Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War
, Sep 16, 2010
- 464 pages
Hitler claimed that his years as a soldier in the First World War were the most formative years of his life. However, for the six decades since his death in the ruins of Berlin, Hitler's time as a soldier on the Western Front has, remarkably, remained a blank spot. Until now, all that we knew about Hitler's life in these years and the regiment in which he served came from his own account in Mein Kampf and the equally mythical accounts of his comrades. Hitler's First War for the first time looks at what really happened to Private Hitler and the men of the Bavarian List Regiment of which he was a member. It is a radical revision of the period of Hitler's life that is said to have made him. Looking at the stories of his fellow regimental veterans - an officer who became Hitler's personal adjutant in the 1930s but then offered himself to British intelligence, a soldier-turned-Concentration Camp Commander, Jewish veterans who fell victim to the Holocaust, and others who simply returned to their lives in Bavaria - Thomas Weber presents a Private Hitler very different from the one portrayed in his own self-mythologizing account. Instead, we find a man who was shunned by the frontline soldiers of his regiment as a 'rear area pig' and who was still unsure of his political ideology even at the end of the war in 1918. In looking at the post-war lives of Hitler's fellow veterans back in Bavaria, Thomas Weber also challenges the commonly accepted notion that the First World War was somehow a 'seminal catastrophe' in twentieth century German history - and even questions just how deep-seated Nazi ideology really was in its home state.