Adolf Hitler was an Austrian German. He lost his father at the age of 13. Throughout his youth, Hitler dreamed of becoming an artist. He applied twice to the Vienna Academy of Art but was denied entrance both times. After his mother’s death in 1908, Hitler spent four years living on the streets of Vienna, selling postcards of his artwork to make a little money. it is just as likely that Hitler picked up a hatred for Jews while living on the streets of Vienna, a city known at the time for its antisemitism.
Hitler volunteered to serve in the German army once World War I began. Hitler endured and survived four years of war. During this time, he was awarded two Iron Crosses for bravery. He sustained two major injuries during the war. The first occurred in October 1916 when he was wounded by a grenade splinter. The other was in October 1918, when a gas attack caused Hitler to go temporarily blind. It was while Hitler was recovering from the gas attack that the war got over. Hitler was furious that Germany had surrendered and felt strongly that Germany had been “stabbed in the back” by its leaders. Furious at Germany’s surrender, Hitler returned to Munich after the end of World War I, determined to enter politics. In 1919, Hitler became the 55th member of a small antisemitic party called the German Worker’s Party and soon became a party leader. He designed the swastika logo and renamed party to Nazi party.
Hitler had formally renounced his Austrian citizenship in 1925, but at the time did not acquire German citizenship. For almost seven years he was stateless, unable to run for public office, and faced the risk of deportation from Germany. On 25 February 1932, the interior minister of Brunswick, who was a member of the Nazi Party, appointed Hitler as administrator for the state’s delegation to the Reichsrat in Berlin, making Hitler a citizen of Brunswick, and thus of Germany.
In 1932, Hitler ran against von Hindenburg in the presidential elections. Hitler came in second in both rounds of the election, garnering more than 35 per cent of the vote in the final election. Although he lost to Hindenburg, this election established Hitler as a strong force in German politics.
Although it is thought of as having been ‘written’ by Hitler, Mein Kampf is not a book in the usual sense. Hitler never actually sat down and wrote, but instead dictated it to Rudolf Hess while pacing around his prison cell in 1923-24 and later at an inn at Berchtesgaden. Reading Mein Kampf is like listening to Hitler speak at length about his youth, early days in the Nazi Party, future plans for Germany, and ideas on politics and race. In his book, Hitler divides humans into categories based on physical appearance, establishing higher and lower orders, or types of humans. At the top, according to Hitler, is the Germanic man with his fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes. Hitler refers to this type of person as an Aryan. He asserts that the Aryan is the supreme form of human, or master race. Hitler assigns the inferior position to Jews and the Slavic peoples, notably the Czechs, Poles, and Russians.
Mein Kampf also provides an explanation for the military conquests later attempted by Hitler and the Germans. Hitler states that since the Aryans are the master race, they are entitled simply by that fact to acquire more land for themselves. But in order to achieve this, Hitler states, Germany must first defeat its old enemy France, to avenge the German defeat of World War I and to secure the western border. Hitler bitterly recalls the end of the First World War, saying the German Army was denied its chance for victory on the battlefield by political treachery at home.
When Mein Kampf was first released in 1925 it sold poorly. However, after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, millions of copies were sold. It was considered proper to own a copy and to give one to newlyweds, high school graduates, or to celebrate any similar occasion. But few Germans ever read it cover to cover. Although it made him rich, Hitler would later express regret that he produced Mein Kampf, considering the extent of its revelations. Those revelations concerning the nature of his character and his blueprint for Germany’s future served as a warning to the world. A warning that was mostly ignored.