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Hitler Sometimes Takes a Nap

Hitler Sometimes Takes a Nap

And other insights from The New York Times.

by and

In 1939, with the Nuremberg Laws and Kristallnacht matters of public record, the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps in operation, and German Jews disenfranchised and dispossessed of their properties, The New York Times Magazine published a detailed piece about Adolf Hitler.

"Hitler sometimes takes a nap," it explained.

But rest assured, the newspaper dug deeper: "Hitler can be a good listener." "Hitler is able to talk well as host." "Hitler likes an after-breakfast stroll on his mountain." "Hitler frequently has tea up here." "The Fuehrer does not always take his meals in company." "He likes well-cooked dishes," he "makes no secret of being fond of chocolate," he "walks little, but vigorously," and he "is fond of his climb above the clouds."

The article's focus on Hitler's "very green" grass, "friendly-looking" mountain home, and "excellent" tomatoes humanized the despot – which is exactly what Hitler's propagandists intended when they designed his homes and invited journalists to share his space, according an upcoming book by architectural historian Despina Stratigakos. The aim, the book explains, was "to foster the myth of the Führer as a morally upstanding and refined man."

The New York Times, then, did not only "bury" news of the Holocaust, as has been documented in recent years, but in this article was a willing, even if unknowing, participant in Hitler's propaganda.

This puff piece on Hitler evokes a much more recent New York Times article about Muqdad Salah, a Palestinian prisoner released by Israel as part of a deal meant to restart peace talks.

Salah is no Hitler. But the paper's empathic, back-to-nature descriptions of the two killers overlap strikingly.

Salah is no Hitler. He only murdered a single Jew, albeit an elderly Holocaust survivor, and albeit in a brutal manner – 72-year-old Israel Tenenbaum was napping when Salah bludgeoned him to death with a metal rod. And the newspaper's story on Saleh did mention his misdeeds, something its feature on Hitler's house largely avoided. But the paper's empathic, back-to-nature descriptions of the two killers overlap strikingly.

About the German, the newspaper noted that he "has a habit of climbing straight up behind the house … between fir trees with heavy branches" for a vista that allows him to "look over into what used to be Austria." About the Palestinian, current Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren wrote, "Mr. Salah had run past the house to smell a favored carob tree, and then he climbed atop a sheep shed to survey the changed village."

Outside Hitler's house, crowds "are apt to congregate outside the lodge gate patiently waiting to catch a glimpse of him." Salah was described as being "welcomed before dawn by a cacophonous crowd." Hitler "decided to rebuild" his home in the mountains. Salah "remodeled and refurnished his mother's home." Hitler "likes an after-breakfast stroll on his mountain." Salah explains, "I want to breathe the air, I want to walk." (Alas, the Palestinian is described as being stymied by Israel's parole-like restrictions, just as the piece's less-flattering descriptions of Salah are often linked to his life having been "disrupted" by the Israelis who jailed him after the murder.)

Similar currents can be found in the newspapers treatment of other anti-Jewish violence. A recent piece in the New York Times Magazine was roundly criticized for romanticizing Palestinian stone-throwers. It painted a picture of heroic activists who do little but "irritate" the Israelis while overlooking the reality that stones kill Jewish civilians. (Even the piece's anti-Israel supporters delightfully agreed that the piece "featured heroic portraits" of the rioters.) A news article by Rudoren published a few months later likewise cast stone-throwing in a gentle light.

And the title of the story "Helping Hand of Hezbollah Emerging in South Lebanon," about a terrorist group that has carried out massive, bloody attacks targeting Jews across the world, speaks for itself.

The New York Times, in short, hasn't stopped putting a friendly face on violent anti-Semites.

Make no mistake: the contexts are dramatically different. No amount of contemporary terror can begin to approach the horror of the Nazi's systematic genocide. But some of the lessons are the same.

About articles on Hitler's home life, which appeared not only in The New York Times but also other mainstream media, Despina Stratigakos, the historian and author, emphasized that "stories considered 'harmless fluff' can serve as powerful propaganda." And speaking about Hitler, though she could have been referring to The Times and its treatment of the murderer Salah, she added that "we can be lulled into changing our ideas of someone through a slick presentation of their private lives."

Americans reading about the bucolic Hitler might conclude that "maybe this person was not as bad as all of the news coming out of Europe seemed to suggest," Stratigakos said. It would quickly emerge that those swayed by the pieces were wrong. And in present just as in the past, the public attitudes of American citizens, shaped by their media, matter. The whitewashing of anti-Jewish extremism and downplaying of dangerous attitudes has consequences for public understanding of the Middle East, and perhaps also for the security of Jews.

(See also "The New York Times Whitewashes Its Complicity in Whitewashing Hitler.")

September 15, 2015

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Kathleen Dahnke Nottestad, September 18, 2015 2:41 AM

Judgement Day is for one and all!

I think when you censor you are getting into an area that is questionable @ best - I'd like to think people intelligent enough to read between the lines. I'm sure you could have chosen from a jail on death row inmates and interview the chosen party and with adjectives - select verbs - and interesting nouns - write about a very pleasing individual - to those who know of the dark side of this individual the article would fall on a questionable - how can you write anything positive about this dark character, who destroyed the world of such and such a family. I think in cases like this to not give both sides of the coin is a disservice to all readers and not good journalism - when not balanced with the full account of both sides of the coin it says a great deal about the author and the publication that publishes the half truths. I will admit I read an article about Hitler stating what a great speaker he was - to me he was the devil in disguise - and think throught the ages other great speakers - Jonestown - those who believed and drank the koolaid - poison!!! They heard what they wanted to hear and lost their lives because of not sensoring what they choose to believe. In the end the believers of wrong, those who follow like the children followed the Pipe Piper - mesmerized - the Justice System is flawed terrible but do NOT lose faith for everyone will one day meet their maker and the true judgement of right vs wrong will be handed down, and the Hitlers of this world those who had gifts given from above but choose to use their gifts in wicked ungodly ways will meet their judgement. More journalist who are not holding to good judgement in this case not mentioning the millions of innocent lives ended by a monster who choose to give the gifts of having a golden tongue be used to sway people not capable of thinking intellectually and knowing right from wrong. Check your commandments - how are those your listening to doing???

(4) H.E.Brown, September 18, 2015 12:46 AM

Hitler and his naps.

Amazing how so called reputable news out let's operate, how they humanize, evil and despot individuals. Real nice guy down deep. BALONEY! BALONEY! BALONEY! He (they) are evil so stop humanizing, them. He (they) are evil and all he (they) care about is SELF.

(3) Gary Rosen, September 17, 2015 6:25 AM

NYT pubisher Sulzberger

Pinch Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times hates Israel and loudly rejects his Jewish heritage (he was raised as an Episcopalian). He is also dumber than a box of rocks.

I have first-hand knowledge of his stupidity because I went to high school with him. But it was only for a year because he flunked out. We can at least comfort ourselves with the knowledge that Sulzberger carries on the long tradition of antisemites being nitwits and losers.

(2) Fred, September 16, 2015 11:49 PM

Judas goat.

The New York Times is a true heir to Hitler's "Der Sturmer "its editors are true followers of Julius Streicher. They do not mind to wallow in Jewish blood and revel at the deeds of the murderers. A sad but outrageous band of syncophants curing for Arab favours & blood money.

(1) Ra'anan, September 16, 2015 8:33 PM


Well-written. I confess to being soften by romantic fluff. Now that you've shown me the technique, I can be on guard.

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