DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEW of Lothar Machtan’s The Hidden Hitler 


Author (or Editor):  Machtan, Lothar (translated by John Brownjohn, notes translated by Susanne Ehlert)   originally in German

Title: The Hidden Hitler  (The Double Life of a Dictator)

Fiction? Anthology?  

Publisher:  Basic Books

Date: 2001

ISBN:  0-465-04308-9

Series Name:

Physical description: hardbound 434 pages incl. endnotes

Relevance to doaskdotell:  Hitler and homosexuality


The author is a professor of  history in Bremen, Germany. This book appeared in Germany as The Double Life of a Dictator and created quite a stir when Machtan was interviewed on the NBC Today show. There is another book by Scott Lively, The Pink Swastika: Homosexuals and the Nazi Party (Keizer, Oregon: Founders Publishing Company, 1995), that I have not been able to locate. Basic Books is making Machtan’s controversial piece available in a translation for English-speaking readers.

The underlying premise or assertion for argument is rather simple: Hitler was a homosexual, at least a latent homosexual, that some of the cohorts who assisted his rise to power were homosexuals, and then, once in power Hitler, to cover up his “vice,” turned on homosexuals with the most vehement suppression possible under the Third Reich, with the most aggressive possible persecution in the concentration camps and the eventual mark of the “pink triangle.” A quote from Bluher (p. 238) rather sums up the flavor of the argument:

“Where Hitler is concerned, it is not hard to defined this. In his case the diagnosis reads … orientation toward a fraternity. No one who has observed all this and knows it can be in any doubt that Hitler thought and acted homosexually; that he was a definite man’s man [the German is a play on “lady’s man”] who transformed his original male society into a political party, and thus founded a fraternity of unique proportions—a fraternity in which, under Ernst Rohm;s direction, communities of young men and couples linked by erotic friendships played a politically important role of which Hitler was not unaware …

And the circumstantial evidence, documentation of his associations from his time as a failing artist to the early days of his push to power, seems considerable indeed, However there is little evidence that Hitler ever lived a modern urban “gay lifestyle” as one would perceive it today. And military societies often promote deep male bonding while trying to deny such bonding an erotic component—a paradox that our own U.S. military faces today and covered a great length elsewhere on this site. And the folkish ideology that Hitler would develop would become rabidly collectivistic, in a way not convenient for someone influenced by homosexuality in philosophical thinking.

History is always trying to figure out how any of a number of villainous historical figures hijacked a country’s political apparatus and became tyrants. Today, we watch in horror as we discover that Osama bin Laden and others like him (Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il) runs a huge terrorist underground in the third world right under our noses. What motivates these people (power??) and why to others follow them?

The implication of relating Hitler’s rise to his alleged homosexuality would be frightening indeed.  The suggestion would be that the narcissistic nature of male homosexuality and its disassociation with the “natural” urges for procreation impart an evil character that can have the worst consequences. We heard the religious right make such charges in the mid 1980s in conjunction with the AIDS epidemic. Campus Crusade for Christ evangelist Roy Abraham Varghese would make such a claim of homosexuality’s intrinsic “evil” character in a dinner with me in the Dallas Bronx restaurant in 1986.  So the firm establishment of the historical “truth” of Hitler’s homosexuality and its role in developing the Reich would seem to invalidate my own whole life, after the fact. One would be left with arguments about immutability. Except, that it is not likely that historical fact on this matter can ever be made so clear.  Others will present counterevidence, to be sure.  Gays would, at least, become to ultimate victims of the Reich (along with the Jews and others). And there may be a lot of jumping to conclusions in this book.

Nevertheless, there are enough disturbing observations to note.  Hitler was the “spoiled” and rather ungifted artist who was above more mundane occupations. He was “above” more “normal” pursuit of women, perhaps. It is unclear whether he ever consummated sexual intercourse.  In the military, he would not distinguish himself, and would curiously turn down promotions from corporal. There seems to be a problem in some people that they are not satisfied by “normal” courtship and family matters and seek power to justify themselves. But this would be just as likely with someone functionally heterosexual.  Many societies with despotic rulers emphatically punish homosexuality and promote gender roles yet, from a Western perspective, promote arranged family lives that seem psychologically very weak.

I have always wondered what it would have been like to grow up as an impressionable Gentile teenager in late 1930s Nazi Germany.  I can imagine the music slogans of German romanticism and the publication of an “Aryan” physical idea (however unscientific or warped by modern standards) as psychologically quite gratifying to homosexual fantasies.  It’s not a very nice thought. 

But may we need to come back to this.  One’s homosexuality on its own is morally neutral. What one does with one’s homosexuality does have moral significance.

This notion of Hitler and homosexuality took an ugly turn in the Minnesota legislature in the Spring of 2003 when Rep. Arlon Lindner proposed removing sexual orientation from protection in state civil rights laws, and then brought up arguments claiming (subjunctively) first that gays did not suffer in the Holocaust and that, moreover, homosexuality led to the rise of Nazism and the start of Wordl War II, apparently in reference to The Pink Swastika.  He also claimed (subjunctive) that sexual orientation discrimination id important to prevent America’s children from becoming victims of an African-style AIDS epidemic.

One must bear in mind the other side of all of this. The Holocaust Memorial Museum has a traveling exhibition Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945, and this small exhbit makes many points. Homosexuals were regarded as threatening to form self-serving sub-societies (which Machtan says really happened) and blamed for reducing the Aryan birth rate. These are arguments that are surfacing again today (and the “sub-society” argument was used in McCarthyism-era purges of gays from the federal government.)

See also note 7a.  Bent   Read also Richard Plant” The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals and Scott Lively, co-author of The Pink Swastika: Homosexuals and the Nazi Party 

Related reviews: Movies: The Hidden Fuhrer: Blind Spot; Paragraph 175



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