Reinhard Spitzy

Reinhard Spitzy

Reinhard Spitzy, the son of Hans Spitzy, was born in Graz, on 11th February 1912. Spitzy was educated in Vienna. He then attended a military school. A supporter of Adolf Hitler he joined the Nazi Party in October, 1931 and the SS in January, 1932.

In 1936 he was appointed secretary to Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German Ambassador in London. In 1938 he returned to the Foreign Office in Berlin with Ribbentrop. He was a regular visitor to the Reich Chancellery where he met Eva Braun. He later recalled: "Hitler wanted to be absolutely free, and she should give him a small bourgeois home with cake and tea. Hitler didn't want to have a socially high person. He could have had them, but he didn't want to have a woman who would discuss with him political questions or who would try to have her influence, and that Eva Braun never did. Eva Braun didn't interfere in politics." He claims that Eva Braun had some privileges that enabled her to do what was forbidden to others: "She was allowed to sing, to dance, to paint her nails with red paint, and she was allowed to smoke a cigarette outside. Meanwhile, we had to go to the loo to smoke... Hitler had a very good nose, and it was forbidden to smoke. But Eva Braun was allowed everything."

After the outbreak of the Second World War he was involved in negotiations with United States companies in Germany. By the summer of 1941, he was was working with Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence, the Abwehr. Spitzy worked from 1943 with Walter Schellenberg and Prince Max Egon zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg in the Reich Security Main Office.

After the war, Spitzy, who was on the wanted list and for a couple of years hid in Spanish monasteries. He fled to Argentina in 1948. He did not return to Germany until January 1958.

Reinhard Spitzy died on 2nd November, 2010.

Hitler wanted to be absolutely free, and she should give him a small bourgeois home with cake and tea. Eva Braun didn't interfere in politics... She was allowed to sing, to dance, to paint her nails with red paint, and she was allowed to smoke a cigarette outside. But Eva Braun was allowed everything.


During the Second World War six million innocent Jews were murdered, alongside gypsies, communists, homosexuals, the disabled - all those who failed to meet the Aryan requirements set by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party, dictating what it is to be human. Now, sixty years later, we are still trying to understand how this could have happened.

For the past fifteen years, producer and Head of BBC History Laurence Rees has been on a televisual quest to find the truth behind one of the most evil regimes in history. During this time he has made arguably the most comprehensive series of historical documentaries of the last ten years, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0207907/), which has been acclaimed throughout the world. But what is less known is that within the vaults of the BBC archives lie hour after hour of remarkable films - interviews by Rees with former Nazis that have never been seen on television before, revealing how and why they became involved in Hitler's insatiable lust for power.


Contents

Hans Spitzy studied at the University of Graz , where he received his doctorate in medicine in 1896. At first he devoted himself to paediatrics he remained until 1906 as an assistant at the Graz University Children's Clinic. At the same time, Spitzy completed training in the then new specialist field of surgical orthopedics at Albert Hoffa in Würzburg . The two doctors also went on a study trip to the USA together . In 1905, Spitzy became a private lecturer in orthopedic surgery at the University of Graz, and a year later he took over the management of the surgical-orthopedic department of the Graz University Children's Clinic, which he founded.

Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, Spitzy moved to Vienna , where he had been appointed university professor. During the war he was appointed to the front as senior staff doctor. After the end of the war, Spitzy became a university professor for orthopedic surgery at the University of Vienna and at the same time took over the orthopedic department of the Kaiser Franz Joseph Hospital . In 1923 he was appointed full professor and director of the Vienna Orthopedic Hospital. Through a disciplinary process that lasted until 1927, he became known to a broad public in addition to specialist circles.

In the further course of his career, Spitzy moved primarily in Catholic university circles, was a member of the Catholic academic community, the Austrian Leo Society , the Starhemberg wing of the Heimwehr and the Patriotic Front, which acted as a unity party in Austrofascism . During the Nazi dictatorship in Austria , Spitzy's Catholic background was viewed critically, although his son Karl Hermann Spitzy was already an “illegal” member of the NSDAP and the SS in the corporate state . Margit Frankau , who worked in the nursing department at Spitzy and was supported by him during the Nazi era and also looked after his five children, was deported as a Jew in 1944 and died in the Theresienstadt ghetto in the same year .

His son Reinhard Spitzy (1912-2010) was a Nazi functionary and diplomat, his son Karl Hermann Spitzy (1915-2013) followed in his father's footsteps as a medical doctor and university professor.


