The Fuehrer Myth.

by Stig Hornshøj-Møller

The Führer Myth describes the horrifying and complicated process that led to the systematic extermination of six million Jews by the Nazi regime during World War II.

Filled with many new insights and provocative interpretations, the book is a comprehensive analysis of the factors in German society that made the Holocaust possible. But it is also the account of those people who planned and carried out the hitherto greatest, deliberately-organized mass murder in history.

Because - as the author stresses again and again - it is human beings who decide to kill, he lets the reader follow the man Adolf Hitler at close range. Hitler, and those around him - Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, and others - are seen as human beings of flesh and blood: emotional, weak, greedy, opportunistic, fanatic, lecherous, religious (in their belief in the Führer) etc.

After more than 25 years of research, the Danish historian Stig Hornshøj-Møller has written a book on the creation and staging of the Führer Myth which is both shocking and of alarming current interest. His analysis demonstrates how the careful use of media-produced "reality" by the Nazis in film and other kinds of propaganda was able to make ordinary people kill others - just because they were stigmatized as being "different."

Table of Contents

1. Foreword

I. Symbols and Consciousness

2. Omens

Describes essential symbols and rituals in Adolf Hitlers behaviour and thinking: the Iron Cross First Class, the Swastika, the commemoration of "martyrs" and the meaning of the Führer Headquarters "Wolfsschlucht" (Wolf's Gorge) in Belgium.

3. Wolf

Presents modern theories on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Multiple Personality Disease, and argues from the point of view of semiotical theory why this diagnostical framework can be seen as a relevant way of describing the well-known difference between Hitler's personality and behaviour as a politician and in private.

II. A Searching Soul

4. An Insecure Child

Outlines Hitler's childhood and his relations to his father and his mother.

5. A Young Man Detached From Reality

Describes his history from the death of his father till the outbreak of WW I.

III. The Premises

6. The Inheritance from Jesus Christ

Outlines the long tradition of anti-Semitism with special reference to myths and their pictorial images.

7. "God is Dead"

Focuses on social Darwinism and the change of basic myths legitimizing the political and social construction of society - especially mirroring the thinking of Nietzsche (and the alteration of it through his sister and the way it was understood by German society).

8. A Chosen People and Their Lebensraum

Presents features of the German idea of Volkstum.

IV. The Trauma

9. Get Thee Hence, Satan!

Describes Hitler during WW I and focuses on the significance of his twofold loss of eyesight at Wervicq and in Pasewalk. It ends with his membership of Drexler's small party in 1919

V. Herr Wolf

10. The First Steps

Outlines Hitler as a politician between 1919 and 1923 and focuses especially on his early anti-Semitic statements.

11. Searching For a New Identity

Analyses the influence of the painter Franz von Stuck on Hitler's personality as politician, out of the author's general notion that pictures and images are a deeper and more fundamental structure in one's mind than words.

12. Dreams and Reality

Focuses on German films of the early 1920s, which can be seen as a reflection of the identity problems of the German society in general, as well as Adolf Hitler in particular. Here, too, the author points out how these films helped Hitler to put images and fundamental thinking to his inner emotions as a precondition to the later development of his political personality through reading and writing.

13. Wolf Becomes a Face

Describes the role of his photographer Heinrich Hoffmann in developing the Führer Myth.

14. "Mein Kampf" - the New Bible

Outlines the history of the Putsch in 1923 and charcterizes how and why "Mein Kampf" can be seen as Hitler's own description of the role of his traumatic ego.

15. The Power of the Spoken Word

Describes how Hitler was able to make his audience into almost religious believers through his speeches.

16. An Incomplete Man

Focuses on the psychological consequences of Hitler's missing left testicle and his peculiar relationship with women up to Geli Raubal.

17. Geli

Gives an account of the strange relationship between Hitler and his niece whose death is seen as an accident. The key interest is, however, on the political consequence of her death and the dates of Hitler's visits to her grave. The last one was exactly on the 25th anniversary of the shot in Sarajevo 1914. A mere coincidence?

VI The Disciples of the Führer

18. Canaille Mensch

Describes the early history of Joseph Goebbels, his personality, "conversion," and marriage with Magda Goebbels.

