Adolf Hitler: 1935-1939

Adolf Hitler: 1935-1939

In 1935 Heinrich Hoffman, who worked as a photographer for Adolf Hitler, was treated by Dr. Theodor Morell for gonorrhoea. Franziska Braun, the mother of Eva Braun, was also treated successfully by him. Hoffman and Braun told Hitler about this doctor and in 1936 he was asked to examine the leader of the Nazi Party. At the time Hitler was suffering from stomach cramps. According to Morell, this was being caused by "complete exhaustion of the intestinal system" and recommended treatment of vitamins, hormones, phosphorus, and dextrose.

Hitler's personal physician, Karl Brandt, warned him he was in danger of being poisoned by these large dosages of drugs and vitamins. Hitler rejected Brandt's advice and replied: "No one has ever told me precisely what is wrong with me. Morrell's method of cure is so logical that I have the greatest confidence in him. I shall follow his prescriptions to the letter."

In the 1933 Election campaign, Adolf Hitler had promised that if he gained power he would abolish unemployment. He was lucky in that the German economy was just beginning to recover when he came into office. However, the policies that Hitler introduced did help to reduce the number of people unemployed in Germany. These policies often involved taking away certain freedoms from employers. The government banned the introduction of some labour-saving machinery. Employers also had to get government permission before reducing their labour force. The government also tended to give work contracts to those companies that relied on manual labour rather than machines. This was especially true of the government's massive motorway programme. As a result of this scheme Germany developed the most efficient road system in Europe.

Adolf Hitler also abolished taxation on new cars. A great lover of cars himself, and influenced by the ideas of Henry Ford, Hitler wanted every family in Germany to own a car. He even became involved in designing the Volkswagen (The People's Car). Hitler also encouraged the mass production of radios. In this case he was not only concerned with reducing unemployment but saw them as a means of supplying a steady stream of Nazi propaganda to the German people.

Youth unemployment was dealt with by the forming of the Voluntary Labour Service (VLS) and the Voluntary Youth Service (VYS), a scheme similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps introduced by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States. The VYS planted forests, repaired river banks and helped reclaim wasteland. Hitler also reduced unemployment by introducing measures that would encourage women to leave the labour market. Women in certain professions such as doctors and civil servants were dismissed, while other married women were paid a lump sum of 1000 marks to stay at home.

Lord Rothermere continued to support Hitler but tried to keep it secret from the general public. It later emerged that Rothermere was paying a retainer of £5,000 per year (£200,000 in today's money) to Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe, a close confidante of Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler and Joachim von Ribbentrop. According to The Daily Telegraph: "In 1933, the year that Hitler gained power, MI6 circulated a report stating that the French secret service had discovered documents in the princess's flat in Paris ordering her to persuade Rothermere to campaign for the return to Germany of territory ceded to Poland at the end of First World War. She was to receive £300,000 – equal to £13 million today if she succeeded."

Adolf Hitler with young children in Bavaria
Adolf Hitler with young children in Bavaria

Unity Mitford met Hitler on 9th February 1935 for the first time. She later told her sister, Jessica Mitford, that it was "the most wonderful and beautiful day of my life". Hitler told newspapers in Germany that Unity was "a perfect specimen of Aryan womanhood". Otto Dietrich, the author of The Hitler I Knew (1934) saw Hitler and Unity Mitford together many times. At the same table in the Osteria Bavaria Hitler made the acquaintance of the Englishwoman Unity Mitford... an enthusiastic follower of the British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley and a fervent admirer of Hitler. She had many private conversations about Anglo-German relations with Hitler, whose secret itineraries she usually guessed with great acuteness. Over the years Hitler frequently included her among the guests who accompanied him on his travels. She introduced Hitler to her father and her brother, when the two were passing through Munich."

Albert Speer also spent time with Unity Mitford and Hitler at the Osteria Bavaria. "I met her in the Osteria Bavaria. She was very romantic. The Osteria was a small inn, it is still there, and hasn't changed much. Small tables. There was a wooden partition, and behind it a table to seat eight. An adjutant would phone the owner to warn that Hitler might be coming and to have the table clear. There was also a courtyard, with one table under a pergola and this was Hitler's favourite seat when the weather was not cold. Unity was quite often there, I was invited only every second or third time. Like me, Mitford would be invited by the adjutant Schaub. She was highly in love with Hitler, we could see it easily, her face brightened up, her eyes gleaming, staring at Hitler. Hero-worship. Absolutely phenomenal. And possibly Hitler liked to be admired by a young woman, she was quite attractive - even if nothing happened he was excited by the possibility of a love affair with her. Towards an attractive woman he behaved as a seventeen-year-old would. She was influential with Hitler in that she was of the group in the Osteria."

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler with Unity Mitford (1936)

According to David Pryce-Jones, the author of Unity Mitford (1976) Unity Mitford was not alone in finding Hitler physically attractive: "Women by the thousand abased themselves at Hitler's feet, they tried to kiss his boots, and some of them succeeded, even to the point of swallowing the gravel on which he had trod, according to Reck-Malleczewen, whose fastidious hatred of the vulgarian Hitler was genuinely conservative. As a figurehead, as a male in absolute power, Hitler's aphrodisiac effect was scarcely even sublimated in the more impressionable women who constituted his beloved mass audience. They moaned, they were hysterical, they fainted, for an introspective bachelor deficient in sexuality.... In one respect Hitler was a final item in an intimate treasure-hunt, the object which could never be brought home, and in another respect he was a historical Big Daddy, patting the heads of blonde children. Restraint was impossible, in the frustration of apparently approaching the unapproachable; this was, so to speak, a masturbation of the spirit. She had herself to display."

