kottke.org posts about Adolf Hitler
Explaining Hitler is a 1998 book by Ron Rosenbaum that compiled a number of different theories about why Adolf Hitler was the way he was, updated recently with new information.
Hitler did not escape the bunker in Berlin but, seven decades later, he has managed to escape explanation in ways both frightening and profound. Explaining Hitler is an extraordinary quest, an expedition into the war zone of Hitler theories. This is a passionate, enthralling book that illuminates what Hitler explainers tell us about Hitler, about the explainers, and about ourselves.
Vice recently interviewed Rosenbaum about the book.
Oh my God, there are so many terrible psychological attempts to explain Hitler. I think the subject brings out the worst in talk show psychologists. There's a lot of 'psychopathic narcissism' among those psychologizing Hitler. The examples in my book were two psychoanalysts-one wanted to claim that Hitler became Hitler because he was beaten by his father, and the other psychoanalyst was equally determined to believe that Hitler had a malignant mother who was over-protective. As if everyone who has an over-protective mother or abusive father turns into Hitler. If everyone who has been struck by their father turned into Hitler we would be in a lot more trouble than we are.
Related by not related: Rosenbaum wrote a story in 1971 for Esquire about phone phreaking, Secrets of the Little Blue Box, which inspired the very first partnership between a pair of young future tech titans, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. (via @errolmorris)
Update: Rosenbaum talks about Explaining Hitler on the Virtual Memories podcast.
Before Adolf Hitler came along and seized the title of the most evil person in the world, who was commonly cited as the embodiment of evil? The Egyptian Pharoah in the story of Exodus.
In the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, many Americans and Europeans had a firmer grasp of the bible than of the history of genocidal dictators. Orators in search of a universal symbol for evil typically turned to figures like Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, or, most frequently, the Pharaoh of Exodus, who chose to endure 10 plagues rather than let the Hebrew people go. In Common Sense, Thomas Paine wrote: "No man was a warmer wisher for reconciliation than myself, before the fatal nineteenth of April, 1775 [the date of the Lexington massacre], but the moment the event of that day was made known, I rejected the hardened, sullen tempered Pharaoh of England for ever." In the run-up to the Civil War, abolitionists regularly referred to slaveholders as modern-day Pharaohs. Even after VE Day, Pharaoh continued to pop up in the speeches of social reformers like Martin Luther King Jr.
Also, this is a good line:
Generally speaking, hatred was more local and short-lived before World War II.
That's right, Adolf Hitler. Janet Flanner profiled him in three consecutive issues in 1936. Part one begins like so:
Dictator of a nation devoted to splendid sausages, cigars, beer, and babies, Adolf Hitler is a vegetarian, teetotaler, nonsmoker, and celibate. He was a small-boned baby and was tubercular in his teens. He says that as a youth he was already considered an eccentric. In the war, he was wounded twice and almost blinded by mustard gas. Like many partial invalids, he has compensated for his debilities by developing a violent will and exercising strong opinions. Limited by physical temperament, trained in poverty, organically costive, he has become the dietetic survivor of his poor health. He swallows gruel for breakfast, is fond of oatmeal, digests milk and onion soup, declines meat, which even as an undernourished youth he avoided, never touches fish, has given up macaroni as fattening, eats one piece of bread at a meal, favors vegetables, greens, and salads, drinks lemonade, likes tea and cake, and loves a raw apple. Alcohol and nicotine are beyond him, since they heighten the exciting intoxication his faulty assimilation already assures.
Sadly, access is subscriber-only. (You know who else kept information from people!? Etc.)
Rochus Misch, now 92, recollects that he was in Adolf Hitler's bunker when the German dictator committed suicide.
"Then Bormann ordered Hitler's door to be opened. I saw Hitler slumped with his head on the table. Eva Braun was lying on the sofa, with her head towards him. Her knees were drawn tightly up to her chest. She was wearing a dark blue dress with white frills. I will never forget it.
Errol Morris follows up on his recent series about Dutch forger Han van Meegeren by addressing some of the comments he received. Here's Morris on the interaction of historical research and modern content management techniques.
The first version of the Time article that I saw was the "electronic" version from the Web. It is particularly strange, if only because the text (from 1947) is surrounded by modern information, including contemporary advertisements for Liberty Mutual, teeth whitening preparations, wrinkle-cream, and most e-mailed articles. Emmy Göring and Henriette von Schirach complaints are directly adjacent to "Will Twitter Change the Way We Live."
I also enjoyed the discussion of "Hitler-soup" at the end.
The fake subtitles for this movie clip make it seem as though Adolf Hitler is banned from playing iSketch, an online drawing game like Pictionary.
I just got my new Wacom! I have the stylus right here! This tablet has more than 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity!
My Fuhrer, iSketch doesn't support pressure sensitivity!
FUCK YOU! It does if I say so!!
Hilarious. (via conscientious)
Update: There are quite a few different Hitler/subtitle mashups on YouTube. This one about him being banned from XBox Live is the most popular one but this one about his car being stolen predates it. The iSketch one is still the best one, I think. (thx, everyone)
Roy Pearson, the judge who is suing his former dry cleaner for $65 million in damages for a lost pair of pants, started crying in court today when describing the moment when the dry cleaner tried to give him the wrong pants. And this was after a witness called by Pearson likened her treatment by the dry cleaners to Hitler's treatment of the Jews. The judge should have invoked Godwin and declared a mistrial. Also, nice headline from CNN: Judge aims to have pants suit ironed out next week. Haw haw.
Andrew Sullivan: "Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - 'enhanced interrogation techniques' - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death."
A new book, Heil Hitler, The Pig is Dead, deals with humor during Hitler's reign in Germany. "From an early stage, Germans were well aware of their government's brutality. And the country wasn't possessed by 'evil spirits' nor was it hypnotised by the Nazis' brilliant propaganda, he says. Hypnotized people don't crack jokes."
The Harry Potter book series as allegory for 1930s Europe. Voldemort as Hitler, Dumbledore as Churchill, and Potter as FDR's America?