The Childhood, Adolescence and Young Adulthood of Adolf Hitler - An EssayJun 12, 2003 Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in BooksThe Bottom Line A little essay I put together. Enjoy.
The following composition is an essay that I wrote form my Anthropology, Psychology and Sociology class this year in which we had to address an issue and develop a thesis on it. This isn't a bad piece, in my humble opinion, and with my exam earlier today, I decided to post this - both for my own entertainment and to maybe inform people. Comments are always cool...
How Did Adolf Hitlers Childhood and Youth Influence His Development?
By: Brian Jansen
Adolf Hitler is one of the most infamous figures in world history. Hitler, considered by many to be a man of pure evil, was considered to be both a brilliant strategist and a charismatic leader. He was nearly responsible for the eradication of an entire race, and came close to victory in one of the most gruesome wars in recorded history. But despite the mans actions, theres an intriguing aspect about him that few can ignore. When Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King met with Hitler, he returned home confident that Hitler was "a slow man, incapable of harming another human being." Over the next several years, Hitler proved King's opinion completely groundless by nearly destroying an entire continent and gaining the total obedience of his people, plunging the world into chaos. Many still wonder how he was capable of controlling the people of his country, as well as why he was the man that he was. Perhaps that reason can be traced to his childhood and youth. Although there are very few comprehensive studies on the subject, available data would suggest that Adolf Hitlers actions and beliefs later in life came as an indirect result of his childhood, his teenage years spent in Vienna, and his brief service as a soldier in World War I.
To understand the motivations of a madman, it makes sense to look at his family, especially his parents. Hitlers father was Alois Hitler Shickelgruber, the son of an unmarried forty-two year old woman named Anna Maria Shickelgruber. Alois was a womanizer. He was married three times and had an illegitimate child before he was even married. He had several affairs during these unions as well, including one with a servant working at the inn where Alois and his first wife resided. When his first wife died, Alois married the servant whom he had an affair with, and then began another affair with a different servant, one Clara Polzl. Alois second wife also died, this time of tuberculosis, and six months later, Alois married Clara. (Redlich, 7) When all was said and done, Alois was the father of eight children, although several died soon after birth or while still a child. He was believed to be an alcoholic, though to his credit he was able to hide this quite well. He was frequently away during Adolfs childhood, and reports suggest that he was physically and emotionally abusive to the child. In fact, it has been said that Alois didnt particularly care for any of his children, maintaining an indifference towards them. (Redlich, 8)
Adolf Hitlers mother was Clara Hitler, a poor girl who worked at the inn where Alois lived with his first and second wives. By all accounts, Clara was a loving and caring mother who, despite a poor education, had a great appreciation for art and culture. She encouraged Hitler to take piano lessons and was often believed to spoil her many children. Clara was twenty-three years younger than her husband, and he was not afraid to demonstrate his dominance over her. (Redlich, 9) However, there is a story in her marriage with Alois that is rarely told. Historians believe that Clara was actually Alois Hitlers own niece - at the very least officially, if not biologically. The identity of Alois Hitlers father was never determined, but was officially listed as Johann Georg Hiedler. Clara was related to Hiedler, which meant that Alois and Clara had to obtain a papal dispensation before they could wed. (abelard.org) Furthermore, for the first several years of their marriage, she still referred to him as uncle. Whether or not the two were actually related, it still establishes a reason to believe that either parent could have some type of psychological problem.
But perhaps the most widely discussed and engaging aspect of Adolf Hitlers family is the biological identity of his grandfather. Hitlers grandmother never revealed the true identity of her sons father, and many still speculate that Hitlers paternal grandfather was Jewish. In fact, while serving in the German army, Adolf confided his fears in a superior officer, and frequently ordered investigations by his Schutzstaffel (SS) and private lawyers.
The results of these investigations were never concrete, and Hitler destroyed the majority of documents that detailed his youth and family. (Redlich, 12) As such, these rumours will likely never be confirmed nor denied, which is unfortunate. If in fact, Hitlers grandfather had been Jewish, it would have established a possible origin for Adolfs blind hatred of a race as he himself feared that his grandmother had been impregnated by a Jew while working for him as a servant.
