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Fascinating memories of Hitler and a life in his inner circle,
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This review is from: He Was My Chief: The Memoirs of Adolf Hitler's Secretary (Hardcover)
I must confess that I am at present going through a period of re-evaluating the history that for my first five decades I accepted without question. Thus it was that, after realising I have been indoctrinated in my formative years to blindly accepting Hitler as some kind of deranged psychopath, I therefore wanted to read a biography of Hitler by someone who actually knew him and had spent some considerable time with him.
First, from a design perspective this publication is a beautifully designed book, nicely bound and with high-class typography, plus containing a few pages of intimate but often fuzzy photos. It does contain a very few type-errors.
In accordance with her wishes, this memoir was first published shortly after her death in German in 1985. So, this is the first publication of it in an English translation. Previously we only had Zoller's distorted 1949 version in French(?) and German titled 'Hitler privat' ('Hitler in private').
Her book is an informative biography told with intelligence, honesty and without much obvious retro-active justfication or apology. She shares her own experiences and gives detail of the more personal side of her life with Hitler as his secretary from 1930 before the war, to 1945 and the end days in the bunker. She does give her opinions and reflections on a few of the more major political and military events, such as the 1934 'night of the long knives' and the 1944 Stauffenberg assassination attempt on Hitler. But in the main this covers the more personal aspect of Hitler and his off-duty interactions with his inner-circle, and his personality as she experienced it. She was not afaid to be critical of him at the time and relates how once she exposed Hitler for passing off Schopenhauer's philosophy as his own thinking. And she's not adverse to being critical of his appearance from a feminine perspective.
"Hitler's nose was very large and fairly pointed. I do not know whether his teeth were ever very attractive, but by 1945 they were yellow and he had bad breath. He should have grown a beard to cover his mouth." -- page 49. (Linge's biography also talks of his bad breath.)
The editor's introduction was also informative and fascinating explaining how the book came to be written and published, plus detailing Schroeder's concerns about it. Her book was written based upon the notes of her interrogations by a French liason officer Albert Zoller immediately after the end of the war.
In his intro, the editor tells us how Schroeder had read a previous unauthorised publication of these notes by Zoller himself. She was surprised to read words put in her mouth which she calls "mythical" and which she stated she had never talked of, nor had heard from Hitler. So she went through Zoller's book and struck out all the parts of it which did not originate from her. 160 to 170 pages of it were her own words and a whopping 68 to 78 pages were either NOT said by her, or were re-worded as to be false or give an incorrect slant on what she had said. This introduction includes a letter Schroeder wrote to the editor in 1972 with an example of a complete interpolation that did not originate from her.
In the letter she wrote:
"His [Zoller's] crafty solution was to put these words into the mouth of the 'Secret Secretary' [herself] where for the outsider and uninformed they appear credible."
As I have explained, I came to this book in an effort to re-assess the history we have all been conditioned to accept as factual and fair. Fascinating then, that the example she gave concerned a false quotation (alleged as coming from her), of Hitler's and Himmler's reaction to being asked about "the rumours of mass-murder and torture in the concentration camps."
In that false testimony, Zoller misinformed his readers that Hitler "would refuse to speak or ...halt the talk. Only seldom would he respond and then to deny it".
Whereas Himmler, we are misinfomed, allegedly admitted to it but saying: "he was only carrying out Hitler's orders" and then going on to say that Hitler "must in no circumstances be mentioned in that connection. I assume full responsibilty". Pg.xxii
So, ... is this an example of how the History was written? Based upon false testimony from victor-propagandists inventing conversations and putting them in the mouths of genuine eye-witnesses in order to incriminate the German high command for something that we have no conclusive forensic evidence for? Shocking! :-o
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Initial post: 10 May 2013 20:25:34 BDT
"I have been indoctrinated in my formative years to blindly accepting Hitler as some kind of deranged psychopath".
Regardless of whether or not Hitler showed some positive human values to *some* of his fellow countrymen. The fact that he was directly responsible for starting a world war that brought about the deaths of at least 35 million people..means that he WAS indeed a 'deranged psychopath'.
In reply to an earlier post on 18 May 2013 08:53:44 BDT
Last edited by the author on 18 May 2013 09:20:04 BDT
Chris Crookes says:
But was he "directly responsible"? Have you read an independent or pro-German view of that? This is part of what I now regard as the victor's propaganda and self deceit that we are all heir to and have been indoctrinated with. Which country in History has ever admitted, declared and stated that it had started a war where they themselves were the most guilty party and that the innocent party had been those that 'lost' the war? The ones who win ALWAYS maintain that their motives were the best and most magnanimous. Do you really believe that if the Axis powers had won the war they would have created a history that admitted they were the 'evil ones' led by a deranged psychopath'? C'mon. Its time for us all to face reality. This is basic human nature to justify our own faults and invalidate our perceived enemies.
If Hitler was an immoral, mass murdering, war criminal then so was Churchill, Roosevelt, Truman and Stalin.
