Adolf Hitler joined the army in August 1914 and rose to become one of its most famous commanders, leading Germany to numerous victories during World War I. Historic accounts of Adolf Hitler’s life suggest that he wanted to be a soldier from a young age and that he felt as though the German military was his destiny. When he joined the Bavarian Army and volunteered to fight, he threw himself into combat with an enthusiasm and dedication that set him apart from his comrades.
At the time of Hitler’s enlistment, he was a 25 year old aspiring artist and political activist who was eager to prove his worth to society and to become a leader in the German Empire. Although he was initially rejected by the Bavarian Army on physical grounds, he soon became a integral part of their forces, eventually becoming a first lieutenant by October 1918, just a few months before the armistice.
Historians agree that, without exception, Adolf Hitler’s experience as a soldier had a massive impact on the development his leadership skills and political ideas. The challenges he faced on the front line and the camaraderie he shared with his fellow soldiers enabled him to build a deeply rooted faith in the German state, which ultimately aided him in carrying out his regime during World War II.
It is widely accepted that, during his time in the army, Hitler developed a profound hatred of Jews and socialism, which had a lasting effect on his later behaviour. His frontline experiences convinced him of the need for a powerful leader to unite the German people, a belief that ultimately led him to pursue a career in politics following the war.
Experts agree that Adolf Hitler’s experience as a soldier shaped his later life and political ambitions. The experiences of combat, coupled with his vulnerable emotional state, enabled him to develop his convictions about strong leadership and German nationalism. As a result, he was one of many soldiers of the time to emerge from the war with clear ambitions to shape the future of Germany.
Hitler’s Early Years in the Army
When Hitler joined the Bavarian Army in August 1914, his experience as a novice and his dislike of authority earned him a reputation of being a loner and a disobedient soldier. Nonetheless, he quickly rose to the rank of corporal and continued to achieve a series of successes on the battlefield.
By the autumn of 1915, Hitler’s superiors had recognised his potential as a leader. He was eventually promoted to a dispatch runner, a position of significant responsibility in which he was able to lead reconnaissance missions and to coordinate battle plans. This allowed him to learn skills in strategy, intelligence and communications that would later become essential for his political career.
Hitler also experienced a spiritual transformation during his time in the army. His wartime experiences had a profound effect on his personality and his beliefs, in particular his notion of nationalism and racial supremacy, which would become ingrained in his personality thereafter.
Upon his return to civilian life in 1919, Hitler had developed a very different worldview to the one he had prior to the war. Despite initial disappointment at the defeat of Germany, he gained admiration for the German army and its ability to “still struggle victoriously against a superior enemy”. It was this admiration and the lessons learned in the trenches that led to his involvement with right-wing German politics.
Hitler’s Rise Through the Ranks
Adolf Hitler joined the army as a private and rose through the ranks to become a first lieutenant by the end of the war. He was able to achieve this advancement by impressing his superiors with his skills in leadership, strategy and communications. Despite his rebellious nature and his non-cooperation with authority, his superiors saw something in him that enabled him to rise up the ranks.
By 1916, Hitler had established a reputation as an effective and brave leader. This enabled him to secure a promotion to corporal and take charge of reconnaissance missions across the Western Front. As a result, he demonstrated remarkable organisational abilities and tactical judgement in the battlefield.
In addition, Hitler had an ability to influence and inspire others. This was perhaps best demonstrated in October 1918 at the Battle of the Somme, where he rallied the troops to push back the enemy and achieve a miraculous victory against impossible odds. This battle proved to be the decisive moment for Hitler and demonstrated his capacity for both courage and leadership at a crucial moment.
In recognition of his achievements, Hitler was eventually awarded the Iron Cross, First Class in August 1918. This was a prestigious decoration awarded only to exceptional soldiers and it signified his rise to the top ranks of the German army.
The Impact of Hitler’s Military Experiences
Hitler’s military experiences had a profound effect on his personal and political convictions. As a result, his beliefs concerning German nationalism, racial supremacy and the need for a unified Nation State become even more deeply entrenched during the war.
In addition, the challenges that he overcame during the war enabled him to develop a strong belief in his own leadership capabilities. These experiences affirmed him in his conviction of the need for a strong leader to achieve German greatness and this, in time, was to become the basis of his political platform.
The war also provided Hitler with some of his closest confidantes. He formed strong, almost cult-like relationships with fellow soldiers such as Rudolf Hess, Ernst Hanfstaengl, Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler, all of whom would later become important figures in his Nazi dictatorship.
Lastly, Hitler’s experience on the frontline ingrained in him an intense hatred for Jews and socialism. This hatred was fuelled by his own experiences of defeat, poverty and suffering and was to become a major driving force for his later political ambitions.
The Aftermath of Hitler’s Military Service
Adolf Hitler was discharged from the army in 1918 and returned to Munich with the prestigious Iron Cross, Second Class. He quickly became involved in politics and went on to form the now infamous Nazi Party in 1920.
By the early 1930s, Hitler had become the most powerful political figure in Germany and, following the election of 1933, rose to become the Chancellor of the German Reich. Throughout his campaign, he used many of the techniques of communication and leadership he had learned in the trenches and presented himself as a strong, visionary leader.
Hitler’s military experiences had been instrumental in allowing him to develop the political platform which ultimately enabled him to assume leadership in Germany. His experiences of combat, coupled with his own ambitions, enabled him to emerge from the war with clear goals for the future of Germany and a complete and unwavering commitment to seeing them through.
Although Adolf Hitler was a highly effective military leader and was awarded a prestigious Iron Cross for his service, his ultimate legacy is one of destruction, genocide and universal hatred. Following the war, he came to embody racial hatred and the notion of a racially-defined master race, leading to the systematic extermination of millions of people.
At the same time, it cannot be denied that Hitler was a highly capable soldier who was able to rise up the ranks of the German army, despite his limited formal education and background. His achievements during the war, as well as his involvement in politics in the period leading up to his assumption of leadership, are a testament to his immense abilities.
Regardless of his legacy, it is clear that Hitler’s military experience was central in reshaping his beliefs and shaping his future. The experiences on the battlefield enabled him to develop the convictions that were to set him on the path to dictatorship, and the skills he learnt in communication, strategy and leadership remained with him for the rest of his life.
The Nature of Leadership During Hitler’s Era
The character of Adolf Hitler stands as an example of the type of leader that was emerging in Germany at the time. During the early years of the twentieth century, German society was undergoing profound transformation and the character of its leaders was changing with it.
The population had become increasingly disillusioned with the Bavarian monarchy and was looking for a new form of leadership. This in turn gave rise to a new type of leader, one that possessed strong convictions, charisma and the courage to lead in even the most desperate of times.
Hitler was an embodiment of this new character. He displayed a form of leadership that was rooted in courage, dedication and strength of will. His rise to power was enabled by the sheer force of his conviction and his impeccable record as a soldier, as well as the political acumen and charisma he demonstrated as a leader in the turbulent atmosphere of the 1920s.
As such, Adolf Hitler stands as a symbol of the new character of German leadership that emerged in the early twentieth century. The militaristic fervour of his time enabled him to develop the convictions and capabilities that saw him achieve the highest office in Germany.
Adolf Hitler joined the Bavarian Army in 1914 and rose to become one of its most renowned commanders. His experience as a soldier had a significant impact on the development of his political beliefs and gave him the courage and leadership skills necessary to achieve power. Historians agree that his wartime experiences entrenched his convictions concerning German nationalism and racial superiority, and enabled him to emerge as a powerful leader in the period leading up to his rise to power. Ultimately, Hitler’s military experience was fundamental in allowing him to reshape the political and social landscape of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.