Was Hitler a sociopath psychopath
Historian: "Hitler was not a psychopath"
On January 27, 1945, the Allies liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp. 71 years later, the victims of National Socialism are commemorated on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Hitler's inflammatory pamphlet "Mein Kampf" is the basis for the National Socialist ideology. The German historian Christian Hartmann studied the book for years and refuted Hitler's theses. For him it is "a brutal, open hate sermon".
DEFAULT: Your annotated edition of "Mein Kampf" was published at the beginning of January and is already out of print. Who is buying this
Hartmann: If I'd know that! There are 15 orders in my regular bookstore - from the best and most reflective customers, as a saleswoman assured me. That calmed me down. The reactions we get are not hate letters either. That's a good sign.
DEFAULT: You have studied Hitler's work for years, is it a psychopath's book?
Hartmann: Hitler was not a psychopath. It has some peculiarities, but the term is too extreme. Reading confirms what Thomas Mann said, namely: "Brother Hitler". That is bitter. Our commentary aims to show that Hitler was a product of a society. And there was also a society that took up Hitler's propaganda and put it into practice. If he had been a psychopath, he would never have had this success.
DEFAULT: How much is success tied to society back then?
Hartmann: The ideas he represented are much older than him. But it is the radicalism and the fanaticism with which he implements them, as well as his personality, his demagogic talent, his hardness and coldness. He fell out of the middle of society and grew up on its fringes. Before 1914 he experienced the world from below, so to speak. Otherwise, a marginal figure like Hitler would never have had a chance. Suddenly it is no longer the traditional elites that society turns to, but it is these strange outsiders who are gaining political influence.
DEFAULT: Could it be a product of today's society?
Hartmann: Yes and no. Today we have a completely different situation. We have experiences that our grandparents did not have. Anyone who came up with similar ideas or methods would also be confronted with these experiences. However, right-wing movements are forming all over Europe, some of which are very successful. What worries me most is what is happening in Eastern Europe. There is a completely different political climate there. There is no practice of the democratic rules of the game. This situation is reminiscent of the interwar period.
DEFAULT: Refugee homes are on fire again and again in Germany. It is reminiscent of pogroms.
Hartmann: I don't mean to downplay that, but how far is it comparable? Of course there is overlap when it comes to racism, but strategically speaking, the right-wing movements in Germany are primarily acting defensively today; they want to stop or reverse the influx of refugees. In contrast, the National Socialists propagated an offensive, aggressive foreign policy: "Today Germany belongs to us, tomorrow the world." These are other dimensions. One must not forget how many people died in political conflicts in the Weimar Republic. Left and right shot at each other, luckily we're a long way from that.
DEFAULT: The hatred of a minority is comparable. Is it allowed to name the anti-Islamism of today in the same breath as the anti-Semitism of that time?
Hartmann: For today's right, Islam is undoubtedly an enemy, but not an eliminatory one. Hitler and the Nazis, on the other hand, were convinced that they had to save the world from the Jews by annihilating the Jews. I suppose the Pegida is not considering exterminating all Muslims in the world. If you equate that, it is a trivialization of Nazi ideas.
DEFAULT: The demagogic concept, as you call it, the mixture of lies, truth and half-truth still works today. This is what the FPÖ stands for with us.
Hartmann: The FPÖ posters were already cleverly made in Haider's time: "He says what we think." Hitler worked with similar methods, with allusions. Therefore "Mein Kampf "difficult to understand today. Much is based on crooked comparisons.
DEFAULT: After the incidents in Cologne, blanket allegations were made against Muslims. Are there any parallels?
Hartmann: No. Anti-Semitism was an ideology, the events in Cologne are based on facts. If you compare that, you assume "the" Jews that they were guilty of something at that time. But that was exactly not the case. Anti-Semitism was a self-contained delusional system that had nothing to do with reality. The Nazis believed in a Jewish worldview and similar nonsense. That was yet another category from today's xenophobia.
DEFAULT: The language has become harder in the refugee debate. The demand for caps and "the boat is full" rhetoric are mainstream. Do you have to be more language-sensitive?
Hartmann: Naturally. It is an experience from contemporary history: injustice manifests itself first in language and only then in deeds. However, the language in "Mein Kampf" is even harder in its radicalism and also in its obscenity. This is a brutal, open hate sermon. The Jews as a plague. This is a language used today only by the radical right.
DEFAULT: Why did the inflammatory images work?
Hartmann: People were looking for simple explanations. It was a whole series of traumatic experiences that they did not understand. The end of the First World War with millions of casualties, the loss of the old safe world, inflation, the new political system of Bolshevism: these were open wounds. Society was still resistant for a while, but with the onset of the global economic crisis, the mood shifted. Interestingly, at that time, in the early 1930s, anti-Semitism played a minor role in Hitler's speeches, since the NSDAP functions primarily as a protest party.
DEFAULT: There are also protest voters today.
Hartmann: It is an ancient experience that people vote for radical parties in protest when their program generates little interest. It's about giving "those up there" a lesson. Like Beppe Grillo's five-star movement in Italy. Their program is protest. They are diffuse fears that solidify.
DEFAULT: Is politics afraid?
Hartmann: Yes, and fear also makes you stupid.
DEFAULT: Do neo-Nazis still read "Mein Kampf" today?
Hartmann: It is traded as a symbol, one is not afraid to put it openly on the shelf. But apart from a few slogans, they know surprisingly little about it. Various studies have shown this.
DEFAULT: Is there anything that has taken its place?
Hartmann: The radical right has hardly any intellectuals in Germany, there are no real thinkers. In part, the NPD works with similar slogans that are parroted. But at least so far no right-wing extremist party in Germany has managed to develop and propagate an ideological program that would have been really attractive to a larger part of the electorate. Movements like Pegida appeal primarily to fears, but luckily I cannot see a new ideological program with political or social impact.
DEFAULT: Are you actually happy that the project is over and that you no longer have to deal with Hitler?
Hartmann: Very! The man and his worldview are not interesting. Only the effects caused by Hitler are interesting. I am happy when I can do something different.
DEFAULT: Is there a lesson to be learned from this?
Hartmann: The warning was there, and yet it happened. We fell for Hitler and his ideology. That's the shameful thing, because you could read it beforehand. That one makes this mistake with seeing eyes makes one thoughtful. Certainly history will not repeat itself in this way. For me the story is a kind of kaleidoscope. There are set pieces that keep re-forming. Character traits such as thoughtlessness, selfishness and ease do not change. Keyword climate catastrophe: We keep going without drawing any conclusions. You just let it go, this fatalism is reminiscent of the history of the years 1933 to 1945. (Marie-Theres Egyed, January 27, 2016)
Christian Hartmann (56) teaches contemporary history at the University of Munich. The historian directed the critically commented edition of "Mein Kampf" after the copyrights of Hitler's inflammatory pamphlet expired at the beginning of the year. After 14 days, the initial print run of 4,000 was sold out.
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