Time Adolf Hitler was mentioned in The Sun, it...

THE FIRST

April 28, 1995

THE FIRST time Adolf Hitler was mentioned in The Sun, it was 1923 and the Munich beerhall putsch had just failed. His name was given as Hitner.

Well, many a German name does end in -ner. No worse, in any case, than the misspelling of his first name now current -- printing it as Adolph.

Sunday will make it 50 years since his death; by now, Americans no longer mention Der Fuehrer very often. One sign of a healthy mind, after all, is not to dwell on evil.

Evil, however, has a way of forcing you to notice. Something bad happens, every now and then (remember when "Oklahoma, okay!" was the theme of a big Broadway musical?)

As for Hitler and his 1933-45 National Socialist Workers Party dictatorship, it left us a puzzle, and puzzles live on. In brief, was Hitler a crafty, scheming poseur or was he sincere in his incendiary racism and his loose-screw geopolitics?

The subject is debated anew in this week's issue of The New Yorker -- the leading experts (outside Germany) seem to feel that Hitler was somehow capable of having it both ways. Which is a form of buildup.

Our inheritance is the same heavy question as in the 1930s: when evil on such a scale approaches, how are we to deal with it? Do we have to have genocide, and global war, when such a person wills it? And terrorism?

As for Hitler, the direct evidence and the explanations are petering out (even the Hitler-lives flapdoodle has lessened, 106 years after his birth).

Yet a trifling question is allowable: Hitler never saw Baltimore, or any of America; are there still Baltimoreans who, long ago in his non-native Germany, talked to or even just saw him?

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