A Personal Essay Wikianswers Nazi
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“Of all the major world leaders of the 20th century, [Hitler] is probably the least known or understood in terms of his formative years or his inner emotional life” (Lewes, 142). Many historians and authors have sought to understand and explain the person responsible for the greatest atrocities of our time. Although there have been over 120,000 attempts to explore the outside influences on Hitler’s life, Lothar Machtan maintains that he is the first to uncover the hidden secret of “Hitler the man” (Lewes, 140-141). Machtan, an associate professor of modern and current history at Bremen University in Germany, seeks to uncover Hitler’s homosexual relationships and how they influenced his rise to power and even his subsequent actions in the first of his works to be translated into English, The Hidden Hitler. He further explains that “understanding Hitler’s sexual orientation does not supply the key to his career, but a knowledge [that] gives scope for new interpretations—interpretations that in no way mitigate Hitler’s crimes and Hitler’s guilt or present his policies in a better light, but which can explain aspects of them more precisely” (Machtan, 321). Although Machtan presents many different spheres of promising evidence, a sound framework of the possibility of a homosexual Hitler is the only definitive conclusion. However, the question of whether or not Hitler was indeed a homosexual, remains to be unconditionally proven.
Machtan’s biography focuses on Hitler’s life between 1907 and 1935. It begins with a brief synopsis of his childhood but plunges into Hitler’s life in detail after his mother dies and he moves to Vienna in 1908. These early years are categorized by his intimate relationships with other men, central to the formation of his lifestyle, identity, and worldview. He spent his early adulthood in semibohemian poverty, making his living off paintings he sold on the street. He moved frequently, and lived in neighborhoods known for their diverse inhabitants and alternative communities that included gays, artists, and runaways (Macthan, 60). We first examine Hitler through the lens of August Kubizek, the first relationship that is examined in the text. “Kubizek’s account coincides in many respects with contemporary descriptions of homosexual friendship” (Machtan, 39). Machtan references sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld many times to confirm tendencies and parallels of the homosexual community, as well as of relationships and individuals. There are multiple accounts of Hitler displaying jealousy and anger due to perceived threats from others regarding his relationship with Kubizek. Machtan maintains that Hitler’s relationship with Kubizek was a homoerotic friendship, but not necessarily sexual.
The Hidden Hitler is one of the few texts that deals with the ambiguities concerning Hitler’s income that supposedly supported him throughout his nomadic period. Before the text even addressed the issue I found his living off his paintings to be very unrealistic and improbable, as I had read in other works on Hitler. I believe this to be one of the strongest indicators of the possibilities of his homosexual relationships as he is confirmed to have lived in neighborhoods and places where it was common for older men to seek out young male gigolos (Machtan, 56). Karl Honisch, a fellow resident of the hostel, observed Hitler in no kind of financial hardship and in fact testified to his “‘extremely respectable lifestyle’” (Machtan, 55). There is a strong possibility that Hitler maintained relationships with older men for money, as the reason for his political success was due to relationships he solidified with older, more powerful men than him.
These successful connections are demonstrated through relationships with Ernst Röhm, Dietrich Eckart, and Ernst Hanfstaengl. “The reasons for his meteoric rise were not only structural; without the patronage of certain men who helped promote him in the right circles at the right time, it would have been quite impossible” (Machtan, 105). Röhm took Hitler under his wing and helped him achieve success in the right-wing political arena. Hitler knew of Röhm’s sexuality as early at 1920 (Machtan, 107). Hitler shared close relationships with the other men who also pushed him to the top. Any homosexual tendencies that Hitler may have had were only exacerbated by the “ideologically charged cornerstones of homosexual eroticism and sexuality of the fascist male-bonding culture” (Machtan, 109). Macthan’s main argument is that Hitler’s homosexuality and correlating relationships were essential in opening “doors for him… Without the help of those influential friends, he would not have had the support that he got from bourgeois circles and even from intellectuals and artists” (Washington Post).
However, after his ascension to the chancellorship in 1933, Hitler needed to destroy all evidence of his controversial past and relationships. This included bribes that bought silence and false stories; the destruction, censorship, and alteration of documents; and ultimately, the murder of prominent Nazi leaders who knew Hitler on a more personal basis. The Night of Long Knives was a four-day massacre of former comrade Ernst Röhm and 150 of his SA troops done in to protect himself from any potential blackmail from the publicly avowed homosexual group. Machtan also argues that Röhm’s assassination was necessary for Hitler because he was insecure with Röhm’s knowledge of his homosexuality and Röhm’s own success. As the next most powerful Nazi, he needed to get rid of this challenge to his power. It is important to note, though, that Hitler’s goal in this instance was to free himself of any imminent liabilities, and he “was not the driving force of the persecution of homosexuals during the Holocaust. He himself never publicly commented on questions involving homosexuality” (Washington Post). Himmler and the SS were the main perpetrators. However, because Hitler was always paranoid about the possibility of blackmail and public criticism he did have a personal interest in subduing the homosexual population in attempts to maintain and bolster his power (Washington Post). “He allowed the persecution of gays in order to disguise his own true colors” (Connolly, Guardian).
