Thursday, December 12, 2013

Adolf Hitler: A Rhetorical Analysis

by G. Jack Urso

 Adolf Hitler at the Berlin Sportpalast Speech, February 10, 1933.
Adolf Hitler is well-known as a master rhetorician; however, most clips of Hitler’s speeches usually feature just a few seconds of him frothing at the mouth. Compelling enough, but they do not allow the viewer the grasp the broader aspects of his ability as a public speaker. Hitler’s success as a public speaker was not due to his ability shout louder than everyone else, but rather that he scientifically broke down his performance, analyzing gestures and postures, modulating tempo, learning to read the audience and respond accordingly.

The following video clip is from Hitler: The Whole Story (1989 Cine-Art/Munich), which aired on the Discovery Channel in 1990. Here, this segment provides an analysis of the techniques Hitler used to improve his performance and maximize his hold on the audience, as well as the psychological motivations behind his extraordinary public speaking ability.

For fuller context, the next clip, from The Fatal Attraction of Adolf Hitler (1989), features an interview with a 1930's-era Berlin social worker who discusses the poverty that contributed to Hitler's appeal as a secular "messiah." Additionally, Egon Hanfstaengl, son of Hitler's foreign press officer Ernst Hanfstaengl (who defected in 1937), provides insight into Hitler’s psychology as it regards his approach to connecting with the German masses. The clip also notes Hitler's then-innovative use of airplanes in campaigning and ends with an extended excerpt from his infamous speech at the Berlin Sportpalast on February 10, 1933, not long after his appointment as Chancellor.     

Seventeen days after this speech, on February 27, 1933, the German Reichstag building was burned down. Hitler blamed the communists and used the opportunity to centralize power in his hands, eliminate his political opponents, and clear the way to war.

 Note: The above video clips are hosted on an Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel.

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