UC Santa Barbara > History Department > Prof. Marcuse > Courses > Hist 133b Homepage > Hist 133b Book Essays Index page > Student essay

Machtan book cover

"Hitler Revealed "

Book Essay on:
Lothar Machtan, The Hidden Hitler
(New York: Basic Books, 2001), 434 pages
UCSB: DD247.H5 M235 2001

by Samantha Murrell
March 19, 2007

for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
Germany, 1900-1945
UC Santa Barbara, Winter 2007

About the Author
& Abstract
and Links
Plagiarism Warning
$5 & searchable
at amazon

About Samantha Murrell

I am a senior sociology/women’s studies double major and history minor. I find European history fascinating, and this was the first class where I had the opportunity to learn about the early 20 th century through the German perspective. Because I have a background in gender studies and have focused primarily on the social aspects of history, I wanted to learn how Hitler’s homosexuality affected the Nazi movement.

Abstract (back to top)

In The Hidden Hitler Lothar Machtan asserts that Hitler, along with several leading Nazis, was homosexual, and this secret shaped his rise to power and the entire early Nazi movement. Machtan argues that Hitler deeply feared that someone would reveal his dark secret, so he rigorously targeted those who could politically ruin him. Hitler’s persecution mania led to his megalomania, which caused him to zealously carry out plans for world conquest and racial extermination. While no direct documentation exists proving Hitler was homosexual, scraps of information survived Hitler’s purges and reveal the truth Hitler tried so desperately to hide. Machtan examines letters, autobiographies, official documents, memoirs and oral accounts in order to piece together the clues to Hitler’s homosexuality. Although Machtan provides a convincing argument that Hitler was gay, he spends a large majority of the biography merely presenting evidence of Hitler’s homosexuality while never fully explaining why Hitler’s sexuality is important, and how it affected the Nazi regime.

Essay (back to top)

Hitler Revealed:
An Analysis of Lothar Machtan’s The Hidden Hitler

“Ideologically charged homosexual eroticism and sexuality were cornerstones of the fascist male-bonding culture prior to 1933” wrote Lothar Machtan in his biography The Hidden Hitler (Machtan 109). The Hidden Hitler argues that Hitler was homosexual, and this secret shaped his rise to power and the entire Nazi movement. In order to support his argument Lothar Machtan examines letters, autobiographies, official documents, memoirs and oral accounts. Machtan asserts that Hitler deeply feared that someone would reveal his dark secret, and so he rigorously targeted those who could politically ruin him. Hitler’s persecution mania led to his megalomania and obsession with gaining power and prestige, which caused him to zealously carry out plans for world conquest and racial extermination. Although Machtan provides a convincing argument that Hitler was gay, he bases his argument primarily on assumptions and hearsay rather than confirmed facts. More problematically, Machtan spends the large majority of the biography merely presenting evidence of Hitler’s homosexuality while never fully explaining why Hitler’s sexuality is important and how it affected the Nazi regime.

The Hidden Hitler is a biography that pieces together evidence of Hitler’s sexual orientation to show that he was most certainly homosexual. Machtan asserts that no direct documentation proving Hitler was homosexual exists because Hitler was extremely diligent in making sure it was all destroyed. However, scraps of information have survived Hitler’s purges and reveal the truth Hitler tried so desperately to cover.

Machtan begins the biography by describing Hitler’s life before he entered politics. This is when evidence of Hitler’s homosexuality is most telling because Hitler was not yet trying to create an image as a political leader. Throughout the biography it is obvious Hitler surrounded himself almost exclusively with men and had very little women involved in his life. The earliest man Machtan discusses who was significant to Hitler was August Kubizek, Hitler’s boyhood friend. Hitler and Kubizek had a very close relationship that appears homoerotic and even homosexual based upon the evidence Machtan presents. Machtan bases most of the evidence of their homosexual relationship on the biography Kubizek wrote in 1953. Kubizek wrote about his and Hitler’s “intimate” contact such as when Hitler “greeted me in joyful excitement with a kiss and took me straight to his lodgings, where I myself was to spend the first night” (Machtan 40). Even though Kubizek denied any homosexual tendencies in their friendship, these intimate forms of interaction could easily be interpreted to have sexual undertones.

