Three plays by Henrick Ibsen (1828–1906) provided Hitler not only with ideas for (and lines in) Mein Kampf—hence the “plagiarist”—but also gave der Führer scripts to follow in everything from his love life to the Final Solution.
Has Sage (Senior Research Fellow/Univ. of Mass.) found a Rosetta stone for Hitler studies? Or just another grilled-cheese sandwich that seems to have a famous face on it? The author has no doubts. Repeatedly in this compelling but sometimes wacky analysis (Hitler was like John Hinckley, who’d watched Taxi Driver a few times too many) he tells us that Hitler studies must henceforth take into account the Ibsen factor. And with all the fervor of a founder of a fresh religion, he calls his findings astonishing and a verbal smoking gun. Sage does show that Ibsen’s plays were popular in Hitler’s day and has even found some direct references to the playwright in Hitler’s biography and oeuvre. (No one can question the thoroughness of the author’s research.) He begins with the image of a pentimento (Ibsen’s influence has lain, till now, just beneath the surface) and proceeds with increasing animation to argue his case. In Mein Kampf, he says, Hitler plagiarized lines from An Enemy of the People; as proof, he offers parallel columns of text—Hitler and Ibsen. But the examples are not always convincing. Hitler also identified himself, says Sage, with the Roman emperor Julian (“The Apostate”), subject of another Ibsen play, Emperor and Galilean. From Emperor, Hitler derived (among other things) both anti-Christian and anti-Semitic ideas. Emperor prompted him to kill his niece, and it caused him to make a grievous tactical error during his invasion of the USSR. Because of Ibsen’s The Master Builder, Hitler torched the Reichstag and murdered Albert Speer’s mentor, Fritz Todt—events whose causes previous purblind historians have simply missed. Fearless Sage then fingers the man who’d caused Hitler to hate Jews.
A thesis that will provoke deliberation, debate, outrage and probably a little laughter.