Hitler managed to persuade a German court to hand him a mild 5-year sentence for treason, rather than deporting him or imprisoning him for life. But he’d had to tone down his bigotry for the courts, and his followers were upset.
They needn’t have worried.
Hitler, once his future was secure, was more than happy to return to spouting his poisonous antisemitism. He assured them that his earlier ideas about the Jews were, if anything, “too mild.” He cast the conflict between Jews and Germans as “a question of life and death.” He turned his attention toward spewing venom to Rudolph Hess, who compiled his ravings into the book that would become Mein Kampf. He amped up his exterminationist rhetoric, describing Jews as parasites, freeloaders, “a dangerous bacillus,” maggots, and poisoners. He called for their extermination.
So, remember: if a Nazi or other bigot dials back their rhetoric in the face of legal trouble or social sanctions, don’t trust their change of heart until it’s backed up by subsequent, sustained actions. Watch for them to return to and possibly intensify their previous hateful speech and actions. Once the coast is relatively clear, they will revert to their true selves.
Hitler spent a mere ten months in prison, and once he was released, he set about unifying his followers before reaching out for new ones. He’d learned how to dog whistle. Because more educated people wouldn’t respond as favorably to overt bigotry, and because fomenting hate and violence could get him silenced or deported, he resorted to a more veiled antisemitism. He would speak about “one single enemy.” He used racist humor and metaphors. Continue reading “Part 3: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue”