Adolf Hitler is Born
At 6:30 p.m. on the evening of April 20, 1889, he was born in the small Austrian village of Braunau
Am Inn just across the border from German Bavaria.
Adolf Hitler would one day lead a movement that placed supreme importance on a person's family tree
even making it a matter of life and death. However, his own family tree was quite mixed up and would
be a lifelong source of embarrassment and concern to him.
His father, Alois, was born in 1837. He was the illegitimate son of Maria Anna Schicklgruber and her
unknown mate, which may have been someone from the neighborhood or a poor millworker named
Johann Georg Hiedler. It is also remotely possible Adolf Hitler's grandfather was Jewish.
Maria Schicklgruber was said to have been employed as a cook in the household of a wealthy Jewish
family named Frankenberger. There is some speculation their 19 year old son got her pregnant and
regularly sent her money after the birth of Alois.
Adolf Hitler would never know for sure just who his grandfather was.
He did know that when his father Alois was about five years old, Maria Schicklgruber married Johann
Georg Hiedler. The marriage lasted five years until her death of natural causes, at which time Alois went
to live on a small farm with his uncle.
At age thirteen, young Alois had enough of farm life and set out for the city of Vienna to make
something of himself. He worked as a shoemaker's apprentice then later enlisted in the Austrian civil
service, becoming a junior customs official. He worked hard as a civil servant and eventually became a
supervisor. By 1875 he achieved the rank of Senior Assistant Inspector, a big accomplishment for the
former poor farm boy with little formal education.
At this time an event occurred that would have big implications for the future.
Alois had always used the last name of his mother, Schicklgruber, and thus was always called Alois
Schicklgruber. He made no attempt to hide the fact he was illegitimate since it was common in rural
But after his success in the civil service, his proud uncle from the small farm convinced him to change his
last name to match his own, Hiedler, and continue the family name. However, when it came time to
write the name down in the record book it was spelled as Hitler.
And so in 1876 at age 39, Alois Schicklgruber became Alois Hitler. This is important because it is hard
to imagine tens of thousands of Germans shouting "Heil Schicklgruber!" instead of "Heil Hitler!"
In 1885, after numerous affairs and two other marriages ended, the widowed Alois Hitler, 48, married
the pregnant Klara Polzl, 24, the granddaughter of uncle Hiedler. Technically, because of the name
change, she was his own niece and so he had to get special permission from the Catholic church.
The children from his previous marriage, Alois Hitler, Jr. and Angela, attended the wedding and lived
with them afterwards. Klara Polzl eventually gave birth to two boys and a girl, all of whom died. On
April 20, 1889, her fourth child, Adolf was born healthy and was baptized a Roman Catholic. Hitler's
father was now 52 years old.
Throughout his early days, young Adolf's mother feared losing him as well and lavished much care and
affection on him. His father was busy working most of the time and also spent a lot of time on his main
hobby, keeping bees.
Baby Adolf had the nickname, Adi. When he was almost five, in 1893, his mother gave birth to a
brother, Edmund. In 1896 came a sister, Paula.
In May of 1895 at age six, young Adolf Hitler entered first grade in the public school in the village of
Fischlham, near Linz Austria.
In 1895, at age six, two important events happened in the life of young Adolf Hitler. First, the
unrestrained, carefree days he had enjoyed up to now came to an end as he entered primary school.
Secondly, his father retired on a pension from the Austrian civil service.
This meant a double dose of supervision, discipline and regimentation under the watchful eyes of
teachers at school and his strict father at home. His father, now 58, had spent most of his life working
his way up through the civil service ranks. He was used to giving orders and having them obeyed and
also expected this from his children. The Hitler family lived on a small farm outside of Linz, Austria. The
children had farm chores to perform along with their school work.
Hitler's mother was now preoccupied with caring for her new son, Edmund. In 1896 she gave birth to a
girl, Paula. The Hitler household now consisted of Adolf, little brother Edmund, little sister Paula, older
half brother Alois Jr., older half sister Angela and two parents who were home all the time. It was a
crowded, noisy little farm house that seems to have gotten on the nerves on Hitler's father who found
retirement after 40 years of work to be difficult.
