I recently watched a new mini-series on the rise of Adolf Hitler and learnt an insight that hadn't been apparent in other material I had read and watched on the era:

There were many proto-fascists in the aftermath of the Great War, but Hitler rose out of the general milieu almost solely due to his oratory skill. Put simply he was a great recruiter for the DAP and then the NSDAP; and so could name his own terms in the party.

Was oratory was considered Hitler's fundamental political strength by his contemporaneous friends and foes?

Because most documentaries don't touch on the matter very deeply. Which I now wonder may have been because acknowledging it would have to acknowledge that a generation of people had to have met him half-way on the road to evil.

  • site guidelines: questions are not to ask for sources Commented May 7, 2014 at 14:32
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    @Tyler Durden I have to disagree with you here - I personally like the question. It treads a line close to asking for references but IMO stays on the right side of it and the OP is asking if there is any consensus on the issue. That's just my opinion though.
    – Kobunite
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 14:59
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    @TylerDurden It is a subjective question if oratory is a subjective skill; the infamy of the individual in question shouldn't matter one way or other. Suppose I had asked "Is there any historical consensus that oratory was Winston Churchill's fundamental wartime strength?" would you honestly say that the question couldn't be answered by historians? That historians haven't written "Churchill's strength was X" or "Churchill's strength wasn't X because of Y"? Commented May 8, 2014 at 2:29
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    The difference between opinion and fact is whether information (preferably falsifiable) exists on a topic. While 'I don't know myself' is a perfectly legitimate personal stance, it profoundly differs from whether the information exists elsewhere. Otherwise we have a hidden stack requirement of: Don't ask questions we don't know the immediate answer to. Commented May 8, 2014 at 2:30
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    @TylerDurden On a side note: If answers may provide references if they feel like it (for bonus rep) but questions must not imply that historiography involves said sources - then we have a very coy requirement on how questions are to be worded. Perhaps to avoid scaring off people that only want to answer low hanging fruit. Frankly primary sources are only a bonus and given the intense study of the Third Reich, not a hard one. But you can't have it both ways - a question can not be both 'opinion based' and asking for 'source material'. Commented May 8, 2014 at 2:43

1 Answer 1


Goebbles wasn't the only one admiring Hitler for his rhetorical talent.

Shortly after the Grande War he participated in anti-Bolshevik courses ("antibolschewistischen Aufklärungskursen") in Munich. Those courses had the expressed purposes of schooling their pupils rhetorically so they could spread anti-communist propaganda in the German Army.
Hitler was sent there because his superiors considered his oratory skills superior.

There is a discussion about whether Hitler was a covert agent ("V-Mann") under the commando of Karl Mayr to spy on communist and spartakist groups in Munich - Hitler himself stated in Mein Kampf that he was send to the German Worker's party ("Deutsche Arbeiterpartei") while assigned to Mayr unit (where the courses were held).
He participated in an discussion among DAP members which convinced the leader of the DAP to push Hitler to become a member.

A few years later (In the mean time he left the Army and made his income as public speaker) Hitler - now in the original NSDAP - was profiled by the New York Times.

He has the rare oratorical gift, at present unique in Germany, of spellbinding whole audiences regardless of politics and creed.
Hitler's strength is in the combination of his undeniable great gifts as an orator and organizer.
The New York Times, November 1922 http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9A0CE0D91E3EEE3ABC4951DFB7678389639EDE

About a year later there was the failed coup which lead to a brief sting in prison and the writing of Mein Kampf.

In that he states

Everything I have accomplished I owe to persuasion

Theater and literary people like Tucholsky and Orwell could not dispute his rhetorical skills

The man does not really exist. He is only the noise that he produces.
("Den Mann gibt es gar nicht; er ist nur der Lärm, den er verursacht.")
Kurt Tucholsky - So verschieden ist es im menschlichen Leben!, Die Weltbühne

Hitler could not have succeeded against his many rivals if it had not been for the attraction of his own personality, which one can feel even in the clumsy writing of Mein Kampf, and which is no doubt overwhelming when one hears his speeches.
George Orwell, Review of Mein Kampf

An psychology evaluation also found that the most important reason for his rise was his talent for public speaking.

but he became for a while the most powerful individual in the world, primarily by the use of mass-intoxicating words.
OSS Pyschology review from 1943 - http://library2.lawschool.cornell.edu/oldsite/2007/donovan/hitler/Hitler-Section1.pdf

  • I'm actually not that happy with this answer as I have found no political figures outright stating that oratory was the most important aspect - I'm sure Hindenburg or other SPD persons and probably many more would have interesting views on this subject
    – user45891
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 18:29
  • Overall it is a very good answer with several people noting Hitler's oratorical skill. If any political rival observed this quality in Hitler, they may not have discussed it in public to avoid boosting their opponent. Their post-war memoirs might be a different story; depending on whether their publishers felt "sorry, y'all got duped by words" was a tolerable insight in the 1950s. Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 22:58

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