Books: The first victim of a lazy lunatic?

Carole Morin on the Fuhrer's sweetheart; Hitler and Geli by Ronald Hayman, Bloomsbury, pounds 16.99

From Hans Jurgen Syberberg to Susan Sontag, the myth of fascinating fascism has been exhaustively examined. Yet its grotesque allure remains ambiguous. The swastika attracts the bookshop browser, as does Marilyn Monroe's blonde halo, and there seems to be an endless appetite for biographies of both Marilyn and Adolf.

In Hitler and Geli, Ronald Hayman uses Uncle Alf's relationship with his niece, Angela Raubal, as an excuse to re-examine the myths. Geli died in 1931 - probably by her own hand - when she was 23. Hayman writes well, but his desperation to find a fresh angle spoils his book. He managed in his biography of Sylvia Plath to revive a familiar subject by his honest concentration on Plath's suicide and her husband's adultery. Here he promises a study of Hitler as lover, but confines himself to the usual bestial caricature. The main problem with his theory - that Hitler shot his niece- lover - is that romanticism is not incompatible with being a psychopath. Many psychos have sentimental tendencies.

A further difficulty is that not only are the witnesses to Geli's tragedy dead; their testimonies were taken either during the propaganda period of WWII, or after 1945. Even though by then the smart thing for ex-Nazis to do was denounce Hitler, most still insisted on his innocence of her death. They were brainwashed, perhaps, but it is credible that Geli shot herself: maybe because Adolf was a pervert, maybe not.

Since Ronald Hayman hasn't had sex with Hitler, his theories about his bedroom habits are necessarily speculative. His tone becomes apologetic when discussing impotence, coprophagia and sadomasochism. Yet, without a blush, he extrapolates enthusiastically from the fiendish young Adolf's penchant for shooting rats. Give a boy a gun and he'll play with it. Give a young nutter a gun, and you're lucky he's only shooting rats.

Hayman, aware that his book requires justification, tacks on a final chapter suggesting the Holocaust could have been prevented if Hitler's career had been ruined by Geli's death. And perhaps Adam shouldn't have eaten that apple. Yet this oversimplication glorifies the Fuhrer.

Whatever he was, he wasn't omnipotent. A chronically lazy man, he couldn't have achieved that level of annihilation single-handedly. He did not invent anti-semitism; nor have the energy to execute it on a grand scale. An army of sadists volunteered for the task, and were lining up to fill his jackboots while he despaired in the Berlin bunker.

The world participated in this ugly, asexual lunatic's fantasies. This must have shocked Hitler, for all his talk about will and providence. During the war, he kept the blinds down when travelling on his military train, unable to look at the destruction he had caused. Dreams can be disturbing when they come true. Eventually, he did the decent thing and shot himself. Perhaps this is evidence of his romantic nature.

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