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The Enigma of Hitler




General Leon Degrelle

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“Hitler—you knew him—what was he like?” I have been asked that question a thousand

times since 1945, and nothing is more difficult to answer.

Approximately two hundred thousand books have dealt with the Second World War and

with its central figure, Adolf Hitler. But has the real Hitler been discovered by any of them?

“The enigma of Hitler is beyond all human comprehension,” the left-wing German weekly

Die Zeit once put it.

Salvador Dali, art’s unique genius, sought to penetrate the mystery in one of his most

intensely dramatic paintings. Towering mountain landscapes all but fill the canvas, leaving

only a few luminous meters of seashore dotted with delicately miniaturized human figures:

the last witness to a dying peace. A huge telephone receiver dripping tears of blood hangs

from the branch of a dead tree; and here and there hang umbrellas and bats whose portent

is visibly the same. As Dali tells it, “Chamberlain’s umbrella appeared in this painting in a

sinister light, made evident by the bat, and it struck me when I painted it as a thing of

enormous anguish.”

He then confided: “I felt this painting to be deeply prophetic. But I confess that I haven’t yet

figured out the Hitler enigma either. He attracted me only as an object of my mad

imaginings and because I saw him as a man uniquely capable of turning things completely

upside down.”

What a lesson in humility for the braying critics who have rushed into print since 1945 with

their thousands of “definitive” books, most of them scornful, about this man who so

troubled the introspective Dali that forty years later he still felt anguished and uncertain in

the presence of his own hallucinatory painting. Apart from Dali, who else has ever tried to

present an objective portrayal of this extraordinary man whom Dali labeled the most

explosive figure in human history?

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His thirst for knowledge was unquenchable. He spent hundreds of hours studying the works

of Tacitus and Mommsen, military strategists such as Clausewitz, and empire builders such

as Bismarck. Nothing escaped him: world history or the history of civilizations, the study of

the Bible and the Talmud, Thomistic philosophy and all the master-pieces of Homer,

Sophocles, Horace, Ovid, Titus Livius and Cicero. He knew Julian the Apostate as if he had

been his contemporary.

His knowledge also extended to mechanics. He knew how engines worked; he understood

the ballistics of various weapons; and he astonished the best medical scientists with his

knowledge of medicine and biology.

The universality of Hitler’s knowledge may surprise or displease those unaware of it, but it is

nonetheless a historical fact: Hitler was one of the most cultivated men of this century.

Many times more so than Churchill, an intellectual mediocrity; or than Pierre Laval, with his

mere cursory knowledge of history; or than Roosevelt; or Eisenhower, who never got

beyond detective novels.



Artist and Architect

Even during his earliest years, Hitler was different than other children. He had an inner

strength and was guided by his spirit and his instincts.

He could draw skillfully when he was only eleven years old. His sketches made at that age

show a remarkable firmness and liveliness.

His first paintings and watercolors, created at age 15, are full of poetry and sensitivity. One

of his most striking early works, “Fortress Utopia,” also shows him to have been an artist of

rare imagination. His artistic orientation took many forms. He wrote poetry from the time

he was a lad. He dictated a complete play to his sister Paula who was amazed at his

presumption. At the age of 16, in Vienna, he launched into the creation of an opera. He

even designed the stage settings, as well as all the costumes; and, of course, the characters

were Wagnerian heroes.

More than just an artist, Hitler was above all an architect. Hundreds of his works were

notable as much for the architecture as for the painting. From memory alone he could

reproduce in every detail the onion dome of a church or the intricate curves of wrought

iron. Indeed, it was to fulfill his dream of becoming an architect that Hitler went to Vienna at

the beginning of the century.

When one sees the hundreds of paintings, sketches and drawings he created at the time,

which reveal his mastery of three dimensional figures, it is astounding that his examiners at

the Fine Arts Academy failed him in two successive examinations. German historian Werner

Maser, no friend of Hitler, castigated these examiners: “All of his works revealed

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Hitler’s incantory eloquence will remain, for a very long time, a vast field of study for the

psychoanalyst. The power of Hitler’s word is the key. Without it, there would never have

been a Hitler era.



Transcendent Faith

Did Hitler believe in God? He believed deeply in God. He called God the Almighty, master of

all that is known and unknown.

Propagandists portrayed Hitler as an atheist. He was not. He had contempt for hypocritical

and materialistic clerics, but he was not alone in that. He believed in the necessity of

standards and theological dogmas, without which, he repeatedly said, the great institution

of the Christian church would collapse. These dogmas clashed with his intelligence, but he

also recognized that it was hard for the human mind to encompass all the problems of

creation, its limitless scope and breathtaking beauty. He acknowledged that every human

being has spiritual needs.

The song of the nightingale, the pattern and color of a flower, continually brought him back

to the great problems of creation. No one in the world has spoken to me so eloquently

about the existence of God. He held this view not because he was brought up as a Christian,

but because his analytical mind bound him to the concept of God. Hitler’s faith transcended

formulas and contingencies. God was for him the basis of everything, the ordainer of all

things, of his destiny and that of all others.

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