A Monster at Work and Play
|Adolf Hitler, taken by his personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann|
Let's get this out of the way right up front: nothing on here is designed to glorify Adolf Hitler.
|Hitler probably loved this picture of himself. Mr. "I'm bad, I'm bad, I'm really really bad." Ok, fair enough. Tough guy. But why is he holding an egg in his hand?|
If you aren't able to view this as simply an academic exercise in photographic evidence of a deceased world figure, you're in the wrong place.
|Good original color shots of Hitler are relatively rare. Most have been worked on fairly recently to 'enhance' them. I think this is the latter case, but a very good job.|
No matter how you stand on one issue or another, Adolf Hitler dominated World War II and politics of the mid-20th Century.
As part of that, Adolf Hitler was personally responsible for tens of millions of deaths of innocent people.
|Hitler trying so hard to act suave for Eva.|
All of his images public disseminated were manipulated to make him appear to be dominant and always on duty. Well, almost all of them, a few that paint him in a somewhat comical light slipped through to posterity.
|Hitler and Ernst Rohm. It's not often that you find a clip of people throwing things at Hitler.|
Thus, the photographic evidence almost inevitably tends to make him look good, to be doing something important - because that was the whole intent the entire time. Photos that put Hitler in a poor light certainly existed - they just weren't allowed to be shown.
|30th January 1933: President Paul von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg (1847 - 1934) handing over the rule of Germany to Adolf Hitler. There is somebody still alive who also shook Hitler's hand. Do you know who it is?|
You can sometimes tell that Hitler is annoyed by what he is wearing, but he's wearing it anyway because, well, he has to.
|Hitler at the 1933 Hindenburg meeting - how he really felt.|
Hitler was quite dapper when he wanted to be, as shown by the below picture taken with Sepp Dietrich.
|Hitler, dressed to the nines, with his longtime crony Sepp Dietrich. This photo is a bit unusual because - details - it shows his stylish shoes. He liked heels, extra height makes one appear more commanding.|
And in this picture below with Winifred Wagner.
|Winifred Wagner, one of Hitler's most devoted supporters but who had issues with his persecution of the Jews, trails the Fuhrer.|
Almost all pictures of Hitler show him stern, or thoughtful, or occasionally smiling in a stiff way. These are poses he consciously wanted put out for public consumption. However, sometimes he let his guard down even when dressed in his clodhopper boots.
|In August, 1933, Hitler spent some time fooling around on his terrace with dogs and deer for "personal" photos like this. Why? Who knows. This was at Haus Wachenfeld, the predecessor to the Berghof (meaning, pre-1936).|
For some reason, Hitler liked to pose with animals. Maybe he thought it would soften his image - though he usually went out of his way not to soften his image. Maybe he took these for Eva?
|An old crow... and a bird, too.|
Hitler had a full range of emotions just like anyone else. He could be quite happy, and you can see the charm ooze out of him when with people he liked or wished to make feel good.
|Yes, this is Hitler, though some wish to dispute that because it does not fit the stoic image. It is a picture he hated. Hitler loved fedoras, but stopped wearing them in the '30s because they did not fit the image.|
These pictures are a bit rarer, though, as he did not often want to portray an image of being obviously happy - and thus out of tight emotional control.
His preferred public image was that he would only be happy after final victory, so the vast majority of pictures released to the public shows a determined, steely gaze. That makes pictures of him showing joy somewhat odd.
|Hitler giving a big smile to a guest in 1935. This was a side of Hitler that he seldom wished to publicize - he wanted to be feared more than loved.|
There also are photos of Hitler looking tired, or bored, or even sleeping. These are rare but turned up after the war in private collections. There are very few pictures of Hitler looking consciously sad, which is why the photo below is very unusual.
|Sad Hitler. I don't know the occasion. Perhaps a funeral?|
Hitler affected the destinies of continents, so he is a historical figure worthy of study no matter what view you may have of his regime.
There are so many photographs of Hitler that it even a large book or album would not be of sufficient size to display them all.
However, we can get enough here to have some idea what he looked like.
|This photo and the one below are two of the very few that show Hitler wearing his white uniform. This one is double-breasted, no belt. The Iron Cross dangles at the breast, and the armband really stands out.|
While Hermann Goering liked to wear white, Hitler seldom did. He sometimes wore it to formal social occasions, such as the opera.
|Hitler wearing his single-breasted, dress white uniform with his dress brocade belt. Once again, we get the Iron cross and the armband.|
Just always bear in mind that, like with the case of the picture above of Hitler wearing spectacles, he had to approve whatever went out.
