Adolf Hitler was undoubtedly one of the most puzzling personalities of our time. He was a vegetarian who loved animals and children, yet put millions to death without a second thought.
Hitler’s father, Alois Hitler, was the illegitimate son of Maria Anna Schickelgruber. Maria worked for the Frankenreithers, a Jewish family, as a servant. There has been speculation that Alois’s father was the nineteen-year-old son of the family. Whether true or not, the Frankenreither family financially supported her until her son was fourteen. While postwar research casts some doubt on this story that portrays Adolf as one-quarter Jewish, Hitler himself feared that it might be true and he tried to cover up any evidence of the matter.
Hitler’s father had three wives (but only one divorce), seven or eight children, and at least one child out of wedlock. One wife was 13 years older than him, another 23 years younger and one – Hitler’s mother – was his foster daughter. Hitler’s godfather was a Jew named Prinz.
At the age of eight, Hitler attended a Benedictine monastery school. He longed to become an abbot, but barely escaped expulsion when he was caught smoking. The monastery’s coat-of-arms, displayed in various parts of the school, prominently featured a swastika.
Hitler hated school, and his teachers hated his insolence. When he finally finished high school he celebrated by getting so drunk that he fell into unconsciousness. When he awoke he could not find his graduation certificate to show his mother. He returned to the school to get a duplicate. The headmaster was waiting for him with his original certificate. It had been torn into four pieces and used as toilet paper. The humiliated future Fuhrer then made a vow never again to touch alcohol.
Hitler once claimed that everything he knew about America came from western novelist Karl May’s books about cowboys and Indians, and that he got the idea for concentration camps from reading about American Indian reservations.
Hitler’s half-brother Alois, Jr., served time in jail for thievery on at least two occasions and was a bigamist. He was banished to a concentration camp in 1942 because he talked too much about Hitler as a youth.
Hitler’s first youthful love was Stephanie Jansten. He composed a number of love poems in her honor including one he called “Hymn to the Beloved,” and apparently falsely believed from her last name that she was Jewish. In spite of his passion and his confession to his best friend that he would jump off a bridge into the Danube to commit suicide, taking Stephanie with him, he never once got up the nerve to talk to her. It wasn’t until many years later that she discovered he had once been the object of Hitler’s ardor.
Unable to get into art school, Hitler moved to Liverpool, England, for a while to avoid the draft. Authorities caught up with him in Vienna. He became a message runner as World War I was breaking out. He was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery under fire, thanks to the recommendation of his Jewish commanding officer. By then, though, Hitler was already deeply anti-Semitic.
During the 1920s Hitler took lessons in public speaking and in mass psychology from Erik Jan Hanussen, an astrologer and fortune teller. Hitler was a believer in astrology, telepathy, graphology, phrenology, and physiognomy, and usually sought supernatural advice when making decisions.
Hitler was secretly financed by German industrialists and various German princes who believed the Nazis were the best group to stop the rising support of communism that threatened their fortunes. They contributed a reported 25 million gold marks in the years before the Nazis took over Germany. In return, Hitler discreetly changed the party platform, which had been, up to that point, against capitalists and royalists.
Hitler was a very ordinary looking man with a mincing walk. His strongest physical asset was his eyes, which were blue verging on violet with a depth and glint that made them almost hypnotic. In his earlier days he wore a pointed beard, often unkempt, and had broken, rotten teeth. He began wearing the famous little moustache during World War I. More of a British style than a German one, he may have adopted it in imitation of English officers, whom he grew to admire during his years at the front.
Sister Angela’s daughter was Geli Raubal, a pretty young woman in her twenties with whom Hitler lived for a number of years when he was rising to power. Nineteen years younger than Adolf, she was by all accounts the only woman he ever loved. Hitler made her pose for nude drawings, which were later stolen and bought back from a blackmailer, and reportedly whipped her with a bullwhip. She is quoted as telling a friend, “My uncle is a monster. You would never believe the things he makes me do.”
Hitler was insanely jealous of his niece. When his chauffeur confessed to him that he and Geli were lovers and wanted to marry, Hitler flew into a rage and fired him. One night, after a loud public fight, she apparently killed herself with a shot from Hitler’s revolver.
When Hitler learned of her heath, he decided to become a vegetarian and made avow never to eat meat again. He went into a deep depression and threatened suicide. An associate, Gregor Strasser, took heroic measures to keep him alive, a fact he regretted three years later when Hitler ordered his execution.
Eva Braun, his final mistress, was a product of convent school. She was only seventeen years old when Hitler began to take her out. Once, after seeing photographs of Hitler in the company of other women, Eva shot herself, severing an artery in her neck. She survived.
In 1935, Eva Braun became despondent when Hitler’s preoccupation with international affairs left little time for her. She again attempted suicide, this time by swallowing twenty sleeping pills. Her sister Ilse found her in a coma and saved her. Angela, Hitler’s sister and Geli Raubal’s mother, was his housekeeper at this time. She despised Eva, refused to shake hands with her, and referred to her as “the stupid cow.” Because Hitler continued to bring Eva to his chalet, Angela gave up her housekeeper post and got married.
Hitler did not like to be alone. He would often summon aides to sit with him in the middle of the night while he rambled on about anything that came to his mind. There was an unwritten rule among the aides that no one would ask a question lest Hitler go off on another tangent.
By 1937, when the rest of the world didn’t yet consider environmental degradation a significant problem, Hitler was mandating anti-pollution devices on factories, like that of the “Strength-Through-Joy” car (later renamed Volkswagen), were required to install anti-pollution devices.
Dr. Erwin Giesing treated Hitler after an aborted assassination attempt by German generals, and so was one of the few men Hitler trusted. However, Giesing wrote in his diary that he had once tried to kill the Fuhrer by giving him a double dose of cocaine. The attempt went undetected, and Hitler remained alive.
At the end of the war, when Hitler decided to commit suicide rather than fall into the hands of the Russians, his first act was to poison his favorite dog Wolf.