Where he comes from, no one can say. From a prince's palace, perhaps, or a day labourer's cottage. But everyone knows: He is the Fuhrer, everyone cheers him and thus he will one day announce himself, he for whom all of us are waiting, full of longing, who feel Germany's present distress deep in our hearts, so that thousands and hundreds of thousands of brains picture him, millions of voices call for him, one single German soul seeks him. — Kurt Hesse, Feldherr Psychologos, 1922
The break forced on him by the failure of 9th November 1923 and his imprisonment at Landsberg helped Hitler to find himself to find faith in himself and his mission. As the turmoil of emotions quieted down, the role of leader of a putsch, attributed to him throughout the trial by his adversaries, took on the contours of the messianic, the unique Fuhrer. The uncertainty with which he at first demonstrated his growing feeling of being 'called', within the circle of his fellow-prisoners, did not hide the consistency with which he strove to gain acceptance for his claim to be regarded as specially chosen. From now on he adopted the consciously distant, icy front which no smile, no casual gesture, no self-forgetful attitude ever breached. More and more he struck the rigid, statuesque pose in which he found the style for his conception of greatness and leadership. A striking repetition of the dark past — he was to rise once more from anonymity by winning over the masses and gaining the favour of those in power, before once again gambling everything on a single insane decision and losing everything, as in 1923. But now he was vouchsafed a breathing space to carry out a comprehensive stocktaking; he tried to rationalize the chaotic ferment of impulses, prejudices and hatreds and to combine the jumble of half-digested ideas picked up from books into a 'coherent' system of thought. He once referred to the months of his imprisonment as his 'university at the expense of the state', and possibly he also tried now to broaden his knowledge by reading books whose ideas had hitherto reached him boiled down and at second or third hand. He has mentioned Nietzsche, Chamberlain, Ranke, Treitschke, Marx, Bismarck, and others in this connection; but in all these works he discovered only himself, and what he called the 'art of reading' was never anything more than a hectic search for formulas with which to support his own rigid prejudices.
'I found the correctness of my long-term views confirmed by a study of world history and natural history, and was content in myself.' (1)
The result of his stocktaking was the book Mein Kampf, the first part of which he produced soon after his release from prison. Partly a biography, partly an ideology, partly a plan of action, in spite of all its demonstrable dishonesty, contradictory myth-making and transfiguration of its author, it nevertheless contains much involuntary truth and gives, as a contemporary description written in characteristically fulsome style states,
'important information regarding the nature and methods of this man who in many respects is reminiscent of the prophets of the Bible, the conscience-stirrers and leaders of their people'.(2)
In fact, the work contains an exact portrait of its author: the high-falutin disorder of its ideas; the random knowledge posing as scientific objectivity; the lack of self-control and the constant lapsing into the extreme opposite; the cramped rigidity of dammed-up energy; the maniac egocentricity and utter lack of humanity throughout the whole of its great length; the monotony of its obsessions. No doubt realizing the extent to which he had revealed himself, Hitler later tried to dismiss Mein Kampf as 'fantasies between bars'.
'If I had had any inkling in 1924 that I should become Reich Chancellor, I should never have written the book.' (3)
This confession referred primarily to the work's unspeakable foulness, exemplified above all in the feverishly obscene chapter on syphilis: the axioms of his view of the world and mankind he did not disavow. The central idea, around which all the other conceptions were grouped, is a vulgar Darwinism which sees the fundamental law of life as a merciless struggle of each against all, as the victory of the strong over the weak. With obsessive energy Hitler applies this law to nature and animal life, and finally to the human community itself, trumpeting the idea of the superiority of the ruthless over the conscientious, of the tough over the sensitive, of brute strength over moral values.
This central idea determines the book's whole range of references and attitudes: the anti-Semitically slanted race myth; the idea of the selection of the best, with its aggressively nationalist emphasis; the aristocratic leader-principle inspired by the author's consciousness of being personally chosen; and the theory of the Germans' right to extend their Lebensraum. This leads to tactical instructions for arousing the fanaticism of the masses; the fusion of a multiplicity of individual interests into one single community of action; the organization of the movement and its most effective structure and mode of operation, and after the capture of power, the organization of the nation and its expansive energy under a unified leadership. Throughout, there is a fundamental inability to respect or even to grasp the rights of others and their claim to happiness. Behind a veil of randomly acquired learning runs an arrogant conviction of the omnipotence of the individual will, the idea of an 'everlasting brutal struggle', a primitive belief in force sneeringly convinced of its superiority over all 'religions of pity' and exulting at the practice of running amuck as the ultimate meaning of history such is the repetitive, paltry content of an ideology presented in inflated and semi-educated verbiage through almost eight hundred pages.