HITLER'S HENCHMEN: SPEER: THE ARCHITECT (TV)

One in this six-part German-produced documentary series about the men who engineered and ruled Hitler's Third Reich. Using recently discovered archival footage, rare biographical material, and newly recorded testimony from firsthand witnesses, the series profiles six members of Hitler's inner circle and architects of Third Reich. This program examines the life and career of Albert Speer. What Hitler, a failed artist, dreams, Albert Speer realizes: he breathes life into the Fuhrer's grandiose sketches for the monuments of the Third Reich, choreographing its fiery rallies, and designing and building its armaments. Convicted in the Nuremberg tribunal, Speer maintains until his death in 1981 that he was merely an apolitical technocrat, unaware of the blood shed under the Nazi banner. Speer, a recent graduate from an architectural college, first hears Hitler's voice at a student rally for the National Socialist German Workers Party. Immediately captivated by Hitler, Speer quickly sets to make his mark in the Berlin Nazi Party. Soon, Speer becomes Hitler's chief architect. He designs the stage that will make Hitler appear impressive to the German people. Using the darkness of night and powerful spotlights, Speer creates an awe-inspiring setting for the Fuhrer to take center stage and captivate the crowds on May 1, 1933. Hitler later commissions Speer to rebuild Berlin into the "New Germania," and Speer evicts Aryans from their homes so that edifices can be rebuilt. He accommodates them by turning Jews out of their flats and giving the Aryans already furnished new homes. Later, as Armaments Minister, Speer reorganizes the production of armaments, making German industry more efficient for the Fuhrer's cause. Soon after, the Wehrmacht suffers great losses and Speer is forced to mobilize his labor force into armies. Concentration camp inmates are used as slave labor instead. Later, an underground factory is built at Dora concentration camp. In these inhumane tunnels, thousands of slaves work to build Speers's new weapons. Speer often visits the soldiers on the front. Realizing Germany is losing the war, he nevertheless does not want Hitler to destroy his factories. He drives to Berlin to convince Hitler to only cripple the factories rather than annihilate them. In the end, Speer is not mentioned at all in Hitler's will and he becomes the only man at the Nuremberg trials to accept collective responsibility for the deeds done by the Reich during the war. However, despite the fact that Speer insists until his death that he had no knowledge of the war crimes committed by the regime, he is nonetheless sentenced to twenty years in prison. The program includes commentary by the following individuals: Reinhard Spitzy, Hitler's attachŽ Willi Schelkes, an architect in Speer's office Werner Krisch, a member of a Jewish family evicted from its home Alexander Samila, prisoner 28831 at Dora Ewald Manstein, prisoner 74557 at Dora Manfred von Poser, Speer's adjutant and Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary. Also included in this program is footage of the following: Berlin at the turn of the century the school where Speer studied architecture the mass rally of the Nazi Party on May 1, 1933 the blueprints for the stage of the rally Hitler's own architectural drawings Hitler and Speer discussing architectural plans Speer and his wife visiting Hitler at his home the buildings created by Speer a computer generated graphic of how Berlin would look if all of Speer's plans had been completed Jewish flats Hitler giving a speech about the rebuilding of Berlin the Victory Column in Berlin the New Berlin Hitler and Speer touring Paris a meeting of the German armament industry Hitler giving Speer an award for his accomplishments Eva Braun and Margaret Speer picking flowers Speer and Hitler inspecting new weapons Hitler commenting on new armaments the testing of German rockets the tunnels of Dora Speer visiting with soldiers and workers American pilots at a briefing on their attack on Germany's fuel supply the people of Germany listening to a speech at the end of the war and American soldiers in Germany. In addition, Hitler is heard giving a speech to students and commenting on the buildings created by Speer stills are shown of Hitler and Speer going over blueprints in Hitler's home and Speer is heard talking about the production of armaments.

(This program is in German with English narration and subtitles.)

(This program was originally telecast on the ZDF German Television Network as "Der Architekt: Albert Speer" on February 18, 1997.)


Reinhard Spitzy

Reinhard Spitzy, the son of Hans Spitzy, was born in Graz, Germany, on 11th February 1912. Spitzy was educated in Vienna. He then attended a military school. A supporter of Adolf Hitler he joined the Nazi Party in October, 1931 and the SS in January, 1932.

In 1936 he was appointed secretary to Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German Ambassador in London. In 1938 he returned to the Foreign Office in Berlin with Ribbentrop. He was a regular visitor to the Reich Chancellery where he met Eva Braun. He later recalled: "Hitler wanted to be absolutely free, and she should give him a small bourgeois home with cake and tea. Hitler didn't want to have a socially high person. He could have had them, but he didn't want to have a woman who would discuss with him political questions or who would try to have her influence, and that Eva Braun never did. Eva Braun didn't interfere in politics." He claims that Eva Braun had some privileges that enabled her to do what was forbidden to others: "She was allowed to sing, to dance, to paint her nails with red paint, and she was allowed to smoke a cigarette outside. Meanwhile, we had to go to the loo to smoke. Hitler had a very good nose, and it was forbidden to smoke. But Eva Braun was allowed everything."

After the outbreak of the Second World War he was involved in negotiations with United States companies in Germany. By the summer of 1941, he was was working with Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence, the Abwehr. Spitzy worked from 1943 with Walter Schellenberg and Prince Max Egon zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg in the Reich Security Main Office.

