The first chapter of John Toland’s biography of Adolf Hitler explains the devious childhood of the now infamous dictator. Starting with the boy’s parents and how he was the sole surviving off-spring of several baby deaths, John details how as a young boy Hitler enjoyed being the leader, playing cowboys and Indians, and devising rambunctious pranks. His older brother leaving home when he was 14 the home situation was not stable: his mother, though caring, could not stop Hitler’s abusive father from beating him and taking out his frustration solely on Hitler.
Yet young Hitler persevered. While his father’s attacks were brutal they were neither uncommon nor intolerable. Instilling him himself a strong dislike of his father Adolf carried on with his studies, earning good marks when he applied himself, and fought forward towards his desires of becoming an artist; While he greatly enjoyed subjects such as history and architecture other studies, such as French and mathematics, were his Achilles heel. Later on this would prove his undoing in relation to entry into a prime artistic school.
During this time in his life Hitler was not what one may call a sociable person. Throughout his childhood while he had many acquaintanceships he had few true friends, indeed, it seemed that the only close friend he possessed was that of another learned boy named August Kubizek, a youth which aspired to becoming a world famous musician. Together the duo spent great deals of time together; Hitler impressing upon him his oratory skills and August plying his inexhaustible power of careful listening to sooth Hitler’s high strung personality.
Though becoming early on a devote German nationalist and striving to contribute all he could to Germany’s role in world affairs this is not to say that Hitler was uncaring during his youth, not at least towards his mother. Loving her with a deep affection rarely showed to anyone upon, he dotted upon her when she was sick. Upon her passing it is said Hitler showed such profound sorrow that the doctor who signed the death certificate had never seen such deep distress.
This level of emotion would follow Hitler throughout the rest of his life as a youth and young adult. This is seen in the second chapter when after Hitler and August travel to Vienna to stake their claims as artists and musicians, respectively, Hitler would engage in endlessly loud and boisterous debates against social democrats and other ideological foes. While later, once he had matured some, he would learn to conceal his animosity for a short time he was a firebrand among the destitute.
During this moment in his life this seems to be a remarkably development. Because Hitler was staying at a homeless institution at the time and subsequently had trouble adapting to the invasive environment, this kind of evolution (loud to coercive quiet) is not only interesting but showed his growing tendency to observe people for the sole sake of understanding how to later manipulate them. In all such changes are fascinating from a sociological perspective.
Contained in this chapter are key fragments of his personality. We see Hitler here as a bossy, opinionated youth who is often too proud to know when to quit or when to settle down or ask for help. He dragged August to plays and shows of his flavor, berated him with endless speeches and lectures, and, when their time together was at an end, was so deep within self-pit couldn’t even inform August of his change of address.
These attributes mark Hitler as an intriguing young man. While one would have to read the full chapters to truly understand what I mean by this suffice to say there were a great deal of emotional and psychological factors at play; reserved, yet outgoing, proud yet unwilling to improve his lot in life, and caring yet distant. Such traits will seem to become foreign later in his life but at the moment, during his younger years, these were nonetheless the defining moments of this pivotal epoch.