The oldest boy, Alois Jr., 13, bore the brunt of his father's discontent, including harsh words and
occasional beatings. A year later, at age 14, young Alois had enough of this treatment and ran away
from home, never to see his father again. This put young Adolf, age 7, next in line for the same
Also at this time, the family moved off the farm to the town of Lambach, Austria, halfway between Linz
and Salzburg. This was the first of several moves the family would make in the restless retirement of
For young Adolf, the move to Lambach meant an end to farm chores and more time to play. There was
an old Catholic Benedictine monastery in the town. The ancient monastery was decorated with carved
stones and woodwork that included several swastikas. Adolf attended school there and saw them
every day. They had been put there in the 1800's by the ruling Abbot as a pun or play on words. His
name essentially sounded like the German word for swastika, Hakenkreuz.
Young Hitler did well in the monastery school and also took part in the boys' choir. He was said to
have had a fine singing voice. Years later Hitler would say the solemn pageantry of the high mass and
other Catholic ceremonies was quite intoxicating and left a very deep impression.
As a young boy he idolized the priests and for two years seriously considered becoming a priest
himself. He especially admired the Abbot in charge, who ruled his black-robbed monks with supreme
authority. At home Hitler sometimes played priest and even included long sermons.
At age nine, he got into schoolboy mischief. He was caught smoking a cigarette by one of the priests,
but was forgiven and not punished.
His favorite game to play outside was cowboys and Indians. Tales of the American West were very
popular among boys in Austria and Germany. Books by James Fenimore Cooper and especially
German writer Karl May were eagerly read and re-enacted.
May, who had never been to America, invented a hero named Old Shatterhand, a white man who
always won his battles with Native Americans, defeating his enemies through sheer will power and
bravery. Young Hitler read and reread every one of May's books about Old Shatterhand, totaling more
than 70 novels. He continued to read them even as Fuhrer. During the German attack on the Soviet
Union he sometimes referred to the Russians as Redskins and ordered his officers to carry May's
books about fighting Indians.
In describing his boyhood, Hitler later said of himself that he was an argumentative little ring leader who
liked to stay outside and hang around with 'husky' boys. His half brother Alois later described him as
quick to anger and spoiled by his indulgent mother.
In 1898, the Hitler family moved once again, to the village of Leonding, close to Linz. They settled into
a small house with a garden next to a cemetery. This meant another change of schools for Adolf.
He found school easy and got good grades with little effort. He also discovered he had considerable
talent for drawing, especially sketching buildings. He had the ability to look at a building, memorize the
architectural details, and accurately reproduce it on paper, entirely from memory.
One day, young Hitler went rummaging through his father's book collection and came across several of
a military nature, including a picture book on the War of 1870 - 1871 between the Germans and the
French. By Hitler's own account, this book became an obsession. He read it over and over, becoming
convinced it had been a glorious event.
"It was not long before the great historic struggle had become my greatest spiritual experience. From
then on, I became more and more enthusiastic about everything that was in any was connected with
war or, for that matter, with soldering." - Hitler stated in his book Mein Kampf.
Cowboys and Indians gave way to battle re-enactments, especially after the Boer War broke out in
Africa. Hitler, now eleven years old, took the side of the Boers against the English and never tired of
playing war. Sometimes, he even wore out the boys he was playing with and then simply went and
found other boys to continue.
But now at home, tragedy struck. Adolf's little brother Edmund, age 6, died of measles. Adolf, the boy
who loved warplay and its 'pretend' death now had to confront genuine death for the first time. It seems
to have shaken him badly.
To make matters worse, the little boy was buried in the cemetery next to their house. From his
bedroom window, Adolf could see the cemetery.
Years later, neighbors recalled that young Adolf was sometimes seen at night sitting on the wall of the
cemetery gazing up at the stars.
And there were now more problems for Adolf. His grade school years were coming to an end and he
had to choose which type of secondary school to attend, classical or technical. By now, young Hitler
had dreams of one day becoming an artist. He wanted to go to the classical school. But his father
wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a civil servant and sent him to the technical high
school in the city of Linz, in September, 1900.