After the war, Spitzy, who was on the wanted list and for a couple of years hid in Spanish monasteries. He fled to Argentina in 1948. He did not return to Germany until January 1958.

Reinhard Spitzy died on 2nd November, 2010.

Primary Sources

(1) Reinhard Spitzy, interviewed by Cate Haste for her book, Nazi Women (2001)

Hitler wanted to be absolutely free, and she should give him a small bourgeois home with cake and tea. Hitler didn't want to have a socially high person. He could have had them, but he didn't want to have a woman who would discuss with him political questions or who would try to have her influence, and that Eva Braun never did. Eva Braun didn't interfere in politics. She was allowed to sing, to dance, to paint her nails with red paint, and she was allowed to smoke a cigarette outside. Meanwhile, we had to go to the loo to smoke. Hitler had a very good nose, and it was forbidden to smoke. But Eva Braun was allowed everything.


Beastrabban’s Weblog

This video was posted by Jeffrey Davies in his comment on my piece, ‘The Culpable Silence over the Genocide of the Disabled’. Jeffrey’s frequently commented on this blog about the parallels between the government’s policy of throwing the disabled off benefits to die in starvation and despair, and Aktion T4. This was the Nazi eugenic campaign to kill the mentally ill and educationally subnormal, as well as the physically congenitally disabled. I’ve blogged about it before. The victims were rounded up and sent to special insane asylums, where they were murdered. They were killed using poison gas, and the programme prepared the Nazis for their mass murder of the Jews.

This is another film, which some may find difficult to watch. It includes a former SS officer, Reinhard Spitzy, saying that he personally heard Hitler make the comment that it would be better to use the money supporting an incurably ill person on the child of a poor peasant. The film also includes the account of one of the relatives of one of the victims, Marie Rau. This lady’s mother was placed in a mental hospital suffering from anxiety and depression over her husband. She was then diagnosed incurably insane, and sent to one of the clinics, Hadomar, which was one of the institutions for their murder. They were gassed with carbon monoxide in the clinic’s cellars in groups of 60. Over 10,000 were killed at Hadomar alone. There was an outcry about this, and the policy was ostensibly abandoned. However, it continued in secret. Instead of poison gas, the Nazis now either killed them with lethal injection, or starved them to death.

I knew the Nazis used poison gas to murder the disabled, but did not know that they starved them to death. This seems to me to be a very strong parallel to the tactics the Tories are using against the disabled today. As Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, ATOS Miracles, DPAC, Benefit Tales and so many other sites are pointing out, hundreds if not thousands of disabled people have died of starvation after being found fit for work and their benefits cut off. The only difference, it seems, is that Tories haven’t rounded them up. Yet.

Because they haven’t incarcerated the disabled in death camps or murder clinics, like the unfortunates in the Third Reich, the government can now claim that it isn’t responsible for their deaths. They know, however, that this is a lie. It is clearly demonstrated in their refusal to give the numbers of people, who have died after being declared fit for work.

They are well aware their policy is killing people.

They just don’t want you to know.

Just like they want to whip up anger against the disabled and unemployed as scroungers and malingerers, in order to justify further cuts.


Anglo-Nazi Pact in the 1930’s?

During World War Two the Soviet Union was viewed by the democracies as the ‘lesser evil’ when compared to Nazi Germany. However in the 1930’s, this was certainly not always the case, especially in Britain. The British establishment – centre-right – and the more extreme right-wing parties saw Hitler’s Germany not just as a strong nation which could cripple communism once and for all, but also as a country they could possibly ally with, or at least encourage to attack the home of communism with some tacit support.

Adolf Hitler

Britain’s longstanding ally, France, did not share this view and saw an aggressive Germany on her border as a major threat and Russia as an ally. Therefore the Parisian government sought a similar relationship with their eastern European ally as they had done before the First World War. With the British dithering over a formal alliance against Hitler, the French sought solace in a treaty with the Soviet Union, signed in February 1936 just three years after Hitler took power.

Although the British kept on excellent terms with the French, they were extremely sceptical about fully supporting a country whose politics in the 1930’s were at best shambolic. French governments could last a few hours and rarely did one manage to rule for more than ten months. The British right viewed the French military as backward, with their tactics aimed at fighting a war they almost lost nearly twenty years ago. They saw the real enemies of Britain and her empire as the USSR and Japan, and with America constantly purveying a policy of isolation, a number of British politicians and influential public figures saw a strong, militaristic Germany as a potential ally to curb the communist threat to the Empire.

In March 1935 a lunch was organised in the British Embassy in Berlin. Hitler was invited and he met the Foreign Minister, Sir John Simon and the man who was to be his successor, Anthony Eden who at the time had the title ‘Minister without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs’. It was a highly successful meeting, with Hitler and Eden actually discussing the Battle of Ypres in which they both took part and in fact were roughly opposite each other in their respective trenches. Both men felt that they could work together after their preliminary talks and Hitler was pleased to hear that Eden was made Foreign Secretary a few months later.

