Written at the very peak of his political successes, this Time magazine article conferring on Adolf Hitler its coveted “Man of the Year Award” for 1938 offers a fascinating contemporary perspective of the Fuhrer prior to the outbreak of WW II.
While acknowledging that in less than six years he had accomplished a remarkable transformation of the German spirit – he is “applauded wildly and ecstatically by most Germans” – there are no false illusions about the dangers he posed – “Hitler became in 1938 the greatest threatening force that the democratic, freedom – loving world faces.”
Chillingly prophetic passages portend the conflagration that is about to engulf the world. RCD – Webhost
“These multiple forms of barbarism (fascism & communism) gave shape in 1938 to an issue over which men may again, perhaps soon, shed blood: the issue of civilized liberty v. barbaric authoritarianism.”
January 2, 1939
Greatest single news event of 1938 took place on September 29, when four statesmen met at the Fuhrerhaus, in Munich, to redraw the map of Europe.
The three visiting statesmen at that historic conference were Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain, Premier Edouard Daladier of France, and Dictator Benito Mussolini of Italy. But by all odds the dominating figure at Munich was the German host, Adolf Hitler.
Fuhrer of the German people, Commander-in-Chief of the German Army, Navy & Air Force, Chancellor of the Third Reich, Herr Hitler reaped on that day at Munich the harvest of an audacious, defiant, ruthless foreign policy he had pursued for five and a half years. He had torn the Treaty of Versailles to shreds. He had rearmed Germany to the teeth–or as close to the tooth as he was able. He had stolen Austria before the eyes of a horrified and apparently impotent world.
All these events were shocking to nations which had defeated Germany on the battlefield only 20 years before, but nothing so terrified the world as the ruthless, methodical, Nazi-directed events which during late summer and early autumn threatened a world war over Czechoslovakia. When without loss of blood he reduced Czechoslovakia to a German puppet state, forced a drastic revision of Europe’s defensive alliances, and won a free hand for himself in Eastern Europe by getting a “hands-off” promise from powerful Britain (and later France), Adolf Hitler without doubt became 1938’s Man of the Year.
Most other world figures of 1938 faded in importance as the year drew to a close. Prime Minister Chamberlain’s “peace with honor” seemed more than ever to have achieved neither. An increasing number of Britons ridiculed his appease-the-dictators policy, believed that nothing save abject surrender could satisfy the dictators’ ambitions.
Among many Frenchmen there rose a feeling that Premier Daladier, by a few strokes of the pen at Munich, had turned France into a second-rate power. Aping Mussolini in his gestures and copying triumphant Hitler’s shouting complex, the once liberal Daladier at year’s end was reduced to using parliamentary tricks to keep his job.
During 1938 Dictator Mussolini was only a decidedly junior partner in the firm of Hitler & Mussolini, Inc. His noisy agitation to get Corsica and Tunis from France was rated as a weak bluff whose immediate objectives were no more than cheaper tolls for Italian ships in the Suez Canal and control of the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railroad.
Gone from the international scene was Eduard Benes, for 20 years Europe’s “Smartest Little Statesman.” Last President of free Czechoslovakia, he was now a sick exile from the country he helped found. Pious Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Man of 1937, was forced to retreat to a “New” West China, where he faced the possibility of becoming only a respectable figurehead in an enveloping Communist movement. If Francisco Franco had won the Spanish Civil War after his great spring drive, he might well have been Man-of-the-Year timber. But victory still eluded the Generalissimo and war weariness and disaffection on the Rightist side made his future precarious.
On the American scene, 1938 was no one man’s year. Certainly it was not Franklin Roosevelt’s; his Purge was beaten and his party lost much of its bulge in the Congress. Secretary Hull will remember Good Neighborly 1938 as the year he crowned his trade treaty efforts with the British agreement, but history will not specially identify Mr. Hull with 1938. At year’s end in Lima, his plan of Continental Solidarity for the two Americas had a few of its teeth pulled.
But the figure of Adolf Hitler strode over a cringing Europe with all the swagger of a conqueror. Not the mere fact that the Fuhrer brought 10,500,000 more people (7,000,000 Austrians, 3,500,000 Sudetens) under his absolute rule made him the Man of 1938. Japan during the same time added tens of millions of Chinese to her empire. More significant was the fact Hitler became in 1938 the greatest threatening force that the democratic, freedom-loving world faces today.
