Konrad Heiden, the son of a union organizer
and Jewess mother, was born in Munich, Germany, on 7th August 1901. While at the University of Munich he led protests against Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). The historian, Richard Overy, has pointed out: "Heiden was a young socialist student in Munich when he first saw Hitler speak. It was 1923, the
year of inflation and political chaos in Germany. Heiden was not impressed by what he saw: a self-centred demagogue at the
head of what he calls the army of uproated and disinherited." Heiden later recalled: "In 1923, as the leader of
a small democratic organization in the University of Munich, I tried, with all the earnestness of youth, and with complete
lack of success, to annihilate Hitler by means of protest parades, mass meetings, and giant posters."
Konrad Heiden and Hitler
After leaving university he became a journalist
and worked for Frankfurter Zeitung and the Vossischen Zeitung. He was also a member of the German Social Democrat Party (SDP) and remained an active opponent of Hitler. In 1932 he published History of National Socialism. In the book he claimed that Henry Ford gave money to the NSDAP. In the book he recorded he first time he met Hitler. "He came... in a very decent blue suit
and with an extravagantly large bouquet of roses, which he presented to his hostess as he kissed her hand. While he was
being introduced, he wore the expression of a public prosecutor at an execution. I remember being struck by his voice when
he thanked the lady of the house for tea or cakes, of which, incidentally, he ate an amazing quantity. It was a remarkably
emotional voice, and yet it made no impression of conviviality or intimacy but rather of harshness. However, he said hardly
anything but sat there in silence for about an hour; apparently he was tired. Not until the hostess was so incautious as
to let fall a remark about the Jews, whom she defended in a jesting tone, did he begin to speak and then he spoke without
ceasing. After a while he thrust back his chair and stood up, still speaking, or rather yelling, in such a powerful penetrating
voice as I have never heard from anyone else. In the next room a child woke up and began to cry. After he had for more than
half an hour delivered a quite witty but very one-sided oration on the Jews, he suddenly broke off, went up to his hostess,
begged to be excused and kissed her hand as he took his leave. The rest of the company, who apparently had not pleased him,
were only vouchsafed a curt bow from the doorway."
On the morning of Saturday, 19th September, 1931, Geli Raubal, the niece of Adolf Hitler, was found on the floor of her room in the flat. She had been killed by a Walther 6.35 pistol that was owned by Hitler. Konrad Heiden was one of those journalists who suggested that Hitler had murdered Geli. Heiden
was one of the first to suggest that Hitler was having a sexual relationship with Geli: "One day parental relations
to his niece Geli ceased to be parental. Geli was a beauty on the majestic side ... simple in her thoughts and emotions,
fascinating to many men, well aware of her electric effect and delighting in it.... Her uncle's affection, which in the end
assumed the most serious form, seems like an echo of the many marriages among relatives in Hitler's ancestry in its borderline
incestuousness." He also claimed that Hitler was a "sexual pervert" and obtained pleasure from undinism.
Konrad Heiden expelled from Nazi
In his book, History of National Socialism (1932), Heiden tried to explain why Hitler became so popular in Germany: "His utterly logical way of thought is Hitler's
strength. There seems to be no other German politician of the present day who has the moral courage that he possesses to
draw the inevitable conclusions from any given situation, to announce them despite the mockery of those who think they know
better, and above all, to act on them. It is this gift of logic which makes Hitler's speeches so convincing."
It was later claimed that Heiden was a propagandist. The New York Times reported: "To the leaders of the Third Reich. Heiden was a hated and sought-after enemy. One of the Nazis' acts upon
taking over a country was always to ban and burn his books. The writer was a propagandist of a special kind-one who used
objectivity and documents to destroy the object of his derision.... In 1932 his first book, History of National Socialism
was publicly burned by the Nazis, who were then on the brink of gaining power. When they took over... In 1933, he fled."
Heiden also attempted to explain why Hitler was so popular with the German people: "The true aim
of political propaganda is not to influence, but to study, the masses. The speaker is in constant communication with the
masses; he hears an echo, and senses the inner vibration. In forever setting new and contradictory assertions before his
audience, Hitler is tapping the outwardly shapeless substance of public opinion with instruments of varying metals and varying
weights. When a resonance issues from the depths of the substance, the masses have given him the pitch; he knows in what
terms he must finally address them. Rather than a means of directing the mass mind, propaganda is a technique for riding
with the masses. It is not a machine to make wind but a sail to catch the wind. The mass, however, is a phenomenon of deepest
world importance - this levelled conglomeration of fools and wise men, heroes and cowards, proud and humble, the unusual
and the average. This mass, with its anonymous intellectual pressure, its unexpected moods and unconscious desires, mirrors
and echoes the commanding force of prevailing conditions; it embodies and personifies the necessities and resistances of
the objective world; it expresses the silent command of Fate in a mysterious murmur. It is the art of the great propagandist
to detect this murmur and translate it into intelligible utterance and convincing action. If he can do this, his utterances
and actions may be full of contradictions - because the contradictions lie in the things themselves; they may be deceptive
and misleading. The lies of propaganda reveal the deeper truth of the whole world's cynicism and dishonesty. By his lies
the great propagandist involuntarily shows himself to be an honest, self-revealing prophet of the Devil."
Adolf Hitler's "Biographer"
Heiden was forced to flee from Nazi Germany after Hitler gained power. While he was in exile in Switzerland he published Birth of the Third Reich (1934) and Hitler: A Biography (1936). In his book, One Man Against Europe (1937) Heiden argued: "He (Hitler) is a mirror of our time, for his strange personality, with its contradictions of
pathos and unbridled passion, revolt and submission, greatness and depression, is the extreme type of modern man; technically,
highly developed; and socially, profoundly unsatisfied."
Heiden then moved to Paris where he published The New Inquisition (1939). After the invasion of France in May 1940 he fled to Lisbon before finally settling in the United States where he published Der Führer – Hitler's Rise to Power (1944). Richard Overy has argued that the book is a masterpiece: "His (Hitler) account of the seizure of power and the Nazi economic revival
and political consolidation is remarkably modern in tone... Heiden's biography is not intended to be an academic account
of the life of Hitler. It has about it an extraordinary literary power, reflected with exemplary success in the translation.
Few accounts of Hitler can match the vivid imagination and metaphorical richness of Heiden's text."
Konrad Heiden died in New York City on 18th June, 1966.
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