Home / General / Fortunately, Nobody Like This Ever Became a Major World Leader Again

Fortunately, Nobody Like This Ever Became a Major World Leader Again


–Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris.

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  • I thought I’d never need to read another Hitler bio after Kershaw’s volumes, but the Ullrich one did add some fresh facts and perspective.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Do you think Ullrich’s is better? A couple tweets have said so.

      • spork_incident

        You didn’t ask me and I’m certainly no expert but I think Kershaw is more comprehensive while Ullrich gets deeper into Hitler’s head.

        That said, I think they’re both worthwhile.


      • Ullrich is more readable I’d say, more a straight-up bio; Kershaw is better on how the regime worked & on the historical context. (10 yrs since I read it tho.)

    • ThresherK

      I finished a newish book about methamphetamines and the Third Reich.

      (PS I like it when anyone has an OOTS avatar.)

  • Thirtyish

    At times, I feel somewhat comforted by the fact that Hitler was, despite obvious similarities, far more intelligent and self-disciplined than the shitgibbon-in-chief, and therefore perhaps better equipped to carry out his horrific, deadly plans. Then at other times, the very fact that such a thought is there to give me any degree of comfort at all is enough to make me want to guzzle Drano.

  • Hogan

    Worst. Christmas card photo. Ever.

    • Thirtyish

      At least the stuffed lion has the grace to look uncomfortable and vaguely disapproving.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        Barron might possibly rather be other places, too

        • Lost Left Coaster

          He looks absolutely miserable. Gotta feel bad for that kid. He didn’t ask to be part of this shit.

          • SatanicPanic

            It looks like he’s been told to sit in the corner.

            • Lost Left Coaster

              I just hope that he’s young enough to get his shit together after the old man is gone. The other Trump kids are damaged beyond all hope of salvation. But Barron’s young enough. One of Reagan’s sons turned against the right, after all.

        • so-in-so

          Melina doesn’t really look happy either. Dump probably told her something charming like “wear the sexy outfit and stand there so everyone sees how great I have it doing you.”.

      • Dennis

        It’s like it wants to get out of there and join a less terrible family, with fewer incestuous impulses. Like the Lannisters.

    • Only because the Xmas 1947 photoshoot in the Führerbunker got lost in the shuffle!

    • retr2327

      inquiring minds want to know: what the hell is holding Melania’s dress out at that angle? The Donald’s hairspray?

      • El Guapo

        Great question. I would have guessed a fan off-screen, but no way The Donald allows a fan anywhere near his hair weave.

      • that’s Melania?

        i would’ve said Ivanka

        • postmodulator

          Trump probably has said it a few times too.

      • SatanicPanic

        Hot gas coming from Donald

      • Hypersphericalcow

        Argh, I should have refreshed before posting, because the same thing occurred to me.

      • wjts

        Photoshop or a stiff wire sewn/taped into the edge of the cape thingy are my first two guesses.

  • keta

    The Art of Mein Kampf should have been a clue.

  • nick056

    Ron Rosenbaum’s Explaining Hitler serves as fine reminder that “does he really mean it?” is a question we need to ask ourselves for moral and philosophical reasons — and maybe eschatological ones — but that it’s of no practical value for activists. Biographers and Jewish scholars are still attempting to decode whether Hitler really meant it seventy years AFTER the Holocaust. It’s fundamentally a question with no predictive value before the worst happens.

    He thinks Nazis are “fine people.” No question: it’s his words. Like Hitler, he’s a dangerous and lazy buffoon who nontheless has a boundless appetite for combative performance. His bond with those who validate him, and his distrust of those who criticize him, is a chief feature of his personality.

    • I’d beg to differ in one respect: It is a question that we now have a fairly definitive answer to. Whatever it is he (whoever “he” might be) is saying, the only safe assumption is that he really does mean it. Hitler was quite vocal about the destruction of the Jews; Trump has been quite vocal in his support for White supremacists, neo-Nazis, racists, and various militia types.
      President Donald J. Trump is the greatest threat to America since the height of the Cold War.

    • aab84

      Meh, this is true in the sense of “the functionalist v. intentionalist debate over the Holocaust still hasn’t gone away,” but I’m not sure it’s true in the broader sense. Rabid antisemitism, lebensraum, hatred of the “lesser peoples” in the east, virulent anti-Communism. It was all there in Mein Kampf and his speeches for years and years.

      It’s just that few people took him seriously until it was too late, because, like, what kind of crazy jackass would actually mean that nonsense. Obviously there are absolutely no lessons for our current time to be drawn from that whatsoever.

      ETA: Hitler and the Nazis pursued their ideological goals to great lengths, even at the cost of damaging their own economy and the war effort. If he was just faking it, it was a really, really dedicated performance.

