Was Hitler a 'passionate lunatic'?
Hitler is perhaps one of the most notorious characters of the 20th century. We know what atrocities were committed during the 12 years that Hitler led Nazi Germany and therefore we have very firm opinions about him. Using hindsight (looking back with the knowledge of what has happened) we often ask why he was not stopped earlier. However, at the time, people could not predict what he would go on to do. Or could they?
By looking at sources from the time, we can see how people viewed him. Was he regarded as a 'passionate lunatic' who would wreak havoc all over Europe? Or a slightly odd eccentric who was rebuilding Germany?
The sources below are from 1937. By this time Hitler had begun to reverse the Treaty of Versailles by rebuilding his army and moving troops into the Rhineland. He had also tried to unite Germany and Austria. Throughout this time he made passionate speeches about expanding German territory. These words and deeds worried some foreign observers.
1. Look at Source 1. Report by Mr. Law, a British businessman, who worked in Germany.
What impression of Hitler do you get from this source? Use examples from the source document to support your answer. 2 marks
Why, in Mr. Law's opinion, is Hitler dangerous? Use relevant examples from the source document to support your answer. 3 marks
Read paragraph 3 carefully. Is Mr. Law in favour of granting further concessions to Hitler? Use relevant examples to support your answer. 2 marks
Source 1: Report by Mr. Law, a British businessman, who worked in Germany 1937
I am told, on what I believe to be very good German authority, that really the most dangerous man of all is the Fuhrer himself. He falls into fits of passion and will listen to no advice. It was on his orders and against the advice of the Foreign Office and the army that recently an American was beheaded. It was again on his direct orders and before he could receive any advice that the bombardment of Almeria took place. If this is true - as I believe it to be - the picture is not a cheerful one No one wants war; certainly, but when you have a passionate lunatic at the top who still commands the devotion of the populace and who is evidently prepared to run great risks, then already the situation is dangerous. But when, besides that, the Russian army appears not exactly at the height of its efficiency, when (as it is believed in Germany) France is tottering on the edge of communism and Franco is at the gates of Bilbao, then we ought to be on our guard. I was told in Berlin that another publicity campaign was contemplated in England by those English people who are advocating close relations with Germany. This I am informed both by Englishmen in Berlin and by patriotic Germans who do not like Nazi-ism would be at this juncture a most disastrous mistake. No further advances should be made to Germany at the present time.
2. Read Source 2. This is a report on a conversation with Count Bernstorff a German anti-Nazi campaigner.
Which words suggest that Bernstorff disliked the Nazi regime? Explain your choice of words you have selected from the source document. 2 marks
From what is said in this source, what type of leader is Hitler? Use relevant examples from the source document to support your answer. 3 marks
Does this account of Hitler back up the view of Hitler in Source 1? Compare the source 1 and source 2 and use relevant information from both to support your answer.
Can you trust Bernstorff's account? Use examples from the document to support your answer. 2 marks
Source 2: Report on a conversation with Count Bernstorff 1937 (FO 371/20733)
I had a talk last night with COUNT ALBRECHT BERNSTORFF, who has just arrived in London from Berlin. As is well known, he is a rabid anti-Nazi, and this fact must be taken into consideration in estimating the truth of his remarks. He was as usual full of stories and most entertaining. Compared with other opponents of the regime whom I know, his boldness is amazing, and he does not suffer, as most do, from the nervous glance over the shoulder (Known as "der deutsche Blick") when speaking about conditions in Germany. I record some of his remarks in case they are of interest. Count Bernstorff said that Herr Hitler has lately been more frequently subject to fits, in the course of which he foams at the mouth and becomes very violent. One such fit occurred a short time ago when he drove through Munich and saw that the rebuilding which he had planned was not progressing as fast as he had expected. On being told that the reason was the lack of iron and steel, he developed a fit and became so violent that he had to be restrained by his A.D.C's til a doctor could be sent for to give him a sedative injection. Herr Hitler's main occupation nowadays is town-planning and he plays about all day long with models of Berlin, Nuremburg and Munich. He takes practically no interest in anything else. None of his Ministers, except Goebbels and Goering, can be certain of access to him. His favourite companions are men such as Julius Streicher. Goebbels is, according to Count Bernstorff, somewhat out of favour at the moment and has lost his influence in the country. Nevertheless, Hitler continues to use him as a source of ideas which he works up in his speeches.
A.D.C.: Aide-de-camp (a personal assistant, secretary, or adjutant)
Julius Streicher: Streicher was the founder and publisher of the newspaper Der Stürmer.
Goebbels: Joseph Goebbels, the German Propaganda Minister
Goering: Hermann Göring, the commander of the Luftwaffe.
3. Look at Source 3. This is a drawing of Adolf Hitler by Richard Ziegler in about 1944.
What impression of Hitler does the picture give you? 3 marks
How has the artist created this impression? 2 marks
The government paid the artist to produce this picture. What instructions do you think the artist was given by the government? 3 marks
Can the picture be considered as reliable evidence of what Hitler was like? 2 marks
Given the date of the picture, how accurate do you think it is at displaying how Hitler would have been acting? Why do you think this? 2 marks
Source 3: 'Hitler in distress' by Richard Ziegler c.1944 (INF 3/1298)
4. Read Source 4. This is a short description of Hitler prepared by the British Embassy in Berlin.
Does this account of Hitler confirm that he is a passionate lunatic? Use relevant examples from the source document to support your answers. 4 marks
How would you describe Hitler based upon this report? Make direct reference to examples in Source 4 to justify your answer. 4 marks
Source 4: A short description of Hitler prepared by the British Embassy in Berlin January 1937
5. Of the three accounts you have now read, is any one more reliable than the others? Explain your answer using relevant information taken from the Source documents provided. 6 marks
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