Hitler, Adolf (1889-1945)
Founder and leader of the Nazi Party, Reich Chancellor and guiding spirit of the Third
Reich from 1933 to 1945, Head of State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces,
Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria, on 20 April 1889. The son of a
fifty-two-year-old Austrian customs official, Alois Schickelgruber Hitler, and his third wife, a
young peasant girl, Klara Poelzl, both from the backwoods of lower Austria, the young
Hitler was a resentful, discontented child. Moody, lazy, of unstable temperament, he was
deeply hostile towards his strict, authoritarian father and strongly attached to his
indulgent, hard-working mother, whose death from cancer in December 1908 was a
shattering blow to the adolescent Hitler.

After spending four years in the Realschule in Linz, he left school at the age of sixteen
with dreams of becoming a painter. In October 1907 the provincial, middle-class boy left
home for Vienna, where he was to remain until 1913 leading a bohemian, vagabond
existence. Embittered at his rejection by the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts, he was to
spend 'five years of misery and woe' in Vienna as he later recalled, adopting a view of life
which changed very little in the ensuing years, shaped as it was by a pathological hatred
of Jews and Marxists, liberalism and the cosmopolitan Habsburg monarchy.

Existing from hand to mouth on occasional odd jobs and the hawking of sketches in low
taverns, the young Hitler compensated for the frustrations of a lonely bachelor's life in
miserable male hostels by political harangues in cheap cafes to anyone who would listen
and indulging in grandiose dreams of a Greater Germany.

In Vienna he acquired his first education in politics by studying the demagogic techniques
of the popular Christian-social Mayor, Karl Lueger, and picked up the stereotyped,
obsessive anti-semitism with its brutal, violent sexual connotations and concern with the
'purity of blood' that remained with him to the end of his career. From crackpot racial
theorists like the defrocked monk, Lanz von Liebenfels, and the Austrian Pan-German
leader, Georg von Schoenerer, the young Hitler learned to discern in the 'Eternal Jew' the
symbol and cause of all chaos, corruption and destruction in culture, politics and the
economy. The press, prostitution, syphilis, capitalism, Marxism, democracy and pacifism
- all were so many means which 'the Jew' exploited in his conspiracy to undermine the
German nation and the purity of the creative Aryan race.

In May 1913 Hitler left Vienna for Munich and, when war broke out in August 1914, he
joined the Sixteenth Bavarian Infantry Regiment, serving as a despatch runner. Hitler
proved an able, courageous soldier, receiving the Iron Cross (First Class) for bravery, but
did not rise above the rank of Lance Corporal. Twice wounded, he was badly gassed four
weeks before the end of the war and spent three months recuperating in a hospital in
Pomerania. Temporarily blinded and driven to impotent rage by the abortive November
1918 revolution in Germany as well as the military defeat, Hitler, once restored, was
convinced that fate had chosen him to rescue a humiliated nation from the shackles of the
Versailles Treaty, from Bolsheviks and Jews.

Assigned by the Reichswehr in the summer of 1919 to 'educational' duties which
consisted largely of spying on political parties in the overheated atmosphere of
post-revolutionary Munich, Hitler was sent to investigate a small nationalistic group of
idealists, the German Workers' Party. On 16 September 1919 he entered the Party (which
had approximately forty members), soon changed its name to the National Socialist
German Workers' Party (NSDAP) and had imposed himself as its Chairman by July 1921.

Hitler discovered a powerful talent for oratory as well as giving the new Party its symbol -
the swastika - and its greeting 'Heil!'. His hoarse, grating voice, for all the bombastic,
humourless, histrionic content of his speeches, dominated audiences by dint of his tone of
impassioned conviction and gift for self-dramatization. By November 1921 Hitler was
recognized as Fuhrer of a movement which had 3,000 members, and boosted his personal
power by organizing strong- arm squads to keep order at his meetings and break up those
of his opponents. Out of these squads grew the storm troopers (SA) organized by Captain
Ernst Rohm and Hitler's