“I cannot love any woman until I have completed my task.”
—attributed to Adolf Hitler
“Wicked I am not, truly I am not wicked;
Though wild up-surgings often may plead against my heart”
—Ludwig van Beethoven
(from a letter to a friend)
Speculating on the sexuality of famous persons is often done in an attempt to complete the public’s understanding of the “larger-than-life” persona’s work or actions—particularly those long dead. For many gays or lesbians, it’s comforting to
know that many great artists were “in the club”; for many more narrow-minded straight people it’s just as comforting to know that some of the world’s greatest monsters were queer. As with statistics, one need only choose the samples that make your point.
In Hidden Führer: Debating the Enigma of Hitler’s Sexuality, Lothar Machtan, a straight researcher puts forth the notion that Hitler was a longtime homosexual. As a sixteen-year-old in Linz, we learn that Hitler “demand[s] absolute exclusivity” from his constant companion August Kubizek. The pair reunite in 1908 Vienna where Hitler has been rejected by the Academy of Fine Arts. Kubizek’s 1943 memoir reports a real kiss on the happy day; the 1953 version amends that to a peck on the cheek. What’s a girl to think?
As the power-lusting rejected painter gains power, Machtan reminds the viewer of Hitler’s obsessions for youth (many archive clips of bare-chested “Hitler Youth” and stills of nude body posers beef up the point) and Wagner. Over time, Hitler literally took Wagner’s imagery, icons and mythology from the Bayreuth stage and used them as set dressing—from the uniforms, to “imperial” architecture, to his own death in a “Ring of Fire”—for his world stage.
But, like any celebrity, rumours abounded: Mysterious absences with his chauffeur, never marrying (until the end), homosexual encounters in the trenches of WW I, and the scandal of Ernst Röhm (in 1932 the leader of the dreaded Storm Troopers was “outed” in the press) which, according to Machtan, triggered his murder (along with many of his men in the “Night of Long Knives”) due to Hitler’s desire to remove any evidence (human and files) of his own homosexual activities.
On the opposing side of the argument, amongst others, is Rudiger Lautman—an acknowledged homosexual and sociology professor whose previous students include author Machtan. The banter between them is engaging and challenging: [paraphrase] “Show me the proof,” “I have the proof, but it’s mostly third-party memoirs and hearsay …” The gay man has his doubts; the straight man (who values his hetero-objectivity in examining the “homosexual credentials” of the
tyrannical dictator) is convinced and has penned a book (The Hidden Führer) to prove it.
Wagner’s outspoken great-grandson, Gottfried confirms that Hitler did “spend time with Wagner’s daughter Winifred” and that “Wieland Wagner was molested by Hitler.”
His mistress, Eva Braun, twice attempted suicide and their butler “found no evidence in the sheets” that they ever consummated their relationship. It is also reported that Hitler’s niece ended her life after an encounter with her notorious uncle. Beethoven’s nephew, too, (cross-reference below) attempted suicide to escape his legal guardian’s obsessive rearing. But was the never-married genius gay? Did he have relations with his whoring sister-in-law’s son?
Was his “Immortal Beloved” (cross-reference below) actually a man?
Perhaps more importantly, who would gays and lesbians prefer to include amongst their number?
With its sound tracks filled with Wagner’s music, Hidden Führer asks more questions than it answers and turns the adage on its head: Life imitates art.
See it and join the never-ending discourse.
“Behind this portrait, my dear, good Steffen, all that happened between us for a time shall be hidden forever. I know I have rent your heart. My own emotion, which you must surely have noticed, has been insufficient punishment for this offence.”
—Ludwig van Beethoven
(from a letter to Stephan von Breuning, which included Beethoven’s portrait)
“People must not know who I am.”