His shadow fell far beyond Germany’s frontier. Small, neighboring States (Denmark, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, The Balkans, Luxembourg, The Netherlands) feared to offend him. In France Nazi pressure was in part responsible for some of the post-Munich anti-democratic decrees. Fascism had intervened openly in Spain, had fostered a revolt in Brazil, was covertly aiding revolutionary movements in Rumania, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania. In Finland a foreign minister had to resign under Nazi pressure. Throughout eastern Europe after Munich the trend was toward less freedom, more dictatorship. In the U.S. alone did democracy feel itself strong enough at year’s end to give Hitler his come-uppance.
The Fascintern, with Hitler in the driver’s seat, with Mussolini, Franco and the Japanese military cabal riding behind, emerged in 1938 as an international, revolutionary movement. Rant as he might against the machinations of international Communism and international Jewry, or rave as he would that he was just a Pan-German trying to get all the Germans back in one nation, Fuhrer Hitler had himself become the world’s No. 1 International Revolutionist–so much so that if the oft-predicted struggle between Fascism and Communism now takes place it will be only because two revolutionist dictators, Hitler and Stalin, are too big to let each other live in the same world.
But Fuhrer Hitler does not regard himself as a revolutionary; he has become so only by force of circumstances. Fascism has discovered that freedom–of press, speech, assembly–is a potential danger to its own security. In Fascist phraseology democracy is often coupled with Communism. The Fascist battle against freedom is often carried forward under the false slogan of “Down with Communism!” One of the chief German complaints against democratic Czechoslovakia last summer was that it was an “outpost of Communism.”
A generation ago western civilization had apparently outgrown the major evils of barbarism except for war between nations. The Russian Communist Revolution promoted the evil of class war. Hitler topped it by another, race war. Fascism and Communism both resurrected religious war. These multiple forms of barbarism gave shape in 1938 to an issue over which men may again, perhaps soon, shed blood: the issue of civilized liberty v. barbaric authoritarianism.
Lesser men of the year seemed small indeed beside the Fuhrer. Undoubted Crook of the Year was the late Frank Donald Coster (ne Musica), with Richard Whitney, now in Sing Sing Prison, as runner-up. Sportsman of the Year was Tennist Donald Budge, champion of the U.S., England, France, Australia. Aviator of the Year was 33-year-old Howard Robard Hughes, diffident millionaire, who flew a sober, precise, foolproof course 14,716 miles round the top of the world in three days, 19 hours, eight minutes.
Radio’s Man of the Year was youthful Orson Welles who, in his famous The War of the Worlds broadcast, scared fewer people than Hitler, but more than had ever been frightened by radio before, demonstrating that radio can be a tremendous force in whipping up mass emotion. Playwright of the Year was Thornton Wilder, previously a precious litterateur, whose first play on Broadway, Our Town, was not only ingenious and moving, but a big hit. To Gabriel Pascal, producer of Pygmalion, first full-length picture based on the wordy dramas of George Bernard Shaw, went the title of Cineman of the Year for having discovered a rich mine of dramatic material when other famed producers had given up all hope of ever tapping it. Men of the Year, outstanding in comprehensive science were three medical researchers who discovered that nicotinic acid was a cure for human pellagra: Drs. Tom Douglas Spies of Cincinnati General Hospital, Marion Arthur Blankenhorn of the University of Cincinnati, Clark Niel Cooper of Waterloo, Iowa.
In religion, the two outstanding figures of 1938 were in sharp contrast save for their opposition to Adolf Hitler. One of them, Pope Pius XI, 81, spoke with “bitter sadness” of Italy’s anti-Semitic laws, the harrying of Italian Catholic Action groups, the reception Mussolini gave Hitler last May, declared sadly: “We have offered our now old life for the peace and prosperity of peoples. We offer it anew.” By spending most of the year in a concentration camp, Protestant Pastor Martin Niemoller gave courageous witness to his faith.
It was noteworthy that few of these other men of the year would have been free to achieve their accomplishments in Nazi Germany. The genius of free wills has been so stifled by the oppression of dictatorship that Germany’s output of poetry, prose, music, philosophy,art has been meagre indeed.
