by Stig Hornshøj-Møller
The Führer Myth describes the horrifying and
complicated process that led to the systematic extermination of six
million Jews by the Nazi regime during World War II.
Filled with many new insights and provocative interpretations, the
book is a comprehensive analysis of the factors in German society that
made the Holocaust possible. But it is also the account of those people
who planned and carried out the hitherto greatest,
deliberately-organized mass murder in history.
Because - as the author stresses again and again - it is human
beings who decide to kill, he lets the reader follow the man Adolf
Hitler at close range. Hitler, and those around him - Joseph Goebbels,
Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, and others - are seen as
human beings of flesh and blood: emotional, weak, greedy,
opportunistic, fanatic, lecherous, religious (in their belief in the
After more than 25 years of research, the Danish historian Stig
Hornshøj-Møller has written a book on the creation and
staging of the Führer Myth which is both shocking and of alarming
current interest. His analysis demonstrates how the careful use of
media-produced "reality" by the Nazis in film and other kinds of
propaganda was able to make ordinary people kill others - just because
they were stigmatized as being "different."
Table of Contents
I. Symbols and Consciousness
- 2. Omens
- Describes essential symbols and rituals in Adolf Hitlers
behaviour and thinking: the Iron Cross First Class, the Swastika, the
commemoration of "martyrs" and the meaning of the Führer
Headquarters "Wolfsschlucht" (Wolf's Gorge) in Belgium.
- 3. Wolf
- Presents modern theories on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and
Multiple Personality Disease, and argues from the point of view of
semiotical theory why this diagnostical framework can be seen as a
relevant way of describing the well-known difference between Hitler's
personality and behaviour as a politician and in private.
II. A Searching Soul
4. An Insecure Child
- Outlines Hitler's childhood and his relations to his father and his
- 5. A Young Man Detached From Reality
- Describes his history from the death of his father till
the outbreak of WW I.
III. The Premises
6. The Inheritance from Jesus Christ
- Outlines the long tradition of anti-Semitism with special reference
to myths and their pictorial images.
- 7. "God is Dead"
- Focuses on social Darwinism and the change of basic myths
legitimizing the political and social construction of society -
especially mirroring the thinking of Nietzsche (and the alteration of
it through his sister and the way it was understood by German society).
- 8. A Chosen People and Their Lebensraum
- Presents features of the German idea of Volkstum.
IV. The Trauma
9. Get Thee Hence, Satan!
- Describes Hitler during WW I and focuses on the significance of his
twofold loss of eyesight at Wervicq and in Pasewalk. It ends with his
membership of Drexler's small party in 1919
V. Herr Wolf
10. The First Steps
- Outlines Hitler as a politician between 1919 and 1923 and focuses
especially on his early anti-Semitic statements.
- 11. Searching For a New Identity
- Analyses the influence of the painter Franz von Stuck on Hitler's
personality as politician, out of the author's general notion that
pictures and images are a deeper and more fundamental structure in
one's mind than words.
- 12. Dreams and Reality
- Focuses on German films of the early 1920s, which can be seen as a
reflection of the identity problems of the German society in general,
as well as Adolf Hitler in particular. Here, too, the author points out
how these films helped Hitler to put images and fundamental thinking to
his inner emotions as a precondition to the later development of his
political personality through reading and writing.
- 13. Wolf Becomes a Face
- Describes the role of his photographer Heinrich Hoffmann in
developing the Führer Myth.
- 14. "Mein Kampf" - the New Bible
- Outlines the history of the Putsch in 1923 and charcterizes how and
why "Mein Kampf" can be seen as Hitler's own description of the role of
his traumatic ego.
- 15. The Power of the Spoken Word
- Describes how Hitler was able to make his audience into almost
religious believers through his speeches.
- 16. An Incomplete Man
- Focuses on the psychological consequences of Hitler's missing left
testicle and his peculiar relationship with women up to Geli Raubal.
- 17. Geli
- Gives an account of the strange relationship between Hitler and his
niece whose death is seen as an accident. The key interest is, however,
on the political consequence of her death and the dates of Hitler's
visits to her grave. The last one was exactly on the 25th anniversary
of the shot in Sarajevo 1914. A mere coincidence?
VI The Disciples of the Führer
18. Canaille Mensch
- Describes the early history of Joseph Goebbels, his personality,
"conversion," and marriage with Magda Goebbels.
