Hitler’s Americanization

Ernst Franz Sedgwick Hanfstaengl (rhymes with Engel’); was borne in 1887 in Munich, the

Bavarian town, birthplace of Nazism, and known, also, as the Athens of Germany. His

father, an art dealer, was German, his mother was American. At the age of 18, in 1905, the

6′ 7” tall young man entered Harvard. Later, he run the Fifth Avenue subsidiary of the

family business in New York. and each morning practiced his piano playing in the New York

Harvard Club, where a young senator (D) of the State of New York, Franklin Delano

Roosevelt, listened to him playing on the grand piano of the club, as he (FDR) was having

his breakfast. Hanfstaengl met also another member of the Roosevelt clan, Teddy Roosevelt.

In 1921, Hanfstaengl returned to Germany. Next year, in November 1922, Truman Smith,

the US Military Attache’ in Berlin, approached "Hanfy" Hanfstaengl, the former

Harvard scholar, and told him that "He should attend a gathering in a beer-cellar in

Rosenheimer Street where a certain Hitler would give a speech."[1] Also, Smith added:

"The fellow has the right melody on his tongue, which the hungry Germans are eager to

hear – national and social (melody)." So, "practically as a Munich informer of

the Americans, to whom he subsequently reported, Hanfy went to the gathering."[2]

Hanfstaengl’s impression at the beer-cellar was that compared to the best orators of

that time that he knew in the US, namely Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, as well as

senator Thomas P. Gore (grandfather of Gore Vidal), Hitler was a "higher-carat uncut

dimond who needed only to polish his ideas, in order to find his real message."

A year later, on November 8, 1923, Hitler made his putsch and Hanfstaengl was by his

side in the famous "Burgerbraukeller" (Beer – Hall). Next day Hitler and his

followers were marching in Munich. When the police started firing, after Hitler’s

followers shot and killed 4 policemen, Hitler sprained his shoulder by a fall on the

pavement and "30 seconds after the police had started firing, in defense, he fled and

went into hiding… in the villa of Ernst Hanfstaengl, south of Munich… in the meantime

he (Hanfstaengl) fled to Austria."[3]

Two days later. on November 11, Hitler is arrested in the Hanfstaengl villa. According

to Hanfstaengl, Hitler would have killed himself "with a bullet in his head, if the

courageous Mrs Hanfstaengl, an American woman, had not disarmed him with a jujitsu


According to the official report of the arresting officer Belleville: "Mrs

Hanfstaengl wordless led First Lieutenant Belleville to a room door, remained standing for

a moment, examining First Lieutenant Bellville with a long glance, then opened the door

and said: ‘Please’. In the room stood Hitler in white pyzamas, his arm in a sling…

Hitler stared at him in a completely absend-minded manner. At the announcement, that he

came to arrest him, Hitler stretched his hand towards him and declared that he was at his

disposal. He requested only to be protected from mobbing."[5]

Hitler stayed in prison from November 11, 1923 to December 20, 1924. After his release

Hanfstaengel, also known as Putzi among the Hitler gang, tried to "polish"

Hitler, the "uncut dimond". "In vain Putzi exerted himself: The

Americanization of Hitler was a hopeless undertaking. He was interested in skyscrapers, in

the horsepower of automobiles, and in the manpower of the Ku-Klux-Klan…"[6]

During the 11 years that followed, up to 1934, Hanfstaegl was Hitler’s personal pianist

and his Foreign Press-Secretary for the Third Reich. The piano playing function was very

important to Hitler and very much appreciated by him. "You are the purest orchestra,

Hanfstaengl", raved Hitler. Hanfstaengl played over and over the Wagnerian staple

while Hitler "dozed off" or "whistled and conducted."[7]

Then after the "Night of the Long Knives", in June 1934, and the execution by

Hitler of Rohm and 77 leading Nazis plus 100 lesser ones, Putzi Hanfstaengl lost his

access to Hitler. Three years later, in 1937, the 50 year old Hanfstaengl was ordered to

put on a parachute and jump over the Spanish civil war "red teritory" in Spain.