Fate answered the question for me inasmuch as it led me to make a detached and exhaustive inquiry into the Marxist teaching and the activities of the Jewish people in connection with it. The Jewish doctrine of Marxism repudiates the aristocratic principles of Nature and replaces the eternal privilege of vigour and strength by numerical mass and its dead weight. Thus it denies the individual worth of the human personality, impugns the teaching that nationhood and race have a primary significance, and by doing this it takes away the very foundations of human existence and human civilization. If the Marxist teaching were to be accepted as the foundation of the universe, it would lead to the disappearance of all order that is conceivable to the human mind: And thus the adoption of such a law would provoke chaos in the structure of the greatest organism that we know, with the result that the inhabitants of this earthly planet would finally disappear. (4)
Not the least of the purposes of this work, to the writing of which Hitler devoted himself with exceptional seriousness, was an attempt to substantiate on literary and philosophical grounds his personal claim to leadership within the movement. Behind the resounding verbal facade lies an uneasy fear that the reader may suspect the writer's intellectual authority. Not one single sentence is free, relaxed and natural. The stylistic solecisms, which were noticed almost as soon as the book was published, show the author's lack of confidence, which he seeks to hide by a chatty tone — 'the hard blow of Fate, which opened my eye', 'the flag of the Reich rising from the womb of war'. There are unfortunate metaphors:
'This [journalistic] pack fabricates more than two-thirds of so-called public opinion, from whose foam the parliamentary Aphrodite then rises.'
Rudolf Olden has pointed out the absurd linguistic contradictions of this sentence on poverty:'He who is not himself in the clutches of this strangulating viper never gets to know its venomous fangs.'
'A few words like these contain more errors than can be corrected in a whole essay. A viper has no clutches, and a snake that can coil itself around a man has no fangs. And if a man is strangled by a snake this will never result in his getting to know its fangs.'(5) And just as mistakes like these betray the fake scholar's ceaseless anxiety for applause, so in the pathos of the book we can clearly see the distrustful defensiveness, the nagging fear of disregard, irony or disparagement. The very fear of self-revelation is self-revealing. Le style c'est l'homme:
If for a period of only 600 years those individuals were to be sterilized who are physically degenerate or mentally diseased, humanity would not only be delivered from an immense misfortune but also restored to a state of general health such as we at present can hardly imagine. To achieve this the State should first of all not leave the colonization of newly acquired territory to a haphazard policy but should have it carried out under the guidance of definite principles. Specially competent committees ought to issue certificates to individuals entitling them to engage in colonization work, and these certificates should guarantee the racial purity of the individuals in question The racial idea embodied in the racial State must finally succeed in bringing about a nobler era, in which men will no longer pay exclusive attention to breeding and rearing pedigree dogs and horses and cats, but will endeavour to improve the breed of the human race itself. That will be an era of silence and renunciation for one class of people, while the others will give their gifts and make their sacrifices joyfully.(6)
The theory that Hitler had a morbid fixation against his own image is based upon this and innumerable similar passages foreshadowing the studbooks of the Central Office for Race and Settlement. According to this theory, it is precisely because of its insane exaggeration that Hitler's conviction
'that the Nordic-Germanic blood is the only really great, splendid creation of God in the human sphere',(7)
can be seen as an expression of his certainty that he too suffered from the 'morbidity of corrupted blood' and was forever excluded from the 'brotherhood of the truly pure and noble'.(8) The physical characteristics he persecuted were for the most part easily recognizable in his own face and body, and for his description of the 'universal enemy' he drew upon his own personal traits: from his still obscure origins to the weakness and ineffectiveness of his early years, and the dress and appearance of that period which made him, in the words of a fellow inmate of the men's hostel, 'an apparition such as rarely occurs among Christians'.(9) Similarly Hitler's own principles, practices and aims — as he described them himself — are virtually identical with those for which he attacked his opponents, in whom he secretly recognized and hated himself. In his propaganda techniques, the organizational shape of his movement, and finally his plans for world conquest, he always had a cover for his behaviour, whether it was enemy war propaganda, Marxists or Jews. Admittedly this does not suffice to build a psychological interpretation, but the phenomenon of the Homo alpinus with the strands of black hair hanging over his face acting as the guardian of the Holy Grail of Nordic blood (10) cannot be simply explained as the opportunist tactics of the popular leader. National Socialist opinion, in so far as it did not simply ignore this dichotomy in accordance with its usual technique for reconciling the irreconcilable, solved it to its own satisfaction by straightforwardly declaring Hitler 'a pure Aryan-Germanic type'. A treatise published by Alfred Richter, a 'specialist' in 'racial characteristics', 'with the approval of the police and the office of the NSDAP' described Hitler as follows:
