A Crisis of Leadership

Gorlizki and Mommsen along with Schivelbusch present information regarding the political rise and eventual control of the Nazi Party in Germany under Hitler, and the Communist Party in the USSR under Stalin. Mommsen and Gorlizki conclude that, in addition to a variety of economic, agricultural, and social reasons, Stalin and his party maintained control over its subordinates so well through the “centralized and institutionally¬†integrated party”1 which essentially formed the core of the state. Gorlizki and Mommsen go on to discuss the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany, and they contend that “the state
and ideology relied to a far greater extent for what coherence they had on the
cult of the Fuhrer.”2 This concept of a “cult of the Fuhrer” is a concept touched upon (and explained in detail) by Schivelbusch. In Schivelbusch’s chapter entitled “Leaders”, he contends that Adolf Hitler had an extraordinary ability to “speak to the soul of the people”3, which (as Gorlizki and Mommsen mentioned) helped create the “cult of the Fuhrer”, or, in more simple terms, the love of the German people for their leader contributed greatly to the success garnered by Hitler and the Nazi party; the people of Germany, (unlike the people of the USSR, who as pointed out by Mommsen and Gorlizki became infatuated with, and allowed for the development of “the party”), allowed Hitler to become larger than life.

The idea of leadership and its evolution and importance in the USSR and Germany is an important area to look at in order to bring context to our class, but since Schivelbusch touched on Roosevelt, it would be interesting to bring more context to the American political sphere of that time, and see how closely the opinions of Roosevelt held by the American people parralled with the opinions of German and Soviet citizens with regard to their respective rulers.

  1. Gorlizki and Mommsen, 85 []
  2. Gorlizki and Mommsen, 85 []
  3. Schivelbusch, 54 []

3 thoughts on “A Crisis of Leadership

  1. I think it is interesting to examine how Stalin was viewed by the soviet citizenry. He remains reviled in our culture retrospectively, but during the time period Russians actually did adorn Stalin as a deity in a similar way that the Germans under the influence of the Nazi party saw Hitler. In contrast, in Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals, FDR was portrayed as more down to earth and intimate, someone who you would feel comfortable inviting over for dinner and fraternizing with.

    How does the personality of a nation’s leader reflect its culture?

  2. Shawj, in America, the people often want someone in charge they can relate to and understand, and FDR did just that for them. His fireside chats allowed the people to feel part of the government, and informed. It was an intimate setting. FDR was more relaxed in his addresses to the people, and the culture of the nation followed suit. People respected and admired him, but did not form a “cult” like the Germans did for Hitler. Hitler’s speeches were at rallies,exiting the people, whipping them into a fervor, this cultivated an obsession with Hitler, and the cult that followed. It followed mob mentality.

  3. The medium used for connection to the people also affects the manner in which the leader is perceived. The stage of Hitler’s speeches made him appear mythical, while FDR joined the family as a benevolent paterfamilias during his fireside chats. Stalin essentially functioned as the leader of an oligarchy, shown in the way he was surrounded by his inner circle during the Soviet sports parade we saw in class. In that way he is separated from the people, like Hitler, but still theoretically on the same level as his inner circle. That reflects to a certain extent the nature of the culture of the Stalinist Soviet Union.

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