In June the same year the Anglo-German Naval Agreement was signed. This not only broke the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles and was negotiated by the British without any consultation with either the French or the Italians, but was viewed by the Nazis as Britain’s first move to a formal alliance against Russia and France. During the war the British claimed it was a part of their appeasement policy, but many German officials claimed that there were clauses that were anti-Soviet and that Britain would come to the aid of Germany, if she was attacked by the communist state.

David Lloyd George

Friendly relations continued between the two countries the next year with former prime minister David Lloyd George visiting the Fuhrer at his Bavarian retreat in September 1936. Lloyd George was very impressed with the very pro-English Hitler. He claimed that, “Germany does not want war and she is afraid of an attack by Russia”, something that many British politicians were also concerned about. He practically apologised for the First World War and said, “There is a profound desire that the tragic circumstances of 1914 should never be repeated”.

This was music to Hitler’s ears. More than anything else he dreamed of an alliance with Saxon England. A nation, he believed, that was made up of and run by people of “excellent Germanic stock”. He was not too sure about the Celtic races that made up the rest of Britain though, and always referred to the UK as “England”. Hitler proclaimed that, “the English nation will have to be considered the most valuable ally in the world”. He added, “England was a natural ally for Germany and an enemy of France”, plus the latter’s communist friends in Russia, no doubt. Relations became even more cordial with the Fuhrer, referring to ‘Mein Kampf’ and other publications of his, when he asserted that the English are, “our brothers, why fight our brothers?”. Then Lloyd George came out with a quite remarkable comment. Although everyone was aware of Hitler’s antisemitism from his autobiography and in the 1930’s the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews was not as severe as it would be in the next decade, the ex-British premier reminded his audience that, “we must not forget the pogroms in Russia and in other European countries”. It was as if he was saying that maltreatment of the Jews happens, and has happened in communist Russia, so why attack Germany for doing the same?

Tacit British support for Germany continued under the veil of appeasement. During the Spanish Civil War the British did very little to assist the legal, Republican government. In fact British military intelligence in Gibraltar passed on messages they ‘overheard’ from the Republican side and they did all in their power to stop British citizens joining the International Brigade, a division of the Spanish Republican army made up of anti-fascists from all over Europe. Anthony Eden told the French foreign minister, Leon Blum that, “England preferred a Rebel victory to a Republican victory”. In other words Britain wanted Franco and his fascists to take control of Spain rather than see it fall into the hands of anarchists and communists who would be controlled by Moscow.

Franco with Hitler, 1940

Franco knew this and in 1944 and 1945 requested that Spain and Britain form an alliance against the Soviet Union. These were the bleatings of a man who knew his old fascist friends were on the way out and he wanted a settlement with the victors to secure his own position. However, by this time there was very little chance of the British alienating Russia, especially with the pro-Stalin Americans taking the lead on the western front and not Britain.

So after looking at how friendly the British and German governments were in the 1930’s, why was there no Anglo-Nazi Pact?

With only the right in British politics even suggesting such a policy, there was very little chance that the rest of the country would allow any congenial relations with a fascist dictator who was already overrunning neighbouring countries and persecuting people because of their race and creed. Although Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists had strong support in many of the English towns and cities, especially in the north, the vast majority of the Britons, especially in the Celtic countries, valued their liberal democracy and freedom. Most could recall the hatred they had felt for a foe that had massacred their countrymen on the fields of Flanders and elsewhere twenty years ago.

Joachim von Ribbentrop

There was also one man who inadvertently undermined everything that Hitler wanted from an Anglo-German alliance. It was his close friend and confidant from the early days of the Nazi party, Joachim von Ribbentrop. The Fuhrer sent him as German Ambassador to Britain in August, 1936. He single-handedly destroyed any hope of a rapprochement between the two countries in a number of ways. He insisted on giving an outrageous fascist salute when meeting King George VI and seemed astonished that the king did not reply in the same manner. At most meetings with British ministers he argued that Germany must be given back the colonies she lost after the First World War. Fortunately for the British ministers there were not many meetings as Ribbentrop often found it necessary to fly back to Berlin to interfere with what his fellow Nazis were doing there because, as he kept telling everyone, including Hitler, “I know best!”.

However, it was his attitude that most offended the British people. Even his personal secretary, Reinhard Spitzy observed that, “he behaved very stupidly and very pompously and the British don’t like pompous people”. He added that Ribbentrop was, “an insufferable man to work for”. While Spitzy encouraged closer Anglo-German relations and he even recalled Henry VIII’s wish that the English navy should control the seas while the 16th century German emperor, Charles V’s army should control the European mainland, Ribbentrop would be arguing with the governors at Westminster School on how badly his son was being taught and treated. And just like the Tudor king’s relationship with the Holy Roman Emperor broke down over the king’s divorce from the emperor’s aunt, the inter-war friendliness between Britain and Germany broke down to the extent that on 2nd January 1938 Ribbentrop reported back to Hitler that, “England is our most dangerous enemy”.

