Posts Tagged ‘Hitler’s’

The Nazi jungle hideaway in Argentina used by Hitlers henchmen, in pictures

March 26th, 2015

The first pictures have been released of the Nazi relics that persuaded archaeologists they had found a hide-out for escaping German leaders deep in an Argentinian jungle. A team of archaeologists from the University of Buenos Aires Urban Archaeology Centre spent months exploring the Teyu Cuare provincial park, in the Misiones region of northern Argentina.

Picture: AFP/Getty

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Publishing Mein Kampf is the best way to undermine Hitler’s poison

February 25th, 2015

A manga version of the book was published in Japan

3) Mein Kampf is an important historical document. It is arguably invaluable reading for students who wish to understand the way that a significant minority of Germans thought in the 1920s and 1930s, thus helping contemporary readers to understand the social conditions that made the Third Reich possible.

4) Perversely, making Mein Kampf available in this format could be a useful weapon against the Far Right. The Far Right often try to whitewash the Nazi era by claiming that a) the Holocaust never happened, b) what little persecution of the Jews that did take place did so without Hitler’s direct order and c) the Third Reich was the victim of Western aggression and never wanted a world war. Reading Mein Kampf rubbishes all these claims. Hitler clearly states that Jews are part of a grand conspiracy to destroy Germany through Marxism and racial impurity, and that they have to be purged form society. He uses language that eerily predicts the horrors of Auschwitz when stating that the First World War could have been won: “If at the beginning of the War… twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas.” Likewise, he proposes that Germans require lebensraum in Europe – a living space that would become the goal of eastward expansion in 1939. In short, while Hitler was certainly an opportunist and his state surprisingly decentralised in structure, he operated by a clear ideological vision that is laid out in Mein Kampf.

5) Subjected to proper critical analysis, Mein Kampf reads like an absurd, paranoid, semi-illiterate pamphlet – it debunks itself. George Orwell’s scathing review nailed it: “The initial, personal cause of [Hitler’s] grievance against the universe can only be guessed at; but at any rate the grievance is here. He is the martyr, the victim, Prometheus chained to the rock, the self-sacrificing hero who fights single-handed against impossible odds. If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon. One feels, as with Napoleon, that he is fighting against destiny, that he can’t win, and yet that he somehow deserves to.”

The challenge of reading Mein Kampf in hindsight is to try to understand how something so obviously wrong and so clearly the product of a broken, third-rate mind could bring about the Götterdämmerung of Europe.

The answer is partly that it didn’t. The Hitler of Mein Kampf, the Hitler of the 1920s, was quickly discredited and, as Weimar’s economy improved, looked like an irrelevance. Only when the Depression hit, and the German establishment was looking for a weapon to smash the Left with, was Hitler reluctantly invited into power. And what democratic support he enjoyed he enjoyed in part because he pledged peace and played down some of the rhetoric one wades through in Mein Kampf.

If Mein Kampf is presented in proper, scholarly fashion then it can be made clear that it is not a black bible – an unholy writ of immense, dark magical powers – but an important historical artifact that helps us understand what went so terribly wrong in an apparently civilised society. History understood is history conquered.

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Anyone for a day out at Hitler’s bunker?

February 19th, 2015

In the spirit of cultural exchange that has seen the British Museum lend one of its Elgin Marbles to the Hermitage Museum, perhaps the Top Secret theme park could persuade the Lubyanka archive in Moscow to lend it some of their choicest exhibits.

Authorities tried to destroy the bunker after the war (Alamy)

They include Hitler’s jawbone, removed for identification on 5 May 1945 by the SMERSH agents who discovered his charred body buried outside the bunker, and Hitler’s gold Nazi Party badge, which he presented to Magda Goebbels, although that is rather melted round the edges from when her body and that of her husband Joseph were doused in petrol and set on fire.

This gold badge was stolen to order a number of years ago from inside the Lubyanka, and we do not know whether it has been recovered or not. To snatch it from under the FSB’s nose was quite an achievement in itself, and goes to show how much artefacts linked to the Third Reich hierarchy are prized by rich collectors of dubious political views, both in Russia and Germany.

Hitler’s bunker pictured after the war (Alamy)

A rather more accessible item would be Eva Braun’s solid silver hand mirror, with the swastika and RK for Reichskanzlei, which an elderly German proudly showed to me after a lecture I gave in Berlin in 2004. He said he had bought it from Lev Bezymenski, a Soviet military intelligence officer. I had interviewed Bezymenski because he had been an interpreter at Paulus’s surrender in Stalingrad, and then been one of the first to enter Hitler’s Bunker on 2 May 1945.

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was bizarre to find that former Red Army officers were selling Nazi items they had seized as souvenirs in 1945 in an attempt to augment their pathetically devalued pensions.

