Historians like Ian Kershaw will never ever look into Adolf Hitlers homosexuality because this would lead to questions about high level espionage and blackmail. Hitler’s relationship life can be roughly divided into two phases:
- The absolute and complete lack of interest in women from his teenage years to the 1923 coup attempt
- afterwards as a politician in the limelight he superficially surrounded himself with the ladies and had an empty sham relationship with the most unfortunate Eva Braun
The internal power struggles of the National Socialists were fought from the very beginning with blackmail material on homosexual relations. Even Hitlers supposed friends like the Gestapo chief Rudolf Diels or Ernst Hanfstaengl collected compromising material and even brought it abroad.
Famous historians like Ian Kershaw were simply not interested in Hitler’s personality and even doubted that he had one, as if Hitler had been just a shell full of second hand political worldviews. Few history books dealt with homosexuality in the NSDAP without adhering to high scientific standards. It was German historian Lothar Machtan who, in 2001, published “Hitler’s Secret – The Double Life of a Dictator”, a very viable study which provides clear indications of the potential of political blackmail.
Machtan regarded the blackmail attempts against Hitler only as an inner-German affair, which had been largely settled after the great purge action against Röhm and 150 other cronies as well as after various bribes. But the many data leaks could no longer be brought under control even with the help of dictatorial powers after the seizure of power in 1933, for incriminating files reached back to his period of service in the First World War and even further back. Too many figures had early access to files and the motivation to have something in their hands against Hitler, whereby the personal security of someone with incriminating material was only really given if the delicate material was stashed abroad.
That Hitler wanted to become an artist in a big city as a teenager was almost certainly due to his homosexuality and the fact that there was a lively gay and artistic scene in Vienna and Munich. Pursuing an honest career as a civil servant, as his father demanded, was a horrible idea to Adolf, since the middle classes outside the metropolises were very narrow-minded and accepted only a classical family life. With his very close friend and probably lover August Kubizek he lived his dream in Vienna for a short while and got to know which cafés, restaurants, bath houses etc. were used as secret meeting places for gays. Dressed in partner look they played the young Boheme, made joint tours into nature and visited the opera. After the initial phase of being in love, the relationship broke apart.
Vienna was a Mecca for gays from all over Austria and after the scandal surrounding Philipp Fürst zu Eulenburg, the emperor’s best friend at the time, homosexuality was a hotly contested topic of conversation throughout the country. In 1913, the exposure of secret service chief Alfred Redl as a homosexual and spy who had sold war plans to foreign powers to finance his luxury, raised the general suspicion that every gay man could theoretically be blackmailed and therefore should not attain a higher social significance. Only concerning artists was homosexuality somewhat socially accepted. Certainly the Austrian police had an interest in establishing a snitch network to compile lists of “perverts”. At the same time the gays had established their own secret world with codes, camouflaged meeting points and various other means of shielding. Those homosexuals with money, influence and relationships were mostly older and attracted young homosexuals from simple backgrounds with their status. Gay relationships were often needed for a stable artistic career and access to the higher social classes.
It was easy for the police to throw out the net and use threats of punishment to urge young men to become informants. The fact that Hitler spent years in the Vienna nightlife circles meant he was bound to get caught multiple times. In addition, the Austrian army sought him for military service, but for years made almost no visible efforts to find him. Gays in the military were subjected to considerable and brutal punishment and, of course, stigmatization, which means there was another means of pressure that could have been used against Hitler by the police or military authorities. If he had been caught, he would have been faced with the choice to go to jail and do his military service afterwards, or to cooperate and spy against his fellow gays. We know with certainty that Hitler worked after the First World War as an informant in the political scene.
Reinhold Hanisch and Rudolf Häusler from the men’s hostels were most likely Hitler’s lovers too. In addition, there were several months in which he was logged off everywhere and there was no indication of his whereabouts. Some young men prostituted themselves temporarily or for longer periods in the big cities in order to survive financially, although the boundaries between favours, relationships with older well-heeled men and classical prostitution are rather blurred. All those involved were at risk of being blackmailed or betrayed by someone else.