19. A Breeder of Human Beings

Presents the early history of Heinrich Himmler, his personality, "conversion" and marriage.

20. A Blond Beast

Presents the background of Reinhard Heydrich, his personality, "conversion" and marriage.

21. Göring and the Others

Presents briefly the other main characters, but focuses especially on the features they had in common in their relations with the Führer.

VII. One People and One Führer

22. Adolf Hitler Comes to Power

Describes the mixture of terror and fascination that brought Hitler to power and discusses the symbolic meaning of the day in Potsdam: March 21, 1933.

23. The Screw is Tightened

Focuses on the Gleichschaltung and especially on the symbolic rituals and speeches of Nov. 9th and Nov. 10th, 1933, underlining the significance of the date: exactly 15 years after Hitler's decision to become a politician.

24. If Only the Führer Knew

Describes the major events in 1934: The killing of Röhm, the death of Hindenburg and especially the filmic development of the Führer-myth through Triumph of the Will. As everywhere in the book, these events are more seen from a semiotic point of view and their influence of the mentality of German society than from a more traditional historical point of view.

25. The Führer in Private

Addresses the story of Eva Braun and other closer relations to women like Renate Müller and Unity Valkyrie Mitford. The marriage with Eva Braun is seen as Hitler's symbolic divorce from Germany.

VIII. The Instruments of Terror

26. A Pure Race

Outlines the ideology behind and the actual policy in breeding an Aryan race.

27. A Castle of the Grail

Tells the story of Wewelsburg up to 1940.

28. A Life Guard

Describes the development of the SS until WW II - especially with reference to the rituals and their symbolic meanings. It also includes the description of how more and more tasks were transfered to the SS during the 1930s.

IX. The Führer Sets the Banner of War

29. The Führer Makes a Decision

Analyses the symbolic meaning of crucial events in 1935 and 1936: the Nuremberg Laws were promulgated on the same day as the Swastika was made the flag of the Reich, and Hitler apparently drew different conclusions from the Olympic Games than did others. He ordered Göring to prepare for war before the next Games.

30. The Image of Satan

Discusses the importance of visualizing ideals and enemy pictures through exhibitions in 1937.

31. Historical "Coincidences"

Looks into the secret role of Heydrich and his SD during the 1930s of making things "happen" the way Hitler wanted them to happen.

32. The Myth of Death-Sacrifice

Presents different cases of the death and martyr cult in the Third Reich and the way these events were staged and used by the propaganda in order to prepare the Germans for war.

X. A Love-Affair

33. Liduschka

Tells of the love story between Joseph Goebbels and Lida Baarova until August 15, 1938 - the day when the big crisis with Magda Goebbels started.

34. "Führer befiehl, wir folgen!"

Continues the love story and mixes politics and personal life of Goebbels until the signing of the München agreement.

35. Control of Hanke? (Ed. Note: wordplay that does not translate well from Danish.)

Continues the story of Goebbels' personal problems and growing isolation until the beginning of November 1938.

36. A Macabre Declaration of Love

Claims that the Reichskristallnacht, on the night between Nov. 9th and 10th, 1938, was initiated as Goebbels' way of regaining Hitler's favour and that it sabotaged both Himmler's and Göring's plans for Jews.

37. It Is Necessary With Violence

Describes the consequences of the Reichskristallnacht, but focuses especially on a interpretation of Hitler's speech to the press in the evening of November 10th which is seen as his harsh criticism to the propagandists, because it had become clear to him that the German people had not yet grasped the significance of his anti-Semitism.

38. "I Would Not Like To Be a Jew in Germany"

Summarizes the meeting between Göring, Goebbels, Heydrich and others on November 12th, 1938.

39. The Führer Acts as Prophet

Outlines the character of the anti-Jewish policy in 1939 through the outbreak of WW II, including an analysis of the content of Hitler's prophecy of Jan. 30th, 1939, which is seen as a way of putting stress on the ongoing negotiation with George Rublee.

XI. The Threshold to Genocide

40. Hell Breaks Out

Describes Hitler's own, highly symbolic time-table of going to war, as well as the campaign in Poland with its different consequences. Once more the focus is on the importance of dates and visual perception of certain events for Hitler's view of himself.

