Hitler's Childhood Question

Is there evidence from his childhood that one day Adolf Hitler would become one of the world’s most evil dictators, or was his antisemitic behavior only prevalent after he served in WWI?

AH had a difficult childhood, with a brutal father and a mother he loved deeply.
A lot of people have that without turning into murderous dictators, nor do all dictators have similar childhoods. However, since he was generally kind to animals, unlike possibly Napoleon, there doesn’t seem to be the traits ascribed to psychopaths when young.
He didn’t dislike jews until he went to Vienna and met a few.

He might have been pegged as a potential New Jersey crime boss, though.

IMO, the most interesting thing about AH was that so many people in Germany could be so taken in and duped by him. He was very clearly insane. But perhaps his insanity was not evident until a few years after he got into power.

It was very interesting that so many apparently reasonable Germans could have been taken in by this monster.

In what respect was he insane, though? He told the German people what they wanted to hear, made them feel good about themselves again, and externally he kept on rolling the dice and winning every time–until Stalingrad, that is. For nearly a decade, up until 1942, I imagine it would have been very hard to argue with his apparent success.

His anti-semitism seems to have come after WWI, when he (and many other Germans) felt Jewish conspirators were somehow responsible for Germany’s loss in that war.

I don’t think there is any evidence he was insane.

Well, there was always an anti-semitic strain in Germany, but it was minor as these things go. It didn’t ramp up until after WW1 and the national socialists made it part of their platform.

IIRC, Hitler did have some complaints about the Jews, per his friend August Kubizek, in “The Young Hitler I Knew” (or something like that). Nothing too really virulent, tho.
There are varying accounts of his anti-Semitism: some say he was always against them, some say that it wasn’t until after his Vienna trip, so, pay your marks and take your choices.
He did, however, seem to be entranced by the Wagnerian ideal of nationalism, which seemed to be tied into some sort of mystical behavior, which some may interpret as a precursor.

Why was he insane?

  1. He invaded Russia which was a clear losing move and caused him to lose the war.

  2. He declared war on the USA for no good reason which was incredibly insane.

I could list many more reasons but I feel that I’m just wasting my time and energy.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Hello all, long-time lurker, first-time poster…

I agree that it is very interesting, but all the evidence suggests it is easier than we’d like to admit.

I’m basically a fan (if that is the right word) of Dr. Zimbardo and his thoughts on human evil. The short of it is that the man has spent his whole life studying this, and concluded that it is very, very easy for reasonable people to be turned “bad” by someone they perceive as an authority figure. The worst part is that they don’t even perceive themselves as “bad.” They usually think they are doing the right thing.

Check out his book, “The Lucifer Effect.” It covers all the usual studies: Milgram, Robber’s Cave, Zimbardo’s own Stanford Prison, etc. etc. as well as some case studies that I was not familiar with. If you want to see something really scary, Google “Strip search phone call scam” to see how fast this can happen.

Thanks everyone.

Perhaps his childhood upbringing had little to do with his becoming a sadistic tyrant, but clearly he was wired differently than the rest of us.

I’ve read that WWI German reparations, and the subsequent economic failure, set the stage for Hitler’s rise to power… but remember that he was more than willing to wipe out his adversaries and demonize Jews in order to achieve his aims.

I think the German people went along with it because he improved the economy and promoted nationalism, and people started to feel good about themselves again. By the time he decided to invade Russia and declare war on the US it was too late for the German populace to do anything about it.

Was Hitler insane? On the surface it would certainly appear he was insane given his Megalomania and desire to rule the world at all costs… but we shouldn’t confuse arrogance and stupidity with insanity.

Really, what you are describing is called a stupid thing. People do all sorts of stupid things without being either insane or actually stupid themselves. But perhaps from Hitlers point of view these were initially seen as bold moves that may payoff huge returns. If they had worked in some fashion they would now be thought of a genius. IMHO Hitler was more arrogant and self absorbed than really insane; basically full of himself so much that no one could tell him anything.

IIRC there exists a recording of Hitler chatting with some diplomat on a train, speaking in a quite normal tone of voice and admitting he had underestimated the resiliance of Russia’s armament manufacturing. It’s clear that a lot of his wild public speaking gesticulations were a deliberate performance.

He was not an exceptional student. His sister Paula after the war remembers;

His difficult relationship with his father is well known. Again, his sister remembers;

A journal discovered in 2005 reveals that in his teenage years he became quite the bully, ironically acting quite like his hated father. He also moved frequently in his childhood due to his father’s job.

The death of his beloved mother and rejection from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna were two hammer blows in his early life; although all recollections from the time recall that he had strong opinions about everything he was in essence an aimless drifter. He used to sell his paintings to Jewish buyers in Vienna.

World War 1 transformed him; gave him a career and afterwards his raison d’etre in speaking out against the ‘stab in the back’ behind German defeat. Before the war, when he moved to Munich, he described himself (generously) as an architectural artist.

I don’t think that hitler was a special person as much as someone in the right/wrong circumstances

I think people like him always exist, it’s just that usually they don’t get that far

Having said going back throughout history there are plenty of mass murderers and the really shocking thing about hitler and the nazis is how all of the other countries involved let it happen

Hitler’s real enemy all along was Communism/Stalin/the USSR; he didn’t decide to invade the USSR on a whim in 1941. That was the plan all along; knocking France out of the war, blocking the UK out of Europe, and turning east to attack the real enemy was exactly the same plan that the Germans tried in WW1. It worked better the second time, for a while.

So calling Hitler “insane” for invading the USSR is missing the entire point of Hitler and the Nazis: they were the right wing mirror image of the USSR, that was the real fight to the death, and the western front was only ever a sideshow.

Carving out an empire in the east for German peoples at the expense of ‘Slavic races’ also not an idea that originated with Hitler.

The “diplomat” you’re thinking of was Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, a Finnish military leader and politician. The recording is here.

This is a chilling recording because is shows that Hitler wasn’t a raving madman, but was calm and calculating and that he clearly understood the challenges he faced when he decided to attack Russia. He was surprised by their armaments and that his army/air force had been split up due to setbacks by the Italians and the ongoing fighting in the west.

He thought he was making rational military decisions, but he obviously underestimated the will and might of his many adversaries.