Are there any realistic claims to there ever being a chance of an Anglo-Nazi Pact?

Adolf Hitler believed that there was a very good chance of such an alliance in the mid-1930’s. So much so that he felt confident enough to openly assist Franco and the fascists during the Spanish Civil War and he believed that Britain would not interfere, or in fact help him, when he untangled the bonds of the Treaty of Versailles that restricted the German military and territory. British appeasement, if that what it was, just added to his belief. All this therefore led to the Second World War.

Another who believed that the British were on the side of Hitler was Josef Stalin. He and the politburo in Moscow certainly believed that an alliance between the two powers was on the cards in the 1930’s. He claimed this even during the war, especially when as late as 1940 Prime Minister Winston Churchill suggested that Britain should defend Finland against the advancing Red Army. For his entire life Stalin never trusted the British and argued that a NATO containing the United Kingdom and the post-war West Germany was an alliance specifically set up as an aggressive pact against the Soviet Union. This is something that Russian premier Vladimir Putin, even in the twenty-first century still believes is happening and is one reason why he seeks to rebuild a buffer zone, starting with the Crimea and parts of the eastern Ukraine, to keep an aggressive Germany and Britain out of Russia.

By Graham Hughes, history graduate (BA) from St David’s University, Lampeter and presently head of history at Danes Hill Preparatory School, a leading British prep school.


The Tramp and the Dictator

When "The Great Dictator," Charles Chaplin's bitter satire of Adolf Hitler, opened in 1940, more than a year before the U.S. entered World War II, many were outraged that a British citizen had used his power as one of the most popular men in the world to create such a devastating depiction of what life was like for Jews under the Nazis.

David Stratton

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When “The Great Dictator,” Charles Chaplin’s bitter satire of Adolf Hitler, opened in 1940, more than a year before the U.S. entered World War II, many were outraged that a British citizen had used his power as one of the most popular men in the world to create such a devastating depiction of what life was like for Jews under the Nazis. Even today, the film is unique in its power to provoke both hilarity and horror. This remarkable documentary uses recently discovered behind-the-scenes color footage, shot by Chaplin’s older brother Sydney, as a peg on which to hang a new analysis of the film, the circumstances in which it was made and the effects it had. A must for film buffs, this accomplished piece of movie history will be mandatory viewing on specialty TV channels, in film courses and at festivals, and will have a long ancillary life.

Popular on Variety

“Dictator” was the first film in which the beloved Tramp spoke, and the last in which he appeared. Chaplin plays two roles, the Tramp, who is Jewish (though Chaplin was not), and the dictator of a mythical European country much like Germany. Chaplin and Hitler actually had a surprising number of things in common, apart from their similar moustaches: They were born within a week of each other in April 1889 they experienced harsh, impoverished childhoods and they aspired to be artists — Chaplin escaped poverty by entering the theater, while Hitler strove to find acceptance as a painter but was rejected by the Vienna Academy (how different history might have been, notes narrator Kenneth Branagh, had he been accepted).

Ironies abound. Hitler lived, homeless, on the streets of Vienna just like the impoverished tramp Chaplin portrayed in countless films, and eventually found refuge in the Vienna Men’s Home, which was supported partly by Jewish charities. Henry Ford, the American motor car manufacturer satirized in Chaplin’s “Modern Times” (1936), was a virulent anti-Semite who seems to have admired Hitler. As Hitler and his Nazi Party rose to prominence, Chaplin’s popularity throughout the world became greater than ever he was mobbed by fans on a 1931 trip to Berlin, which annoyed the Nazis, who published a book in 1934 titled “The Jews Are Looking at You,” in which the comedian was described as “a disgusting Jewish acrobat.” Ivor Montagu, a close friend of Chaplin’s, relates that he sent Chaplin a copy of the book and always believed this was the genesis of “Dictator.”

The film went into production just after the outbreak of war in Europe, on Sept. 9, 1939, and, like many of Chaplin’s later films, it had a slow shoot. In fact, Chaplin changed his original ending (tantalizing glimpses of which appear in the color footage) in response to the fall of France, replacing it with the impassioned speech that climaxes the picture, addressing himself directly to cinema audiences around the world. In contrast to the timid attitude of Hollywood companies of the time, Chaplin’s personally financed film pulls few punches in its depiction of the harassment and even murder of Jews, though there was no way at the time that Chaplin could have known the full extent of the horror going on in Europe.

