Tuesday, April 08, 2014

"Mystery Files: Hitler" from the Smithsonian Channel

The Smithsonian Institution Channel has a series called “Mystery Files”, and the “Mystery Files: Hitler” (23 minutes) gives an insight on to what led Hitler down the path of being one of history’s most violent dictators, after wandering through early adulthood as a homeless, failed art student in Vienna just before World War I.
Hitler was not even “German”, being born in Austria, nor was he “Aryan”.  Perhaps there was a sense of upward affiliation in his attitude.  What seems surprising is that, as a soldier, he adapted to military life in the trenches during WWI relatively well despite his quirkiness and perhaps physical backwardness, because of his absolute loyalty to something bigger than himself, Germany. Most of the time, he worked as a runner, delivering messages between the front lines and command.
Hitler was wounded twice.  The first time, he had a shrapnel wound in the thigh and was in the hospital a few months, but returned to duty.  The second time, he became a casualty of poison gas, apparently phosgene, which causes blistering of the skin, internal lung tissue, and blindness, usually temporary but sometimes permanent.  Hitler dreaded blindness as a personal sacrifice, because for a time he still imagined going back to his art.  Intelligence records show he may be been in a psychiatric hospital where his blindness continued for a while because of supposedly hysterical or psychosomatic factors.  He was treated roughly by a psychiatrist whom the Nazis later eliminated with a hit man.  Gradually, his sight returned.  It would be interesting to wonder if the skin burns could have been permanently disfiguring.
Hitler decided to go into politics.  What seems amazing, though, is that a man who now was now over 30 and had never risen about private first class made his way up party ranks so quickly. 

This is one of a long series of biographical and historical portraits of enigmas, available on Netflix Instant Play.  

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