MY WIFE, HERTA, once asked me what kind of a person Hitler was and what made him tick. I hedged; it is impossible to make a succinct statement. He deliberately misled people about himself and his motivations. At times he lied, and at other times he was shockingly truthful; often it was uncertain what he elected to do. Even the persons closest to him, such as Albert Speer and General Alfred Jodl, stated that they could not understand him. Others, like Winston Churchill and Dr. Karl Brandt, changed their minds, first praising, then condemning him. My wife did not give up, and asked me to describe Hitler's cardinal traits in a few sentences. I started out with a little lecture: He was a highly intelligent man with a large store of knowledge-- much of it, and in critical areas, half-knowledge. The centerpiece of his Weltanschauung was his social Darwinism and anti-Semitism. He was a fanatic, but at the same time often ambivalent and defensive. His defenses, and particularly his projections could fill a psychiatry textbook. He clung to a paranoid belief in a Jewish world conspiracy against Germany. When his military and political programs failed, he became rigid and extremely vindictive. His destructiveness by far exceeded his constructive programs, which made him one of the world's greatest criminals.
Nobody who knew Hitler before 1919 would have predicted an extraordinary career. In 1919, however, a fundamental change occurred. The mildly depressed man discovered that he could speak and announced a world view and a program in fiery speeches. It would be naive to assume that Hitler had such an impact because he was an effective orator. He changed Germany and the world because he had a message and carried out a program--although,
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Publication information: Book title: Hitler:Diagnosis of a Destructive Prophet. Contributors: Fritz Redlich - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 340.
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