'Facial expression: that of a genius, a creative spiritual leader, powerful, tenacious, filled with great love, unspeakable pain, and renunciation.' It read in the upper part of the head 'universal love, lofty religion, beauty and nobility of nature', gave an assurance that the forehead was 'of Nordic type', called the hair 'blond', and finally decided: 'In the left ear the external part stands out clearly. Hitler can therefore be a very tough fighter. The back of the head is also very strongly developed, from which we may see his feeling for home and children.' (11)
In contrast to this, of course, there is the statement of Max von Gruber, Germany's so-called leading 'racial hygienist', when called as an expert witness before the People's Court in Munich:
I saw Hitler from close to for the first time. Face and head bad racial type, crossbred. Low, receding forehead, ugly nose, wide cheekbones, small eyes, dark hair; facial expression not that of one in full self-control, but of one who suffers from insane excitement. Finally, an expression of complacent self-satisfaction.(12)
While Hitler, in respectable retirement in the fortress of Landsberg, was dictating to his follower Rudolf Hess the prolix results of his meditations, the movement disintegrated without Hitler 'lifting a finger',(13) as one of his supporters remarked at the time. Shortly before his arrest he had entrusted Alfred Rosenberg with the leadership of the movement on a 'scrap of paper', and Rosenberg, lacking authority and slow to make up his mind, surmised quite rightly that this was a tactical move deliberately aimed at the collapse of what was ostensibly the great common cause, as a means of maintaining Hitler's own claim to leadership.
'After this [his release],' Hitler frankly admitted later, 'I could say to all those in the party what otherwise it would never have been possible for me to say. My answer to my critics was: Now the battle will be waged as I wish and not otherwise.' (14)
His first concern, after his return from Landsberg on 20 December 1924, was the removal of the ban on the party. The quick success of his negotiations was partly due to the adroitness with which he worked his way back into the 'front of the parties standing for law and order', employing, according to circumstances, protestations of respect for legality, anti-Marxist, pro-Catholic, or monarchist attitudes.(15) But it must also be understood as the payoff for the tacit agreement 'not to touch upon the "essence" of those events [of 8 and 9 November 1923] ' during his trial. By 26th February 1925 the Völkische Beobachter was appearing again, and the following day Hitler held a meeting with his remaining loyal followers and his rivals. In a two-hour speech devoted almost entirely to consolidating his position as leader he declared:
If anyone comes and tries to make conditions to me then I say to him: friend, wait and see what conditions I have to make to you. I am not wooing the masses. After a year you shall judge, my party comrades; if I have not acted correctly, then I shall place my office in your hands again. But until that moment this is the rule: I lead the movement alone, and no one shall set me conditions so long as I personally bear the responsibility. And I once more bear entire responsibility for everything that happens in the movement .(16)
Where he had failed previously, in countless private conversations, he now succeeded. Against a background of wild cheering from the crowd of four thousand, who jumped on to the tables and embraced one another, a reconciliation took place between the warring members of the party. While the leading contenders demonstratively shook hands on the platform, Streicher called Hitler's return a 'gift from God', and the leader of the Bavarian splinter group, Dr Buttmann, announced that all the doubts with which he had come 'melted away within me as the Fuhrer spoke'. After this declaration, which repeated a title already used before, though this time without the lapidary, conspiratorial undertone, Hitler was henceforth invariably known as 'der Fuhrer'. This success lent force to his decision to purge the party, which was refounded at this same meeting, of all the democratic relics of its early period and to give it the tightly authoritarian character of a party with a single leader — himself. Once more he demonstrated his gift for tactical manoeuvring and the upshot was the elimination of his only two serious rivals. While the activities of Gregor Strasser were diverted to North Germany, the embittered Ernst Rohm found himself, without any explanation, expelled.(17)
His own power within the party re-established more firmly than ever, Hitler set about building up the NSDAP within the framework of the Constitution. He had already explained at Landsberg his decision never again in future openly to break the law, but to bend it to his will under the pretence of legality:
