Some interesting anecdotes about Hitler from Unity and Diana Mitford (Oswald Mosley's wife) who spent a lot of time with him before the war. Diana in her memoirs notes that Unity spent much more time with her, but she nonetheless recollects her own memories to construct a picture of what Hitler was like.
Diana and Unity first met Hitler in 1935, Unity in February and Diana in March. Diana gives the impression that Unity was much more excited than she was to meet the Fuhrer, and tells us how Unity would often frequent the Osteria Bavaria (now the Osteria Italiana, located at Schellingstraße 62 in Munich) Hitler's favourite restaurant hoping to catch a glimpse of him and hopefully to meet him, which she eventually did. Upon meeting him she wrote a letter to Diana which read in part:
Yesterday was the most wonderful and beautiful day of my life. I will try and describe it to you, though I can yet hardly write.
I went alone to lunch at the Osteria and sat at the little table by the stove where we sat you know last time you were there. At about 3, when I had finished my lunch, the Fuhrer came in and sat down at his usual table with two other men. I read the Vogue you sent me. About ten minutes after he arrived he spoke to the Manager and the Manager came over to me and said ‘The Fuhrer would like to speak to you’. I got up and went over to him and he stood up and saluted and shook hands and introduced me to the others and asked me to sit next to him.
I sat and talked to him for about half an hour, at least of course I don’t really know how long, but I think it was about that. [...] I can’t tell you all the things we talked about as it would take too long. I told him he ought to come to England and he said he would love to but he was afraid there would be a revolution if he did. He asked me if I had ever been to Bayreuth and I said No, but I should like to, and he said to one of the other men that they must remember that the next time there was a Festspiel there. He said he felt he knew London well from his architectural studies, and that from what he had heard and read about it he thought it to be the best town, as a town, in the world. He thinks ‘Cavalcade’ is the best film he ever saw.
He talked about the war. He said it was like the Niebelungskampf, and that international Jews must never again be allowed to make two Nordic races fight against one another.
Well, I can’t remember more of our conversation but we talked of a lot of things. In the end he had to go. He kept the bit of paper with my name on. Mona told me it was the first time he had ever invited someone he didn’t know to sit at his table like that. He had also apparently made sure my lunch was put on his bill.
So after all that you can imagine what I feel like. I am so happy that I wouldn’t mind a bit dying. I suppose I am the luckiest girl in the world. I certainly never did anything to deserve such an honour.
Nicholas Mosley, Rules of the Game & Beyond the Pale (Dalkey Archive Press, 1991), Pp. 332-333.
Hitler was polite and considerate as can be seen. Diana notes this as well in her memoirs which I will quote in a moment. Before that though it's worth noting that Diana was not an acolyte of Hitler by any means, at least not at the time her memoirs were published. Thus she had no reason to praise Hitler, and in fact according to her son Nicholas in later years she remarked at how meeting Hitler had 'ruined her life' (Ibid., p. 334)
. Nicholas also recalls that to him it appeared his father didn't really like Hitler and would refer to him as a 'terrible little man' in old age (ibid.)
. This is complete nonsense of course, Diana herself noted that Hitler was 5ft 9, hardly a "little man", meanwhile Mussolini whom Mosley liked a lot more was only 5ft 7.
Diana notes of Hitler's appearance:
Hitler, at this time aged forty-five, was about 5 feet 9 inches in height and neither fat nor thin. His eyes were dark blue, his skin fair and his brown hair exceptionally fine; it was neatly brushed; I never saw him with a lock of hair over his forehead. If he was out of doors in the sun and wind all day, as he was for example the last day of the Parteitag every year, he quickly got sunburnt, but it did not last for his skin was pale. His hands were white and wellshaped. He was extremely neat and clean looking, so much so that beside him nearly everyone looked coarse. His teeth had been mended with gold, as one saw when he laughed. At the Osteria he was generally in civilian clothes, he wore a grey suit and a white shirt and a rather furry soft hat which he called ‘mein Schako’. His most unusual feature was the forehead. He had a high forehead which almost jutted forward above the eyes. I have seen this on one or two other people; generally they have been musicians. At this little bistro he was in relaxed mood; if he had not been so he would have lunched at his flat.
