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Young Adolf: The Adolescent Hitler and Beyond

Essay: More Prisoners of Eternity.

” To know Hitler, means to know him before he came to power.”  ( Otto Strasser )

The Second World War was not primarily a war of conquest but a campaign of murder. Approximately 62 million people died in the carnage of whom more than 37 million were civilian non-combatants. Of these some 25 million were the victims of deliberate genocide. Above all, one man can be held responsible for this charnel house of death – Adolf Hitler. But what made this aspiring young artist into the greatest mass-murderer of the twentieth century. What turned a young man touched by the seed of creation into a purveyor of destruction? Was it ego, malice, bitterness, frustration. Perhaps it was the cold indifference of the world he saw around him. Is there so much difference between Adolf Hitler and the angry worker who guns down his fellow employees, or the misunderstood schoolboy who shoots those classmates who held him up to ridicule, except the power to do more harm.

Hitler, as a baby

Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau-am-Inn on 20 April, 1889, an Austrian by birth, and a subject of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. His elderly father, Alois Schickelgruber, a minor customs official, was an illegitimate child. Most probably the product of a liaison between his mother, a housekeeper, and the 19 year old son of her Jewish employer, Leopold Frankenberger, who continued to pay maintenance for the child long after Alois’s mother had left his employ. In 1876, Alois had applied to change his name by deed poll to that of his step-father Johann Georg Hiedler. On the deed poll document the name was misspelled as Hitler, which he apparently quite liked. It seems probable that he was forced to change his name under pressure from the Schicklegruber family who did not want the taint of illegitimacy to stain the family name. His mother Klara Polzl, was Alois’s niece, and he had to seek special dispensation from the Catholic Church to marry her, and she habitually referred to him as uncle. Though Adolf had a younger sister, Paula, a step-sister Angela, and a step-brother Alois (all of whom outlived him) it was upon Adolf that Klara showered all her affections. 

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