Part 4 - The fatal lack of understanding of human nature
I was not in Munich very frequently. One day, however, when I had business there, I happened to walk past the "Brown House". At that moment Hitler came out into the street, without any sort of escort or guard. He saw me, greeted me, and asked if I would like to come along. He was going to take a look at the building under construction next door; some alterations were necessary there. I was pleased, and accompanied him gladly.
On the construction site we met a few workers, who treated him as though he were one of them - just particularly popular. His relations with people on the whole always struck me as of a very special kind. Oswald Spengler, about whom he did not like to speak, wrote the following about this matter at the end of volume 1 of his Decline of the West:
"The final issue to which Faustian wisdom tends - though it is only in the highest moments that it has seen it - is the dissolution of all knowledge into a vast system of morphological relationships. Dynamics and Analysis are in respect of meaning, form-language and substance, identical with Romanesque ornament, Gothic cathedrals, Christian-German dogma and the dynastic state. One and the same world-feeling speaks in all of them. They were born with, and they aged with, the Faustian Culture, and they present that Culture in the world of day and space as a historical drama. The uniting of the several scientific aspects into one will bear all the marks of the great art of counterpoint. An infinitesimal music of the boundless world-space - that is the deep unresting longing of this soul, as the orderly statuesque and Euclidean Cosmos was the satisfaction of the Classical. That - formulated by a logical necessity of Faustian reason as a dynamic-imperative causality, then developed into a dictatorial, hard-working, world-transforming science - is the grand legacy of the Faustian soul to the souls of Cultures yet to be, a bequest of immensely transcendent forms that the heirs will possibly ignore. And then, weary after its striving, the Western science returns to its spiritual home."
Near the end of the Second World War there was an excellent book available by Kurt Pfister, about Emperor Friedrich II of Hohenstaufen, who in his own time was already called "transformer of the world". I knew that Hitler had liked and devoted a great deal of thought to this book. In 1945 my wife bought it for me - literally with her last few pennies - in order to send it to me at the prison camp. Since we prisoners there were forced to live in conditions that were in every respect beneath human dignity, she had to smuggle it into the camp at great personal risk. And I could only read it in secret. As she well knew, it was to be of decisive importance to me. Years later, she told me that she had noticed so many parallels in the book and that she had known that these would help me a great deal in clinging to life. And that was indeed how it was. There really are parallels, not only in political matters - the Reich Idea of the Occident - but also in purely human matters.
Bosshart once wrote: "A genius has something of the instinct of migratory birds." - It is quite meaningless if some then counter: "Yes, but Hitler resulted in the greatest catastrophe!" We humans are obviously not meant to know why we live, and what stands behind us. Perhaps knowing would only drive us insane. Our mission results from our duty, and our duty has its origin in the ethical laws inherent in nature. These are evident for each of us to see, within us and all around us. And the miracles of nature should be an incentive for us to choose the right way - that of the eternal order of nature.
There is a tendency today to be nothing short of criminally easygoing in passing judgement on even the most brilliant persons. People lie and cheat, not even for the sake of ideals, but for money. It is impossible to sink any lower. Ebb tide has reached its lowest point, it is high time for it to turn and rush over the foulness it has revealed, to wash all the filth onto the land where it may burn up in the sunshine and leave the water clear enough again so that, at least where we stand, we may see the bottom again.
It was not criticism and scientific analyses that helped me to recognize the person that Hitler was, it was the observation of his thought processes. I was so fortunate as to be able to see him without business obligations and without any prejudices. In terms of personal background I was probably his most extreme opposite. Each of us admitted that to the other with perfect frankness. This fact was probably the key to later understanding, which was mutual as well. I was interesting to him because of my background, namely because, as he told me later, he had discovered a revolutionary within me. I was an enigma to him at first - as he was to me. The trust he had in me developed in a way that was typical for him: it was based on his observation of how well my marriage worked. It was exactly what he had not expected from a person of my background.
He was always happy to see marriages that worked. I think that had something to do with the loving relationship he had had with his mother. Whenever he saw an unhappy marriage amongst his friends or comrades, he would not rest until he had reconciled the couple. The Goebbels marriage was a case in point. I witnessed many instances of this and sometimes, in my opinion, the couple in question were not at all worth the energy that the Head of State expended on them. In the case of the Goebbels's, however, it was a blessing that he did so. The human element was always more important to him than the political - or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that things political carried only as much weight with him as seemed to be warranted by the human element.
And this brings us to his lack of knowledge of human nature. On a qualifying note I must add that the term "knowledge of human nature" is perhaps not quite correct, or at least needs an explanation. He knew very well how to tell a loyal person from a disloyal one, an industrious one from a lazy one, an honest from a dishonest, etc. But there were qualities to him that distracted him from the objective assessment of people. For example, in the case of persons who had stood loyally by him during hard times, he tended to be overly ready to overlook and to forgive objectionable qualities and actions that arose or occurred later on.
One of the most striking cases in this context was the Gauleiter of Central Franconia, Julius Streicher, who behaved in an increasingly reprehensible and, ultimately, a downright scandalous manner. Hitler frequently called him to account, and even removed him entirely from the political arena, only to rehabilitate him, as it were, years later - something that none of us, not even Dr. Goebbels, could make sense of. After all, Julius Streicher had long carried on a campaign of anti-Semitism by means of his publication "Der Stürmer" - a campaign which not only no longer had any resemblance to the official stance of the NSDAP but, beyond that, misrepresented all of us.