Henriette Hoffman, the daughter of Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's official photographer, got to know Unity during this period. She claimed that Hitler "raved over Unity's personification of perfect German womanhood". She believes that Hitler had good reasons to encourage his relationship with Unity: "He was aware of the value, for propaganda purposes, of Unity and her blind devotion to him... with every fibre of her being she yearned to see Britain and Germany closely united. She often said to me, she dreamed of an impregnable and invincible alliance between the Ruler of the Seas and the Lord of the Earth; the land of her birth with the country of her hero could, she was convinced, achieve a world domination."

Princess Carmencita Wrede was a member of the inner-circle and does not believe Unity had a physical relationship with Hitler and was very jealous of Eva Braun. As Princess Carmencita points out: "Hitler calculated exactly the correct distance between him and Unity. Class differences were basic. Unity, Diana, Sigi von Laffert, Hella Khevenhuller, were too fine, really too aristocratic for him. Eva Braun was at his social level. My sister and I knew Eva and her sister, Gretl, well. In 1937 I was with Nevile Henderson - this idiot Henderson, Unity called him - at the Parteitag. Hitler was there, and Eva stood by herself, wearing a little raincoat. Hitler looked round and his gaze fell on her without change of expression. No other woman would have put up with that. Unity could not bear it. She was always badgering me, How is this Eva Braun? What does she have that I don't? How does she do it? She said to me, He never asks me to the Obersalzberg because Eva is always there. She's not in the Reichskanzlei, I replied, so you aren't on the Obersalzberg, fair's fair. There was a proper rivalry between them. Unity was thoroughly jealous."

Princess Carmencita also claims that Unity Mitford was also very jealous of Hitler's relationship with Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohen: "She complained that Stephanie Hohenlohe was Jewish, and how she had told Hitler, Here you are, anti-Jewish yet you have a Jew around you the whole time, this Princess Hohenlohe. Hitler said nothing. She simply hated the Hohenlohe for a rusée, going to tell Lord Rothermere what Hitler was up to. I asked her why she got so upset about it and the answer was short: jealousy again." However, Princess Stephanie denies that she have a sexual relationship with Hitler and in her unpublished memoirs she says that she assumed he was homosexual.

The historian, Alan Bullock suggests in his book, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962), that Hitler was incapable of normal sexual intercourse. He quotes Ernst Hanfstaengel, a close intimate of Hitler. In his book, Hitler: The Missing Years (1957) Hanfstaengel argues: "The abounding nervous energy which found no normal release sought compensation first in the subjection of his entourage, then in his country, then of Europe... In the sexual no man's land in which he lived, he only once nearly found the woman, and never even the man, who might have brought him relief." Albert Speer was convinced that Hitler did not have a sexual relationship with Unity: "She would have slept with him, of course, she was more than willing but he would not have gone to bed with her. I doubt if he ever did more than take her hand in his. And think too, that he was in a difficult position, even if he had ever found himself alone with her."

On her twenty-third birthday, Eva Braun again tried to kill herself. Hitler was shocked and turned up at her home asking for forgiveness. She recorded in her diary on 18th February, 1935, that he promised to buy her a house: "Dear God, please let them come true and let it happen in the near future... I am infinitely happy that he loves me so much and I pray that it may always remain so. I never want it to be my fault if one day he should cease to love me." However, in her diary on 28th May she complains: "Is this the mad love he promised me, when he doesn't send me a single comforting line in three months?"

Robert G. L. Waite, the author of The Psychopathic God (1977), has argued that there was a pattern to his relationships: "The idea that Hitler had a sexual perversion particularly abhorrent to women is further supported by a statistic: of the seven women who. we can be reasonably sure, had intimate relations with Hitler, six committed suicide or seriously attempted to do so.... Mimi Reiter tried to hang herself in 1928... Eva Braun attempted suicide in 1932 and again in 1935: Frau Inge Ley was a successful suicide, as were Renate Mueller and Suzi Liptauer."

Cate Haste, the author of Nazi Women (2001) has argued: "Hitler could not afford another scandal over a woman's suicide. Moreover, in a perverse way, Eva Braun had shown her steady loyalty to him, the thing Hitler craved most from women. She was rewarded by being allowed to play a small part in his private, but never his public, life." Hitler refused to marry Braun. According to Hitler: "The bad side of marriage is that it creates rights. In that case it's far better to have a mistress. The burden is lightened, and everything is placed on the level of a gift."

Eva Braun was eventually given an apartment in the Reich Chancellery. However, she had to enter it through the servants' quarters. Her close friend, Henriette Hoffman, the daughter of Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's official photographer, later commented: "It was furnished like a guest house, deep armchairs covered in rustic material, pots of flowers, cupboards painted with gentians, whole years' editions of film magazines. She had film stars' clothes copied, knew which star sign they were born under, and was interested in their lives." Henriette added that she often had her two dogs by her side and "was smoking fast and nervously, as she always did when she knew that Hitler was not nearby."

Albert Speer recalled that on one occasion, in front of Eva Braun, Hitler said: "A highly intelligent man should take a primitive and stupid woman. Imagine if, on top of everything else, I had a woman who interfered with my work! In my leisure time I want to have peace." Ian Kershaw has argued in Hitler 1889-1936 (1998): "Like his father, he preferred women much younger than himself - girls he could dominate, who would be obedient playthings but not get in the way. The two women with whom he would become most intimately associated, Geli Raubal (nineteen years younger than he was) and Eva Braun (twenty-three years younger), fitted the same model."

Reinhard Spitzy, aide to Joachim von Ribbentrop, met Eva Braun on several occasions: "Hitler wanted to be absolutely free, and she should give him a small bourgeois home with cake and tea. Hitler didn't want to have a socially high person. He could have had them, but he didn't want to have a woman who would discuss with him political questions or who would try to have her influence, and that Eva Braun never did. Eva Braun didn't interfere in politics." Albert Speer thought that Eva Braun was Hitler's ideal partner: "Eva was very feminine... a man's woman, incredibly undemanding of herself, helpful to many people behind the scenes - nobody ever knew that - and infinitely thoughtful of Hitler. She was a restful sort of girl. And her love for Hitler was beyond question." Eva was never seen in public with him. Any photograph that showed her face was stamped "Publication Forbidden".

