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Hitler practices his speech

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Adolf Hitler, in these photos taken by his personal photographer, rehearses gestures intended to look spontaneous while listening to a recording of one his speeches. In 1927, when Heinrich Hoffman took these action shots, Adolf Hitler has already restored the Nazi party to the political significance (just one year after becoming its Führer). The 38-year old was also already a millionaire, thanks to his book Mein Kampf.

The impoverished failed artist had already come a long way, but he had his sights on a bigger price. He carefully cultivated his image as the party leader using the propagandistic value of photographs. Hoffman, Hitler’s good friend and exclusive photographer, captioned it: “Adolf Hitler rehearses supposedly spontaneous gestures while listening to a recording of one of his previous speeches”. The photos undermined the myth of Hitler’s “natural” oratorial skills and Hitler ordered Hoffman to destroy the negatives since they were “beneath one’s dignity”.

Hoffman didn’t and they were published in Hoffmann’s memoirs Hitler was my Friend (1955). In the book was a photo of Hitler wearing glasses (something the dictator also forbade publishing during his lifetime). Hoffmann, who introduced Hitler to his then-studio assistant Eva Braun, survived the war and spent four years in prison for Nazi profiteering. He died in 1957, aged 72.

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[* Initially people were tricked into buying the book: they thought it was a revealing autobiography or an account of the Beer Hall Putsch. From the royalties, Hitler was able to afford a Mercedes while still in prison. He spent years evading taxes, and waived his taxes himself when he became the dictator. After Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, millions of copies were sold (ten million by the end of the war), but mostly to the German government, which purchased six million copies to be given as gifts at weddings, graduations, and birthdays. Before 1939, all the royalties abroad went to Hitler too.

In addition to evading the taxes, Hitler also charged the German government for the right to reproduce his likeness on the stamps, postcards and posters. Following Hoffmann’s suggestion, both he and Hitler received royalties from all uses of Hitler’s image, which made the photographer also rich.]

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

March 12, 2010 at 7:36 pm

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