    • Sly

      This may be the old existentialist in me talking, but “Does he really mean it?” is a useless question for anyone, including if the subject decides to ask it of himself. What does it matter if Hitler meant to kill millions of people who did nothing to him aside from exist? What matters is that he killed them. I don’t think the people who were killed contemplated such questions, and even if they did they certainly didn’t find solace in an uncertain answer.

      There is, I suppose, some comfort in thinking of such matters as if they were like some abstract and perfectly anodyne intellectual matter to be puzzled over in our spare time and ultimately abandoned when something more intriguing suits our fancy. But “he” isn’t really the object of importance. “It” is the object of importance. And substituting the former for the latter brings the latter out of our view, and conceals it behind a cloud of equivocation.

      And this is very often the bad faith goal of many who pose such questions. You see it in quite clearly in Confederate apologists discussing both Lee and Lincoln. Sure, Lee betrayed his nation and in so doing contributed to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of his countrymen in an effort birthed to salvage the institution of slavery, but did he really do it to support slavery? Sure, Lincoln committed his nation to the course of slavery’s ultimate destruction – a course that ultimately claimed his life through an assassin’s bullet – but what did he really believe about slavery and the possibility of a free black population that was integrated into the republic?

      The answers are irrelevant.

  • For all his failings, Hitler at least had the brains to allow “competent yes-men” to run the Wehrmacht and Kriegsmarine. Trump’s idea of governing is to staff every position with someone who, at best, is ignorant as a stump and, usually, is committed to the destruction of the entity they’ve been put in charge of.

    • brucej

      Actually he’s staffed the “Wehrmacht and Kriegsmarine” pretty competently, it’s all the other departments he’s destroying. The DOD is pretty much untouched, he’s loosing ICE on the country like the Gestapo, and Jeff “Evil KKKeebler Elf” Sessions is quite competently going about criminalizing dissent.

      The non-authoritarian parts of the government are whats being destroyed.

      Frankly I don’t see how the State Department exists as a functional entity after 4 years of this, for example.

    • Zagarna_84

      Eh? Wilhelm Keitel, Heinrich Himmler, and Hermann Goring? Competent?

      Of the top brass, only Jodl and Donitz weren’t either complete doofuses or nonentities. The army in the field mostly ignored anything coming from OKW headquarters.

      • You may note I did not name the SS or the Luftwaffe.

      • cpinva

        Goering was, as the head of the Lufwaffe. possibly the worst decision he made there was extending the bombing of Britain too long, resulting in significant (and hard to replace) losses of highly trained men and their planes.

  • FMguru

    GIven the way things went when Hitler DID rouse himself to the task at hand – I’m thinking of how matters developed on the Eastern front after he took direct control of military operations – I’m pretty sure Hitler’s inner circle was perfectly OK with the Fuhrer wiling away his days scribbling blueprints for his one million person superstadium in the margins of his Trapper Keeper and leaving the heavy lifting to the rest of them.

  • sibusisodan

    That line “remained in full control”. I remain baffled as to what Trump is actually in control of.

    (His White House leaks like a seive. He is ignorant of the content of executive orders he signs. He cannot stick to agreed scripts even for short media breifings.)

  • El Guapo

    I’ve seen that pic a million times…but I still can’t get over how fucking bizarre it is.
    [Sadly, I would have loved to have read SEK’s dissection of that photo. The eye lazers from the stuffed lion go right through the hole (heart?) Trump’s hands are making and square into his crotch.]

    • sibusisodan

      I’ve just noticed that Barron has toy stretch limos. Because of course he does.

      • El Guapo

        And a Bugatti maybe? Looks like someone just threw those toys there before snapping a picture. After Trump asked the cameraman to move whatshisname and the lion a few feet more to his left so they wouldn’t crowd him. And Melania wasn’t happy hence the face.

        • NonyNony

          I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Barron was photoshopped in after the fact.

      • DJ

        Those cars were strategically placed there, probably by a trump sycophant who thought the boss would love them. And he was right, of course.

      • Concerned Citizen

        Those were commercially available 10-15 years ago. My middle son has one. You push a button and Trump’s voice says, “sweet ride, isn’t it? I know, it’s mine.”

    • Hypersphericalcow

      It’s fractally wrong. Every pixel you look at is worse than the one before.

    • DJ

      The enormous distance between the son and his parents speaks volumes. Who does a family portrait with your kid sitting ten feet away from you?

      I hadn’t noticed the heart over his crotch before. Thanks, now I’m sick to my stomach.

  • Hypersphericalcow

    Jesus, that photo. Viktor Yanukovych’s palace didn’t look so gaudy and tasteless.

    • Wojciech

      Tony Montana’s palace in “Scarface” was more tasteful than Chez Trump.

    • COnrad

      What’s up with the low ceiling? It looks like Melania almost needs to duck under those (hideous) light fittings.

