Monster Theory: Adolf Hitler

“Monster” is a concept that is deeply integrated into the social environment. That is why the prevailing culture, historical context, and even relationship with other communities may shape the perception of what should be seen as monstrous and not. Today, people of the world unanimously condemn the deeds of Adolf Hitler, calling him a monster. However, less than a century ago almost the entire population of Germany saw him as almost a demigod. The difference between these two perceptions can tell a lot about the human culture. This paper will compare and contrast the cultural perspective on Hitler which is widely spread today and which was spread in the 1930’s in Germany, taking into consideration historical context, relationship with other nations, the dominant culture in the light of theses developed by Jeffrey Cohen in his article “Monster Culture: Seven Theses”.

The first point that should be considered focuses on the historical context. A number of historians believe that the content of the Treaty of Versailles was humiliating for Germany as the guilt for the war was put entirely on to this particular country (Slavicek 94). Quite naturally, this sparked the desire to retaliate. This is exactly what Adolf Hitler used to appeal to the masses. One of the these that Cohen came up with was “Fear of the Monster is Really a Kind of Desire” (21). It is obvious that many found his speeches quite provocative at the time. However, the majority of people followed him because this bold man was saying what everyone was thinking. As a result, when the support of Hitler became wide, people decided that they could openly support him since “everyone else was doing it”. Thus people suspected some of his beliefs as unethical, but secretly desired them. So, supporting Hitler for them was a way to satisfy their desires without being judged. Another point that should be mentioned with this regard is that the majority of people wanted to wait and see what will happen to his political career. Being an eloquent speaker, Hitler quickly became the head of the NSDAP and this boosted his credibility in the eyes of the people. In other words, the intolerant statement that he was making were justified to a certain extent by his high position in the party.

Obviously, when the scholars look back at that period of time, everything seems to be clear and simple. One would make no mistake that many people in the 1930s in Germany knew that Hitler was simply promising what the audience wanted to hear. However, it is virtually impossible for the modern people to recreate the state of mind of those who lived at that time because today the Treaty of Versailles and the beginning of the World War One is a part of distant history, but for them, it was recent past. Therefore, it seems that out contemporaries and those who lived in Germany literally saw Hitler from different perspectives. They saw him as a person who was able to return the order of things to how they were before the Great War: he strengthened the army, centralized power, and annexed territories that were considered to be German. That is why for may his actions were seen as positive because they restored the balance since after World War I many Germans believed that they country was humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles.

The next point that should be mentioned focuses on the relationship with other nations. Cohen states a thesis, according to which “The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference”. This is quite insightful since puts emphasis on some of the most important parts of Hitler’s political platform. Even before he became the head of a powerful political party, he made anti-Semitic statements, often blaming the Jews for the failure of Germany. Moreover, he believed that the Jews were not worthy to be citizens of the new German state. It is worth mentioning that as his power increased, the manifestation of his xenophobia increased as well: it includes everyone who was different from the ideal of an Aryan. Ironically, neither Hitler nor his inner circle resembled the Aryans that were depicted in propaganda. Nevertheless, the justification of racial supremacy was supported by science and soon all people believed that they were representatives of a master race. Another point that should be mentioned is that even among the Germans there were people who were more Aryan than others. This resulted in eugenics and help create an exclusive group of people within the German nation. So, it is clear that xenophobia of Hitler is exactly what contributed to his monstrous image.

Now it may be useful to focus on the cultural significance of the impact that Hitler had. When people assess the actions of this politician today, they mostly focus on the negative elements. It is obvious that the greatest “accomplishment” of Hitler is Holocaust: one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the human race. The latter is also seen as the extreme manifestation of lack of tolerance. Nowadays, when diversity and inclusion have become aspects that are widely spread, it is obvious that discriminatory practices of the Third Reich seem to be barbaric. For example, today people are proud that they can belong to several different races, many try to trace their ancestry as far as possible. However, in Nazi Germany, any inclusion of foreign blood, let alone Jewish blood, could result in a stigma that would have a negative impact on the life of a person, possibly leading to death camps.  That is why it is this dramatic contrast between intolerance of the past and appreciation of diversity that makes the figure of Hitler even more monstrous.

Finally, one should take a look at the role that dominant culture plays in identifying a monster. Cohen came up with a thesis which states that “The Monster’s Body is a Cultural Body”. Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that Hitler was able to achieve the peak of its monstrous nature because he was fully immersed in the culture that approved of this kind of behavior. In many ways, he is a self-made man: Hitler rose from being a poor unemployed painter to a leader of one of the strongest European nations. At every step of his career, he promoted a culture that favored strong will and adherence to one’s principles. Ultimately, it became the ideology of the Third Reich. So, when people evaluated the actions of Hitler, their assessment was biased because they looked at him through the prism of the culture of the Third Reich which approved of everything that Hitler did.  It is worth keeping in mind that there was cult of his personality at the time (Williamson 88). So, people had to comply with it.

Today, when the dominant culture of German has changed dramatically, it becomes obvious that even the image of Hitler performing Nazi salutation is seen as one of the most disgraceful elements of the past. It would not be an exaggeration to point out that the Germans did everything they could to eliminate all connections to the Third Reich, ultimately excluding this page from their history by systematic actions (Williamson 14). In other words, the Germans extracted Hitler and his legacy from the cultural body and tried to distance themselves from him as much as possible. As a result, Hitler is now perceived as a part of an alternative Germany that is not related to the country that exists today.

Having examined all the points that were mentioned in the paragraphs above, one is able to come to the following conclusion: the perception of Hitler as a monster is largely supported by the dramatic differences in historical context, relationship with other nations, and the nature of the dominant culture. Thus, people who lived in Nazi Germany approved of his desire to retaliate, they were ready to accept discriminatory practices towards other races, and, most of all, those people lived in the culture that favors actions that Hitler performed. However, today everything has changed dramatically: World War I is a part of distant past, diversity and inclusion are widely supported, and the Germans were able to extract that period from their cultural body. This contrast is what makes Hitler a monster and what makes the humanity remember him.

Works Cited

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster theory: Reading culture. St. Paul, MN: U of Minnesota Press, 1997. Print.

Slavicek, Louise Chipley. The Treaty of Versailles. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 2010. Print.

Williamson, D. G. The Third Reich. London: Routledge, 2013. Print.

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[Accessed: April 1, 2020]

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