Machtan constructs a solid framework in which a homosexual Hitler could have have existed. Homosexuality could have very well formed the essence of Hitler’s private character, his paranoia of others, his desire to hide his early life, and ultimately his decision to assassinate 150 of his own men. Machtan uses a multitude of reliable sources in German and English, including many other Hitler biographies and works, newspapers, personal documents that survived, and a psychological point of view. I believe this allows for readers to be able to reconstruct the popular feelings and social structure of the day to an extent. However, Machtan presents this information in a way that does not let the facts speak for themselves, but entrusts us to believe his assumptions all the way through the text. In the introduction of his book, he even states that “it is important to recognize [Hitler’s] sexual orientation as a historical fact,” rather than a theory or a presentation of ideas (Machtan, 25). Throughout the text many inferences are made.
Further, how are we supposed to take unreliable sources seriously? Machtan bases one of his principle arguments on the testimony of Hans Mend, who was known to be a “habitual liar and blackmailer” (Reich, New York Times). Although new, we must accept these sources as nothing more than circumstantial and not evidentiary. Machtan further argues that he is not equating homosexuality with the evil committed by Hitler, yet he tries for a clear correlation between Hitler’s being homosexual and his subsequent actions. The text itself can even be classified as a further extension of the stigma exhibited towards homosexuality itself. Why are we examining homosexuality as a potential influence in the first place? Machtan’s ultimate goal is to explain the “the Hitler of Auschwitz,” and personal aspects of Hitler’s life that might shed light on that Hitler.
Machtan seems to only validate points that work with his thesis and disregard facts that do not. He dismisses Hitler’s relationships with women by merely testifying that they existed for the sake of the public eye. He equates male friendships Hitler had with a homosexual or homoerotic relationship, when it is clear that Hitler had a great power to command wonder and loyalty in most people he met. Especially after he came to power, practically everyone loved the Fuhrer and possessed an unhealthy adoration for him. It is not only homosexual men who fell under Hitler’s spell over Nazi Germany. The closeness and intense loyalty of everyone in the Nazi community is what allowed Hitler’s dictatorship to thrive.
Another way I believe Machtan’s style is ineffective is in his long narratives that go into depth about each person who could have influenced Hitler’s life. Although the evidence is there, it is emphasizing the life of someone else, rather than his thesis regarding Hitler. The focus is shifted away from Hitler and Machtan’s argument and the reader’s attention is focused on a potentially inconsequential person. Not nearly as much effort is focused on explaining the time and environment of Hitler’s world, however somewhat included. It is more important to understand that context of the culture that Hitler was living in rather than a biographical account of each person he met in his ascent to power.
We do learn much more than the typical Hitler biography or textbook offers in Machtan’s effort to uncover the personal side of Hitler. “He does demonstrate that his life, in both personal and the political spheres, was suffused with homosexual themes and personalities. In some odd way, this may actually serve to humanize Hitler, but it doesn’t serve to explain him” (Reich, New York Times). The book itself barely touches on Hitler’s obsession with race and antisemitism, even though it is through that ideology that he gains his power. The main focus of his efforts during the Holocaust and World War II is the eradication of Jews. Whether he was homosexual or not does not explain or even correlate to his main motives while he was in power.
The overwhelming bulk of Machtan’s research is inconclusive, and that is clear to readers throughout the text. Eligible evidence is presented and scrutinized by through the mind frame of one already made up. Counter arguments are not used to solidify the facts of the argument presented, and instead vague, rhetorical questions are asked of the reader which require the obligation of leniency towards the author’s claims. We are greatly enlightened by this carefully built framework that Machtan presents to us, but we must remain vigilant in the face of facts and theory.
by April N. Aberly
The purpose of this paper is to shed a different kind of light on who and how we consider a hero. I’ve tried to express what kind of a life and person Oskar Schindler was, and I ask you to evaluate yourself and decide if you could take the kind of risks Oskar Schindler did. As you learn about a man full of flaws just like the rest of us, I know that you too will appreciate the fact that an ordinary man can do extraordianry things.
What is a hero? In my book, a hero can be any number of things. A hero can be someone who loves and cares for you, someone you look up to, or maybe someone ordinary who does the extraordinary. Many people think of their favorite athlete or rockstar. Some may think of a famous speaker or activist. Whatever the case may be, most everyone has a hero. Oskar Schindler is a hero to over 6,000 Jews currently living across the United States and Europe (Hertling, 1997). Schindler was an ordinary man with extraordinary power that he used to save 1200 human lives during the Holocaust of World War II. The question arises : Who was Oskar Schindler the man? Where did he come from? More importantly, what was his motivation for saving so many Jews? Mainly, though, why is Schindler considered one of the greatest heroes of this century?
Oskar Schindler was born on April 28, 1908 in Zwitlau, which is now part of the present day Czech Republic. His father and mother, Hans and Louisa Schindler, were deeply religious. This resulted in a strong Catholic household for Schindler and his younger sister Elfriede Schindler. The Schindler family was one of the richest and most prominent in Zwitlau and elsewhere. This was due to the success of their family owned machinery business (“Schindler’s List,” 1995).