Goebbels repeatedly urged that Hitler should ban the "Stürmer", but a long time of grave mistakes went by before his requests met with success. A man like Streicher should have been punished with particular severity, exactly because he was one of the first and foremost Party members and had used to be a loyal follower of Hitler's. He was indeed removed from his position as Gauleiter, but that was not enough.
The matter of Dr. Robert Ley, the head of the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF), was no better. As early as 1929, when I personally told Hitler that Ley had cheated me and a number of others out of our money and had thus left us in very bad circumstances, Hitler answered: "I never advised you to lend Ley money - I deal only with Ley the Gauleiter, not with Ley the businessman - I'm sorry, I can't help you!" I objected: "But I only trusted Ley because I assumed that a Gauleiter is not a rascal." Hitler replied that he was not in a position to check up on the private lives of all his subordinates. "Just look at the other parties - each of the major parties has several Leys in its leadership - it's bad, but very difficult to change, and the change can only be brought about gradually. I promise you I will keep an eye on Ley - but you'll have to see about recovering your money yourself." I only succeeded to a small extent, years later.
The third case which I witnessed myself was that of Alfred Rosenberg, a man from the Baltic who had become Chief of the Foreign Affairs Office of the NSDAP. He carried on Baltic politics on his own initiative and to the detriment of Adolf Hitler's German politics. Some of his policies were not at all in accord with Hitler's. How could someone from the Baltic shape German foreign policy, anyhow?
In the "Time of Struggle", in other words before 1933, Rosenberg had been editor-in-chief of the Völkischer Beobachter, the largest of the party newspapers. During the war he served as "Reich Commissioner for the Occupied Eastern Territories" and was thus responsible for the horrible mistakes perpetrated on the Ukrainians, who had been so well inclined towards us.
Dr. Goebbels told me at that time that he had reason to believe that Rosenberg was a Russian spy - his girlfriend most certainly was. During the war Goebbels was very concerned that no connection whatsoever should develop between the staff of the Foreign Department of his own Ministry, and the so-called "Rosenberg Office".
Rosenberg, on the other hand, cultivated the closest ties possible to Martin Bormann, who at first held the position of Chief of Staff under the "Deputy Führer", Rudolf Hess. It is remarkable that on the occasion of Hess' mission to England, Hess' politically utterly insignificant adjutant was arrested, while Hess' politically most prominent Chief of Staff, Martin Bormann, was called in to the Reich Chancellery and promoted to Chief of the "Party Chancellery of the Führer and Chancellor of the Reich" - headquartered even in the Reich Chancellery! From 1943 to 1945, "Reich Leader" Bormann was the most powerful man in Germany, second only to Hitler. I know this from bitter personal experience as well as from Dr. Goebbels.
In early 1945 Goebbels, in my presence, described Bormann Bormann and Hitler's personal physician, Professor Morell, as "the criminals in the Reich Chancellery". As far as I know, Bormann also had relations with the Soviet Union dating back to earlier days, but, as Dr. Goebbels put it, those relations were "all the wrong ones."
To the best of my knowledge, Professor Morell admitted at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg that he had intended to kill Hitler. I am more inclined to believe, however, that with the injections he gave him, he attempted to make him the obedient pawn of a certain clique of leading politicians.
The fact that Hitler installed Martin Bormann, of all people (besides Goebbels), in the Reich government under Dönitz was, in my opinion, part of Hitler's last great plan: an alliance with the Soviet Union against the United States. Virtually five minutes before midnight, Hitler had still telegraphed the army group Kesselring: "Hold out at all costs, negotiations with the Russians against the Americans are pending."
I am certain that such an alliance would instantaneously have created a totally different political scene. It would have been child's play for Germans and Russians, united, to bring all of Europe under their control. At the very least there would still be a German Reich today, and no slander of our people - nobody would dare any such thing.
Germany - Europe - would be the dominant power on earth today - the Third Reich could have assumed the legacy of the First Reich, and International Capitalism would have been finished. Goebbels must still have had some grounds for hope, else he would not have spent almost an hour on the telephone to Marshal Shukov shortly before his death.
This shows clearly that the selfsame Hitler who in the course of the war had made four extremely fair peace offers to the enemy and had not even received a response, still found the resolve even at the last minute to turn completely about and attempt the extreme opposite. That was probably what he meant when he said in his last great address to the German people, that he hoped the people would understand if he were forced to take a most extraordinary chance.
In wartime, logically, too much depends on the enemy and his attitude and actions for someone to be able to assess one's own statesmen objectively and accurately. There is no doubt that Hitler, once private first class, was also a genius in his capacity as commander. None of his numerous Generals, many of whom were themselves of great talent and experience, ever disputed that, and many were full of admiration for him. In this context as well, he had a great deal of knowledge that he could never have learned. I don't know how often I heard Generals say about him: "Where did he get all the prerequisites for this? Is it only instinct, or something more?"
Hitler hated being lauded, and did not at all enjoy being idolized, as it were. But political propaganda wanted to use him as advertisement, and he could not dispute the importance of such advertising to the dissemination of his Idea of National-Socialism. Lao-tse said - and I think this is eminently apropos to Hitler: "The wise man puts his own self last - and see: it comes to the fore. He gives up his own self - and see: it is preserved."
And indeed, those people whom he helped without having to help them, ultimately proved to be his undoing. In this respect his fate is that of all truly great men. As Friedrich Nietzsche wrote to his sister in 1885: "It seems to me that even with the best of intentions a person may do immeasurable harm if he is presumptuous enough to try to be of service to those whose spirit and will is hidden from him."
There can be no doubt whatsoever that Hitler did the German people and the Reich an inordinate
amount of good. No serious and fair critic can help but see and admit that. It would be both
pointless and harmful to all involved to deny it.