The historian A.J.P Taylor and Sir Basil Liddel-Hart are just a few of the more honest historians and militay experts who admitted that Hitler DID NOT WANT WAR and who acknowledged that there are much more complex reasons and motives that precipitated the conflict. By the way, Russia and Lithuania ALSO invaded Poland in 1939. Did you know that? Most people don't, as that we also deceive ourselves about. Czechoslavakia didn't exist as a country prior to 1918 and the unjust Treaty of Versailes. So saying Hitler invaded Czechoslavakia is also not the whole picture and is an oversimplification or deceit by omission. Hitler was correct when he said in 1939: "Danzig war und ist eine Deutche stadt". Germany had a right to it. Etc., etc. What we call the start of WW2 was the British and French declaring and starting a war because Hitler wanted back Danzig and because we the Allies had refused the reasonable demand for a 'Polish corridor' to East Prussia/German territory. What some called 'maintaining a balance of power' but is really maintaining our own interests. So all those resulting deaths you mention (actually estimated to be 57 to 62 million) WE the Allied nations must share the responsibility for. Churchill in particular. Who incidentally was equally as racist as Hitler. All the war-time leaders were. The USA under Roosevelt was perhaps the most racist country in the world at that time, having just commited the worst holocaust in recorded human history (against the Native American Indians) and still living in what we would now call an apartheid state after centuries of brutal slave trade exploitation of African negroes. Any 'holocaust' memorials or special 'remembrance days' to those racist 'holocausts'? No! So...what a nation of ill-informed, post-imperialist, moral hypocrites we have been. Time to change all that, I feel.
In reply to an earlier post on 25 Sep 2013 16:13:58 BDT
Excellent comment Chris, but I think we would need to go beyond A.J.P Taylor and Sir Basil Liddel-Hart to get to the true story.
You should make your comment a 'review'.
In reply to an earlier post on 6 Aug 2014 11:25:45 BDT
I doubt that Churchill was quite as racist as Hitler. (I couldn't comment on Roosevelt and Truman in relation to the American Indians. Stalin probably was - but no-one holds him out as a model of democratic benevolence. Churchill's comments on the inhabitants in India are by today's standards `racist'; but they are extraordinarily benevolent and honourable, in contrast to the National Socialists' 25-point programme.)
It is certainly true that all European countries historically had what they called `the Jewish Problem', but Britain never passed any of the legislation that the Nazi regime did, like the 1935 Nuremburg Race Laws, or created anything like the SS or the KZ camps to systematically cull any element of its own population (not merely the Jews; the weak and the sick, indeed anyone who didn't conform to the required stereotype or even disagreed with the regime). For example, I cannot imagine Leslie Hore-Belisha, Minister of Transport 1934-7 and S of S for War 1937-40, being allowed even to survive unmolested in Hitler's Germany, never mind being a member of the government.
Hitler's polemic `Mein Kampf' of 1925/6 made for pretty unpalatable reading even in much of Germany. The fact that he got so far in carrying it out before any country lifted a finger might be said to have been a cause of WW2. There were millions in Germany (possibly up to 5 million, pace the referendum of 1934, not including many Reichswehr generals) who feared that Hitler's aggression would lead to the country's destruction, and hoped desperately, in 1936 for example when Hitler occupied the Rhineland, that the Allies would stand up to him and say No. There was every reason to hope that Germany would acquire much of what it wanted to acquire, based on the Treaty of Locarno 1925, by steady diplomacy, and for which there was much Allied sympathy. But in contrast to Gustav Stresemann's, there was something about Hitler's personality, charming though he may periodically have been (see the diaries of Dodd and Phipps; Henderson's should be taken with much salt), that made this impossible. Very probably Hitler did not want war: he would much rather have achieved his aims without spilling a drop of Aryan blood. Maybe if he had not stormed out of the Disarmament Conference in 1933 one might argue Hitler really didn't want war.
Historical revisionism is a good and necessary thing in principle. But it must be done in context, and without swinging from one extreme to the other. For independent, or even German, views on this, read William L Shirer, Patricia Meehan and Christa Wolff (among many others). Don't bother with `Mein Kampf' - it's appallingly written!
In reply to an earlier post on 27 Sep 2014 07:52:07 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Sep 2014 08:24:53 BDT
Chris Crookes says:
Why do you doubt that Churchill was as racist as Hitler? On what grounds do you doubt it? A comparison of the NSDAP's 25 point programme against perceived non-German aliens living in Germany can not fairly be compared with Churchill's occuper-alien, racist coloniser's prejudice of the occupied, subjugated and colonised local peoples of India.
And Churchill's own genocidal attitude to what he called "uncivilised tribes" are well documented, though regretably NOT well known. As for common attitudes of the time against 'Jews'. Have you read his article on what he called 'International Jews'.
"The conflict between good and evil which proceeds unceasingly in the breast of man nowhere reaches such an intensity as in the Jewish race. The dual nature of mankind is nowhere more strongly or more terribly exemplified. And it may well be that this same astounding race may at the present time be in the actual process of producing another system of morals and philosophy, as malevolent as Christianity was benevolent...
...the schemes of the International Jews. The adherents of this sinister confederacy are mostly men reared up among the unhappy populations of countries where Jews are persecuted on account of their race. ... It ['International Jewry'] has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the Nineteenth Century; and now at last this band of extraordinary personalities from the underworld of the great cities of Europe and America have gripped the Russian people by the hair of their heads and have become practically the undisputed masters of that enormous empire."
As for independent or German views of Hitler and WW2, you mention the American William Shirer. But Shirer's 'history' can not fairly be described as either impartial or accurate. It is certainly not one sympathetic to the view of the 'losers'. It is not even in accord with his own perceptions at the time but has been retroactively self-censored. E.g. "he smuggled his diaries and notes out of Germany and used them for his book 'Berlin Diary', a day-by-day account of events inside the Third Reich during five years of peace and one year of war. It was published in 1941. Historians comparing the original manuscript with the published text discovered that Shirer made many changes, such as covering up his favourable early impressions of Hitler. Much of the text about the pre-1934-38 period was first written long after the war began."
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