When I resume active work it will be necessary to pursue a new policy. Instead of working to achieve power by an armed coup we shall have to hold our noses and enter the Reichstag against the Catholic and Marxist deputies. If out-voting them takes longer than out-shooting them, at least the results will be guaranteed by their own Constitution ! Any lawful process is slow. But sooner or later we shall have a majority — and after that Germany.(18)
Meanwhile, times were not favourable. The Bavarian government quickly realised that 'the beast' was not 'tamed' (19) — as Minister-President Held had prematurely assured his cabinet colleagues — and consequently banned Hitler from making speeches. Most of the major Länder of the Reich did the same. In spite of tireless activity in arranging rallies — there were almost six thousand meetings in 1925 — the party itself failed to achieve even minor successes. Not only the enforced silence of its sole demagogic talent, but far more the growing stability of the Republic, pushed it into the shadow of political life. In 1926 it still had no more than 17,000 members, a year later only about 40,000; and whereas in 1928, after the lifting of the ban on Hitler, the number had risen to 60,000, at the Reich elections the same year it gained only twelve seats — less than half its goal. The flow of foreign capital into Germany ensured rising production, and in 1927 the national income had reached the pre-war level with low unemployment. Hitler's passionate attempts to invoke catastrophe, his appeals against the 'ruthless blackmail of the poverty-stricken people', failed to mobilize the masses, and instead of the state it was the movement which found itself in a crisis. Tenacious and unyielding, Hitler used his ability to transmit self-confidence to hold the majority of his followers together and, by continually appointing his lieutenants to fresh positions, manoeuvred them into energy-consuming rivalries that left him in uncontested control.(20) He finally succeeded in completely subjugating Gregor Strasser — who had built up a relatively strong organization in North Germany which, unlike the Munich centre, was markedly socialist in character — and yet keeping him in the party.
But Hitler did not use the years of stagnation merely to build up a totalitarian leadership structure and a reliable and effective elite striking force. During this same period the foundations were laid for what amounted to a shadow state. In Mein Kampf he had already demanded as a precondition of the planned revolution a movement that would not only
'be in a position to serve as a guide for the future State, but have its own organization such that it can subsequently be placed at the disposal of the State itself'.(21)
He rapidly set up numerous offices and institutions which, in addition to their potential for keeping power within the party divided, also served to contest the competence and legality of the state institutions in the name of the true representatives of the supposedly unrepresented people. The departments of the shadow state came into being in parallel with the structure of ministerial government; for example the NSDAP had its own foreign, agricultural and defence offices. Provincial and district leaders increasingly laid claim to the status of ministers and local presidents; at public meetings the SA and SS took over police duties; and Hitler had himself represented at international conferences by his own 'observers'. Similar aims lay behind the party symbols: the swastika provided the shadow state's national emblem, the Horst Vessel Song its national anthem, while the brown shirt, orders and badges created a sense of solidarity in opposition to the existing state and rationalized the fondness for 'decorations that were a profession of faith'.(22)
Beyond this systematic preparation for the conquest of power, Hitler himself was now leading the relatively withdrawn, unremarkable life of a South German provincial politician; his eccentric ways were hardly taken seriously and were readily explained by the baroque style of Bavarian politics. It took two distinct but favourably timed events to lift him from the narrowness of his South German domain into the front rank of the nationalist opposition within the Reich. The first was a move by the German Nationalist Party leader Alfred Hugenberg, who in 1929 gathered the extreme rightists for a massive campaign against the new reparations arrangements envisaged by the Young Plan. He was looking for a gifted agitator who could bring the conservative cause, now fixed in its assumption of superiority, into contact with the lost masses, and he hit upon Hitler. With the short-sighted arrogance of the 'gentleman' dealing with the leader of an undisciplined party of the rabble, he reckoned that when the time came he could outmanoeuvre Hitler and use the people he had stirred into motion for his own political purposes. As a result of this error, of which the Bavarian politicians had already been guilty once before, the pattern of 1923 was almost exactly repeated. The difference was that Hitler had long outgrown his modest self-assessment of that time and, supported by the almost religious adulation of his followers, had more and more consciously assumed the role and behaviour of the 'Fuhrer'. Blindly, Hugenberg put at his disposal the vast apparatus of his press empire and arranged contacts, which Hitler had previously sought in vain, in a few influential wealthy circles of heavy industry.
