About a year before Hitler organized the Beer Hall Putsch, some curious personalities appeared in his entourage, and historians have still been unable to determine the origin of the sums of money that they brought with them. The cash flowed in from many sides. In addition to the French and English “Swiss” money, American money also fell into Adolf Hitler’s pockets. All the same, the powers were searching for political figures in Germany in 1922, someone who could be used depending on the situation: to change objectionable politicians, carry out assassinations and provocations. No one was thinking of putting Hitler in power yet. Before Munich, hardly anyone had heard of him.
Therefore, U.S. Military Attaché in Germany Capt. Truman-Smith initially met with others – retired General Ludendorff, who had commanded the Wermacht in WWI and Crown Prince Ruprecht. They told the American about the new rising star. On November 20, 1922, the captain met with the future Fuhrer in his skuzzy second-floor apartment[William Shearer “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”]. Hitler was quite candid with the American. Obviously, if the military attaché was getting into politics – not cannons and rifles – then his range of duties was wider than to handle simple military matters. The still unknown leader of the small local Bavarian party spoke about his intention to “eliminate Bolshevism,” “throw off the shackles of Versailles,” establish a dictatorship, create a strong government. In fact, taking advantage of the rare occasion when American intelligence would come to him in person, Hitler offered himself as the “sword of civilization” in the fight against Marxism – meaning against Russia!
The proposal was timely – these fanatics could come in handy anytime. For now, of course, it was not the time to fight the Russians, but this guy was worth a look. Returning from Berlin, Truman-Smith gave a detailed report, which the embassy sent back to Washington on November 25, 1922. But, the trouble was that the official military attaché of the United States could not engage so actively with a German politician in accordance with his diplomatic status. The Yankees, however, found Hitler so promising that they put the future Fuhrer in touch with a contact in American intelligence on the spot. The Nazi leader invited the diplomat to his next rally, but Truman-Smith did not go himself. He instead sent his “buddy” Ernst Sedgwick Hanfstaengl. Hanfstaengl was the son of a successful art dealer and had dual U.S. – German citizenship. He was born in Bavaria, and graduated from Harvard University in 1909. The half-German tranquilly spent the whole of WWI in America. Not only was he, as a German citizen, not arrested – even after the United States declared war on Germany – but after promising “not to engage in any anti-American activities,” he was left alone. Why? Because his lawyer, was U.S. Secretary of State Theodore Roosevelt! [Hanfstaengl: “Hitler: The lost years”]
But, when Germany lost the war, Hanfstaengl immediately hurried to his native country. In a devastated Germany caught in the grips of violent inflation, the life of Ernst “the American” was an island of prosperity and abundance. He always had money, but the income sources were not completely transparent: the cursed inflation had totally destroyed his father’s business. The “official” version attributes his well being to some art gallery in America. A convincing explanation that was totally unverified, which means it was very convenient…
Having received the invitation to take part in Hitler’s rally. Hanfstaengl immediately “was filled with sympathy for him” and the two became fast friends. He even wrote his last two memoirs entitled My Friend Adolf, My Enemy Hitler and Hitler: the Lost Years. I recommend everyone reads these books. Why? Not due their particular literary style, but for the sake of the significant facts they put forth. It turns out that vanity is not only a characteristic of poets and artists, generals and writers. Intelligence officials also commit this sin. Therefore, they take their time as they get older to write a modest little book, in which, of course they do not tell the whole truth. Instead, they sprinkle it with well known facts and obscure details in order to show the “thoughtful reader” that the author had secretly made history without anyone previously noticing – helping the strange fanatic called Adolf Hitler.
And he had stuff to write about. At a towering two-meters tall, Ernst earned the nickname “Putzi” among the Nazis, meaning “kid” (and “funny” and “amusing”). Under this name he entered German history books in the Nazi movement. Historians remember nothing, and paint Hanfstaengl as a joker, forgetting that such a role is the most convenient for the hidden influence of a puppet master.
Putzi’s true value in forming the Nazi’s into a party and Hitler into a leader is still not fully appreciated. The pianist, Hanfstaengl, brought the uncouth corporal into Munich’s elite, as well as its artistic and literary circles. Contacts like Hanfstaengl’s family gave Hitler much needed respectability and helped him to establish important relationships. In essence, Putzi and his wife Helen were the first well-to-do family that opened their doors to him. Above all, they were his first branding and image-making team. Hitler learned how to act in high society and acquired the proper manners.