The only reasons something that we would consider unflattering survived were because the photo slipped through the cracks, or fashions have changed to such an extent that what looked proper then just looks comical now. The Germans kept tight control over Hitler images. Heinrich Hoffmann went to the extreme lengths of burying some negatives in his backyard, because Hitler told him to destroy they... and if Hitler said to destroy something, you destroyed it or he destroyed you.
|Rare shot of Hitler and Hindenburg on 1 January 1934. Notice the guy in the back eyeing the camera? He's like, "Oh, you better have authorization for that!"|
How he appeared in photographs matters because he was the most photographed and viewed person of his time - and the pictures weren't all flattering, at least to modern eyes. But the unflattering ones are interesting, too, because they show different sides of him.
|Say whatever you like about Hitler - sharp dresser. Obviously colorized.|
The pictures range from the fantastic to the bombastic, with a little grandiose and theatrical thrown in now and then.
We are going to cover a lot of topics on this blog, and I want to get representative pictures of Hitler up now in one post all at once so that I don't feel as if I have to keep returning to him in practically every post to show he was important or how he looked.
Among other things, Hitler was one of the most successful authors of the 20th Century. Now, everyone can quibble about the fact that Germans were obligated to buy a copy of his first book (there were two, but the second was shelved) "Mein Kampf" (which you can buy from Amazon) and keep it prominently on display somewhere, thereby vastly inflating sales. However, be that as it may, only recently did his book become legal to sell in Germany. It quickly sold out - "for educational purposes." So, think what you will, Hitler's book sold and still sells to this day.
Anyway, here Adolf Hitler is, once and for all, large and in charge.
Hitler, among many other things, was the greatest manipulator of mass emotions in world history. He did the standard politician shots such as a ceremonial first scoop of the autobahn, which look kind of odd now due to his overall history. If he had stuck to that, his legacy would be completely different, of course.
However, once the war began, he began playing warlord and was seldom far from a map.
|Hitler in Poland, 1939. He must have loved this shot, all these Generals hanging on his every word.|
Adolf Hitler was a lower-middle-class kid who was stuck in poverty after the death of his father. World War I changed his position in society and formed much of his outlook on life, politics and warfare. After becoming a very minor war hero, he shrewdly parlayed his army contacts into becoming a politician who evolved into the most feared and hated man in the world.
Usually that's not what politicians want - to be hated - but it worked for him, at least for a while. Besides, he was kind of following in the footsteps of Machiavelli, who said that it is better to be feared than loved.
|Adolf Hitler and his key lackey, Wilhelm Keitel|
Nobody in history has been more feared and loathed than Adolf Hitler. There is absolutely no indication in the record that he cared a whit what people thought of him.
Still, while terrifying and loathsome, Hitler was, underneath it all, a politician. He understood the need for mass support of his policies, even if he didn't give a fig about what individuals thought of him.
Hitler actively managed his image and, in fact, conducted the war with a constant eye to his own image and that of the Party, sometimes to the detriment of actual military operations. For instance, he kept the Berlin area on peacetime status even as Soviet forces stood only 60 miles away on the Oder River in order to maintain his popularity. He played at being a warlord, but he was a politician through and through.
|Unusual shot of Hitler wearing the SA hat. 'Reichsparteitag Nat.-Soz. Deutsch. Arb.-Partei.' 1927. Hitler always rode shotgun, invariably wore a cap in the car.|
Virtually every image was carefully posed for his court photographer - which is why the few that weren't posed (such as when the camera caught him sleeping now and then or in the background of someone else's pose) are so revealing.
|Adolf could not help turning even an ordinary dog-walking outing into a heroic event for the cameras. He did this every day at the Berghof. The path leads to the teahouse.|
It's easy to forget that throughout the war, he was as worried about German public opinion as he was about the front. His job early on was to gain supporters, and he was quite good at it, and then later it was to keep them.
Many don't like to look at his pictures because he was such a terrifying human being, but doing so helps to understand the otherwise inexplicable appeal of the world's greatest monster.
This collection of pictures is chosen to show the political side of Hitler. He was always "on," always thinking of the political angle.
Even when surrounded by his Generals, he is careful to observe the little touches that define a politician: kissing ladies' hands, fussing with small children, posing self-consciously for campaign literature, waving self-consciously to crowds. Every gesture was planned and rehearsed. If nothing else, Hitler believed in preparation for his public appearances.
Since we are on the topic of Hitler here, the issue of his heritage has been a matter of debate and intense interest for some since he first came to power.
In fact, during the late 1930s he ordered an investigation into his own line of descent. It was conducted by his personal lawyer Hans Frank. Of course, the results came back that he was a perfect Aryan. He did undeniably have piercing blue eyes. But was it the truth?
|Hitler at the Berghof. Credit: C&TAuctions/BNPS.|
Hitler loved to read out on the broad Berghof terrace. He would have made a good target for snipers there - and in fact the British initiated such an operation, called Operation Foxley. Ultimately, it came to nothing because of the overall war situation.
|Hitler at the Berghof.|
At the Berghof, they would fly a huge Swastika flag whenever Hitler was in residence. Above, he poses with the flag. The British knew about the flag custom, and that was part of the plan for Operation Foxley - the sniper would have moved into position when the flag flew.
|Eva took this photo. Note her movie camera in the foreground. I don't know who Hitler is talking to, he's either fascinated or upset about something.|
|Hitler's roving eye always finds the camera. There are few pictures of him from behind his head. I believe that is Eva, not sure.|
Hitler's genes may have come from Africa and the Middle East, though what possible difference that makes to anything is highly questionable. Hans Frank had an odd thing to say about Hitler's heritage after the war. More on the heritage question here.
