Although Adolf Hitler, unlike just about all politicians of that time worked mostly for his people, satisfying their needs as he perceived them, he (like just about any other politician of any time) had a number of his own “pet projects”.
His most ambitious project by far was transformation of German people into a fast-growing nation of Übermenschen – “superhuman beings”. By itself it was a noble undertaking; unfortunately, it was accompanied by two related very criminal and outright murderous projects (which I will cover in detail in the chapter devoted to numerous Hitler’s crimes). As it often happens, both projects were much worse than horrendous crimes – they were monumental blunders.
The chronologically first murderous project was sterilization and murder of “genetically inferior” (and thus undesirable) individuals which culminated in the infamous Aktion T4 – mass murder through involuntary euthanasia.
The second one was making Germany (and subsequently German-controlled territories as well) Judenrein – “free of Jewish blood”. Although initially this highly criminal objective was supposed to be achieved by forced emigration, in a few years it escalated to mass deportations (the infamous “Madagascar Plan”) and ultimately to mass murder (the Holocaust).
There was, however, a related project that saved, not destroyed lives. The lives of unborn babies. Determined to make German nation as fast-growing as possible, he outlawed abortion almost as soon as he acquired absolute power (both the doctor who performed an abortion and a woman who aborted a baby could face a death sentence). If the baby was deemed genetically heathy, of course.
Another very much criminal (thankfully, not murderous) and very much pet project pursued by Adolf Hitler was cleansing and expansion of art collections in Greater Germany (Germany + Austria + territories returned to Germany after invasion and occupation of Poland).
Although after having been poisoned by mustard gas in October of 1918, Hitler could no longer paint or draw, he still was very much a connoisseur of arts (or at least considered himself such).
But not of all arts – only of classic arts that Hitler declared emotionally and spiritually healthy for a German nation. Hitler considered Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism and other “-isms” of the “modern art” decadent and thus poisonous for the German minds, hearts and souls.
Consequently, it is no surprise at all that after he came to power he began to vigorously cleanse German museums and art galleries from the abovementioned “garbage”. By either selling the art abroad (and then using the proceeds for military or civilian purposes) or destroying paintings or sculptures (if no buyer could be found).
The “works of degenerate art” were to be replaced first by “classics” confiscated from the Jews (who were forced to leave just about everything behind when they left Germany) and then by items obtained by plundering museums, art galleries and the like in German-occupied territories. His ultimate objective was to establish the European Art Museum in his almost native Linz.
Fortunately, not all Hitler’s pet projects were of criminal (let alone murderous) nature. He loved animals dearly and so was fundamentally and fiercely opposed to vivisection (surgery conducted for experimental purposes on a living animal, often without proper anesthesia).
Hence he made it his priority to outlaw the practice (common at the time worldwide) making Germany the first nation to do away with this diabolical method. Most such laws in the world (including those that require humane slaughter of livestock), are derived from the laws put forth by the Nazi Party.
It, however, did not prevent Nazi doctors from performing vivisection on living humans – often without proper anesthesia. Or from murdering millions of Jews, Russians, Poles, etc.
Another his concern was protection of German wildlife. In 1934, a national hunting law was passed to regulate how many animals could be killed per year, and to establish proper ‘hunting seasons’. These hunting laws have now been adopted in most countries.
The Nazi Government also footed the bill for education on animal conservation at Primary, Secondary and College levels. The next year another law was passed, – the Reich Nature Protection Act. This law placed several native species on a protection list including the famous grey wolf and Eurasian lynx. Additions were added later as to afforestation (creation of forests) and the humane slaughter of living fish.
Without this law it is very likely that many species would have completely disappeared from Germany’s forests.
Another Hitler’s pet project that ended up saving quite a few lives, was his anti-smoking campaign. He hated the smell of tobacco smoke so much that he couldn’t stand someone lighting up in the same room (hence no one dared to), and publicly called this habit “a waste of money”.
Hence it is not a surprise at all that the NSDAP and the Nazi government launched one of the most expensive (and very successful) tobacco movements in modern history. While during the 1930s and 1940s, other anti-tobacco movements failed miserably in other countries, in Nazi Germany it was an outstanding success.
The Nazis banned smoking in restaurants and public transportation systems, citing public health, and severely restricted the advertising of smoking and cigarettes. There was also a high tobacco tax, and the supplies of cigarettes to the Wehrmacht were rationed. Several health organizations in Nazi Germany even found out (and preached) that smoking heightened the risks of miscarriages by pregnant women, now a commonly known fact.
The statistics of annual cigarette consumption per capita in 1940 was very impressive – an average German smoked four times less cigarettes than an average American – 749 versus over 3,000.
Although Adolf Hitler never entered the School of Architecture, he was always keenly interested in the subject. And, according to memoirs of Albert Speer (who at that time had no incentive whatsoever to praise his former boss), Hitler did have an unquestionable talent for architecture.
And a penchant for the grandiose. Hence it is not surprising at all that his favorite pet project was Welthauptstadt Germania. Even well before he acquired absolute power in Germany, Hitler made no secret of his plans (plans, not dreams) to create a genuinely new world and make Berlin (renamed Germania) the capital of that world.
Which was supposed to eclipse all modern world capitals and being comparable only to ancient Babylon and Rome – the capital of the original Roman Empire. It was a key part (a core part, actually) of Adolf Hitler’s vision for the future of Nazi Germany after the seemingly inevitable victory in World War II.
The official plan for rebuilding Berlin, which Albert Speer was put in charge of, was called the Gesamtbauplan für die Reichshauptstadt “Comprehensive Construction Plan for the Reich Capital”.
And not only for the Reichshauptstadt, but for the Welthauptstadt – the Capital of the World. The Mittelpunkt der Welt – the Center of the World.