I don't understand Hitler

Don’t know where to post this or how to word it. I am afraid I will sound dumb asking this question and I don’t know exactly what I am asking but please try to understand and bear with me. I will probably be offensive or not PC in this post but I don’t know any other way to express it.

I have always had an interest in Hitler and the history of WW2 (i.e. I’ve watched a lot of shows about him on the history and military channel and seen a couple movies, but never done any more formal research)

but I don’t understand why would you do the holocaust? Did he really hate Jews that much? I don’t understand anti-semitimism, but I’ve read a little about it and now I can understand a little better about why not to like Jews. Not that I feel that way, but I can understand how it is possible. But I cannot comprehend hating Jews so much that you would do the holocaust.

Or did he just do it so that he could play off existing anti-semitism to get power and become ruler?
I mean, I am watching this show on military channel alst night, and I just cannot comprehend why someone would do this.

I seem to have a fascination with “bad” people in history. Anyone else feel this way?
Reccomend me books about Hitler/The Thrid Reich/World War 2

Well, for starters, he was fucking crazy. So you have to take that into account.

yeah I thought that but that seems like such an easy answer “he was insnae”
last night they showed on the show film of him playing with his dog and he seemed like just a normal guy.

next question: How much film is there of Hitler? Where do the producers of tv shows get it? Can I as a normal person watch all the film of him?

Read Mein Kampf, where he describes his feelings about the Jews. Everything after that just logically follows.

Eva Braun was something of a film buff, and took lots of footage of him while on vacation. Those are the source of the color film, playing with the dogs, footage you’ve seen. I don’t know who’s archived it all, there may be copies along with other Nazi documents, in the historical departments of major universities, for example.

so you can understand how somebody may want to get rid of people, but cannot understand how the somebody can decide to murder a few million humans to do that?

Actually, that’s very easy. Imagine that tomorrow the government, the New York Times, scientists at major universities and many of the good folks here at this message board would come together and agree on the following statement “‘thou shall not kill’ is a dumb, bigoted, useless, outdated sentiment; indeed, there is nothing wrong about killing bad people (men, women, children and their pets) to build a much better world”. Not that there wouldn’t be all sorts of stupid, outdated mouth-breathers opposing this innovation, but overall that becomes the new ideology in society. Once you have imagined this point, what’s do we have left? You don’t like a group of people, you want to get rid of them, and there is nothing wrong about murder (as all the right thinking people have agreed, see above). So why not kill them all? Welcome to Auschwitz subcamp II.

It’s easy to dismiss Hitler as crazy as people don’t like to think “normal” people are capable of doing such things. In fact historically mass slaughters have happened before.

You also have to think of Hitler as capitalizing off the “times.” This in no way diminishes or relieves him of responsibility but it helps explain it. Antisemitism was widespread in Europe and elsewhere.

Hitler grew up in this. Hitler in his early background was not terribly ambitious either. He was happy to live in shelters and take a state pension and live from hand to mouth in his early life. Of course nothing was his fault. And this is they key.

It wasn’t his fault he got rejected for art school, the school people made errors. It wasn’t his fault he couldn’t get a job, others had it in for him.

And this doesn’t make him paranoid, how many people do we know like this.

How many times have you worked with someone who does something blatantly wrong and gets called on it by the boss. Then the employee sits down and figures out why the boss has is in for him. And by the time the employee is done figuring, he really was a victim, not inept.

Also realize, 12 million people didn’t die in the Holocaust because Hitler wanted them dead. Those 12 million died because Hitler wanted them dead…“And as long as he’s gonna do it, while I’ll think I’ll look over there.”

One of Hitler’s secretaries published a book of memoirs. She was 18 and 19 when she worked for him. She was asked if she knew all about the killings, the experiments, the concentration camps,etc. She said flatly the did not have a clue.

THEN she added…“But if I had bothered to look, I would’ve seen it.”

And that really says a lot about what allowed Hitler to do all he did.

It wouldn’t hurt you at all to do some reading, and not to depend on TV or a message board.

