Adolf and Vienna: The Formative Years

Written by Saurabh Sharma

Try to forget everything that you may know about this person and go through this narrative that contains some interesting facts and situations about his life…

With several injuries, bruised skin and his starvation trying to starve itself in his stomach, he had seen such days being wounded twice in the years of his service in the field. But now as he lay dying in the cold damp and bloody mud in that unfamiliar French town of Marcoing looking to the very spot he had fallen upon, he remembered himself enlisting for his service to his country. So once more he stood up, this time in fear for the war may be lost and so may be their honour.

Picture Credits: History TV18 (The World Wars, 2014)

Picture Credits: History TV18 (The World Wars, 2014)  Link:

On the other side, he saw his mates at close proximity retreating from the British Regiment. He found himself being aimed at by one of the most highly decorated British private of the First World War, wounded both in body and in spirit. He wouldn’t even think of equipping his rifle in his defence and would stand there at the mercy of the British private who could not bring himself to pull the trigger to finish off this young traumatized boy. Later on, many believe, the boy took this act of mercy on him as a sign for his great destiny to come from the Gods itself. Who knew that this fellow would later go on to become one of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

Picture Credits: History TV18 (The World Wars, 2014)  Link:

As a boy, singing in his village Church choir he fancied the idea of becoming a priest. Strong-willed, he often rebelled against his teachers and his father who wanted the boy to follow him and work in the bureau. After his father’s death, he left school and without any plans for the future other than his artistic pursuit, he landed in Vienna. He lived a bohemian life on the streets living off his half-orphan incentives which were no good.

Soon after arriving he would find himself painting the sights of the city on canvases, making picture postcards and helping local businesses advertise. To do odd jobs and work as a labourer sometimes to support himself had been unbeknown to him. He saw himself as a capable artist and being rejected by the Viennese Academy of Art for lacking academic credentials certainly wasn’t what he was hoping for. He lost his mother whom he worshiped as a child, to breast cancer in the autumn of 1907. Later, he was again refused acceptance to the Viennese Academy of Art.

Soon with nothing to do, he ran out of all his orphan fund money and had to live in homeless shelters and hostels; through the course of which he experienced real starvation and disappointment with the city and its system which was killing his aspirations.

Reinhold Hansich, a witness of his years in Vienna, would remember him later: “On the very first day there sat next to the bed that had been allotted to me a man with nothing on except an old torn pair of trousers. His clothes were being cleaned of lice since for days he had been wandering about without a roof and in a terribly neglected condition.”

Dejected and disappointed, he started taking interest in the politics of that place and developed German Nationalist ideas while living in and out of places bustling with anti-Semitism, finally finding himself in the communal familiarity of his greater Germanic nationality with a hatred for the Semites and some other communities. Who knew this dejected art aspirant who happened to have had Semite friends would later on become so disappointed with the way the city was being consumed by a mixture of ethnic communities and controlled by the undesirable that he would become a staunch supporter of anti-Semitism. As Reinhold Hansich would say later: “he would hang around the night shelters, living on bread and soup he got there, and discussing politics.”

Picture Credits: History TV18 (The World Wars, 2014)   Link:

He would soon leave the city for Munich to avoid forceful enlistment into the city’s mixed-race army. His condition improved in Munich where he lived off a little better thanks to his artistic qualities which he used in for advertising. Discussing political affairs was still one of his favourite time-spending habits. He liked the German city of Munich quite contrary to Vienna, and where he would finally be cleared able to serve in the Bavarian Army after being initially refused enlistment on the grounds of not being physically fit. It all happened once the Great War broke out with the assassination of an Austrian Archduke, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It was the onset of this great madness we know as World War I, which would not cease until after 4 years and here he was, as a young soldier taking his oath with his regiment members for the protection and honour for his country.

In his later years, he would fondly remember in his book how he was transformed from an aimless and a weak young man to a brave tough Lance Corporal who had earned the admiration of his superiors while in service with his comrades staying alert under high pressure for long hours and at times with empty stomach.

Wounded twice in the course of 3 years on the field while serving his regiment under heavy fire he earned two Iron crosses and wound badge for his selfless actions and personal bravery under heavy fire and times of conflict. There were quite a few worth mentioning episodes during his time, one of which was how he once cut away his proud long bushy handlebar moustache and started sporting a toothbrush moustache, after it caused a near-fatal experience during a poison gas attack in a trench. After nearly suffocating himself and suffering from partial blindness for some days he was sent to the military hospital to recover after this episode and that was when the war had ended.

The end of the war did not bring him any happiness or satisfaction despite having a very praiseworthy record. He must have felt at home with his comrades and his comprehensive ideology about German nationalism in the Bavarian army where every day was a perfect day to bid adieu serving in his right sense and purpose to his country. He must have known that all this would be gone and he would be discharged and sent to live a directionless civilian life.

While recovering from the poison attack he would hear of the war settlement about how his beloved country still undefeated in the field was being capitulated and put under economic sanctions and reparations due to the Treaty of Versailles.  He felt let down by the statesmen and that Germany, the most superior nation had been backstabbed and let down by civilian leaders, Jews, Marxists and fifth columnists to whom he later referred to as “a gang of despicable and depraved criminals!”.

He may have felt besmirched after realizing he had held his side of the bargain when he took his oath as a soldier to the Bavarian Army only to be dishonoured by the wicked people on the other side who let his country down and for whom he developed a great deal of disgust and hatred driving him to become a ruthless tyrant and racist.

Who would have known that a boy who fancied becoming a priest would order a holocaust and become one of the bloodiest tyrants the world has ever seen and leave a such a distasteful legacy that the world will always remember as one of humanity’s lowest downfalls.

Post Disclaimer: Not trying to justify anything, just a narrative. Nazi Germany’s actions can never be justified. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Title Picture Credits: History TV18 (The World Wars, 2014) 


About the author

Saurabh Sharma

Avid Manchester United fan, nostalgic about good old times when he did not struggle with OCD.

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