The publicity resources of the Hugenberg organisation not only made Hitler's name known at a stroke throughout Germany, but also offered an unparalleled journalistic springboard when, that autumn, the world economic crisis spread to Germany. The number of unemployed, which rose with stupefying rapidity to over a million, was only the most spectacular feature of a collapse that dragged down every social class. Especially among the petty bourgeoisie, whose pronounced class consciousness had always interpreted poverty as a humiliating index of social degradation, the economic crisis was instantaneously transformed into a crisis of the national spirit. Tired of everlasting difficulties, their mental resistance shattered by war, defeat, and inflation, the unstable masses gave themselves up to their emotions. Through the thin veneer of a rather formal attachment to the state there broke impulses which, though always present, had been neither recognized nor utilized by the laborious, everyday competence of the spokesmen of the Republic: flight into myth and utopianism, search for an evocative image of the future; protest against fossilized institutions, against capitalism, materialism and political formalism; demand for a comprehensible interpretation of the feelings of malaise that had never quite evaporated; and finally a longing for powerful leaders. All these desires, so long neglected, now broke out in aggressive form (23).
It was everyone's misfortune that the parliamentary institutions failed almost immediately in the face of this test, which confirmed the general mood of dull indignation. While the crisis demanded a willingness to shoulder responsibility, the parties, unable to think broadly for reasons that were partly ideological and partly concerned with their selfish interests, rushed hurriedly into opposition. The Great Coalition broke up in spring 1930, even before the first climax of the crisis. The pusillanimous flight into opposition by almost all political camps, with the exception of a few centre parties, meanwhile proved to have been a miscalculation. The elections, which took place at increasingly short intervals, gave the NSDAP the loudest and most obviously consistent voice in the prevailing chorus of negation, an opportunity to improve its representation. 'National Socialism', ran the demagogic slogan, dispensing with long-term explanations, 'is the opposite of what exists today'.(24)
In the centre of the storm stood Adolf Hitler. With his back-ground in the masses of declasses and his unerring nose for the fear and indignation amid the social dissolution, he recognized the now-or-never hour of his life. When, writing in 1924 in 'Mein Kampf', he had admiringly praised the Mayor of Vienna Karl Lueger for having
'devoted the greatest part of his political activity to the task of winning over those sections of the population whose existence was in danger',
he had shown an insight into the secret of his own success with the masses during the first few years after the war. But it was only now, in the infinitely severer distress resulting from the world economic crisis, that this insight dictated the methods he employed as an agitator. He arrived at them with an unwavering logic in which every detail was important and nothing left to chance: the size of the gathering, the precisely calculated composition of the crowd, the time of day, or the artificially delayed appearance of the speaker while tension was worked up by theatrically arranged processions of banners, military music, ecstatic shouts of 'Heil!' Suddenly, to the accompaniment of a blaze of light, he would emerge before a crowd systematically whipped up in its excitement to see him and primed for collective rapture. The 'elimination of thought', the 'suggestive paralysis', the creation of a 'receptive state of fanatical devotion': this culminating psychological state, the preparation of which Hitler had expressly described as the purpose of a mass meeting, had here become the aim of its stage-managing and the speech itself served no other purpose — the style, the arguments, the calculated climaxes, the modulation of the voice as well as the carefully practised threatening or imploring gestures. 'The masses are like an animal that obeys instincts', he declared. In accordance with this principle, he prescribed the maximum primitiveness, simple catchphrases, constant repetition, the practice of attacking only one opponent at a time, as well as the dogmatic tone of the speeches, which deliberately refused to give 'reasons' or to 'refute other opinions'. All this amounted, as Hitler put it, to
'a tactic based on the precise calculation of all human weaknesses, the results of which must lead almost mathematically to success'.(25)