Hitler's secretary, Christa Schroeder, was a heavy smoker and Hitler constantly scold her about her habit: "He would start out with special reference to narrowing of the arteries caused by smoking. How awful a smoker's stomach must look. Smokers lacked consideration for others, forcing them to breathe in polluted air. He had really toyed with the idea of outlawing smoking anywhere in Germany. The campaign would begin by having a death's head printed on every cigarette pack." Hitler told Ilse Braun "Before going into retirement I shall order that all the cigarette packets on sale in my Europe should have on the label, in letters of fire, the slogan: Danger, tobacco smoke kills; danger: Cancer."

However, Hitler seemed to be unaware that Eva Braun smoked: "If I should ever discover that Eva were secretly smoking, then that would be grounds for me to separate from her immediately and for ever." However, Reinhard Spitzy claims that Hitler knew Eva Braun smoked and that she had some privileges that enabled her to do what was forbidden to others: "She was allowed to sing, to dance, to paint her nails with red paint, and she was allowed to smoke a cigarette outside. Meanwhile, we had to go to the loo to smoke... Hitler had a very good nose, and it was forbidden to smoke. But Eva Braun was allowed everything."

Hitler offered expensive presents to his friends if they gave up the habit. Nerin E. Gun, the author of Eva Braun: Hitler's Mistress (1969) has argued: "He (Hitler) had also promised the ladies who went for a month without smoking a gift of a Swiss gold watch and some jewellery. Eva obtained her reward and so did about twenty other women, but Eva's sisters Ilse and Gretl and her intimate friend Herta forfeited theirs." He felt especially protective towards Eva's younger sister, Gretl Braun. He told her "Give up cigarettes, and I'll offer you a villa." Gretl replied: "My Fuhrer, a villa would be a great joy to me, but only one, whereas smoking gives me twenty little satisfactions every day, satisfactions that last and multiply."

In August 1935 Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was invited by Hitler, along with her friend, Ethel Snowden, to attend the Nuremberg Nazi Party Rally. She later wrote about the "tribal excitement of Nuremberg... a shrine of Nazidom... an orgy of dedication to the Nazi creed." Her attendance upset Unity Mitford, who saw Stephanie as a romantic rival. Unity told Hitler: "Here you are, an anti-Semite, and yet you have a Jewish woman, Princess Hohenlohe, around you all the time." Stephanie claims that Hitler was fascinated by her and while watching films together he stroked her hair and gave her intimate pinches on her cheek.

Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
Lord Rothermere, George Ward Price, Adolf Hitler, Fritz Wiedemann, Joseph Goebbels,
with Princess Stephanie and Magda Goebbels sitting in front. (January, 1936)

Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe admitted in her unpublished memoirs that her relationship with Hitler upset those around him: "Every visit of mine to the Reich Chancellery seemed to them an impudent encroachment upon their sacred privileges, and every hour that Adolf wasted upon me was an hour which he might have spent to so much greater advantage in their devoted company.... His manners are exceedingly courteous, especially to women. At least that is how he has always been towards me. Whenever I arrived or left he always kissed my hand, often taking one of mine into both of his and shaking it for a time to emphasise the sincerity of the pleasure it gave him to see one, at the same time looking deep into my eyes." Princess Stephanie admitted that they were physically intimate, he stroked her hair when they watched films together, however, they were never lovers. She claimed this was because Hitler was homosexual.

In Mein Kampf Hitler made it absolutely clear that he had a deep hatred of the Jewish race. However, anti-Semitism did cause difficulties for Hitler when he was trying to gain power in Germany. Jewish businessmen in Germany and the rest of the world were occasionally able to use their influence to prevent anti-Semitic ideas being promoted. Henry Ford was forced to stop publishing anti-Semitic attacks in the United States after the Jewish community organized a boycott of Ford cars in the late 1920s.

Lord Rothermere, who used his newspaper, The Daily Mail, to argue for Hitler's policies. In July, 1934 Rothermere suddenly withdrew his support for Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists. The historian, James Pool, argues: "The rumor on Fleet Street was that the Daily Mail's Jewish advertisers had threatened to place their ads in a different paper if Rothermere continued the profascist campaign." Pool points out that sometime after this, Rothermere met with Hitler at the Berghof and told how the "Jews cut off his complete revenue from advertising" and compelled him to "toe the line." Hitler later recalled Rothermere telling him that it was "quite impossible at short notice to take any effective countermeasures."

Aware of the power of Jewish money, Hitler began to leave out anti-Semitic comments from his speeches during elections. This was one of the major factors in the increase in financial contributions from German industrialists in the 1933 General Election. His change in tactics was so successful that even Jewish businessmen began contributing money to the National Socialist German Workers Party.

Once in power Hitler began to express anti-Semitic ideas again. Based on his readings of how blacks were denied civil rights in the southern states in America, Hitler attempted to make life so unpleasant for Jews in Germany that they would emigrate. The campaign started on 1st April, 1933, when a one-day boycott of Jewish-owned shops took place. Members of the Sturm Abteilung (SA) picketed the shops to ensure the boycott was successful.

The hostility of towards Jews increased in Germany. This was reflected in the decision by many shops and restaurants not to serve the Jewish population. Placards saying "Jews not admitted" and "Jews enter this place at their own risk" began to appear all over Germany. In some parts of the country Jews were banned from public parks, swimming-pools and public transport.