I’d start with The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, written by an American newspaperman who spent much of the 1930s in Germany. It’s subject to some criticism as an un-scholarly book, but is readable for the layman and is not too far off track.

Ian Kershaw wrote an excellent two-volume biography of Hitler. (Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris and Hitler 1936–1945: Nemesis) While a bit more of a “history makes the man” viewpoint than I care for, it’s stunningly well researched and written.

In a nutshell: The Nazi Party was, among other things, the most successful political movement in history based on a conspiracy theory.

To start with, Hitler did not invent the linkage between radical German nationalism and radical antisemitism; it had been in the air for some time, even in respectable academic circles, when Hitler first started attending NSDAP meetings as a police spy. The waves of nationalism of the 19th Century engendered some extreme variants, including the rather mystical idea that every nation-race has some kind of Volksgeist, a collective race-spirit in which all members participate. Something like Rousseau’s General Will, perhaps. But to participate you had to belong to the “race” in question by blood. The 19th Century also produced scientific racism, which could be refined down to the level of ethnocultural nations as “races” with their own distinctive, essential characteristics.

Put it this way: Nowadays, I think practically everybody will agree that if you switch an Irish baby and an English baby in the cradle, the Irish baby, raised by English parents, will not grow up to be a drunken, brawling, hot-tempered poet (unless getting teased for his red hair drives him to it); nor will the English baby, raised by Irish parents, grow up to be a cold-blooded, stupid, rigidly decent and honest prig.

But in 1920, many people would have assumed exactly that. That’s how important heredity was thought to be, and how unthinkingly accepted both racial/ethnic/national stereotypes and class stereotypes were. Plots going back to ancient times play on the baby-switch theme, often on the assumption that the slave raised as a senator or vice-versa will somehow appear to be out of place. Like in Big Business – Jupiter-Rose and Manhattan-Sadie fit in just fine where they are, but Jupiter-Sadie and Manhattan-Rose are fish out of water.

Getting to the Jews: There had always been a prejudice against them in Christian Europe, which in theory they could escape by converting. In Germany, this was known as Judenhaas (Jew-hate) and had a venerable history. The word “antisemitism” was coined about the same time as a new movement that embraced the label, a movement that regarded Jews as racially evil, by their hereditary nature. In Germany, more or less beginning with Wagner, this new antisemitism synergized with German nationalism in its most chauvinistic form.

It also synergized with a tradition of "It’s all a plot by them!" conspiracy theories in modern Europe going back to Abbe Barruel, who in 1797 published a book blaming the French Revolution on secret societies, including the Illuminati, a short-lived Masonic offshoot. This kind of thing actually got some traction – there was a minor Anti-Masonic Party in the U.S.

Substitute the Jews for the megalomaniacal radical-rationalist intellectuals and you’re good to go. Being, well, outsiders to the religion that in a sense united everybody else in Europe, living in their quasi-autonomous ghetto-enclaves, and preserving this strange Oriental language and culture, Jews had always been the subjects of bizarre conspiracy theories – e.g., that they poisoned wells and caused the plague, or kidnapped Christian babies to drink their blood or use it to make Passover matzohs. Now, ignorant as these theories were, they were at least things people of an oppressed and powerless minority could theoretically do. But in the 19th Century – not long after the Jewish emancipation relieved Jews all over Europe of their old legal disabilities – the new antisemitism started quite insanely attributing all the world’s troubles and wars to Jewish plots.

