In 1934, Adolf Hitler combined the positions of Chancellor and President in a post he called Führer, which made him answerable to no-one. He gave orders, which were transmitted downwards and enacted by the relevant authorities, as part of the Führerprinzip (leadership principle). Hitler held the only solid position, as below him there was no definite hierarchy. There were some ministers (Göring, Goebbels, Himmler, Bormann, Speer and Ribbentrop) and the top leaders of the Wehrmacht, who often quarrelled over matters of policy. It has been suggested that this competition between leading figures in the regime was allowed as part of a "divide and rule" theory — a means of asserting Hitler's own unrivalled standing. Whatever the reason, it was certainly the case that the Führer was seen as a godlike figure by most of those beneath him. Everyone owed allegiance to him and he always got his way. The phrase "The Führer knows best" became common.
The creation of what is known as the "Führer Myth" was a clever way of ensuring the population's support. Created first within the Nazi Party and later transmitted to the general community, this myth depicted Hitler as the man of the people who would bring about national unity and harmony. In fact, strong opposition to the ways of the leaders in the earlier days of the Weimar Republic made it appear that Germany had already attained a near-Utopian level. Promoted by Goebbel's Ministry of Propaganda, the Führer Myth played off the people's deep humiliation and insult of the Treaty of Versailles. Goebbels also presented the successful Nazi foreign policy and the military triumphs of 1936-42 as proof of Germany's godlike leader. Hitler's appeal was largely due to his seemingly straightforward ways: unlike earlier politicians he did not care for pleasantries and political correctness. The purge of the SA in 1934 was widely seen as part of a campaign against violence and hence gave Hitler the image of a representative of law and order. Indeed, many responded to harassment by Hitler's thugs with comments like "If only the Führer knew . . ."
Hans Frank's sentiment that Hitler was as "solitary as the Lord God" was shared by most of the German population, who saw him as a Godlike figure. One SS leader claimed that he was even greater than God because Hitler headed a huge group of people that vowed loyalty to him whereas God had only twelve disloyal disciples. Instead of swearing allegiance to the nation, the army was made to swear it to Hitler. Robert Ley's comments that Hitler was the "only human being who never erred" and the fact that even the industrialists had to answer fully to him encouraged the population to make Hitler their idol. As well as being an ingenious form of propaganda, the "Führer Myth" increased Hitler's confidence and made him ever more powerful. Historians have suggested that the mass adulation caused Hitler to believe he was indeed "superhuman," which was what caused his eventual failure.
Bollen, JD. & Cosgrove, JJ. (1992) Two Centuries. A Profile of Modern History. Pitman, Melbourne.
Charman, T. (1989) The German Home Front 1939-45. Barrie & Jenkins, London.
Fest, JC. (1974) Hitler. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London.
Fleming, G. (1986) Hitler and the Final Solution. Oxford, Oxford.
Geary, D. (1993) Hitler and Nazism. Routledge, New York.
Jamieson, A. (1972) Europe in Conflict: A History of Europe 1870-1970. Hutchinson, London.
Koch, HW. (1985) Aspects of the Third Reich. St. Martins, New York.
Large, DC. (1997) Where Ghosts Walked: Munich's Road to the Third Reich. Norton, New York.
Triggs, TD. (1991) Germany Between the Wars. Oliver & Boyd, London.