Hitler's residence, as is well known, was the Berghof in Berchtesgaden. He would entertain visitors there throughout his life. In the 1930s, before the war when they became a security risk, he also entertained gatherings of Hitler Youth, BDM girls, and similar groups for festive occasions at the Berghof.
The Berghof is sometimes confused with the Eagle's Nest. They are both in Berchtesgaden, but in completely different areas. The Berghof was up a slight hill in a residential area. The Eagle's Nest was on top of a mountain, and it required a lengthy drive up steep inclines to get there. The Berghof was destroyed at the end of the war by a bombing raid and then completely demolished, and only traces of its location (such as a retaining wall lining the driveway) remain. The Eagle's Nest survives intact and now is a tourist site and restaurant.
It is very snowy in Berchtesgaden during the winter, of course.
|Hitler out in the snow. For him, it was all about image. He would not let a little thing like snow get in the way of greeting his adoring fans without his cap on.|
Note the Eagle's Nest in the background on the left as Hitler strides across his balcony to greet someone: unlike the Berghof where Hitler is running around making small talk, the Eagle's Nest still exists intact and is a top German tourist attraction. It would have been just completed around this time, 1938, and Hitler only went up there about a half-dozen times in his life - it's a long drive, then a whoosh up the bronze elevator. As the plaques there carefully note, it is not preserved as a "Hitler" memorial, but rather a memorial to the efforts of all the German workers who went to extreme lengths to build it on the edge of a steep mountain. It's worth visiting.
|Hitler and with famed film director Leni Riefenstahl. Doesn't she have that standard drama department appearance in her pose? "Oh, that is so mah-velous!"|
|Hitler addressing a party rally|
|The Fuhrer thanks Josef Burckel on the occasion of the Saar victory, in the morning of 15th January, 1935. This information from "Adolf Hitler: Bilder aus dem Leben des Fuhrers," published in 1935.|
|A typical propaganda picture, taken at a party rally in Nuremburg|
|Hitler being released from Landsberg Prison on 20 December 1924|
|Hitler's half-brother Alois Hitler Jr. Love the creepy lighting. It's an old Hollywood trick to make someone appear sinister by lighting them from below, shining upwards.|
|Adolf Hitler baby picture|
|A nicely labelled shot of Hitler and cronies, some of whom he had shot not long after this|
|Purely from an artistic standpoint, I hope Hitler realized that this pose made him look ridiculous.|
|Adolf giving the German people the finger.|
|Hitler with Hess in the background. Hess receded into the background during the 1930s, this must have been fairly early on. That may be Keitel behind Hess.|
|Hitler apparently at a funeral. One of his oratorical techniques was to stand quietly, arms folded, waiting for complete silence before beginning his speech.|
|Hitler at the map table. Looks like Halder on the right, February 11, 1942. Am not positive, but that looks like Romanian Conducător General Ion Antonescu to the left|
|A smiling Adolf Hitler greets a soldier, playing the politician. Pictured at the center with goggles is Hitler's aide-de-camp Heinz Linge. (1941)|
|That appears to be Ernst Rohm dead ahead.|
|A posed photo most likely taken the same day as the one directly above. Note Goering adopting a rather ostentatious "heroic pose."|
|One of many pictures of Hitler being nice to German children|
|A creepy, badly-retouched picture of Hitler at a pre-war (apparently 1938, but not sure) Christmas party for German soldiers. This was intended to make him look good and was a postcard shot.|
Incidentally, the picture above of Hitler with Frau Deetz is pretty well known. However, there is someone cut out of the shot on the left - you can just make out his chair over there. Bet you didn't know that, or who it was.
Yep. Hitler's quack Dr. Morell was usually nearby, even at brunch with a young lovely.
|Hitler with Blondi at the Berghof, talking to Josef Thorak, an Austrian-German sculptor who worked on statues for the Berlin Olympic Stadium in 1936 among other works. Thorak was a protege of Albert Speer, who liked his work. Thorak was in the news in May 2015 when some horses he designed for the entrance of the Reich Chancellery were located. After the war, he fell into obscurity, as the public did not share Hitler's (and Speer's) monumental scale. “He understood me,” Thorak told Time, “and if what I do is art, he understood art.” His work, aside from its associations, is talented but still is all about fascist imagery, though one could also say that it is simply a 1930's style of art that is reminiscent of WPA works in the US.|
|Hitler with baby deer at the Berghof|
|Hitler in front of the Church of our Lady, Nuremburg, 1934. While Hitler had no use for religion or the Vatican, he wasn't averse to using religious symbols to galvanize the people when he felt like it.|