A separation from reality : the American attitudes toward Adolf Hitler from 1923 to 1995 / by L. Kenneth Work.
This dissertation is concerned with American perceptions and in many cases imaginings of Adolf Hitler as they have been manifested in popular representations, observations, and editorial commentary from the time of his early political career in Munich, to the era of his rule in Germany, and continuing into the postwar period. From the earliest days of Hitler's entry onto the world stage until today, the American perception of him has borne little semblance to historical reality. It is a perception that has gone through significant changes and has evolved into a mystique and fascination wildly out of proportion to reality. It is a fascination that involves historians and the public alike and hardly corresponds to the public and private life of the man. It has, in fact, produced a mythological figure more demon than man. Following Hitler's aborted coup in 1923 and well in the 1930s, American reporting and commentary on Hitler became fixed into an unbending position: Hitler was a fumbling buffoon who was not to be taken seriously and who would eventually just go away. This resulted in the American illusion of Hitler's impotence and provided a static but misleading model of the true situation in Germany. Americans misread the forces at play in Germany and failed to recognize the danger of Hitlerism. Even after Hitler had conquered most of Europe and the threat of National Socialism was abundantly clear, large segments of the American public still would not take Hitler seriously. In the years immediately following the war, the reality of the Nazi death camps dominated the American perception of Hitler and Nazism. There were, however, other dynamics in force in the postwar years that contributed to yet another image of Hitler that manifested itself in the popular imagination. The so-called Hitler Myth took on a life of its own and created Hitler as a fantasy figure with a fictional image, far removed from the reality of historical fact and, in many instances, projecting images that were outright distortion of historical fact. He became a cult figure, no longer recognizable as a human being.
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