2 / THE UNEASY PEACE, 1933–1935

ADOLF HITLER

Adolf Hitler, the shiftless son of an Austrian customs official, was born on April 20, 1889, in Braunau-am-Inn, near the Bavarian frontier. A lazy student whose grades were generally either poor or failing, he never completed his schooling. Although he had twice failed to gain admittance to the Vienna Art Academy, he was totally unprepared for any trade or profession. Incapable of holding a steady job, he existed on an allowance from his father’s estate, enhanced by cheating his sister and his mother out of their share. Despite his failure to gain entrance to the Art Academy, he continued to live in Vienna, disdaining regular work. Eventually, he was reduced to living in public shelters and men’s hostels. Proclaiming himself an artist, he painted picture postcards which a friend sold for him. At the same time, through his reading and his arguments, he began to fashion his political philosophy that was founded upon antisemitism, German nationalism, and his version of socialism. All things considered, he was a most unlikely candidate for the savior of Germany.

To evade his military service in the Austrian army, Hitler moved to Munich in 1913, but when this draft dodger was found, he was rejected as unfit for military service. At the outbreak of World War I, however, Hitler enlisted in the Bavarian army. Army life not only supplied him with a financial income and comradeship, but it also presented him with what he considered a profound experience. War, he found, was not hideous, but heroic and glorious; it gave purpose and meaning to his life. Hitler’s regiment, thrown into the first battle of Ypres, saw heavy action

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