Hitler and the Instinct of Tyranny


In Hitler’s eyes the inequality of individuals and of races was one of the laws of Nature. This poor wretch, often half-starved, without a job, family, or home, clung obstinately to any belief that would bolster up the claim of his own superiority. He belonged by right, he felt, to the Herrenmenschen. To preach equality was to threaten the belief which kept him going, that he was different from the labourers, the tramps, the Jews, and the Slavs with whom he rubbed shoulders in the streets.

Hitler had no use for any democratic institution: free speech, free press, or parliament. During the earlier part of his time in Vienna he had sometimes attended the sessions of the Reichsrat, the representative assembly of the Austrian half of the Empire, and he devotes fifteen pages of Mein Kampf to expressing his scorn for what he saw. Parliamentary democracy reduced government to political jobbery, it put a premium on mediocrity and was inimical to leadership, encouraged the avoidance of responsibility, and sacrificed decisions to party compromises. ‘The majority represents not only ignorance but cowardice. . . . The majority can never replace the man.’

All his life Hitler was irritated by discussion. In the arguments into which he was drawn in the hostel for men or in cafes he showed no self-control in face of contradiction or debate. He began to shout and shower abuse on his opponents, with an hysterical note in his voice. It was precisely the same pattern of uncontrolled behaviour he displayed when he came to supreme power and found himself crossed or contradicted. This authoritarian temper developed with the exercise of power, but it was already there in his twenties, the instinct of tyranny.


  1. Bullock, Alan. Hitler: A Study in Tyranny. New York: Harper & Row, 1964. Print. 40-41.

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Filed under History, Notes on History, Politics

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