Hitlers leadership Essay

On the other hand, historians such as Kershaw present a contrasting view following a more functionalist interpretation as shown in his book the ‘Hitler Myth’: Image and Reality in the Third Reich. The book was written as a result of his work on the ‘Bavaria Project’ during the 1970s. Kershaw argues that Hitler’s use of propaganda “had excelled itself” and managed to construct “already existent, extensive propensity in wide sections of the population”. For Kershaw, the real importance of Hitler’s leadership is not surrounding his own ideology but rather the perception of the German people and pre-existing desire for change following the condition of the country after the Weimar era. In the Hitler Myth Kershaw's view of Hitler's leadership is not seen to be authoritarian but instead a mixture of factors such as German state bureaucracy, the use of the Secret State Police and big businesses. Kershaw also shows how people in all levels of government dedicated themselves in carrying out Hitler’s demands even if was not personally assigned to them or put in writing. This shows that Hitler did display authoritative control over his government even though he may have been uninvolved in decision making. Kershaw worked with Martin Broszat a German historian who helped Kershaw in his research for The Hitler Myth and by consequence to be seen as a major influence in Kershaw work. Broszat advocates that “Hitler’s special authority as Fuhrer was not founded like [Joseph] Stalin’s on the control of the central organizational apparatus of the Party and state, but in the last resort of charismatic appeal, and the ability this gave to integrate the nation as a whole”. It was found out after Broszat death that he was a member of the Nazi Party from 1944, which raises serious questions but didn’t appear to his supporters. Wehler and Kershaw also have a similar opinion in that there was a problem in ascribing everything that happened in Nazi Germany to one individual. Even though Kershaw started off with a functionalist ideology, towards the 1980s Kershaw shared the view with historians such as Micheal Burleigh that ‘intention’ and ‘structure’ had to be viewed in synthesis to fully understand Nazi Germany and Hitler’s leadership.

While we can see that there was a popular shift in views regarding how intention and structure are both needed to explain Hitler's leadership, Bullock opinion remains that "It is possible for an individual to exert a powerful even a decisive influence on the way events develop and the policies that are followed”. Subsequently, by keeping the idea of intentionalism in mind Hitler’s leadership can be regarded as authoritarian.


Germany had seen some use of propaganda and creation of a cult of personality during the Hindenburg campaign as shown in Source 1. The source is an image showing election propaganda for Hindenburg in April of 1925 following President Friedrich Ebert death in February, his successor was to be chosen through a direct presidential election. The photograph shows a truck campaigning in the streets of Berlin. The truck is carrying what looks like a stone statue of Hindenburg’s head about 18ft high. This gives the impression of power, strength, and authority as the people look up to the statue. This is an example of propaganda to help him get elected by getting people’s attention as the statue protrudes from the back of the truck. Hindenburg already being a popular war hero during the world war and being known as the “Victor of Tannenberg” after his victory at the Battle of Tannenberg against the Russians, was nominated by right-wing parties at age seventy-eight who narrowly won the second ballot. This campaign for the creation of a military cult can be shown similarly with the cult of personality being created during Hitler’s campaign and similar authoritative uses of propaganda. The source being a photograph is valuable as it gives a visual example of how propaganda would have been seen through the eyes German people especially as the picture is taken on the street where many ordinary people would have seen it. However, the source has some limitations as a photograph in itself cannot tell us about the nature of Hindenburg’s authoritarianism as we do not learn anything about his policies or style of government but can serve as an example to show that German people have seen this kind of propaganda before and Hitler’s similar use may not be surprising as such and as a result, not the most authoritarian.

Source 2 is a passage taken from ‘Inside the Third Reich’, which is a memoir containing over two thousand pages of personal memoirs. It is written by Albert Speer who was Hitler’s favourite architect and later became Minister of Munitions and Armaments from 1942 to 1945. It was first published in 1969 and was later translated in 1970 to English. Speer wrote the memoirs whilst serving his sentence of twenty years in Spandau prison following the Nuremberg trials. The passage is being used to describe Hitler’s eccentric working habits and somewhat questioning them. Speer looks at Hitler’s daily routine and shows his disapproval of his conduct, stating Hitler “wasted his time until the early hours of the evening”. Speer asks himself “did he really work?”, showing his unsureness in Hitler’s methods especially as having to be at the centre of the decision-making process. The source is valuable as Speer was Hitler’s favourite architect and as a result, spent a lot of time with him to the extent where adjutants asked him to not “show any plans” as it may stop him on doing his work as Fuhrer. This is valuable as it seen to be one of the most comprehensive accounts of the working of inner government. It shows Hitler’s lack of involvement in decision-making policies as well as his lazy, unmotivated nature when it came to works of government. This can help me in my investigation as it contests the claim that Hitler was the most authoritarian leader. However, the source does have some limitations as it is taken from his memoirs which have been criticised for not talking about the Nazi atrocities and his participation.

In conclusion

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