Kevin Brownlow, the British film historian who has done as much as anyone to explore the riches of Hollywood’s past and who made the masterful docu “The Unknown Chaplin,” has achieved, with co-director Michael Kloft, a great deal in a running time of less than an hour. Sydney Chaplin’s footage, which looks remarkably rich and beautiful, is integrated into scenes from “Dictator” and is of immense interest, not least for giving us glimpses of Chaplin the director at work.

A group of mostly elderly commentators, among them director Sidney Lumet, who attended the film’s world premiere, provide useful insights into the period in which the film was made and contemporary reactions to it. Author Ray Bradbury notes, “Comedy is the greatest way to attack a totalitarian regime,” but not everyone at the time thought the Nazis were a fit subject for comedy. Other interviewees include Chaplin’s son Sydney, the late director Bernard Vorhaus, critic Stanley Kauffmann, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and Nikola Radosevic, a Yugoslav who reveals that, as a cinema projectionist during the war, he substituted a copy of the film for a German production at a screening for German troops. An SS officer became so enraged that he started shooting at the screen.

Yet Reinhard Spitzy, a member of Hitler’s inner circle, is certain Hitler himself saw the film, more than once, and that he would have liked it, because he had a sense of humor. Albert Speer wrote to Oona Chaplin many years after the war to tell her, ” ‘The Great Dictator’ was the finest ‘documentary’ on the Third Reich.”

Whatever one’s personal response to Chaplin’s film is, there’s no doubt about the passion and even courage that went into the making of it. This concise but crisply made doc provides fresh insights into one of the most important American films ever made.


Hey I've seen this before!

Why do I feel like heɽ be an Oath of Conquest Paladin instead? Both are charisma casters.

College of Eloquence Bard 3 / Oath of Conquest Paladin X

bard/Oath of Conquest paladin multiclass?

I can see that happening. When I wasn't accepted into art school, I went to study law instead.

Now let's see who has the last laugh.

no, but for Stalin youɽ use an "oath of the common man" paladin

"Why did you take Cloud Kill?"

I shouldn't have upvoted this

Our table recently noticed that Cloud Kill is a concentration spell…

I can not see where this joke is going.

Boy would jew be surprised!

Adolf Hitler was far more than the frenzied madman of popular perception, argues Laurence Rees. Here was a charismatic politician, brilliant at articulating the fears and desires of the people

Stop for a moment and imagine Adolf Hitler. Picture him in your mind. Who do you see? I imagine you see a figure not unlike the portrayal of Hitler in the film Downfall (2004). A shouting, aggressive, unhinged character. Bruno Ganz, who played Hitler in Downfall, shook and screamed so much that one key scene from the movie has become an internet phenomenon, with comical subtitles on a host of subjects being set to Ganz’s incredible ranting.

But while it’s true that in his last days Hitler was at times scarcely rational, it’s not representative of the whole history. Moreover, the trouble is that this image plays into a deep desire I think most of us secretly possess. We want Hitler to have been a lunatic from start to finish. We want Hitler to be mad because it makes the monstrous crimes he committed – particularly during the Second World War – easy to explain.

It’s simple, we can tell ourselves comfortably, Hitler was a madman who somehow hypnotised millions of ordinary Germans to do things against their better judgment. Well, he wasn’t a madman, and he hypnotised no one.

Hitler became chancellor of Germany in January 1933 by democratic means. A large number of the German elite – sharp, clever people – decided to back him. Why would they support a lunatic? And the way Hitler conducted himself between 1930 and 1933 demonstrated that he was an astute – but wholly unscrupulous – politician. His calculations about where power really lay in Germany and how to best manipulate the emotions of ordinary Germans were extremely sophisticated.

In addition, Hitler generated enormous – and genuine – support. His views very often matched those of huge numbers of the German population. That’s something incomprehensible if we take at face value the portrayal of Hitler as a screaming nightmare.

I’ve been making documentary films and writing books about the Nazis and the Second World War for 20 years now and have met hundreds of people who lived through this period – including many who dealt personally with Adolf Hitler. And the picture they paint of the führer is a much more complex and nuanced one than the dribbling lunatic of Downfall. In particular, many talk of the incredible ‘charisma’ that they felt Hitler possessed.

Fridolin von Spaun, for example, met Hitler at a dinner for Nazi supporters in the early 1930s. As Spaun saw Hitler staring at him he felt as if Hitler’s eyes looked directly into his innermost thoughts. And when Hitler held on to the back of von Spaun’s chair, Spaun felt “a trembling from his fingers penetrating me. I actually felt it. But not a nervous trembling. Rather I felt: this man, this body, is only the tool for implementing a big, all-powerful will here on Earth. That’s a miracle in my view.” As for Emil Klein, who heard Hitler speak at a beer hall in Munich in the 1920s, he believes that Hitler “gave off such a charisma that people believed whatever he said”.

