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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > June 2018 > Hitler: Rise of a Dictator

Hitler: Rise of a Dictator

Roger Moorhouse reveals how a failed painter on the fringes of local politics managed to hoodwink a nation and become – against all likelihood – the Führer
Hitler’s impassioned speeches – delivered with such vitriol they often left him foaming at the mouth – were a core part of his persona

In October 1922, Munich photographer Heinrich Hoffmann received an intriguing telegram. He was used to getting picture commissions, but the request – from an American photographic agency – was remarkable, because it offered the (then) huge fee of $100 for a picture of a little-known Munich politician. That politician’s name was Adolf Hitler.

Hitler was a relative newcomer to the Munich political scene. He had first emerged late in 1919, as an impassioned speaker for the nationalist German Workers’ Party (DAP), a small clique of disgruntled right-wing misfits. By the following spring, however, he had effectively engineered a takeover of the party, giving it the direction he felt it had lacked and renaming it the NSDAP – adding ‘National Socialist’ to the title. By 1922, though Hitler’s Nazi Party (as it was known) was making some political progress, it was still largely a Munich phenomenon. Hitler was barely known outside of Bavaria.

In such circumstances, Hoffmann’s interest was piqued, and when he began to make enquiries about fulfilling the request, he discovered the reason for the high price. Keen to raise funds for his party, Hitler was severely rationing his own image to that end, creating a mystique around himself and using his bodyguards to prevent unauthorised photographers from taking his picture. It was a canny move.

Hitler is often viewed as someone slightly otherworldly; a man so obsessed with his odious political mission that he cared little for the daily business of politics and resolutely aloof from frivolous concerns about his image or his public profile. Yet, as this example clearly demonstrates, that assumption is wholly incorrect. Though Hitler was certainly a political obsessive, that did not imply a lack of concern for what we would now call public relations – the art of the political sell. At a time when few politicians were conscious of such matters, Hitler, conversely, paid great attention to them.

A 1923 proclamation by Hitler declares: “A provisional German national government has been formed”
NSDAP troops storm the city of Munich
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About History Revealed

In this month's issue… Hitler's rise to power How a failed painter on the fringes of local politics managed to hoodwink a nation and become - against all likelihood - the Fürher. Plus: 250 years of the circus; the Kingmaker's comeuppance in the War of the Roses battle of Barnet; famous folk who died broke in spite of their achievements; women who fought against the suffragette movement; and the strangely enthralling history of the toilet. Watch out for X.