Germans were also encouraged not to use Jewish doctors and lawyers. Jewish civil servants, teachers and those employed by the mass media were sacked. Members of the SA put pressure on people not to buy goods produced by Jewish companies. For example, the Ullstein Press, the largest publisher of newspapers, books and magazines in Germany, was forced to sell the company to the NSDAP in 1934 after the actions of the SA had made it impossible for them to make a profit.

Many Jewish people who could no longer earn a living left the country. The number of Jews emigrating increased after the passing of the Nuremberg Laws on Citizenship and Race in 1935. Under this new law Jews could no longer be citizens of Germany. It was also made illegal for Jews to marry Aryans. The pressure on Jews to leave Germany intensified.

Martin Bormann became an important figure in the Hitler inner-circle. Hitler was impressed by Borman's efficiency: "Where others need all day, Bormann does it for me in two hours, and he never forgets anything! ... Bormann's reports are so precisely formulated that I only need to say Yes or No . With him I get through a pile of files in ten minutes for which other men would need hours. If I tell him, remind me of this or that in six months, I can rest assured that he will do so.

However, Bormann was unpopular with other members of staff. Heinz Linge was Hitler's valet. In his autobiography, With Hitler to the End (1980), he explained Bormann's relationship with Hitler and his staff: "Outwardly he no more resembled the physical image which National Socialism prized than Himmler or Goebbels. In stature he was of small build, fat and robust, an uncouth and unbelievably hyperactive personality. Whatever he did was carried through with unscrupulous force. He crushed underfoot anybody in his path. He was one of those persons for whom you instinctively stand even if you met him as a stranger in the street.... Bormann was a strong personality whose influence even on Hitler I had occasion to remark often. He worked day and night, allowed colleagues and employees no rest and tyrannised them. For the most minor error he would ruthlessly cull a member of staff. He called for a furious work rate and appalled not only his workers and advisers but his adjutants such as Führer too."

Hitler's chauffeur, Erich Kempka, was another person who had a strong dislike of Bormann. In his book, I Was Hitler's Chauffeur: The Memoirs of Erich Kempka (1951) he wrote: "The most hated and dictatorial person in Hitler's immediate circle was Reichsleiter Martin Bormann. He had a cat-like, effusive show of friendliness when it suited his purposes, but when not being nice he was utterly brutal. His ruthlessness knew no bounds. His only known good point was his unbelievable work rate. One cannot talk about the fall of the Reich and the death of Hitler without a thorough understanding of the person who was the grey eminence in Hitler's personal circle... He had an excellent idea of how to make equals feel he was their friend and to have himself appreciated by his superiors. He worked almost day and night without a break and rightfully won the reputation of being a great workhorse."

Albert Speer was one of those who observed the way Bormann increased his power over other leaders of the Nazi Party, such as Joseph Goebbels, Herman Goering, Alfred Rosenberg, Robert Ley, Heinrich Himmler, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Rudolf Hess. "The powerful men under Hitler were already jealously watching one another like so many pretenders to the throne. Quite early there were struggles for position among Goebbels, Goering, Rosenberg, Ley, Himmler, Ribbentrop, and Hess. Only Roehm had been left by the wayside, and before long Hess was to lose all his influence. But none of them recognized a threat in the shape of trusty Bormann. He had succeeded in representing himself as insignificant while imperceptibly building up his bastions. Even among so many ruthless men, he stood out by his brutality and coarseness. He had no culture, which might have put some restraints on him, and in every case he carried out whatever Hitler had ordered or what he himself had gathered from Hitler's hints. A subordinate by nature, he treated his own subordinates as if he were dealing with cows and oxen."

Martin Bormann
Martin Bormann

The historian, Louis L. Snyder, has also been very critical of Martin Bormann: "He was, indeed, the power behind Hitler's throne. Under his unprepossessing exterior was the classic manipulator, the anonymous power seeker who worked in secrecy and outmaneuvered all his rivals seeking Hitler's ear." Albert Speer has claimed that he used this power for his own financial advantage. Bormann apparently took money from the Adolf Hitler Endowment Fund of German Industry that he controlled. Speer argues that he got away with it because he was "clever enough" to give some of this money to other Nazi Party leaders. Christa Schroeder rejects this idea and in her book, He Was My Chief: The Memoirs of Adolf Hitler's Secretary (1985): "Many of the rumours still current about Bormann have in my opinion no basis in fact... To my mind he was one of the few National Socialists with clean hands if one may put it that way, for he was incorruptible and came down hard on all corruption he discovered. For his oppressive attitude in this regard he increasingly antagonised corrupt Party members and many others."

In 1937 Theodor Morell was appointed as one of Hitler's personal physicians. Christa Schroeder, Hitler's personal secretary, wrote in her autobiography, He Was My Chief: The Memoirs of Adolf Hitler's Secretary (1985): "Morell was of average height, corpulent and wore a good-humoured expression. Hair sprouted from his ears and cuffs. On his thick fingers he wore exotic rings obtained during overseas voyages, on which he had also picked up some foreign eating habits. For example he would not peel an orange but bite into it until the juice squirted out."

Dr. Morell's biographer, Louis L. Snyder, has argued: "Morell took advantage of his relationship with his powerful patient to amass a fortune. He built factories where he manufactured patent remedies. He built factories where he manufactured patent remedies. His chocolate vitamins were a financial success. The use of Morell Russian Russian Lice Power was made compulsory for the armed forces."

Hitler's health was still not good. As well as stomach cramps he also suffered from headaches, double vision, dizziness and tinnitus. Morell began treating Hitler with intestinal bacteria "raised from the best stock owned by a Bulgarian peasant". Morell tested dozens of unknown drugs on Hitler. This included biologicals from the intestines of male animals and amphetamines. Morell told Christa Schroeder: "I am giving him hormone injections from bulls' testicles, that should pep him up!"