Besides using documented evidence alluding to Hitler’s homosexuality, Machtan also relies on stereotypes of the gay community. Hitler was a fan of Wagner, the opera and relaxing in the countryside. He uses evidence from a sexologist to show how Hitler’s love of the countryside and dark opera houses was similar to many gay men at the time (Machtan 39). It was common knowledge that homosexual men visited Hitler’s rendezvous spot frequently, and Wagner had a cult-like following among gay men (Machtan 39).

Vienna, where Hitler resided for several years, had a prominent homosexual subculture. Although heterosexual people were undoubtedly the majority in Vienna, the fact that there was such a notorious homosexual community is significant to Machtan. While Hitler was in Vienna he struggled financially, and frequently stayed in hostels. Machtan argues that it was an “open secret” that hostels were “hubs of homosexual activity” and uses evidence from a sexologist to support this claim (Machtan 51). While Hitler was staying in these hostels he met several men and became close to a few. Although there is no evidence directly proving Hitler engaged in homosexual relationships, this evidence alludes to Hitler’s homosexual sexual orientation.

After his time in Vienna, Hitler joined the military where exclusively males surrounded him. He met Ernst Schmidt, a man from whom he was nearly inseparable. Machtan believes that Hitler even rejected offers of promotions so he could remain in the same unit as Schmidt. Hans Mend, one of Hitler’s military comrades who knew both Hitler and Schmidt well, published a biography alluding to Hitler’s homosexuality. Because of the potentially damaging evidence in this book, Mend’s house was raided, his book destroyed, and he was eventually charged with “sexual offenses against children” (Machtan 84). Machtan assumes that the criminal charge was part of an operation planned by Hitler to ruin Machtan because of his damaging accusations.

After Hitler’s military service ended, two openly gay men played key roles in Hitler’s ascension to power. One was Ernst Rohm and the other was Dietrich Eckart. Rohm admitted his homosexuality; he told a friend in 1929 “I fancy I’m a homosexual” (Machtan 111). Rohm was impressed with Hitler after a public speech at a DAP rally, and supported Hitler’s political career. Hitler and Rohm became close friends, and sources report a sexual relationship between the two men (Machtan 113). Rohm appointed gay men to key positions within the SA, which resulted in the placement of many homosexuals in prominent positions within the NSDAP.

Not only were there many gay men involved in the early stages of the Nazi party, but there was also a general homoerotic attitude in the party. The Wandervogel movement, which was popular among Nazi leaders, promoted homoerotic relationships between men. Bluher, who published writings on the movement that were read by Hitler, argues that heroic males could only emerge out of male-bonded communities, and they would gain loyalty through their erotically based charisma (Machtan 108). Homoeroticism thus played an integral part in the early years of Hitler’s political career.

Many leading Nazi officials were homosexual in the homoerotic climate of the early NSDAP, but with the growing popularity of the Nazi party and increasing homosexual allegations, Hitler had to purge the party of homosexuals and the people aware of Hitler’s (homo)sexual orientation. Hitler was determined to hide his sexual orientation in order to keep the myth of the “great Fuhrer” intact. Machtan argues that Hitler thought the most efficient way of keeping his sexuality hidden would be to order the murders or incarcerations of people who were aware of his sexual orientation. He targeted people such as SA Commanders Rohm, Ernst, and Heines, as well as intimate friends and senior civil servants like Erich Klausener and Eugen von Kessel, and any other men privy to information regarding Hitler’s sexuality (Machtan 216) . He also enacted the Malicious Practices Act and strengthened Paragraph 175, the measure outlawing homosexuality. Beginning in 1943, merely insinuating that Hitler was homosexual was punishable by death (Machtan 225). He began to maniacally punish anyone who questioned his sexual orientation because he was so determined to keep the truth hidden.

