A Description

My One Man Show, Hitler Alone, is an attempt to penetrate the heart and mind of one of history's most infamous tyrants, during an imagined hour's solitary rumintation, before his suicide in the Berlin Bunker, at 15:30 hours 30th April 1945. Alone with his responsibility for triumphs and disasters and the death of millions. Alone in his defeat and despair.

His great rival and nemisis, Winston Churchill, knew not to underestimate the Führer, describing him as: "..a maniac of ferocious genius, the repository and expression of the most virulent hatreds that have ever corroded the human heart". Even Hitler's erstwhile supporter and commander in the First War, Erich von Ludendorff, foresaw that "this accursed man will cast our Reich into the abyss and bring our nation to inconceivable misery". And so it was.

The form of the monologue (approx. 75 mins) is a kind of stream of consciousness allowing one to range freely over place and time, past, present and future. We all know what odd juxtapositions can arrise during such an exercise. The aim is to be largely factual, to quote Hitler verbatim or at least to be true to the spirit of the man and his times. My information is culled from wide reading, hearing and viewing an inexhaustible archive over the last sixty years. Memories from Leni Riefenstahl's striking films of the Nürnberg rallies and the 1936 Olympics mingle with fragments of Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That, Remarque's Im Westen Nichts Neues, Jünger's In Stahlgewittern or of a poem by Wilfred Owen. Soldiers of all nations have a shared understanding of war. Though Hitler, the autodidact and voracious reader, may never have read or approved of Wilfred Owen, he knew about "the monstrous anger of the guns" and of the exhilaration of "fighting like an angel".

His famed demogogic powers was something he discovered in himself after the deep bitterness and despair of defeat in the First War. "What a gob he has. We can use him.", said an anit-communist intellectual. And Hitler soon saw where he wished to direct his eloquence: "I did not speak for the intelligentsia, nor for the lemonady aesthetes. I spoke at the pace of the working-man's mind, to the tousled-haired boys who had fought with bayonet and hand-grenade... the working man wants order, job security, food, not airy-fairy notions of democracy". He was like the chameleon actor, "preparing himself, secretly, for his rôle", galvanising on the podium, with blazing eyes, yet often seemingly coarse, dull and ordinary in repose.

Actors playing Richard III in modern times have readily looked to Hitler as an example of a cynical, demonic, energetic, power-hungry monster. His supposed little dance of triumph at the Compiègne peace-signing is sometimes adopted by actors, though it never actually happened! However, the springboard for my show is a line of Richard's (one of many Shakespearean interpolations) when he is overwhelmed with bad news, just as Hitler often was, producing in the Führer hour-long rages or silent deep depression: "Out on ye, owls, nothing but songs of death... Na ja, Berlin is ablaze and I am ringed about by Russians. So where is General Wenck? Where is General Steiner? Why aren't they breaking through to me? Leaving me here to rot in this wretched bunker. Es gibt Männer und es gibt Arschlöcher, und sie sind alle Arschlöcher"... These last German words were recalled from a Swiss army sergeant of my aquaintance many years ago. They felt appropriate. I also had my Hitler call Chamberlain an "Arschloch" and indeed apparently he did!

When invention receives corroboration from facts, it's reassuring. I make Hitler sing a snatch from The Merry Widow, just because I like it. Then I discovered that, though he disliked Viennese operettas in general, this former choir-boy did enjoy The Merry Widow. Wagner was, of course, his first love - he declared that the Liebestod was "Music to die to" - so he sings that too, in his last moments, very faintly.

In a monologue of this length, one must seek to ring the changes, and vary the pace and mood. Hitler's shifting humours and preoccupations, from the trivial to the highly charged and back again, make this an easy task. Here he is appreciating the alpha-male, Clark Gable: "I wanted to bring him to Germany. And with him the divine Dietrich. Ach! The traitress. To have chosen America! I hate that negrified, judaïzed, dollar-worshipping, gangster nation - so much wealth and so little intelligence. But I did enjoy their Cowboys and Indians that Karl May wrote about - all seventy volumes"...

Hitler can go from sentimental homo-eroticism to the violent explosions of war-lust: "Speer, how I loved to walk and talk with him, above all others at the Berghof, and he spoke such beautiful German. How I admired him. And now? Another traitor. Refused to obey my orders to destroy bridges, roads and railways. In total war, one must not flinch from destroying everything, people and buildings... I say, shoot all captured airmen out of hand; execute one hundred hostages, for every German soldier murdered; forget "Geneva", use new poison gases; hang those that talk of fear on their own door-steps"...

