Few of the political leaders of the 20th century have repelled contemporaries more than Adolf Hitler, the dictatorial Leader (Fuhrer) and Reich Chancellor of the so-called ‘Greater German Empire’, or the Third Reich. …
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Few of the political leaders of the 20th century have repelled contemporaries more than Adolf Hitler, the dictatorial Leader (Fuhrer) and Reich Chancellor of the so-called ‘Greater German Empire’, or the Third Reich. The actions and policies of his regime led to the atrocities previously unparalleled in human history, and the irrationality of many of his political moves led many to believe that the reason for this must supposedly be sought in the personal dementia of Hitler. However, closer look at the development of his personality and the early years of his political career reveals mediocre but still cunning demagogue, who was far from being mere psychopath. The first years of Hitler’s life were rather unremarkable. He was born in lower-middle class Austrian family, with his father, Alois Hitler, a customs official and his mother, Klara Polzl, a devout and obedient housewife. Despite Hitler’s claims to being born in an impoverished family, his father’s income actually allowed young Adolf to enter Linz Realschule and begin training for commercial career (Bullock 26). Nevertheless, in spite of superficially ‘normal’ life of Hitler family, the psychological relations within it were rather tense. Alois Hitler was always bitter and temperamental man (Fest 17; Kershaw 43). The submissive stance exhibited by his wife, Klara, allowed Alois to have free rein in disciplining his children, so that the relations in the family was dominated by the stern father figure – a fact that undoubtedly had an impact on making of young Hitler (Kershaw 45). In any case, Adolf left Linz Realschule in 1904, the year after his father’s death, due to his record at this school that was far from spectacular (Bullock 26). In 1905, at the age of 16, Hitler ceased his training, and for the next two years he lived comfortably at the expense of his mother, fantasizing about some future great destiny (Kershaw 51). The death of his mother led to major change in the life of previously carefree Adolf. Hitler’s previous plans of excelling as an artist proved a failure after his futile attempt to enter the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in October 1907. After the funeral Hitler returned to Vienna to pursue the life of ‘art student’ (Bullock 31). Vienna of those times was a multicultural city that embodied the internal contradictions of the decadent Austro-Hungarian Empire. The old social structure was progressively decomposing itself, with the subdued nationalities claiming rights of self-government and German artisans and petty traders turning to nationalism and especially to Anti-Semitism as a way of rationalising their hostility to competition by numerous Jewish migrants from the eastern lands of the Dual Monarchy that at that time settled in Vienna (Fest 27). Even though Hitler likely became a follower of ideas of German Nationalism in his school years (Bullock 27), it was in Vienna where he became an enthusiastic partisan of ideas of militant Anti-Semitism then advocated by charismatic Karl Lueger, the leader of Christian Social Party (CS), who was to prove a major influence on the political views of Hitler (Fest 42). According to Fest, despite his less than comfortable life conditions in the men’s houses of Vienna in his destitute years (1908-13), Hitler exhibited nothing but hostility towards revolutionary left-wing movements of his time and paradoxically combined his contempt for bourgeois establishment with a craving to be accepted into it (33). Giblin notes that Hitler had particularly negative opinion of Marxist Social-Democratic Party, believing it to be controlled by the Jews (14). He was especially appalled by the Marxist socio-political doctrine, especially for its denial of organic unity of nation, and by the notion of class struggle (Fest 34). This combination of radical anti-establishment rhetoric with hostility towards political theories that challenged the notion of social hierarchy as such was characteristic of Hitler’
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