As Hitler shouted his way up the political ranks in Germany, the Guardian and Observer misjudged the extent of his early influence, writes Sir Ian Kershaw
By the time the Nazi party came to prominence by winning 107 seats (18.3% of the votes) in the Reichstag election of September 14 1930, British newspapers could not ignore Hitler and his movement. But, as Brigitte Granzow showed long ago in her book, A mirror of Nazism, the reportage was replete with distortions and misinterpretation.
In an article on September 21 that year, the Observer echoed the widely held belief on the left that Hitler was the creature of big capital. It saw the real dangerman not as Hitler, but as the media tycoon and leader of the German National People's party, Alfred Hugenberg. The "Hugenberg manoeuvres", it stated, had aimed to promote both Communists and Nazis as a vehicle to weaken the organised working classes. "Hugenberg, and not Hitler, will ultimately call the Nazi tune."
A week later, the newspaper dismissed Hitler as "dramatic, violent and shallow", and "a lightweight", seeing him as "not a man, but a megaphone" of the prevailing discontent, fronting a militarist reaction, which would mean the destruction of peace. The newspaper went on to claim, remarkably, that Hitler was "definitely Christian in his ideals", and, even more strangely, that these matched the ideals of German Catholics.
Gerald D. Feldman, Historian of the Nazis and Finances, Dies at 70
Dr. Feldman was part of a team of international historians that found documents proving that Deutsche Bank had financed the building of Auschwitz.