Friday, February 23, 2007

Accessing Adolph Hitler, Again

Roald Dahl has a short story called “Genesis and Catastrophe.” It begins with Klara in the small hospital somewhere in Austria. She has given birth to a baby boy. Klara is perturbed whether the boy is alive, whether he will live. As she talks to the doctor we come to know how Klara has already lost three children. Klara retells her suffering of losing three of her sweet children and her drunkard husband Alois Hitler’s monstrosity. The sympathetic doctor consoles that this one is certainly going to live. He enquires after the boy’s name. “Adolfus” the mother informs. Soon the husband arrives. Klara tells him:
“He must live, Alois. He must, he must…Oh God, be merciful unto him now…”
God was merciful. The boy lived to make a mother happy, and to snatch away happiness from millions of other mothers. His genesis was heralded by catastrophe. He was Adolph Hitler, the great dictator.
Charlie Chaplin produced a film called The Great Dictator in 1940 ridiculing Hitler, who was at the height of his power; that apart, there has been many attempts to read Hitler’s character in literature and films, but not always with success. Hitler is always an enigma. To begin with he is a Machiavellian Villain. Anyone who has read The Diary of Ann Frank will willingly believe this. But what went inside the mind of this little man with Chaplin-like moustache will perhaps never be known. Even his autobiography, Mein Kampf (My Life) is of little help.
Outwardly Hitler’s is a story of personal triumph, a story of a Nietzschean Superman that went wrong. Imagine, a poor little boy, with no skills except for a little drawing, who went on to become a dictator, ruling half of the world, mercifully for a short time, but he did achieve whatever he wanted to do.
Go closer; you will see a charismatic personality of overpowering forcefulness. His words were law. It is surprising to see how with a few mere ideas he united the entire Germany already devastated by war. But the point remains that he employed his energy and skill for a purpose which was inhuman, evil, and utterly misdirected.
He was an amoral man, rootless and incapable of personal friendships. For him his fellow humans were mere bricks in the world structure he wished to erect. He had the art to appeal to people’s baser instincts and made use of their fears and insecurities. He could do that, however, only because there were people were willing to be led, even though his programme was one of hatred and violence.
And we know the world would have been different if Klara’s son died, and though he lived, if he had directed his energy to something positive.
Born in Austria, on April 20, 1889, the son of a minor customs official, Hitler never completed high school. He was to join the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, but was rejected for lack of talent. He, however, stayed in Vienna until 1913, a poor struggler, fascinated by philosophy. It was here that he developed anti-Jewish and antidemocratic convictions, an admiration for the outstanding individual, and contempt for the masses.
He joined the Bavarian army in Munich in World War I as a dedicated and courageous soldier. But his skills went unnoticed and he was never promoted beyond private class, the reason being his lack of leadership qualities. After Germany’s defeat in 1918 he remained in Munich and in the army until 1920. In September 1919 he joined the nationalist German Workers’ party, and in April 1920 he went to work full time for the party, now renamed the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) party. In 1921 he was elected party chairman (Führer) with dictatorial powers.
From here began Hitler’s journey to world notoriety.
Using any means he could muster, meetings, terrorism, hired thugs he began to spread his gospel of racial hatred and contempt for democracy. He rose to importance aided by high officials and businessmen. In November 1923, in a time of political and economic chaos, he led an uprising (Putsch) in Munich against the post-war Weimar Republic, proclaiming himself chancellor of a new authoritarian regime. Soon the Putsch collapsed; they did not have military support.
Hitler was imprisoned, where in 8 months he wrote (dictated) his autobiography Mein Kampf. After his release in December 1924, he began to rebuild his party lying low till the Great Depression of 1929. Now, Hitler offered a new theory that this collapse of economy was actually a Jewish-Communist plot. He found his believers in great number. Nazi representation in the Reichstag (parliament) rose from 12 seats in 1928 to 107 in 1930. Finally, Hitler was appointed chancellor in January 1933.
Once in power, Hitler quickly established himself as a dictator. The days of the Great Dictator had begun. He took control by banning all political parties except for Nazi; the economy, the media, and everything else were brought under Nazi authority by making an individual’s livelihood dependent on his or her political loyalty. Any slight anti-Nazi element was treated in concentration camps.
Hitler’s strength was his secret police, the Gestapo. Anti-Semitic movement had begun and Hitler was successful politically. His armament drive wiped out unemployment, an ambitious recreational programme attracted workers and employees, and his foreign policy successes impressed the nation. He thus managed to mould the German people into the pliable tool he needed to establish German rule over Europe and other parts of the world.
While doing so, he offered a prophetic statement that the Germans are racially superior, and had the right to dominate all nations they subjected. He found his easy victims among the Jews, they were unorganized and they were rich.
Soon Hitler launched Germany’s open rearmament in 1935 (in defiance of the World War I peace treaty), sent troops into the demilitarized Rhineland in 1936, and annexed Austria and Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland in 1938. In March 1939 he brought the remainder of Czechoslovakia under German control. He also came to the aid of Francisco Franco’s rebels in Spain’s civil war (1936-1939). Outmanoeuvred and fearful of war, no national leader offered resistance to his moves.
He was easily seduced for another world war.
In full preparation he attacked Poland in September 1939. The Poles were quickly overpowered. They had no help. In the spring of 1940 Hitler’s forces overran Denmark and Norway and a few weeks later routed the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Only Britain could put up defense with the help of the Royal Air Force.
Driven by his ambitions and his hatred of communism, Hitler then turned on the Soviet Union. The invasion of the USSR in June 1941 quickly carried the German armies to the gates of Moscow, but in December the Russians pushed them back, just as the United States entered the war. The decision to attack USSR was Hitler’s tragic flaw, the same blunder which also brought downfall to his military hero Napoleon Bonaparte.
For Hitler the war was lost militarily; as days passed, defeat became apparent. But he would not give up. He still hoped for some diplomatic maneuvering or some miracle weapon (atom bomb), otherwise, he had the feeling that Germany did not deserve to survive because it had not lived up to its mission. However, killing of the Jews continued; which was a hindrance to the war, but it was never given up. His followers were by now exasperated. An officers' plot to assassinate Hitler and end the war failed in 1944.
Finally, on April 30, 1945, with all of Germany overrun by Allied invaders, Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker, as did his long-time companion, Eva Braun, whom he had married the day before.

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