  • Hypersphericalcow

    Also, how the hell did they get Melania’s dress to do that weird stretched-out position to her left? It doesn’t look there’s a fan off-screen. Did they use wires and cardboard? Why the fuck would you do that?

    ETA: retr2327 noticed it first.

    • DJ

      I was just thinking, I bet Trump’s pissed about her dress because it blocks half the view, which is clearly what he most wanted to show off in this picture.

    • There’s several ways to do it (could be wires, could be photoshop), but the reason is to make the picture look less static. A bit of apparent motion makes the picture look more natural. It’s a common technique.

  • rea

    God, you have to feel sorry for that poor kid.

    • hellslittlestangel

      Don’t worry. He’ll perk up during the reading of the will.

    • JMP

      Tiffany is by far the luckiest, as Donald has barely had anything to do with her since divorcing Marla, after commenting on her breasts back when she was an infant.

      • Hypersphericalcow

        Yeah, Marla seems to have kept Tiffany pretty well insulated from the derangement of the Trump family. Watching her speech at the Republican convention was heartbreaking.

  • Frank Wilhoit

    Okay, let’s talk about that “dominant personality”, either in the historical example or the present-day one, or both.

    But let’s not.

    Instead, let’s talk about the *dominated* personalities, the ones who found themselves somehow being “dominated” by lightweights who were essentially without intellectual resources of any kind.

    (Hitler was better educated and less ignorant than Trump. This is merely a function of time and place. Europeans at their worst were/are more serious about education than Americans have ever been. Hitler was as much of a lightweight in his context as Trump is in ours.)

    The parallels between Hitler and Trump are really parallels between the credulities of their respective followers.

    None of us would be even slightly susceptible to being “dominated” by either of these men. Not even intrigued; we would be somewhere between bored and repelled.

    So what is wrong with the others, the ones who are capable of being taken in and swept along by such nonentities? They are numerous enough to control any political system, even those that overtly deprecate self-determination. And it’s not about Hitler, or Trump, or fill-in-the-blank. Take any of the famous figureheads away, and another will take his place at once.

    “It’s the credulity, stupid.”

    What (to cite another “dominant” personality) is to be done?

    • gyrfalcon

      It’s not credulity. It’s tribalism. Better to ask what about the NSDAP in the 1930s, and the Republican party of today, makes excusing the rampant failings of the Guy In Charge a smarter option than agitating to cause the Guy In Charge to either straighten up or else be replaced by someone better suited to the top job.

  • So Stalin’s ability to grind out eight-hour days saved the USSR?

  • D_J_H

    Working towards the Trump!*

    *Though I think that Wilhelm II is the better point of comparison from German history.

  • Joe Paulson
  • Harkov311

    Albert Speer’s memoirs confirm the stories of Hitler as a late-rising, late-to-bed scatterbrain who couldn’t seem to get any actual work done, at least as Speer understood the word. Although really, the whole upper echelons of the NSDAP were filled with men whose primary quality seemed to be slavish loyalty to Hitler, or fanatical hatred of Jews, or both, rather than any actual administrative or political skills. A perusal through the biographies of the Gauleiters shows what a mediocre bunch of hateful simpletons the Nazis really were, even at the highest levels.

    • Hypersphericalcow

      My impression is that a lot of the high-ranking Nazis (including Speer himself) found themselves in a movement that let them do whatever they had always wanted to do. Design giant buildings, send up rockets, kill Jews or Poles, build tanks, whatever. Hitler would froth at the mouth in public speeches, and the rest of his lieutenants would construct states-within-a-state, and just do whatever the hell they wanted.

  • econoclast

    I used to accept this account of Hitler, but after seeing Trump I feel
    like something has to be missing. The Nazis were way more efficient at
    removing all restrictions on their power. And they just couldn’t have
    been that incompetent in government, given how efficient they were at
    the thing they really wanted to do: kill people.

    • The rule of law was already a lot weaker in Germany when Hitler took power than it is here. The Weimar regime was considered illegitimate by the Right, and the judiciary tilted their way (hence Reds being put away for long terms while Hitler’s putsch got him little jail time, and that quite comfortable).

      • Not a real Tory

        I also found Timothy Snyder’s Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning really helpful in understanding how a fairly chaotic governing structure murdered so many people.

        Perhaps the most terrifying part of the book was the argument that stateless people were the most vulnerable to massacre. Given the many stateless people in Europe right now, it’s a frightening vision.

    • guthrie

      They weren’t actually that efficient at killing people, insofar as so
      many they killed were done individually and in small groups. MOreover
      their running of the economy was hideously inefficient, as was the
      organisation of the variofs parts of the armed forces, not to mention
      Hilters centralist dictatorship. He basically set up various ministries
      with egotistical people in charge and let them fight each other for his
      attention and resources.
      They also inherited a situation where there weren’t actually that many restraints, compared to the USA.

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