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Hitler Was My Friend: The Memoirs of Hitler's Photographer Hardcover – January 11, 2012
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First printed in 1955 on his release from Allied imprisonment this fly-on-the-wall account by court photographer Heinrich Hoffmann documents Hitler's private life and inner circle. Loathed by Goebbels and Bormann due to his apolitical nature, the author was the Nazi leader's confidant and lightening rod. Hitler Was My Friend becomes increasingly absorbing as the dictator's numerous wartime crises deepen but do not expect insights on the major strategic or operational decisions as Hoffmann was neither present nor involved. - Soldier Magazine
About the Author
Heinrich Hoffman (1885–1957) began his career in his father’s photography shop. He became an official photographer for the army during World War One. He had a very close friendship with Hitler, and remained his official photographer until 1945. Historian Roger Moorhouse is the author of Berlin at War and contributed to He Was My Chief and With Hitler to the End.
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Heinrich was the buddy that Hitler could call at 2:00 AM in the morning to go places and they did so. What is fascinating is that Hoffman does not really fully understand a lot of what is going on until later when someone fills him on the big picture. Heinrich is in demand for special favors from others like the General Staff because he has the ear of the "Fuhrer" and Hitler will often do favors for him when everybody else gets a tongue lashing. Everybody on Hitler's staff is baffled by the relationship between the two but they know that for some unknown reason Hitler turns into a placid and agreeable human being whenever Hoffman is around. So Hoffman becomes the go-to guy for special requests like forestalling Operation Sea Lion and it works. Hitler does not invade England in Sept of 1941. (I am not making this up !) So to most observers Hitler becomes this open minded buddy with Heinrich and actually listens to him whereas at all other times Hitler becomes the implacable and distant Fuhrer.
Because Heinrich was the trusted friend of Hitler and everybody knew it (But nobody could really understand it; it is an enigma to everyone but everyone realizes the phenomena is real; but inexplicably so) he was given requests to do because Hitler trusted him and would listen to Heinrich as someone who did not have political ambitions or ulterior motives. What makes this relationship even more absurd is that Heinrich does not look like a Nazi superman at all. He is short, prone to getting drunk and is quite fat so when you see this image in your mind's eye you think it is the most absurd picture but it is there.) How do you explain it ? My theory is that Hitler just needs someone he can trust, somebody without a real agenda and Hoffman was there at the beginning and Hoffman can get the Fuhrer to laugh. Hoffman in my opinion is the court jester and therefore gets away with being an unofficial adviser to Hitler and one that can get the Fuhrer to laugh at jokes and talk art. Even till the end Hitler trusts Hoffman. Whenever his staff saw that Hitler was depressed which was quite often after the battle of Stalingrad someone would say....."We need to get Hoffman here to cheer up the Fuhrer !"
Heinrich himself is fascinated with Hitler and his so called intuition which was uncanny at least as far as assassination attempts. And this is what makes this memoir important for historians because Hoffman spends a lot of his book trying to explain Hitler's intuition and how it worked. I can think of no other book that deals with this in depth as this book does. Hitler had many enemies; but he seemed oblivious to threats (and he had many enemies especially from the Communists). Hitler often road in an open vehicle in the streets before large crowds before the invasion of Poland in Sept of 1939. Hitler apparently had some inner voice that would literally tell him when to duck. Hitler would even talk to Hoffman about this uncanny ability to dodge bomb attempts, rocks and bullits. Hilter is also mystified by the phenomena and basically admits this ability but doesn't understand it. With Heinrich though, he would reveal that after a near miss he would have a strong premonition that something was not right and step to the left or right and subsequently dodge the threat. There is a chapter in this book about all the missed assassination attempts to kill Hitler and how he seems to always dodge the so called bullit or bomb threat. Hitler talks about this inner voice but doesn't understand it beyond knowing that this intuitive feel is palpable and he trusts it.
The story of how Operation Sea Lion was cancelled is fascinating. According to this account Operation Sea Lion came close to be executed in Sept of 1940. Also Heinrich supports the theory proposed by Victor Suvorov in his books The Chief Culprit and Icebreaker that the invasion of Russia on June 22, 1941 was a preemptive strike against Stalin who was planning to invade Western Europe about the July 1941 time frame. Hitler struck first before Stalin could strike Western Europe. Highly recommended book for the WW II historian.
The book is interesting from a strict historical perspective. Hoffmann provides some quaint and generally unimportant facts and antidotes about Hitler and his entourage. But if you're looking for something more than essentially trivia, this isn't the book for you. However, it does show Hilter is a different light; more of a flesh and blood human being and far from the monster he's often protrayed as. The book has a generous number of pictures to fil out its 250 pages (with Epilogue).
For those who can appreciate the gravity and import of Hitler's effect on history while maintaining a fascination for the facts and details of his life, this book provides a wealth of information untainted by the hatred, affected or otherwise, influencing virtually all other authors. Hoffmann was a photographer with an artist's sensibilities and even as photographs (at least in those days) don't lie, neither did Hoffmanns portrayal of this lightning rod of leftist ire.