*** World War II Biographies: Ernst Hanfstaengl

World War II Biographies: Ernst Hanfstaengl (Germany, 1887-1975)

Ernst 'Putzi' Hanfstaengl
Figure 1.--This is is Ernst 'Putzi' Hanfstaengl after the War with a relative boy. The press caption read, "Hitler's 'Hofnarr' in Anecdotage: Uffing am Staffelsee, Germany. Recently acquitted by a German Denazification Court of charges that he was a major offender under Denazification Law. Dr. Ernest F. Sedgwick Hanfstaengl, former 'Hofnarr' (court jester) to Hitler, is now taking it easy in this little Bavarian backwater, where he is writing his memoirs. Hanfstaengl, who never suceeded iun living down his boyhood nickname of 'Putzi', had an American mother, a Bostonian, and receivd part of his eduvation at Harvard, where he had the reputation of being a good pianist. The boy with him in the photo is Peter von Hanfstaengl, a relative." Hanfstaengl was a fervent Jew hater and as Foreign Press Chief defended the NAZI regime and actions against Jews. He eventully got a taste of the NAZI regime he helped create. He fled Germany himself, before the killing phase of the Holocaust began.

Ernst Franz Sedgwick 'Putzi' Hanfstaengl was born in Munich (1887). He was the son of a wealthy German art publisher, Edgar Hanfstaengl, and an American mother. He spent most of his early years in Germany and later moved to the United States. He began but did not complete Hrvard. He entred his father's art-publishing business. He became a confidant of Hitler before the NAZIs seized power. He was introduced to Hitler in the early-l920s by Captain Truman-Smith, the U.S. Military Attache in Berlin. He was impressed and became a fervent Hitler supporter. He was attracted by Hitler's German nationalist message and anti-Semitism. He provided some financial support. He is said to have saved Hitler's life (1923). This probably refers to the fact that Hitler after the Beer Hall Putsch found refuge at Hanfstaengl's house in Uffing where the photograph here was taken (figure 1). Hitler apparently found him amusing and his company diverting when not talking about politics. Hanfstaengl knowledge of art and musical abilities apparently impressed Hitler. Hanfstaengl was also useful to Hitler, introducing him to Munich high-society and helping to polish his image. Hanfstaengl was unique in that he was a rare individual who could move efforlessly among Hitler's various groups of acquaintances. His only official post was head of the Foreign Press Bureau in Berlin, but this pit him i the way of Propagnd Minister Goebbels. Hanfstaengl began to fall out of favor after Hitler seized power. Much was due to Goebbels. Goebbels saw Hanfstaengl as a threat becausevof his close peronal relationship with Hitler. Albert Speer uses this as an exmple of how effectiuve Goebbels was in manipulatiung Hitler. [Speer, pp. 179-80.] Goebbels, G�ring, and Boreman had learned that Hitler could rarly be convinced to chnge his mind, but could be persuaded with clever manipulatio. Hitler apparently ordered Hanfstaengl to parachute over Spain and act as an agent for Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Hanfstaengl became convinced that this was really a plot on his life. He believed that he had talked the plane's pilot to return to Germany. Albert Speer, another Hitler intimate, writes that it was an elborate practical joke and no harm was actually intended. Speer is one of the best sources on the NAZI inner circle and usually offered a good assessmnt of he individuals involved. And the plot does seem out of character for Hitler. Even so, Hanfstaengl was terrified and decided to defect. Hitler was concerned that Hanfstaengl would provide the fireign press all kinds of unsavory details about his private life. [Speer, p. 180.] But for whatever reason he did not. Hanfstaengl did publish a book, but only more than a decade after the War. Hanfstaengl was interned for a time in a Canadian prisoner of war camp. After America entered the War, Hanfstaengl began to see that Germany was going to lose the War. President Roosevelt helped to get him released. He was tried after the War in a German Denazification Court. While virulently anti-Semetic, Hanfstaengl fled Germany before the killing phase of the Holocaust began.


Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich (Avon, New York, 1970), 734p.


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Created: 7:51 AM 6/7/2014
Last updated: 7:51 AM 6/7/2014