Many of the worlds most tyrannical leaders and dictators experienced childhood traumas; many of these catastrophic traumas affected their decisions throughout their lives. People wonder why Adolph Hitler did the appalling things he did. Many believe that it primarily resulted from his violent upbringing. However, it is more likely that it was a combination of a variety of factors, and not just one that contributed to Hitlers actions. These factors include the combination of his genetics, up-bringing, and the time in which he lived that made Hitler one of the most feared dictators in history.
Adolph Hitlers upbringing involved a great deal of violence. Records tell us that his father was extremely abusive. Due to recent discoveries regarding childhood development, we know that if parents demonstrate violence in front of their children, the children will have a tendency to mimic that behavior. The children do this because they do not have a mature sense of values and lack the ability to judge right and wrong. They grow up thinking that violence is the only way to channel their anger and frustration (Miller, 2-3). Evidence suggests that Hitler internalized his fathers abuse,Alois beat his son mercilessly every day. In an attempt to exorcise his childhood fears, his son nurtured the manic delusion that it was up to him to free not only himself of Jewish blood but also all Germany and later the whole world. (Miller, 6)In Hitlers family, education was considered to be necessary and very important. Unfortunately for Adolph, his educational goals and the goals his family set for him proved to be very different. While his parents wanted him to succeed and enter into business, like his father, Adolph Hitler aspired to be a free lance artist. It is assumed that those aspiring to be the head of a business will have a good education. Hitlers choice not to continue school had painful consequences for him later in life. Information gathered from Hitlers medical records suggests that Hitler suffered from many physical and psychological disabilities. Growing up, Hitler was subjected to ridicule by fellow classmates and acquaintances due to his disabilities. Hitler attempted to avoid such ridicule at all costs and tried to hide his weaknesses by tormenting others.
The time during which Hitler was born was violent, ruthless, and the politics deceiving, all of which affected his personality deeply. The parents of the time were being told that physical punishment (what we would consider abuse) was the only way to teach their children obedience. There was strong anti-Semitic feeling in the area where Hitler grew up and went to school, and his family had its own internal struggles around their Jewish connection. Hitler was brought up with an abusive father. His father would leave for days on end and then return only to beat Adolph senseless. Hitler had no idea if his father even cared that he was alive, let alone if he loved him. Hitlers father was a strict man bent on doing what was good for the family name. He justified his abuse of Hitler with the idea that fear was the only way to gain obedience. He was seldom there for Hitlers crucial development years, and when he was there he was abusive. This hatred in place of affection led Hitler to resort to do to others what was done to him. The psychologist, Alice Miller, described the effects of early childhood abuse as,a nightmarish horror, a record of continued lies and humiliations, which upon the attainment of adulthood impelled them to acts of merciless revenge on society. These vengeful acts were always garbed in the hypocritical ideologies, purporting that the dictators exclusive and overriding wish was the happiness of his people. In this way, he unconsciously emulated his own parents who, in earlier days, had insisted that their blows were inflicted on the child for his own good. (Miller, 7-8)Looking at the childhood of any tyrannical leader, their parents and up bringing should be examined. From the studies of Hitlers youth it has been confirmed that his fathers abuse and neglect had a great impact on his son. Hitlers mental capabilities were hindered as well as his ability to trust or sympathize with anyone. Hitler was raised in an environment of constant fear and threats, all for the greater good. This might have been the seed from which Hitlers fantasy about helping his people by punishing others stemmed from,If the body of a child learns from birth that tormenting and punishing an innocent creature is the right thing to do, and that the childs suffering is must not be acknowledged, that message will always be stronger than intellectual knowledge acquired at a later stage. (Miller, 5)Being brought up in a place of abusiveness Hitler had the characteristics of a typically abused child. Studies on mistreated children have shown damage to the parts of the brain that would control emotions. He was abusive to anyone or thing that was near him when he was enraged. Hitlers half brother was once quoted as saying, If he did not have his way, he got very angryHe had no friends, took to no one, and could be very heartless. Hitler was easily annoyed and angered; he had a very hard time controlling his emotions. Hitlers childhood involved so much violence that it may have damaged his capabilities to control his emotions. This handicap was partly to blame for his rebellious behavior as a child. It is documented that he was so disturbed that he once pinned a goat down and then peed in its mouth. (Redlich, 18) Also disturbing is that Hitler really enjoyed shooting rats. (Abelard.org) There were quite a few warning signs of a troublesome child, but that is all people saw. They did not see the potential tragedy that this young boy could bring to an entire country and race. A very crucial part of Hitlers childhood was his education. His father had earned many plaudits for being an efficient full inspector of customs, and therefore had a high standard for his families education. Hitler did well in grade school, but blamed his bad grades from secondary school on his protest against his father, (Jansen, 3)Adolph Hitler had excellent grades in grade school and was considered to be an extremely intelligent boy, so it came as a great surprise that Hitler failed miserably in secondary schoolAdolph delighted in telling the story of how he was able to quite