Was Adolf Hitler a great man? Yes. To say that he was not a good man is easy, but greatness transcends the boundaries of good and evil. According to the Oxford English Encyclopedia, there are 33 major definitions of the word "great" as an adjective, and only one of them implies goodness. By almost any definition one can be great without being good.

The word great, however, does imply superior mental powers, something that Hitler certainly possessed. To be able to take over the government and democratically establish a dictatorship is something that shows clear mental prowess. Although some 'semi-legitimate' means were used in gaining control of the government, such as the SA, overall it was a legitimate legal takeover of the government in a democratic fashion. To takeover and become a dictator without really breaking the rules is an impressive task and to lead Germany to so many military victories early on in the war are such clear signs of intelligence that nothing more is needed. He also had a knack for memorization, and obviously had a very strategic mind.

The next thing to take into account is the possession of special skills or abilities. Once again, this can be seen in his skills as a military strategist. Hitler also had incredible ability as an orator, being able to capture audiences with his words, and to sway them at will. His charisma was so intense that people who would normally side against him were drawn to his side. Hitler also made use of new technologies such as radio broadcast to be able to influence as many people as possible with his presentations. Hitler had a way of using emotion rather than logic to bring people over to his sides, and this technique greatly helped in increasing the popularity of the Nazi party.

A great man must achieve more than what is normal. To ask whether Hitler did that is almost absurd because the answer is so obvious. Hitler took a country in turmoil, unified it, and proceeded to use it as a military machine. There were some dissenters, true, but to unify the country to the extent which he did alone is beyond normal. Incredible, however, are his military success, and almost complete takeover of Europe. As well, although it may be unsettling to consider it such, his concentration camps were definitely beyond normal especially as far as efficiency is concerned. To say better, however, would be highly difficult.

To be great, a man's accomplishments should benefit more than just him. For Hitler, this is an interesting question. There are groups that Hitler most definitely did not benefit (the Jews for instance…) however, for the most part Germany did gain from his leadership. Hitler brought Germany out of depression, created massive industrial growth, and raised Germany into the spotlight as a world power. He also managed to destroy the remnants of the Treaty of Versailles, which had been harming Germany, and to restore their pride.

The only point of being a great man at which Hitler fails is in personal ethics. Hitler's moral character was lacking, and there can be no denying that. His sordid relations with woman, and the mass executions at the concentration camps alone are more than enough of an indication of this. It is also fairly evident that Hitler went a bit 'insane' by the end of his rule, and no longer thought in a logical manner. He was not a moral man. Still, morality is only one part of greatness. He is immoral enough to make him an evil man, but no lack of ethics can stop someone from being a great man.

Overall it can easily be seen that Hitler is a great man. Although he is lacking in the ethics category, it is not an essential one, and he more than makes up for it in the others. A good man? No. But, a great man? Most definitely.

Adolf Hitler brought Germany out of great depression, created massive industrial growth, and raised Germany into the spotlight as a world power by uniting the country through the use of pure hate. The country was united in hatred and repression of anyone who was not "pure" in the sense dictated by Hitler himself and his band of hate-mongers.

To question the "moral character" of a man who is solely responsible for genocide is ridiculous. Hitler was a madman. I will not disagree that he united Germany, rebuilt the country, was a passionate speaker and undoubtedly had a wonderful singing voice, but the sheer slap-in-the-face of millions upon millions dead due to his reign overrides any Autobahn or spike in industrial production.

This man's legacy still lives today. In Germany the far right still attempts to hold onto the Nazi doctrine. All over the world millions of hate groups have adopted the Swastika as their symbol and Hitler as their spiritual leader and mascot as they gleefully kill others because of difference.

To all those who think Hitler is great: wear a Swastika T-shirt in public to show your awe for a great man.


I realize that one must keep an open mind about this. Do I think that Hitler was a media genius? Yes.
Do I think that he did great things to revive his country? You bet.
Did he create a military machine that was absolutely amazing (and almost kicked our butts)? It's a historical fact.
But the genocide thing is what sticks to your ribs. No matter what this man did, no matter what great things he accomplished, whatever makes him great in the sense described above is overshadowed and nullified by the atrocities committed under his regime.

I don't disagree with you, Andukar, I just cannot look at merely one side of this issue.

Overall you've got a good writeup, Andukar, and I don't disagree that by some standards, Hitler is a great man; however, I do have to take issue with two of the points you make. First, you write:

Hilter led Germany to so many military victories early on in the war are such clear signs of intelligence that nothing more is needed.