Albert Speer admitted: "We never felt entirely easy about these methods. Dr. Brandt asked around among his specialist friends, and they all pronounced Morell's methods risky and unproved and foresaw dangers of addiction. And in fact the injections had to be given more and more frequently, and biologicals obtained from the testicles and intestines of animals, as well as from chemical and plant sources, were poured into Hitler's bloodstream... If Hitler had the faculty for placing others under his spell, in this case the reverse relationship developed: Hitler was completely convinced of his personal physician's genius and soon forbade any criticism of the man."

Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Reinhard Heydrich organized a new programme designed to encourage Jews to emigrate. Crystal Night took place on 9th-10th November, 1938. Presented as a spontaneous reaction of the German people to the news that a German diplomat had been murdered by a young Jewish refugee in Paris, the whole event was in fact organized by the NSDAP.

During Crystal Night over 7,500 Jewish shops were destroyed and 400 synagogues were burnt down. Ninety-one Jews were killed and an estimated 20,000 were sent to concentration camps. Up until this time these camps had been mainly for political prisoners. The only people who were punished for the crimes committed on Crystal Night were members of the Sturm Abteilung (SA) who had raped Jewish women (they had broken the Nuremberg Laws on sexual intercourse between Aryans and Jews).

After Crystal Night the numbers of Jews wishing to leave Germany increased dramatically. It has been calculated that between 1933 and 1939, approximately half the Jewish population of Germany (250,000) left the country. This included several Jewish scientists who were to play an important role in the fight against fascism during the war. A higher number of Jews would have left but anti-Semitism was not restricted to Germany and many countries were reluctant to take them.

Once in power Hitler began to consider how he could expand the territory he controlled. Hitler's reading of history convinced him that Britain posed the main threat to his dream of a Germany that dominated Europe.

In the 1930s Britain still had an empire that covered a quarter of the world. In the past Britain had reacted swiftly to any country that had threatened her empire or attempted to become the main power in mainland Europe.

Hitler respected the British and considered them to share many of the qualities possessed by Germans. In Mein Kampf he argued that to achieve his foreign policy objectives, Germany would probably have to form an alliance with Britain. "No sacrifice," Hitler wrote, was "too great if it was a necessary means of gaining England's friendship."

In his first few years in power Hitler had meetings with several British politicians and diplomats. He discovered that the British now tended to believe that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were too harsh on the defeated countries and that Britain was unlikely to declare war if Germany ignored them. Hitler also became aware that the British had a strong dislike of communism and feared a Europe dominated by the Soviet Union.

France was more committed to the Treaty of Versailles but Hitler guessed she would be unwilling to take action against Germany without support of the British. Hitler therefore felt he was in a strong position. With Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president of the United States, making it clear that he would not interfere in European disputes and both Italy and Japan having right-wing governments sympathetic to Germany, Hitler felt he was in a position to make a move.

Hans Schweitzer, German Defence Force (c. 1939)
Hans Schweitzer, German Defence Force (c. 1939)

In October 1933, Hitler withdrew from the League of Nations and claimed that he had done so because of the failure of the disarmament talks. Hitler argued that under the Treaty of Versailles Germany was militarily weak. He said that Germany had been willing to keep to this state of affairs if other countries disarmed. As this had not happened, Germany now had to take measures to protect herself.

In the months that followed, Hitler trebled the size of the German Army and completely ignored the restrictions on weapons that had been imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. By 1935, when it was clear that no action was going to be taken against Germany for breaking the Treaty of Versailles, Hitler felt strong enough to introduce military conscription.

Hitler was not sure how far he could go and was constantly looking for clues that would reveal at what point Britain and France would go to war with Germany. Hitler was heartened when Benito Mussolini was allowed to send his army Ethiopia in October 1935 without any serious political reaction.

Hitler knew that both France and Britain were militarily stronger than Germany. However, he became convinced that they were unwilling to go to war. He therefore decided to break another aspect of the Treaty of Versailles by sending German troops into the Rhineland.

The German generals were very much against the plan, claiming that the French Army would win a victory in the military conflict that was bound to follow this action. Hitler ignored their advice and on 1st March, 1936, three German battalions marched into the Rhineland.

The French government was horrified to find German troops on their border but were unwilling to take action without the support of the British. The British government argued against going to war over the issue and justified its position by claiming that "Germany was only marching into its own back yard.".

Hitler's gamble had come off and, full of confidence, he began to make plans to make Austria part of Germany (Anschluss). In February, 1938, Hitler invited Kurt von Schuschnigg, the Austrian Chancellor, to meet him at Berchtesgarden. Hitler demanded concessions for the Austrian Nazi Party. Schuschnigg refused and after resigning was replaced by Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the leader of the Austrian Nazi Party. On 13th March, Seyss-Inquart invited the German Army to occupy Austria and proclaimed union with Germany.

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler

After his success in Austria Hitler was now in a good position to take on Czechoslovakia. The country had been created in 1918 from territory that had previously been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As well as the seven million Czechs, two million Slovaks, 700,000 Hungarians and 450,000 Ruthenians there were three and a half million German speaking people living in Czechoslovakia.

Although Czechoslovakia had never been part of Germany, these people liked to call themselves Germans because of their language. Most of these people lived in the Sudetenland, an area on the Czechoslovakian border with Germany. The German speaking people complained that the Czech-dominated government discriminated against them. German's who had lost their jobs in the depression began to argue that they might be better off under Hitler.

Hitler wanted to march into Czechoslovakia but his generals warned him that with its strong army and good mountain defences Czechoslovakia would be a difficult country to overcome. They also added that if Britain, France or the Soviet Union joined on the side of Czechoslovakia, Germany would probably be badly defeated. One group of senior generals even made plans to overthrow Hitler if he ignored their advice and declared war on Czechoslovakia.

