ADOLF HITLER – his early years.
Mr A. Hitler has gone down as the wickedest man of all time. His name now has a satanic ring to it. This man was born in Brannau am Inn. This town lies astride the river Inn which separates Germany from Austria. Adolf Hitler viewed it has his destiny to unite the two German speaking nations. He was brought up as Christian. Like over 90% of people in Austria he was a member of the Catholic Church. He grew to dislike Catholicism. This was partly because it was open to people of all ethnicities.
Hitler’s father Alois was very old when the boy was born. Alois was much older than Hitler’s mother. Adolf has half sisters and brothers from his father’s previous marriages. Some of his siblings died as infants. He was not close to his surviving siblings. He had severe nightmares. A psychiatrist recommended sending him to a mental hospital. He had a very bad relationship with his irascible father. He was a young teenager when his father died. When he was 17 his mother died of breast cancer. He dropped out of school. He was fixated by a young Jewish lady who came from a wealthy family. His love for her was unrequited. He followed her but dared not approach. Why would she like him? He was a total under achiever. Then he began to talk of persuading her to jump from a high bridge into the river together. They could commit suicide. Soon she married someone else.
Adolf moved to Vienna. He was rejected by an architectural school. He received a generous pension as an orphan. He was a drifter and mingled with those who disseminated racist doctrines. He lived fairly comfortably on his inheritance. He later pretended that he was on the breadline. Vienna was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This empire comprised much of Central Europe. This included some of Poland, some of Romania, some of the Ukraine, some of Italy, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czechia and so on. Vienna was very multi ethnic. Adolf came to believe that his ethnicity was better than the rest. He thought that the Slavs were not fully human. Slavs are Eastern European nationalities such as Russians, Poles, Serbs and so on. This is ironic since Hitler probably had Czech ancestry and Czechs are Slavs. He particularly detested the Jews. Racist pamphlets came to influence him profoundly. There is a story that Hitler was a quarter Jewish since his grandmother worked for a Jewish family for a time. She supposedly worked for a family named Frankenberger. The story goes that the father of this family had an extra marital liaison with Hitler’s grandmother Miss Schickelgruber and her son Alois was the progeny of this affair. In fact there was no family by the name of Frankenberger in that city at the time. Moreover, Jewish people were not permitted to live in that province at the time.
The Mayor of Vienna at the time was Karl Luger. Der Schoner Karl as he was known was an outspoken Jew baiter. Luger also did a lot for the poor such as building affordable housing. He is memorialised by a statue in Vienna.
Adolf Hitler never had a girlfriend despite yearning for one. He was almost friendless. He had not done well in his schooling. He never had a job. He had achieved nothing. He felt bitterly frustrated. He sought to externalise responsibility for this predicament. He liked the company of those who encouraged him to abominate unpopular groups. There is a story that he went to Liverpool in 1912 and spent a year with his elder half brother who lived there. This claim of his passing a year in the United Kingdom is now widely accepted to be false. The story was invented by Hitler’s sister in law after the Second World War. She admitted that she invented this to write a book because she was desperately short of money.
When he was 25 his orphan’s pension expired. He was also due to be called up to serve in the Austrian Army. He moved to Germany to avoid this. He lived in Munich. In 1914 the First World War broke out. He was elated. He was photographed celebrating with the crowd. He immediately volunteered for the German Army. For the first time in his life he had a purpose.
Hitler was posted to the Western Front. He was in France and he was involved in many dangerous missions. He was a messenger. This involved running from trench to trench carrying dispatches. It was dangerous. His comrades recalled that they soon grumbled about the poor rations, the mud, the cold, the filth as well as the prospect of being killed. He did not seem to mind all this destruction. He befriended a white dog whom he named Vochsl. He cared more for this hound than all the people being killed around him. Hitler was a monstrous tyrant. There is no question that he was savagely cruel. This does not mean that he had no courage. He showed valour and was awarded the iron cross. He was not promoted beyond corporal. He said this was because officers disliked him. One of them was a Jewish German named Captain Hugo Guttman. Hitler was said to lack leadership qualities.
