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Was Hitler really a Dictator?
by Friedrich Christian Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe

Part 8 - Art, culture and social innovations

Those engaging in this campaign of calumny are experts at attaining great results with crafty little tricks. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe know Adolf Hitler only as a monster with a whip in his hand, a grimly scowling face and a great dark strand of hair across his forehead. Anyone who knows only this image must assume that what he is faced with is a bloodthirsty, bellicose and very unpleasant man who could very well be the instigator of heinous crimes.

I have already said that I knew Adolf Hitler since 1928, and between 1933 and 1935 I was frequently with him, sometimes every day, and usually quite privately, often from 9 pm to about 2 am. That was the quiet part of his day, which he liked to spend in the company of close friends. In 1936 and 1937 I only saw him infrequently, hardly ever in the time before the outbreak of the war, and not at all anymore during wartime.

I can only state that I never once saw Hitler with a whip in his hand. As well, I never saw him with a strand of hair across his forehead, except perhaps accidentally in the course of a vigorous speech. His hair was without exception very neat, perfectly cut and combed. I did - very rarely - see him scowl, understandably enough at times when he was angry about something. When it happened in the presence of ladies, he would immediately apologize to them afterwards.

One very pronounced characteristic of his, however, is never mentioned nowadays, and was not very well known even then: his striking sense of humour.

No-one knew Hitler as well as Dr. Goebbels did. Whenever he had to take an unpleasant bit of news to Hitler, he would always bring along a few really good jokes, which had the effect of soothing and very efficacious medicine on Hitler. It must also be said that Dr. Goebbels had a flair for telling these jokes.

Two years ago I was very surprised to read that the great comedian Karl Valentin was being celebrated in Munich as "victim of Nazi persecution". I wrote the Valentin Society that Hitler had been a particularly enthusiastic fan of Valentin's and, in the small circle of his closest friends, had on several occasions recited the most popular Valentin skits - from memory, and very well at that. I think Hitler would have let Valentin get away with anything and everything. The claim that he persecuted him politically is, in my opinion, an outrageous lie.

One of the descendants of the famous singer Leo Slezak - his son, I think - claimed after the war that Slezak had had to suffer terribly under Hitler. Even Margarete Slezak, doubtless a great artist, had had a hard time of it during the Hitler regime, it was claimed. The fact is that Hitler numbered the Slezaks among his personal friends. I met Margarete dozens of times at Hitler's place, and in every instance the two of them had a good and cheerful time together; old Slezak himself was never anything but admired for his great voice, his acting talent and his humanity.

Hitler knew that Slezak's mother was one of the daughters of the banker Wertheim, in other words, of Jewish extraction. At age 59, Slezak gave up his position as singer with the State Opera - expressly "on his own request", as he himself stated in the encyclopedia "Who's Who". He was brilliantly successful to the end, in America as well as especially at the Wagner and Mozart Festivals in Bayreuth and Salzburg. After the war I repeatedly visited his daughter, Margarete Slezak, in her beautiful house in Egern on the Tegernsee; she was still a great follower of Hitler's, and made no secret of it.

In the course of the last twenty years, many well-known actors and actresses, especially those coming from the motion-picture industry, have written more or less political memoirs. I knew most of them personally, and so I know quite well what they thought of Hitler and Goebbels "in those days", and what they invented "afterwards" so as to ingratiate themselves with the regime of today just as they did very successfully back then with Hitler and the Reich Minister responsible for theatre and film.

I was already familiar with the methods these people used, from what I had observed during the 1920s and from 1930 to 1932. In their memoirs several of them seem to have confused their experiences in the 1920s with those of the 1930s, for in my opinion they were treated far too well in the 1930s. With respect to several of the "ladies" from this field I can only say that their fawning was downright shameless. Often we literally took to our heels when we saw them converging on the Ministry, there to gush once again most effusively about how enraptured they were with Hitler and Goebbels and what a blessing National-Socialism was for the entire people.

But if Hitler wanted the German motion picture industry to become known and popular outside Germany - for up until then it was quite unknown - then he had to come to an arrangement with these people. Their pushiness was not in itself reason enough to dispense with good actresses.

There were also modest and decent artists, however, who made great careers for themselves even if they were politically, let's say, uncomfortable. I know of several brilliant actors who made no secret of the fact that they were Communists. They were among the most respected ones to the end, their views notwithstanding. Heinrich George, Eugen Klöpfer, Emil Jannings, Werner Kraus, Mathias Wiemann, Gustav Gründgens, Alexander Golling - apart from the singers, these were for the most part not National-Socialists, and some of them were even known as opponents.