Only once in a while he painted a few pictures or postcards for money, following a photographic model and not even bothered to sit in front of the actual object to paint it. He could not expect to live an entire life as an artist without education and relationships in a city where there were thousands more starving artists.
In 1908, he is said to have been infected with syphilis during sex in Vienna. In the many long and probably also wild nights in the big city an infection could hardly be avoided and the drug treatment consisted of medications containing the poisons mercury and arsenic. In “Mein Kampf” he later dedicated 13 pages to the topic of syphilis and described it as a “Jewish disease”. His strict vegetarianism, his rejection of tobacco and his abstinence from alcohol could have been an attempt to mitigate the consequences of infection. His later personal physician Morell noted in his diary conspicuous symptoms that correspond to the advanced stages of syphilis and the associated brain damage.
The historian Lothar Machtan goes into detail about Hitler’s military service during World War I, during which there was probably a continuous relationship with the soldier Ernst Schmidt. Later, when Hitler became powerful, practically all his comrades from the regiment wrote down beautifully colored memories to feed the Führer’s myth; that Adolf had delighted everyone at the front with his political views and that it would have been obvious at the time that he would become something really great.
A secret report by a fellow soldier about Hitler later ended up in the hands of his enemies, found its way to London and landed in the hands of the Bavarian General Karl Kriebel. According to a note, a dossier about this matter had been prepared by Admiral Canaris, whereby General Beck (who wanted to get rid of Hitler) and “some foreign diplomats” became aware of it. As soon as Hitler became important after the war in the 1920s, various persons, domestic authorities and also foreign secret services could have done research and fathom these connections without too much effort. Resisters like Canaris are said to have collected a whole bunch of incriminating documents in order to one day destroy Hitler and his cult of personality. While in the 1920s the Bavarian authorities had no reason to destroy Hitler’s reputation, some of the compromising material may have been later sent abroad and ended up in the archives of various secret services. Soldier Mend described how Hitler made the impression of a “psychopath” on him, barely ever fought, but only carried out an errand every three days far behind the front. Ernst Schmidt was Hitlers “male whore” and the two were caught in the hay by their comrades. Hitler had no fixed goal or any firm conviction at the time. Because of his public allusions and his confrontational course with Hitler, Mend was finally arrested and imprisoned.
After the war, Hitler soon came across the gay captain Ernst Röhm and became his informant. Heinrich Himmler’s security service is also said to have documented a case in which Hitler modelled naked for an officer during the war in France and went to bed with him. Interestingly, this information also ended up in the hands of a British man. According to Rauschning, there was also a trial in the German military against Hitler for sexual acts. As soon as Hitler began to gain a foothold in politics under Röhm’s patronage, he was already compromised and several people possessed delicate knowledge or even documentary evidence that could ruin him. Röhm could be sure in the following time of the loyalty of his newest pupil, due to funds for the (NS)DAP from a secret fund of the Reichswehr, as well as by incriminating information. After the failed coup attempt Hitler was considered relevant in Germany and abroad, which would also have driven up the market value for incriminating material.
The environment of Thule, where the (NS)DAP originated, was deeply influenced by theosophic and white supremacist propaganda from America and Great Britain. In addition, the head of the secret lodge Thule, Rudolf von Sebottendorf, was an alleged British agent. It is not far-fetched that Britain’s spies in Germany searched for information about Hitler as soon as he became significant on the political stage. Similarly, Russia’s secret services probably captured police files during the conquest of Munich by the Communists and found something on Hitler.