- 19. A Breeder of Human Beings
- Presents the early history of Heinrich Himmler, his personality,
"conversion" and marriage.
- 20. A Blond Beast
- Presents the background of Reinhard Heydrich, his personality,
"conversion" and marriage.
- 21. Göring and the Others
- Presents briefly the other main characters, but focuses especially
on the features they had in common in their relations with the
VII. One People and One Führer
22. Adolf Hitler Comes to Power
- Describes the mixture of terror and fascination that brought Hitler
to power and discusses the symbolic meaning of the day in Potsdam:
March 21, 1933.
- 23. The Screw is Tightened
- Focuses on the Gleichschaltung and especially on the symbolic
rituals and speeches of Nov. 9th and Nov. 10th, 1933, underlining the
significance of the date: exactly 15 years after Hitler's decision to
become a politician.
- 24. If Only the Führer Knew
- Describes the major events in 1934: The killing of Röhm, the
death of Hindenburg and especially the filmic development of the
Führer-myth through Triumph of the Will. As everywhere in the
book, these events are more seen from a semiotic point of view and
their influence of the mentality of German society than from a more
traditional historical point of view.
- 25. The Führer in Private
- Addresses the story of Eva Braun and other closer relations to women
like Renate Müller and Unity Valkyrie Mitford. The marriage with
Eva Braun is seen as Hitler's symbolic divorce from Germany.
VIII. The Instruments of Terror
26. A Pure Race
- Outlines the ideology behind and the actual policy in breeding an
- 27. A Castle of the Grail
- Tells the story of Wewelsburg up to 1940.
- 28. A Life Guard
- Describes the development of the SS until WW II - especially with
reference to the rituals and their symbolic meanings. It also includes
the description of how more and more tasks were transfered to the SS
during the 1930s.
IX. The Führer Sets the Banner of War
29. The Führer Makes a Decision
- Analyses the symbolic meaning of crucial events in 1935 and
1936: the Nuremberg Laws were promulgated on the same day as the
Swastika was made the flag of the Reich, and Hitler apparently drew
different conclusions from the Olympic Games than did others. He
ordered Göring to prepare for war before the next Games.
- 30. The Image of Satan
- Discusses the importance of visualizing ideals and enemy pictures
through exhibitions in 1937.
- 31. Historical "Coincidences"
- Looks into the secret role of Heydrich and his SD during the 1930s
of making things "happen" the way Hitler wanted them to happen.
- 32. The Myth of Death-Sacrifice
- Presents different cases of the death and martyr cult in the Third
Reich and the way these events were staged and used by the propaganda
in order to prepare the Germans for war.
X. A Love-Affair
- Tells of the love story between Joseph Goebbels and Lida Baarova
until August 15, 1938 - the day when the big crisis with Magda Goebbels
- 34. "Führer befiehl, wir folgen!"
- Continues the love story and mixes politics and personal life of
Goebbels until the signing of the München agreement.
- 35. Control of Hanke? (Ed. Note: wordplay that does not
translate well from Danish.)
- Continues the story of Goebbels' personal problems and growing
isolation until the beginning of November 1938.
- 36. A Macabre Declaration of Love
- Claims that the Reichskristallnacht, on the night between Nov. 9th
and 10th, 1938, was initiated as Goebbels' way of regaining Hitler's
favour and that it sabotaged both Himmler's and Göring's plans for
- 37. It Is Necessary With Violence
- Describes the consequences of the Reichskristallnacht, but focuses
especially on a interpretation of Hitler's speech to the press in the
evening of November 10th which is seen as his harsh criticism to the
propagandists, because it had become clear to him that the German
people had not yet grasped the significance of his anti-Semitism.
- 38. "I Would Not Like To Be a Jew in Germany"
- Summarizes the meeting between Göring, Goebbels, Heydrich and
others on November 12th, 1938.
- 39. The Führer Acts as Prophet
- Outlines the character of the anti-Jewish policy in 1939 through the
outbreak of WW II, including an analysis of the content of Hitler's
prophecy of Jan. 30th, 1939, which is seen as a way of putting stress
on the ongoing negotiation with George Rublee.
XI. The Threshold to Genocide
40. Hell Breaks Out
- Describes Hitler's own, highly symbolic time-table of going to war,
as well as the campaign in Poland with its different consequences. Once
more the focus is on the importance of dates and visual perception of
certain events for Hitler's view of himself.
