Hitler as He Believes Himself to Be
At the time of the reoccupation of the Rhineland, Hitler made use of an extraordinary figure of speech in describing his own conduct. He said, "I follow my course with the precision and security of a sleepwalker." Even at that time it struck the world as an unusual statement for the undisputed leader of 67,000,000 people to make at the time of an international crisis. Hitler meant it to be a form of' reassurance for his more wary followers who questioned the wisdom of his course. It seems, however, that it was a true confession and had his wary followers only realised its significance and implications they would have had grounds for far greater concern that that aroused by his proposal to reoccupy the Rhineland. For the course of this sleep-walker has carried him over many untravelled roads which finally led him unerringly to a pinnacle of success and power never reached before. And still it lured him on until today he stands on the brink of disaster. He will go down in history as the most worshipped and the most despised man the world has ever known.
The following is the second part of Walter C. Langer's "A psychological Profile of Adolph Hiter". The remaining 5 'parts' covering Hitler "As the German people know him", "As his associates know him", "As he knows himself", "Psychological Analysis and Reconstruction", and his "Probable Behavior in the Future" to be published on the site over the coruse of the next two weeks. View Part I
Many people have stopped and asked themselves: "Is this man sincere in his undertakings or is he a fraud?" Certainly even a fragmentary knowledge of his past life warrants such a question, particularly since our correspondants have presented us with many conflicting views. At times, it seemed almost inconceivable that a man could be sincere and do what Hitler has done in the course of his career. And yet all of his former associates whom we have been able to contact, as well as many of our most capable foreign correspondents, are firmly convinced that Hitler actually does believe in his own greatness. Fuchs reported that Hitler said to Schuschnigg during the Berchtesgaden [sic] interviews:
"Do you realize that you are in the presence of the greatest German of all time?"
It makes little difference for our purpose whether he actually spoke these words or not at this particular time as alleged. In this sentence he has summed up in a very few words an attitude which he has expressed to some of our informants in person. To Rauschning, for example, he once said:
"Aber ich brauche sie nicht, um mir von ihnen meine geschichtiche Groesse bestaltigen zu lassen." (717)
And to Strasser, who once took the liberty of saying that we was afraid Hitler was mistaken, he said:
"I cannot be mistaken. What I do and say is historical." (378)
many other such personal statements could be given. Oechaner has summed up his attitude in this respect very well in the following words:
"He feels that no one ins German history is equipped as he is to bring the Germans to the position of supremacy which all German statesman have felt they deserved but were unable to achieve." (669)
This attitude is not confined to himself as a statesman. he also believes himself to be the greatest war lord as, for example, when he says to Raischning:
"Ich spiele nicht Krieg. Ich lasse mich nicht von `Feldherrn' kommandieren. Den Krieg fushre ich. Den engentlichen Zeitpunkt zum Angriff bestimme ich. Es gibt nur eine guenstigen. Ich warde auf ihm warten. Mit eisernor Entschlossenheit. Unc ich warde ihn nicht verpassen..." (701)
And it seems to be true that he has made a number of contributions to German offensive and defensive tactics and strategy. He believes himself to be an outstanding judge in legal matters and does not blush when he stands before the Reichstag, while speaking to the whole world, and says,
"For the last twenty-four hours I was the supreme court of the German people." (255)
Then, too, he believes himself to be the greatest of all German architects and spends a great deal of his time in sketching new buildings and planning the remodeling of entire cities. In spite of the fact that he failed to pass the examinations for admission to the Art School he believes himself to be the only competent judge in all matters of art. A few years ago he appointed a committee of three to act as final judges on all matters of art, but when their verdicts did not please him he dismissed them and assumed their duties himself. It makes little difference whether the field be economics, education, foreign affairs, propaganda, movies, music or women's dress. In each and every field he believes himself to be an unquestioned authority.
He also prides himself on his hardness and brutality.
"I am one of the hardest men Germany has had for decades, perhaps for centuries, equipped with the greatest authority of any German leader... but above all, I believe in my success. I believe in it unconditionally." (M.N.O. 871)
That belief in his own power actually borders on a feeling of omnipotence which he is not reluctant to display.