Only when Hitler became Chancellor could he confiscate and destroy six volumes of police files from Munich without, however, being sure who had access to them in the years before and had copies made. The Reichswehr General Otto von Lossow, for example, who was anything but enthusiastic about Hitler’s attempted coup in 1923, procured files from “good friends”: Several young men had put on record that they had spent the night with Adolf Hitler, although Hitler usually promised money for it. Should anything happen to von Lossow or his officers, Hitler had to reckon that such files would automatically end up in the press abroad. This is called a “Dead Man’s Switch” and is a common tool in the world of intelligence. Hitler’s hatred of von Lossow is well documented and the Führer never dared to eliminate von Lossow later, despite all his power. For his Dead Man’s Switch, however, the General needed partners abroad who might have developed their very own plans for the documents in their possession.
Magnus Hirschfeld, the homosexual doctor and sexual scientist, spoke about original police files containing testimonies of two seventeen or eighteen year olds men, including photos which exposed Hitler “in the most personal sense”. He sent these files to Moscow by special courier. Although Hitler could have dismissed some embarrassing publications abroad after his seizure of power as cheap forgeries by his opponents, but the game would have been over for him when the quantity and quality of the material was too high.
Ernst Röhm, who possibly had a sexual relationship with Hitler, protected himself accordingly and sometime before Röhm’s removal and the rest of the SA leadership, material could also have been taken to other places. Another patron and mentor of Hitler after the war was the esoteric Dietrich Eckart, who had failed as an artist and medical student, became addicted to morphines and kept his head above water with theatre and politics. They lived in the immediate vicinity and moved through Munich’s better circles together, whereby Eckart always gave instructions on how to dress and behave. It should come as no surprise that Eckart thought little of women. Late he married some woman, which did not last very long and did not produce any children.
In November 1922 the British Consul General of Munich named William Seeds considered the politician Hitler to be relevant for the first time and attributed greater popularity to him among the German people than what General von Ludendorff could muster. From then on, the British spies will have started to compile material about the new star.
Rudolf Heß, with whom Hitler had been associated since 1924 with an extremely close friendship that was also said to have had a sexual component, also came from the environment of the right-wing Thule Society. Strasser even outed Hess publicly and Hess was also considered by various high party officials to be gay. In addition to Hitler, Röhm, Eckart and Mayr, Heß also met the university teacher Karl Haushofer, who taught the rather new academic field of geopolitics and convinced Hitler and Heß that Germany absolutely needed a close partnership with Great Britain. Haushofer’s political teachings fit in with the circulating popular propaganda about the common Nordic race of British and Germans and also with the deceptive manoeuvres of British secret services, which reached far into the Second World War and led Nazi Germany to believe that the British elite (an unofficial “peace party”) wanted a partnership. Because of this feigned support by Britain Hitler later decided against the will of his generals to attack the Soviet Union and Hess made his famous flight to Scotland.
Haushofer’s son even became a traitor and got close to his British contact with whom he may have had a love affair.
The failed coup attempt, in which the national socialists and their frontman Hitler seized power in Munich and wanted to march to Berlin, should have meant the end of Hitler’s career and the still quite young NSDAP. A long prison sentence and the subsequent expulsion from Germany would have been a no-brainer, but Hitler’s popularity among the people could have triggered strong protests. The smartest thing for the Bavarian government would have been to use a mixture of blackmail and support, which is probably exactly what happened. During his time in prison in Landsberg, Hitler lived in a kind of suite with a modern bathroom, endless hot water and the possibility of receiving his gay companions like Hess. Imagine a hidden photographic camera or film camera behind a spy mirror in the bathroom. Such an operation is the most mundane thing in the world for intelligence services and would have yielded the best material to control Hitler.
Heß, who was also imprisoned, enthusiastically wrote to his mother about the wonderful “furnishing of the hot bathroom, which is always available to us”. The only thing missing was a minibar. The prison director even admonished the prisoners that “nude culture” was only permitted in the common anteroom, which perhaps meant that the hidden camera was right there. Heß was married to a woman, but she was quite surprised that she was treated like a confirmand or convent pupil. In 2013, records emerged of an American military officer who had asked Hitler’s doctors Morell and Brandt after the Second World War. Hitler was homosexual and had also had female hormones administered.
