If Hitler killed so many people, why is he called a genius?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If there is a "genius" to Hitler, it would be how he was able to convince so many of ideas which were so repugnant.  On face value, if one were to say that they possessed a plan to eliminate millions of people in the most horrific of manners, few would embrace such a suggestion.  Hitler was able to convince millions of people as to this very idea without any opposition or articulated rage against such a solution.  Outside of this philosophical explanation, he possessed a political guile, as well.  His genius resided in his ability to subvert the weakness of the political system in Weimar Germany.  Recognizing the weaknesses of the state at the time, Hitler and his party rose from the fringes of the social and political orders and consolidated power.  Being looked at as an "outsider" or someone who was a "loon," Hitler banked on public apathy towards mainstream politics and gathered more people who genuinely believed his ideas.  Once this became a significant number, the fragmented condition of Weimar politics allowed him to assume power and then destroy the democratic mechanism which allowed him to gain it.  This represented an act of political genius and folly on those who allowed it to happen.  Finally, Hitler understood that the horrors of the First World War and the fearful pall it cast upon the "civilized" leaders of Europe would allow him to take advantage of the policy of appeasement.  Leaders like Britain's Chamberlain who were so horrified by the reality of the First World War that their attempts with Hitler actually brought on the Second were manipulated by the Nazis.   These are not examples of a good type of genius, but the realistic presence of an "evil one."  This is best seen in Yeats' poem, "The Second Coming," when something is in the distance that has found a way to take everyone's hopes, dreams, and fears, converge them into one vision, "slouching towards Bethlehem, waiting to be born."

jseligmann eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It depends on who you listen to. Some called him a genius because he had early military successes. Some called him a genius because he gave speeches that tapped deep into the hearts and minds of a demoralized Geman populace. Some called him a genius because they had a self-serving desire to elevate his stature.

In the larger perspective, however, it doesn't matter what label you give someone; it is far better to judge an individual by his or her moral character and deeds accomplished. Hitler lead his country to horror and ruin, brought about the destruction of broad swaths of Europe and was responsible for the deaths of millions of people.

It's sad that true geniuses, who bring so much good to the world, are associated, because of mis-labeling, with such true, real-life hate-mongers and villains like Adolf Hitler.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's difficult for me to ascribe the term genius to Hitler, not just because of his horrible crimes against humanity and the world, but because I just don't think it truly applies to him.

He was very effective at using mob psychology to unite and motivate large numbers of people around an ideology of hate and aggression.  He was smart, from a military standpoint to realize the utility of the tank and the winning strategy of the Blitzkrieg, and he very adroitly played off rivals in his own government against each other allowing him to maintain unquestioned power.

None of these things make him a genius, however.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The word "genius" does not mean that someone is a good person.  Instead, it just means that a person was particularly great at some particular kind of endeavor.  I think that Hitler would qualify as a particularly evil political genius.

You can say Hitler was a genius because he was so good at manipulating people.  He was able to get people to go along with his ideas even when they seemed to be completely crazy.  Because he was able to do this, you would have to say he was a genius.  Sadly, he used his great talents for one of the most evil goals ever.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What bothers me here is the word “if.”  Never doubt that Hitler was responsible for the deaths of millions upon millions of innocent people. Whether he dirtied his hands with the actual exterminations, there is no doubt that others did this for him. That is a sign of his genius. The intelligence he used to manipulate the people serving under him and all of his devoted followers proves his genius. Sadly, rather than use this genius for the betterment of humankind, he used it for his own personal gain and gratification.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the saying goes there is a "fine line between genius and insanity." this is certainly the case with Hitler. Though it is hard to look past the evil regime he presided over, the way he rose to power and the control he had over millions of people could be considered the work of a genius, though unfortunately Hitler channeled his energies for an evil cause.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As stated above someone can be considered a genius and still be a very bad person. It would be hard for me to acknowledge someone who brought about as many evils as Hitler did to a stature of genius simply because of those evils. i guess technically we would need to know whatr his IQ was to decide whether or not he was truly a genius.

marbar57 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would have to deny Hitler the privilege of being considered a genius.  He might have started out to redeem Germany with the best of intentions, but it quickly turned into Europe's worst nightmare! 

Any qualities he did have don't do much to counteract the repugnance one feels at the crimes he committed against humanity! 

fadarwest | Student

I think knowledge is something a lot of people have gain, good and bad people. I believe the way one uses that knowledge determines if they might be intelligent or not. Or if they use their knowledge for good or evil. Hitler may have had a lot of knowledge but he used it in a very horrific, evil way. That to me does not say he was intelligent. Intelligence is a more lofty ideal, something good that we use our knowledge for. I don't mean to get all religious but if you believe that the glory of God is intelligence, then how could one ever equate Hitler to that?

infantedegracia | Student

Genius can not be considered a mediocre military strategist who relied on astrology in making important decisions.

Hitler relied on Astrology? Are we sure about that? No one can make up their mind about the man. He was a Catholic/He was an Atheist. He was a Conservative/He was a Liberal. Basically, he's the opposite of whatever you are...making you feel really good about yourself, I guess.

As far as him not being a good military strategist toward the end supposedly meaning he couldn't be a genius...then I guess Mozart and Einstein weren't genius' then? Because those two hacks couldn't win a war, I assure you! No, Hitler wasn't a military genius, and whatever his doctors had him on didn't help his meglomania because he really believed his own hype. He had great generals and pound for pound the strongest army in the world. Not only was he not a military genius, you might even say militarily...eh, he rode the short bus.

His genius was getting people to kill and die for him and to still have people talking about him for centuries to come.


infantedegracia | Student
If Hitler killed so many people, why is he called a genius?

If Hitler killed so many people, why is he called a genius?

Just the mention of "Hitler" seems to reduce people to emotional outbursts and childish thinking, as evidenced by both the qustion and some of the answers here. The emotional outbursts based on victor's history turned post war propaganda and the childish notion that because the man is held responsible for all of the horrors of world war 2, that he can't possibly have any redeeming qualities. First off, he was voted in. So...so much for that theory. 

The fact that the man is still such a potent and potentially volatile topic 70 years after his suicide should answer your question as the implication is obvious. Hitler became as popular as Jesus. Hitler overtook Satan in the perceived "evil" dept. Meet the new Satan, same as the old Satan...only now with utopian ideology and a funny little mustache! 

Jesus wasn't loved right away either, though. Just sayin'

He created such a cult of personality around himself that even the descendents of his enemies deem it neccessary to demonize him as if he were still a threat. And again, suspiciously, he never has any redeeming qualities: "Not only was he a tyrant, he only had one testicle! And he was into scat! And he ate kitten pie and bathed in baby blood! And..." you catch my drift. 

Whether you paint him as a monster or a hero, you build him up to the status of a god. Even JFK saw it. Look up his quote about Hitler. Stuff of legends, indeed.

giorgiana1976 | Student

Genius can not be considered a mediocre military strategist who relied on astrology in making important decisions.

nusratfarah | Student

Peel the banana, now what is that? A sweet fruit which is very good for health. You can judge Adolf Hitler as this banana. If you peel the bad sides, though he's done many worst kind of things, you can find some good sides, inside the autocratic, despotic dictator.

versatilekamini | Student

Hitler was lucky and unlucky at the same time he was one of many disgruntled People living in Europe during the time of the depression. He was lucky that the winners of WW1 were happy to watch Germans men women and children starve in the streets. it is easy to recruit thugs under those circumstances. He was lucky that the conditions placed on Germany were not enforced. He was lucky that the countries surrounding him were of a class of people that had no idea what superior technology and speed could do in a war.

mkcapen1 | Student

Adolph Hitler's genius lies in his ability to use public speech and propaganda to unite a people in hatred.  He had a strong ability to invoke loyalty among party members.  One of the interesting things is that many socio-paths or people with anti-social personality disorder have a high level of intelligence.  Hitler had many qualities that made him a socio-path.

Hitler also knew that the way to please the German population was to pour back into the population the things that were absent.  He used the money from Jewish land holdings and property to build better highways, provide a supplemental food program, nannies, and vacations for the German people.

Being very smart is not dependent on kindness or cruelty.