This is false. Essentially all Hitler did in the first few battles - Poland, Norway and France - was to order the Prussian High Command to generate a plan for approval. Hitler did not plan the attacks. Also, it was not Hitler but Heinz Guderian who developed the well known blitzkrieg style attack. Hitler took over strategy only later in the war, with disastrous results. He had a love affair with micromanagement, worrying about inconsequential issues at the regimental level and below, forgetting to plan the battle as a whole. Finally, towards the end of the war, he had a nasty tendency to simply make up a new "paper division" when he needed more men for one of his plans. It was then his subordinates job to make this "paper division" appear out of thin air, which they could of course do by simply appointing a commander and saying the division existed. Ask any historian and you will hear that Hitler was horrible at military strategy. Some may even tell you that if Hitler had left the then brilliant Prussian High Command to plan by itself, Germany may have been able to at least get a draw.

You also write:

Hitler brought Germany out of the great depression, created massive industrial growth, and raised Germany into the spotlight as a world power.

It is, indeed, true that by 1939, Hitler had brought Germany out of the depression and raised it into the spotlight. Unfortunately, all this would be gone in just six years. By the end of the war, which Hitler also caused, Germany was perhaps the most obliterated country of the war. All of its industry was destroyed, most of its young men killed, its cities obliterated, and its people demoralized. So yes, for a while Hitler did bring Germany out of depression; but in the end he left Germany in a worse case.

Hitler is generally credited with extraordinary achievements in three main areas: the war, the German economy and propaganda, without any of which his fanatical bid to organise the annihilation of the "sub-human" races in Europe would have found no foothold. However, by examining the history of the Third Reich closely one might find basis to argue against this common wisdom.

He can be said to have single handedly lost Germany the war by his decision to withhold extra supplies of fuel from his troops on the Eastern Front with the USSR. The price the German army paid in lives and resources as a consequence of this disastrous campaign left it incapacitated and unable to muster the necessary force to defeat the Allied forces on the Western Front. Let us not forget that Hitler's entire military experience consisted of some time in the trenches and a considerable stretch in prison - not the best breeding grounds for strategic genius.

As for bringing Germany out of depression, one must consider the economic situation in the rest of the world, and see that the late 20's and early 30's were a time of severe economic depression all over the industrial world and that by the late 30's most countries were already recovering from that. Bearing in mind that prior to the actual beginning of the war, and later even than that in some cases, Germany was not cut off from the economic community, it is small wonder that some of the prosperity rubbed off on it.

Furthermore, a large military campaign always serves to bolster an economy - unemployment falls as people are drafted into the armed forces, industry peaks, financial institutions show a raised level of activity, and morale is usually kept high, which brings us to the third and last of Hitler's achievements, that of conquering popular opinion.

Hitler may have written and delivered his speeches himself, but it would be naïve to think that those alone were enough to make an entire nation turn so monstrously against its neighbours, colleagues and relations. Imagine if you can a propaganda machine so vast that it hardly even bothers with the paltry devices of pamphlets and posters. Films - good films - were especially written and made to entertain, but also to educate. Radio broadcasts were entirely given over to anti-Semitism. Newspapers routinely ran anti-Semitic editorials, and articles of news were made up to showcase the base and inferior nature of the thieving Jewish cockroaches. Children were kept amused with anti-Semitic comics, supremacist ditties and after school indoctrination. Every aspect of German culture became by degrees almost entirely given over to the anti-Semitic cause - and the person who conceived this revolutionary, and fatally effective, approach was by no means Hitler himself, but his trusted right hand man and Minister for Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.

There were other men surrounding Hitler, men whose names still resound today - Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann - men who were pursuing their own personal agendas of hatred or ambition. To say that Hitler is a great man who somehow single handedly steered the course of German history is to completely ignore the efforts and contributions of these men.

Perhaps a clearer picture of Hitler can be arrived at by comparing him to a modern personality of some reprehensibility. Think of him if you will as you would of Saddam Hussein. Is Saddam a great man? But how could he be - he is an insane, murderous, petty, paranoid and uneducated tyrant. I suspect many statesmen of the 30's thought of Hitler in much the same way, and passed to their public the same dissaprobation mixed with wonder that such an unhinged nincompoop could have risen to power in the first place.