Hitler, the country boy, was lost in the city and its big school. City kids also looked down on country
kids who went to the school. He was very lonely and extremely unhappy. He did quite poorly his first
year, getting kept back.
He would later claim he wanted to show his father he was unsuited for technical education with its
emphasis on mathematics and science and thus should have been allowed to become an artist.
"I thought that once my father saw what little progress I was making at the (technical school) he
would let me devote myself to the happiness I dreamed of." - Hitler explained in Mein Kampf.
There were frequent arguments at home between young Hitler and his father over his career choice. To
the traditional minded, authoritarian father, the idea of his son becoming an artist seemed utterly
But in the grand scheme of things, as young Adolf saw it, the idea of a career spent sitting in an office all
day long doing the boring paper work of a civil servant was utterly horrible. The dream of becoming an
artist seemed to be the answer to all his present day problems.
But his stubborn father refused to listen. And so a bitter struggle began between father and son.
Hitler began his second year at the high school as the oldest boy in his class since he had been kept
back. This gave him the advantage over the other boys. Once again he became a little ringleader and
even led the boys in afterschool games of cowboys and Indians, becoming Old Shatterhand. He
managed to get better grades in his second year, but still failed mathematics.
Another interest of great importance surfaced at this time, German nationalism.
The area of Austria where Hitler grew up is close to the German border. Many Austrians along the
border considered themselves to be German-Austrians. Although they were subjects of the Austrian
Hapsburg Monarchy and its multicultural empire, they expressed loyalty to the German Imperial House
of Hohenzollern and its Kaiser.
In defiance of the Austrian Monarchy, Adolf Hitler and his young friends liked to use the German
greeting, "Heil," and sing the German anthem "Deutschland Uber Alles," instead of the Austrian
Hitler's father had worked as an Austrian Imperial customs agent and continually expressed loyalty to
the Hapsburg Monarchy, perhaps unknowingly encouraging his rebellious young son to give his loyalty
to the German Kaiser.
There was also a history teacher at school, Dr. Leopold Potsch who touched Hitler's imagination with
exciting tales of the glory of German figures such as Bismark and Frederick The Great. For young
Hitler, German Nationalism quickly became an obsession.
Adding to all this, was another new interest, the operas of German composer Richard Wagner. Hitler
saw his first opera at age twelve and was immediately captivated by its Germanic music, pagan myths,
tales of ancient Kings and Knights and their glorious struggles against hated enemies.
But now, for young Hitler, the struggle with his father was about to come to a sudden end. In January,
1903, Hitler's father died suddenly of a lung hemorrhage, leaving his thirteen year old son as head of the
Hitler's Father Dies
In the town of Leonding, Austria, on the bitterly cold morning of Saturday, January 3, 1903, Alois
Hitler, 65, went out for a walk, stopping at a favorite inn where he sat down and asked for a glass of
wine. He collapsed before the wine was brought to him and died within minutes from a lung
hemorrhage. It was not the first one he had suffered.
Young Adolf, now 13, broke down and cried when he saw his father's body laid out. His father's
funeral Mass in the small church at Leonding was well attended. A newspaper in nearby Linz published
an obituary that included the following sentence - "The harsh words that sometimes fell from his lips
could not belie the warm heart that beat under the rough exterior."
For Adolf, there would be no more harsh words and no more arguing with his father, especially over his
career choice. Hitler's father had insisted Adolf become a civil servant like himself. Young Hitler,
however, had dreams of becoming a great artist. Now Hitler was free from the stern words and
domineering authority of his father. In fact, young Adolf was now the male head of the household, a
position of some importance in those days.
Financially, his father had left the Hitler family fairly well provided for. Hitler's mother received half of
her husband's monthly pension, plus death benefits. Adolf received a small amount each month, plus a
small inheritance. The family also owned a house in Leonding which had been paid for mostly in cash.
For convenience, young Hitler went to live at a boys' boarding house in Linz where he was attending
the technical high school. This saved him the long daily commute from Leonding. On weekends, he
went back home to his mother.