What we learn from eye-witnesses like von Spaun and Klein is that charisma is first and foremost about making a connection between people. No one can be charismatic alone on a desert island. Charisma is formed in a relationship. As Sir Nevile Henderson, British ambassador to Berlin in the 1930s, wrote, Hitler “owed his success in the struggle for power to the fact that he was the reflection of their [ie his supporters’] subconscious mind, and his ability to express in words what that subconscious mind felt that it wanted.”

It’s a view confirmed by Konrad Heiden, who heard Hitler speak many times in the 1920s: “His speeches are daydreams of this mass soul… The speeches begin always with deep pessimism and end in overjoyed redemption, a triumphant happy ending often they can be refuted by reason, but they follow the far mightier logic of the subconscious, which no refutation can touch… Hitler has given speech to the speechless terror of the modern mass…”

People like von Spaun and Emil Klein were predisposed to find Hitler charismatic because they already believed in large amounts of the policies that Hitler advocated. So did Albert Speer, who first attended a Hitler meeting in the early 1930s: “I was carried away on the wave of the enthusiasm which, one could almost feel this physically, bore the speaker along from sentence to sentence… Finally, Hitler no longer seemed to be speaking to convince rather, he seemed to feel that he was expressing what the audience, by now transformed into a single mass, expected of him.”

But if you didn’t believe in the policies Hitler proselytised then he exercised no charismatic power at all. Josef Felder, for instance, was appalled when he listened to Hitler’s outpouring of hatred against the Jews: “When I left that meeting, we would get together and talk in groups. And I said to my friend, ‘After that speech, my impression is, that this man, Hitler will hopefully never come to political power’. We were agreed on that then.” And Herbert Richter, a veteran of the First World War, came across Hitler in a café in Munich and “immediately disliked him” because of his “scratchy voice” and his tendency to “shout” out “really, really simple” political ideas. Richter also thought Hitler’s appearance “rather comical, with his funny little moustache” and that he was “creepy” and “wasn’t quite normal”.

However, if Hitler did make a connection with his audience, then he built on that bond in a number of other ways to consolidate this charismatic link. Crucially, Hitler was always certain in his judgements. He never expressed doubt about anything to his audience. He knew the problems Germany faced and he said he knew the solutions. In addition he presented himself as a heroic figure – a simple, brave soldier from the First World War – who wanted his supporters to have ‘faith’ in him. As a result, some Nazi supporters even drew blasphemous comparisons between Hitler and Jesus – both had been 30 when they started ‘preaching’ and both sought the ‘salvation’ of their people.

But in 1928, nine years after Hitler first became involved with the German Workers’ Party – subsequently the National Socialist German Workers’ party, or Nazis for short – and seven years after he became party leader, it seemed as if the Nazi party was going nowhere in German politics. In the 1928 election the Nazis polled just 2.6 per cent of the vote – so more than 97 per cent of the German electorate rejected any charismatic power Hitler may have possessed. It was clear that unless Hitler could make a connection with the mass of Germans, then he could not succeed.

It took the Wall Street Crash and the dire economic crisis of the early 1930s to make millions of Germans responsive to Hitler’s appeal. Suddenly, to people like student Jutta Ruediger, Hitler’s call for a national resurgence made him seem like “the bringer of salvation”. So much so that by 1932 the Nazis were suddenly the biggest political party in Germany. But then Hitler and the Nazis seemed to hit a brick wall – in the shape of President Hindenburg. State Secretary Otto Meissner reported that Hindenburg said to Hitler on 13 August 1932: “He [ie Hindenburg] could not justify before God, before his conscience or before the Fatherland, the transfer of the whole authority of government to a single party, especially to a party that was biased against people who had different views from their own.”

In this crucial period between Hindenburg’s rejection of Hitler’s bid for the chancellorship of Germany, and his final appointment as chancellor in January 1933, two different perceptions of Hitler’s charisma came together – and in the process revealed a very different side to Hitler the politician than the slavering incompetent of Downfall. Hitler, during these months, had never been more impressive to devoted followers like Joseph Goebbels.

On 13 August 1932, Hitler discussed the consequences of Hindenburg’s rejection with his Nazi colleagues. “Hitler holds his nerve,” recorded Goebbels in his diary. “He stands above the machinations. So I love him.” Hitler exuded confidence that all would come right, saying in December 1932 that he still intended to wait until he was offered the chancellorship. He promised, “that day will come – it is probably nearer than we think”. Success depended on “our unity and on our unshakable faith in victory it depends on our leadership”.

But while Hitler’s followers continued to bask in his magnetism, the chancellor of Germany, Franz von Papen, found it hard to see what all the fuss was about. Von Papen recognised in a statement he made in Munich in October 1932 that Hitler was not like a “normal” politician, and the Nazi movement not a “normal” political party. He referred to the Nazi party as “a political religion” whose followers professed a “mystical messiah faith” in Hitler. But while von Papen acknowledged that millions of Germans now recognised Hitler as a “mystical messiah”, he himself was immune to Hitler’s charisma. When he first met Hitler, in the summer of 1932, he found him “curiously unimpressive”. Hitler was not from the “officer” class, and seemed to von Papen to be the “complete petit bourgeois” with his “little moustache and curious hair style”. Equally dismissive was President Hindenburg, who referred to Hitler as a “Bohemian corporal”.