To counter rumours of his sexual orientation, Hitler wanted to be seen with attractive actresses and erotic dancers, but there was never any romance. Observers later reported of a joint bed with his wife Eva Braun but there are no eyewitnesses who noticed any sex between the two. Hitler explained that he had to stay away from women because of the time-consuming struggle for Germany, which was anything but convincing, since, as a dictator before the Second World War, he spent several hours of leisure time a day at his Berghof and other private domiciles with cinema films and useless conversations. There would have been plenty of time for relationships with women.
Ernst Röhm, the head of the Sturmabteilung, made no big secret of his homosexuality and is said to have tried to blackmail Hitler with information about his sexuality, which was followed in 1934 by the famous “Blitz” action, during which Röhm and the SA leadership were eliminated. Shortly after the First World War, Röhm worked in the Iron Fist organization with officer Karl Mayr and other military personnel, while Hitler was an informant for Mayr’s Political Department of the Intelligence Service of the Reichswehr Group Command. In the hidden gay scenes of Munich and Berlin, Röhm had been active since 1924, and perhaps it was precisely this Munich scene in which Hitler had been gathering and spying since 1913.
Munich police reports from the period after the First World War, in which young men spoke of sex with Hitler, were published a few years ago in Rome by Eugen Dollmann, Himmler’s friend and Hitler’s translator. However, the book was never published in German or English and hardly any Historian dared to touch the information.
Hitler and Röhm brought high aristocrats such as August Wilhelm of Prussia and Prince Philip of Hesse into the SA, who were extremely dangerous but never aroused much suspicion. August Wilhelm was himself gay, pretended to be naive and easy to impress and made very significant public appearances to promote Hitler, whom he could sell to sceptical Germans as a benefactor. August Wilhelm married his own cousin, Princess Alexandra Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. The related British nobility had an interest in blackmailing Hitler.
Philip, in turn, was the chief president of the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau from the Hesse-Kassel line of the House of Hesse and as a National Socialist politician he married Princess Mafalda of Savoy in 1925, whose father was Viktor Emanuel III, King of Italy, who first supported Mussolini’s fascism and later dropped Mussolini after the beginning of the Allied invasion of Sicily. Philip played an important mediating role between the Nazis and Mussolini and served past the official channels as an extremely important diplomat until he was arrested in 1943 with his wife Mafalda, when their father turned against Mussolini. Among his relatives were of course Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha.
Röhm got in trouble, because in March 1932 left-wing newspapers published the contents of confidential letters about his homosexuality, which he had written years earlier, as well as a list of previous convictions of various SA leaders. A co-founder of the SA, Helmuth Klotz, of all people, had even published a facsimile in which everyone could recognize Röhm’s handwriting. In 1933 he fled to France, was caught seven years later and confessed under torture that officials of the Prussian Ministry of the Interior were behind the action, but the Prussian mastermind Rudolf Diels secretly sympathized with Hitler. Through this operation Hitler could demolish Röhm, who had become untenable. What sounds like a successful strategic maneuver at first, however, was of doubtful value for the NSDAP. Diels was then allowed to build up the secret police Gestapo, but he collected incriminating material about various party bigwigs and stashed this information abroad. This was his personal security stash, his Dead Man’s Switch, with assumptions to be made, of course, as to whether contact persons of his abroad with access to this blackmail material might have sought buyers among the secret services of Germany’s opponents.
After the war Diels worked for the American military government. Whether he already cooperated with the Americans during the war is of course theoretically conceivable. You can see once again that the Nazis could not keep any secrets. Röhm and his gay SA leaders were thrown under the bus, but Hitler also landed in the sights of well-informed opponents such as Berlin police chief Grzesinski, who fled to Switzerland in March 1933, then to France and finally to the USA. What goodies did he have stashed away?
