Heinrich Hoffmann: Hitler’s Personal Photographer

Heinrich Hoffmann is a man rarely discussed outside the realm of Holocaust historians and yet he was imperative to the shaping of Hitler’s pristine image as the key to a stronger Germany. With unfaltering loyalty, Hoffmann photographed the dictator from his early days in the Beer Hall Putsch to his complete dominance of Germany and several parts of Europe. Through Hoffmann’s careful curatorial skills, Hitler’s image became a symbol of love and freedom for some and struck absolute horror in others.

Beer-Hall-Putsch-Defendants
Hitler at the Beer Hall Putsch where he was arrested in 1923.  Photograph by Heinrich Hoffmann.

The many, many images shot by Heinrich now provide historians with a glimpse of how Hitler perfected his public persona and how hard he worked on it. Because Heinrich Hoffmann was Hitler’s personal photographer but also his close friend, his body of work is unparalleled elsewhere. From black and whites of Hitler striking various poses which he later studied to work on the body language of his speeches to images of him with children, animals and other heart warming shots, Hoffman helped Hitler work his way into the hearts of the German people. He was perhaps one of the most effective public relations employees in history.

hitler-rehearses-speech-6
Hoffman took a series of shots of Hitler practicing his speeches.  These shots are not only evidence of how hard Hitler worked on his persona but also helped to grow his popularity in Germany beyond politician status.  Photo by Heinrich Hoffman and taken from http://www.ushmm.org/.

Photographing Hitler was an incredibly lucrative business. Hoffman’s images were sold for high sums, making him a millionaire.[1] However, the fame and fortune was not without consequence. After the war, Hoffman was tried and sentenced with ten years of imprisonment of which he served only five. In 1955, Hoffman published Hitler was my Friend just two years before his death. [2]

Although Hoffman’s body of work is decades old, its lessons are timely. In a world saturated with images and media coverage, a single photograph (or edited photograph at that) can still pack a lot of punch. Be sure to think twice before taking it at face value.

[1] http://spartacus-educational.com/GERhoffmann.htm

[2] http://spartacus-educational.com/GERhoffmann.htm

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