It was to these tactics that the parts, profiting from the derangement, the wildly proliferating emotions and delusions of public opinion, owed its surge forward. The figure of Hitler, systematically elevated to pseudo-religious heights by irrational appeals to the emotions, soon became, for thousands upon thousands, the point of fusion of their feelings of revolt, hate and longing, a figure in which the ancient leader-myth of the Germans combined with the current need for order, security and unity. With his demagogic virtuosity, against which the other parties, in bewilderment, could offer only the sober routine of traditional mass meetings, went a far more active agitation. In the five summer months of 1931, for example, 4,135 mass meetings were organized by the political parties in the province of Hessen-Nassau; of these almost half were conducted by the NSDAP, whereas the SPD (the Socialist Party) appeared a bare 450 times and the Centre only 50 times. (26). Tirelessly, often travelling by plane, Hitler descended like a saviour to the seething crowds of despairing people; on one day alone he would address several hundred thousands, sweeping them into a 'forward-thrusting hysteria', as he called it himself. The collective feelings, the fascination of the vast mass, of which each individual could feel himself a part, gave people a sense of power which they had long lacked and which found fulfilment in Hitler's rhetoric in this atmosphere of rapturous emotion: extreme self-elevation was brought about by extreme self-surrender. On his first flight across Germany Hitler visited twenty-one towns in seven days, on the second flight twenty-five towns in eight days, and on the last two flights fifty towns each in sixteen and twenty-four days. True to his principle that 'only the fanaticized masses can be guided', he gave them the things that helped to release their fanaticism: primitively abbreviated, plausible formulas of guilt, lashing catchphrases of indignation, vague recipes of power, Fatherland, honour, greatness and revenge, indifferent to the fact that this whipping up of emotions merely aggravated the chaos which he so accusingly and angrily deplored. This too was part of his comprehensive strategy for the conquest of power, which along with demagogic obfuscation included terrorism in the streets, the obstruction of Parliament, and the refusal of all loyal collaboration, as deliberate means of intensifying the crisis. All those who found themselves in need through no fault of their own — the unemployed, youths on street corners, pensioners, small shopkeepers, poverty-stricken academics, the whole of the middle class that was breaking down in the economic crisis — all those who helplessly or bitterly asked the reason for their distress and had lost their willingness to judge, abandoned themselves to the seductive power of this voice. Whereas the other parties addressed themselves predominantly to individual classes or groups of the population, the NSDAP uninhibitedly appealed to everyone, and just as its name
'did not rest content with the amalgamation of National and Socialist, but to be on the safe side attached to these the right-wing label "German" and the left-wing "Workers"', so it also filched from the other parties their 'political content and pretended to incorporate all of them'.(27)
For hundreds of thousands, soon for millions, Hitler became an idol whose rise they applauded with convulsive emotion. Photographs have been preserved in which he strides down streets lined with shouting, sobbing people, a 'via triumphalis of living human bodies', as Goebbels enthused,(28) women to the fore, and he himself solitary, closed, withdrawn from this lust for psychological rape, still 'in his right mind', a commonplace, misshaped figure of moral destitution. This was the other, the true side of his protean personality, the laboriously posing outer case of a man ready with the gifts of a medium to let the energy proclaimed in the crowd's shout of anticipation fill him and carry him aloft. Only when he had mounted the podium and his first exploratory words fell in the breathless silence did he seem to change and to achieve what seemed to be a compelling genius that carried him far above the inferior levels of his own individual personality.
'He begins in a low, slow tenor voice,' noted a contemporary observer, 'and after about fifteen minutes something occurs that can only be described by the ancient, primitive metaphor: the spirit enters into him.' (29)
He himself confessed on one occasion that in front of a jubilant crowd he became 'another person'.(30)
To understand the origin of this phenomenon we need only look at the pages of Mein Kampf dealing with the masses, at the virtually erotic passion which the idea of the masses aroused in him, liberating his language for the only passages that are effusive and free. In the mass meetings which he sought out ever more avidly, the solitary man whose ability to make contact was severely disturbed and who 'avoided all encounters with [individual] people'(31) found sublimation. The masses — whom he habitually identified with 'woman' — provided him, in the orgiastic collective delirium which he pushed to ever new heights, with a substitute for the emotional experience that had remained closed to him in all his monstrous ego-fixation. The poet Rene Schickele described Hitler's speeches as 'rape and murder'. Some things seem nevertheless to support the idea that only in his rhetorical raptures, when 'the spirit entered into him', did he find his way to the other self, normally buried beneath the deformation that had taken place in his earlier life. 'Speaking was the element of his existence,' one of his followers stated:(32) only ever-renewed rhetorical outbursts offered an escape out of the cataleptic constriction of his nature.
