Because much of the propaganda surrounding Hitler has to do with his character as a child, it has been difficult for scholars to uncover the real truth concerning Hitler’s abilities and behaviors when he was a very young man.
This is made more complicated by the fact that there was nothing within Hitler’s family or his own domestic life that would be considered very unusual by the standards of the time. The Hitler family was, by all accounts, very normal.
Hitler’s father, Alois, was a customs official in the Austrian bureaucracy. At this time, the customs office was considered a semi-military branch of the government. In order to practice his profession, Alois frequently moved from post to post throughout Austria.
Although he was not especially successful, Alois was able to provide a comfortable life for his children, of which he had a total of eight by two wives. This included four boys and two girls with Klara Hitler, who was Adolf Hitler’s mother.
Alois rose through the ranks of the customs bureaucracy fairly rapidly for a man of his time, and he obtained the most senior post that one could hold without a degree. However, he is not believed to have been a very good father.
Hitler was often left to his own devices as a child, although his mother was present to look after him. From a young age, Hitler was very defiant and made it clear that he did not wish to follow his father’s professional path. The young Adolf Hitler was not a very good student, and did not demonstrate any of the aptitudes that he would need to replace his father in the future.
As a child, Hitler did not excel in either academics or athletics. He had few friends and few close relationships outside of the home. However, when he grew into his teen years, his independent and stubborn streak had developed to the point where he left home rather than submit to his father’s wishes.
In his teen years, Hitler wandered Europe and traveled to many places. He was a poor itinerant at this time and refused to speak to his parents. He made money by painting post cards, and barely had enough to eat in many of the places where he stayed. This time came to an end when he was denied admissions into the Vienna Academy of Fine Art.
Soon after, at the outset of World War I, he joined the German army.
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