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Slowly Hoffmann began to realize professional dividends from his relationship with Hitler. He was admitted into the Führer's private circle as a trusted friend. No formal agreement existed between them, but the photographer soon gained virtually exclusive rights to all Hitler photographs. Hoffmann became increasingly active in Bavarian politics and the National Socialist movement, photographing all events and people of any importance in the politically volatile Munich of the 1920s. Furthermore, he gained the right to photograph all party members. He created a special department in his firm to make postcards bearing the portraits of the Nazi leadership which were later widely distributed for propaganda and profit. Many of these portraits remain in the Hoffmann collection and provide the present-day researcher with a valuable source for the early history of the party. One young woman working in the postcard department gained far greater notoriety than Hoffmann himself. It was Hoffmann

who introduced Eva Braun to Hitler, further tightening the bond between the Führer and his court photographer.6

Hoffmann's firm began to expand. In 1924 the Hoffmann firm published its first propaganda pamphlet, Deutschlands Erwachen (Germany's Awakening). The audience seemed to be limited to the members of the National Socialist movement, and hence the pamphlet was not financially profitable. As the party attained some measure of political success, however, so did Hoffmann's publishing business. In addition to numerous pamphlets in the 1920s, Hoffmann published Das Braune Heer (The Brown Army) in 1932 with a preface by Hitler. In 1933 Hoffmann published Das Antlitz des Fuehrers (The Countenance of the Führer), Hitler wie ihn keiner kennt (Hitler the Unknown), Ein Volk ehrt seinen Fuehrer (A Nation Honors Its Führer), and Dr. R. Ley und sein Weg mit dem deutschen Ar

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6 Ibid., p. 102.

Hermann Esser

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beiter zum Fuehrer (Dr. R. Ley with the German Worker on the Way to the Führer). The denazification court that tried Hoffmann at the end of the war acknowledged that he was not the author of the texts of these books but insisted that he was the "purveyor" of the pictures that accompanied their publication.?

Despite his growing responsibilities, Hoffmann's staff remained very small-from two to four employees from 1929 to 1932– but Hitler's accession to power drastically altered Hoffmann's financial situation. According to available tax records, Hoffmann's business in 1933 amounted to 682,736.00 reichsmarks; ten years later he had a business turnover of 15,398,505.56 reichsmarks.8

Hoffmann's contacts with foreign and domestic newspapers

and news services multiplied rapidly after 1933. Contracts made with newspapers all over the world

usually were favorable to the Hoffmann publishing company, for no newspaper retained exclusive rights to any Hoffmann photo. Through these foreign and domestic contacts, Hoffmann maintained a picture exchange by which photographs from the Hoffmann firm could be published in foreign countries and foreign pictures could be published in Germany. After September 1939, Hoffmann retained this arrangement by shipping photographs through Switzerland and Sweden where they were forwarded to publishing houses in America, England, and, for a while, France. Hoffmann soon found it necessary to create a picture archives where this mass of photographs could be studied and processed."

Hoffmann's business sense was shrewd, but his immediate access to Hitler most clearly accounted for the success of his firm. The Hoffmann publishing company was not the only large enterprise engaged in press photography. He faced competition from Weltbild (World Picture Corporation), which was attached to the Deutsche Nachrichten Büro (German News Agency), the picture department of the Scherl Verlag, and others.

7 Spruchkammer Decision, Annex pp. 6-9, Hoffmann File.

8 Ibid., Annex pp. 4-5.

9 Affidavit of Fritz Dehn, Feb. 23, 1950, Hoffmann File.


Yet Hoffmann's special relationship to the Führer was well known in the highest government circles, situation which greatly aided the realization of Hoffmann's professional goals. Furthermore, the purely personal sphere of Hitler's life was reserved for Heinrich Hoffmann's camera. He took numerous photographs of Hitler's private and public life. Any photograph released by Hitler of his personal life went through the Hoffmann firm, always at a profit. But even in this area, Hoffmann never completely escaped all competition. Reich Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and other leaders had personal photographers who occasionally took informal pictures of Hitler and published them. The

Propaganda Ministry also employed people who occasionally photographed and published pictures of Hitler.10

Hoffmann also served as Hitler's unofficial adviser on art. The photographer began collecting art in the mid-1920s, and his frequent travels greatly increased his contacts with European art dealers. His taste for nineteenth-century German romantic painters coincided with Hitler's, whose artistic pretensions are well known. Hoffmann retained a strong influence over Hitler's limited collection of art until the outbreak of the war when Party Secretary Martin Bormann assumed control of the Führer's project to establish a cultural center at Linz, Austria. 11


10 Affidavit of Otto Dietrich, Aug. 14, 1948, Hoffmann File.

11 Interrogation of Heinrich Hoffmann, Nov. 13, 1946, U.S. Tribunal at Nuernberg, Interrogation Series, National Archives Collection of World War II War Crimes Records, Record Group 238, National Archives Building.

Antagonism between Bormann and Hoffmann continued until the end of the war. In his quest for complete authority over the Führer, Bormann intrigued against everybody in Hitler's entourage. Hoffmann's most consistent ally in his counterintrigues to eliminate the party secretary was Dr. Theodor Morrell, who was himself on the periphery of the Führer's inner circle. Hoffmann continued to take photographs of Hitler despite the growing tension with Bormann. His collection contains six albums of pictures taken during the war at the Führer's headquarters. But by the summer of 1944, Bormann had succeeded in easing Hoffmann out of Hitler's presence by suggesting to Hitler that Hoffmann had contracted paratyphoid fever. Hoffmann's only response was to make a public appearance in Vienna to prove that he was in excellent health.12

The Allies assumed control of Hoffmann's photo collection in 1945 and invited

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Spruchkammer Decision, Annex p. 13; affidavit of Heinrich Hoffmann, May 12, 1950, Hoffmann File.


Martin Bormann

him to Nuremberg to act, in Hoffmann's words, as an "objective witness” in the ensuing trials. His photographs were used to supply information to the court, and Hoffmann was interrogated about leading members of the Reich and his own photographic and art activities. He sought to testify in behalf of his son-in-law, Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach, but he never appeared in court. In May 1950 a denazification court in Munich tried Hoffmann, found him guilty, and forced him to forfeit “his property, as well as his publishing and copyrights.” 13

A legal battle for control of the collection followed. Hoffmann's son, Heinrich Hoffmann, Jr., who had been given ownership of the files in October 1937 on the occasion of his twenty-first birthday, argued that he was never a member of the party, that as the legal owner of the confiscated collection he was being punished for his father's deeds, and finally, that no other German

photographic firm dealing in the same kind of pictures had been handled in the same manner. 14

The Allies have justified their confiscation of the Hoffmann collection on 3 III, Part III, Section A, of the Potsdam Agreement of August 2, 1945 (MGR 23-58), authorizing such confiscations "to prevent all Nazi and Militarist activity and propaganda.” Further support for the seizure was found in Allied High Commission Law no. 16, of December 16, 1949, which forbade "any activity designed to foster the resurgence of militarism, and the possession or of

any article or device intended to facilitate such activities." Finally, the elder Hoffmann's conviction before the Munich denazification court of May 31, 1950, and


14 Robert Wolfe to NM and NC [Assistant Archivist for Military Archives and Assistant Archivist for Civil Archives], Nov. 18, 1965, files of the Captured Records Branch, National Archives Building. See also Heinrich Hoffmann, Jr., letter, June 17, 1949, Hoffmann File.

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