Was Hitler a 'passionate lunatic'?
Hitler is perhaps one of the most notorious characters of the 20th century. We know what atrocities were committed during the 12 years that Hitler led Nazi Germany and therefore we have very firm opinions about him. Using hindsight (looking back with the knowledge of what has happened) we often ask why he was not stopped earlier. However, at the time, people could not predict what he would go on to do. Or could they?
By looking at sources from the time, we can see how people viewed him. Was he regarded as a 'passionate lunatic' who would wreak havoc all over Europe? Or a slightly odd eccentric who was rebuilding Germany?
The sources below are from 1937. By this time Hitler had begun to reverse the Treaty of Versailles by rebuilding his army and moving troops into the Rhineland. He had also tried to unite Germany and Austria. Throughout this time he made passionate speeches about expanding German territory. These words and deeds worried some foreign observers.
- What impression of Hitler do you get from this source?
- Why, in Mr. Law's opinion, is Hitler dangerous?
- Read paragraph 3 carefully. Is Mr. Law in favour of granting further concessions to Hitler?
1. Look at Source 1. Report by Mr. Law, a British businessman, who worked in Germany.
- Which words suggest that Bernstorff disliked the Nazi regime?
- From what is said in this source, what type of leader is Hitler?
- Does this account of Hitler back up the view of Hitler in Source 1?
- Can you trust Bernstorff's account?
2. Read Source 2. This is a report on a conversation with Count Bernstorff a German anti-Nazi campaigner.
- What impression of Hitler does the picture give you?
- How has the artist created this impression?
- The government paid the artist to produce this picture. What instructions do you think the artist was given by the government?
- Can the picture be considered as reliable evidence of what Hitler was like?
- Given the date of the picture, how accurate do you think it is at displaying how Hitler would have been acting? Why do you think this?
3. Look at Source 3. This is a drawing of Adolf Hitler by Richard Ziegler in about 1944.
- Does this account of Hitler confirm that he is a passionate lunatic?
- How would you describe Hitler based upon this report?
4. Read Source 4. This is a a short description of Hitler prepared by the British Embassy in Berlin.
5. Of the three accounts you have now read, is any one more reliable than the others? Explain your answer.
- Explain whether or not you think your evidence is reliable.
- Say whether Hitler is sane or not and provide evidence from the sources to support your answer.
6. You have been asked by the British government to prepare a report on Hitler's state of mind.
You have been provided with the sources above. Your report should: