Adolf Hitler was born on the 20th April 1889 the son of an Austrian customs official in the upper Austrian town of Braunau close to the Inn river. Various family moves resulted in the young Hitler attending a number of different schools. At one of these in Linz from 1900 to 1904 he fell under the influence of Professor Leopold Poetsch an extremely outspoken Pan-German (he supported the Pan-German movement). In addition to Poetsch several of the other teachers were strongly anti-Jewish and Hitler at this impressionable age undoubtedly absorbed their ideas and those of a Linz anti-Jewish newspaper which he began reading regularly at this time.
After leaving school he spent the next four years doing whatever he pleased spending most of his time at Linz with the occasional visit to Vienna. In early 1908 he moved to Vienna where he rented a room and made a second unsuccessful attempt to gain entry to the Vienna Academy of Art.
Before leaving Vienna in 1913, as Hitler reveals in his "Mein Kampf", he spent much of his time in the Hofbibliothek (City Library) where he claims to have studied the history of a number of subjects particularly, and increasingly, politico-economic theories and military-political works. Because he rarely mentioned the title of anything he had read it is difficult to determine what the actual titles of the books were but there are clues to these. The similarities between Hitler's ideas and those of Gustave Le Bon (1841-1931) the French psychologist, are so striking that one can definitely draw the conclusion that he studied Le Bon's book "Psychologie des Foules" which was translated into German in 1908 under the title "Psychologie der Massen" [Psychology of the Masses] and was acquired by the Hofbibliothek in the same year.
Hitler, as we have already seen was well steeped in Pan-German literature and must have been familiar with Gobineau. Also, Dietrich Eckart, an intimate friend and early supporter, claimed in a crudely written brochure published in 1924, that amongst other works Hitler had studied the Frenchman Vacher de Lapouge's "L'Aryen Son Role Social" published in 1899. This was later translated into German in 1939 and published in Frankfurt under the title "Der Arier und seine Bedeutung für die Gemeinschaft" [The Aryan and His Role in the Community]. Lapouge seems to have had a wide field of interest. Apart from being a leading eugenicist he also found time to engage his attention with crude social Darwinism and racism. It might have almost been Hitler speaking when Lapouge stated in his book "the idea of justice... is an illusion. There is nothing but force". And "the race, the nation, is everything."
In addition to these topics Hitler was also certainly familiar with the subject of geo-politics as formulated by its English originator Sir Halford Mackinder and German exponent Karl Haushofer. Geo-politics, a relatively unknown subject, was based on the theory that the foreign policy of a country was determined by its location natural resources raw materials and opportunities rather than its political development or outlook. Karl Haushofer (1869-1946) who was later to become teacher, adviser and friend of Rudolf Hess, visited Hitler in Landsberg prison.
When Hitler left Vienna he was, as he declared later, an absolute anti-Semite a sworn enemy of the Marxist ideology and very Pan-German in sentiment. His view of life was strongly Social Darwinist, Society being seen as an arena in which individuals and groups were engaged in a ceaseless struggle to assert their superiority by force and cunning.
Hitler having been declared unfit by the Austrian Army moved to Munich applied there for the German Reichswehr and was recruited and inducted as an infantryman in August 1914. At the end of the war he returned from a military hospital to his regiment in Munich where he performed various menial tasks. In June 1919 he received political indoctrination in "national thinking" at Munich University from the Educational or Propaganda Department of a local Group Headquarters of the Bavarian Reichswehr.
During the course his fanaticism and vehemence attracted the attention of the organisers who recruited him as a V-man (someone charged with special assignments). Shortly after this, in July, he was made a member of an Enlightenment Commando for the Lechfeld transit camp, whose duty it was to organise psycho-political instruction for the returning soldiers in anti-socialist, national thinking, while at the same time being a training ground for the Commando personnel themselves in agitation and public speaking.
In addition to his psycho-political duties he also performed the task of being a confidential agent and spy for the Group H.Q. which was keeping a careful watch on local political groups. To accomplish this, Hitler was instructed to attend meetings of the tiny German Workers Party (D.A.P.). At first he was bored with the meetings, but as he continued to attend and was enrolled as a member, his interest increased steadily, and his involvement and activities grew. At a public meeting in February 1920 he announced the twenty-five point party programme and about this time the name of the party was changed to the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) known in its more familiar form as the Nazi Party.
Released from the army in March 1920 he threw himself wholeheartedly into party activity and proceeded to make a bid for the leadership in which he was successful. In 1921 he went to Berlin in order to give a speech there to the ultra-conservative National Club, and here established the first contacts with industrialists and business circles. During the following years these increased to an ever-widening circle of supporters including Fritz Thyssen, Alfred Hugenberg (newspapers), Alfred Krupp (heavy industry), and others. There is also some evidence for the belief that Hitler visited Switzerland during the summer of 1923 in order to receive financial support.
Also in 1923 the abortive Munich Putsch, staged by Hitler, carried his name for the first time beyond the borders of Germany and earned him a short term in Landsberg prison, where with the assistance of Rudolf Hess he wrote "Mein Kampf". As an excellent illustration of the degree of his absorption of Social Darwinism, eugenic and racial ideas it makes fascinating, if turgid, reading. Here we meet the familiar arguments of these three groups; the merciless struggle of all life forms; the victory of the strong over the weak; the ruthless disregard for the rights of others; the Jewish menace; the advocacy of techniques for breeding of superior citizens, and so on.
Upon his release from prison in December 1924 Hitler busied himself with re-asserting his control over the party. Successes followed over the next few years and, despite various setbacks and difficulties, the seizure of power came in the year 1933.
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