In September 1938, Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, met Hitler at his home in Berchtesgaden in Germany. Hitler threatened to invade Czechoslovakia unless Britain supported Germany's plans to takeover the Sudetenland. After discussing the issue with the Edouard Daladier (France) and Eduard Benes (Czechoslovakia), Chamberlain informed Hitler that his proposals were unacceptable.

Hitler was in a difficult situation but he also knew that Britain and France were unwilling to go to war. He also thought it unlikely that these two countries would be keen to join up with the Soviet Union, whose communist system the western democracies hated more that Hitler's fascist dictatorship. Benito Mussolini suggested to Hitler that one way of solving this issue was to hold a four-power conference of Germany, Britain, France and Italy. This would exclude both Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, and therefore increasing the possibility of reaching an agreement and undermine the solidarity that was developing against Germany.

The meeting took place in Munich on 29th September, 1938. Desperate to avoid war, and anxious to avoid an alliance with Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union, Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier agreed that Germany could have the Sudetenland. In return, Hitler promised not to make any further territorial demands in Europe.

After the signing of the Munich Agreement, Hitler's personal adjutant, Fritz Wiedemann sent a letter to Lord Rothermere stating: "You know that the Führer greatly appreciates the work the princess did to straighten relations between our countries... it was her (Princess Stephanie) groundwork which made the Munich agreement possible." Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe wrote to Hitler at the same time congratulating him on his achievement: "There are moments in life that are so great - I mean, where one feels so deeply that it is almost impossible to find the right words to express one's feelings - Herr Reich Chancellor, please believe me that I have shared with you the experience and emotion of every phase of the events of the last weeks. What none of your subjects in their wildest dreams dared hope for - you have made come true. That must be the finest thing a head of state can give to himself and to his people. I congratulate you with all my heart."

One People, One Nation, One Leader (1938)
One People, One Nation, One Leader (1938)

On 29th September, 1938, Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Edouard Daladier and Benito Mussolini signed the Munich Agreement which transferred the Sudetenland to Germany. When Eduard Benes, Czechoslovakia's head of state, protested at this decision, Neville Chamberlain told him that Britain would be unwilling to go to war over the issue of the Sudetenland. The German Army marched into the Sudetenland on 1st October, 1938. As this area contained nearly all Czechoslovakia's mountain fortifications, she was no longer able to defend herself against further aggression.

From his meetings with Neville Chamberlain, Hitler had discovered that this man would do anything to avoid military conflict. Chamberlain was aware of the appalling destruction that would take place during a modern war. He also feared that a large-scale war in Western Europe would weaken the countries involved to the point where they would be vulnerable to a communist takeover. Hitler told Albrecht Haushofer: "This fellow Chamberlain shook with fear when I uttered the word war. Don't tell me he is dangerous." Haushofer told his friend Fritz Hesse that "Hitler is now convinced that he can afford to do anything. Formerly he believed that we must have the maximum armaments because of the warlike menaces of the Powers striving to encircle us, but now he thinks that these Powers will crawl on all fours before him!"

At the end of 1938 Adolf Hitler began to turn against Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe. Officially it was because he had discovered that she was Jewish. However, he had in fact known about this for at least three years. Hitler told Fritz Wiedemann that he should break off all contact with her. Leni Riefenstahl suggested that Wiedemann's "relationship with Hitler became more distant because of his half-Jewish girlfriend." However, we know from other sources that Hitler had known she was Jewish since 1934.

Fritz Wiedemann had tried to get Hitler to tone down some of his more extremist policies. His advice on the negotiations at Munich was also badly received. In his diary on 24th October 1938, Joseph Goebbels wrote: "The Führer tells me incidentally that he really has to get rid of Wiedemann now. During the Munich crisis he apparently did not perform well and lost his nerve completely. And when things get serious he has no use for men like that." According to Martha Schad, the author of Hitler's Spy Princess (2002), Hitler discovered that Wiedemann was having an affair with Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe: "Early in January 1939 the game of hide-and-seek around the Princess Stephanie and Fritz Wiedemann came to an abrupt end. Hitler found out that Wiedemann was Stephanie's lover."

On 19th January 1939, Wiedemann was told to report to Hitler. Wiedemann later recalled what Hitler told him: "I have no use for men in high positions - by that he probably meant Schacht - and in my immediate circle - that meant me - who are not in agreement with my policies. I am dismissing you as adjutant and appointing you Counsul-General in San Francisco. You can accept the post or decline it." Wiedemann replied briefly that he accepted the position. It was clear that Hitler was not that upset with Wiedemann as he arranged for him to be paid 4,000 Reichsmarks a year more than his predecessor in the post.

Confident that Britain and France would not interfere as long as Germany headed east towards the Soviet Union, Hitler began to make plans for his next step. Poland was the obvious choice as it was in the east and included areas of land taken from Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler began to make speeches demanding the return of Danzig, and German access to East Prussia through Poland. According to his valet, Heinz Linge, when his generals urged caution, Hitler replied: "The British and French have had enough of world wars. Whoever thought they were serious about intervening for Poland and keeping to their pact obligations has learnt nothing from history."

Neville Chamberlain now changed tactics in an attempt to convince Hitler that Britain would indeed go to war if Germany continued to invade other countries. He made a speech in the House of Commons promising to support Poland if it were attacked by Germany. The British government also sent diplomats to the Soviet Union to talk to Joseph Stalin about the possibility of working together against Germany.

The British government were still uncertain about signing a military agreement with the Soviet Union, and while they hesitated Germany stepped in and signed one instead. The Nazi-Soviet Pact took the world by surprise. Fascists and communists had always been enemies. However, both Hitler and Stalin were opportunists who were willing to compromise for short-term gain.

Primary Sources

(1) David Lloyd George, Daily Express (17th November, 1936)

I have just returned from a visit to Germany. ... I have now seen the famous German leader and also something of the great change he has effected. Whatever one may think of his methods - and they are certainly not those of a Parliamentary country - there can be no doubt that he has achieved a marvellous transformation in the spirit of the people, in their attitude towards each other, and in their social and economic outlook.

