Why Hitler Was Obsessed With American Cowboys

It's difficult to imagine Hitler as a child obsessed with tall tales about America's Old West. But he was.

Karl May is a German author from the late 19th century who is most well-known for his adventurous tales of the American wild west. Ironically, May had never been to America when he wrote these well-loved books. He invented all of the narratives simply based on inspiration from other wild west tales he read.

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One particularly unusual thing about May is that he was quite beloved by none other than Adolf Hitler. It's hard to imagine such a notoriously evil dictator being passionate about anything, let alone a book series, but according to the Diary of Third Reich Minister Albert Speer, Hitler kept May's books well into adulthood and would often consult them in times of doubt and unrest. He turned toward May's writing as some turn toward philosophy or religion.

Even though Hitler was very infatuated with May's books, it's unlikely that May would have felt the same affection toward Hitler. May was known to be a pacifist and a very independent thinker. He was also well-loved by other notable persons such as Einstein, Kafka, and Kaiser Wilhelm II, amongst millions of other people. May is so beloved throughout Germany that one town in the north, Bad Segeberg, even has a Karl May festival every year.

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Read more about Karl May:

The New Yorker: Wild West Germany

The Atlantic: Hitler's Forgotten Library