Hitler a Gearhead?
|Notice how the rear-view mirror (not standard equipment in the 1930s) is tilted in Hitler's direction, not the driver's. That is probably the photographer's (Heinrich Hoffmann) decision, to get a view of Hitler.|
|Hitler in his Mercedes, apparently at the Berghof. Credit: C&TAuctions/BNPS.|
|Hitler loved to ride shotgun.|
However, here's a factoid: Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany and proud gearhead, never had a driver's license.
While Hitler himself did not drive, he didn't need to. Once he could afford a car after World War I, he always had a driver. Hitler knew cars, particularly German ones. Hitler greatly preferred Mercedes vehicles over BMWs - in fact, privately he called BMWs "junk."
In fact, while in Landsberg Prison after the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, one of Hitler's big projects (besides writing Mein Kampf) was arranging a car loan for when he got out of jail. Surviving documents attest to this.
|1933 photo of Hitler with an unknown driver. This must have been some sort of ceremonial occasion where Hitler's usual chauffeurs were not used.|
|Here is a sequence of clips from a film of Hitler riding through crowds.|
Hitler also remained extremely loyal to his drivers - not only was Maurice rumored to be romancing Hitler's girl Geli Raubal, but he also turned out to be Jewish.
Despite these issues, Hitler made Maurice an honorary Aryan and even kept him in the SS with a special dispensation. This undoubtedly saved Maurice from incarceration in a camp. This doesn't excuse the millions of people that Hitler disposed of in concentration camps, it just shows that Hitler could be kind to his drivers.
Sepp Dietrich became an SS General despite knowing virtually nothing about the military. Those long drives gave Dietrich plenty of time to cultivate a relationship with the future Fuehrer. So, obviously, driving Hitler was not bad for your own career prospects in the Third Reich. Remember, it's not what you know, by who you know.
|Hitler and future Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering in front of Hitler's touring car (courtesy Blaine Taylor, "Hermann Goering: Blumenkrieg, from Vienna to Prague 1938-39").|
|Hitler enters Memel, March 1939.|
|This is from 1931. Just a guy in the seat ahead... but look at the rear-view mirror. Could it be... Adolf Hitler?|
|Here, Hitler demonstrates that he is decades ahead of his time by checking his VW for that special little emissions device. Yup, it's in there.|
|One of the very few times when Hitler is upstaged in a photograph.|
The racing car deal was not just for show - Hitler took a great interest in them, but there is no evidence that he ever drove one (if he could drive at all). Hitler was always an enormous car enthusiast and his chauffeur, Kempka (shown below in the SS uniform in the middle), said, “his knowledge of car engines surpassed even that of experts.”
|Oh, how history could have been changed...|
Hitler liked Mercedes cars and inevitably used one in parades. However, just because a company was German did not mean that he was a fan. Hitler once called BMW cars “junk.” When his architect, Albert Speer, bought one, Hitler privately sneered, but never mentioned it to Speer’s face. The top German brass like Hermann Goering had a personal fondness for Fords, in fact.
Speaking of engines, below Hitler is inspecting what appears to be a BMW V-12. How many Fuhrers go on the shop floor to look at car engines?
|German car giant BMW admitted only recently to feeling “profound regret” for the “enormous suffering” it caused by using slave labor to fuel Adolf Hitler’s killing machine. The laborers built engines like this.|
|Hitler is checking out an amphibious Schwimmwagen. He doesn't appear overly impressed. They were handy vehicles at times but tended to leak. That's not good when you are sitting in a heavy piece of metal floating on water while crossing a deep river.|
|That appears to be Rudolf Hess in the back finding it all quite amusing.|
|Hitler standing in a car in Wilhelmshaven for the launching of the battleship Tirpitz, 1939. It was considered more "prestigious" in those days to sit in the back of the car, but Hitler always preferred to ride shotgun.|
|Guys, this is how you impress the ladies.|
Hitler loved toy soldiers (for real), and he also loved toy cars. It is very rare to find any photos of Hitler where he appears as gleeful as in the shot below.
|Ferdinand Porsche shows Hitler and Goering the new VW Beetle.|
|The automobile engineer and designer Ferdinand Porsche (in suit) presents Adolf Hitler with a model car during celebrations for Hitler's 50th birthday, Berlin, April 1939.|
Hitler liked to go to car shows. It was a chance to review technology, it attracted all sorts of foreign journalists... and he just liked cars. Above, it is February 17, 1939, in Berlin, and Adolf has chosen to visit the Berlin Car Show. The big three of the party left to right: Goebbels, Goering, and Hitler. Viktor Lutze is on the far right. Viktor Lutze, incidentally, was the commander of the SA, the brown-shirted Party paramilitary force which was marginalized after the purge of 1934. Goebbels in his diaries described Lutze as a man of "unlimited stupidity."
|A good view of Hitler in his Mercedes, September 1933.|
|Hitler's arm must have hurt after giving the Hitlergruß (Hitler salute) down that long line of troops.|
Below is Hitler at the 1938 Berlin car show. What's fun about these pictures is seeing how poorly Goering sometimes feigns being interested when Hitler's back is turned. Incidentally, at that show, the Germans demonstrated the first helicopter, but Hitler is all about the cars.
|Hermann Goering also liked cars, but he liked to drive them, not examine them.|
|A badly sunburned Fuehrer, perhaps from a long drive.|
|Adolf Hitler in an open car during the opening of the first section of Frankfurt / Main Heidelberg motorway near Darmstadt,1935.|
|carrying the King's car into the mountains of Nepal.|
And here we take our leave of Hitler and cars with this shot of him looking in awe at the view - traveling in a cable car 5300 feet to the top of the Predigstuhl in Bad Reichenhall (near Berchtesgaden). Since its first run on July 1, 1928, the Predigstuhlbahn is the oldest large-cabin cable car in the world that is preserved in its original form and operates year-round. And Hitler rode it. I know, not the kind of car you were thinking of... but a car nonetheless.