This dovetailed neatly with traditional European cultural stereotypes about the Jews. Consider the historical position of the Jews in Europe. Most times and most places, they were not allowed to own land, not even allowed to be serfs – a serf could in theory have a subtenant, and to own land was to rule it, and there could never be a situation where a Jew had authority over a Christian. So, unlike most Europeans, Jews couldn’t be farmers. Nor could they be knights or soldiers. Nor, of course, could they pursue a career in the Church. But they were allowed to be merchants, shopkeepers, craftsmen, artisans, physicians . . . and moneylenders, a lucrative field they had nearly all to themselves in a Europe where the Church regarded lending money at any interest at all as “usury” and forbade Christians to do it. Of course, moneylenders are never loved, they have this nasty obsession with being repaid and all, and from the POV of a manual laborer they don’t seem to make anything or do anything and yet they seem to be rich. Jews could also be agents and factors for gentile kings and landlords, and that endeared them to few. (See the tragic fate of Joseph Suss Oppenheimer. And the movie the Nazis made out of it.) People always first blame the parasite they can see. The Russian peasant who complained “Every kopeck I earn goes into the pocket of some damned Jew!” would be overlooking the fact that the Jewish factor who collected his rent had to pass along nearly all of it to a gentile landlord, the Jewish shopkeeper had to buy from a gentile-owned factory, and even moneylenders can often be in danger of bankruptcy. “The American nation makes the Negro clean its boots and then proves the Negro’s inferiority by the fact that he is a bootblack.” – George Bernard Shaw. So Christian Europe made shopkeepers and moneylenders of the Jews, and proved them to be a bunch of greedy, bean-counting shysters.

And by Hitler’s time there was also a “Jewish Bolshevik” stereotype to complement the Jewish capitalist. Certainly, in the late 19th Century, a lot of oppressed Jews in the Russian-ruled Pale of Settlement (where the majority of Europe’s Jewish population lived) were very attracted to socialism, a political movement that promised equality for all, Marx himself was an ethnic Jew (raised a Lutheran and by choice an atheist), and many prominent leftist leaders were Jewish. (Of course, there were also many religious and conservative Jews who were against the whole thing, and there was Zionism as a sort of competing ideology.)

And all of this dovetailed neatly with radical German nationalism, as noted above. From The City in Mind, by James Howard Kunstler, chapter on Berlin:

The Jews, of course, were alien, rootless, cosmopolitan, etc. – the “mushroom of humanity,” as Hitler called them, springing up everywhere overnight with no deep roots in the soil. They were not German, not even European, in origin, and no matter how long they lived in one place in Europe they could never truly belong there, never be part of the race-community.

So. The Nazis took all negative stereotypes about greedy Jews and combined them with racial antisemitism and conspiracy-theorizing and radical German nationalism and cranked it all to eleven: Jews are by their heredity nature prone to be parasites, to invade and leech off of every gentile nation they find themselves in, to make themselves rich and powerful – mainly by pulling strings from behind the scenes, somehow. And they are, by their nature, very good at all that, very clever and cunning and duplicitous and persuasive. Jews are responsible for the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution – for Communism and for capitalism (“National Socialism” being in theory opposed to both, but that’s another discussion.) But they are not by their nature creative of anything, that depends on their host nations. The “Aryan” race, OTOH, is a culture-builder.

Now, you must understand, Hitler believed all this. His world-view was built around it. There might have been some Nazis who took a more cynical attitude, regarding antisemitism as merely a useful tool for unifying the people; but none would have dared say so in public.

And that dovetailed neatly with Hitler’s principal war-aim, which was to destroy the nations of Poland and Russia. Not merely to destroy Communism. Not merely to conquer Poland and Russia and exploit them like a colony in Africa. But to destroy them utterly as nations, and colonize them with Germans, and build a Greater Germany on their bones, and make Germany a continental power like the U.S. and a world-power like Britain. In the process killing all the Jews there and reducing the surviving Slavs to slavery or, at best, a sort of second-class noncitizenship.

A good source here is Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties, by Paul Johnson, Chapter 10, “The End of Old Europe”:

Same book, Chapter 11, “The Watershed Year”:

Pride goeth. And its fall can destroy much besides.

The Iron Dream, by Norman Spinrad. :wink:

[ot]Wtf Frank? As you even quoted, the OP asked you to recommend some books. Why would you answer a request for book recommendations with the opener “it wouldn’t hurt you to do some reading.”

It’s like,

A: “Please give me some food, I’m starving.”
B: “It wouldn’t hurt you to do some eating.”
A: :confused:


Would that be Until the Final Hour by Traudl Junge? Part of the basis for Downfall – yes, that Downfall – in which Junge is a POV character. There’s a scene where Hitler’s in the bunker dictating a final testament to Junge, and he mentions that his achievements include the solution the Jewish Problem and she gasps. Even though he does not actually say what has been done. (As if, up to this moment she knew but she didn’t know, you know.)

