Marketing Hitler: How Adolf Hitler’s Image was Overhauled to Win the German People
Marketing Hitler: How Adolf Hitler’s Image was Overhauled to Win the German People

Marketing Hitler: How Adolf Hitler’s Image was Overhauled to Win the German People

Natasha sheldon - June 5, 2018

Marketing Hitler: How Adolf Hitler’s Image was Overhauled to Win the German People
Cover Image of “The Hitler that Nobody Knows.” Google Images.

“The Hitler Nobody Knows”

Heinrich Hoffman, Hitler’s friend, and official photographer began to select and re-shape elements from Hitler’s private life to present a very different image of the Nazi leader. He used photographs of the Furhur in a variety of different scenarios, which he presented in a photographic book entitled “The Hitler Nobody Knows.” Baldur Von Schirach, the leader of the Hitler Youth and Hoffman’s son in law, provided the narrative to the book. The idea was to counter Hitler’s negative persona with an image that would appeal to women and the middle classes.

The book began with images everyone could relate to Hitler’s baby photographs and photos of his family and childhood. However, it also presented a very different picture of the adult Hitler. Hitler, the stern-faced revolutionary, was replaced with Hitler, the country gentleman, and dog lover, relaxing in his Bavarian retreat of Obersalzberg. Hoffman presented Hitler dressed in a Bavarian jacket and hat, or countrified tweed suit, taking wholesome hikes and lazing in the grass with friends and his beloved pets. “He loves them almost as much as they love him,” quipped Schirach’s caption regarding the animals, in the hope that this would help alienated readers love Hitler too.

The book also showed how, when Hitler was not out walking and enjoying nature at Oberzalzberg, he was in the house’s library. Here, the Nazi leader could be found enjoying some of the 6000 volumes he had accumulated in his collection. Books were Hitler’s “greatest pleasure” Schirach informed his readership, with art and history particular favorite subjects. “Art, and especially music is for him a life necessity,” Schirach emphasized. Here was no uncouth revolutionary but a cultured and educated man to whom civilized pursuits mattered- and the middle classes could relate to.

Marketing Hitler: How Adolf Hitler’s Image was Overhauled to Win the German People
Photograph of Children presenting Hitler with flowers. Google Images.

If the target audience of “The Hitler, Nobody knows” weren’t sufficiently won over by the idea of Hitler as culturally ‘one of them,” then their sentimental side was sure to melt at the sight of the unmarried, childless firebrand charming children. “The Young love him,” confided Schirach under a photograph of Hitler surrounded by young boys. “Everywhere children crowd around him to bring him flowers.” However, not only was Hitler the beloved of dogs and children, he was hardworking and temperate too.

Other pictures showed the Nazi leader on the campaign trail about Germany, but not to whip them into violent revolt. These photographs showed Hitler greeting ordinary folk affably- unlike the remote aristocratic Hindenburg, even stopping his car for a casual chat with a worker. Not only was Hitler accessible; he was free from aristocratic decadence. He was shown at dinner parties enjoying an alcohol-free, vegetarian meal. The message was clear: here was a man, moderate in his habits, tirelessly working on behalf of the German people. “I would like to denote two characteristics that for me are the most striking traits of Adolf Hitler’s nature,” explained Schirach in the introduction to the book, “STRENGTH and GOODNESS.”

Marketing Hitler: How Adolf Hitler’s Image was Overhauled to Win the German People
Hitler bowing to Hindenburg. Google Images.

Did Hitler’s Image Change Work?

On the face of it “The Hitler Nobody Knows” did its job. In July 1932, fresh elections gave the Nazism’s 37.35% of the vote and made them the largest political party in Germany. Hitler had the bargaining chip he desired. He began to make overtures to the Hindenburg regime, offering to do a political deal that would bolster the government while making Hitler Chancellor. It was a bold and timely move. However, it did not work. For, despite the election result, Hindenburg refused to entertain the idea of allowing the Nazis’ into power.

Instead, the president appointed Franz Von Papen as Chancellor, despite the fact his choice of candidate did not have the support of the Reichstag. Things in government quickly began to follow the same depressing pattern. General Kurt Von Schleicher replaced Von Papen and finally in November 1932, yet more elections were held. However, it became apparent that Hitler’s image change had ceased to work its magic. In just four months, the Nazi’s popularity dropped drastically. The election only gave them a 33.1% share of the vote. Meanwhile, the Communist party had gained.

It was this communist gain that proved to be the deciding factor that elevated the Nazi’s, for Hindenburg’s circle was even more alarmed by the prospect of a communist take over than a Nazi one. After months of resisting Hitler, Hindenburg changed his mind. Hitler’s popularity was waning, the president’s aids told him. This decline meant that the Nazi’s needed the conservatives and so would be more malleable. So on January 30, 1933, Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany-not because Hitler had won over the electorate but because the Nazi’s were the lesser of two evils.

Marketing Hitler: How Adolf Hitler’s Image was Overhauled to Win the German People
The Reichstag Fire, February 1933. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

It was a decision Hindenburg would come to regret. Although, he limited the Nazi’s to only two government posts, besides Hitler’s, in two months, rather than being “pushed …into a corner so that he squeaks,” Hitler had outmaneuvered him. The new Chancellor called for fresh elections in March 1933. This time, he ran his campaign by smearing and terrorizing his opponents. Then on February 27, 1933, the Reichstag burnt down. A young Dutch communist was blamed, giving the Nazi’s the excuse to arrest over four thousand communists after Hindenburg signed emergency powers over to them.

Rivals safety eliminated, the Nazi’s increased their share of the March vote to 43.9%. Only one year after the elections of March 1932, the Nazis had all but achieved their aim, only requiring the support of other marginal far right parties to remain in power. In the end, Hitler had achieved his aim not because he had seduced the electorate with a gentler image, but because he had taken advantage of the political situation and reverting to the old Nazi of violence, smears and propaganda.


Where Do we get this stuff? Here are our sources:

Hitler at Home, Despina Stratigakos, Places Journal, September 2015

The Nazis Rise to Power, Holocaust Encyclopedia.

Paul von Hindenburg, Andreas Dorpalen, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc, December 15, 2016

Heinrich Brüning, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc, March 23, 2018

Adolf Hitler – Encyclopædia Britannica

How did the Nazis gain support? and How Did the Nazis consolidate their power? The Holocaust Explained.