Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Reading a dictator’s mind


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By Sanskriti Singh

The sun never shone over Auschwitz. It was either grey or dark. The smoke from the crematories filled the sky with darkness. Skeleton-like figures ran around in stripped clothes, their hair shaven and eyes bulging out. It was hell on earth. Bodies from the gas chambers and bunkers were heaped on carts and taken away to be burnt down to ashes. Cold winter nights spent without food, water or clothes were unbearable.
Auschwitz was one of the most notorious of all concentration camps of Adolf Hitler whose hatred for one particular group led to the largest genocide in the history of mankind.
Adolf Hitler! Where did he come from and how did he die? Not everyone has the answer. Hitler lost his father at 13 and mother at 15.
A doomed child struggling with the responsibilities of his siblings would one day become a dictator. Hitler’s determination to make Germany a mighty power and his ambition to conquer all of Europe is well-known even if one does not know who he really was.
Nazism was not one or two isolated acts. It was a system of ideas about the world and politics. Hitler was a powerful speaker. His passion for the country’s development and his words moved people. He promised to build a strong nation, undo the injustice of the Versailles Treaty and restore the dignity of Germans. He promised employment and a secure future for the youth of his country. He said he would resist all foreign ‘conspiracies’ against Germany.
Hitler knew how powerful mass mobilisation was. He adopted this theory of politics. The red banners with the swastika, the Nazi salute, and the ritualised rounds of applause after speeches were all part of the political adaptation. Hitler was a messiah, a saviour, someone who had come to save Germany from distress. He captured the imagination of the people living in time of acute economic and political crises.
Every person around us has a negative and a positive sides. We try to see the worst and tend to overlook the positives. Reading Hitler’s story (Mein Kampf) is such. He was a man with vast and varied thoughts. He had progressive ideas for his country. He had great respect for and understanding of his teachers. He honoured their advice.
A child who wanted to become an artist or an architect, he had a thirst for education. Not all know about Hitler the painter. Some of his paintings titled Steeple Study and Germania are in museums around Europe. At a very young age, he developed a strong feeling of nationalism and by the time he was 15 he understood the distinction between patriotism and nationalism. His views on socio-economic situations and high rates of poverty were unquestionably clear. His views show that he had been an observant. His words were really distinct, “If social democracy should be opposed by a more truthful teaching, this truthful teaching will finally, provided it be enforced with equal ruthlessness.”
Being a patron of art and architecture, he wrote, “….it is in youth that men lay the essential groundwork of their creative thought, wherever that creative thought exists.” I was shocked when I read the lines. Really! Those are said by a dictator. Shocking and intriguing.
It is very confusing when one compares this man’s two personalities — a nationalist and a tyrant.
When one reads Hitler’s autobiography only as a reader, one can see a man who was a nationalist and a leader who wanted to bring about the best out of his people.
For his people he was a good leader. I remember watching a documentary on a maid who served in Hitler’s house. She explained Hitler as a man who was good to everyone who worked for him. The day he was defeated by the allies, she says, “I saw him standing alone on the terrace looking towards the mountains. Standing still without any hope or fear, he was at last defenceless and alone. All alone, after all that he had stood for and worked for.”

Once a person told me, “I know of all the atrocities he did to the Jews, those cannot be forgotten or ignored. I contempt him for this act but I truly feel some kind of pain when I look at his eves in pictures. There is some hidden story in those, something hidden and unknown”. It’s funny when one listens to such words. Everyone would live to know the whole story of the emergence of this man as a dictator and his end.
His autobiography outlines his political ideology and his plans for his fatherland; Germany. The book was dictated to Rudolf Hess, his deputy, and was edited by the same.
Hitler’s ideas, frustrations and dreams were humongous. He could make things possible, that was the worst part in his life. Said to be a schizophrenic, he continued his atrocities. But was his illness the real reason? There is something unknown and this is what I think every time I read about this one man who changed the course of history dramatically.
Hitler died in May 1945 in his bunker, with his mistress and one day wife Eva Braun. The bunker was later bombed and destroyed by his followers. Recently a controversy arose saying that he never died because the bunker had only one skeleton, that of a woman.
If it is to be believed that Hitler died in that small little bunker where he spent his last few days of life, then one cannot help but feel pity, if not a hint of melancholy deep inside. The leader who led his country to an era of power, wealth and strength, the tyrant who committed crimes against humanity and the racist who killed around 17 million people unceremoniously became part of the dark history of human civilisation and growth, an end that belied his stature and arrogance and yet imminent.

(The author is a student of
Loreto Convent)

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