A US soldier inside the bunker in 1945 (Getty)

My strange encounter with Eva Braun’s hand mirror coincided exactly with the release of Downfall, one of the most acclaimed German-made films about Hitler’s last days. One can nitpick a number of historical details in it, but I suspect anyone wanting to understand what it was like in the Führerbunker in April 1945 would do better to see it again than make their way to Oberhausen.

The decision to create a “Hitler bunker experience” at all has been made possible only thanks to Germany’s burgeoning self-confidence.

After its admirable victory in the 2014 World Cup, the almost compulsory apologias for the Nazi era are now truly a thing of the past.

Adolf Hitler’s command centre conference room in the bunker partially burned out by SS troops and stripped of evidence by invading Russian soldiers ( William Vandivert/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Any notion of collective guilt is dead and buried, and thus – ironically – this mock concrete sarcophagus can finally be contemplated. The sceptical reaction to the announcement last month is in contrast to the embarrassed panic that occurred in Berlin soon after the collapse of Communism, when building work revealed that the real Führerbunker had survived partly intact.

Soviet and East German attempts to destroy it completely with high explosive had failed because of the four metres of solid concrete above. Berlin’s municipal authorities cordoned it off hurriedly and re-covered it in earth. It is now buried under a car park surrounded by blocks of apartments.

But since the turn of the century, a new mood has emerged in Germany. After all the post-war years of collective national guilt, a new feeling of Normalisierung – or normalisation – began to gather pace. Many felt that at last it had become right to portray Germans in 1945, especially the civilians fleeing from the Red Army, as victims. This was sparked in part by Günter Grass’s 2002 novel, Im Krebsgang (Crabwalk). The book, based on the fate of refugees from East and West Prussia in the early part of 1945, revolves around the sinking by a Soviet submarine of the liner Wilhelm Gustloff in the Baltic. More than 7,000 – some say 10,000 – drowned in the icy waters off the Pomeranian coast.

The same year, German historian Jörg Friedrich published his detailed and highly emotive account of the suffering of German civilians under British bombing in Der Brand (The Burning). Friedrich called Churchill a “butcher” and implied that he should be classified as a war criminal for such senseless suffering.

Abandoned furniture and debris seen inside the bunker (William Vandivert/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Friedrich took a narrow view of his subject, failing to recognise that the British strategic bombing offensive from 1942 was our “Second Front”, to help the Soviet Union in the only way we could. Our feeling of blood guilt towards the Red Army, which was taking all the casualties, influenced British policy more than had yet been fully realised.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Friedrich and most German commentators failed to appreciate how effective British bombing was in forcing the Luftwaffe to withdraw a large proportion of its fighter squadrons and anti-aircraft batteries from the Eastern Front to defend the Reich. This aided the Red Army enormously in 1943 and especially 1944, when they were able to make huge advances.

It was, of course, quite right, that the terrible suffering of German civilians in 1945 should have been acknowledged. They too, in their way, were also victims of Nazism, even if some – or many – of them had supported Hitler’s regime. It was also quite right that modern Germany should lay down the burden of self-reproach. But that did not of course mean that a veil should be drawn over the horrors of the past, or that the German right should be allowed to confuse cause and effect, as it had done so often in the past.

The 2004 film Downfall, which was set in Adolf Hitler’s Führerbunker

The announcement of this fake Führerbunker could hardly have been timed any worse, coinciding with the anti-Islamist Pegida demonstrations in Germany and then the Charlie Hebdo atrocity in Paris, which was clearly intended to provoke a backlash to recruit more jihadists.

And although many Germans are unduly nervous, drawing comparisons with the Pegida marches and a possible return of the Brown Shirts, this is far from the case. History never repeats itself, and any superficial parallels with the 1930s are deeply misleading. For a start, democracy in Germany could hardly be more secure. Whether facing neo-Nazis or Jihadists, the bulk of the country is impressively united.

Of course, in an increasingly amorphous world of fragmented societies, there are many young males who, through insecurity, bitterness and a lack of opportunities, feel a strong need for a tribal, religious or nationalist identity.

The exterior of the bunker as seen in the 2004 film Downfall

Yet Germany faces another, rather longer term paradox. The Euro crisis as a whole can only be resolved through a drastic centralisation of political and economic power, and that in turn will greatly increase the anti-Brussels resentment across Europe and play into the hands of the extremist groups and parties. This is no doubt one of the reasons why Germany’s Federal government had been avoiding decisive action and preferred to wait upon events, but now, with the Greek crisis, probably cannot delay any longer.