Machtan asserts that Hitler had relationships with women to mask his true sexuality. As long as he had a girlfriend his sexuality was not questioned. These relationships were never romantic or sexually gratifying, and he was never as close to these women as he was to his male friends. In a conversation with Hitler’s interpreter, Eva Braun said, “even the thought of physical contact with me would be, to him [Hitler], a contamination of his mission” (Machtan 315). Hitler was seen as “normal” because of Braun, and their relationship allowed him to hide his sexuality behind a facade of heteronormativity.

Although Machtan’s reliance on stereotypes may be necessary since more straightforward evidence does not exist, his use of stereotypes is also potentially problematic. Machtan often mentions how people describe Hitler as “feminine” or “soft”. He highlights a description of Hitler given by one of his comrades, Ludwig Ebermann, who said, “Hitler returns his salute with raised hand bent far back and little finger extended sideways. There’s something feminine about this salute. Very soft” (Machtan 240). This is based on the common stereotype that gay men are “soft” and “feminine” and therefore lacking masculinity. Although he does cite a sexologist on information regarding the homosexual community in the 1920s for some of his argument, Machtan also relies on modern stereotypes of what activities, behavior, mannerisms, etc equate gay. In modern society, it is frowned upon for men to go to the opera together, spend time together talking about art, or hug and kiss each other. These are all activities in which Hitler and his male friends participated that Machtan uses as evidence for his homosexuality. There is a stark difference between homosocial activities and homosexual activities, and Machtan blurred the distinction between these categories on more than one occasion.

Frequently Machtan presents evidence and then makes assumptions about people’s feelings. In order to support his argument he writes these assumptions as though they were concrete facts. When he discusses Hitler and Braun’s platonic relationship he writes, “anything else [beyond a platonic relationship] would have not only compromised Hitler but dealt an even greater blow to Eva’s womanly self-esteem than the reality of her life already did” (Machtan 315). It is impossible for Machtan to know so unquestioningly that Eva Braun’s life was a blow to her “womanly self-esteem”. This gives the reader a skewed understanding about the topic and provides a blatantly slanted understanding of Hitler’s personal life.

Machtan spends the vast majority of the biography presenting evidence for Hitler’s homosexuality, and expends very little thought on why Hitler’s sexuality actually matters. When he writes about the strengthening of Paragraph 175 he briefly writes about the effect it had on the homosexual subculture. He says that the subculture “was destroyed during the latter half of the 1930s. A campaign of systematic persecution was launched against homosexuals, who were threatened with torture, detention in concentration camps and even death” (Machtan 225). This is virtually the only time he mentions the effect Hitler’s mania and internal homophobia had on the larger gay community. While he goes into extensive detail about Hitler’s personal homosexuality, he only skims the surface of how Hitler’s personal internal struggle affected the homosexual community.

“In the Third Reich homosexuality was simultaneously proscribed and protected” (Machtan 244). Machtan provides a somewhat limited account of homosexuality in the Third Reich because he narrows his topic to Hitler’s life specifically, while only acknowledging the larger implications of Hitler’s personal struggle. However, he provides an insight into who Adolf Hitler really was and some of the defining moments in his life that shaped his leadership and the vision of the Nazi party. Hitler showed an ambivalence towards homosexuality; first Hitler embraced homoeroticism, then he rigorously persecuted homosexuals. Machtan demonstrates how Hitler was confronted with the rumor of his homosexuality and was forced to feverishly reject a part of his own identity. The rejection of his own homosexuality caused him to project this onto society where he ruthlessly persecuted homosexuals. Although this does not pardon his cruel actions, it provides an insight into the motivations of the ruthless dictator.

Bibliography and Links (back to top)(links last checked 3/x/07)

(back to top)

Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi:

Plagiarism—presenting someone else's work as your own, or deliberately failing to credit or attribute the work of others on whom you draw (including materials found on the web)—is a serious academic offense, punishable by dismissal from the university. It hurts the one who commits it most of all, by cheating them out of an education. I report offenses to the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse on 3/20/07; last updated:
back to top, to Hist 133b homepage, 133b Book Essays index page; Prof. Marcuse's Courses page; Professor's homepage