The man most responsible for this world tragedy is a moody, brooding, unprepossessing, 49-year-old Austrian-born ascetic with a Charlie Chaplin mustache. The son of an Austrian petty customs official, Adolf Hitler was raised as a spoiled child by a doting mother. Consistently failing to pass even the most elementary studies, he grew up a half-educated young man, untrained for any trade or profession, seemingly doomed to failure. Brilliant, charming, cosmopolitan Vienna he learned to loathe for what he called its Semitism; more to his liking was homogeneous Munich, his real home after 1912. To this man of no trade and few interests the Great War was a welcome event which gave him some purpose in life. Hitler took part in 48 engagements, won the German Iron Cross (first class), was wounded once and gassed once, was in a hospital when the Armistice of November 11, 1918 was declared.
His political career began in 1919 when he became Member No. 7 of the midget German Labor Party. Discovering his powers of oratory, Hitler soon became the party’s leader, changed its name to the National Socialist German Labor Party, wrote is anti- Semitic, anti-democratic, authoritarian program. The party’s first mass meeting took place in Munich in February 1920. The leader intended to participate in a monarchist attempt to seize power a month later; but for this abortive Putsch Fuhrer Hitler arrived too late. An even less successful National Socialist attempt–the famed Munich Beer Hall Putsch of 1923–provided the party with dead martyrs, landed Herr Hitler in jail. His incarceration at Landsberg Fortress gave him time to write the first volume of Mein Kampf, now a “must” on every German bookshelf. (Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess helped write it. Imprisonment also gave Hitler time to perfect his tactics. Even before that time he got from his Communist opponents the idea of gangster-like party storm troopers; after this the principle of the small cell groups of devoted party workers.)
Outlawed in many German districts, the National Socialist Party nevertheless climbed steadily in membership. Time-honored Tammany Hall methods of handing out many small favors were combined with rowdy terrorism and lurid, patriotic propaganda. The picture of a mystic, abstemious, charismatic Fuhrer was assiduously cultivated.
Not until 1929 did National Socialism win its first absolute majority in a city election (at Coburg) and make its first significant showing in a provincial election (in Thuringia). But from 1928 on the party almost continually gained in electoral strength. In the Reichstag elections of 1928 it polled 809,000 votes. Two years later 6,401,016 Germans voted for National Socialist deputies while in 1932 the vote was 13,732,779. While still short of a majority, the vote was nevertheless impressive proof of the power of the man and his movement.
The situation which gave rise to this demagogic, ignorant, desperate movement was inherent in the German Republic’s birth and in the craving of large sections of the politically immature German people for strong, masterful leadership. Democracy in Germany was conceived in the womb of military defeat. It was the Republic which put its signature (unwillingly) to the humiliating Versailles Treaty, a brand of shame which it never lived down in German minds.
That the German people love uniforms, parades, military formations, and submit easily to authority is no secret. Fuhrer Hitler’s own hero is Frederick the Great. That admiration stems undoubtedly from Frederick’s military prowess and autocratic rule rather than from Frederick’s love of French culture and his hatred of Prussian boorishness. But unlike the polished Frederick, Fuhrer Hitler, whose reading has always been very limited, invites few great minds to visit him, nor would Fuhrer Hitler agree with Frederick’s contention that he was “tired of ruling over slaves.” (Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor, also complained of the submissiveness of German character.)
In bad straits even in fair weather, the German Republic collapsed under the weight of the 1929-34 depression in which German unemployment soared to 7,000,000 above a nationwide wind drift of bankruptcies and failures. Called to power as Chancellor of the Third Reich on January 30, 1933 by aged, senile President Paul von Hindenburg, Chancellor Hitler began to turn the Reich inside out. Unemployment was solved by: 1) a far-reaching program of public works; 2) an intense re-armament program, including a huge standing army; 3) enforced labor in the service of the State (the German Labor Corps); 4) putting political enemies and Jewish, Communist and Socialist jobholders in concentration camps.
What Adolf Hitler & Co. did to Germany in less than six years was applauded wildly and ecstatically by most Germans. He lifted the nation from post-War defeatism. Under the swastika Germany was unified. His was no ordinary dictatorship, but rather one of great energy and magnificent planning. The “socialist” part of National Socialism might be scoffed at by hard-&-fast Marxists, but the Nazi movement nevertheless had a mass basis. The 1,500 miles of magnificent highways built, schemes for cheap cars and simple workers’ benefits, grandiose plans for rebuilding German cities made Germans burst with pride. Germans might eat many substitute foods or wear ersatz clothes but they did eat.
What Adolf Hitler & Co. did to the German people in that time left civilized men and women aghast. Civil rights and liberties have disappeared. Opposition to the Nazi regime has become tantamount to suicide or worse. Free speech and free assembly are anachronisms. The reputations of the once-vaunted German centres of learning have vanished. Education has been reduced to a National Socialist catechism.