Some Germans saw Hitler, in his ruthlessness, as their God-given saviour and bulwark against Bolshevism, but he would have none of it. Even the exiled Kaiser wrote to congratulate him on his "God-given victory over France". "God-given?", he snorts, "I owe nothing to God. Alone I did it".

Expediency dictated a toleration of the Church, but Hitler, a confirmed Catholic, could be brutally clear in private about his real intentions: "I always said, I would hang the Pope, in tiara and full pontificals, in St. Peter's Square, after the war. His like, all that submissive Christian crew, with their cult of the Meek, the Mediocre, the Failure, must all be dealt with after the war"...

No place in Hitler's mind for the famous Christmas Truce of 1914. "That enraged me. I have always wanted my enemy to hate me, so I could hate, hate, hate him in return".

Hitler was a lover of conflict on a grand scale and a worshipper of Bonaparte. Witness his attack on the USSR, June 1941: "Barbarossa - the greatest battle in the history of the world, on a 1500 KM front... launched June 22nd, the day Napoleon crossed the Niemen into Russia".

War was something "every generation should experience - the Great Purifier. Peace softens the man. To rest is to rust. We must unlearn one thousand years of domestication". But not the women folk! Their involvement in Industry or the Armed Forces he deemed "against Nature. They belong in the home. There let them cook and knit and breed".

So the brutality could be balanced by a sentimental tenderness towards women. Like Stephanie: "A Valkyrie, tall and blonde, my ideal of womanhood. For four long years I languished. We never touched nor spoke. I was obsessed with her". And when in September 1931 the love of his life, his niece Geli, committed suicide (or did she?) he sobbed for days and wanted to follow her. Think what the world might have been spared...

His most famous partner, Eva Braun, who preferred poison to the bullet at the end, "because she wanted to be a beautiful corpse", was desperately loyal to her man. And she could tread where others would not dare. She could stop Adolf's interminable evening-monologues by pointing out the time. She could mock the ageing Dictator for stooping. He replies: "It is the cares of office. And anway, it reduces me to your height, so you won't have to wear high-heels any more". He continued ruefully: "She has longed for years to marry me but I knew I was not family-man material, and the offspring of a genius has a troubled life"... Eva's silent home-movies at Hitler's beloved Berghof, "where he could always breathe, think, be himself, be happy", have recently been lip-synched (thanks to skilful lip-readers) and we are now able to "hear" Eva complaining about a new dress being too tight and Hitler responding wryly with "you think you've got problems"... All grist to the monologue mill.

Hitler's warmth of feeling for Eva is echoed in his attachment to the only friend of his youth, a music-student, August Kubizek. Some 30 years after their last meeting, Hitler, at the height of his powers in July 1940, invited his old friend to the Wagner festival at Bayreuth: "I held Kubizek's hands and said: this war is taking all my best years from me. You know what plans I had Kubizek. When peace dawns again, you must come and stay with me forever".

Political colleagues were less likely to be remembered so fondly at the end of things: Goering, "The fat hedonist... winner of the Blue Max", stripped of his titles; Himmler, "Der treue Heinrich", a fanatical Nazi, "he would have killed his own mother for my sake", but he is also an Art philistine and finally a deserting traitor; the arrogant snob Ribbentrop, "Oh I beg his pardon - Von Ribbentrop", another deserter. Only Goebbels, "full of urbane charm and amusing society gossip", remains loyal to the end, though no doubt a bitterly disillusioned man.

The Führer enjoyed the company of the Duce, Mussolini, who, he felt, was ill served by his Italians. "The Pact of Steel" proved an embarrassment. "I should have heeded Bismarck's words: As friend or foe, the Italians will always let you down".

One person Hitler did not expect to let him down was Erwin Rommel. A brave soldier, a favourite. A National Hero. But in North Africa he refused to fight to the last man, as the Spartans had done at Thermopylae. Implicated in the July Bomb Plot, he took the proffered poison and so escaped an ignominious death by strangulation with piano-wires, that Hitler had decreed for other Generals. "He enabled me to accord him a hero's funeral with full military honours"...

And so to the subject of his greatest crime of all - the Jews - the convenient scapegoat for all Germany's ills. Hitler was recommended for his Iron Cross by his Jewish superior officer; his mother's trusty and well-loved doctor was a Jew. Adolf could declare: "Believe me, I admire the Jews for their creativity and their implacable racial purity. I always said: put 5000 Jews in Sweden and within weeks, they'd be running the place."

But at the end, he cries: "Would I could take ten million Jews to death with me!" as he bids farewell to his mother's photograph and exits to join Eva and shoot himself.

Paul Webster 2009