Hitler and the WWI
Some events take place because of manipulation by various players. Some people are shaped by the role they play in shaping a given ideology. The World War I marked a time for the reshaping of events and ideas that later led to the World War II. At the same time, it created personalities who later shaped history in various ways. During the World War I, Hitler emerged as a mere volunteer soldier in the Bavarian army. However, his rage against foreigners saw him raise his military cadre and receive mots awards of her time. During the World War I, many events took place, and some focused around Hitler. According to Weber, there are few cases of eyewitness accounts on what happened during the World War I, and thus, it would be fascinating to focus events around a key figure in the war on mapping them out. As a result, this study will focus on Adolf Hitler and the events around him during the war.
Adolf Hitler lived between 1889 and 1945. He was the fourth born in the family of Mr. and Mrs. Klara Hitler. According to Kershaw, his birth date was on 20th of April 1889 in Braunau, the Austrian town. According to the accounts of Weber, Adolf’s father was a very strict person and used to work as a customs official. Weber further states that Adolf might have inherited his strictness from his father but acknowledges that both men were comfortable. Adolf grew to like most kids and was loved by his mother, especially after three of his siblings died when he was young.
At the age of three, Adolf accompanied his family to Passau on the border of Germany along the Inn River. The family decided to move to this area in search of good farming land. After two years, after the birth of their fifth born, the family moved again to Hafeld. Hafeld was about 30 miles from Southwest Linz. In 1896, Adolf’s sister, Paula, was born. Adolf’s father previous two marriages had yielded two children, a boy and a girl, and thus, the family settled together.
Hitler’s family can be mistaken to be nomadic because they kept moving from one place to another. During one such move, the family settled near a Benedictine monastery for six months. The monastery had a coat of arms Adolf used to admire. It had a swastika as its most salient feature. Adolf admired the coat of arm and dreamed of becoming a priest. However, his dream did not materialize. During Adolf’s childhood, it was uncommon for children to be beaten as a mode of punishment. However, Kershaw states that Adolf’s father used to beat him regularly and this could have shaped him into a hardened man in adulthood.
Adolf was talented in arts. He liked gymnastics and had a healthy athletic body. He was good in school because he qualified for a place in University Preparatory gymnasium. However, Adolf opted to join scientific/technical Realschule following his father’s advice. According to Schramm, His father wanted him to enroll in a course that had a technical drawing. However, Adolf did not perform well in Realschule. At the age of 16, Adolf quit schooling citing poor health. He was suffering from a lung infection, but the poor results might have played a role in him leaving school.
In 1903, Adolf father died from pleural hemorrhage. His mother allowed him to visit Vienna in 1906 as a way of nurturing his talents. Efforts to gain admission into a prestigious art school failed. In 1907, his mother died of terminal breast cancer. Attempts by Edward Bloch, a Jewish doctor, to treat Adolf’s mom had failed. Adolf was left as an orphan with no proper schooling and career. Edward Bloch served the poor through his profession diligently, and one wonders why Hitler targeted Jews in his later years.
After the death of his mother, Adolf stayed for six more years in Vienna. He survived on the legacy of his father, and he was offered orphan’s pension for upkeep. According to Kershaw, Adolf was penniless by 1909. As a result, he survived as a street child sleeping in shelters for homeless, bars, and flophouse. Ironically, the Jews sponsored the children homes Adolf used to sleep in during his time in Vienna. Instead of being thankful to the Jews, Adolf developed a political interest in them
He learned some politics from people in the political fronts and perfected his skills in debates. John Toland, in his bibliography, claims that Adolf had friends for the Jewish community, and two of his best friends were Jews. His admiration for the Jews could not be hidden, as he liked art dealers and operatic performers for the Jewish community. However, Vienna was at the heart of anti-Semitic wave that was sweeping across Europe. The media was spreading some stereotyped ideas about the Jews, and this elicited some public debates, which did not escape the ears of Hitler. The hatred of Hitler towards the Jews must have been shaped during this time.
In May 1913, Adolf left Vienna for Munich to escape being forced into military service. The Austrian government was in the hunt for youth within his age bracket to join the army. However, his attempts to hide did not succeed because he later received a draft document from the Austrian government. The draft threatened Hitler with a one-year jail term and a fine if found guilty of avoiding enlistment. He was arrested on that day and taken to the Consulate for examination. The medical checkup indicated that he was weak and unfit to carry firearms and thus was not forced into the army that time.
