was a frequent target of blackmail attempts. Machtan asserts that it was the threat of exposing his sexuality that spurred much of the blackmail efforts, some apparently successful. Along similar lines, Machtan provides a revisionist angle to at least part of the motivation for Hitler's bloody purge of June 30, 1934, known as the "Night of the Long Knives." Among the hundreds Hitler ordered murdered was his mentor, friend, and perhaps lover, Ernst Rohm, leader of the SA, the Sturmabteilung, Hitler's paramilitary wing. Doubtless others were also murdered during that time due to their knowledge of Hitler's sexual activity.

During his time at Landsberg prison, Hitler and his fellow conspirators enjoyed relaxed special treatment. Machtan reports that in the so-called Feldherren wing,  Hitler and Hess and others took pleasure in sporting contests, rowdy evenings, and hot baths in the "modern bathroom reserved for us alone."[The prison governor had to restrain their unruly behavior from time to time with such messages as: "Nudity outside the fortress living room . . . is not allowed. The proprieties have to be observed everywhere, especially when several fellow inmates share a room with you."

1Peter Ross Range, 1924: The Year That Made Hitler (New York: Little, Brown, 2016), p. 224-225.