Hitler and Goebbels were in full agreement: actors must not be assessed in political terms, else real, good theatre as such will die out - and this, in turn, is something one cannot do to the people. The people come first! And to this day I believe that that was the right attitude to take.

One thing is for certain: politicians understand "theatre" better than actors understand politics. And no doubt that is how it has been at all times and in all nations.

Hitler with Leni Riefenstahl
Hitler with filmmaker
Leni Riefenstahl
In any case, none of the actors as such had the slightest grounds for discontent. They were extremely successful, they were very popular not only at home but some of them even abroad, and theatre, just like the German movies, was more popular and respected than it has ever been again since. German movies did not attain world-wide significance until Hitler's time. One of the last movies made in the Third Reich, "Kolberg", was still a big hit abroad many years after the war. But it was rarely shown in Germany during the war, and not at all afterwards!

German broadcasting gained such prestige in the world that Germany was given the chairmanship of the World Broadcasting Association. German symphony orchestras also enjoyed unprecedented international popularity.

German sports did not attain world-wide importance until Hitler's day, which was most evident at the Berlin Olympics. German jurisprudence gained such world-wide prestige under Hitler that a world conference of judges was moved to Germany. The Chairman of this conference, and host, so to speak, was Dr. Roland Freisler, who later was made a very particular target of by the slanderers of Germany and all things German.

German locomotives, German automobiles, German ships came to be greatly admired abroad, and bought, ie. ordered, worldwide. German physicians began to play a leading international role. Foreign experts came from all parts of the world to look at and copy Hitler's Autobahn superhighways.

The organization of German agriculture, as well as the German solution to the problem of labour unions - in the shape of the "German Labour Front" (DAF, Deutsche Arbeitsfront), which Hitler himself was reluctant to call "National-Socialist Labour Front" - soon also came to be internationally regarded as exemplary.

After the war, when the Americans had the organization, structure and functional abilities of the "National-Socialist People's Welfare Organization" (NSV) and the "Winter Relief Organization" (WHW) explained to them, they said - and I know this from eye-witnesses - that there was no other organization in the world as efficient and outstanding as these.

Hitler, by Arno Breker
by Arno Breker
I cannot conclude this list without mentioning Arno Breker, one of the greatest artists of that epoch. Wide sections of the art-conscious population abroad practically idolized him, even though, as is commonly known, he was commissioned by Hitler personally, as were Count Plettenberg and Josef Thorak. Great artists from almost every country eagerly flocked to Germany.

And when Hitler then built up a fleet by means of which the German working man could see the world and come to know and honour other peoples, thus building bridges of understanding from one person to another - that was when he unconsciously touched a sore spot with his enemies and slanderers, for this was something that should not and must not be. The organization "Strength Through Joy" (Kraft durch Freude, KdF) was by far the greatest of all social measures introduced by the Third Reich. It alone was already a Revolution of the true form of Socialism - independent of financial means. Time and again one could see thousands of men and women from all social strata of the German nation visiting Madeira and other "paradises" on earth - and that was a great innovation for all of mankind in those days!

The only institution with which the German Reich sorely failed to excite admiration was its armed forces, which, due to imposed necessity, were much too small for such a large and significant nation. The navy was in dire need of at least five times the existing number of submarines, at least ten times as many transport ships of all kinds, at least twice as many warships of various kinds, as well as a number of surprises.

The air force was in even worse a shape than the navy. In fact, it barely existed at all. At least 3,000 fighter planes of various kinds were needed.

To expand and train the army, navy and air force on such a scale was very costly and, according to the experts, would require five to eight years' time! Hitler was fully aware of all this, and so this alone means that it was completely out of the question for him to want war. Since the traitors also knew this, the matter of who started the war is quite clear, as is the fact that the entire campaign of slander and calumny was directed exclusively by those who wanted to eradicate "Made in Germany" once and for all. Five to eight years - that meant that the Reich could not be fully armed before 1946 at the earliest!

But Hitler not only needed time for the armed forces, he also needed a great deal more time for the internal consolidation of the Reich. In this context he wanted at least ten to twelve more years - which means that the desired state of armament of the German armed forces would not be attained at any time prior to 1950! Hitler was of the opinion that at such a time there would no longer even be any danger of war, for he would surely have achieved an alliance with England long before that time, especially since he had renounced any and all colonial claims for the German Reich. Who else but him would have done any such thing back then?

Does anyone really believe that the German Reich could have concluded a naval treaty with England, treaties with Italy, Rumania and Japan, and even with the Soviet Union, if even one of the lies being spread around had been the truth? Never!

Gott schütze Adolf Hitler! God save Adolf Hitler!
Banner on a church in the Sudetenland, 1938:
"Gott schütze Adolf Hitler"!
("God save Adolf Hitler"!)