Good point, you’re right. I’m not sure what inspired me to write that. I should have phrased it more like, “Good question!”

Please ignore the first sentence of my post, and go straight to the book recommendations.

For me, the true mystery is not Hitler the individual. Anyone can have a bizarre outlook on society and be a sociopath. I truly don’t understand how he got millions of apparently ordinary people to buy into it and launch a world war and mass extermination programs in his name.

One can get a pretty good window into the conspiracy which became the Holocaust by reading the Wiki entry on the Wannsee Conference. Yeah, it’s Wiki, but accurate AFAIR and nicely succinct (like BG’s excellent post above). Notice that the minutes of the meeting were later adapted as a film, which presumably is available on Netflix. What’s chilling about the film, which I saw in theatrical release soon after it was made, is how perfectly businesslike the meeting was.

“How do you explain Hitler to a kid?”

– George Carlin

Take as example the case of modern day Sweden. From 1985 to today, the yearly immigration rate and the yearly crime rate are almost exactly the same. People come in, rob some stuff, and then either return to their home country or are incarcerated.

In the case of Sweden, I’m not sure whether that’s Albanians or Arabs or what. I knew a Norwegian fellow who complained about Arabs causing all of the crime there, so I’ll just use Arabs as an example.

To the average, unenlightened person, the simple answer is “don’t let Arabs into the country”. After having a few female friends groped by Arabs and your store robbed by them, the average unenlightened person is pretty quick to jump to, “let’s not just keep them out, but go and stamp them off the Earth as well.” Human beings just aren’t really all that nice of creatures when they think they can get away with it.

Now in the case of the Jews, in early 20th century Germany, there probably wasn’t a strong link between Jewish population and crime, but there almost certainly was the perception that anything bad that happened to you or your family was caused by Jews. Easy answer: Get rid of them. Fascism plays into the every day, average person’s view of the world. Multiculturalism, individualism, etc. are all a pain in the ass to coordinate. If you just kick out or exterminate everyone who is or might be a troublemaker, all of the difficulties of life just go away. Why bend over backwards to accept someone who causes trouble, even if it’s just by their very being? What value does that serve? Just chase em out or kill em, and suddenly the world is a more peaceful, crime free, and easily navigated place.

In 1967 a history teacher started an experiment with high school students in California The Third Wave

I have a very conservative friend who has several older children in the public school system. One day the two oldest, 16 and 17, brought home permission slips to be signed, allowing them to watch ‘Schindler’s List’ in history class. Lorraine (my friend) was apalled that they would wish to show such a movie to children. She was angered that the school was showing such filth. I said I hadn’t seen the movie, but I had heard that it was a very moving, historical account. Her problem, she told me, was with the fact that it showed two unmarried people, in bed together. I was floored. I looked at her and asked, “You watched Schindler’s List, and the most disturbing scene for you was two unmarried people in bed?” I told her that I found it easy to explain two people having sex outside of marriage, but I have never been able to explain Hitler.

That being said, QBVII by Leon Uris to me was enlightening. Hitler did not operate in a vaccume. He happened to have a number of people who were a warped as he was who worked on a micro level. All of them said that they were just following orders, but they had to have a certain level of enthusiam for for what they were doing in order to do it so efficiently and with the greatest amount of misery.

The Holocaust was the biggest genocide in history, but not the first (or sadly, the last). It’s the age-old thing that humans are very good at de-humanizing the “other tribe”.
It’s like we can view a whole population of millions as essentially being the mooks in an action film. They aren’t people, they’re just the enemy.

Many of the soldiers and commanders in the war needed to use the same psychological trick of course, but a difference in Hitler’s case is that it was (pretty much) unprevoked.

But I guess if you really believe that there is an insidious takeover / theft happening, then you can convince yourself that you are merely retaliating to a kind of covert aggression.

I think we all do this to one extent or another.
Our appraisal of ourselves has so many psychological knock-on effects that virtually no-one will trivially declare “I am inept”.