Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party, strikes a pose for photographer Heinrich Hoffmann whilst rehearsing and listening to his recorded speech. The album, features black and white images of the Nazi leader in a series of poses, using expressive face and hand gestures, which he would practice and review before addressing the German public.
They capture the meticulous training Hitler undertook to perfect his famous speeches, and give a rare insight into his vanity and controlling personality. Once he saw the pictures, he would decide whether to incorporate the various gestures and poses into his speeches and appearances.
The photos were reportedly taken in 1925, soon after Hitler was released from a nine-month stint in prison during which he dictated his autobiography, Mein Kampf.
After seeing the photographs, Hitler requested Hoffmann to destroy the negatives, but he didn’t obey. They were published in his memoir, “Hitler was my friend”, which came out in 1955. 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.
Roger Moorhouse, a historian who wrote the introduction to the photographer’s book, said:
“It makes perfect sense that he would be doing this. We have this image now of Hitler almost as a buffoon, but he had a lot of charisma and his speeches made people sincerely believe he would lead them back to greatness. He was an absolutely spellbinding public speaker and these pictures show that it was something he worked very hard on.
When you listen to his speeches now, he sounds like a ranting, raving maniac, but we know that it came across in a very persuasive way. These pictures give an important insight into how he practiced. He was a showman and rehearsed his gestures to get a particular reaction from his audiences.
He experimented with his own image and asked Hoffmann to take photographs for him to review. Then he’d look at them and say “no, that looks silly” or “I’m never doing that again”. He used Hoffmann as a sounding board but never intended the images to be published. Hitler was a very modern politician in that way. He was concerned about how he looked and his public persona.”
Egon Hanfstaengl, the son of Hitler’s foreign press officer, said in a documentary, “Fatal attraction of Hitler”: “He had that ability which is needed to make people stop thinking critically and just emote”.
(Photo credit: Heinrich Hoffmann / Life Magazine).