41. Final Rehearsal of Genocide

Outlines the decision-making that led to the "euthanasia" project and describes the way it was organized. The importance of documentary film as part of this process is underlined.

42. Reality Works

Deals with the first phase of the production of Der ewige Jude and stresses the importance of an entry in Goebbels' diary on his first viewing of the slaughtering scenes on the evening of October 16th, 1939: "This Jewry must be annihilated."

43. The Sword is Forged

Reconstructs meticulously the development of this socalled "documentary," which can be seen as an X-ray of the final decision-making process. It also focuses on the symbolic consequences of the bomb explosion in Munich of Nov. 8th, 1939.

44. A Credo

Continues the story of Der ewige Jude for the rest of 1939, and also deals with the growing religious character and function of the Führer Myth after the bomb explosion.

45. "A Symphony of Disgust"

Continues the production story of Der ewige Jude, outlining the change of scope of the film from "just" legitimizing ideology to becoming a deliberate call for genocide. It also describes the reactions from the first test as well as the changes that were demanded by Hitler himself.

46. "It is un-Germanic to Exterminate an Entire People"

Outlines the Germanization policy of Himmler, including his proposal from May, 1940 (very much based on Richard Breitman's book on Himmler and the Final Solution).

XII. The Decision

47. The Day of Judgement

Focuses on Hitler's movements and actions between his approval of Der ewige Jude on May 20th, 1940, and his return to Germany after the Armistice with France at the end of June. It is claimed that Hitler took the final decision on June 1st, 1940, while visiting the Wervicq where he was blinded in WW I.

48. The Guardian of Paradise

Describes how Heinrich Himmler got an oral order to kill the European Jewry in the Führer Hauptquartier Wolfsschlucht on June 22nd.

XIII. The Führer Has Given a Command

49. Go Thee Cursed to Hell on Earth

Concerns the Madagascar project, which is seen as a cover-up for the killing assignment.

50. The Private Host of the Führer

Outlines the formation of the Waffen-SS in 1940 and presents how Himmler began to prepare his men for the killing assignment. It is argued that June 1st, 1940 can be claimed as the date where Hitler in his own symbolic way formally founded the Waffen-SS as his private killing force.

51. "Expel the Jews!"

Focuses on the feature film Jud Süss and the intimate propaganda relation between this film and Der ewige Jude as well as the effects of Jud Süss on Hitler, Goebbels and others.

52. The Promulgation of the Death Sentence

Describes how Der ewige Jude was presented to the public on Nov. 28th, 1940, and underlines the significance of certain other events that took place in the beginning of December this year. It closes by stressing that Hitler started publicly recalling his prophecy just after the film had been shown all over Germany in his radio-transmitted speech to the Reichstag on Jan. 30th, 1941.

53. Paradise on Earth

Interprets Wewelsburg, on the basis of its architectural ideals, as the intended burial place for Hitler - which would make Himmler the Guardian Angel of the Führer Myth after his death. This strange promise is seen as Himmler's reward for accepting the killing assignment.

XIV. Industrial Mass-Murder

54. The Last Pieces

Describes the preparations for the assault on Russia, which is seen as an outer subspecimen of Hitler's war against the Jews. It also focuses on the formation and training of the death squads.

55. The Crusade against Jewish Bolshevism

Outlines the development in the preparations for the extermination of the Jews within Europe from June 22nd, 1941 (where the killing of Soviet Jewry began) and the rest of the year.

56. The Extermination is Systematized

Focuses on the Wannsee-Conference as well on Heydrich's death.

57. The Doubter

Describes the dichotomy in Heinrich Himmler's attitude toward the extermination of the Jews. His speeches - e.g. in Posen - are viewed as evidence of his inner struggle to convince himself that he was doing something "good" through the systematic killing program.

XV. Holocaust

58. Shoah

Five pictures, and five quotations, to "illustrate" the unbelievable character of the atrocities.

XVI. Postscript

59. The Normality of Evil

XVII. Appendix

60. The propaganda film Der ewige Jude

After some initial comments, a reprint of the text of the Illustrierter Film-Kurier in order to give an impression of the contents of Der ewige Jude.

XVIII. Biblio- and Filmography