Love Letters to Hitler
A cult of private fealty to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler grew in the years before World War II, reflecting public fawning by the Reich's city fathers. These love letters – some from prominent Americans – now read as a warning.
The American poet Hannah Cushman Howes sent a letter to Adolf Hitler in the early part of 1933. It contained a poem she composed especially for him:
She also included a handwritten note to clarify her sentiments further.
“...America’s enemies, most of them Russians - I saw them. Jews from Russia, Poland, Italy, and Germany too. You may send this letter to him if it makes clear our feelings.”
Howes was active in the America First movement and was listed as one of the rally sponsors at Madison Square Gardens in October 1941, featuring speakers such as real estate developer and diplomat, John Cudahy, Senator Burton Wheeler from Montana, and famed pilot Charles Lindburgh.
Howes’ early letter of affection and affiliation and many other examples of correspondence were archived by Hitler’s office and are maintained with other honorifics in the German federal archives at Berlin-Lichterfelde.
The files include poems, drawings, handicrafts, and other expressions of unconditional obedience. Among the letters that Hitler’s office retained were birthday telegrams, ranging from representatives of Daimler Benz to a “Louis Philippe” from Philadelphia.
While these letters were private correspondence, nationwide, a larger public phenomenon had been brewing since mid-1932 in which German cities publicly offered fealty to Hitler. The “highest honor” a municipality can bestow upon an individual in Germany is honorary citizenship -Ehrenbürgerrecht.
By 1933, over 1000 municipalities had extended offers of honorary citizenship to Hitler in rapid succession. A map of the cities that bestowed the honor is posted online.
The enthusiasm and rush to honor Hitler serve as a bellwether of the Nazi party’s rise to power. Towns also sought to personally deliver the certificate of honorary citizenship to Hitler and members of the city council proudly signed their names, a problematic discovery when municipalities uncover these documents in their archives today.
The city of Berlin gushed in their proclamation:
“Mr. Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler, the German man who, arisen from original German lineage, found his self-chosen fatherland early in the German Reich, for whose existence and honor he dedicated life and limb to the last, the far-sighted leader, as a volunteer of the World War, in whose soul burned since the darkest days of German history the desire to save his people from shame and disgrace, the passionate fighter who never bowed to ignorance, hatred or adverse fate, carried the great thoughts of the national, social, and protective ethnic community to the German people, above all to the youth, and did not rest until he had secured victory against everything that was un-German and fake, against disintegrating heresy, the destroyer of the community and the culture of the German people, for the architect of the new German Reich, who, at the side of the venerable President of the Reich von Hindenburg, supported by the trust and love of the people and in alliance with all the pure and willing forces of the nation of the Reich, took reconstruction into his young and strong hands, we confer honorary citizenship on our city.”
In the case of Hitler and with other notable despots, many individuals, towns, and organizations lined up early on to demonstrate their eager fealty and adoration via a slew of honorifics and other tokens of affection.
File R 43-II/979-81 in the German federal archives outlines the “naming of streets, squares, bridges, bells, schools, trees, etc.” after Hitler. It includes diverse offerings of fealty such as the Adolf Hitler Bad (Adolf Hitler Swimming Pool) in Munich, the renaming of flower varieties such as the Hitler Rose, the planting of Hitler Oaks across Germany, and repeated requests for Hitler to be the grand marshall for festivals.
In some cases, these honorifics were turned down, as in the case of the Adolf Hitler Konditorei (Adolf Hitler Confectionery). Hitler did, however, gladly accept a mirror carp from the organization of German pond farmers. He sent a letter of gratitude in February of 1934.
After 1933, the adoration had already served its purpose and was slowed purposefully by the government. The correspondence became obsessive. It even became a problem for the Reich Chancellery, because the drive to affiliate with Hitler through honors generated a bureaucratic burden on the office.
The correspondence seems mundane, but it indicates the relationship that always exists between leaders that seek absolute obedience and a public all too willing to oblige.
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