Diana Mitford Mosley, A Life of Contrasts: An Autobiography (New York: Times Books, 1977), Pp. 123.
Hitler around this time. Photo from March 1, 1935 in Saarbrücken Saarland
Hitler's tidy nature is also attested to by the famous Belgian General of the Waffen-SS Leon Degrelle, who also knew Hitler. (See Chapter IX of his book: Hitler for a Thousand Years)
Diana had spent a lot of time around Hitler, but not as much as Unity:
During the next four years I saw him fairly often, though not nearly as often as Unity did. Since she is no longer here to tell what he was like in private life I will do my best to describe the man I knew. It is only what the French call ‘la petite histoire’; but even in small matters the truth is sometimes interesting.
Hitler, contrary to popular irrational insistence had many friends whom he frequently spent time with:
Besides the adjutant, usually Brückner or Schaub, there were often a few old friends, mostly men but also some women; Frau Troost, wife of the architect, was there occasionally. Frequently Hoffman the photographer and Herr Werlin of Mercedes Benz were with him.
Ibid., p. 123-124.
Of the types of conversation Hitler would have, it varied from motor vehicles, architecture to politics:
We rather dreaded the conversation turning to motor-cars, for the Führer took a deep interest in engines and was apparently expertly knowledgeable on the subject, very boring to us. However like most politicians he enjoyed talking politics, and often Reichspressechef Dietrich would give him a sheet of paper with a résumé of the news, which set him off on more interesting themes. One of his abiding interests was architecture. Without ever having visited Paris, for instance, he knew its beauties and where they stood in relation to one another.
Ibid., p. 124.
This accords perfectly with what Maria von Below recalled about Hitler's supreme intelligence. Leon Degrelle noted this too:
I don't think anyone ever read as much as he did. He read at least one book every day, always reading the end and the index first in order to gauge the book's interest for him. He had the power to extract the essence of each book and then store it in his computer-like mind. I have heard him talk about complicated scientific books with faultless precision, even at the height of the war.
His knowledge also extended to mechanics. He knew how engines worked; he understood the ballistics of various weapons; and he astonished the best medical scientists with his knowledge of medicine and biology. The universality of Hitler's knowledge may surprise or displease those unaware of it, but it is nonetheless a historical fact: Hitler was one of the most cultivated men of the 20th century. A thousand times more so
than Churchill, an intellectual mediocrity; or than Pierre Laval, with his mere cursory knowledge of history; or than Roosevelt; or Eisenhower, who never got beyond detective novels.
Leon Degrelle, Hitler Democrat (The Barnes Review, 2012), Pp. 24, 25.
Degrelle lists all the extensive works of history and philosophy Hitler was acquainted with. Hitler's ability to read books in a single day and remember them in minute detail was also one of the things observed by Krause:
The moment a new book came out in German, I would usually have it sent to Hitler. I had signed a contract with a large German publishing house in Berlin and they were required to immediately dispatch the books as soon as they had been published. Of course this didn’t apply to cheap novels. I regarded it my foremost duty to present Hitler with the new titles in the book industry myself, and not let other people get in there first, so to speak. Hitler returned the books the morning after I had given them to him, or asked them to be kept for his library, properly categorised.
I often doubted him and didn’t believe that he could have read the books in such little time – overnight practically. And yet I was proved wrong; once, late at night, I gave him a volume of 356 pages (unfortunately I cannot remember its title). The next morning he returned it to me commenting: ‘The book is good. Keep it.’ I was totally convinced that he hadn’t read it – I remember the number of pages. Some days later Dr Goebbels and an adjutant discussed this book over dinner. Hitler decided to join in. I had to fetch the book, turn to the requested page, was told to read it out loud and then asked to read two further passages. Hitler knew the exact page he wanted to hear. Thus he was able to create some sort of consensus between these two disagreeing men. I realised that Hitler must indeed have read the whole book and, by all accounts, quite thoroughly.