Hitler was remembered by the woman who ran the boarding house as a nervous, awkward boy, who
spent most of his time reading and drawing. Although Hitler loved to read, he was a lazy and
uncooperative student in school.
In Autumn 1903, when he returned to school after summer vacation, things got worse. Along with his
poor grades in mathematics and French, Hitler behaved badly, knowing he was likely to fail. With no
threat of discipline at home and disinterest shown by his school teachers, Hitler performed pranks and
practical jokes aimed at the teachers he now disliked so much.
Among Hitler's antics - giving contrary, insulting, argumentative answers to questions which upset the
teacher and delighted the other boys who sometimes applauded him. With those boys, he also released
cockroaches in the classroom, rearranged the furniture, and organized confusion in the classroom by
doing the opposite of what the teacher said.
Years later, even as Fuhrer, Hitler liked to dwell on his schoolboy pranks and would recall them in
detail to his top generals in the midst of waging a world war.
It was only Hitler's history teacher, Dr. Leopold Potsch and his tales of heroic Germans from bygone
eras who kept his interest and earned his respect. By his early teens, Hitler already had a keen interest
in German nationalism along with an big interest in art and architecture.
Young Hitler put all his hopes in the dream of becoming a great artist, especially as his prospects at the
high school grew dimmer. Some of the teachers were also anxious to see Hitler thrown out of the
school because of the trouble he caused.
One teacher later recalled young Hitler as one who - "... reacted with illconcealed hostility to advice
or reproof; at the same time, he demanded of his fellow pupils their unqualified subservience,
fancying himself in the role of leader, at the same time indulging in many a less innocuous prank
of a kind not uncommon among immature youths."
In May of 1904, at age 15, Adolf Hitler received the Catholic Sacrament of Confirmation in the Linz
cathedral. As a young boy he once entertained the idea of becoming a priest. But by the time he was
confirmed he was bored and uninterested in his faith and hardly bothered to make the appropriate
responses during the religious ceremony.
Shortly after this, Hitler left the high school at Linz. He had been given a passing mark in French on a
make-up exam on the condition that he not return to the school. In September, 1904, he entered
another high school, at Steyr, a small town 25 miles from Linz. He lived in a boarding house there,
sharing a room with another boy. They sometimes amused themselves by shooting rats.
Hitler got terrible marks his first semester at the new school, failing math, German, French, and even got
a poor grade for handwriting. He improved during his second semester and was told he might even
graduate if he first took a special make-up exam in the fall. During the summer, however, Hitler suffered
from a bleeding lung ailment, an inherited medical problem.
He regained his health and passed the exam in September 1905 and celebrated with fellow students by
getting drunk and wound up the next morning lying on the side of the road, awakened by a milkwoman.
After that experience he swore off alcohol and never drank again.
But Hitler could not bring himself to take the final exam for his diploma. Using poor health as his
excuse, he left school at age sixteen never to return. From now on he would be self taught, continuing
his heavy reading habits and interpreting what he read on his own, living in his own dreamy reality and
creating his own sense of truth.
Hitler Fails Art Exam
After dropping out of high school in 1905, at age sixteen, Adolf Hitler spent the next few years in
brooding idleness. His indulgent mother patiently urged him to learn a trade or get a job. But to young
Hitler, the idea of daily work with its necessary submission to authority was revolting.
With his father now dead, there was no one who could tell young Adolf Hitler what to do, so he did
exactly as he pleased. He spent his time wandering around the city of Linz, Austria, visiting museums,
attending the opera, and sitting by the Danube River dreaming of becoming a great artist.
Hitler liked to sleep late, then go out in the afternoon often dressed like a young gentleman of leisure
and even carried a fancy little ivory cane. When he returned home, he would stay up well past midnight
reading and drawing.
He would later describe these teenage years free from responsibility as the happiest time of his life.