As for the fake Führerbunker, common sense could yet save the day. If it goes ahead, this Nazi-lite attraction will not have any portraits of Hitler on its wall, just empty frames. And as swastikas are not permitted to be displayed under German Federal law, with any luck it will be as disappointing as those rip-off Winter Wonderlands that seem to spring up each December.

It is sheer sophistry to pretend that crude attempts to popularise history leads to a better understanding or a desire to learn more. Rather more often, they simply confirm existing caricatures and clichés.

Antony Beevor’s latest book, Ardennes 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble (Viking, £25), will be published in May. To order your copy for just £20 plus P&P, call 0844 871 1514 or visit

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Bletchley Park codebreakers 'dried their knickers on Hitler's Enigma machine'

November 13th, 2014

“It used to be festooned with bras and pants all through our night duty. Back then it must have looked a real sight.”

Mrs Balfour’s father had to give his permission for her join the Wrens in 1944 because she was under 18.

She spent six weeks training in London before being assigned to “Special Duties X” and posted to the secret facility near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

She spent up to 10 hours a day sifting through reams of code and said they were never told where their work had actually succeeded.

The women were even forbidden from talking to each other about their individuals parts of the puzzle.

Mrs Balfour said: “We were given long strips of paper tape made by the Enigma machine and told to divide everything into fives.

“We used to get codes for the day, one I can remember is YO-SE-RO, a Japanese code for man.

“There were so many of them I can’t remember, but I’ve always remembered that one.

Wrens operating the world’s first electronic programmable computer, the Colossus (Bletchley Park Trust)

“None of us knew everything that we were working on. We each knew a bit, our own part of the puzzle, so if you were caught, you couldn’t tell them everything, even if they tortured you.

“We were told never to discuss with anyone else what we were doing.

“We never knew anything. We never knew what we had done, or if we had helped to actually crack the codes.

“I never even told my parents because we signed the Official Secrets Act, so they died without ever finding out what I was doing.”

Mrs Balfour, from Helensburgh, Scotland, said she and her fellow Wrens would see Turing walking about the grounds – often backwards as he read a book.

She said: “We used to see Alan Turing from time to time, and back then we used to giggle and laugh.

“We used to watch him walk backwards sometimes while reading a book, and we couldn’t help but giggle at him for how he acted.

“We thought he was queer for how he behaved.

“But I feel the government should formally recognise him for his work during the war. He did so much and his name has not yet appeared anywhere really.

“It’s too late for him now, but people should know what he did.

“I think because he was queer, he was pushed into the background, but all these people with these brilliant minds were a bit different in their own way.”

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Hitler’s Hidden Drug Habit, review, Channel 4: bull sperm and crystal meth

October 20th, 2014

Does it matter if Hitler was ill, or addicted to drugs? It’s a morally fraught question, and one handled with relative aplomb by Channel 4’s documentary, Hitler’s Hidden Drug Habit. For the first time on British television, we peered into the detailed medical diaries of Dr Theodor Morell, Hitler’s personal physician and a man nicknamed the “Reichsspritzenmeister” – loosely, the needle master of the Third Reich. He plied his needy patient with everything from sugar jabs to a potent daily cycle of stimulants and sedatives.

Anything that seeks to diminish Hitler’s responsibility for his actions should ring alarm bells – tellingly, the Holocaust denier David Irving likes to claim that medical mistakes sent Hitler into trances. While the documentary never tackled these ethical questions directly, the tone was sensitive, seeking insights rather than excuses for the “moral vacuum” at the heart of the Third Reich.

Pieced together from the diary, medical records and interviews, these insights included the rather enjoyable image of Hitler as a cranky, flatulent hypochondriac; paranoid putty in the hands of an opportunistic quack. Morell’s treatments ranged from Pervitin, a pick-me-up based on crystal meth, to a supposed aphrodisiac containing bull’s semen. The picture darkened as the war turned against Hitler. “The Führer didn’t sleep last night because of his anxieties,” Morell wrote in his diary on July 6, 1943. While hardly surprising that sending millions of men to die in vain might keep a man awake, there was a frisson to seeing it noted as medical fact.

By the end of the war, the “needle master” was administering 20 jabs a day, while his patient may have had Parkinson’s. We saw footage from 1945, originally suppressed by German censors, which showed Hitler’s hand shaking uncontrollably behind his back. At the time, he was preparing to defend Berlin from 2.5 million Soviet troops with an army of 45,000. His trembling hand was a potent image of ruined power in every sense.

There were no neat conclusions to be drawn on Hitler’s unravelling, but this was an evocative seat at the tyrant’s bedside. Where the film fell short was on explaining the medical context: it wasn’t clear how Morell’s treatments varied from conventional medicine. Whether quack and addict, or doctor and patient, one thing we know for certain about their relationship was how it ended: Morell abandoning Hitler in his bunker to the ultimate self-medication – a suicide pill.

