Background: This is the introduction to Heinrich Hoffman’s 1932 picture book on Adolf Hitler.
The source: Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler wie ihn keiner kennt (Berlin: “Zeitgeschichte” Verlag, 1932).
by Baldur von Schirach
<>He who has the good fortune to work close beside the Führer of young Germany is always impressed by the sides of Adolf Hitler that the public does not see. This book will make Hitler clearer to a circle broader than just his friends.
What Adolf Hitler the Führer means to his people is known or felt by millions today. It will be the task of historians to put these feelings and knowledge into words, for their task is to present Hitler as a historic figure to posterity. That book about the Führer cannot be written for many years, for those with greater distance also have the greater ability to judge.
This book is different.
Germans rightly expect that their leaders are to some degree a synthesis of ability and personality (for this corresponds to their nature and inner laws). They expect their leaders will be a model also in their private lives. This explains the love and esteem that two great sons of our people, Goethe and Frederick the Great, have earned from our people. It also explains the fanatic love for Adolf Hitler, a love that daily leads National Socialists to bleed and die, a love that has brought us all into danger or to prison.
I wish to emphasize the two traits I think strongest in Adolf Hitler’s character: his strength and his goodness. These are the characteristics that this book displays. Whether Hitler is motoring through Germany, surrounded by cheering crowds of construction workers or if he stands beside a murdered comrade, deeply moved and shaken, his nobility and humanity so often render speechless those who meet him for the first time, be they young or old. May this book of largely unpublished photographs spread the experience of Adolf Hitler far beyond the circles of the National Socialist movement. May they have the feelings of us who have worked with him for many years and learned to honor and love him. The shadow of this man is over Germany today. Many are astonished at a miracle: after the absolute dominance of Marxism, a single face transforms the nation.
To be popular means to be photographed often. Adolf Hitler always tried to avoid being photographed. Twelve years ago, as his name for the first time began to become known, he was a declared opponent of the camera. Even then the world’s illustrated press tried to secure a picture of the Führer. Without success. Despite offers of substantial sums, Hitler rejected every request to be photographed.
A major satirical magazine back then published an article titled “How does Hitler Look?” with a series of outrageous cartoons of how people imagined Hitler to appear. The article illustrated the fact that people talked about Hitler, whether to praise or blame him, but did not know what he looked like.
Back then, a leading American newspaper asked the Munich photographer Heinrich Hoffmann to secure a picture of the leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. With the help of his friend Dietrich Eckart, Hoffmann tried to find a good opportunity to take a picture. His attempt failed. He did find the Führer as he was stepping into an automobile, but just as he was ready to take the picture three of Hitler’s companions grabbed him as Hitler drove away. Later Hoffmann had better luck. He did take a picture, but Hitler asked him not to publish it. Hoffmann followed the Führer’s wishes, and as a reward later received the sole right to produce pictures for the National Socialist movement. The Führer soon recognized the enormous propaganda value of photography for the National Socialist movement. While the newspapers talked about the failure of National Socialist meetings, Hoffmann produced panoramas of large Hitler meetings and refuted the lies of the enemy.
The close friendship between Adolf Hitler and his old fellow combatant Hoffmann soon made them constant travel companions, and gave Hoffmann the opportunity to take pictures that could only be made by someone close to the Führer.
This is the real power of this book: its task is not a literary treatment of the Führer’s life, but rather a vivid portrayal of what has actually happened.
Hitler is a universal spirit. The multiplicity of his being cannot be communicated by 100 photographs selected from thousands. These pictures show only some aspects of this unique personality. It is almost unknown that Hitler does not drink alcohol or smoke, or that he is a vegetarian. Without insisting that anyone follow his example, even in his closest circle, he holds like iron to his self-established principles. He works amazingly hard. Not only does he head the enormous apparatus of the National Socialist movement, he makes strenuous speaking tours. Today he is in Königsberg, tomorrow in Berlin, the next day in Munich, all this with a minimum of sleep since the Führer usually works into the early hours of the morning.
Much nonsense is spread about his private life. A few words on the topic. Hitler’s greatest joy is his library of about 6,000 volumes. He has read them, not just paged through. The larger share consists of books on architecture and history. In both areas Hitler has masterful authority. For him, art is essential, music above all. As he says, “If the artists knew what I would do for German art, none of them would oppose me.”
Naive people believe that Adolf Hitler lives a life of ease, working an eight hour day and then visiting a cafe. Few have any idea of the enormous burdens on his shoulders.
Our age will perhaps honor and love this great man, but will not be able to understand his true greatness. It does not need to.
We need only look respectfully on the powerful personality of the Führer, and thank God in heaven that he has not left us alone.
[Page copyright © 1998 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]
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