His only friend was with another young dreamer named August Kubizek, who wanted to be a great
musician. They met at the opera in Linz. Kubizek found Hitler fascinating and a friendship quickly
developed. Kubizek turned out to be a patient listener. He was a good audience for Hitler, who often
rambled for hours about his hopes and dreams. Sometimes Hitler even gave speeches complete with
wild hand gestures to his audience of one.
Kubizek later described Hitler's personality as "violent and high strung." Hitler would only tolerate
approval from his friend and could not stand to be corrected, a personality trait he had shown in high
school and as a younger boy as well.
Young Hitler did not have a girlfriend. But he did have an obsessive interest in a young blond named
Stephanie. He would stare at her as she walked by and sometimes followed her. He wrote her many
love poems. But he never delivered the poems or worked up the nerve to introduce himself, preferring
to keep her in his fantasies. He told his friend Kubizek he was able to communicate with her by intuition
and that she was even aware of his thoughts and had great admiration for him. He was also deeply
jealous of any attention she showed other young men.
In reality, she had no idea Hitler had any interest in her. Years later, when told of the interest of her now
famous secret admirer, she expressed complete surprise, although she remembered getting one weird
Hitler's view of the world, also based in fantasy, began to significantly take shape. He borrowed large
numbers of books from the library on German history and Nordic mythology. He was also deeply
inspired by the opera works of Richard Wagner and their pagan, mythical tales of struggle against hated
enemies. His friend Kubizek recalled that after seeing Wagner's opera 'Rienzi,' Hitler behaved as if
possessed. Hitler led his friend atop a steep hill where he spoke in a strange voice of a great mission in
which he would lead the people to freedom, similar to the plot in the opera he had just seen.
By now Hitler also had strong pride in the German race and all things German along with a strong
dislike of the Hapsburg Monarchy and the non-Germanic races in the multicultural Austro-Hungarian
empire which had ruled Austria and surrounding countries for centuries.
In the Spring of 1906, at age seventeen, Hitler took his first trip to Vienna, capital city of the empire
and one of the world's most important centers of art, music and old-world European culture. With
money in his pocket provided by his mother, he went there intending to see operas and study the
famous picture gallery in the Court Museum. Instead, he found himself enthralled by the city's
By now Hitler had developed a big interest in architecture. He could draw detailed pictures from
memory of a building he had seen only once. He also liked to ponder how to improve existing buildings,
making them grander, and streamline city layouts. In Vienna he stood for hours gazing at grand buildings
such as the opera house and the Parliament building, and looking at Ring Boulevard.
As a young boy he had shown natural talent for drawing. His gift for drawing had also been recognized
by his high school instructors. But things had gone poorly for him in high school. He was a lazy and
uncooperative student, who essentially flunked out. To escape the reality of that failure and avoid the
dreaded reality of a workaday existence, Hitler put all his hope in the dream of achieving greatness as
He decided to attend the prestigious Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. In October, 1907, at age eighteen,
he withdrew his inheritance money from the bank and went to live and study in Vienna. Hitler's mother
was by now suffering from breast cancer and had been unsuccessfully operated on in January. But
Hitler's driving ambition to be a great artist overcame his reluctance to leave her.
He took the two day entrance exam for the academy's school of painting.
Confident and self assured, he awaited the result, quite sure he would get in. But failure struck him like
a bolt of lightning. His test drawings were judged unsatisfactory and he was not admitted. Hitler was
badly shaken by this rejection. He went back to the academy to get an explanation and was told his
drawings showed a lack of talent for artistic painting, notably a lack of appreciation of the human form.
He was told, however, that he had some ability for the field of architecture.
But without the required high school diploma, going to the building school and after that, the academy's
architectural school, seemed doubtful. Hitler resolved to take the painting school entrance exam again
next year. Now, feeling quite depressed, Hitler left Vienna and returned home where his beloved
mother was now dying from cancer, making matters even worse.
Hitler's Mother Dies
On January 14, 1907, Adolf Hitler's mother went to see the family doctor about a pain in her chest, so
bad it kept her awake at night. The doctor, Edward Bloch, who was Jewish, examined her and found
she had advanced breast cancer.
