WW2 People

|   19 January 2011

Hitler and aging

Our journey

It was my birthday this week – which is not a cause for wild jubilation once you are over forty five in my experience, and, unfortunately, I am most certainly over forty five.

But it got me thinking about how our understanding changes as we age. And that in turn made me think about the research I am doing on Hitler at the minute. Hitler was terrified that he might die before his ambitions could be accomplished. And that fear increased exponentially as he aged. Indeed, one of the reasons why he rushed into war was a fear that he might not be fit enough in years to come to lead Germany. He was also a terrible hypochondriac, constantly thinking that an upset stomach was the first sign of cancer. Because he thought he was sent by ‘providence’ to rule Germany, he no doubt was furious that ‘providence’ had not made him immortal.

I remember first reading about Hitler’s attitude to aging more than twenty years ago. And at that time I was unable to comprehend how anyone could be so concerned about getting old. In fact, I thought ‘old’ people almost certainly didn’t mind getting old – after all, ‘old’ people weren’t like me at all, they were some strange tribe who seemed unable to keep up with the latest fashion. I thought – and I know many of my friends thought the same as well – that you suddenly, at some distant point in the future, changed into a different person, an ‘old’ person, who was utterly unlike your youthful self. The idea that you would be essentially the same person, just old, seemed impossible. But, as everyone discovers, it is perfectly possible.

Still, I suppose the best way of reacting to all this is to remember the words of Socrates: ‘enjoy yourself – it’s later than you think.’

One Response to “Hitler and aging”

  1. lisset158 says:

    Hitler’s mother died of cancer and that certainly left a mark on him reminding him that he too was flesh and blood with all the frailties that come with that terrible reality.
    I had previously posted as a comment that Hitler would today be viewed as “a personality disorder” , and what you say would go hand in glove with that.
    His own rather grandiose ideas about himself – he became a victim of his own propaganda in “the Fuhrer Cult” as he was “marketed and sold” as a political entity and a man of destiny, “God’s gift to Germany”.
    Increasingly his own views and perceptions were shaped by others to become the reality he lived in and this in itself spoon fed him what he believed and wanted to hear.
    ( The Nazi regime was a corrupt gravy train upon which many rode and fed, the radical answers brought by many led to advancement and career opportunity).
    His fear of time running out on him and trying to cram a lifetimes work into what time he had left , his new capital , his war, changing Germany for 1,000 years – all reasonable to him .
    His age and aging all part of the same world view – that of AH.
    Not mad , not clinically insane but certainly someone today would would come into contact with psychiatry – his again fears just another expression of a flawed individual.