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What Hitler’s sex life was really like

October 15th, 2014

Yet inevitably it is their sex life that has filled tomes, because in sex, we believe, a person’s deepest essence is revealed. Rumours of homosexuality had dogged Hitler since the early Twenties, repeated in Munich newspapers and bolstered by his close relationship with Ernst Röhm, the homosexual head of the Sturmabteilung, the Nazi Party militia.

There is good reason to believe that he did have repressed homosexual tendencies, yet the dictator’s interest in women is also well-attested. He would invite actresses back to his apartment for “private performances”. One actress, Renata Müller, spread rumours about Hitler’s alleged proclivity for self-abasement, with suggestions that he knelt at her feet and asked her to kick him. When she fell to her death from a window in 1937, many questioned the verdict of suicide.

Even more eye-catching was the secret 1943 report from America’s Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the CIA) which labelled Hitler an “impotent coprophile”. Based on claims from Otto Strasser, one of Hitler’s opponents in the Party, it alleged that the dictator forced his niece Geli to urinate and defecate on him. While it is hard to separate reality from politically inspired propaganda, Hitler’s obsession with the unfortunate Geli was probably the deepest of his life, and her suicide in his apartment brought him close to breakdown. Geli, like Eva, did not threaten him intellectually. “There is surely nothing finer than to educate a young thing for oneself,” he opined. “A lass of 18 or 20 years old is as pliable as wax.”

It is impossible to peer behind the bedroom door, but Amis’s speculation that Hitler was “sexually a void”, because of his obsession with hygiene, is contradicted by observers at the time, who suggest that Hitler and Eva did share a bed as a couple. They had interconnecting bedrooms at the Berghof and Hitler’s valet, Heinz Linge, attests that they would go to bed together.

Evidence suggests that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun did share a bed as a couple

While Hitler’s maid, Pauline Kohler, wrote that “Hitler is not strongly sexed”, Eva Braun’s correspondence reveals nothing unusual – certainly not along the lines of fully clothed sex – except that once war had broken out, Hitler was unable to get interested. She used to show her friends a 1938 photograph of Neville Chamberlain on a sofa in Hitler’s Munich flat, saying: “If only he knew what goings-on that sofa has seen!”

It would be surprising, as Amis says, that such a warped psychology as Hitler’s could ever be “a considerate and energetic lover”. Yet, once I began to write about the Nazi wives, I realised that the ability of mass murderers to compartmentalise their lives is one of their most disturbing aspects.

A new documentary about Himmler’s home life, called The Decent One, by the acclaimed filmmaker Vanessa Lapa, focuses on the tender personal letters between Himmler and his wife Marga, largely about their daughter Puppi, even as he perpetrated daily atrocities. It raises the same questions as Thomas Harding’s book Hanns and Rudolf, about the private life of Rudolf Höss, the Auschwitz commandant, whose children played just yards away from the camp, oblivious of the horrors occurring there.

Looking at the women who loved the Nazis is not prurient. It matters because viewing the Nazi leaders on the human scale – as fathers, lovers and husbands – is what makes their activities more repellent than ever.

Jane Thynne’s new novel A War of Flowers is published by Simon & Schuster on November 20

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Adolf Hitler’s house could become immigrants’ centre

May 14th, 2014

According to local press reports, she has rejected suggestions the house be made into an anti-Nazi memorial, and even refused the town authorities permission to put a plaque on the building, for fear it could provoke attacks from neo-Nazis or anti-fascists.

Instead, a small memorial stone on the street outside records the fact that this was Hitler’s birthplace.

Until two years ago, the building was used as a day centre for people with learning difficulties. The interior ministry carefully vets all prospective tenants to ensure it doesn’t become a neo-Nazi shrine, and the possibility of residential use was rejected in case it attracted Hitler admirers.

Now, after talks in Vienna dubbed the “Birthplace Summit” by Austrian newspapers, the interior ministry is optimistic it has found a solution acceptable to all parties – and one that seems a fitting response to Hitler’s racist policies.

Under the plan, after extensive renovation, the building would be used as a language school and integration centre for migrants.

Hitler spent the first three years of his life in the house. At the time, it was a modest guest-house where his parents rented rooms while his father was working as a minor customs official at the nearby border with Germany.

After his father was posted to Passau in Bavaria, the family moved away.

In 1938, after the Anschluss with Austria, huge crowds watched as Hitler returned to Braunau in triumph.

His private secretary, Martin Bormann, bought the house at 15 Salzburger Vorstadt for four times its market value, with the intention of turning it into a shrine.

In 1954, the former owner bought it back for a fraction of the price.

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