Hitler during the World War I
After being refused entry into the military, Hitler continued to stay in Munich cultivating his political career. He spent most of the time visiting various libraries to get information about the political situation in his country. He hated serving the Austrian empire and thus he was glad the army entrance failed. By the time the German Empire and the Austria-Hungary entered into the First World War, Adolf was 25 years old. Hitler felt the need to fight for his country after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand on 28th of June 1914. At that time, any young men across Europe were volunteering to fight for their countries in the World War I. Most of them thought that the war would be an engagement for a brief moment before they resume their normal lives. However, Adolf could not fight in the Bavarian army because of he was an Austrian citizen. As a result, he formally requested to be allowed to serve in the Bavarian Army. Through his extensive study of the political situation, Adolf had developed Germany Nationalist ideas and hoped to implement them in future. The Germany nationalist ideas implied that Germans were a nation and thus the need for promoting their cultural unity. The inclusion of Hitler into the Bavarian army was a mystery because it could not be explained why he was not deported back to Austria the moment he failed the physical test into the Austrian army. Nevertheless, Hitler was admitted into the army and settled in well.
Adolf was admitted into the First Company of the Sixteenth Bavarian Infantry Company. This regiment was termed the List Regiment as it was named after its first commander called Colonel Von List. Hitler underwent few months of training, and the drills assisted him to recover from his situation that had forced him out of the Austrian army. He took an oath of allegiance to Ludwig III, the Bavarian king, on 8th of October 1914. According to Toland, Hitler considered the allegiance a sacred occasion rather than just an army quick event. He was a nationalist and thus this was the day his dream was fulfilled.
The List Regiment that included Adolf Hitler entrained for the Western Front on 21st of October 1914. At this time, the Germans were fighting the First Ypres war at Lille. It took Adolf and his company two days to journey on foot to Lille. They were enjoined in the army in Crown Prince Rupprecht, which was the sixth Bavarian Division. War engagements at this time were not deadly because it was less static. According to Schramm, Hitler started his military career in a unmilitary manner. He was always sloppy and appeared unusual solder with the strange bearing. He was a dispatch runner. He acted as a messenger between the commander at the back and the troop in the front. He would be seen running with pieces of information to deliver to the troops in front. Whenever there were some lulls in the battle, Hitler would take his package of watercolors and paint the events in the war. His love for art manifested even at the heart of the fight.
Hitler seemed preoccupied with other activities during the war to the point that he never complained when other soldiers were whining. He chose to discuss art and history with his friends and ignored pettily complains such as bad food and horrible conditions at the camp. This attitude made him popular among his seniors, but his fellow Corporals considered it as an individual eager to please his bosses. Hitler was also very brave and dared to fight in dangerous situations. The way he managed to avoid accidents was through luck.
On 29th of October 1914, the commander of the List Regiment released three battalions in the raging war. A British infantryman repulsed them and inflicted severe casualties on the Germans. One of the undoing of that fight was the weapons used. The weapons were restricted to only nine rounds of ammunition and thus the British soldier might have kept them busy to ensure they exhaust their rounds before the struck them. One would have expected Hitler to be a coward and hot tempered, but that was not the case. He maintained calmness and obeyed all orders from his seniors. As the war progressed, the number of casualties swelled, and the morale of soldiers went down. However, Hitler’s spirit did not waver at any point, and he remained true to the oath he took. He carried on with his duties faithfully such that he was rewarded with a promotion to become a Lance Corporal.
The List Regiment was deployed on some missions at the south of Ypres and the French army confronted them. The French overpowered them and inflicted a heavy casualty on them. At this time, Hitler was an official dispatch runner or a Meldeganger. During one of his moments of crisscrossing the battlefield to transmit information, Hitler stumbled across a wounded police officer in the open. He sought the help of a friend and pulled the wounded soldier to a safe place. This act elevated Hitler such that he was given a recognition award of an Iron Cross in second-class engagement. The event took place at Wytschaete near Croonaert Wood. The engagement at Croonaert Wood was very severe and inflicted heavy causality to the List Regiment. According to Smith, only 600 men were left in the army of about 3500. Commander List was among those who were wounded, but Hitler escaped unscathed.