Karl Wilhelm Krause, Herbert Döhring & Anna Plaim, Living With Hitler: Compelling recollections of Hitler's Personal Staff (Greenhill Books, 2018), Pp. 60.
Of Speer, Diana notes that contrary to his memoirs he was always very interested in what Hitler had to say, which doesn't jive with his narrative that Hitler was a bore:
Albert Speer was quite often at Hitler’s table; at that time a young architect he has grown into an old writer. On the occasions when I saw him he gave a wonderful imitation of being fascinated by his host; or perhaps he really was fascinated.
Diana Mosley, op cit., p. 124.
Diana also denies that Hitler ranted or went on monologues:
I never heard Hitler ‘rant’ and almost never heard the famous monologue, though I should have been interested to listen to it. In my experience he liked conversation. In certain moods he could be very funny; he did imitations of marvellous drollery which showed how acutely observant he was.
Oswald Mosley in his memoirs goes into a bit more detail:
Hitler impressed me at that time as in no way insane, and this view was reinforced by his private appearance in small parties he gave when Diana and her sister were present. She described him as an extraordinarily gifted mimic, who could mime as well as any actor before a discreet audience. Imitating himself in the days when he used to smoke, rolling cigarettes, licking the sticky paper in all the busy paraphenalia of the old-time continental smoker, he stopped short saying, you cannot do that sort of thing if you are supposed to be a dictator. It is a small point, but paranoiacs do not make fun of themselves. On another occasion he imitated Mussolini being presented with a sword by the Arabs, flashing it out of the scabbard and brandishing it to heaven; then he said: 'I am no good at all that, I would just say to my adjutant, "Here, Schaub, hang on to this" '.
Such private occasions with relatively few people present revealed unexpected qualities, particularly if Goebbels was there as well. Diana was very fond of Frau Goebbels, who, with her husband, was often at dinner with Hitler. Goebbels, distinguished in public by his qualities as an orator and master of mass propaganda, had in private life an almost exaggerated sense of humour which, surprisingly, Hitler shared; it was one of the bonds between them. They also had in common a love of music.
Hitler was a great talker, and lost a good deal of time in nocturnal discussions, sitting up late after supper talking to his staff or to guests, who found his conversation enthralling; in this respect at least he resembled Churchill. The habit apparently began when he could not sleep after speeches, and it no doubt contributed to his ultimate and premature exhaustion. Nothing is harder for an orator than to relax and sleep after such an occasion. Without the use of drugs, or alcohol, to which Hitler was averse, it requires not only a conscious act of will but an endocrine system capable of braking as well as accelerating, which he apparently did not possess.
Oswald Mosley, My Life (London: Sanctuary Press, 2019), Pp. 398.
That Hitler could do imitations and wasn't adverse to mocking himself in good humour is well-known, Ernst Hanfstaengl, one of Hitler's early friends from the Kampfzeit
noted this about him. Such observations can be found in John Toland's Hitler biography which is where I first read them , I'm not going to dredge them up just for this post, but they're in there. Hitler during the Polish crisis in August 1939 when his mood was still hopeful for a peaceful outcome even did an impression of the British Ambassador Neville Henderson (Irving, Hitler's War and the War Path, p. 211)
Clearly Hitler did have a sense of humour, something that's attested to by many people who knew him intimately, but which is usually glossed over or addressed by nothing other than a sentence or two in standard histories. Noting that Hitler actually had a personality, that he was in truth, quite normal, was and is to a degree quite scary for historians to admit.
Diana’s description of life with Hitler are in style the opposite of those of Speer, she writes of Hitler's jokes, his frankness, his cleverness, his charm; but the substance of her memories is not so very different.
Nicholas Mosley, op cit., p. 338.