One man has accomplished this miracle. He is a born leader of men. A magnetic dynamic personality with a single-minded purpose, a resolute will, and a dauntless heart. He is the national Leader. He is also securing them against that constant dread of starvation which is one of the most poignant memories of the last years of the war and the first years of the Peace. The establishment of a German hegemony in Europe which was the aim and dream of the old prewar militarism, is not even on the horizon of Nazism.

(2) Adolf Hitler met Kurt von Schuschnigg, the Austrian Federal Chancellor on 12th February, 1938. Schuschnigg later recalled what Hitler said to him at the meeting about marching into the Rhineland in March, 1936.)

Don't believe that anyone in the world will hinder me in my decisions! Italy? I am quite clear with Mussolini; with Italy I am on the closest possible terms. England? England will not lift a finger for Austria. And France? Well, two years ago when we marched into the Rhineland with a handful of battalions - at that moment I risked a great deal. If France had marched then, we should have been forced to withdraw. But for France it is now too late!

(3) Statement issued by Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler after the signing of the Munich Agreement (30th September, 1938)

We, the German Führer and Chancellor and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for the two countries and for Europe.

We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as Symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again. We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries.

(4) Adolf Hitler, speech at Koenigsberg (25th March, 1938)

Certain foreign newspapers have said that we fell on Austria with brutal methods. I can only say; even in death they cannot stop lying. I have in the course of my political struggle won much love from my people, but when I crossed the former frontier (into Austria) there met me such a stream of love as I have never experienced. Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators.

(5) Traudl Junge, was Adolf Hitler's personal secretary. She later commented on his views on women.

Hitler didn't marry, he said himself, because he didn't want to lose his fascination for women. Obviously, an unmarried man is far more desirable than a boring husband. As a man, he didn't look attractive at all. It was more that he personified power - that was his fascination. And also his presence. He had a way of looking at you with those eyes, which could really set you alight. And somehow he was a mythical figure for women. He was a saviour, and he gave off an aura of power, and that impressed women. Like a Messiah, perhaps.

(6) Nerin E. Gun, Eva Braun: Hitler's Mistress (1969)

Hitler had a very low opinion of Americans, based largely on his favourite Hollywood gangster films. Although he read voraciously, he had neglected works on America, a country that he judged inconsistent, and he was convinced that American soldiers were incapable of holding a gun properly. Even after the invasion, he explained his reverses by the fact that the commanders of the United States military forces were all more or less of Prussian origin - Eisenhower, Spaatz, Nimitz, and, by adoption, Patton. When he first heard about the WACs, he rubbed his hands and announced, "I'm going to send them our most seductive SS-men; then we'll have fine children after the battle." He none the less sympathised when he heard the inaccurate rumour of the closing down of the Metropolitan Opera in 1942: "It's deplorable, a cultural debacle." He despised Roosevelt, whom he considered a puppet whose strings were pulled by sinister interests. Stalin, on the other hand, was in his eyes a genius, even though a terrible one. He showed himself indulgent towards Churchill. He once assured Eva Braun that at the end of the war he would not have him executed but would allow him to live under surveillance in a place where he could daub canvases to his heart's content. Hitler often spoke of his own retirement, which he had resolved to spend painting and writing a book of memoirs. "Eva and I will be married and will live in a beautiful house in Linz, and, I promise you, there won't be a single uniform there, nothing to remind one of the war." According to Eva's sister, they had even bought land near Linz and also in Munich for retirement homes.

There was, however, one period of American history that deserved his admiration: Prohibition. "Only a young nation could venture to take such a drastic but such a necessary step." Hitler was a militant teetotaller, although he did not forbid the members of his entourage, even Eva Braun, to drink strong liquor. He had many other aversions besides.

He hated travelling by boat, for he was not a strong swimmer and suffered from seasickness; he refused to go horseback riding; he had sworn never to ski again; he was a strict vegetarian, as has already been mentioned; and he never listened to the radio. His greatest fixation, however, was about the mortal danger that could result from smoking. "Before going into retirement," he informed Eva's sister, "I shall order that all the cigarette packets on sale in my Europe should have on the label, in letters of fire, the slogan: "Danger, tobacco smoke kills; danger: Cancer".' (In this matter he was far ahead of his time.)

He often told how he had given up this vice himself as a young man in Linz, when he realised that the money he spent on cigarettes deprived him of many evenings at the theatre. "I was on the bridge that crosses the Danube and I said to myself, Enough of this, and I threw my cigarette into the yellow waters of the river. I've never smoked since."
He wanted to save others from smoking. The council meetings, the long conversations around the fire, the receptions where he was present were real torture sessions. Hitler had even ordered the removal of the ash trays from all the rooms of the Berghof, and one of the Braun sisters swears that he did not hesitate to inspect the ladies' room to make sure that nobody was smoking there in hiding. Eva promised to abstain and gargled all the time in order not to betray the fact that she none the less practised this vice secretly. One evening, according to IIse, when Hitler had gone up to his room, Eva lit a cigarette in the company of her sister, Goebbels, and Dietrich. But Hitler made a sudden reappearance. In her panic, Eva, who was standing at the bottom of the stairs, hid her cigarette by sitting on it. Hitler gave no sign of having noticed anything and went off again after five minutes. But the cigarette had gone on burning; it had made a hole in her woollen skirt, burned through the petticoat, the underthings, and had begun to attack Eva's tenderest parts. She did not flinch, but for several days afterwards Eva chose to stand up most of the time despite Hitler's solicitous efforts to make her sit down.

Hitler's hatred of tobacco was so strong that he had even destroyed a photograph of his enemy Stalin because it showed him smoking.