Considering this as an order for his execution, he managed to escape to Switzerland and

from there to England, where in 1939, after Britain got into the war, he was imprisoned as

an enemy alien.

A letter from Hanfstaengl to Franklin D. Roosevelt resulted in the British

"reluctantly lending" Hanfstaengl to the Americans and so Hanfy found himself

under custody in an old villa in the area of Washington. One of his guards was US Army Air

Corps Seargent Egon Hanfstaengl, Hanfy’s own son! Also FDR sent his friend a Steinway

grand piano. In 1944 Hanfstaengl was sent back to England and in 1949 was released and he

returned to his birthplace in Germany where he was "denazified" and classified

to the Category of "Exonerated." Hanfy, of Harvard, etc, died in 1975, at the

age of 88.

Now (in 1999) Christian von Bentheim in California, is hoping to raise money for a

10-million dollar Hollywood production based on Hanfstaengl’s memoirs "Between the

White House and the Brown House" that were published in 1970. The title of the film

will be: "The Populist", the populist being Hitler.

Also, the historian Christof Mauch has written a new book, "The Shadow War against

Hitler: The Third Reich in the Gun Sight of the American Intelligence Services

1941-1945"[8], which deals with the Hanfstaengl case under the light of new, up to

now unknown, US secret documents.

Finally, reflecting on the Hanfstaengl story, one could raise the following questions:

- What did Hanfstaengl mean by the word "Americanazation"? Can such a term be

used in rational discussion? Which America are we talking about (as Noam says)?

- When fleeing, when arrested and the weeks after that, Hitler had the shit scared out

of him. He fled in "30 seconds", he asked for protection against possible

"mobbing" by the crowd, and he thought of killing himself in his prison cell.[9]

What happened in that prison and Hitler turned back into being his usual

"arrogant" self and had the guts to write "Mein Kampf" in that prison?

Who were the people that visited him there for the period of a year? Is it far-fetched to

deduce that the institutions that saw Hitler as a useful "tool" for their goals

contacted him in the prison?

I think that if there are any ZNetCommentaries readers in the Munich area, they could

start searching the archives of the Visitors Books in Landsberg prison. Who knows, there

might be something there.

- Besides Hanfy of Harvard, there is another "illustrious"case of an

"Anglo" influence on Hitler. That was the British wife of a son of Wagner’s

grandaughter who was very "close" to Hitler. Is it worth to search for an

"Anglo" influnce on Hitler?


[1] Widmann, Carlos, "Play it again, Putzi", DER SPIEGEL, No. 10/8 March,

1999, p. 60. (DER SPIEGEL is the most important German weekly magazine)

[2] Ibid, p.60

[3] Gritschneder, Otto, "Bewahrungsfrist fur den Terroristen Adolf H."

(Probation for the Terrorist Adolf H.), Verlag C.H. Beck, Munich, 1990, p.28.

[4] Widmann, p.58

[5] Gritschneder, p.33,34

[6] Widmann, p.60

[7] Ibid, p.58

[8] Mauch, Christof, "Schattenkrieg gegen Hitler. Das Dritte Reich im Visier der

amerikanischen Geheimdienste 1941-1945", Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart, 1999.

[9] According to the, mostly unknown, testimony of Alois Maria Ott, Institute

psychologist, who visited Hitler on November 19, 1923, eight days after his arest, in Room

7 of the hospital of Landsberg prison, Hitler was "completely demoralized." He

had started a hunger strike and was about to be force-fed in the prison hospital. Hitler’s

words were: "I had enough, I am ready, if I could have a revolver I would get hold of

it." After talking to Hitler for many hours, Ott managed "to calm him down and

persuade him to stop the hunger strike." Gritschneder, p.34,35

—————————– Nikos Raptis is the author of the books: "Let Us

Talk about Earthquakes. Floods and…the Streetcar" and "The Nightmare of the

Nukes". He, also, translated into Greek and published Noam Chomsky’s "Year

501" and "Rethinking Camelot." He lives in Athens, Greece.

1371 words

Leave a comment