In 1972, when we emigrated from Russia to the United States, my wife and I started buying Western books about Nazi Germany, since the Soviet sources were, as usual, crude propaganda.
In New York, I bought Konrad Heiden’s “Der Fuehrer: Hitler’s Rise to Power,” translated from German into English by Ralph Manheim (Beacon Press, Boston,1969).
The other day, as I was looking through the above book on our shelves, Hitler again caught my attention. I have to admit that some of the things escaped my eye when I first read Heiden’s book years ago. Today we have quite a few books on Hitler, but Heiden’s book deserves special attention.
The author was an eyewitness to Hitler’s rise to power. The book is based partly on his own observations and personal experiences of living in Germany in the early 1920s and then later.
The author claims that even the most intimate episodes and the reports of private conversations are grounded on documentary evidence or on statements of individuals who seemed to him thoroughly reliable, which is supported by the exhaustive references in the indexed materials.
Early in the 1920s, Heiden attended a National-Socialist meeting at which he first saw Hitler at close range and listened to the “flood of nonsense” he was spouting.
This is what he writes: “It was only gradually that the effect of these speeches made me realize that behind all the nonsense there was unrivaled political cunning.”
As the leader of a small democratic organization in the University of Munich, Heiden “tried, with all the eagerness of youth, and with complete lack of success, to counter the influence of Hitler by means of protest parades, mass meetings, and giant posters. And so I am entitled to call myself the oldest — or one of the oldest anti-Nazis now in the United States, for there cannot be many in this country who came into conflict with Adolf Hitler and his handful of followers at so early a date.”
Many of us try to forget Hitler’s name or try to block from our memory that darkest, frightful piece of our history. But we shouldn’t.
We should know how to recognize and respond to those seemingly innocuous everyday events that have the potential to backfire and adversely affect our lives and the lives of our friends.
Power politics is a tempting thing, especially to those who cannot find a meaningful purpose to live for. Life is not generous in equally distributing beauty, kindness, wisdom, intelligence, or talent. And sometimes those who are not so lucky as to have been blessed with those qualities go into politics.
“Hitler’s Rise to Power” is a narrative that takes us through Hitler’s childhood and his adolescent years and is an account of the origins of the Nazi movement and its leadership during the years 1918-1934. It also provides a major commentary on the politics of Weimar Germany.
An idler, a loner, with no friends, a complete failure as an artist (he was rejected by the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna), Hitler spent his early life in the company of his Jewish friends, spending nights in the lodging-house or in the Home for Men.
Lack of success and resultant poverty made him into an overpowering human nonentity. But as a nonentity he was by no means modest. “In his lonely hours he has been filled with an exuberant megalomania since childhood,” the book reports.
In the “analysis of the brain,” the lowest mental level of a person analyzed is “idiot.” And this is what Hitler was: an idiot. A brainless, dangerous idiot.
We read: “Karl Marx, the prototype of the supposed Jewish party leader, came of a baptized Christian family, and his own relations with Judaism can only be characterized as anti-Semitism.” And “it was Karl Marx, the Socialist, who kindled Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitism.”
Ironically, Hitler, we are told, was not originally an anti-Semite. It was in 1933 that he was warned by those who conferred on him the title of “the leader” (“der fuhrer”) that he would be stripped of this title unless he adopted the anti-Semitic policies. And that was the price that Hitler, that unprincipled human nothing, paid to stay in power.
The book’s narrative actually gets us through the events up to 1939, the year Hitler started World War II. In 1941 Hitler invaded Russia, a vast country that Stalin had put through the first stage of military industrialization.
Those who saw Hitler as the greatest war general, destined to conquer Russia and liberate it from Stalin, miscalculated. Now they blamed him for having lost the war and bringing an ocean of misery onto Germany.
Hitler committed suicide by putting a pistol into his mouth and shooting into his brain.
Lev Navrozov can be reached at email@example.com
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