“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.
If the target audience of “The Hitler, Nobody knows” weren’t sufficiently won over by the idea of Hitler as culturally âone 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.”