The Tramp and the Dictator

When "The Great Dictator," Charles Chaplin's bitter satire of Adolf Hitler, opened in 1940, more than a year before the U.S. entered World War II, many were outraged that a British citizen had used his power as one of the most popular men in the world to create such a devastating depiction of what life was like for Jews under the Nazis.

David Stratton

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When “The Great Dictator,” Charles Chaplin’s bitter satire of Adolf Hitler, opened in 1940, more than a year before the U.S. entered World War II, many were outraged that a British citizen had used his power as one of the most popular men in the world to create such a devastating depiction of what life was like for Jews under the Nazis. Even today, the film is unique in its power to provoke both hilarity and horror. This remarkable documentary uses recently discovered behind-the-scenes color footage, shot by Chaplin’s older brother Sydney, as a peg on which to hang a new analysis of the film, the circumstances in which it was made and the effects it had. A must for film buffs, this accomplished piece of movie history will be mandatory viewing on specialty TV channels, in film courses and at festivals, and will have a long ancillary life.

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“Dictator” was the first film in which the beloved Tramp spoke, and the last in which he appeared. Chaplin plays two roles, the Tramp, who is Jewish (though Chaplin was not), and the dictator of a mythical European country much like Germany. Chaplin and Hitler actually had a surprising number of things in common, apart from their similar moustaches: They were born within a week of each other in April 1889 they experienced harsh, impoverished childhoods and they aspired to be artists — Chaplin escaped poverty by entering the theater, while Hitler strove to find acceptance as a painter but was rejected by the Vienna Academy (how different history might have been, notes narrator Kenneth Branagh, had he been accepted).

Ironies abound. Hitler lived, homeless, on the streets of Vienna just like the impoverished tramp Chaplin portrayed in countless films, and eventually found refuge in the Vienna Men’s Home, which was supported partly by Jewish charities. Henry Ford, the American motor car manufacturer satirized in Chaplin’s “Modern Times” (1936), was a virulent anti-Semite who seems to have admired Hitler. As Hitler and his Nazi Party rose to prominence, Chaplin’s popularity throughout the world became greater than ever he was mobbed by fans on a 1931 trip to Berlin, which annoyed the Nazis, who published a book in 1934 titled “The Jews Are Looking at You,” in which the comedian was described as “a disgusting Jewish acrobat.” Ivor Montagu, a close friend of Chaplin’s, relates that he sent Chaplin a copy of the book and always believed this was the genesis of “Dictator.”

The film went into production just after the outbreak of war in Europe, on Sept. 9, 1939, and, like many of Chaplin’s later films, it had a slow shoot. In fact, Chaplin changed his original ending (tantalizing glimpses of which appear in the color footage) in response to the fall of France, replacing it with the impassioned speech that climaxes the picture, addressing himself directly to cinema audiences around the world. In contrast to the timid attitude of Hollywood companies of the time, Chaplin’s personally financed film pulls few punches in its depiction of the harassment and even murder of Jews, though there was no way at the time that Chaplin could have known the full extent of the horror going on in Europe.

Kevin Brownlow, the British film historian who has done as much as anyone to explore the riches of Hollywood’s past and who made the masterful docu “The Unknown Chaplin,” has achieved, with co-director Michael Kloft, a great deal in a running time of less than an hour. Sydney Chaplin’s footage, which looks remarkably rich and beautiful, is integrated into scenes from “Dictator” and is of immense interest, not least for giving us glimpses of Chaplin the director at work.

A group of mostly elderly commentators, among them director Sidney Lumet, who attended the film’s world premiere, provide useful insights into the period in which the film was made and contemporary reactions to it. Author Ray Bradbury notes, “Comedy is the greatest way to attack a totalitarian regime,” but not everyone at the time thought the Nazis were a fit subject for comedy. Other interviewees include Chaplin’s son Sydney, the late director Bernard Vorhaus, critic Stanley Kauffmann, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and Nikola Radosevic, a Yugoslav who reveals that, as a cinema projectionist during the war, he substituted a copy of the film for a German production at a screening for German troops. An SS officer became so enraged that he started shooting at the screen.

Yet Reinhard Spitzy, a member of Hitler’s inner circle, is certain Hitler himself saw the film, more than once, and that he would have liked it, because he had a sense of humor. Albert Speer wrote to Oona Chaplin many years after the war to tell her, ” ‘The Great Dictator’ was the finest ‘documentary’ on the Third Reich.”

Whatever one’s personal response to Chaplin’s film is, there’s no doubt about the passion and even courage that went into the making of it. This concise but crisply made doc provides fresh insights into one of the most important American films ever made.