- 41. Final Rehearsal of Genocide
- Outlines the decision-making that led to the "euthanasia" project
and describes the way it was organized. The importance of documentary
film as part of this process is underlined.
- 42. Reality Works
- Deals with the first phase of the production of
Der ewige Jude
and stresses the
importance of an entry in Goebbels' diary on his first viewing of the
slaughtering scenes on the evening of October 16th, 1939: "This Jewry
must be annihilated."
- 43. The Sword is Forged
- Reconstructs meticulously the development of this socalled
"documentary," which can be seen as an X-ray of the final
decision-making process. It also focuses on the symbolic consequences
of the bomb explosion in Munich of Nov. 8th, 1939.
- 44. A Credo
- Continues the story of Der ewige Jude for the rest of 1939,
and also deals with the growing religious character and function of the
Führer Myth after the bomb explosion.
- 45. "A Symphony of Disgust"
- Continues the production story of Der ewige Jude, outlining
the change of scope of the film from "just" legitimizing ideology to
becoming a deliberate call for genocide. It also describes the
reactions from the first test as well as the changes that were demanded
by Hitler himself.
- 46. "It is un-Germanic to Exterminate an Entire People"
- Outlines the Germanization policy of Himmler, including his proposal
from May, 1940 (very much based on Richard Breitman's book on Himmler
and the Final Solution).
XII. The Decision
47. The Day of Judgement
- Focuses on Hitler's movements and actions between his approval of
Der ewige Jude on May 20th, 1940, and his return to Germany
after the Armistice with France at the end of June. It is claimed that
Hitler took the final decision on June 1st, 1940, while visiting the
Wervicq where he was blinded in WW I.
- 48. The Guardian of Paradise
- Describes how Heinrich Himmler got an oral order to kill the
European Jewry in the Führer Hauptquartier Wolfsschlucht on June
XIII. The Führer Has Given a Command
49. Go Thee Cursed to Hell on Earth
- Concerns the Madagascar project, which is seen as a cover-up for the
- 50. The Private Host of the Führer
- Outlines the formation of the Waffen-SS in 1940 and presents how
Himmler began to prepare his men for the killing assignment. It is
argued that June 1st, 1940 can be claimed as the date where Hitler in
his own symbolic way formally founded the Waffen-SS as his private
- 51. "Expel the Jews!"
- Focuses on the feature film Jud Süss and the intimate
propaganda relation between this film and Der ewige Jude as well
as the effects of Jud Süss on Hitler, Goebbels and others.
- 52. The Promulgation of the Death Sentence
- Describes how
Der ewige Jude
was presented to the public on
Nov. 28th, 1940, and underlines the significance of certain other
events that took place in the beginning of December this year. It
closes by stressing that Hitler started publicly recalling his prophecy
just after the film had been shown all over Germany in his
radio-transmitted speech to the Reichstag on Jan. 30th, 1941.
- 53. Paradise on Earth
- Interprets Wewelsburg, on the basis of its architectural ideals, as
the intended burial place for Hitler - which would make Himmler the
Guardian Angel of the Führer Myth after his death. This strange
promise is seen as Himmler's reward for accepting the killing
XIV. Industrial Mass-Murder
54. The Last Pieces
- Describes the preparations for the assault on Russia, which is seen
as an outer subspecimen of Hitler's war against the Jews. It also
focuses on the formation and training of the death squads.
- 55. The Crusade against Jewish Bolshevism
- Outlines the development in the preparations for the extermination
of the Jews within Europe from June 22nd, 1941 (where the killing of
Soviet Jewry began) and the rest of the year.
- 56. The Extermination is Systematized
- Focuses on the Wannsee-Conference as well on Heydrich's death.
- 57. The Doubter
- Describes the dichotomy in Heinrich Himmler's attitude toward the
extermination of the Jews. His speeches - e.g. in Posen - are viewed as
evidence of his inner struggle to convince himself that he was doing
something "good" through the systematic killing program.
- Five pictures, and five quotations, to "illustrate" the unbelievable
character of the atrocities.
59. The Normality of Evil
60. The propaganda film Der ewige Jude
- After some initial comments, a reprint of the text of the
in order to give an impression of the contents of
Der ewige Jude.
XVIII. Biblio- and Filmography