Adolf Hitler was known for his speeches. Hitler’s speeches blamed all of Germany’s problems on its weak leaders, Marxist traitors, and Jewish people. His words and gestures rallied millions to his cause, and they ended in the slaughter of millions more.
Hitler and the Nazi Party were masters of propaganda, and one of their most important tools was photographs of the Führer. They even used photographs of Hitler playing with dogs to this end. But these rare photographs of Hitler preparing to give speeches show the hidden side of Hitler’s rise to power.
Hitler was a vain, insecure man who worried that he would look foolish while he performed. To remedy this, his personal photographer Heinrich Hoffman took photos of Hitler speaking to reassure the Nazi leader that he could strike a powerful pose.
These Hitler photos were so embarrassing to the Führer that he ordered Hoffman to destroy them – but the photographer refused, revealing another side of the dictator.
These Candid Photos Of Hitler Were Taken Just Months After He Was Released From Jail
In 1924, Adolf Hitler was sentenced to five years in jail for leading his party in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the German government, known as the “Beer Hall Putsch.” Hilter served nine months in Landsberg jail, dictating his autobiography Mein Kampf and planning the future of the party.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler concluded that “men are won over less by the written than by the spoken word.” He also argued that “every great movement on this earth owes its growth to great orators and not to great writers.”
After his release from prison in 1925, Hilter practiced his skills in front of a mirror while his official photographer Heinrich Hoffmann snapped pictures.
The results are a study in Hilter’s behind-the-scenes efforts to transform himself into a successful orator.
Hitler Didn’t Want Anyone To Know That He Wasn’t A Natural Orator
Hitler was vain and controlling – and he didn’t want anyone to see the pictures of his rehearsal poses. In fact, in 1936, Joseph Goebbels, his minister of propaganda, wrote about Hitler’s amazing speaking abilities. Goebbels waxed poetic about Hitler’s oratorical talents, overwhelming the Führer with praise. He also claimed Hitler’s talents were natural.
“It would be ridiculous to think he attended some sort of speaker school; he is a rhetorical genius who developed his own abilities with no help from anyone else,” Goebbels said.
Of course, that wasn’t true at all. Hitler relied on Hoffman’s black-and-white photos to practice speaking poses.
Hitler Had 'Dead' Eyes And 'Moist And Clammy' Hands
Hitler apparently wasn’t very charismatic in person. Psychologist Henry Murray noted in a 1943 US intelligence report that Hitler had “dead, impersonal, and unseeing” eyes. Hitler was below average in height and had a receding hairline and “moist and clammy” palms. And he was terrible at small talk.
That might be one reason that Hitler asked Hoffmann to take the photographs. Hitler asked for feedback on his delivery, gestures, and body language. Then he looked over the photographs, declaring “no, that looks silly,” or “I’m never doing that again.”
Hitler Wanted The Photos Destroyed Because They Were So Embarrassing
Hitler never wanted anyone to see these photographs. He ordered Hoffmann to hide the photos, but the photographer ignored the Führer’s request and eventually published the photographs in a book called Hitler Was My Friend in 1955.
As historian Roger Moorhouse explained, “[Hitler] was concerned about how he looked and his public persona.”
The photographs undermined one of the key components of Hitler’s appeal: his passion. As Goebbels emphasized in 1936, “He speaks his heart, and therefore reaches the hearts of those who hear him.”
But the photos made Hitler look like an amateur who didn’t have a natural instinct for passionate speeches.