As the battle raged, the morale of volunteer soldiers dwindled. Christmas approached and passed without a hint of holiday for them. The battle that was once thought a short-term engagement was turning into a long-term engagement. Stackelberg in his accounts of the events of the war, states that volunteer foot soldiers were fighting a war of stamina, willpower, and nerves. However, the length of the battle did not move Hitler. During his time in Vienna, he had anticipated that any fight to liberate the Germans would take a long time. As a result, he was among the few people in the camp with hope.
The battle entered into the New Year (1915) with renewed intensity. The horrors witnessed in 1914 were just a tester of more unpleasant things to come. In 1915, the soldiers renewed a fighting strategy. It was a year for advances in a war with a focus on killing. The List Regiment was at Neuve Chappelle battle where the British army was on their assault. Both armies were not experiences in the trench war art because they were just volunteers who had not fought any other battle in life. Nevertheless, the British and the Germans entered into attack and counter attack match.
The Germans aimed at recapturing what had been captured from them in Ypres and thus launched an assault after the contest at Neuve Chappelle. The Germans thus launched the second Ypres Battle in April. They focused on inflicting significant damage on the allied forces thereby diverting their attention from the Eastern front. The Germans changed the tactic to ensure victory. They employed gas weapon to fight the allied army despite gas being outlawed in war. They used chlorine gas to kill their opponents. Chlorine gas kills by asphyxiation and causes temporal blindness. The temporary blindness enabled the Germans to advance against the Allied forces thereby killing them in large numbers. Within the first day, the Germans killed about 5000 Allied Soldiers and captured 2000. However, the Bavarians did not plan the attack well because the gas masks they used were primitive and thus could not sustain them for long. As a result, they did not take the advantage of the breakthrough they had achieved and thus did not capture Ypres as intended. During the Second Battle of Ypres, the List Regiment consisting of Hitler played a supporting role. According to Weber, they were used to carry gas canisters among other things.
Adolf refused to behave like other soldiers during this time. Most of the volunteers who had survived Neuve Chappelle war requested for a leave but Hitler did not. He even refused to be dawned into talks about local girls in the area and instead focused on his painting hobby. To kill loneliness, he befriended a dog and became so close to it such that he mourned when it was stolen. At some point, Hitler resorted to advising his peers against drug abuse among other social evils. He also spent most of his time reciting Marxist ideas and Germany nationalism. He also preached about the conspiracy of the Jews, and how the Allied Forces had made the lives of the Germans difficult.
The situation continued to be desperate for the Bavarian army as the year progressed. However, Hitler remained steadfast in his quest to see the victory. It cost him nerves of steel to deliver staff messages despite heavy barrage. He survived suicidal odds thereby earning him high respect among his comrades. It became a mystery even to Hitler how he survived some suicidal attempts such that several theories were put forward to explain. One such theory was the theory of sheer luck whereby many people saw nothing special rather than good luck. Stackelberg indicates that survival in wars during the World War I required luck and a few who were lucky as Hitler survived the assault. Another theory was the divine hand of protection. There was a general belief among the army survivors that unforeseen hand was protecting them from an early death, and this was a pointer to the fact that they had a special role to play in the time to come. Hitler revered the second theory.
According to Smith, Hitler firmly believed that a strong divine force was protecting him, and he even used to tell his peers about it. He emphasized this notion through several accounts whereby a firm and unseen force protected him. In one such incident, Hitler said that a strong voice told him to leave a particular dugout they had crowded in during a minor barrage. About five minutes after walking out of the barrage, an incoming shell hit the exact spot killing everyone in the hiding. Hitler attributed this miraculous escape to the unseen force that was guarding him. In another instance, Henry Tandey, one of the most decorated British soldiers, saw Hitler trying to get back into the lines in a precise position. However, Tandey refused to pull a trigger on Hitler allowing him to go in a moment of compassion. Hitler later referred to the incident as the hand of unseen force that protected him from death. However, Weber when referring to the event said that Tandey’s moment of compassionate sentenced the world to great suffering because Hitler later grew into the cruelest dictator the world had ever known.
