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Young Hitler: The Making of the Fuhrer

Paul Ham
It is widely recognised that Adolf Hitler believed in the idea of a master race and was determined to wipe out those races which did not conform to his ideal. The most common knowledge from lessons always seem to involve what he did before and during the Second World War but there is little mention of his early years apart from the tales which abound about his being a Jew and a painter and decorator. In this book the author has written a simplified yet comprehensive biography covering the early years from the birth of Adolf Hitler to the time when he was released from prison in 1924.

The Prologue describes what was happening during the latter part of the nineteenth century given that Hitler was born in 1889 when the major powers were carving out empires for themselves. During that time Germany became one unified nation and several decades of economic growth followed during which time the young were demanding, and receiving, recognition of the workers. Before long, many citizens of other states such as Austria and the Czechs felt excluded from the nation they considered as being their origin. This all tended to set the stage for the Great War and Hitler’s efforts to ensure he was accepted as a German rather than a citizen of his native Austria.

There follow some six or seven chapters covering Hitler’s origins, his parents, siblings and early schooling. As Hitler grows up it seems that although he was fairly bright his ambitions were those involving art, architecture, and painting. He was given to odd moods, moving from place to place and with the death of his mother he joined the company of those who tend to be known as “angry young men”.

Paul Ham covers the Great War, briefly describing how it came about, and explains Hitler’s part in it as being the time when Hitler developed his desire to be German, even to the point of managing to enlist in a Bavarian regiment although he was actually an Austrian. Like many others Hitler did not have an easy time during the war he actually enjoyed it and saw it as a means of determining who would inherit the earth. He was recognised as a good, brave soldier by both his peers and superior officers and had achieved both rank and decorations. Temporarily blinded by gas, Hitler effectively missed the end of the war and on being discharged from hospital he returned to Munich following the last of his service as a guard in a prison camp.

Throughout the war Hitler had deplored the attitude toward privation endured by civilians in Germany and he became more convinced there were political forces at work. The various individuals and parties are described by the author together with the general feeling towards Marxists, unions and Jews, all of whom were regarded as enemies of the state because of their political intentions. At this time Hitler blamed the left wing press, socialist leaders and capitalists for the labour problems but still blamed those politicians who had agreed the Armistice. It seems this was around the time he became more involved in the political side of things and as an opportunist was able to make very good use of his skills as a speaker to influence leaders of far right parties.

The author has unearthed a considerable amount of material and references concerning Hitler’s move into politics where he used both people and political parties to pursue his aim of annihilating and exterminating all those who held the Marxist view which he chose to include Jews and those he held responsible for Germany’s defeat and current problems. As the situation became quite tense Hitler made sure he was being seen as one of the more outspoken members of the National Socialist party and someone who could handle total power. Eventually things deteriorated to the state where armed men and “vigilante” groups brazenly walked the streets of Munich and every meeting in city beer halls descended into brawls. The Socialist party called for a march on Berlin and the Putsch was planned for 11 November but Hitler brought the date forward to 8 November declaring that evening that a revolution had taken place but the expected coup did not go as he expected and the outcome was that on the following morning marchers of the party encountered a security cordon of soldiers and police. Shots were fired and several people from both sides killed or wounded. Hitler was one of those brought to trial and sentenced to serve time in Landsberg prison where he seems to have become a form of anti hero. It was here that he started writing Mein Kampf which defined his philosophy of anti Semitism, influenced by writers who had expressed similar views. He was released from prison in 1924 and very soon embarked on the political career which was to see him become the Fuhrer.
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In his epilogue, Paul Ham explains how he feels Hitler developed into one of the most infamous people ever, and it would seem that Hitler had an anti-establishment attitude from early on which was developed through the Great War and the changes taking place in Germany itself in the early part of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, the remainder of the epilogue seems to be given over to the author’s own sentiments and beliefs of all that which he considers to be evil in the present day. Otherwise, the book is certainly informative and worth reading even though the modern method of annunciating endnotes causes more difficulty when considering or comparing references. However, that is not the fault of the author. Here and there the content has a little of an amateur feel with what seem to be the author’s own feelings peeping through. All in all it certainly gives an insight to the early life of Adolf Hitler and some of the conditions in Europe and Germany in particular which helped form the ideas of his method of leadership.
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