Hitler was injured in a gas attack near the end of the war. He was temporarily blinded. He was in hospital recuperating. His eyesight gradually returned. Then the news came through that Germany had signed an armistice. He later wrote, ”I buried my burning head under the pillows. The world went black before my eyes.” He was outraged that Germany had signed disadvantageous peace terms. He contended that his country was on the cusp of victory but was betrayed by selfish and weak willed socialists. He called them ”miserable and degenerate criminals.” In fact Germany was being defeated and signed the armistice because the war was totally unwinnable. Large scale desertions and mutinies had compelled the German High Command to demand that the Chancellor (Prime Minister) agree to peace.
Hitler stayed in the army and returned to Munich. The Germans had pulled out of occupied regions of France and Belgium. The Allies (French, British, Americans, Canadians etc…) were in Paris deliberating what terms to impose on Germany. The socialist government in Germany had a very shaky hold on power. German communists tried to overthrow the socialist government and form a dictatorship. The communists were defeated by the government only with difficulty. The German Government had to enlist the support of an organisation of right wing ex soldiers called the Freikorps.
In Munich some soldiers became communists. Hitler briefly joined the communists. This was a fact he was very eager to cover up later on. Communists took over Munich for a few weeks but were defeated. Hitler then totally severed links with communism. He would later pose as an avowed enemy of communism.
A new political party had been formed. It was called the German Workers’ Party (DAP). It seemed one of countless tiny drinking clubs where embittered demobilised soldiers would rant that they had suffered in vain. Hitler was asked by his officer to go along and observe this party. The German officer corps was mostly made up of aristocrats with reactionary and very nationalistic opinions. He went to one of its meetings. He found it intriguing. He was drawn into its public discussion. His oratorical virtuosity so struck the DAP that they asked him to return and speak on a topic of his choice. He readily agreed and then delivered a disquisition on the title ”My belief in Germany’s future greatness.” His tubthumping went down a storm. He was such a marvelous natural barker than the DAP begged him to join. He soon did and quickly made himself indispensable. He was given membership number 555. In fact the membership numbers started at 500 to give the impression that the party was much larger than it really was. He was asked to be leader and he agreed. The words ‘National Socialist’ were put on the front of the party’s name. The full name National Socialist German Workers’ Party was a mouthful. So it was reduced to the acronym Nazi.
The Nazis drew up a 25 point part programme. Their manifesto was a mixture of left wing and right wing aims as well as some objectives that are neither. They stressed their concern for the poor and their wish to redistribute wealth. They wanted the Treaty of Versailles cancelled. They wanted all Germans to be united in one Greater Germany. They were openly anti-democratic. They wanted to expel all Jews who had entered the country since 1914. They attached themselves to Christianity but cannily did not align themselves to any denomination. They were in Bavaria which is overwhelmingly Catholic. They might have been tempted to become an avowedly Catholic Party. But to do so would limit support for themselves in the Protestant majority areas of Germany.
The Nazis became well known in Bavaria but had no profile in the rest of the country. In 1923 Germany was suffering hyperinflation. Some people in Bavaria advocated secession from Germany. This campaign for Bavarian independence was secretly funded by France. The French wanted to split Germany up so it would never be a rival again. The Nazis decided the time was ripe to act.
- In what year was Hitler born?
2. What is special about Brannau am Inn’s location?
3. Describe his family situation.
4. What profession did he initially wish to pursue?
5. What did he do in 1914?
6. What opinions had be formed before the First World War?
7. Why is he so detested?
8. How did Hitler feel about the armistice?
9. What was Hitler’s involvement with the communists?
10. How did he come to join the German Worker’s Party?
11. What was Hitler’s state of mind in 1914- just before he moved to Germany? Was he a happy young man? Give reasons for your answer. Write at least 5 sentences.