Was Hitler a racist

When did Hitler become a Nazi? : The youth of the "Führer"

In the last few decades, there is probably no other figure of the 20th century that has been researched more than Adolf Hitler. However, there are phases in his life about which little is known to this day; or our knowledge is largely limited to what the Nazi propaganda delivered. An example of this are Hitler's childhood and youth up to his move to Munich in 1913.

There is a lack of sources

Hannes Leidinger and Christian Rapp want to close this gap. This is not an easy task because reliable sources are few and far between and Hitler later had the few traces deliberately removed. In addition, Hitler was a notorious loner, which severely restricted the circle of contemporary witnesses. The result, however, is a remarkable book that deals with the question: Where and when do the origins of Hitler's radicalization lie?

If the research currently assumes that Hitler shaped his political worldview in the period after the First World War, Leidinger and Rapp provide indications that individual components of it were already present before 1914, albeit rudimentary and not as a coherent whole.

Two phases: childhood and adolescence

Accordingly, the genesis of his early political thought can be divided into two phases. On the one hand, the Linz years up to 1907, which were shaped by the pan-German and radical nationalist currents of the milieu in which Hitler grew up and was socialized, and with which he identified - albeit more playfully -. For example, when it came to excluding German classmates. On the other hand, the Vienna period from 1907, during which Hitler became an admirer of the local mayor, Karl Lueger, who fascinated him as an eloquent leader and figure of integration deep into the working class. And whose anti-Semitism he studied up close.

Only after the world war Nazi

But does that mean that Hitler became a staunch anti-Semite before 1914? Brigitte Hamann expressly denied this in her groundbreaking study on “Hitler's Vienna” (1996). For them, Hitler's aggressive anti-Semitism is the result of the post-war period, which Thomas Weber confirms and deepens in his book “How Adolf Hitler Became a Nazi” (2016). Leidinger and Rapp, on the other hand, succeed in proving that there were two anti-Semitic associations in Hitler's immediate environment, of whose existence historical research has not yet known. They consider Hitler's membership in at least one of them to be likely. However, in the absence of appropriate sources, they fail to provide evidence. Which is why her investigation of Hitler's youth ultimately does not revise existing research, but can supplement it, for example when it comes to the experience of the early years in Linz. It is also clear that there was probably no traumatic event in Hitler's childhood and youth.

Hannes Leidinger, Christian Rapp: Hitler. Formative years. Childhood and Adolescence 1889-1914. Residenz Verlag, Salzburg 2020. 254 pp., € 20.

To home page