NYT, 1924: Hitler's tamed by prison, "no longer to be feared"

From the Dec 20, 1924 issue of the New York Times: Adolph Hitler's rehabilitation is now complete, and he is "no longer to be feared."

Hitler Tamed By Prison


  1. No mention of the little book he … dictated … while in there? (The one about fostering Big Lies with visceral appeal to your dumber citizens, and running your society in upper & lower moieties to keep them both weakened?)

  2. Prison is well known for it’s taming abilities. People who go to prison are always better off for the experience – for instance, Charlie Manson went there, and when he came out, he became a peaceful hippie type. I wonder how Hitler resisted the natural calming process.

  3. Going to jail for a coup attempt, serving your time and then taking over anyway is not particularly uncommon.

    1. I always think the art school line is so unexplanitory. 

      Seriously the man was shaped by war, injury and unemployment. I don’t think he gave a fig about art school after his gas mask failed him in WWI.

      War tempered a reactionary and somehow very conventional mind into an acceptance of inhumanity.

      1. There was a very silly movie in the 1970s about all the factors that made Hitler the way he was.  Strangely, despite all the talk about cloning, abusive fathers, weak mothers, etc., etc, they never mentioned art school …

        1. I’ve been out of art school for 30 years and some things still infuriate me. Though I have not been tempted to genocide I have burned some bridges.

        2. His father died, his mother died, a couple siblings died. His mothers death from breast cancer was probably extremely gruesome – the  chest wall goes necrotic and rots away.  But he went from being an OK student to barely finishing school.  Something happened. 

  4. This is a perfect example of drive by reporting. It almost sounds like it came from the “society page”.

    1. Not sure even a deeper analysis by typical media and reporting standards would’ve been correct. It’s obvious in retrospect, but that’s history to you. Up until 1939 people like Chamberlain believed that Hitler could be appeased. During Hitler’s rise to power, some German politicians believed they can control him. And books like Mein Kampf can be taken serious or be interpreted as mere saber rattling (keep in mind how deeply anti-semitic Europe was at the time — attacking Jews with words was unfortunately very common).

      Take any issue of today, and you will see we don’t easily extrapolate but always err on the side of interpreting someone’s statements as well-intentioned and peaceful. For instance, in the US there was a discussion about whether waterboarding was torture or not. Well, extrapolate it; imagine a society in which waterboarding becomes normal procedure if a citizen is detained and interrogated for minor crimes. It would be a horrible fascist state, of course; but would you now say that everyone who previously said “waterboarding is not torture” (or even debated this as if it was a question, which most US media did!) was obviously leading towards this society? Maybe some do, but the majority of media doesn’t seem to come to that conclusion. They assume all the “nutheads” are basically well-intentioned…

      1. …would you now say that everyone who previously said “waterboarding is not torture” (or even debated this as if it was a question, which most US media did!) was obviously leading towards this society?

        I say that sort of thing about every ten minutes. It’s unproductive to wait for fascism to have a firm hold on society before doing something about it.

        1. The problem is when we can’t agree on *WHAT* all is fascist, and therefore don’t do anything about it.

          Or, worse, some people DO agree that something is fascist, when it isn’t, and do something about it. (Luckily, that hasn’t happened yet, but there have been a whole hell of a lot of threats, and it may actually happen.)

          (Torture is not what I’m talking about.)

      2. IANAHP*, but it seems to me that Chamberlain never truly thought Hitler could be appeased. If he did, he wouldn’t have pushed for the munitions and armament infrastructure that eventually allowed them to resist.

        Making Hitler believe that the English thought there was going to be no war made the Germans delay an invasion of Britain, and it allowed enough planes to be built that the Battle of Britain went the way it did.  Not only that but the British public overwhelmingly was against war and wanted appeasement, so there’s not a whole lot more that he could do.

        I’m not saying that Chamberlain did everything right, or that he didn’t make some bad choices, but if he hadn’t done what he did, there wouldn’t have been much for Churchill to do anything with.

        Unless I’m wrong, which is always the possibility with this stuff.

        *(I am not a history professor)

        1. Hitler really wanted to be allies with Britain, and he had plenty of fans, including members of the Royal family.  It was the unions that feared Hitler (see Hitchen’s withering review of “The King’s Speech”).  Hitler was obsessed with destroying France.   There’s about 50 pages of Mein Kampf about his desire to partner with Britain. 

  5. I’m surprised that the NYT was even aware of Hitler in 1924, since he was just a wacky local politician in Germany at the time, and that country was rife with fringe political groups.

    It wasn’t until a little later that Hitler started getting any real traction.

    1. Apparently the term ‘nazi’ was already being used in Austria as a shortened form of ‘Ignatz’, and referred to “a foolish person, a clumsy or awkward person”. It was a generic name for Austro-Hungarian soldiers used in Germany during WWI and then was popularized to refer to National Socialists by German exiles abroad.

  6. It was more like house arrest than prison.  I saw photos – they wore lederhosen, they had a typewriter, and they worked as a group to write Mein Kampf. This is probably why the book shifts styles from Hitlers incoherent rambling to Goebbels more polished thoughts on the essentials of propaganda.

  7. ..and they all lived happily ever after.

    No really. The story is over. Go home. GO HOME

    Goddamnit, I told you not to look at 1939. Go ahead. Cry your stupid eyes out. This is not my fault.

  8. He looked a much sadder and wiser man today than last Spring…

    What is it about springtime and Hitler, anyway?

    1. Seasonal dissafective on top of what hitler normally brought to the table? He would have a whole winters worth of depressive thoughts and depressive conclusions but suddenly have the manic energy to act on it so poorly planned revolutions, poorly planned invasions, mass murder and later suicide.