Now, we are of course seeing with the eyes of our times. Saddam may very well be judged by history in a very different way. However, it is undeniable that he has held political power, popular influence and military supremacy for many years now while at the same time uniting and consolidating a nation, practically inventing its self image for it. He has ensured Iraq's economic prosperity through the oil trade and fought a costly war with Iran defending that future. He lived, however, to see what Hitler committed suicide to avoid - the slow erosion of this economic stability, a result the ostracism he brought on himself through his aggressive policies.

Had Hitler survived the end of WWII like Saddam survived Desert Storm, who knows what we might be thinking of him today. He might very well have rallied again. However, when considering whether or not he deserves the epitaph of greatness, we must not ignore historical facts or be befuddled by the romantic and indistinct public image which was his most enduring legacy.

Hitler had two areas of greatness, to whit, public speaking and leadership.

  1. His talents as a speechwriter and orator were immense, and he used them to their full advantage. Without that sheer force of persuasive power, the sheer belief in the rightness of his cause, the Third Reich could never have been built.
  2. He always picked the right people for the right jobs. Early on, Hitler was well aware of his lack of organisational skills and therefore delegated magnificently. Use of Joseph Goebbels for propaganda, Wilhelm Canaris for the Navy, the aforementioned Prussian High Command, Heinrich Himmler for security, Joachim von Ribbentrop for foreign affairs - a much underestimated masterstroke! - and other subordinate positions were all impossible to better given the available resources of the time.

However, oratory cannot win a war and with growth in power Hitler's megalomania become more and more intense. As that power was put under pressure first by the British with the repulsion of the invasion forces in 1940/1941 and later by the full weight of the Allied combined military might and expertise, he cracked. He began exhibiting more and more overt signs of mental dysfunction - the aforementioned anti-semitism for one, since his obsession with what been merely a political tool became an article of faith, the micromanagement that has already been discussed and his new obsession with Russia.

It is invariably a mistake to believe one's own propaganda. This was Hitler's downfall, and a very ordinary one it was, too. He was not a great man. Managers seldom are.

In history there is often the controversy between the Great Man, or the tide of events and circumstance, as the causative factor in certain historical dramas. This debate seems to be raging above.

For my part, I find the notion of resuscitating the person of Adolf Hitler distasteful, but I base it not only upon my reading of history, as some sort of old book, but also my reading of today, which is as current as today's newspapers.

I follow TheLady's approach in comparing not only him, but the circumstances in which he lived, to those of today. When I think of TheLady's categories, the war, the economy, and propaganda, I see many similarities with today.

The last first: Racial stereotypes abound in our media; I would not be the first to point that out. Although many would claim this is the consequence of political correctness, I doubt any could question the climate is such that certain objectionable images are not uncommon—I'm sure there were those who objected to the use of certain images in Hitler's time as well; the arguments then used to drown them out were, of course, different from today.

I am more concerned with the imagery used in political debate, in the areas of public policy, which we so often exercise here on E2—I myself have, upon occasion, entered into such discussion. I know the ease with which critiques of technology, gun control, health insurance—shall I go on—are dismissed with the wave of luddite, socialist, even Canadian—if not unamerican.

We talk about the prosperity of our economies, but there are homeless in the streets. We talk of our concern for children, yet they are either killing themselves on the streets, or in their schools, or selling their bodies at ages of 10 and less. And all some seen to be able to offer as public policy is prayer?

We seem powerless to offer anything concrete, and abandon the last vestiges of a belief, not uncommon not so long ago, in the efficacy of cooperative, communal effort to solve problems, yes, mediated by governments, unions, and the like.

Behind this veil, corporations build up the most powerful empires in the history. We saw this before in the growth of I.G. Farben, the evil corporation, especially in the manufacture of Zyklon B. Now we have what has since been termed the military-industrial complex, and the revolving door between these partners, and the government itself.

The essence of public policy now seems nothing more than, How fast can we give up the whole shop to companies, so they will, maybe, give us some minimum wage jobs! Any question of accountability has long since been abandoned, unless it assessed upon those poor unfortunates who were unlucky enough not to be born wealthy, have the right name, the right education...

In the American budget deliberations, the two salient points, at least to this concerned observer, appear to be: 1)how much to give to the rich, and 2), how much to give to the military.

The first I have touched upon, more or less, already, as for the latter, I am curious where the war is?

I know all the arguments regarding national security. I know all the arguments regarding a two front war capability. I am aware of the arguments regarding the National Missile Defense. But I thought that the new president was in favor of relinquishing most of the global policing role that the previous one espoused?

I ask again, where is the war?

The history of the cold war is one fraught with the many of the things we deplore in the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. The propaganda, the economic prosperity—for some—the war, that never was a hot one. A war allows so much of what I have, in the past, confronted in these very nodes.

