Hitler is one of the most intriguing figures of the 20th Century. More often than not, throughout history, the authoritarian leader is viewed as an evil man.
Setting diabolical factors aside, I have always been curious on his invincibility throughout his reign as the Third Reich. When I delved into “Hitler’s Private Library: The Books that Shaped His Life” by Timothy W. Ryback, I discovered that prior to Hitler’s involvement with politics, he was somewhat a different man. Surprisingly, altruism had used to be one of his inner traits.
Max Amann, the company sargeant, remembered Hitler as a decidedly odd but notably selfless man. Amann recalls that when he discovered a surplus in the company budget and offered it to Hitler because the Austrian appeared to have so little money, Hitler thanked Amann and suggested he give it to someone more needy. Similarly, when Amann recommended him for a promotion, Corporal Hitler declined. He said he commanded more respect without an officer’s stripes. He appeared to be selfless in the extreme. “Even if I came in at three in the morning there were always a few men on duty,” Amann recalled. “When I said, ‘Messenger,’ no one moved, only Hitler jumped up. When I said, ‘You again!’ he said, ‘Let the others sleep. It doesn’t matter to me.’ “
So how can a man who used to have a heart of gold become cold as stone causing the death of millions during the World War II? I believe that imbued with a dark childhood past, Hitler already had within him the rage and vengeance that was yet to be awakened before meeting his mentor Dietrich Eckhart in 1919. Ryback asserted that “Eckhart shaped the soft clay of Hitler’s emotional and intellectual world” and “Most significantly, of course, Eckhart scripted Hitler’s role as histroy’s most infamous anti-semite“.
According to Ryback, Hitler’s book collection included a vast number of them carrying anti-semitic themes such as Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, Henry Ford’s The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem and also works of Martin Luther and Emile Zola. Obviously, with the guidance of Eckhart, Hitler had also further consolidated his resentment towards the Jews through his readings.
Nevertheless, Hitler’s scope of readings were not limited to political writings. In fact , about sixteen thousand of his books actually constituted genres of philosophy, history, poetry, novels and other canons of artistic works. The dictator admired Shakespeare and was even versed in the Bible.
Ryder shared that German philosopher Walter Benjamin claimed once that one can have a picture of what kind of person a man is, based on the books that he reads. As in the context of Hitler, the amalgamation of books that he owns may confuse a profiler due to the juxtaposition of artistic and provocative books on his bookshelves.
But if one were to look a little closer, he will notice that all of those books are within the scope of humanities where it enlightens the reader more about human beings and their nature.
I believe that Hitler understood the workings of man and that was why he was able to control his people in totality despite of his utter brutality.