school. (Redlich, 15)A few years later, Hitler decided that he wanted to be a free lance artist in Vienna. Even though he was rejected from, …the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts on two occasions (Jansen, 3), he was determined to make a living as an artist. He took out his money (that his father left him after he died) from the bank all at once; it was enough to last him about three months in Vienna. Disappointed and frustrated in his own life, he lived more and more in the world of his imagination, (Schlesinger, 22). During World War I, Hitler saw first hand how things in the military and politics worked. He learned how to manipulate people and situations to work for his best benefit. He was always considered to be a brilliant strategist even throughout school, but being in the war gave him the ability to see how he could use the government for his own gain. Hitlers political and religious fanaticism finally began to fully take off during Hitlers service to the German army during World War I. (Redlich, 40) Hitler was recorded as saying,[World War I] caused me to think deeply on all things human. Four years of war give a man more than thirty years at a university in the way of education in the problems of life.-Adolf Hitler (Schlesinger, 39)This statement is an example of Hitlers self-justification for not finishing school, or even getting into the arts school he wantedtwice. The time that he spent in the war made him feel important, even superior to others. The war was his life; there he felt acceptance and admiration, rather than the harshness of Vienna. After his first involvement in the war, he started to dedicate his life to his country. There is a long disputed issue regarding Hitlers ancestry and whether he really was part Jewish or not. His hatred of the Jews might be linked to this fact. The thought of being part Jewish pained Hitler, and so he kept it a secret. He also did this so as to not make him look like a hypocrite. Another theory for his hatred of the Jewish race involves the family doctor who happened to be Jewish. It is suggested that Hitlers mom had a long struggle with breast cancer, and when she died Hitler blamed the Jewish doctor for her death.
There are many who suggest that Adolphs hatred of Jews can be traced back to the death of his mother while under the treatment of this doctorsome believe that Adolph blamed his mothers suffering on the doctor. (Redlich, 22)Hitlers time in Vienna also affected his opinion of the Jews. Vienna was widely known for its strong anti-Semitism, and a very popular magazine produced there called Ostara. Hitler was a regular reader of a popular Viennese magazine named Ostara, which argued persistently that the blond Germanic people (the Aryans as they were called then) were a higher race-a Master Race destined to rule the earth. (Schlesinger, 23)It was in Vienna that Hitlers deep hatred for Jews was not only accepted and heard, but also nurtured. His time in Vienna served to strengthen his already beast-like contempt for the Jewish race.
Syphilis was considered by the Nazis to be a Jewish disease. Hitler acquired this disease from his mother who had been infected by her husband Alois. Hitler blamed his grandfather, (whom he had never known but who also was infected with the disease), of being a filthy Jew that raped his grandmother. Ironically he also blamed his grandmother for letting herself get raped by a Jew. Of course he told no one of his suspicion that he was part Jewish, but his hatred for Jews might be connected to his being ashamed of his ancestry. Trying to create the superhuman race was his way of convincing himself that he was not part Jewish.
There are a lot of theories as to why Hitler practically annihilated the entire Jewish race, and attempted to create a superhuman race. One of the most prominent is that Hitler was compensating for his lack of physical abilities. There is a long list of ailments that he had: headaches, dizziness, abdominal spasms, constipation, hypertension, coronary heart disease, spina bifida oculta, urethra hypospadia, genital dysfunctions, monarchism, Parkinsons disease, and syphilis (Krupp, 2). The idea that he was not, whole made him strive to make everything around him perfect. Hitler was trying to form a strong country over which he could rule, perhaps to compensate for his own weaknesses and to push them out of sight.
Hitler also had a combination of many mental disabilities in addition to his physical ones. These included: fear of water, depression, narcissism, anxiety, and paranoia. His paranoia led him to construct illogical/irrational ideas (Krupp, 3). One of the most significant of course is that the Jewish people were responsible for many of the awful things that were going on around him. That Hitler believed much of this propaganda is evidence that Hitler was at least slightly neurotic or suffered from some form of psychosis. (Jensen, 3) Hitlers abusive background combined with these physiological problems made for interesting perceptions and ideas. In 1924 Hitler was reported as saying,Cruelty impresses. People want to be afraid of something. They want someone to whom they can submit with a shudder. The masses need that. They need something to dread.-Adolf Hitler (Schlesinger, 55)It is these far-fetched fantasies that show the true effects of abuse coupled with genetic depression, anxiety, and paranoia. There is evidence suggesting that Hitlers mental disabilities were mostly genetically inherited. In compensating for his own weaknesses, perhaps unconsciously, he ordered every handicapped, mentally ill, and psychotic person to be killed. (Miller, 7) What it comes down to is that it was a combination of environment, mental and physical ailments, and up-bringing that made Hitler the destructive man that he was.
It would appear, though, that it was the childhood that ultimately created an unstable human being who accepted a world of pure fantasy and was responsible for the deaths of millions (Jansen, 5)However it is not possible to be one-hundred percent sure about these ideas because Hitler is dead, and he was the only true evidence of these conjectures. By studying Adolph Hitlers childhood, environment, and physical and psychological challenges attributed to genetics, we can gain insight into why he became one of the most hated men in history.