During the course of our visit to the Museum of the 45th Infantry Division, I found the exhibit dedicated to the relics spirited away from Adolph Hitler`s apartment in Munich and two things captured my attention: his cloak and his mirror.
First I closely studied the black shroud emblazoned with Nazi regalia, imagining him inside of it – what awe and terror he inspired in both friend and enemy alike. By the cut of the cloth it seemed he was a man of only average size (maybe only about 5`7″ to 5`9″) and hardly an imposing physical specimen – yet millions followed his edicts and committed some of the most heinous atrocities in our modern “enlightened” age. The power of ideas. The power of utter hatred.
I then stood before the mirror (that a soldier boy from Oklahoma brought home from Hitler`s bedroom) and envisioned him standing before it also – I wondered what he saw when he peered into his own reflection.
Did he see the monster that the world now knows him to be? Or did he see the visage of a great crusader and liberator of his people? Did he see, in himself, the Nietzschean ideal of the Ubermensch – the one that would “transcend” good & evil (whatever that might mean) and usher in a Golden Age?
Hitler was no monster nor was he some demon sent from Hell. He was a man, an evil man to be sure, but a man notwithstanding.
I cannot hide behind the guise that he represents something of an anomaly of human nature, but I must confess that he is one of the many illustrations of humanity`s potential for evil. The same potential that lies within us all.