The NSDAP became Germany’s strongest political force in the early elections to the Reichstag in 1932, but the party was fiercely divided internally and everywhere incriminating material was collected for internal party struggles, which perhaps also found its way abroad and landed in the hands of secret services.
In order to gain leverage against Hitler, Röhm contacted his old colleague, the intelligence officer Karl Mayr, who had trained Hitler after the First World War as an informer and agitator. Mayr had meanwhile defected to the SPD camp and may still have had incriminating material on Hitler from the Munich period. Kurt von Schleicher, who had been Reich Defence Minister and the last Chancellor of the Weimar Republic, owned Hitler’s military files and could use the military secret service “Abwehr” for further investigations.
Suddenly Röhm was able to shoot back and force Hitler to make concessions, which in turn matured Hitler’s plan to carry out a surprise assault on the SA and have around 150 people shot who might have known about Hitler’s homosexuality and possessed evidence. After this cleanup, in which all kinds of safes were broken open, Hitler tightened the laws against gays and against damaging statements against the Führer.
But how many victims of this lightning strike had taken precautions with a Dead Man’s Switch, the storage of important material abroad with trusted persons who should contact the press or intel agencies immediately in an emergency? It is completely proven that Ernst Hanfstaengl and Kurt Lüdecke later made credible threats from abroad and were paid handsomely for their silence. Gestapo leader Diels also made it clear that his files were safe abroad. Hitler’s efforts were as pointless as trying to erase an embarrassing porn video or data leak from the Internet today.
But no historian has investigated the question of whether foreign secret services were able to obtain sufficient material and actually used it to blackmail Hitler.
The historian Lothar Machtan writes that Hitler must still have been concerned during his speech in the Reichs parliament on 13 July 1934 that “safes could open somewhere abroad and reveal devastating material”. Hitler’s fears in this regard have not materialized, Machtan says, but this is only partly true. True, there were no public campaigns abroad using destructive material, but the foreign powers would have refrained from such an open campaign, because otherwise, after a fall of Hitler and other Nazi greats, the clearly more capable German generals would have taken power.
At first, the trump card could have been played subtly and indirectly, at a personal meeting, at which, for example, a British diplomat hands over a little incriminating material to Hitler and claims that it had been confiscated in Great Britain or Switzerland from opponents of Hitler. Thus the British would have revealed their possession of such material in a non-hostile way and presented themselves as friends and helpers.
The roles of Ernst Hanfstaengl and Kurt Lüdecke have special significance here. Lüdecke worked for Henry Ford, the American car mogul who had built up his own secret service, provided the NSDAP with money and anti-Semitic propaganda and established vehicle factories in Germany, which later became important in the war. In 1922 Lüdecke brought Ford’s book “Der internationale Jude” (The International Jew) with him to Germany and was thus able to make contacts with high Nazi officials, despite their mistrust of him, and collect all kinds of incriminating information with which he later started serious blackmail attempts from abroad. The historian Machtan assumes that Lüdecke was ultimately satisfied with hush money, but does not ask whether he simply sold or handed over his material to American secret services.
Hanfstaengl had studied at the elite university of Harvard and made his way into the environment of the Führer, whereby he also collected incriminating things and tried again and again to ask Hitler directly about private affairs. Later he maintained contact with the American newspaper mogul William Hearst and Lord Beaverbrook, who owned the newspaper “Daily Express”, where articles appeared with nasty hints about Hanfstaengels and Hitler’s sexuality. Instead of effectively protecting Hitler’s reputation, Hanfstaengl’s activities did rather the opposite and he became unacceptable to the Nazis, whereupon he wrote blackmail letters like Lüdecke and finally fled to London. He did not carry out his threat to bring his material to the public, but entrusted himself to the American secret service in 1942 at the latest. Only certain things that he personally told the American agents about this have been passed down, but one can confidently assume that he also provided files or even relevant photos.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator