To the Editor:
There is no question that Professor Bloom (Solomon F. Bloom, “The Peasant Caesar,” May 1957) has performed a real service by attempting to analyze Hitler’s perverted ideology from the point of view of its origins and internal consistency. It was high time that somebody pointed out . . . that Hitler was entirely different from Bismarck and Frederick the Great, and that he was much more influenced by the ideas current in his native Upper Austria rather than in Prussia. I was very much impressed by Professor Bloom’s emphasis on Hitler’s literal-mindedness and consistent adherence to a pattern in his Weltanschauung. That much of this ideology sprang from peasant and small-town antecedents is well worth stating. Moreover, Professor Bloom is to be congratulated on the wealth of his supporting material—a feat especially noteworthy in view of the absence of original correspondence. . . .
There are a few questions, however, which perhaps ought to be raised. The peasant origins of many of Hitler’s ideas constitute an important fact; yet can any man’s character or notions be explained on a monistic basis? Were there not other, equally’ important influences? Professor Bloom himself mentions the importance of the Romantic youth movements in Germany: it seems to me that Hitler not only reinforced these trends, he himself was greatly influenced by them. Another source of Hitler’s ideas was, very likely, the books of Karl May, a writer of adventure stories with great appeal to adolescents. Concepts like “honor,” “bravery,” “fighting spirit,” abound in these German “Westerns.” . . . Hitler’s addiction to Karl May is evidenced by the fact that he retained a complete set of that author’s writings in his private library; apparently Hitler continued to think in adolescent terms. . . . Furthermore, Hitler imbibed many of the ideas of the Austrian Christian Socialists who were extremely influential when he was a vagrant in Vienna. Thus . . . the peasant origins of Hitler’s ideas are only one source of his ideology. . . .
I must disagree, also, on one other question. Challenging as is Professor Bloom’s emphasis on Hitler’s “Eastern” character, it is an extremely dubious point. In the first place, the Waldviertel is not a multi-national area; it is purely German in language and has been so since the Middle Ages. The “racial” antagonisms of Southeastern Europe did not begin to play a significant part in Hitler’s surroundings until he reached Vienna: as he himself states in Mein Kampf, he did not even become aware of the Jews until he met them in Vienna. Those in Linz had been too assimilated to make much of an impression upon him. Braunau was therefore not typical of Southeastern Europe, and Hitler’s admiration for Stalin and Ataturk may well have been the admiration of one successful dictator for others of his kind. As for the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, that arch-conspirator hated the Jews so much that it was easy for him to win Hitler’s admiration.
Hans L. Trefousse
Brooklyn College, N. Y.
Mr. Bloom writes:
In pointing to Karl May’s influence, Professor Trefousse touches on an interesting, and revealing, aspect of Hitler. Equally—indeed more—important was the early influence of the Christian Socialists of Austria. I was not trying to do a comprehensive job. For a finished portrait, one would have to add many things, among others, as I stated in the article, “Hitler’s sinuous opportunism when out of power and his intransigence when in power, his brutality and tenacity, his insight into political psychology and propaganda, his oratorical energies, and his quality of obsession and hypnosis.” My aim was more modest. I was trying merely to isolate those tendencies that help to explain his more outré policies.
As for the Waldviertel, it was sufficient for my position that it should be, as all of Austria is, a region which is very conscious of the dichotomy between German and Slav, regardless of national population statistics.