Among the newer books at the Chemeketa Library is Crossing Hitler. It has an intriguing photograph on the front cover of our favorite little dictator in court, with some tired and possibly exasperated lawyers. These aren’t just normal attorneys; they are Nazi defense lawyers, trying to protect the party and its leaders from embarrassment and possibly even worse before their rise to power.
It’s 1931, and unbeknownst to me, a brave guy named Hans Litten has taken it upon himself to challenge the Nazis and Hitler himself by summoning them to court. Litten actually aggressively questions Hitler about the men on trial, and if he knew about what they were doing and if the Nazi as a political party approved. Naturally, both the party and Hitler sanctioned violence as a means of securing and holding power. In hindsight, this is clear, but at the time it wasn’t. Germany, politically-speaking, was rather chaotic.
Storm 33, a group of thugs within the SA — the Stormtroopers, has been going around beating people up and, in some cases, committing murder. Of course, this is nothing new to us now, but then it was an explosive charge. The Nazis were trying to court the voters and any scandal, such as official party endorsement of terror tactics, could not only have easily lost them an election, but doomed the party to forever minority status.
I began to read the book, skimmed over large portions of it, which were fascinating, but ultimately, I am too preoccupied with other matters, notably the various strands of family history I am compiling, that unless it relates directly to that effort, it will have to wait. I am glad that Mr. Hett decided to write the book and cast some more light on the heroes and villains of the 20th century. Litten died in 1938 while in Dachau. My sister and brother-in-law visited Dachau in 2001, and I hope to as well someday.