"Since the events of last year, his faith in his own genius, in his instinct, or as one might say, in his star, is boundless. Those who surround him are the first to admit that he now thinks himself infallible and invincible. That explains why he can no longer bear either criticism or contradiction. To contradict him is in his eyes a crime of 'lese majeste'; opposition to his plans, from whatever side it may come, is a definite sacrilege, to which the only reply is an immediate and striking display of his omnipotence." (French Yellow Book, 945)
Another diplomat reports a similar impression:
"When I first met him, his logic and sense of reality had impressed me, but as time went on he appeared to me to become more and more unreasonable and more and more convinced of his own infallibility and greatness ..." (Henderson, 129)
There seems, therefore, to be little room for doubt concerning Hitler's firm belief in his own greatness. We must now inquire into the sources of this belief. Almost all writers have attributed Hitler's confidence to the fact that he is a great believer in astrology and that he is constantly in touch with astrologers who advise him concerning his course of action. This is almost certainly untrue. All of our informants who have known Hitler rather intimately discard the idea as absurd. They all agree that nothing is more foreign to Hitler's personality than to seek help from outside sources of this type. The informant of the Dutch Legation holds a similar view. He says:
"Not only has the Fuehrer never had his horoscope cast, but he is in principle against horoscopes because he feels he might be unconsciously influenced by them." (655)
It is also indicative that Hitler, some time before the war, forbade the practice of fortune-telling and star-reading in Germany.
It is true that from the outside it looks as though Hitler might be acting under some guidance of this sort which gives him the feeling of conviction in his infalibility. These stories probably originated in the very early days of the Party. According to Strasser, during the early 1920's Hitler took regular lessons in speaking and in mass psychology from a man named Hamissen who was also a practicing astrologer and fortune-teller. He was an extremely clever individual who taught Hitler a great deal concerning the importance of staging meetings to obtain the greatest dramatic effect. As far as can be learned, he never had any particular interest in the movement or any say on what course it should follow. It is possible that Hanussen had some contact with a group of astrologers, referred-to by one von Wiegand, who were very active in Munich at this time. Through Hanussen Hitler too may have come in contact with this group, for von Wiegand writes:
"When I first knew Adolph Hitler in Munich, in 1921 and 1922, he was in touch with a circle that believed firmly in the portents of the stars. There was much whispering of the coming of another Charlemagne and a new Reich. How far Hitler believed in these astrological forecasts and prophesies in those days I never could get out of Der Fuhrer. He neither denied nor affirmed belief. He was not averse, however, to making use of the forecasts to advance popular faith in himself and his then young and struggling movement."
It is quite possible that from these beginnings the myth of his associations with astrologers has grown.
Although Hitler has done considerable reading in a variety of fields of study, he does not in any way attribute his infallibility or omniscience to any intellectual endeavor on his part. On the contrary, he frowns on such sources when it comes to guiding the destiny of nations. His opinion of the intellect is, in fact, extremely low, for in various places he makes such statements as the following:
"Of secondary importance is the training of mental abilities."
"Over-educated people, stuffed with knowledge and intellect, but bare of any sound instincts."
"These impudent rascals (intellectuals) who always know everything better than anybody else..."
"The intellect has grown autocratic, and has become a disease of life."
Hitler's guide is something different entirely. It seems certain that Hitler believes that he has been sent Germany by Providence and that he has a particular mission to perform. He is probably not clear on the scope of this mission beyond the fact that he has been chosen to redeem the German people and reshape Europe. Just how this is to be accomplished is also rather vague in his mind, but this does not concern him greatly because an "inner voice" communicates to him the steps he is to take. This is the guide which leads him on his course with the precision and security of a sleep-walker.
"I carry out the commands that Providence has laid upon me." (490)
"No power on earth can shake the German Reich now, Divine Providence has willed it that I carry through the fulfillment of the Germanic task." (413)
"But if the voice speaks, then I know the time has come to act." (714)
It is this firm conviction that he has a mission and is under the guidance and protection of Providence which is responsible in large part for the contagious effect he has had on the German people.
Many people believe that this feeling of Destiny and mission have come to Hitler through his successes. This is probably false. Later in our study (Part V) we will try to show that Hitler has had this feeling for a great many years although it may not have become a conscious conviction until much later. In auy case it was forcing its way into consciousness during the war and has played a dominant role in his actions ever since. Mend (one of his comrades), for example, reports:
"An eine eigenartige Propheseiung errinere ich mich noch in diesem Zusammenhag: Kurs vor Weihnachten (1915) auesserte er sich, dass wir noch vieles von ihm hoeren werden. Wir sollen nur abwarten, bis seine Zeit gekommen ist." (208)
Then, too, Hitler has reported several incidents during the war which proved to him that he was under Devine protection. The most startling of these is the following:
"I was eating my dinner in a trench with several comrades. Suddenly a voice seemed to be saying to me, 'Get up and go over there.' It was so clear and insistent that I obeyed automatically, as if it had been a military order. I rose at once to my feet and walked twenty yards along the trench carrying my dinner in its tin can with me. Then I sat down to go on eating, my mind being once more at rest. Hardly had I done so when a flash and deafening report came from the part of the trench I had just left. A stray shell had burst over the group in which I had been sitting, and every member of it was killed." (Price, 241)
Then, also, there was the vision he had while in hospital at Pasewalk suffering from blindness allegedly caused by gas:
"Als ich im Bett lag kam mir der Gedanke, dass ich Deutschland befreien wuerde, dass ich es gross machen wuerde, und ich habe sofort gewusst, dass das verwirklicht werden wuerde." (429)
These experiences must later have fit in beautifully with the views of the Munich astrologers and it is possible that underneath Hitler felt that if there was any truth in their predictions they probably referred to him. But in those days he did not mention any connection between them or dwell on the Divine guidance he believed he possessed. Perhaps he felt that such claims at the beginning of the movement might hinder rather than help it. However, as von Wiegand has pointed out, he was not averse to making use of the forecasts to advance his own ends. At that time he was content with the role of a "drummer" who was heralding the coming of the real savior. Even then, however, the role of drummer was not as innocent or as insignificant in Hitler's mind as might be supposed. This was brought out in his testimony during the trial following the unsuccessful Beerhall Putsch of 1923. At that time he said:
"Nehmem Sie die Ueberzeugung hin, dass ich die Erringung eines Ministerpostens nicht als erstrebenswert ansehe. Ich halte es eine grossen Mannes nicht fuer wuerdigeseinen Namen der Geschichte nur dadurch ueberliefern zu wollen, dasser Minister wird. Was mir vor Augen stand, das war vom ersten Tage tausendmal mehr: ich wollte der Zerbrecher der Marxismus werden. Ich werde die Ausfgabe loesen, und wenn ich sie loese, dann waere der Titel eines Ministers fuer mich eine Laecherlichkeit. Als ihh zum ersten Mal vor Richard Wagners Grab stand, da quoll mir des Herz ueber vor Stolz, dass hier ein Mann ruht, der es sich verbeten hat, hinaufzuschreiben: Hier ruht Geheimrat Musikdirektor Excellenz Baron Richard von Wagner. Ich war stolz darauf, dass dieser Mann und so viele Maenner der deutschen Geschichte sich damit begnuegten, ihren Namen der Nachwelt zu ueberliefern, nicht ihren Titel. Nicht aus Bescheidenheit wollte ich 'Trommler' sein. Das ist des Hoechste, das andere ist eine Kleinigkett."
After his stay in Landsberg Hitler no longer referred to himself as the "drummer." Occasionally, he would describe himself in the words of St. Matthew, "as a voice crying in the wilderness", or as St. John the Baptist whose duty was to hew a path for him who was to come and lead the nation to power and glory. More frequently, however, he referred to himself as "the Fuehrer", a name chosen by Hess during their imprisonment. (901)
As time went on, it became clearer that he. was thinking of himself as the Messiah and that it was he who was destined to lead Germany to glory. His references to the Bible became more frequent and the movement began to take on a religious atmosphere. Comparisons between Christ and himself became more numerous and found their way into his conversation and speeches. For example, he would say:
"When I came to Berlin a few weeks ago and looked at the traffic in the Kurfuerstendamm, the luxury, the perversion, the iniquity, the wanton display, and the Jewish materialism disgusted me so thoroughly, that I was almost beside myself. I nearly imagined myself to be Jesus Christ when He came to His Father's temple and found it taken by the money-changers. I can well imagine how He felt when He seized a whip and scourged them out." (905)
During his speech, according to Hanfstangl, he swung his whip around violently as though to drive out the Jews and the forces of darkness, the enemies of Germany and German honor. Dietrich Eckart, who discovered Hitler as a possible leader and had witnessed this performance, said later, "When a man gets to the point of identifying himself with Jesus Christ, then he is ripe for an insane asylum." The identification in all this was not with Jesus Christ, the Crucified, but with Jesus Christ, the furious, lashing the crowds.
As a matter of fact, Hitler has very little admiration for Christ, the Crucified. Although he was brought up a Catholic, and received Communion, during the war, he severed his connection with the Church directly afterwards. This kind of Christ he considers soft and weak and unsuitable as a German Messiah.
The latter must be hard and brutal if he is to save Germany and lead it to its destiny.
"My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by only a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned me to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love, as a Christian and as a man, I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord rose at last in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was the fight for the world against the Jewish poison." (M.N.O. 26)
And to Rauschning he once referred to "the Jewish Christ-creed with its effeminate, pity-ethics".
It is not clear from the evidence whether the new State religion was part of Hitler's plan or whether developments were such that it became feasible. It is true that Rosenberg had long advocated such a move, but there is no evidence that Hitler was inclined to take such a drastic step until after he had come to power. It is possible that he felt he needed the power before he could initiate such a change, or it may be that his series of successes were so startling that the people spontaneously adopted a religious attitude towards him which made the move more or less obvious. In any case, he has accepted this God-like role without any hesitation or embarrassment.
White tells us that now when he is addressed with the salutation, "Heil Hitler, our Savior", he bows slightly at the compliment in the phrase - and believes it. (664) As time goes on, it becomes more and more certain that Hitler believes that he is really the "Chosen One" and that in his thinking he conceives of himself as a second Christ who has been sent to institute in the world a new system of values based on brutality and violence. He has fallen in love with the image of himself in this role and has surrounded himself with his own portraits.
His mission seems to lure him to still greater heights. Not content with the role of transitory savior it pushes him to higher goals - he must set the pattern for generations to come. Von Wiegand says:
"In vital matters Hitler is far from unmindful of the name and record of success and failure he will leave to posterity." (493)
Nor is he content to allow these patterns to evolve in a natural way. In order to guarantee the future he feels that he alone can bind it to these principles. He believes, therefore, that he must become an immortal to the German people. Everything must be huge and befitting as a monument to the honor of Hitler. His idea of a permanent building is one which will endure at least a thousand years. His highways must be known as "Hitler Highways", and they must endure for l onger periods of time than the Napoleonic roads. He must always be doing the impossible and leaving his mark on the country. This is one of the ways in which he hopes to stay alive in the minds of the German people for generations to come.
It is alleged by many writers, among them Haffner (418), Huss (410) and Wagner (489) thath he has already drawn extensive plans for his own mausoleum. Our informants, who left Germany some time ago, are not in a position to verify these reports. They consider them well within the realm of possibility, however. This mausoleum is to be the mecca of Germany after his death. It is to be a tremendous monument about 700 feet high, with all the details worked out so that the greatest psychologicaI effect might be attained. It is also alleged that his first errand in Paris after the conquest in 1940 was a visit to the Dome des Invalides to study the monument to Napoleon. He found this lacking in many respects. For example, they had put him down in a hole which forced people to look down rather than high up.
"I shall never make such a mistake," Hitler said suddenly. "I know how to keep my hold on people after I have passed on. I shall be the Fuehrer they look up at and go home to talk of and remember. My life shall not end in the mere form of death. It will, on the contrary, begin then." (410)
It was believed for a time that the Kehlstein had been originally built as an eternal mausoleum by Hitler. It seems, however, that if that was his original intention he has abandoned it in favor of something even more grandiose. Perhaps the Kehlstein was too inaccessible to enable large numbers of people to come and touch his tomb in order to become inspired. In any case, it seems that far more extravagant plans have been developed. His plan, if it is to be successful, needs constant emotional play on hysteric mass minds, and the more he can arrange the ways and means of achieving this, after he dies, the more assured he is of attaining his final goal.
"He is firmly convinced that the furious pace and the epochal age in which he lived and moved (he really is convinced that he is the motivating force and the moulder of that age) will terminate soon after his death, swinging the world by nature and inclination into a long span of digestive process marked by a sort of quiet inactivity. People in his `1000 year Reich' will build monuments to him and go around to touch and look at the things he has built, he thought. He said as much on that glorified visit of his to Rome in 1938, adding that a thousand years hence the greatness and not the ruins of his own time must intrigue the people of those far-away days. For, believe it or not, that is how the mind of this man Hitler projects itself without a blush over the centuries." (410)
There was also a time a few years ago when he spoke a good deal about retiring when his work was done. It was assumed that he would then take up his residence in Berchtesgaden and sit as God who guides the destinies of the Reich until he dies. In July, 1933, while visiting the Wagner family, he talked at length about getting old and complained bitterly that ten years of valuable time had been lost between the Beerhall Putsch in 1923 and his accession to power. This was all very regrettable since he predicted that it would take twenty-two years to get things in adequate shape so that he could turn them over to his successor. (936) It is supposed by some writers that during this period of retirement he would also write a book which would stand for eternity as a great bible of National Socialism. (3) This is all rather interesting in view of Roehm's statement made many years ago:
"Am liebsten taet er Heute schon in den Bergen sitzen und den lieben Gott spielen." (715)
A survey of all the evidence forces us to conclude that Hitler believes himself destined to become an Immortal Hitler, chosen by God to be the New Deliverer of Germany and the Founder of a new social order for the world. He firmly believes this and is certain that in spite of all the trials and tribulations through which he must pass he will finally attain that goal. The one condition is that he follow the dictates of the inner voice which have guided and protected him in the past. This conviction is not rooted in the truth of the ideas he imparts but is based on the conviction of his own personal greatness. (146) Howard K. Smith makes an interesting observation:
"I was convinced that of all the millions on whom the Hitler Myth had fastened itself, the most carried away was Adolph Hitler, himself." (290)
We will have occasion in Part V to examine the origins of this conviction and the role it plays in Hitler' s psychological economy.