Schindler himself was a very tall and handsome man. Needless to say, he was adored by all the young women. His fancy, though, fell for a beautiful young girl named Emily. After only six weeks of courtship, they were married. Sadly, after only a few months of marriage, Schindler began to heavily abuse alcohol. He also had several affairs resulting in two children out of wedlock. In 1929, during the Great Depression, the Schindler family business went bankrupt. At this time, Schindler’s father left his mother, and she died soon after. Finding himself jobless, Schindler sought work in nearby Poland as a machinery salesmen (“Schindler’s List,” 1995).
The picture being painted of Schindler is not exactly one of high class and morals. Indeed, Schindler was an alcoholic and a womanizer. This leads many to think, how can this man be considered a hero? What would possess him, with all of his power and money, to risk his own life to save the lives of thousands of people he has never met? How did he do it? It was no easy task.
The saving of the first Schindler Jews began in 1939, when he came to Krakow in the wake of the German invasion. In Krakow, he took over two previously Jewish owned companies that dealt with the manufacture and sales of enamel kitchenware products. In one of the businesses, however, Schindler was merely a trustee. Looking more for his own power, he opened up a small enamel shop right outside of Krakow near the Jewish ghetto. Here, he employed mostly Jewish workers. This in turn saved them from being deported to labor camps. Then in 1942, Schindler found out through some of his workers that many of the local Krakow Jews were being sent to the brutal Plazow labor camp. This is where Schindler’s connections with the German government were so useful. Using his know how, he convinced the S. S. and the Armaments Administration, who had set up the Plazow labor camp, to set up a portion of the camp in his factory. They agreed, and Schindler took even those unfit and unqualified for work. In turn, he spared 900 Jewish lives from this one action (Paldiel, 1982).
Then in October of 1944, this time with the approach of the Russian army, Schindler used his connections to receive permission to reestablish his once defunct business as an armament production company in Bruunlitz. After some negotiating with S.S. officials, he was allowed to take with him some Jewish workers form Zalocie. Schindler then succeeded in transferring over 700 Jews from the Grossrosen camp, and another 300 women form Auschwitz. Once in Brunnlitz, these workers were given the best food, clothing, shelter, and medical care that Schindler could afford.
After this successful operation in Brunnlitz, Schindler received word that a train of evacuated Jews from the Golezow camp were stranded in the nearby city of Svitavy. As he had done twice before, Schindler pulled some strings at the top and got permission from German officials to take his workers to the nearby station to rescue the stranded. Once at the station, they forced the doors open to the rail car and removed some 100 half frozen Jews. Schindler’s wife Emile did her best to nurse the ill back to health. Those that did not survive were given a proper Jewish burial paid for by Schindler (Paldiel, 1982). Schindler spent infinite amounts of money not only paying for the upkeep of his workers, but paying the government. Schindler was arrested two times while trying to complete his saving operations. Each time, though, he found a new excuse, or paid a little more money. He risked his life, as well as his family’s lives, to save a race of people he never even knew.
In all of this the question still remains, why? Why did he do it? The answer is that there is no answer. Schindler would never comment on what he did. He never truly gave an answer as to why he did what he did. Ludwik Feigenbaum gave the best description of Schindler that made sense of his actions. “I don’t know what his motives were, even though I knew him very well. I asked him and I never got a clear answer and the film doesn’t make it clear, either. But I don’t give a damn. What’s important is that he saved our lives. Another survivor, Johnathan Dresner suggests, ” He was an adventurer. He was like an actor who always wanted to be center stage. He got into a play and he could not get out of it” (“Schindler’s List,” 1995).
No matter what anyone believes, the story of Schindler touched me. I think to myself, would I have the courage to give up my life for a bunch of strangers? Would I give up all of my comforts and riches with nothing in return? I am a bit bewildered by the story. I wish that I knew exactly why he did the things he did. Yet as the old saying goes, “Some things are better left unsaid.” I think that is what Schindler believed. He saw no reason to give a why. I think that is why he is a hero. He did not want all the pomp and circumstance. He did not want the hero status. I think he saw no reason to brag about what he had done. Schindler knew what it meant to himself and those that he saved, and that is all that mattered. Saving those lives was his return for giving up all he had. He died without much fanfare. He was bankrupt and his last few years were rough. He gave up everything he owned, literally. Yet it did not matter. He gave an unselfish love, of sorts, to the Jews. Schindler is indeed a hero for many reasons. Most importantly, he helped to save a race of human beings, just like you and me.
Hertling, Victoria. “The Making of Schindler’s List.” April 4, 1995. http://www.unr.edu.80/chgps/makeschn.htm. (8 February 1997).
Paldiel, Mordecai. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Oskar Schindler. 1982. “Schindler’s List.” 1995. http://members.aol.com/rockycd/obstacle.htm. (8 February 1997).
“Schindler’s List.” 1995. http://members.aol.com/rockycd/why.htm. (8 February 1997).