Many times during my youth in mid-North Indiana, I would hear someone say, "Hitler mighta been a [fill in the blank, but the gist was murderous jerk], but ya gotta admit he was a genius." The speaker of such words nearly always explained that Hitler's economic and foreign policies had benefited the German people in that those policies brought der Fatherland out of its longtime depression and rid it of the bonds of the Treaty of Versailles.
Hitler was not a "genius." I have seen no standardized intelligence test scores for Hitler. I doubt any were administered to students in Austria, where he was born and raised. Currently I am re-reading William Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich." I explained to a neighbor the book---on the front cover of which is a rather prominent swastika---is a much-praised history of the events that led up to World War II in Europe, and the war itself. I did not want her to think I planned meetings of a nefarious organization at our home. Shirer goes into some detail about Hitler's academic existence. Except for hand drawing in art, Hitler's grades were mediocre. Grades are not necessarily indicative of one's intelligence.
So let us go to other indicators of Hitler's lack of intelligence.
First, let's deal with the two areas in which his "genius" usually is praised. As far as bringing Germany out of its long economic depression, we need to ask---which "depression"? Immediately after World War I, a combination of factors sent Germany into the economic pits. By the mid-1920s, long before Hitler took power, Germany had recovered from that first depression. A second depression was part of a World-wide depression, symbolized by the 1929 crash of the Stock Market in New York. This depression gave Hitler and his minions leverage in the political turmoil that was Germany. However, as Shirer writes: "What interested Hitler was political power; economics could somehow take care of itself." "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p. 84. "And though the very name of the Nazi Party proclaimed it as 'socialist,' Hitler was even more vague on the kind of 'socialism' he envisaged for the new Germany." Id. at 85. When Hitler finally gained power, essentially he wrote bad checks to build armaments and infrastructure (e.g., the Autobahn).
Second, the economic impact of the Treaty of Versailles---primarily payment of war reparations---was onerous to most Germans. In 1931 a moratorium had been placed on such payments. In 1932, a conference was held in Lausanne, Switzerland, at which delegates from Great Britain, France, and Germany agreed to suspend the reparations payments on July 9. Hitler did not come to power until January 30, 1933.
How was Hitler stupid? First, this whole Aryan race thing was silly. He thought of a time when the Aryan race ruled and great things were accomplished. Unfortunately, such a period did not exist. Also, mitochondrial DNA indicates all humans are descended from the same female of our species. Whether he would have liked the news or not, Hitler was a descendant of Africans. His notions of race not only were pish-posh on their surface, they were flawed in the double helix of DNA.
The last bit I will toss into the mix because it appears on the first page of "Mein Kampf," Hitler's book. On the first page he warns against Germany getting caught in a two-front war. Hitler committed Germany to more than two fronts in World War II. There was the Western Front---France, etc.---the dreaded Eastern Front ("Klin, I will send you to the Eastern Front!"), but also fronts in Northern Africa and Scandinavia. Presumably a "genius" would not pitch the first page of his overall plan (a book written by a short, dark-haired guy) for a master race (of tall, blond-haired guys) and go the opposite direction from what he advised as prudent.
Dennis L. Cuddy obtained his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina. He is the author of numerous books and published articles. Most recently he has published, "The Power Elite and the Secret Nazi Plan." However much Hitler might have been screwed up, others in the Third Reich set in motion plans that were to be carried out after the War, in the event of German defeat. On Saturday, from 11 am to 1 pm, Dr. Cuddy will discuss his book, those long-range Nazi plans and their contemporaneous effects.
Gee, I hope I can attend, as I have more than a passing interest in the period.
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