Adolf Hitler sobbed when the doctor told him she was gravely ill and needed immediate surgery. A few
days later Klara Hitler, 46, was operated on and had one of her breasts removed. But the operation
was too late. Her illness, malignant cancer, would slowly ravage her body. She couldn't make it up the
stairs to the family apartment, so they moved into a first floor apartment in a suburb next to Linz,
Eighteen year old Adolf had grand ideas of someday becoming a great artist. Each October, entrance
examinations were held at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Despite his misgivings about leaving his
mother, Hitler's artistic ambitions drove him to withdraw his inheritance from the bank and move to
Vienna to study at the academy.
Problems arose for Hitler when he failed the academy's entrance exam and his mother's condition took
a big turn for the worse. He left Vienna, feeling quite depressed, and went back home to his mother and
did not tell her he failed the exam.
Hitler consulted Dr. Bloch who recommended drastic treatment to save his mother's life. The painful,
expensive treatment involved applying dosages of idoform directly onto the ulcerations caused by the
cancer. She was moved into the warm kitchen of the Hitler apartment where Adolf kept constant watch
and even helped out with household chores such as cooking and washing the floor. The apartment,
however, always smelled of idoform.
She bore the pain well, but Adolf anguished over every moment of her suffering. Her condition steadily
worsened and as the festive Christmas season approached in December 1907, she was near death. In
the early hours of December 21, amid the glowing lights of the family's Christmas tree, she died quietly.
Adolf was devastated. Dr. Bloch arrived later that day to sign the death certificate. He later said he had
never seen anyone so overcome with grief as Adolf Hitler at the loss of his mother.
Klara Hitler was buried on a misty, foggy December day in the cemetery at Leonding, next to her
husband. The cemetery also contained her son Edward, Adolf's younger brother, who died from
measles at age six.
The next day, Christmas eve, Hitler and his sisters paid a visit to Dr. Bloch where they settled the
medical bill. The doctor gave the family a break on the charges considering the many home visits he had
made to his patient. Adolf Hitler expressed profound gratitude to the doctor. "I shall be grateful to
you forever," Hitler told him.
Now, with both parents gone, Hitler once again set his sights on Vienna and the art academy. He
moved there in February, 1908. But in that beautiful old city things would go quite poorly for Hitler. He
would eventually wind up sleeping on park benches and eating at charity soup kitchens. His years of
misery in Vienna would also be a time when he formulated many of his ideas on politics and race which
would have immense consequences in the future.
Hitler is Homeless in Vienna
The beautiful old world city of Vienna, capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with its magnificent
culture that had seen the likes of Beethoven and Mozart, now had a new resident, a pale, lanky, sad
looking eighteen year old named Adolf Hitler.
Vienna was a city alive with music and full of diverse people who loved the arts and felt lucky to call the
place home. In February, 1908, Hitler moved there with the goal of attending the art academy and
becoming a great artist.
Sixty years before him, Hitler's father also came to Vienna seeking opportunity. At that time the
Hapsburg Empire was ruled by Emperor Franz Josef. When Adolf Hitler arrived, it was still ruled by
him, although he was now senile and under the influence of corrupt ministers. His empire, which had
ruled Austria and surrounding countries for centuries, was now in great decline. Vienna, however,
remained a city of opportunity and attracted a multicultural population from all over the empire.
Hitler's friend from his hometown of Linz, August Kubizek, also came to Vienna and they roomed
together. In Vienna, Hitler continued the same lazy lifestyle he had enjoyed in Linz after dropping out of
school. Kubizek described Hitler as a night owl who slept till noon, would go out for walks taking in all
the sights, then stay up late discussing his ideas on everything from social reform to city planning. Hitler
made no effort to get a regular job, considering himself far above that. He dressed like an artist and at
night dressed like a young gentleman of leisure and often attended the opera.
Kubizek also recalled Hitler displayed an increasingly unstable personality with a terrible temper. At
times he was quite reasonable but he was always prone to sudden outbursts of rage especially when he
was corrected on anything. He had no real interest in women, preferring to keep away from them and
even smugly rebuffed those who showed any interest in him. He strictly adhe