  9. As Tom Lehrer sang, “Once all the Germans were war-like, and mean / But that couldn’t happen again. / We taught them a lesson in 1918, / And they’ve scarcely bothered us since then!”

  10. Actually, this is triple-weird.

    Adolph Ochs owned and edited the NYT at the time.  He was jewish, and a crusader against anti-semitism (in particular, the negative portrayal of jews in the US media).  He was born to German-Jewish immigrants.

    By 1921, Hitler was openly and loudly campaigning on a platform that, amongst other things, was openly anti-semitic.  The article suggests the NYT were very familiar with him as a high-profile individual, and that the NYT simply went along with the ‘authorities’ view that he was now safe.

    All in, this was a shite piece of reporting and must have haunted Ochs from 1925 on.  You’d have thought eyes would have been closely on Hitler from the moment he uttered an anti-semitic word.

    Imagine the difference had the NYT crusaded early against Hitler.

    1. Wishful thinking?  So hard to imagine what it would have seemed like, for those who had no idea what was going to happen.

      1. Not really.

        How do you feel about Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, DR Congo, North Korea, Burma, Ethiopia?  How about the news coming out of Mali – jeez, even Timbuktu just spent the best part of a year being run by psychos.

        Kind of that there’s stuff going on, but … what?  Like, girls can’t go to school?  Women have to wear burkhas?  Quarter of a million people displaced by ‘violence’?

        The mass media really doesn’t like reporting on upcoming genocide, as it really upsets people and turns them off the news outlet.  But it’s perfectly predictable – a lot of things get set in play before the trigger gets pulled.

        I don’t believe in 1924 they were any more innocent to the potential of Hitler than we are now to the actuality.  But because the dice hadn’t yet rolled, they kept it on the way back-burner.

        Check out http://www.genocidewatch.org for an informative read.

        1. Did you read the post I was responding to?

          Hindsight is 20/20, but for that particular editor to dismiss any concern at that point seems hard to explain.

          Having been actively involved myself getting people out of one of the countries you mentioned (an Underground Railroad-type operation), I would expect to be more sensitive to news coming from that particular country, just as peregrinus was saying should have been true about the NY TImes editor.

          1. Yes, I did – glad to hear you’re actively involved in assisting people at risk.  My involvement is limited to monthly donations to UNICEF, Save the Children, Water programs etc.

            I wrote both posts – your 2nd para above underlines the point I made that it’s triple-weird.  Which it really, really is.  There’s got to be much more to this story, because a savvy mass-media organisation, which the NYT most certainly was in 1924, could be accused of varnishing or manipulating the truth – at best, failing miserably in their ‘duty’ to print the news.  There is a strong case to be made that well-informed mandarins the world over knew precisely what Hitler was going to do, and held back from action for one reason or another.

            I initially read into your ‘wishful thinking’ comment a challenge to my personal stance that history repeats itself, and anyone with any nouse knows what it is that is about to be repeated.

            In general, sadly, unless there is some crucial resource (eg oil / strategic military interest) involved, our developed-nation ethical sensibilities evaporate into misty-eyed comments and waffle.

            Like in Srebrenica, we let the massacres happen before moving seriously to stop it.

            Know any more about this situation (1924 NYT)?  I’m feeling there may have been a lot of pro-German sentiment in the USA at the time – especially given booming stock prices, a large immigrant German population, and the rapid development of a potential trading partner.

            Didn’t IBM export a load of gear to the 3rd Reich?

            Thanks for checking back in.

          2. “I wrote both posts”

            *hits self upside the head*

            I have no idea how I missed that…sorry!

            No, I meant the wishful thinking to be referring to the editor at the time: he knew better, he knew to be on the lookout, and yet somehow he believed that Hitler was subdued by his time in jail and would go forth to sin no more? (Wow, that was a strange mixed-religion reference.)

            We can look at it now (hindsight) and wonder how he could have been so naive, but he would have been looking at a different set of facts and rumors at the time.

            I agree with you that people have a tendency to only pay attention to suffering in another part of the world if there’s something in it for them.  As you say, this guy was different: he was very much attuned to the specific situation….except, somehow, he wasn’t.

            I don’t have specific knowledge to add to what you’ve already said, except to agree with you that there was a lot of German support by that time in the US thanks to significant immigration in the late 1800’s.  In other words, they were onto the next generation or two, no longer the newbies, and we know how descendants of immigrants to the US can be very vocal about how THEY are real Americans and any new wave of immigration is suspect.  A number of Jews were actually moving back to the area now (once again) known as Israel even back then…the US was not the only immigration choice for them at the time.  So I’m sure you’re right, that there was more pro-German than pro-Jewish sentiment informing the intel the editor was getting, both professionally and socially.

            And yes, US industrial leaders had a lot of financial reason to believe the best of a country that was purchasing in bulk.  I think you’re right that IBM was one of them.

            How to read the signs, in time?  How to know when what you’re witnessing is sending up a real red flag that needs to be heeded ASAP?  As you said, the guy must have been haunted by his credulity for the rest of his life.

            Disqus does not make extended discussion very easy, so I’m glad we’ve been able to continue this past an initial post and response.  That’s the only way to really understand what someone is saying.

  11. If anyone is curious to see the article in context, it’s at the top of page 16 of the December 21, 1924 (not the 20th) issue of the Times, next to articles about scotch reaching $1 a quart (and “only one” death due to wood alcohol), and cheap US flags being made in Japan (they “look more like the red flag of Bolshevik Russia than the flag of the United States” when they get wet).


  12. Reading the first sentence of the article really gave me a double-take, because “reactionary extremist” is exactly the term I use for US Republicans these days.

    I don’t think they’re tame, either.  And I don’t think I’m paranoid to be wary of them.

Comments are closed.