Although Hitler escaped several cases of death, he ran out of luck and was almost killed on 7 October 1916 during the war of the Somme. On this day, a shell fragment hit him in the leg causing a serious injury. The injury was very severe and resulted in his hospitalization. This was the only time Hitler was away from war because he had never taken a leave as other volunteers. After recovery, Hitler went to Berlin for sightseeing and later for light duties in Munich. He was surprised by the antiwar sentiments in Munich. People in Munich considered World War I as a means to undermine the efforts of the Germans. Hitler attributed this situation to the propaganda by the Jews who were out to discredit the Germans. He thus developed anti-Semitic notion based on the conspiracy. According to Verheyen (98), Hitler was so enraged by antiwar sentiments in Munich such that he requested to be sent back to the war front. In March 1917, his request was granted.
Hitler’s return was seen as an act of bravery and was later awarded Iron Cross First Class Medal of recognition. It was rare for a foot soldier to receive this award, but Hitler merited after strong recommendations from a certain Jew. However, he remained a Corporal despite all these medals. His unmilitary character prompted his seniors to doubt his leadership abilities and thus could not command the respect of a Sergeant. The war turned against the Germans despite using gas weapons to fight. Many soldiers were killed such that the moral of everyone was low. For the first time in the war, Hitler’s morale dropped to the lowest level. According to Smith, Hitler became depressed by the war situation such that he withdrew into a corner whenever he was free. He spent most of his free hours contemplating over something. He would sometimes spring up for the hiding shout about the invisible forces of foes.
In October 1918, Hitler and fellow members of the List Regiment were cornered in Warwick, south of Ypres. The British overpowered them with a gas attack. Hitler was among those who suffered in the gas attack. The gas caused temporary blindness to them as well as the ability to stand straight. Hitler was sent to Pasewalk, and it was at this time, he heard the news that the war had ended and that the Germans had lost.
The First World War career of Hitler, though unusual, was commendable. Hitler never shied or shirked from danger. He was among the few bravest men in the List Regiment, and this earned him several awards. However, behind this bravery were putrid twisted racial theories, hair-brained scientific ideas, and mass extremism. Hitler’s behaviors in the war seemed calculative. He sought for the respect of fellow soldiers through his acts of bravery to help him build political connection. His political ambitions were heightened by the loss of the war. The pride derived from war experience was replaced with the bitterness of the loss encountered. The war period thus marked a blueprint for Hitler’s future ambitions. The dying embers of the World War I ignited another bigger war in him and he carefully planned for it.
Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2008.
Schramm, Percy. Hitler. The Man and the Military Leader. London: The Penguin Press, 1972.
Smith, Gordon. Rediscovering Alexander Moritz Frey: Eye-Witness Account of Hitler’s WWI Years Found. SPIEGEL ONLINE. Berlin: SPIEGELnet GmbH, 2007.
Stackelberg, Roderick. The Routledge Companion to Nazi Germany. New York: Routledge, 2007.
Toland, John. Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography. New York: Paperback, 1991.
Verheyen, Dirk. The German question: A Cultural, Historical, and Geopolitical Exploration. Massachusetts: Westview Press, 1999.
Weber, Thomas. Hitler’s First War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
 Weber, Thomas. Hitler’s First War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010) 12.
 Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2008) 7.
 Weber (49)
 Weber (51)
 Kershaw (54)
 Kershaw (58)
 Schramm, Percy. Hitler. The Man and the Military Leader (London: The Penguin Press, 1972) 87.
 Schramm (75)
 Kershaw (41)
 Toland, John. Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography (New York: Paperback , 1991) 123.
 Toland (214).
 Toland (241)
 Toland (300).
 Schramm, Percy. Hitler. The Man and the Military Leader (London: The Penguin Press, 1972) 57.
 Schramm (58)
 Schramm (14)
 Smith, Gordon. Rediscovering Alexander Moritz Frey: Eye-Witness Account of Hitler’s WWI Years Found. SPIEGEL ONLINE (Berlin: SPIEGELnet GmbH, 2007) 7.
 Stackelberg, Roderick. The Routledge Companion to Nazi Germany (New York: Routledge, 2007) 57.
 Weber (87)
 Verheyen, Dirk. The German question: A Cultural, Historical, and Geopolitical Exploration(Massachusetts: Westview Press, 1999) 97.
 Stackelberg, Roderick. The Routledge Companion to Nazi Germany (New York: Routledge, 2007) 16.
 Smith (2)
 Weber (87)
 Smith (3)