Photo credit: Federal Archives, Koblenz
Does anyone believe that the two major Churches prayed for Hitler and his government for twelve whole years - and not only within Germany! - because deep down they really believed that he and his government were diabolical? I think this theory may safely be dismissed as out of the question.

From 1932 on I was personally acquainted with the papal nuncio Orsenigo, who for many years was a most respected ambassador of the Holy See to Berlin. Whenever he spoke about Hitler it was always in an appreciative, sometimes even an admiring vein. I never once knew him to voice anything negative. I was also well acquainted with Ambassadors Alfieri (Italy) and Frölicher (Switzerland), the Irish Ambassador, who remained supportive to the very end, as well as the Ambassadors of Japan (Oshima), Spain, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

It goes without saying that all these gentlemen listened to foreign radio broadcasts as well as to the German ones, in order to compare them. That was their privilege. In this way they regularly learned what new accusations the slanderers aimed at Germany. It was their right to demand pertinent information from the governments they were accredited to, and so they were always well-informed. They were also free to send informed members of their staff back to their countries of origin, for purposes of reporting there.

Not one of the many foreign diplomats whom I met in Berlin in the course of more than ten years considered Hitler's regime to be "criminal". They voiced criticism wherever they felt that something needed to be remedied - and it was their right as well as their duty to do so. But all of them without exception admired the German national community as Hitler's greatest achievement. All of them acknowledged that Hitler preserved not only Germany but all of Europe from Communism. And many of them admired Hitler as a very brilliant man whose existence was a blessing, and not only for Germany.

I particularly remember the English diplomat Sir Ivon Kirkpatrick. We were personal friends of his and his family's. Once he even attended a meeting of the NSDAP which was being held in the Reddest part of Berlin, and at which I was the sole speaker. When he congratulated me afterwards, he remarked that it was a great pity that only very few of the foreigners who came to Germany so full of curiosity had the chance to witness such a meeting. It was only at this meeting, he said, that he had fully realized that what was happening in Germany was a primarily Socialist revolution which - adapted, of course, to reflect individual situations - could be of immense benefit to all nations!

On the occasion of a party which Kirkpatrick gave at his home for his friends, he took me aside to ask me to tell my Minister in his name the next day (which was the day before Dr. Goebbels left for Egypt) that when he was in Egypt he should bear in mind that a very brilliant statesman had already been known to fail disastrously when he followed up on his war in Egypt by also invading Russia! I passed this message on to Dr. Goebbels - he did not answer, but I will never forget the way he looked at me.

No doubt Kirkpatrick meant well. After the war he served as a high-ranking Commissioner of the Queen in the British-occupied part of the Reich. During Kirkpatrick's time in Berlin, the British Ambassador was Henderson. Unlike me, Hitler considered him a friend.

Nevile Henderson
Nevile Henderson
One evening when we were at the home of Chief of Staff Lutze, the host's dachshund walked past us, and Henderson said: "You see, my dear Prince, this animal has typically German characteristics - a big mouth and a long tail." I answered: "And as far as I am aware, the dog typical for England is the bulldog - he bites from below, Your Excellency."

I only mention these two brief episodes because I witnessed them myself and because they showed me how fundamentally different were the attitudes of those two Englishmen, who were both with the British Embassy at that time and who both played significant parts afterwards.

I especially liked to visit Ambassador Fran‡ois Poncet at the French Embassy. Hitler regarded him as a "particularly intelligent and tactful man". From many private remarks I had gathered the impression that Fran‡ois Poncet was more kindly disposed towards the Germans than von Ribbentrop would have liked. Ribbentrop banked on Henderson. History has proven that the exact opposite would have been correct. But I could not possibly have interfered, especially since in 1929-30 Alfred Rosenberg had brought about my expulsion from the Party - and Hitler's signature had been forged towards this end - because Baron Lersner and I had suggested to Hitler that he should review his position towards France and try to obtain an alliance with the French. Hitler acted on this suggestion, and Rosenberg told him that Baron Lersner was not fully Aryan. Rosenberg's outrageous behaviour did not come to light until 1936, when Hitler declared that he had never heard of my being expelled from the Party, and after all, if he had known, he would not have continued to confide in me for years afterwards.

I only mention this because it shows how many dangers to Hitler and his struggle lurked within the Party's leadership, and that it is insane to call him a dictator. If only he had been one, probably everything would have turned out fine, especially since he never intended to remain in the Party vanguard forever. I repeatedly heard him say, "As soon as I have finished laying the foundations of the Reich, I am going to step down and devote myself to the elaboration of our ideology." This is yet another factor which shows that he never wanted a war.

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Was Hitler Really a Dictator?