To what extent was Hitler’s ‘charismatic authority’ the basis of Nazi control in the period from 1933 to 1939?

Despite the general and traditional intentionalist or ‘Hitlocentric’ view of those such as Fest, that ‘no one evoked so much rejoicing, hysteria, and expectation of salvation as he’1 or that ‘Nazism was Hitlerism, pure and simple.’2 Adolf Hitler was indeed ‘charismatic’ as a leader but no distinctly authoritive. It is not plausible to maintain that ‘to a virtually unprecedented degree, he created everything out of himself and was himself everything at once: (nor) his own teacher, organizer of a party and author of its ideology, tactician and demagogic saviour, leader, statesman and for a decaded the entire ‘axis’ of Germany.’3 Indeed, there were both numerous and significant factors equating to the success of Nazi control 1933-1939, ‘he seemed to embody the very type of the ‘agent,’ one who acts for others.’4 Hitler’s ‘charismatic authority’ and the establishment of the Fuhrer image functioned, ‘in mobilizing the boundless energy and misplaced idealism of the fanatics and activists through orientation towards long-term ‘cosmic’ and ‘utopian’ goals.’5

Thus, ‘Hitler’s increasing aloofness from the State bureaucracy and the major organs of government marks, it seems, are more than a difference of style with Stalin’s modus operandi.’6 Nazi Germany, however, politically was not only a personal dictatorship, it was also a one-party state, therefore claiming supreme political authority. Noakes suggests that ‘The Party aimed to overcome the various divisions hitherto setting German against German – through class, status, religion, regional loyalties by creating a national community (Volksgemeinschaft).’7 The extensive and continual use of propaganda and terror was further a significant premise for Nazi control in the period 1933 to 1939. Nazi success and efficiency in stabilising the faltering German economy and producing sustained recovery after 1933 aided in exercising political control through unification and the establishment of a disciplined community.

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Adolf Hitler’s ‘charismatic authority’ perceived as omnipotent and therefore overwelming, is limited in its significance of Nazi control in the period 1933 to 1939. However ‘there was the sheer impossibility of one man keeping abreast of, let alone controlling, everything that was going.’8 Hitler is indeed ‘charasmatic’ but not as authoritive to the extent that Noakes states. Perhaps the most difficult obstacle to determine is whether authority and information flowed to and from the Fuhrer. ‘In a personal dictatorship such as Hitler’s the key to the acquisition and maintenance of power was the ability to persuade people that one was acting with the support of the dictator.’9 Merely access to Hitler was required, thus a dominant role of Hitler cannot be sustained. Seemingly Hitler’s Gruppenfuhrers were the prominent power players of the Nazi party. Noakes suggests ‘that some form of hierarchy was necessary for the functioning of such an elaborate organization…(however) authority within the party was ultimately concentrated in the hands of the leader, Hitler.’10

Hitler was ‘charismatic’ but not distinctly authoritive in the Nazi party’s implementation of social reforms such as Gleichscaltung and Volksgemeinschaft. The Nazi’s prominent domestic goal to create Volksgenoseen (‘national comrades’) exemplifying the qualities of erbgesund and leistungsfahig would enable Germany to make a bid as a world power emphasising its united national community. The use of ‘propaganda presented an image of society that had successfully manufactured a national community by transcending social and class divisiveness.’11 Therefore the Nazi pursuit of ideological enemies such as threats to national morale, ‘asocials’ and biological outsiders were crucial to the maintenance and success of Nazi Germany, including Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and the mentally ill. Seemingly, ‘an obsession with Aryanism and eugenic theory was the catalyst for Nazi policies of repression and extermination against gypsies and other ‘asocials,’ yet the extent of Hitler’s direct involvement in exercising these practices is contentious. However, Hitler’s extensive involvement in the manifestation of doctrines in schools to reinforce the Hitler youth (Hitler Jugend) should not be downplayed.

Through the political aims and policies of the Nazi party, Hitler was indeed ‘charimatic’ but not authoritive. The underlying presence of ‘unfretted competeition is one of the least understood features of the National Socialist regime. More significantly, the orthodox intentionalist interpretation of Hitler’s foreign policy in relation to Lebensraum has been altered. Jackel views Hitler’s ideas as a guideline for his foreign policy actions, which were often adapted to deal with specific problems.12 In implementing terror and propaganda, Hitler maintained a charismatic leadership. The significance and importance of terror and propaganda is undisputed, as Hitler’s polycratic regime thrived on the emphasise of control. Despite Hitler’s teleo-logical association with ‘heroic’ leadership, ‘this notion…(was) widespread in right-wing circles before Hitler’s rise to prominence.’13

Hitler’s role within the pursuit of Nazi economic policies was but again ‘charismatic’ but lacking an authoritive stance. Heyl comments quite clearly that Hitler was an ‘economic simpleton,’ who thought that all the problems of Germany, could be saved by wars of plunder.14 Despite the trauma of the Depression, by 1939 Germany was experiencing a return to economic prosperity, as unemployment was in decline (4.8 million in 1933, 0.1 million by 193915) whilst there was a steady growth of national income from 44 billion marks in 1933 to 80 billion marks in 1938.16 However, a true stagnated and disjointed economy was existent as the German workforce put in longer hours for a minimal increase in wages. The only economic policy Hitler pursued was the Four Year Plan of 1936, a complete failure according to McDonough.17 Overy suggests the Four Year Plan only reached a mere 6 of the 26 slef-sufficiency targets to be accomplished. Overy and Nolte both maintain that the power to make decisions regarding economic matters was solely invested in Hitler, though Carr has come to a more logical conclusion. That an ‘attempt to isolate who took the major decisions on economic matters wiil always produce the same answer, Hitler.’18 Ironically, Hitler was ‘accepted as the single-handed architect and creator of Germany’s ‘economic miracle’ of 1930s.’19 Although, most historians agree that the Nazi regime failed to develop any unique or distinctive economic policies despite any perceived economic recovery.

‘Hitler’s increasing aloofness from the State bureaucracy and the major organs of government marks, it seems, are more than a difference of style with Stalin’s modus operandi.’20 Nazi Germany, however, politically was not only a personal dictatorship, it was also a one-party state, therefore claiming supreme political authority. Noakes suggests that ‘The Party aimed to overcome the various divisions hitherto setting German against German – through class, status, religion, regional loyalties by creating a national community (Volksgemeinschaft).’21 The extensive and continual use of propaganda and terror was further a significant premise for Nazi control in the period 1933 to 1939. Nazi success and efficiency in stabilising the faltering German economy and producing sustained recovery after 1933 aided in exercising political control through unification and the establishment of a disciplined community. ‘What he had always lacked was an awarness of the problems involved in translating policy into action.’22