Friday, November 11, 2011


Finally put the not-so-great Dictator's life behind me a couple of days back and would heartily recommend Ian Kershaw's biography to anyone wanting to learn about the extraordinary mechanisms of self-deception. I say this not simply with the egregious Adolf in mind but the whole cast of the cess-pit Reich that came to surround him. The puzzle is not so much the man himself, a randomly unhappily fortunate crazy man, as the society that made him, let him, happen.

How on earth could so many of these people be so stupidly, mindlessly, barmily, unfathomably, unthinkingly anti-Semitic? (In passing, it's worth noting that a lot of support for the maniac came from teachers.)

Hitler's complete divorce from reality in the later years, though, springs from a simple and all-too-familiar source. This is Kershaw describing the origin of the illusions about pretty much every aspect of life in the Reich that dominated policy by 1942: It was a problem that afflicted the entire dictatorship - up to and including Hitler himself. Only positive messages were acceptable. Pessimism (which usually meant realism) was a sign of failure. Distortions of the truth were built into the communications system of the Third Reich at every level - most of all in the top echelons of the regime.

Every organisation should find something worth considering there, especially those who come to believe their own publicity.

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