Adolf (or Adolph) Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 at an inn in Braunau, a town that served as a border between Austria and Bavaria. No data of his birth remains, but family members described the boy as a weakly and frail child. There is only one known baby picture of Adolf, and information about his early childhood is very sketchy. There were no abnormalities recorded in Hitlers birth, but this can be chalked up to the fact that he was never closely examined by a doctor. Some believe, however, that he suffered from monorchism (the absence of a testicle) or hypospadia (a condition where the opening of the urethra is in the wrong place). (Redlich, 13) Such a condition could cause insecurities in a child, and could have easily affected the youth. Unfortunately, there is no record of any bedwetting problems (a common indicator of problems later in life), although it was reported that Hitler had rage attacks and fits during his early childhood and throughout puberty. (Redlich, 14) Adolfs life was rather peaceful until 1893 when Alois Hitler retired to spend more time at home. Adolf was frequently disobedient and often received beatings from his father, occurrences that could possibly lead to psychological trauma later in life. Some felt that Alois was a particularly cruel human being, while others claimed that his threats were worse than his actual punishments. Whatever the case, Adolf was humiliated by his fathers actions, and feared Alois scorn more than actual physical punishment. (Redlich, 15) For the most part, there are only isolated instances of antisocial behaviour on the part of Adolf. The only obviously deviant behaviour that young Hitler took part in was shooting rats, something he took great joy in, and a definite sign of disturbed behaviour. (abelard.org)
Adolf Hitler had excellent grades in grade school and was considered to be an extremely intelligent boy, so it came as a great surprise that Hitler failed miserably in secondary school. (Redlich, 15) With the exception of history, Adolf hated the majority of his classes and did as little as possible. While Hitler himself insisted that his poor performance was a protest against his father, this is highly unlikely as his failing grades continued well after Alois Hitler died in 1903. Adolf delighted in telling the story of how he was able to quit school. According to his writings, Hitler came down with a serious illness and had to leave school for a time. His doctor even insisted that Adolf was suffering from advanced tuberculosis (completely untrue), and stories were told about the youth contracting Spurious Pulmonary Disease and measles. Others believe that Adolf had Unhold Syndrome, which resulted in a drastic personality change. (Redlich, 17-18) Again, though, these reports are difficult to confirm or deny. These illnesses, whether real or imagined, established Adolf as a man capable of manipulating others to his advantage, a tactic that he would use often later in life.
He was even able to manipulate his mother into allowing him to stay home from school so that he could apply to an art school. This stage of his youth, however, is best described by a specific example of cruelty to animals. According to several of Hitlers childhood friends, Adolf once captured a billy goat and wedged a piece of wood in its mouth, then proceeding to urinate into the goats open mouth (unfortunately for him, though, the goat was still able to bite, causing some injury). (Redlich, 18) If nothing else, this story serves as a chilling example of unstable behaviour. At worst, this event establishes Hitler as a neurotic and deranged person.
In 1908, Hitler left his hometown, leaving for Vienna. Despite failing to achieve entrance into the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts on two occasions, Adolf was sure that he could make a living there. The truth was far from that, and Hitler would be broke less than a year later. Most historians believe that it was his time in Vienna that was the source of his anti-Semitism. Vienna was, in fact, a hotbed of casual racism and anti-Semitism. The streets were littered by periodicals and pamphlets that detailed the problems caused by the International Jew. Adolf was at first disgusted by the violent anti-Jewish sentiment, but gradually came to accept it and even utilize it. (Bullock, 8) This acceptance can likely be traced back to two figures in Vienna. The first was Karl Lueger, the leader of the Christian Social Party and an active anti-Semite, and the second was Richard Wagner. Wagner was a poet and composer, and more importantly, an anti-Semite. (Hamann, 236) The question one must ask is whether Adolf was ever sincere about his beliefs or only used them to achieve the approval of his peers. The facts would indicate that Adolf only adopted this stance for acceptance, but eventually grew to believe the conspiracies being spouted by some of Viennas elite. Adolf painted Jews as despicable and immoral human beings responsible for many of societys ills. He was convinced that they were responsible for the rampant prostitution in Vienna, and often claimed that male Jews were rapists. (Bullock, 12) That Hitler actually believed much of these propaganda is evidence that Hitler was at least slightly neurotic or suffered from some form of psychosis.
