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Hitler's road to antisemitism

Updated on January 11, 2017

Jews as the haters of all non-Jews

''Der Stuermer'' typically portrayed persons of Jewish origin as seen in this image.
''Der Stuermer'' typically portrayed persons of Jewish origin as seen in this image. | Source

It's not that simple, really

Antisemitism is a key element in National-socialism, which was popularized and in many ways shaped by Adolf Hitler. From average prejudices common to the average German, to aggressive and violent hatred- his road to radical Jew-hatred wasn’t an easy, nor a simple one. One could say that his hatred for years was latent and erupted only after a great catastrophe took place and shook this man so hard he couldn't take it anymore. He needed answers and antisemitism gave more than plenty.

Adolf Hitler in 1934

Hitler most definitely wanted to show himself as a tough, serious and threatening. This photo is a fine example of that.
Hitler most definitely wanted to show himself as a tough, serious and threatening. This photo is a fine example of that. | Source

Before WW1

Before the First World War Adolf Hitler was a long shot from an anti-Semite. His antisemitism, appearing somewhere during his times in Vienna, was quite mild, even if compared to that of an average Austrian. It is very important to note a few things that make Hitler of the time before the First World War the very opposite of an anti-Semite.

His mother was treated by a Jewish doctor.

Although Clara Hitler eventually died of breast cancer, mainly due to incorrect medical treatment, Adolf remained thankful to Dr. Bloch, even long after becoming the Fuehrer of Germany. Methods used by Dr. Bloch were controversial and even harmful, but Hitler, having no knowledge of that at the time, lashed out at doctors overall, instead of blaming the Jews.

Hitler at the age of 11

Definitely a serious looking young man.
Definitely a serious looking young man. | Source

Hitler's Jewish ties

He had both Jewish idols and friends.

During his time in Vienna, as he was dreaming of becoming an artist, Adolf Hitler was rejected from art school twice, but this did not make him hate art and artists. No accusations towards the Jews came, in fact- some of his favorite artists were Jewish. Moreover, as he hit hard times, he started painting and selling his artwork for small sums- often these paintings were bought by the same people, many of whom were of Jewish descent.

During his last years in the men’s shelter of Vienna, he had a few loyal companions, two of which were Jewish. He might have even left with one of them to Munich, shortly before the outbreak of World War 1.

Hitler in 1915 with his mates in the Western front.

Hitler(on the far-right, sitting) was a devoted and fanatical soldier. He had good relationships with many of his fellow soldiers.
Hitler(on the far-right, sitting) was a devoted and fanatical soldier. He had good relationships with many of his fellow soldiers. | Source

The roots of Hitler's antisemitism

As young Adolf Hitler spent his days in Vienna, he, just like nearly all residents of the city, could get his hands on numerous anti-Semitic pamphlets, newspapers and books. In this very literature the level of antisemitism varied from simple prejudice, to ethnic and very violent.

As it is written earlier, this did not make Hitler a violent anti-Semite per-say, since there have been no reports of him expressing radical Jew-hatred. Some reports say that he very much enjoyed the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the onetime mayor of Vienna Karl Lueger. The ideas of these pamphlets and magazines might have stayed deep in his subconscious mind, only to emerge later in a very radical form.

Hitler as the leader of the NSDAP in 1921

The image of a young nationalist revolutionary and a leader of a radical movement.
The image of a young nationalist revolutionary and a leader of a radical movement. | Source

After WW1

Germany’s capitulation in Hitler’s eyes.

As Germany was capitulating, there were also some significant changes to its political system- it was a monarchy no more, but rather a republic, since USA’s president Woodrow Wilson insisted that he would only negotiate with a democratic government. Besides this, there were also revolutionary revolts going on in Germany. Many of the young revolutionaries (Marxists) and their leaders both in Germany and Europe were Jewish- the ones that lead the infamous Spartacus Revolt and the ones that founded and lead the few short-lived Soviet Republics of Bavaria and Hungary.

As Hitler had been an anti-Marxist long before WW1, he saw the correlation between these two groups(Bolsheviks and Jews). And, as the Social Democrat-lead German government signed the Versailles treaty, the Stab-in-the-back myth, which claimed that Germany didn’t lose the war, but was betrayed by socialists and Jews, was born.

This is certainly the way Hitler saw it and, as he probably began to remember all what he had read in his days spent in Vienna, his antisemitism had taken shape. It is safe to say that all of this had fully formed at around late 1918 and early 1919.

Later Hitler's antisemitism could only grow stronger and become more logical and systematic, for him, at least.

Hitler speaking about the Jews, early 30s

There is no shame in having an opinion

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A better insight in Hitler's mind

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