If we want to get into the mind of the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, the man who brought untold horror and misery to the world, we have to go back to his experiences in World War I.
At the outbreak of the war in August 1914, Hitler was living in Munich, Bavaria, though he came from Vienna and was a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He enlisted in the Bavarian Army and served with the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 16. He was a dispatch runner in France and Belgium. He spent half his time at the regiment’s HQ in Fournes-en-Weppes, far away from the fighting. However he was at the First Battle of Ypres and at the Battles of the Arras and Passchendale.
He was wounded at the Battle of the Somme. He was even awarded decorations for bravery. He received the Iron Cross Second Class, in 1914. In 1918 he received the Iron Cross First Class, which was rarely given to someone of Hitler’s low rank. It was strange, considering Hitler’s attitude to the Jews, that he was happy to receive the decoration on the recommendation of his Jewish commander.
Hitler described his life in the war as a happy one. The rigor of army life gave him the discipline he lacked. He learned of Germany’s defeat in 1918 while he was in hospital recovering from a mustard gas attack. Like many other Germans, he could not accept Germany’s defeat, and blamed poor leadership, socialists and the Jews for his country’s disgrace, and all the woes that followed the war. The Treaty of Versailles stated that Germany was responsible for the war and had to pay compensation to the Allies.
This further created resentment, so when Hitler became the leader of the Nazi Party in 1925 many Germans followed him.