He's referring to two quotations from Speer that he produces which note how life was at the Obersalzburg. Basically, quite normal and casual. In this banal environment that is really not unlike any other, and in-fact shows how normal Hitler was in his habits, Speer nonetheless finds a way to portray Hitler as 'too casual' and thus boring. Speer even remarks that this ability to enjoy the leisure of life was a "constant waste of time"! How ridiculous, one can hardly believe it. Damned if you do, damned if you don't I suppose. To each their own as well, perhaps Speer ought to have removed himself from the boring life of cafes, movies, theatre, discussions, and walks among the beautiful landscape of the German alps if he disliked it so much.
Enough with Speer's overly dramatic nonsense. Diana also notes that Hitler had very fine manners, which she emphasises for the sake of historical accuracy:
He was extremely polite to women; he bowed and kissed hands as is the custom in Germany and France, and he never sat down until they did. Such trivialities would not be worth recording were it not for the acres of print about Hitler in which his rudeness and bad manners to everyone are emphasized. I have read books by dons as well as by sensation-seeking journalists in which it is asserted that he had no idea how to behave in company, or that he always hogged the conversation so that nobody but he could say a single word, or that he had no sense of humour, or that he guzzled cream cakes. Novelists have now taken up the theme, and possibly—just possibly—it may be worth while to set down the truth about these little things in so far as I know it from my own observation.
Ibid., p. 124-125.
Such myths are still spread today in newly published books. Degrelle also repudiates this slander, and notes that Hitler cannot be understood at all in such terms: "We must get used to this idea: Hitler was received in what is called high society not as a brute without manners, or as a rather droll eccentric. His success was that of a charmer." (Degrelle, op cit., p. 154)
Another rather trivial anecdote worth mentioning as it supports Diana's credibility, is that she mentions how Hitler never ate cakes, let alone cream cakes, which indeed corresponds to what Krause wrote about Hitler 'would eat no other cakes' other than a specific cake called Stollen
which was baked for him by a specific Munich baker. (Krause, op cit., p. 45)
In April 1935 when Oswald Mosley met Hitler, he also noted that he was treated with a certain charm, and notes a variety of revealing statements which lend credence to not only the documentary evidence, but the memoirs of others who knew Hitler reading his foreign policy:
At first. Hitler was almost inert in his chair, pale, seemingly exhausted. He came suddenly to life when I said that war between Britain and Germany would be a terrible disaster, and used the simile of two splendid young men fighting each other until they both fall exhausted and bleeding to the ground, when the jackals of the world would mount triumphant on their bodies. His face flushed and he launched with much vigour into some of his main themes, but in the normal manner of any politician moved by strong convictions. The hypnotic manner was entirely absent; perhaps I was an unsuitable subject; in any case, he made no attempt whatever to produce any effect of that kind. He was simple, and treated me throughout the occasion with a gentle, almost feminine charm. Naturally, it was much easier for me to deal with him than for some politicians, because in the international issues under discussion we had nothing to quarrel about. The men with whom we quarrel in life are those who want the same thing as we do, with consequent clash of interest; Hitler and I pursued different paths.
My ideas for maintaining and developing the British Empire in no way conflicted with what he wanted for the Germans. He did not desire war with Russia, because his aims were limited to the union of the German peoples in Europe, but he wanted assurances from England and Western Europe that they would not jump on his back in the event of a clash between Germany and Russia, would not intervene against him during a life and death struggle with communism. [...] He not only expressed the warmest admiration for the British people, but said he considered Germany, as the leading land power, and Britain, as the leading naval power, to be complementary and beneficent forces, who together could become two pillars supporting world stability, peace and order. In my view, it was at least true that there was no point on the entire globe at which British and German interests clashed.
Oswald Mosley, op cit., p. 396.
Mosley's other anecdotes (particularly page 400) fit in perfectly with the fact that Hitler desired no war with Britain, and preferably not even a war over the Polish-Corridor. But this is not the thread to collate further evidence of this fact.