Monday, July 29, 2013

Portrait of a Adolf Hitler: 9 Way s to Make Your Villains More Unbalanced (and Creepier!)

A while ago, I was looking for information on Hilter's "carpet chewing" fits and came across a document about Hitler's temperament, based on reports of people who knew and worked with him. (All quotes from this source.) There are some really interesting aspects of his personality. None of them are at all admirable, but I think they could be great things to incorporate into a villain's character sketch.

1. Not forward-thinking or hard working. 

"He is unable to maintain any kind of a working schedule...In later years the hours tended to get later and it was unusual, just before the war, for him to go to bed before daybreak. The night, however, was not spent in working as his propaganda agents allege, but in viewing one or two feature movies, endless newsreels, listening to music, entertaining film stars or just sitting around chatting with his staff."

2. Afraid of the dark. 

"He seemed to have a violent dislike for going to bed or being alone. Frequently, he would ring for his adjutants in the middle of the night after his guests had gone home and demand that they sit up and talk to him. It was not that he had anything to say and often the adjutants would fall asleep listening to him talk about nothing of importance."

3. Obsessive compulsive. 

"Rauschning (275) claims that Hitler has a bed compulsion which demands that the bed be made in a particular way with the quilt folded according to a proscribed pattern and that a man must make the bed, before he can go to sleep. We have no other information on this subject but from his general psychological structure such a compulsion would be possible."

4. Chaotic/Disorganized. 

"His working day before the war was equally disorderly. Rauschning reports, "he does not know how to work steadily. Indeed, he is incapable of working." He dislikes desk work and seldom glances at the piles of reports which are placed on his desk daily. No matter how important these may be or how much his adjutants may urge him to attend to the particular matter, he refuses to take them seriously unless it happens to be a project which interests him."

5. Vanity. 

"He has a passion for the latest news and for photographs of himself. If Hoffmann, the official Party photographer, happens to appear or someone happens to enter his office with a newspaper he will interrupt the most inportant meeting in order to scan [Page 57] through them Very frequently he becomes so absorbed in the news or in his own photographs that he completely forgets the topic under discussion."

6. Procrastination

"Although Hitler tries to present himself as a very decisive individual who never hesitates when he is confronted by a difficult situation, he is usually far from it. It is at just these times that his procrastination becomes most marked. At such times it is almost impossible to get him to take action on anything. He stays very much by himself and is frequently almost inaccessible to his immediate staff. He often becomes depressed, is in bad humor, talks little, and prefers to read a book, look at movies or play with architectural models. According to the Dutch report (656) his hesitation to act is not due to divergent views among his advisers.  At such times, he seldom pays very much attention to them and prefers not to discuss the matter...It is during these periods of inactivity that Hitler is waiting for his "inner voice" to guide him. He does not think the problem through in a normal way but waits until the solution is presented to him.These periods of indecision may last from a few days to several weeks."

7. Illogical. 

"This is a very fundamental trait in Hitler's character structure. He does not think things out in a logical and consistent fashion, gathering all available information pertinent to the problem, mapping out alternative courses of action and then weighing the evidence pro and con for each of them before reaching a decision. His mental processes operate in reverse. Instead of studying the problem as an intellectual would do he avoids it and occupies himself with other things until unconscious processes furnish him with a solution.
Having the solution he then begins to look for facts which will prove that it is correct. In this procedure he is very clever and by the time he presents it to his associates, it has the appearance of a rational judgment. Nevertheless, his thought processes proceed from the emotional to the factual instead of starting with the facts as an intellectual normally does."

8. Somewhat creepy and possibly possessed. 

"Almost everyone who has written about Hitler has commented on his rages. These are well known to all of his associates and they have learned to fear them. The descriptions of his behavior during these rages vary considerably. The more extreme descriptions claim that at the climax he rolls on the floor and chews on the carpets. Shirer (279) reports that in 1938 he did this so often that his associates frequently referred to him as "Teppichfresser"...Even without this added touch of chewing the carpet, his behavior is still extremely violent and shows an utter lack of emotional control. In the worst rages he undoubtedly acts like a spoiled child who cannot have his own way and bangs his fists on the tables and walls. He scolds and shouts and stammers and on some occasions foaming saliva gathers in the corners of his mouth."

9. Manipulative. 

"Many writers believe that these rages are just play acting. There is much to be said for this point of view since Hitler's first reaction to the unpleasant situation is not indignation, as one would ordinarily expect under these circumstances. He goes off into a rage or tirade without warning. Similarly, when he has finished, there is no aftermath. He immediately cools down and begins to talk about other matters in a perfectly calm tone of voice as though nothing had happened. Occasionally he will look around sheepishly, as if to see if anyone is laughing, and then proceeds with other matters, without the slightest trace of resentment."

Almost no one would argue that Hitler was anything but evil, yet all of these situations portray Hitler as immature and even childish at times. How, then, did he hold the world captive for so long? We could go into how and why, but that's a whole other discussion. For now, let's just call it one of those seemingly ironic, contradictory things about the world. Personally, I see it as a manic thing that I think could be attributed to some form of possession. (Yes, I'm serious. I do believe in such things.) 

No matter the explanation, these traits can be seen in other unbalanced figures as well. If you need a way to get your villains to stand out, try incorporating one of these freakily unbalanced traits. If nothing else, you can the  say that your villain is partly based on Hitler. That's sure to draw readers. :D

Which of these traits strikes you as one you could incorporate into a story?


  1. This is such a great idea! I love how you related the two: writing villains and Hitler! I doubt a lot of people would think about that. And the possessed part? Scary! :o

  2. How on earth did he lead a nation and a war then?