Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

World War I

Hitler Survives World War I

    When World War I began, Hitler was 25 and living in Munich, Germany. The news brought him to his knees with joy,[1] and he enlisted in the German army. He served in the 16th Bavarian Reserve and went through the war with only a few minor injuries, though thousands in his company were killed. Reaching the rank of Corporal, he served as a runner between the command staff and the battlefront, one of the most dangerous jobs in the military. On October 7, 1916, a shell fragment injured Hitler’s leg during the Battle of the Somme. Due to his injury, the army transferred him to Munich for light duty. This time away from the front became pivotal in Hitler’s future. He disliked the apathetic and anti-war Germans, and he blamed the Jewish community for the people’s attitude. He felt the Jews were trying to undermine Germany’s success in the war by nurturing pacifist feelings. Hitler disliked Munich so much he requested, and was granted, a position back on the front in March 1917.

    When Hitler returned to the battlefield, he became depressed due to an increase in German losses and low morale. At this time he began to believe that Germany would lose the war because of invisible enemies who sabotaged the war effort. He was sent to the homefront in October 1918 after chlorine gas temporarily blinded him. He remained in the hospital until Germany surrendered on November 11, 1918.

    Although Hitler never gained a higher rank than Corporal, as his superiors did not think he would perform well in leadership positions, he was awarded the Iron Cross First Class and four other medals. He served admirably and with un-wavering faith to Germany, but he did not stand out. Hitler’s service in World War I did more to shape his future ideas than it did to gain him status or political importance. In his autobiography Mein Kampf, Hitler describes his feelings when Germany surrendered: “There followed terrible days and even worse nights—I knew that all was lost…in these nights hatred grew in me, hatred for those responsible for this deed.” The Hitler that emerged from World War I saw many who stood in the way of German victory, which created his hatred and drive to begin his quest. He joined the National Socialist Party after the war, and through it achieved greatness. Through his greatness, he achieved what he thought was revenge on the Jews and other undesirables who held Germany back from ruling the world.

    [1] H. Stuart Hughes and James Wilkinson, Contemporary Europe A History (Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2004) 220.

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