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27.07.21

Hitler: The Man, The Myth, The Misconceptions

Adolf Hitler was born in a small Austrian town, and raised near Linz. He later moved to Germany where he served in the Germany army during the First World War. After the war, he joined the German Workers Party, which soon became the National Socialist German Workers Party, and became its elected leader in 1921. After a failed coup to overtake the Munich government, he was imprisoned for nine months. After his release, the Nazi party grew from strength to strength until Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933. Shortly after, the Führer’s dictatorship began.

 

Misconception 1: Hitler was part Jewish

There is no evidence that Hitler had Jewish ancestry, despite frequent studies into his ancestry by historians. The misconception that Hitler was part Jewish arose in the 1920s and 1930s, and was a rumour started by his political opponents to discredit him as the leader of an openly antisemitic party.

 

A poster explaining how Jewish heritage was categorised by the Nazis. USHMM

Misconception 2: Hitler was an elected leader

Hitler was the legally appointed Chancellor of Germany in January 1933, but he was not elected. In the Weimar Republic’s Constitution, the role of Chancellor was not elected but appointed by the President, who was, at that time, Paul von Hindenberg.

 

Hitler and President Paul von Hindenburg. historyextra.com

Misconception 3: Hitler was homosexual

The rumour that Hitler was homosexual began in the 1930s, due to his close friendship with Ernst Röhm. He was the leader of the Sturmabteilung (SA, known as ‘brownshirts’) and was openly homosexual. But similar to the myths that Hitler was part Jewish, these rumours were started by his political opposition. There is no evidence that Hitler had homosexual relationships, however it is well documented that he had heterosexual relationships including those with his half-niece, Geli Raubal, and his later wife, Eva Braun.

Hitler and Eva Braun at the Beghof. Bundesarchiv.

Misconception 4: Hitler hated Jews because of an ex-girlfriend or because he didn’t get into art college

It is not known when Hitler became antisemitic, however it is known that after the First World War, Hitler was openly antisemitic. It is documented that he believed the inflammatory and baseless ‘stab in the back’ theory, which upheld that the German Army did not lose the war, but was instead betrayed by communists and Jews on the homefront.  (For more on this, check out RJ Evans’ The Hitler Conspiracies, 2020). Hitler then used his antisemitic beliefs to create a common enemy for the German people, especially during the economic crises facing its people in the 1920s and 1930s, as a way to rally the people and restore Germany to its previous glory.

Misconception 5: Hitler survived the war

As the end of the war approached, Hitler and his new wife, Eva Braun, committed suicide in the Führerbunker underneath Berlin on 30th April 1945. Hitler shot himself and Eva bit into a cyanide capsule. Their bodies were then taken outside and cremated. As the Soviet Army advanced into Berlin, soldiers discovered the burnt remains. However, rumours have persisted that Hitler survived seeking sanctuary under a new name in South America, similar to other famous Nazis (Mengele and Eichmann, for example). Some have claimed he was living on the moon! Despite the theories, there are many witnesses from the bunker who reported that Hitler died there in April 1945.

The ruins of Potsdamer Platz, Berlin at the end of the war. Getty Images.

Hannah Randall – 25/7/21