Hitler & German Culture


Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)

The name Hitler was derived from either Hutler, meaning a hat maker, or Hüttler, one who lives in a hut.

When Hitler was  a young man in his twenties, he lived in a “flophouse,” or an institution for homeless men in Vienna, the capital of Austria (Österreich). When the same Hitler was fifty-one years old, he was the absolute ruler of Germany and Austria, with a population of eighty million. He had become the commander of a huge army which had conquered France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Poland. He was acclaimed by Germans as The Greatest Field Marshall of All Times as he ruled all of the lands under his control with an “iron fist.” By 1940, the European Jews in territory controlled by Germany were being murdered in the thousands each day, while Hitler became popular not only among Germans but even in part in the United States.

Indeed, Hitler became the most murderous killer of all time, and finally drove the German people into an abyss after he killed himself.

Because Hitler had such a phenomenal career, rising from a homeless bum to a wealthy absolute dictator, there are numerous “explanations” for this strange phenomenon. Almost all of these “explanations” are of a psychiatric nature. It is common to repeat over and over that “Hitler was crazy.” That is hardly an explanation for his career, and says next to nothing concerning those who supported him.

 To understand Hitler, we must therefore consider German culture. Culture has three dimensions. There is material culture, ideological culture, and behavioral culture. The first means that we can travel for long distances by airplane in a few hours, call someone on the telephone or contact someone by email, or drive at sixty miles an hour, because technology permits this. No one flew before the Wright brothers invented the airplane and no one ate frozen TV dinners before that food became available.  Therefore many of the crimes committed by the German and other European peoples by murdering 6 million Jews and five  million others depended first on the devices available to murderers in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The Toepfer Company built gas ovens used to burn Jewish bodies because the technology to do so was available.  So was Cyclone B gas. Murderous tanks, dive bombers, and other killing machines were available during the Second World War, and the radio  was at hand to broadcast Hitler’s and other dictators’ speeches. 

Now, just because a technical invention is available does not guarantee that it will be used. For example Mexican farmers for years refused to use American tractors  because they did not understand their efficiency. Belief is vital before something that could be used will be used. Since Hitler was a Catholic who had been an altar boy in his church, he had been taught by his church to hate all Jews. Hatred of Jews was and is part of Christian theology and had already been taught by Barnabas, a convert to Christianity in the first  century. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire, the hatred of Jews became a universal belief in Europe and led to the most brutal persecution of the Jewish “Christ killers.”  In every Christian country, Jews were blamed for everything that was perceived as wrong, so that Christians felt entitled to murder and otherwise mistreat Jews, who, they were taught,  were “hated by God.” These beliefs concerning Jews were perpetuated in European literature in all languages. Christian texts contributed to the hate, and greed reinforced it, as Christians could with impunity steal the property of Jews.

Therefore behavioral culture in Europe during the reign of Hitler led to the burning down of all synagogues in Germany and Austria, allowed the Christian population to steal the belongings of Jews who had been deported ad murdered, and gave Germans the certainty that they were “racially superior” while all Jews were by race inferior.

Hitler kept claiming that Judaism was not a religion but that Jews  were a biological race.

This belief was not invented by Hitler. As early as the fifteenth century, the Spanish people called Jews “marranos” or swine. Even today, a visitor to Germany can look at carved scenes in the walls of German churches showing a rabbi reading the Talmud by pulling it out of the “derriere” of a pig.  Thus, hate of Jews was and is so ingrained in European culture that Hitler gained most votes for his effort to become boss of Germany by cursing Jews in public, as the German people believed all that Hitler proclaimed before he was even born. What the German people did between 1933 and 1945 was the result of German culture, militarism, ethnic hate, and dictatorial schools and families. Belief in  so called racial inferiority, failure to understand the benefits of democracy, and a paranoiac manner of interpreting events around them all created Hitler whose speaking ability let him tell Germans what they already believed, although he knew how to instill  the lessons he taught by using rehearsed lectures and theatrical gestures. In short, Hitler was all Germans rolled into one. The Germans followed him because they believed his message before he could shout it, whatever his topic. Hitler was a cultural  phenomenon, not a  psychiatric one,  despite his appearance. There are many smaller Hitlers in Europe. If they can ever be reformed has yet to be determined. In the meantime. Hitler lives.

Shalom u’vracha.

 Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The American Jewish Community in the 20th and 21st Century (2021).

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