The Hanfstaengl villa was always open to him, and there, the future fuehrer not only played the piano of his beloved Wagner, but also picked up some money. Putzi Hanfstaengl was rich and could afford to help out a novice politician – to direct, and put on the right path. In this memoirs, Hanfstaengl openly and honestly states the ideas he engrained into the evolving fuehrer: “If there’s another war, whoever has America on their side will win. The only sensible policy that you should follow is friendship with the United States. If they Americans end up on your enemy’s side, you will lose any war…” [Hanfstaengl: “Hitler: The lost years”]
It should be noted that this sermon was not addressed to a head of state or governmental leader, but rather to a still totally unknown chief of a fringe organization. Thanks to the editor who wrote the introduction to Hanfstaengl’s book, he formulated the “buffoon”’s thoughts effectively in brief: “His thesis was that Germany would never find balance and greatness again without rapprochement with Britain and especially the United States. The fundamental point that he tried to affix in Hitler’s brain was that all thoughts of settling scores in Europe would be illusory if the two maritime powers join the opposing side.”[ibid]
Good thinking. And if you develop these ideas further, we end up with the following: you have to befriend England and the U.S and fight Russia. Where else have we heard this sound reasoning … somewhere … But where? From Hitler himself in Mein Kampf! The result is quite interesting: in 1923, Hanfstaengl holds a series of geopolitical discussions with Hitler, enlightening the future fuehrer and expanding his horizons. And already in 1924, “the student” writes his own book, word for word repeating the thesis of his friend. So who is the real author of Mein Kampf? It turns out it was an American spy.
If anyone still doubts why and for what Adolf Hitler met Ernst Hanfstaengl “by chance”, just read his book, and all the doubts will erase themselves. Far too much in it hints to just for whom the Nazi’s wealthy American “friend” was working. Hitler was no doubt a gifted orator. But this gift had to be developed and tweaked, and Ernst Hanfstaengl inspired confidence in his friend, Adolf, raising his oratorical talents to even greater heights: “I told him about the effectiveness of expressive sayings in American political life, and explained how it strengthened and sharpened headlines, churning out ideas with a phonetic, alliterative effect.” [Hanfstaengl: “Hitler: The lost years”]
Hitler agreed. He absorbed it all like a sponge. “In many ways, Hitler was still malleable and obedient,”[ibid] Hanfstaengl wrote. But, in developing his oratorical talent, Hitler asked his teacher a reasonable question:
“You are absolutely right. But how can I get through to the German people, without the press? The newspapers totally ignore me. How can build on my success as an orator with our pitiful Volkischer Beobachter, which comes out with my speeches only once a week? We will not achieve anything until it prints daily.”[ibid]
And in the square, November 1923, Hitler would attempt a coup. But to gain support among the masses, you need propaganda. And to propagandize, you need money. But, alas, money was nowhere to be found. It might have never been found, as the future fuehrer stepped forward to speak during the beer festival in Munich, had he not remembered the saying “a friend in the market is better than money in the chest.”
Adolf Hitler did not have a friend in the market, but he did have one truly rich pal named Ernst Hanfstaengl, and that was enough, for it was him who provided the propaganda money! “In March 1923, Hanfstaengl gave Hitler a loan of $1,000 — crazy money in those days.”[Konrad Heiden: “Der Führer”]
Don’t be deceived by the word loan. There are plenty of reasons to believe that Hitler was in no hurry to pay Putzi back, and $1,000 at that time really was crazy money! In fact, one thousand, or even one dollar, according to Hanfstaengl was a fortune! [Hanfstaengl: “Hitler: The lost years”]
With the money from their American benefactor, the Nazis bought a new printing machine for their newspaper, the Volkischer Beobachter. Hitler’s paper was no longer a little bulletin – it was a normally formatted newspaper and was running every day! But Hanfstaengl did not stop with the creation of the Nazis’ primary mouthpiece. He personally attracted the cartoonist Schwartzer to work on a new header and caps, and also suggested a new motto for the paper – “Work and Bread.”[ibid]
Having put the Nazi press in motion, Hanfstaengl turned to helping Hitler with small, but very important matters. It was he that explained to his friend Adolf how important it was to have the right type of music to energize the crowd and pump up their enthusiasm. As an example, Putzi played Harvard fight songs for the fuehrer and Hitler even “made the Storm trooper orchestra rehearse the melody.” Hanfstaengl then personally composed a dozen new tunes for Storm trooper marches![ibid] And it was to the tune of these “triumphant marches,” written for Americans, that Stormtroopers would march under the Brandenburg Gates on the day that Hitler became chancellor.
On this matter, Hanfstaengl concealed the fact that he aided the Nazis by transferring them money. He wrote about this a few times in his memoirs: “I decided that I would secretly support the National Socialist Party”; “I … understood that any assistance I give, must be done in secret”; “I still kept my aid to the Nazis entirely secret and could not afford any rumblings about it.”[ibid]
Why did he have to hide it? His explanation was very unconvincing: “I was a member of the family business.” What was Hanfstaengl doing in Germany that was so important that could walk the streets with Adolf Hitler, but not help him with money? What else was Hanfstaengl up to, other than teaching Hitler, sponsoring him, and accompanying him on business trips? It’s difficult to tell from his memoirs. The author was mum on his commercial dealings.
However, he did not forget to tell us how, on his first visit to his friend Adolf’s apartment, he became acquainted with his bookshelf. Would you be interested to know what the head of a political party was reading in his spare time? Probably so. If you looked at his shelf, would you remember the titles? You probably would have recognized and remembered a few. But, in writing your memoirs 20 years later, an exact list would be difficult to recollect. But, Ernst Hanfstaengl was such a great friend of the Nazi leader, than he did something rather unusual for most. “The books were so diverse. Finding the time, I made an inventory,” [Hanfstaengl: “Hitler: The lost years”] wrote the American. Such behavior is strange for the average person, natural for an intelligence officer.
One is left with the distinct impression, that contact with Hitler, and gathering information about him was Hanfstaengl’s full-time job, and all his other activities appear to be nothing more than a cover. Indeed, for example, Hanfstaengl was supposedly spent an entire year writing a screenplay, but this film was never shot. Why? Because Putzi was not working a screenplay at all. He was meticulously and systematically engaged in one thing – preparing Germany’s future fuehrer. A story about filmmaking would easily fend off potential questions about his occupation. After all, such a profession didn’t exist at the time – helping Hitler.
“The party was always short of money,”[ibid] Hanfstaengl wrote. So why did not the six-foot friend and sponsor give two, or three, or ten thousand dollars, if his ulterior motive was to prop up the novice Hitler? Very simple: he was rich, but by no means the millionaire that his “legend” suggested, and he could not sacrifice more than what a rich bourgeois could afford “for the cause.” One thousand dollars, no problem. Ten thousand – no. But he could making important introductions and advise. On the eve of the putsch, Hitler went to Switzerland – long a nest of spies from every country of the world – for money. I wonder if it was his kind friend who sent him there?
That remains unknown, but another fact is demonstrably true: after the failure of the putsch, Hitler came running to Hanfstaengl’s house in the village of Uffing about 60 km from Munich.[Desmond Seward: :Napoleon and Hitler”] In desperation, his hysterical nature came to its limits. Seeing no other alternative, Adolf Hitler decided to kill himself and put a revolver to his temple. As we know, he didn’t go through with it. To whom do we owe our sincerest thanks for rescuing the life of the most abominable monster in history? — Hanfstaengl’s wife. She knocked the revolver out of Hitler’s hand. Hitler was later arrested at Hanfstaengl’s house and taken to prison where he began to work Hanfstaengl’s thoughts into a book. The Fuhrer’s first act of freedom after leaving prison was to go not to Hering or Rosenberg, but to the Hanfstaengl’s new house across the Isar River…
The Hanfstaengl couple managed to save Hitler’s life twice. The first time was in the spring of 1923 during a road trip to Berlin. The road went through Saxony, and Communists had in effect taken over the region. Therefore, in this part of Germany, there was warrant for Hitler’s arrest and “even a price on his head.” The Communist police stopped their car, and the Fuhrer’s life held in the balance. At that moment, Hanfstaengl extended his Swiss passport (which he used to return to Germany from the U.S.) and explained that he was a foreigner heading to the Leipzig market escorted by a chauffer and lackey. “You saved my life,” Hitler said at the time. In the following years, he always recalled that day with great appreciation. However, Hanfstaengl himself wrote that “he was nevertheless offended that I called him my lackey.”
The grateful Hitler would not forget his friend and subsequently appointed him to the key post of foreign press secretary of the party. Furthermore, Putzi headed the foreign press division in the Fuhrer’s deputy’s office. In trips abroad, he heavily promoted the new German political class.
A skeptic would say that proves nothing and he would be right! But there are much more interesting facts in Hanfstaengl’s biography. For a modest press secretary, Hanfstaengl had some truly unbelievable contacts and acquaintances.
In the summer of 1932, an extremely influential British politician came on a personal visit – Winston Churchill. One curious episode emerged later in Sir Winston’s memoirs: “In the hotel, Regina, a gentleman introduced himself to someone in my entourage. His surname was Hanfstaengl and he spoke at length about the Fuhrer, with whom he was apparently very close. Since he seemed a jovial and talkative person, and moreover spoke impeccable English, I invited him to lunch. He was exceptionally interesting in talking about Hitler’s activities and views; he seemed totally enthralled by him. In all likelihood, he was assigned to make contact with me and clearly tried to make a good impression. After lunch, we took great pleasure as he sat at the piano and deftly played through so many theatre numbers and songs. It seemed he knew all of my favorite English songs, and he was adept at keeping everyone entertained. As it turned out, he was the Fuhrer’s closest confidante. He told me I should meet Hitler and to arrange it, nothing would be easier[Winston Churchill: “Second World War”].”