Hitlers political and religious fanaticism finally began to fully take over during Hitlers service to the German army during World War I. By all accounts, Adolf was a courageous soldier, winning two Iron Cross awards for his service. (Redlich, 40) For the most part, Adolf served as a runner to carry messages between headquarters and the trenches, meaning that he saw little action. But as the war came to a close, Hitler was promoted to corporal and saw a small amount of action in the front lines. His service in the military, more than anything else, gave him the chance to learn strategy and warfare tactics firsthand - and the result would end up being devastating during World War II. The war also had another, much more serious effect on Hitler. As the war came to a close, Hitler became the victim of a British mustard gas attack and was left unable to open his eyes. Hitler claimed that he was physically blinded, but there is no record of any actual damage done to his eyes. Furthermore, Hitler contended that Germanys surrender in WWI worsened his condition, blinding him with rage directed at German Jews. It was at this point when Adolf Hitler decided to become active in politics, thereby changing the world forever. (Redlich, 41-43) And even though Adolfs vision recovered, his contempt for the Jews would never cease.
There are several conclusions that researchers have come to based on the life of Adolf Hitler, and in fact there seem to be a large number of specific events and people that support these conclusions. The most infamous of these people was the Hitler family doctor. The man was Jewish, and there are many who suggest that Adolfs hatred of Jews can be traced back to the death of his mother while under the treatment of this doctor. Clara Hitler passed away in 1907 after a long and painful battle with breast cancer, and some believe that Adolf blamed his mothers suffering on the doctor. (Redlich, 22) There is also the story that Hitlers paternal grandfather was a Jew and Adolf feared that her grandmother had been impregnated by him through force.
Also of note are Hitlers relationships with women. Hitler was very awkward around
woman and never had a serious girlfriend until early into his twenties. His first girlfriend also happened to be his own niece, Geli Raubal. Geli died before anything happened between the two. Officially she committed suicide, but there is suspicion that Hitler murdered her after he grew bored with her. (abelard.org) Again, these hardly seem like the actions of a mentally sound individual, suggesting that something may have been very wrong with Hitlers development.
The most telling sign of psychological problems could be Adolf Hitlers cruel treatment of animals. There have been several documented instances (including two here) of Hitler mistreating animals for his own pleasure. It was said that he once beat a dog brutally solely for the purpose of impressing a girlfriend. (abelard.org) It would seem that, in retrospect, Hitler displayed a number of warning signs that would indicate an unstable mind.
Psychologist Erik Erikson believed that the most significant phase of a humans development comes between the ages of twelve and eighteen. (psychology.about.com) Adolf Hitler, as evidenced by a wide variety of official documents and anecdotes, simply failed to mature as a human being during this stage of growth. His awkward demeanour, poor temperament, antisocial tendencies and violent behaviour as a child and teenager may have been a sign of the terrible events to come. One must keep in mind, however, that hindsight is 20/20 and if history had played out differently, Hitler would likely have just been another depressed teenager in a dysfunctional family. As for the origins of Adolf Hitlers anti-Semitism, research seems to show that it didnt come about as a result of a life altering event, but rather the casual anti-Semitism of Vienna, where Hitler absorbed pamphlets and first pursued his political career. Hitler himself fabricated many of the events of his own childhood for political purposes. It would appear, though, that it was that childhood that
ultimately created an unstable human being who accepted a world of pure fantasy and was responsible for the deaths of millions.
1.Bullock, Alan. Hitler: A Study In Tyranny. London: Penguin Books, 1952.
2. Erik Erikson - Eight Stages Of Human Development. http://psychology.about.com/library/weekly/aa091500a.htm
3. Flood, Charles Bracelen. Hitler: The Path To Power. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989.
4. Halsey, William D., and Bernard Johnston. Hitler, Adolf. Merit Students Encyclopedia. London and New York: P.F. Collier, Inc: 1987, Vol. 8, pg. 589.
5. Hamann, Brigitte. Hitlers Vienna: A Dictators Apprenticeship. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
6. Hoffmann, Peter. Hitler, Adolf. The World Book Encyclopedia. World Book, Inc: 1995, Vol. 9, pg. 264.
7. Psychology and Development of Adolph Hitler Schiklgruber, The. http://www.abelard.org/hitler/hitler.htm
8. Redlich, Fritz, M.D. Hitler: Diagnosis of a Destructive Prophet. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
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