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Adolf Hitler Biography

Adolf Hitler was born on 20th April, 1889, in the small Austrian town of Braunau near the German border. Both Hitler's parents had come from poor peasant families. His father Alois Hitler, the illegitimate son of a housemaid, was an intelligent and ambitious man and later became a senior customs official. Klara Hitler was Alois' third wife. Alois was twenty-three years older than Klara and already had two children from his previous marriages. Klara and Alois had five children but only Adolf and a younger sister, Paula, survived to become adults. Alois, who was fifty-one when Adolf was born, was extremely keen for his son to do well in life. Alois did have another son by an earlier marriage but he had been a big disappointment to him and eventually ended up in prison for theft. Alois was a strict father and savagely beat his son if he did not do as he was told. Hitler did extremely well at primary school and it appeared he had a bright academic future in front of him. He was also popular with other pupils and was much admired for his leadership qualities. He was also a deeply religious child and for a while considered the possibility of becoming a monk. Competition was much tougher in the larger secondary school and his reaction to not being top of the class was to stop trying. His father was furious as he had high hopes that Hitler would follow his example and join the Austrian civil service when he left school. However, Hitler was a stubborn child and attempts by his parents and teachers to change his attitude towards his studies were unsuccessful. Hitler also lost his popularity with his fellow pupils. They were no longer willing to accept him as one of their leaders. As Hitler liked giving orders he spent his time with younger pupils. He enjoyed games that involved fighting and he loved re-enacting battles from the Boer War. His favourite game was playing the role of a commando rescuing Boers from English concentration camps. The only teacher Hitler appeared to like at secondary school was Leopold Potsch, his history master. Potsch, like many people living in Upper Austria, was aGerman Nationalist. Potsch told Hitler and his fellow pupils of the German victories over France in 1870 and 1871 and attacked the Austrians for not becoming involved in these triumphs. Otto von Bismarck, the first chancellor of the German Empire, was one of Hitler's early historical heroes. Hitler's other main interest at school was art. His father was incensed when Hitler told him that instead of joining the civil service he was going to become an artist. The relationship between Hitler and his father deteriorated and the conflict only ended with the death of Alois Hitler in 1903.

Hitler was thirteen when his father died. His death did not cause the family financial hardships. The Hitler family owned their own home and they also received a lump sum and a generous civil service pension. Klara Hitler, a kind and gentle woman, tended to spoil her son. Like her husband she was keen for Adolf to do well at school. Her attempts at persuasion achieved no more success than her husband's threats and he continued to obtain poor grades. At the age of fifteen he did so badly in his examinations that he was told he would have to repeat the whole year's work again. Hitler hated the idea and managed to persuade his mother to allow him to leave school without a secondary education qualification. He celebrated by getting drunk. However, he found it an humiliating experience and vowed never to get drunk again. He kept his promise and by the time he reached his thirties he had given up alcohol completely. When he was eighteen Hitler received an inheritance from his father's will. With the money he moved to Vienna where he planned to become an art student. Hitler had a high opinion of his artistic abilities and was shattered when the Vienna Academy of Art rejected his application. He also applied to the Vienna School of Architecture but was not admitted because he did not have a school leaving certificate. Hitler was humiliated by these two rejections and could not bring himself to tell his mother what had happened. Instead he continued to live in Vienna pretending he was an art student. In 1907 Klara Hitler died from cancer. Her death affected him far more deeply than the death of his father. He had fond memories of his mother, carried her photograph wherever he went and, it is claimed, had it in his hand when he died in 1945. As the eldest child, Hitler now received his father's civil service pension. It was more money than many people received in wages and meant that Hitler did not have to find employment. He spent most of the morning in bed reading and in the afternoon he walked around Vienna studying buildings, visiting museums, and making sketches. In 1909 Hitler should have registered for military service. He was unwilling to serve Austria, which he despised, so he ignored his call-up papers. It took four years for the authorities to catch up with him. When he had his medical for the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914 he was rejected as being: "Unfit for combatant and auxiliary duty - too weak. Unable to bear arms." The outbreak of the First World War provided him with an opportunity for a fresh start. It was a chance for him to become involved in proving that Germany was superior to other European countries. Hitler claimed that when he heard the news of war: "I was overcome with impetuous enthusiasm, and falling on my knees, wholeheartedly thanked Heaven that I had been granted the happiness to live live at this time. Rejecting the idea

