|Hitler, Adolf (1889–1945). Dictator of NaziGermany, 1933–1945. Hitler was Austrian-born—his father’s surname was Schicklgruber until 1876. An ancestor may have been Jewish—that is a possibility it is known Hitler secretly investigated. The young Hitler twice failed to gain admission to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, but as a painter he was not without small talent. For years he lived in obscurity in Vienna, reading anti-Semitic “philosophy,” painting postcards, and nursing deep grievances real and imagined. In 1913, at age 21, he moved to Munich to avoid conscription for national service in the multinational Austro-Hungarian Army, perhaps not wanting to serve with Slavs or Jews. In early 1914 he was recalled by Austria but found medically unfit for military service. When war came in August, he volunteered for a Bavarian infantry regiment. By all accounts, Hitler served bravely during World War I, mainly as a frontline runner, seeing heavy action at Ypres, the Somme, and in the great German spring offensive in 1918. He repeatedly refused promotion and was twice wounded, seriously in October 1916, and then by gas toward the end of the war. And he was twice decorated, once on the field recommendation of a Jewish officer. Hitler’s wartime experience was formative: he always spoke of World War I as the happiest time of his life and is not known to have once regretted its destruction of lives, property, and decent social relations. He seems to have found in martial life the comradery (but not friendship, which he shunned) and sense of purpose that eluded him in his impecunious and secretive youth as a failed artist in Vienna. |
After 1918 Hitler could not accept Germany’s defeat and dedicated the remainder of his life to the “big revenge,” the effort to reverse the verdict of 1918 on Germany’s imperial drive. He worked as a propagandist for the Reichswehr in Bavaria after the war, but as an embittered nationalist and pathological anti-Semite he was drawn to become Nazi Party member #7 in 1919. Hitler quickly made the ragtag party his own and began to draw attention for his spell-binding rhetoric—he poured hours of study into perfecting his gestures and monstrous gift for oratory. His Beer Hall Putsch failed in 1923. That
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Publication information: Book title: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relations. Volume: 2. Contributors: Cathal J. Nolan - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 716.
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