Pace Quickened. Germany’s 700,000 Jews have been tortured physically, robbed of homes and properties, denied a chance to earn a living, chased off the streets. Now they are being held for “ransom,” a gangster trick through the ages. But not only Jews have suffered. Out of Germany has come a steady, ever- swelling stream of refugees, Jews and Gentiles, liberals and conservatives, Catholics as well as Protestants, who could stand Naziism no longer. TIME’s cover, showing Organist Adolf Hitler playing his hymn of hate in a desecrated cathedral while victims dangle on a St. Catherine’s wheel and the Nazi hierarchy looks on, was drawn by Baron Rudolph Charles von Ripper, a Catholic who found Germany intolerable.
Meanwhile, Germany has become a nation of uniforms, goose- stepping to Hitler’s tune, where boys of ten are taught to throw hand grenades, where women are regarded as breeding machines. Most cruel joke of all, however, has been played by Hitler & Co. on those German capitalists and small businessmen who once backed National Socialism as a means of saving Germany’s bourgeois economic structure from radicalism. The Nazi credo that the individual belongs to the state also applies to business. Some businesses have been confiscated outright, on other what amounts to a capital tax has been levied. Profits have been strictly controlled. Some idea of the increasing Governmental control and interference in business could be deduced from the fact that 80% of all building and 50% of all industrial orders in Germany originated last year with the Government. Hard-pressed for food- stuffs as well as funds, the Nazi regime has taken over large estates and in many instances collectivized agriculture, a procedure fundamentally similar to Russian Communism.
When Germany took over Austria she took upon herself the care and feeding of 7,000,000 poor relations. When 3,500,000 Sudetens were absorbed, there were that many more mouths to feed. As 1938 drew to a close many were the signs that the Nazi economy of exchange control, barter trade, lowered standard of living, “self-sufficiency,” was cracking. Nor were signs lacking that many Germans disliked the cruelties of their Government, but were afraid to protest them. Having a hard time to provide enough bread to go round, Fuhrer Hitler was being driven to give the German people another diverting circus. The Nazi controlled press, jumping the rope at the count of Propaganda Minister Paul Joseph Goebbels, shrieked insults at real and imagined enemies. And the pace of the German dictatorship quickened as more & more guns rolled from factories and little more butter was produced.
In five years under the Man of 1938, regimented Germany had made itself one of the great military powers of the world today. The British Navy remains supreme on the seas. Most military men regard the French Army as incomparable. Biggest question mark is air strength, which changes from day to day, but most observers believe Germany superior in warplanes. Despite a shortage of trained officers and a lack of materials, the German Army has become a formidable machine which could probably be beaten only by a combination of opposing armies. As testimony to his nation’s puissance, Fuhrer Hitler could look back over the year and remember that besides receiving countless large-bore statesmen (Mr. Chamberlain three times, for instance), he paid his personal respects to three kings (Sweden’s Gustaf, Denmark’s Christian, Italy’s Vittorio Emanuele) and was visited by two (Bulgaria’s Boris, Rumania’s Carol–not counting Hungary’s Regent, Horthy).
Meanwhile an estimated 1,133 streets and squares, notably Rathaus Platz in Vienna, acquired the name of Adolf Hitler. He delivered 96 public speeches, attended eleven opera performances (way below par), vanquished two rivals (Benes and Kurt von Schuschnigg, Austria’s last Chancellor), sold 900,000 new copies of Mein Kampf in Germany besides selling it widely in Italy and Insurgent Spain. His only loss was in eyesight: he had to begin wearing spectacles for work. Last week Herr Hitler entertained at a Christmas party 7,000 workmen now building Berlin’s new mammoth Chancellery, told them: “The next decade will show those countries with their patent democracy where true culture is to be found.”
But other nations have emphatically joined the armaments race and among military men the poser is: “Will Hitler fight when it becomes definitely certain that he is losing that race?” The dynamics of dictatorship are such that few who have studied Fascism and its leaders can envision sexless, restless, instinctive Adolf Hitler rounding out a mellow middle age in his mountain chalet at Berchtesgaden while a satisfied German people drink beer and sing folk songs. There is no guarantee that the have-not nations will go to sleep when they have taken what they now want from the haves. To those who watched the closing events of the year it seemed more than probable that the Man of 1938 may make 1939 a year to be remembered.