It’s fascinating to read Claudia Koonz’s analysis of how Hitler rose to power in her book “The Nazi Conscience.” My high school history classes skimmed over the story, implying that a majority of Germans supported Hitler’s insane, bigoted ideology. But as Koonz details, that certainly wasn’t the case.
As she wrote, “…most Germans deplored lawless attacks on Jews,” even after Hitler had become Chancellor.
Yet as Hitler said, even the master Aryan race was “vulnerable to…deceit.”
Hitler came to power by brilliantly deceiving the vulnerable German people. Most of them weren’t anti-Semites.
But Hitler connected with them through his speeches, which had “repellent images of rapacious capitalists, craven diplomats, corrupt politicians…” in other words, targets that were easier to get the Germans rallying against.
Yet he still blamed “Jewry” for all this evil, and that was a concept Germans couldn’t support, at least not at first. Responding to this, Hitler deleted “Jewry” from his oratory for a time.
He instead “excoriated the Versailles Treaty and Bolshevism while castigating liberals as too cowardly to defend the Volk.”
He tapped into the pathetic state of Germany after WWI, rallying the nation to believe that “any nation which voluntarily submits to humiliation is doomed.”
He convinced the nation that he was the “principled man of action” Germany needed to restore morality and glory.
His rhetoric made up for its lack of logos with brilliant ethos and pathos. Eventually a majority of Germans didn’t care that “Mein Kampf” has many lies, or that “Triumph of the Will” never says why Hitler will save Germany. Hitler was an ingenious communicator, convincing all those Germans that, yes, a mad man would restore greatness to their nation.