Knowing Your Surroundings

Although the two texts this evening certainly convey their historical narratives in different manners, they both strike a remarkably similar theme. Throughout Yoram Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen’s rather exhaustive comparison of Nazism and Communism’s unique implementations and Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s analysis of Hitler and FDR’s ability to garner public adoration and support, you can see how each leader deliberately and continuously tailored their actions to their environment.

In the second chapter of Three New Deals, Schivelbusch identifies more than just FDR and Hitler’s common interaction with the people. While such exchanges proved vital to each leader’s success, the mediums they employed dictated their success. Both men operated within the boundaries of their peoples’ comforts. The widespread American ownership and familiarity with radios allowed FDR to capitalize on such technology. Conversely, radio’s limited presence, and thus familiarity, among German households rendered such technology ineffective ((Shivelbusch, Wolfgang. Three New Deals. New York: Picador, 2006, p. 66-68)).

In their essay “The Political (Dis)Orders of Stalinism and National Socialism,” Gorlizki and Mommsen build off of a concept that Shivelbusch stresses later in the chapter. He notes that Hitler and FDR connected with the people only as much as the prevailing political situation demanded. The frequency of Hitler’s public appearances diminished once he completed his ascension to total power. His speeches, which were originally delivered to develop a supreme national confidence in him, assumed the role of a bookmark: an occasional reminder of his place ((Ibid., p. 65)). Meanwhile, FDR’s fireside chats continued due to the necessity to constantly maintain support in a democratic government ((Ibid., p. 65)). It is this political awareness that Gorlizki and Mommsen also acknowledge in Hitler but also extend to Stalin. Gorlizki and Mommsen identify the manner in which Hitler’s public speeches and creation of his deific status suited the very functions of the Nazi government. The decentralized structure of the Nazi party paid tribute to Hitler’s demeanor. His charisma and connection to subordinates empowered them to act with authority ((Gorlizki, Yoram and Hans Mommsen. “The Political (Dis)Orders of Stalinism and National Socialism.” In Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared, edited by Michael Geyer and Sheila Fitzpatrick, 41-86. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. p. 55)) Similarly, the centralized structure and goals of Russia’s Communist government pushed Stalin to influence public mentality through extensive administrative juggling and realignment instead of public broadcasting ((Ibid., p. 64)). In Stalinist Russia, the party came before the leader and the entire government needed to reflect the party’s standards.

Each leader consciously situated himself exactly where his political system required. From FDR’s intimate, reassuring fireside to Hitler’s empowering speeches, each leaders’ actions were meticulously rehearsed and precisely tailored ((Shivelbusch, Wolfgang. Three New Deals. New York: Picador, 2006, p. 70-72)). Their individual success came from their ability to successfully control their country in whatever manner the political and social atmosphere required.




Leadership from the top.   Two books, Three New Deals by Wolfgang Schivelbusch and Beyond Totalitarianism, a book with a collection of works by various authors, explored the term leadership and how it applied to FDR, Hitler, and Stalin. Schivelbusch’s book two new deals focused on the connection FDR and Hitler had with its population using the term ‘charisma’ while Chapter 2 of Beyond Totalitarianism primarily focused on the political make up of Hitler and Stalin and the differences between the two men.

In Chapter two of Schivelbush’s book, he focuses on the how FDR and Hitler made connections with its population using ‘Charisma.’ Specifically, Schivelbush refers to the term “Charisma” when he discusses FDR and Hitler.  Schivelbush discussed what a charismatic leader is and how they arise.  He stated that a charismatic leader “is a man who stands above party politics” and that the charismatic leader “arises in crisis situations”. ((SchivelBusch, WolfGang. Three New Deals. New York: Henry Holt and Company 2006. 50))  As examples, Schivelbusch pointed out how FDRs fireside chat and Hitlers rallies were used to rally the population.  In his fireside chats, FDR attempted to rally the US population in hopes to raise their moral levels during the Great Depression and World War II.   Interestingly enough, Schivelbusch notes that no other person could pull off the fireside chats like Roosevelt. ((SchivelBusch, WolfGang. Three New Deals. New York: Henry Holt and Company 2006. 56))  In his way of boosting the German population, Hitler used speeches to promote his opinions and facts.  Schivelbusch noted that Hitler had a particular way of presenting his speeches.  He noted that Hitler’s speeches had three parts.  Hitler speeches entailed presenting facts, then angrily blame German enemies for the problems, and then end his speeches with “positive” tone.  ((SchivelBusch, WolfGang. Three New Deals. New York: Henry Holt and Company 2006. 56))  Hitler used these speeches to let the German population know that Germany was going to be strong and that its ‘enemies’ would not get in the way.  While FDR’s speech came in a more calm and collected manner in hopes to boost American moral, Hitler wanted Germans to get excited about the future, a future where Germany would be strong again.

Yoram Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen’s piece on Stalinism and National Socialism in the book Beyond Totalitarianism also discussed Hitlers ability to talk.  Like Schivelbush’s chapter on leadership, Girlizki and Mommsen discussed how Hitlers ability to talk was key to his authority.  The authors argued that all of Hitlers “most important policy decisions were accompanied by major speeches.” ((Gorlizki, Yoram and Hans Mommsen.  “The Political ‘dis’orders of Stalinism and National Socialism” in Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared, edited by Michael Geyer and Sheila Fitzpatrick. 64-65. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009))


Schivelbush’s chapter on Hitler and FDR and Gorlizki and Mommsen’s share a common theme.  They both discuss the characteristics of leaders and how they were a leader of men.  Although Schivelbush used FDR instead of Gorlizki and Mommsen’s use of Stalin, they both discuss how these leaders have certain characteristics that make them capable of leading their countries and boosting their populations moral, regardless of how history views them. FDR had the ability to give a strong and confident voice to the American people to get through hard times in his Fire side chats.  Hitler also used speeches to boost German unity and confidence through his rally’s.  Stalin on the contrary used his ability of working long hours “on the machinery of the government” to push his regime forward. ((Gorlizki, Yoram and Hans Mommsen.  “The Political ‘dis’orders of Stalinism and National Socialism” in Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared, edited by Michael Geyer and Sheila Fitzpatrick. 64-65. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009))