Robert Payne, author of the bestselling biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (1973), described Hitler’s “negotiating” style thusly:
“Although Hitler prized his own talents as a negotiator, a man always capable of striking a good bargain, he was totally lacking in finesse.
“He was incapable of bargaining. He was like a man who goes up to a fruit peddler and threatens to blow his brains out if he does not sell his applies at the lowest possible price.”
By studying Hitler’s mindset and “negotiating” methods, we can learn much about the mindset and “negotiating” style of today’s Republican party.
A classic example of Hitler’s “bargaining style” came in 1938, when he invited Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg to his mountaintop retreat in Obersalzberg, Germany. Hitler, an Austrian by birth, intended to annex his native land to Germany.
Kurt von Schuschnigg
Schuschnigg was aware of Hitler’s desire, but nevertheless felt secure in accepting the invitation. He had been assured that the question of Austrian sovereignty would not arise.
The meeting occurred on February 12, 1938.
Shuschnigg opened the discussion with a friendly compliment. Walking over to a large window, he admired the breathtaking view of the mountains.
HITLER: We haven’t come here to talk about the lovely view or the weather!
Austria has anyway never done anything which was of help to the German Reich….I am resolutely determined to make an end to all this business. The German Reich is a great power. Nobody can and nobody will interfere if it restores order on its frontiers.
SCHUSCHNIGG: I am aware of your attitude toward the Austrian question and toward Austrian history….As we Austrians see it, the whole of our history is a very essential and valuable part of German history….And Austria’s contribution is a considerable one.
HITLER: It is absolutely zero—that I can assure you! Every national impulse has been trampled underfoot by Austria….
I could call myself an Austrian with just the same right—indeed with even more right—than you, Herr Schuschnigg. Why don’t you once try a plebiscite in Austria in which you and I run against each other? Then you would see!
SCHUSCHNIGG: Well, yes, if that were possible. But your know yourself, Herr Reich Chancellor, that it just isn’t possible. We simply have to go on living alongside one another, the little state next to the big one. We have no other choice.
And that is why I ask you to tell me what your concrete complaints are. We will do all in our power to sort things out and establish a friendly relationship, as far as it is possible to do so.
HITLER: That’s what you say, Herr Schuschnigg. And I am telling you that I intend to clear up the whole of the so-called Austrian question–one way or another. Do you think I don’t know that you are fortifying Austria’s border with the Reich?
SCHUSCHNIGG: There can be no suggestion at all of that—
HITLER: Ridiculous explosive chambers are being built under bridges and roads—
This was a lie, and Hitler knew it was a lie. But no matter. It gave him an excuse to threaten to destroy Austria—as he was to destroy so many other nations during the next seven years.
HITLER: I have only to give one command and all this comic stuff on the border will be blown to pieces overnight. You don’t seriously think you could hold me up, even for half an hour, do you?
Who knows—perhaps you will find me one morning in Vienna like a spring storm. Then you will go through something! I’d like to spare the Austrians that.
The S.A. [Hitler’s private army of Stormtroopers] and the [Condor] Legion [which had bombed much of Spain into rubble during the three-year Spanish Civil War] would come in after the troops and nobody–not even I–could stop them from wreaking vengeance.
* * * * *
Schnuschigg made a cardinal mistake in dealing with Hitler: He showed fear. And this was precisely what the Nazi dictator looked for in an opponent.
Contrary to popular belief, Hitler did not constantly rage at everyone. On the contrary: he could, when he desired, be charming, especially to women. He used rage as a weapon, knowing that most people feel intimidated by it.
In the case of Schuschnigg, he opened with insults and threats at the outset of their discussion. Then there was a period of calm, to convince the Austrian chancellor the worst was over.
Finally, he once again attacked–this time with so much fury that Schuschnigg was terrified into submission.
With one stroke of a pen, Austria became a vassal-state to Nazi Germany.
Republicans used precisely the same “negotiating” style during the summer of 2011 to threaten the United States with financial ruin unless they got their way in budget negotiations.
And they threatened to do the same again that fall.