Hitler was revered in his time, whether as figurehead or as architect will always be doubted. But the judgment of him as a great man depends upon your acceptance of the elements of his regime. Don't think of them as some old book, think of them as close as your streets, your television, your president.

On the issue of defining greatness when the term is applied to historical figures.

I like Larry Wall's definition of greatness.

"True greatness is measured by how much freedom you give to others, not by how much you can coerce others to do what you want."

Using this definition how does Hitler stack up? Compare to someone like Antoine Lavoisier or Sir Isaac Newton?

Concerning Hitler as a Great Man, Andukar offers this:

A great man must achieve more than what is normal. To ask whether Hitler did that is almost absurd because the answer is so obvious. Hitler took a country in turmoil, unified it, and proceeded to use it as a military machine. There were some dissenters, true, but to unify the country to the extent which he did alone is beyond normal. Incredible, however, are his military success, and almost complete takeover of Europe. As well, although it may be unsettling to consider it such, his concentration camps were definitely beyond normal especially as far as efficiency is concerned. To say better, however, would be highly difficult.

Wow. Where to begin?

Hitler was more than just a failed artist, he was a bad artist.

Hitler was more than just a bad writer with a mediocre mind, he was a failed writer with a tepid mind, lacking the faculty allowing for smooth turn of phrase as well as the ideas to justify his ever picking up a pen as well as the ability to recognize and understand either his own mediocrity in his chosen field of endeavor or the vain self-indulgence which drove him to the field in the first place.

Hitler was more than just a bad leader, he ruined his country, reducing it to rubbish at the cost of the lives of a generation of young men, succeeding only in having its wealthy history and beautiful cities razed to the ground; in addition to this, he "achieved" the permanent stigma and quiet, suppressed sense of national shame that most Germans currently bear today as his lasting legacy. (Andukar claims, oddly, that Hitler restored the nation's national "pride". Perhaps what he meant is that Hitler spurred the nation into a deadly, quasi-spiritual hubris, leaving it weak and vulnerable and damned. Hitler did make a contribution to Russian national pride, of course; that picture of the Russian waving his nation's flag over the Reichstag is an image no Russian nor German will ever forget.)

Theodor Adorno says there can be no poetry after Auschwitz. Perhaps this belongs on Hitler's resume as well.

Hitler unified nothing. Unification implies a bringing together; the liquidation of national dissent by terrorism is something else entirely. Dissent is, however, very much necessary in the running of a country. Perhaps Germany would have been more than a smoking pile of broken buildings, perhaps it would not have lost an entire generation of young men, if Hitler hadn't felt the need to silence the voice of dissent.

The "semi-legitimate means" of seizing power to which Andukar refers include, obviously, countless murders and betrayals. Hitler was tried and convicted of treason by his own country for his Beer Hall shenanigans; no word as to whether or not this conviction was "semi-legitimate" as well. Also of note in Andukar's write-up is his description of Hitler's installation of German fascism as "democratic".

Hitler was certainly an opportunist, if that's what Andukar means by "Great Man". He took advantage of the death of Gustav Stresemann, the Great Depression, the burning of the Reichstag (for which he may well have been responsible), fear of communism, and the senility of Paul von Hindenburg to wrest power away from the people who were capable of wielding it responsibly. Basically, he got and held the job without having the skills to fulfill his duties, by lies, terrorism, treachery, et al. "Great"? I think not.

Hitler's whiny sensitivity and volatile emotional disposition contributed to what was, admittedly, a knack for harnessing nationalistic fervor. This was his single outstanding gift.

Oh man. Couple more things, regarding that paragraph I pasted to open with. Was the German role in the Second World War not a state of turmoil? Can you give credit to Hitler for the "military success"(!) of Germany in the war? He lost. And why not replace the accomplishment of the "near-takeover of Europe" with the complete reality: the undoing of the seemingly irreversible, brilliant toil of Bismark, namely, the breakup and ruin of the now-decimated German state. Why anyone would insist on leaving WWII out of a remembrance of the impact of Hitler is beyond me.

Hitler failed in everything he ever tried to do, except in the momentary, ill-conceived establishment of a fascistic system—and even that was doomed to be short-lived for all his pathetic arrogance and recklessness. And was it a sense of his own greatness and indomitability that lead him to take his own life upon being confronted with the reality of his own lofty failure, or was it shame, fear, and one final betrayal and abandonment of the German people?

Go here: http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/index.htm

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