Heinrich Hoffman was Adolf Hitler’s personal photographer. As a result of this very close association with Hitler, Hoffman became a wealthy man. He followed Hitler wherever he went and the huge bulk of photographs released to the public of Hitler were taken by Hoffman. Numerous films of Hitler in public show a man with a camera within touching distance of the Führer – Heinrich Hoffman.
Heinrich Hoffman was born on September 12th 1885. He worked with his father in the family’s successful photographic shop in Munich. Hoffman served as an army photographer in the Bavarian Army during World War One.
He would have experienced the chaos that existed in Bavaria after World War One and the creation of a temporary Bavarian Soviet. Hoffman published his first book at this time called “A Year of Bavarian Revolution”.
Probably as a result of this chaos, Hoffman turned to and became an early member of the Nazi Party, which he joined in 1920. The fledgling party offered to take on the left wing political parties that existed in Munich and to regain national patriotic pride after the defeat in 1918 – a defeat Hitler blamed on the Jews and Bolsheviks that he claimed had got to the very heart of the new Weimar government led by Friedrich Ebert.
For the bulk of the 1920’s the Nazi Party was a small party with minimal influence in the Reichstag. Membership was also relatively small compared to the mainstream political parties in Weimar and consequently Hitler’s overall influence within national politics was small. This changed after the 1929 Wall Street Crash that had a devastating impact on Germany. From 1930 to 1933, support for the Nazi’s grew – though not at the rate the Nazi Party would have wished for. However, the appointment of Hitler as Chancellor on January 30th 1933, transformed the whole political scenario in Germany. It also transformed the life of Heinrich Hoffman.
All photographs of Hitler had to be approved. These were taken by Hoffman. He became a trusted member of Hitler’s inner circle. Prior to Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor, Hitler visited Hoffman’s photographic shop in Munich and spent a great deal of time being photographed in various poses. Once the photos had been processed, Hitler selected which ones showed him at his most authoritative. By the time he became Chancellor, those photos he felt showed him in a less flattering manner were destroyed.
Hoffman became very wealthy off the back of Hitler. It was Hoffman’s suggestion that both he and Hitler get royalties from any photo taken of the now Führer, which made its way into the public domain – Hitler as the subject and Hoffman as the photographer. As Hitler’s image appeared on most things (currency notes, postage stamps etc.) royalties flooded in and both men greatly benefitted from their association with each other. Hoffman also used his association with Hitler to write a number of books about the Führer knowing almost certainly that they would sell well and further inflate his wealth.
Hitler also approved of Hoffman’s taste in art and he was allowed to go through the art put forward for the annual Grand Art Show to ensure that it fitted in with Nazi ideals regarding art – rejecting for public display that art he felt did not come withing the criteria.
Hoffman had also introduced Hitler to Eva Braun. She worked as an assistant in his photographic shop in Munich. Hitler was distraught over the suicide of his niece and such was the closeness of Hoffman’s relationship with Hitler that the photographer believed that a friendship with Braun might benefit the party leader.
In 1938, Hitler appointed Hoffman a “Professor”.
During World War Two, Hoffman tended to fade more and more into the background. Hitler surrounded himself with military personnel and there was little time for formal photographic poses. However, Hoffman was on a wanted list at the end of the war and on May 10th 1945, he was arrested by the Americans and charged with “Nazi profiteering”. He was put on trial in 1946, found guilty and sentenced to ten years in jail, later reduced to four. His title of “Professor” was withdrawn and all but 3,000 Marks of his wealth was confiscated.
After his release from prison on May 31st 1950, Hoffman remained in the Munich area and died on December 11th 1957.