Wednesday night, Jon Ostrower, aerospace beat reporter at The Wall Street Journal, decided to dig into the New York Times' archive to find the publication's first reference to Adolf Hitler. As he discovered, the profile of the rising leader arrived on Nov. 21, 1922, bearing the title "New Popular Idol Rises in Bavaria." It's hard to imagine now, but there was once a time when it was more logical to use a descriptor instead of Hitler's name in the headline when it came to attracting readers.
Noting the nickname "Bavarian Mussolini," the article discusses Hitler's increasing popularity among disenfranchised workers as a "man of the people." The paper also notes that his oratorical prowess allows him to "rouse his hearers to a fighting pitch of fury" but can also reduce them to "docile calmness and good order," and predicted that his "fanatical patriotism" would inevitably lead to a coup against the current Berlin government (although the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch would prove unsuccessful).
The Times even tried to sit down and chat with Hitler. While their interview request was denied, they did get this response: "Herr Hitler regrets he is unable to meet you as he is leaving town on important business for several days." Apparently, this important business included heading to Regensburg (city in south-east Germany) to attend some "reactionary inflammatory meetings" and beat up any protesting socialists and communists.
However, as Ostrower points out, the most fascinating part of the article is the conclusion, in which the Times makes what might be its most erroneous statement ever:
"But several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler's anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes."
The article follows this up by quoting an unnamed, but "sophisticated," politician who basically praises Hitler's political techniques, defending the previous judgement by saying that the masses can't be expected to "understand or appreciate your finer real aims," and so you mask the truth with "cruder morsels." As time would prove, Hitler's anti-Semitism was very genuine and it was very violent.
To read the full article, head over to the New York Times.
Feature image via Bundesarchiv.