Sir Winston presented the episode as if a random acquaintance tried to introduce him to the Fuhrer. Hanfstaengl’s side of the story reads quite differently: “I spent a good deal of time in the company of his son Randolph (son of Churchill – N.S.) over the course of our pre-election trips. I even arranged for him to fly with us one or two times. He brought to my attention that his father would soon arrive in Germany and that we should organize a meeting. [Hanfstaengl: “Hitler: The lost years”]”
You will agree that after this fraternization with his son, who took a few flights organized by Hitler and Hanfstaengl, that Putzi to him was something more than “a gentleman who introduced himself to someone in my entourage.” But, one way or another, the Churchill agreed to the meeting: “At the time I did not have any national prejudice against Hitler. I knew little of his doctrine or personal qualities. I am enthralled by people who rise to the defense of their defeated native lands, even if I myself am on the other side. He had the total right to be a German patriot, if he so desired. [Winston Churchill: “Second World War”]”
But who charged Hanfstaengl with “making contact” with the British politician? Who ordered him to organize a meeting between the two great leaders? Hitler himself? No. The Fuehrer did not ask him to establish this connection because he didn’t even go to the meeting with Churchill, in spite of Ernst Hanfstaengl’s many persuasions! “Thus, Hitler missed his only opportunity to meet me,”[ibid] Churchill lamented. A serious politician cannot act that way – first request a meeting with one of the leading politicians of the most powerful country in the world and not show up. That’s childish and foolish. Half of a year later, Hitler would seize power, and he would never make Churchill’s personal acquaintance. It turns out that it was not the Nazis who ordered Hanfstaengl to introduce Hitler to Churchill, but rather the same intelligence service that so deftly turned Adolf Hitler into the rising star of German politics. Otherwise, why would he know Churchill’s son, and why would they drag him along for the pre-election flights?
There is only one answer: all of Hanfstaengl’s activities were meant to convince Hitler of the necessity of friendship with England and the United States, and in order to do so, he pushed Hitler towards the strongest men on God’s green Earth. Indeed, even the Fuhrer’s absence did not prevent the British lord from discussing several very sensitive subjects. With whom? With Hanfstaengl. “Say, what does your boss think about an alliance between France, England and your country?”[Hanfstaengl: “Hitler: The lost years”] Churchill asked.
And why did the old fox Winston come to Germany in the first place, if not to personally have a look at the man that would in six months become Germany’s head of state?
Hitler’s friend still did a lot of good for him. For example, in February 1934, he left without the Fuhrer’s consent to meet with … Benito Mussolini. The modest press secretary’s mission was to nudge El Duce to normalize relations. It is just not right, Hanfstaengl told him, that “such difficulties can exist between our two Fascist states[ibid].” As we know from history, it was at precisely at that moment that the rapprochement between the two dictators began. It is worthwhile to pause and ask another question here: how in the world did Hanfstaengl know how to get an appointment with the head of Italy? Really any German who arrives in Italy is immediately welcomed with Chianti and an invitation to speak with Mussolini? Our hero’s title was not nearly high enough to receive such treatment.
But Hanfstaengl’s connections were truly fantastical. If, while leafing through Putzi’s gripping memoirs your thoughts stray to the adventures of Baron von Munchausen and his tall tales, you are mistaken. Because even if the account of Putzi’s visit to Mussolini is difficult to believe, there is concrete evidence of Hanfstaengl’s improbable powers. After having done so much for the Reich, he left Germany in March 1937. More precisely, snuck out, supposedly after getting into conflict with some in Hitler’s inner circle and felt his life was threatened.
And where did our hero run off to? – to his native America. There, it seems he had one more good friend, a Harvard classmate – U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt! What would become of our German protagonist who worked for Hitler as the party’s secretary to the foreign press? What of the fact that in that post, he laid wreaths in the United States at memoirs adorned with the eagle and swastika?
During the Second World War, Hanfstaengl would work … as an advisor to President Roosevelt! [William Shearer “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”]
Officially, he was an expert on Nazi Germany. He worked under arrest – meaning under guard. Ernst Hanfstaengl was guarded by American Army Sergeant Egon Hanfstaengl. Odd coincidence? No, it was his son, who was whisked away from Germany at just the right time to guard Daddy by personal order of the president! What a friendship, which lasted until the Nazis were strong and in power. It was not necessary to help, direct or advise any further. They had the war thanks to those who sought out Hitler, thanks to Hanfstaengl’s labors, who was also at hand. But perhaps, the “contract” simply expired? This portion of history remains dark, along with all of Hitler’s rise to power.
ORIENTAL REVIEW publishes exclusive translations of the chapters from Nikolay Starikov’s documentary research ““Who Made Hitler Attack Stalin” (St.Petersburg, 2008).