of fighting for Austria, Hitler volunteered for theGerman Army. In times of war medical examinations are not so rigorous. Hitler liked being in the army. For the first time he was part of a group that was fighting for a common goal. Hitler also liked the excitement of fighting in a war. Although fairly cautious in his actions, he did not mind risking his life and impressed his commanding officers for volunteering for dangerous missions. His fellow soldiers described him as "odd" and "peculiar". One soldier from his regiment, Hans Mend, claimed that Hitler was an isolated figure who spent long periods of time sitting in the corner holding his head in silence. Then all of a sudden, Mend claimed, he would jump up and make a speech. These outbursts were usually attacks on Jews and Marxists who Hitler claimed were undermining the war effort. Hitler was given the job of despatch-runner. It was a dangerous job as it involved carrying messages from regimental headquarters to the front-line. On one day alone, three out of eight of the regiment's despatch-runners were killed. For the first time since he was at primary school Hitler was a success. Hitler won five medals including the prestigious Iron Cross during the First World War. His commanding officer wrote: "As a dispatch-runner, he has shown cold-blooded courage and exemplary boldness. Under conditions of great peril, when all the communication lines were cut, the untiring and fearless activity of Hitler made it possible for important messages to go through". Although much decorated in the war, Hitler only reached the rank of corporal. This was probably due to his eccentric behaviour and the fear that the other soldiers might not obey the man they considered so strange. In October 1918, Hitler was blinded in a British mustard gas attack. He was sent to a military hospital and gradually recovered his sight. While he was in hospital Germany surrendered. Hitler went into a state of deep depression, and had periods when he could not stop crying. He spent most of his time turned towards the hospital wall refusing to talk to anyone. Once again Hitler's efforts had ended in failure. After the war Hitler was stationed in Munich, the capital of Bavaria. While Hitler was in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, Kurt Eisner, leader of the Independent Socialist Party, declared Bavaria a Socialist Republic. Hitler was appalled by the revolution. As a German Nationalist he disagreed with the socialist belief in equality. Hitler saw socialism as part of a Jewish conspiracy. Many of the socialist leaders in Germany, including Kurt Eisner, Rosa Luxemburg, Ernst Toller and Eugen Levine were Jews. So also were many of the leaders of the October Revolution in Russia. This included Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Dimitri Bogrov, Karl Radek, Yakov Sverdlov, Maxim Litvinov, Adolf Joffe, and Moisei Uritsky. It had not escaped Hitler's notice that Karl Marx, the prophet of socialism, had also been a Jew.

It was no coincidence that Jews had joined socialist and communist parties in Europe. Jews had been persecuted for centuries and therefore were attracted to a movement that proclaimed that all men and women deserved to be treated as equals. This message was reinforced when on 10th July, 1918, the Bolshevikgovernment in Russia passed a law that abolished all discrimination between Jews and non-Jews. It was not until May, 1919 that the German Army entered Munich and overthrew the Bavarian Socialist Republic. Hitler was arrested with other soldiers in Munich and was accused of being a socialist. Hundreds of socialists were executed without trial but Hitler was able to convince them that he had been an opponent of the regime. To prove this he volunteered to help to identify soldiers who had supported the Socialist Republic. The authorities agreed to this proposal and Hitler was transferred to the commission investigating the revolution. Information supplied by Hitler helped to track down several soldiers involved in the uprising. His officers were impressed by his hostility to left-wing ideas and he was recruited as a political officer. Hitler's new job was to lecture soldiers on politics. The main aim was to promote his political philosophy favoured by the army and help to combat the influence of the Russian Revolution on the German soldiers. Hitler, who had for years been ignored when he made political speeches, now had a captive audience. The political climate had also changed. Germany was a defeated and disillusioned country. At Versailles the German government had been forced to sign a peace treaty that gave away 13% of her territory. This meant the loss of 6 million people, a large percentage of her raw materials (65% of iron ore reserves, 45% of her coal, 72% of her zinc) and 10% of her factories. Germany also lost all her overseas colonies. Under the terms of the Versailles Treaty Germany also had to pay for damage caused by the war. These reparations amounted to 38% of her national wealth. Hitler was no longer isolated. The German soldiers who attended his lectures shared his sense of failure. They found his message that they were not to blame attractive. He told them that Germany had not been beaten on the battlefield but had been betrayed by Jews and Marxists who had preached revolution and undermined the war effort. The German Army also began using Hitler as a spy. In September 1919, he was instructed to attend a meeting of the German Worker's Party (GWP). The army feared that this new party, led by Anton Drexler, might be advocating communist revolution. Hitler discovered that the party's political ideas were similar to his own. He approved of Drexler's German nationalism and anti-Semitism but was unimpressed with the way the party was organized. Although there as a spy, Hitler could not restrain himself when a member made a point he disagreed with, and he stood up and made a passionate speech on the subject.

Drexler was impressed with Hitler's abilities as an orator and invited him to join the party. At first Hitler was reluctant, but urged on by his commanding officer, Captain Karl Mayr, he eventually agreed. He was only the fifty-fourth person to join the GWP. Hitler was immediately asked to join the executive committee and was later appointed the party's propaganda manager. In the next few weeks Hitler brought several members of his army into the party, including one of his commanding officers, Captain Ernst Roehm. The arrival of Roehm was an important development as he had access to the army political fund and was able to transfer some of the money into the GWP. The German Worker's Party used some of this money to advertise their meetings. Hitler was often the main speaker and it was during this period that he developed the techniques that made him into such a persuasive orator.