Once he had proposed a strange bargain to Eva's sister Gretl, whom he called "Colibri" because she was the youngest: "Give up cigarettes, and I'll offer you a villa."

"My Fuhrer," Gretl candidly argued, "a villa would be a great joy to me, but only one, whereas smoking gives me twenty little satisfactions every day, satisfactions that last and multiply." He had also promised the ladies who went for a month without smoking a gift of a Swiss gold watch and some jewellery. Eva obtained her reward and so did about twenty other women, but Eva's sisters Ilse and Gretl and her intimate friend Herta forfeited theirs. "This was because the others cheated," Herta reveals, "whereas we confessed to our weakness."

Whenever Hitler thundered against tobacco, Eva Braun's habitual protest was to hum nonstop one of her favourite American songs, sometimes in English and sometimes in her own German adaptation. The song was "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."

Some people consider an aversion to alcohol, meat, tobacco, and hunting as proofs of human virtue. But how should Hitler's excessive affection for his dogs be interpreted? He once invited to the Berghof the surgeon Sauerbruch, who was deservedly considered the best in Europe. Hitler's motive was to have his dog Bella operated on.

His tastes in animals were highly inconsistent, however. He found horses stupid, disliked boxer dogs, kept away from deer, tortoises, and chicks, whose smallness did not conform to his ideas of grandeur, and was allergic to cats. He had a passion for Alsatians, dating from 1921, when he had been given one. Since at the time he had no room to keep the dog, he had been obliged to house it elsewhere, but it ran away and came back to him, and forever after he was devoted to the breed.

(7) Reinhard Heydrich, instructions for measures against Jews (10th November, 1938)

Following the attempt on the life of Secretary of the Legation von Rath in Paris, demonstrations against the Jews are to be expected in all parts of the Reich in the course of the coming night, November 9/10,1938. The instructions below are to be applied in dealing with these events:

I. The chiefs of the State Police, or their deputies, must immediately upon receipt of this telegram contact, by telephone, the political leaders in their areas - Gauleiter or Kreisleiter - who have jurisdiction in their districts and arrange a joint meeting with the inspector or commander of the Order Police to discuss the arrangements for the demonstrations. At these discussions the political leaders will be informed that the German Police has received instructions, detailed below, from the Reichsfiihrer SS and the chief of the German Police, with which the political leadership is requested to coordinate its own measures:

(a) Only such measures are to be taken as do not endanger German lives or property (i.e., synagogues are to be burnt down only where there is no danger of fire in neighboring buildings).

(b) Places of business and apartments belonging to Jews may be destroyed but not looted. The police are instructed to supervise the observance of this order and to arrest looters.

(c) In commercial streets particular care is to be taken that non-Jewish businesses are completely protected against damage.

(d) Foreign citizens - even if they are Jews - are not to be molested.

II. On the assumption that the guidelines are observed, the demonstrations are not to be prevented by the police, who are only to supervise the observance of the guidelines.

III. On receipt of this telegram, police will seize all archives to be found in all synagogues and offices of the Jewish communities so as to prevent their destruction during the demonstrations. This refers only to material of historical value, not to contemporary tax records, etc. The archives are to be handed over to the locally responsible officers of the SD.

IV. The control of the measures of the Security Police concerning the demonstrations against the Jews is vested in the organs of the State Police, unless inspectors of the Security Police have given their own instructions. Officials of the Criminal Police, members of the SD, of the Reserves and the SS in general may be used to carry out the measures taken by the Security Police.

V. As soon as the course of events during the night permits the release of the officials required, as many Jews in all districts, especially the rich, as can be accommodated in existing prisons are to be arrested. For the time being only healthy male Jews, who are not too old, are to be detained. After the detentions have been carried out the appropriate concentration camps are to be contracted immediately for the prompt accommodation of the Jews in the camps. Special care is to be taken that the Jews arrested in accordance with these instructions are not ill-treated.

(8) Victor Klemperer, diary (27th November, 1938)

On the morning of the 11th November two policemen arrived accompanied by a 'resident of Doeizschen'. Did have any weapons? - Certainly my sabre, perhaps even my bayonet as a war memento, but I wouldn't know where. We have to help you find it. The house was searched for hours. At the beginning Eva made the mistake of quite innocently telling one of the policemen he should not go through the clean linen cupboard without washing his hands. The man, considerably affronted, could hardly be calmed down. A second younger policeman was more friendly, the civilian was the worst. We said we had been without domestic help for months, many things were dusty and still unpacked. They rummaged through everything, chests and wooden constructions Eva had made were broken open with an axe. The sabre was found in a suitcase in the attic, the bayonet was not found. Among the books they found a copy of the Sozialistic Monatshefte (a Socialist monthly magazine) this was also confiscated. At about one o'clock the civilian and the older policeman left the house, the young one remained and took a statement. He was good-natured and courteous, I had the feeling he himself found the thing embarrassing.

Student Activities

Adolf Hitler's Early Life (Answer Commentary)

British Newspapers and Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)

An Assessment of the Nazi-Soviet Pact (Answer Commentary)

Lord Rothermere, Daily Mail and Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)

Heinrich Himmler and the SS (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler's Early Life (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler v John Heartfield (Answer Commentary)

The Hitler Youth (Answer Commentary)

German League of Girls (Answer Commentary)

Night of the Long Knives (Answer Commentary)

The Political Development of Sophie Scholl (Answer Commentary)

The White Rose Anti-Nazi Group (Answer Commentary)

Kristallnacht (Answer Commentary)

Trade Unions in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

Hitler's Volkswagen (The People's Car) (Answer Commentary)

Women in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich (Answer Commentary)

The Last Days of Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)

D-Day (Answer Commentary)

Home Front Simulation (Answer Commentary)

Alan Turing - School Student (Answer Commentary)