'When he was not speaking he relapsed into his brooding twilight, his spirit temporarily departed, buried within himself and unable to reach a decision or to act —post coitum triste'; (33)
no longer the Fuhrer, but simply Hitler, Adolf, an early failure, a copier of postcards, marked by his experiences at the men's hostel. An observer who once came upon him in this state, exhausted and with glazed eyes, was kept away by his adjutant Bruckner with the words, 'Leave him in peace; the man's all in!' Hitler himself said that after his major speeches he was
'soaking wet and had lost four or six pounds in weight'.(34)
The turmoil unleashed by his agitation would not, of course, have brought him to power by itself. At no election did Hitler ever get more than 37.3 per cent of the votes. The way was opened by the governmental procedure introduced into Germany in 1930. Since normal parliamentary majority government had been rendered impossible, not least by the crisis fanned by the National Socialists, the state had recourse to the Reich President's authority to issue emergency regulations. Inevitably the centre of gravity of political power increasingly shifted on to the Reich President and his small group of advisers; and the President's son Oskar von Hindenburg was not the only one of those who, in the words of a popular jibe, was 'not provided for in the Constitution'. Hitler, with his support among voters and his Brown Shirt detachments behind him, stubbornly wooed the power group. His unrelenting courtship was characterized, in bewildering alternation, by threats of revolution on the one hand and promises of loyal cooperation on the other. While he was still waiting in vain and with growing restlessness, for a chance of making a bid for the Chancellorship, the party suffered its first severe setback in the elections of November 1932. A month later the party went through a serious crisis in the course of which Hitler, amidst outbursts of rage, convulsive weeping and wild accusations, threatened suicide yet again. This crisis once again clearly demonstrated the cracks in the structure of a party of divergent outlooks and ideals and with no clear programme. It required not only the myth of the Fuhrer but also the myth of his invincibility, because at bottom precisely this was its programme. At the same time this crisis offered opponents an opportunity of continuing the publicly initiated process of 'removing the magic from the NSDAP'.(35)
The opportunity was not taken and the leader of the NSDAP found himself opposed no longer by a republic resolved to preserve its existence, but merely by a collection of frightened and divided democratic politicians lacking all conviction of the historical justice of their cause. The few conservative spokesmen, bombastic, naive and deep in the illusion that 'the role of leaders had been conferred upon them by history', allowed themselves to play Hitler's game. In the midst of an intrigue that had arisen largely out of the personal motives of the participants, these conservatives gave the leader of the demoralised, despondent, financially embarrassed NSDAP a completely unexpected opening; and by astutely exploiting the class-conscious, anti-trade-union and nationalistic prejudices of the groups who commanded the vacillating mind of the Reich President, Hitler at last had his way. On 30 January 1933 Hindenburg bestowed on him the Chancellorship, the key position for the acquisition of that power which, once in his possession, as he had publicly stated, he would never allow to be taken from him again, 'so help me God'. 'It all seems like a fairy story', noted Goebbels in his diary.(36)
An astonishing career lay behind him, some stretches of it almost incomprehensible when analysis is attempted. His road to the Reich Chancellery had run not from the Kaiserhof, for years his Berlin headquarters, but from the men's hostel in the Meldemannstrasse, Vienna. Swept along by his own dynamic and unleashing new forces, new accelerating factors, he continued ever more impatiently in his onrush — for he did not consider his goal attained as the chancellor of a coalition cabinet with only three National Socialist members. His aim was a one-party totalitarian state. The slogan for the next stage in his career, upon which he embarked immediately and with no consideration for his partners in the government, was proclaimed by Goebbels: 'Power has to be conquered with power.' (37)
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