Hitler’s treatment of the Jews is well known throughout the world. The strong anti-Semitism in the Nazi party is almost unbelievable, the key to their actions is in their leader and the question has to be asked. When and why did Hitler become an anti-Semite? The status of Jews in Germanic society was a low one before Hitler was even born. In the popular literature at the time, in the Germanic operas and fairytales are countless examples of the Prussian and Austrian resentment towards the Jews, Slavs and Czechs. The Jews were stereotyped as being rapacious and unprincipled (George
L Mosse, Jews and Germans (New York, 1970). One needs look no further than Freytag’s Soll und Haben (1855) where the books two German heroes had evil murderous counterparts who were Jews. Also Dahn’s enormously successful Ein Kampf um Rom (1867) features the Jew Jochem whose `face bears all the calculated cunning of his race’. With such literature in circulation there was a background anti-Semitism throughout the Prussian empire. The stock market crash of 1873 applified the feelings of the people as the `jewish conspiracy’ started to appear in german politics.
This theory came about due to the strong link between jews and finance that was apparent in most European cultures dating back to medieval times. In June 1875 an article was published in Kreuzzeitung by a writer named Perrot. Because the readers of Kreuzzeitung equally hated jews and liberals, this article made a huge impact. `Jewish banking houses influence the nomination of ministers, and try to make the states and statesmen dependent on them. ‘ This phrase was something that would effect politics for years to come, as it not only linked the jews to the stockmarket and seemingly unearned apital, but also to the government. This was the basis to a lot of the nationalist and folkish politics. It was these politics that would influence Hitler as he grew up years later.
Hitler’s early life in Linz was a sheltered one. He had no knowledge of politics and no desire to learn of it, much to his father’s dismay. Hitler was a child spoilt by his mother and beaten by his father, who died in 1903. He also knew next to nothing of jews, there is no evidence that he had a hatred of them, in fact his own doctor was a jew. The belief that there was a jewish element in is family tree is false as the theory from the memoirs of Hans Frank has been disproved. It was believed that his grandmother had worked as a maid for a jewish family in a Graz called the Frankenbergers, and that hitlers grandfather ,may be one of these jews. But considering that there were no jews living in Graz at that time, or indeed the entirety of Syria (Austrian law didn’t permit jews to that area until the 1860s). Therefore there is no credibility to this story. The main thing that shaped hitler’s future life was that he left school without a leaving certificate.
When Hitler was 17 his mother gave him the financial support to leave and attend the Art Academy in Vienna. Although he failed his entrance exam as he could only really draw buildings, not people, and more importantly had no leaving certificate from his Realscule. He didn’t tell anyone this and remained in Vienna, not Kubizek his best friend and roommate. Not even his own mother, who was supporting his laid back lifestyle. Hitler lived a luxiourious lifestyle. During the day he would read the classics, and in the evening he would take in an opera, he especially enjoyed Wagner.
No doubt some of these operas and books were slightly anti-semitic, but more importantly, it was at this point in his life that he first picked up some anti-semitic pamphlets which were circulated around the city (Kubizek, My Friend Adolf Hitler (1953)). However this isn’t that radical as the Viennese governement had anti-Semitic for at least 10 years and the mayor of Vienna had been quoted saying, `all jews should be hung. ‘. Hitler saw the jews as an undesirable that didn’t belong in germany or Austria, upon seeing a first seeing a jew in raditional dress in Vienna he thought `Is this a German? ‘ (Mein Kampf), it seems that he just doesn’t like them because they don’t belong, not that he wants all of them killed as he does later on.
However Klara, Hitlers mother died in 1907, leaving him with only his orphan grant to live off, this soon ran out. Hitler was forced to live in a men’s home in Vienna. Hitler had hit upon hard times and was forced to peddle paintings for a living. Hitler was now living among the very people that he had been looking down on during his comfortable first years in the city, he tramps, the impoverished, and the jews. The clothes that Hitler wore wear given to him by a jew, he was forced to deal with jewish shopkeepers to seel his paintings and the longer he was forced to be with them the more his bitterness grew. His friend and partner Reinhold Hanisch reports in his memoirs that Hitler would debate about politics with the other men in the home and when the topic of jews came up he would rant about them until the other men left the room. Hitler was now a strong anti-semite and follower of nationlist and folkish politics.
He thought that he was being exploited by the jews, the stereotypical rapacious and unprincipled jew was what Hitler saw when he looked at the jews in the home. Although this was obviously far from the truth as they were all living in a doss house together, Hitler deluded himself into this belief. It gave him an excuse to hide from the truth, that he was a dropout and a tramp. It is easy to see Hitler’s fantasy throughout Mein Kampf, `Wherever I went, I now saw jews, and the more I saw the more sharply they set themselves apart in my eyes from the rest of humanity’ By now Hitler was a trong anti-semite.
He had read about the jews links to the government and politic parties through Kreuzzeitung and other newspapers, and knew of the `jewish doctrine of marxism’ as he called it later in Mein kampf. But it is one thing to know and another to experience at first hand. When Hitler joined the army in 1914 to fight the great war. By all accounts from his fellow soldiers he remained aloof, preferring the company of his dog than the other men. Although he hardly speaks to his comrades he still passes up promotion to stay with the regiment towards the end of the war.
When he was caught in a mustard gas attack towards the end of the war he was sent to an army hospital in munich, and it was there that he heard that germany had been defeated and that the socialist politicians had sigend a treaty with the allies. This is the moment when his anti-semitism became fullfledged. His anger at this is indescribable, while he is lying helpless and blinded in hospital the whole cause that he had fought for over the last 4 years has been betrayed by the jewish politicians, `And so it had all been in vain… Did all this happen only so that a ang of wretched criminals could lay hands on the fatherland? … In these nights a Hatred grew in me, hatred for all those responsible for this deed. ‘ (Mein Kampf).
This is a key moment in Hitler’s understanding. He has experienced both sides of the coin, the capitalist jews and the socialist jews. I think this is what makes him so radically anti-semitic. When he comes out of hospital he still has to fight eventhough the war is over, only now against his fellow germans in munich as there was a socialist rising and period of socialist rule known as the Raterepublik.