Hitler: The Philosopher Führer

Yvonne Sherratt explores the ways in which Adolf Hitler attempted to appropriate the ideas of some of Germany’s greatest thinkers during his brief incarceration in 1924.

Hitler in Landsberg prison. Getty/Hulton

In spite of more than 70 years of unabated interest in Nazism the story of Hitler as a philosopher remains untold. Hitler had a dream to rule the world, not only with the gun but also with the mind. Astonishingly he saw himself as a ‘philosopher leader’. Philosophy was central to German culture, regarded as a national achievement. Thinkers such as Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche were as sacred to the German people as Shakespeare and Dickens were to the British or Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain to the Americans. Hitler’s fervent desire to be the most authentic of all Germans made these iconic figures deeply alluring and his egotism extended to a fantasy that he himself was a great thinker.

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