10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Hitler
By Lavie Tidhar
Posted on November 20, 2014 in Books, Fun Stuff with tags History, Lavie Tidhar
While research his novel A Man Lies Dreaming, Lavie Tidhar uncovered a plethora of fascinating information about Adolf Hitler.
The Uniball Question
If there’s one thing people seem to “know” about Adolf Hitler, it’s that he only had one testicle. Like so much else about Hitler’s private life (see Number 6 below), this could simply be the result of an effective propaganda campaign, which seems to have gone viral (as we’d say today!) with the famous British song that starts, “Hitler / He’s only got one ball / The other / Is in the Albert Hall…”
What it would be doing in the Albert Hall is anyone’s guess, though apparently the South African version of the song. so I was told, simply changes it to the “town hall” (which doesn’t make any more sense).
The only so-called proof for this fact comes from a Soviet post-mortem performed on Hitler’s mangled corpse after his death but, once again, this could be down to propaganda.
My own personal feeling? Probably not true – but that song is going to be with us for a long time yet.
He was an abused child
There’s a wonderful Manga version of Hitler’s Mein Kampf (no, really, Google it) which vividly captures, in one frame, the young Adolf being whipped by his father, Alois. The late-born, illegitimate son of an unmarried woman, Alois grew up to be a womaniser and a drunk. A violent man by all accounts, he beat his wife and children, and finally died in the middle of having his usual morning drink at a tavern.
“I respected my father,” Hitler later wrote, “but I loved my mother.”
A lot of unsaid things echo in that single sentence.
He had one real friend
Even Hitler had a friend, at least in his early days. During his time as a starving artist in Vienna, Adolf roomed with a young man named August Kubizek (nicknamed ‘Gustl’). Gustl, a gentle soul by all accounts, survived the war and subsequent imprisonment and, in 1955, published his memoir, Adolf Hitler, My Childhood Friend.
The book is simply full of invaluable titbits, from Gustl on self-abuse (Hitler didn’t) to the time Hitler took him to look at the prostitutes in the Red Light district, to the time they were taken for dinner by an older homosexual man who later gave Hitler his visiting card.
During that meal, Gustle records for all posterity, Hitler stuffed his face with pastries, of which he was very fond at the time. On their walk back home that night, a patient Hitler had to explain to Gustl what a ‘homosexual’ was.
“No power on earth,” Kubizek wrote, “could compel me to deny my friendship with Adolf Hitler.”
Proving that everybody has at least one friend somewhere.
Hitler was a vegetarian
To be fair, I think this is one of those things people do know about Adolf Hitler. He also didn’t drink tea or coffee, didn’t smoke and didn’t touch alcohol. What he did apparently like was to deliver after-dinner lectures to anyone who would listen. Hitler’s Table Talk collects transcribed recordings of what passed for Hitler’s “conversations” – really they’re long rambling monologues on whatever topic caught his fancy.
Of course, it’s understandable if no one dared to interrupt the Fuhrer…
He once cured his own blindness with the power of the mind!
After Vienna, Hitler enlisted in the First World War, where he served as a runner. He was blinded in 1918 – or so he thought. In truth, Hitler was classified as a ‘hysteric’ – suffering from what today we’d call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was sent to the Pasewalk hospital, where he was treated by neurologist Edmund Forster.
Forster, by all accounts, treated these ‘shirkers’ cruelly. Treatment included electric shocks, isolation and bullying – yet seemed to produce good results. With Hitler, the story is that Forster convinced him he was not an ordinary man but an Übermensch – a super-man, worthy of leading Germany itself. If only he tried, Hitler could cure his own blindness! And rule the world!
It makes for a good story, whether it is entirely true or not. Hitler’s vision was restored, after all, and, well, he almost did rule the world – if only for a brief moment. He did end up killing himself, though…
Women couldn’t get enough of him
Strange as it may seem, women loved Adolf Hitler (often with tragic results – see Number 7). It was said his voice alone could arouse such passion that women climaxed during his public speeches.
Hitler’s ideal woman was ‘a cute, cuddly, naïve little thing – tender, sweet, and stupid,’ (as August Kubizek recalls Hitler saying). He liked them young, from his niece, Geli (she moved in with Hitler at 21 after living in close proximity from age 17), to his long-time mistress, Eva (who was also just 17 when they met). One woman, the English socalite Unity Mitford, was so besotted with Hitler that, when he sent her away, she tried to kill herself with a bullet to the head (see Number 7).
But he was kinky
Hitler’s sex life is the murkiest aspect of his life. There’s no doubt much of what’s been told has been a product of propaganda, and yet the circumstantial evidence is quite strong. Taking it all with a pinch of salt, then, a strong argument can still be made that Hitler was kinky. Specifically, he liked to be sexually dominated and humiliated. Being urinated on by his lovers seemed to have been a favourite, and it was said he could not achieve arousal by conventional means. How much of this is propaganda is impossible to say with any degree of certainty, but it’s clear he had a few issues.
This is, however, probably more than you ever wanted to know about Adolf Hitler.
Most of the women in his life killed themselves, or tried to
If he liked to be dominated sexually, in all other matters Hitler preferred to be the dominant partner. He kept his half-niece, Geli Raubal, in his apartment in Berlin under close control – so much so that, when Hitler went away one day, Geli killed herself.
A strangely similar fate awaited many of Hitler’s women. Unity Mitford also turned a gun to herself, but the bullet lodged in her brain without killing her. She lived for another decade, back in England, before dying. Eva Braun tried to kill herself twice – and eventually succeeded when she and Hitler committed suicide together. Maria Reiter was just 16 when Hitler made advances towards her (she later tried to hang herself, but survived), and the actress Renate Müller, also linked to Hitler, jumped (or was she pushed?) out of a hotel window.
But he loved books!
Yes, the man who famously burned books was also an obsessive reader and collector.
“Books, always more books!” recalled Hitler’s childhood friend, August Kubizek. “Books were his world.” By the time of Hitler’s death, his extensive library included an estimated 16,000 volumes – many of them personally inscribed to the Fuhrer. Some 1200 volumes survive in a university collection in America – many bearing Hitler’s personal ex-libris plate and some annotated in his hand. He liked Shakespeare, Karl May Westerns, had a large collection of anti-Semitic literature, vegetarian cookbooks, German poetry, military strategy and the books on the occult.
He didn’t read much fiction, though.
10. And he’s still a bestseller
Yes, Hitler still outsells most other writers. The English-language rights to Mein Kampf were sold to the small publishing house of Hurst & Blackett and published in 1933 as My Struggle. The advance was for £350. Since then the book has gone on to remain a top 5 backlist title, as Hurst & Blackett were absorbed by Hutchinson, then Random House. Royalties are still being collected, and are donated to an unnamed charity.
To this day, Mein Kampf remains a best-seller in several countries.
A Man Lies Dreaming, which the Guardian called ‘a twisted masterpiece’, is now available wherever fine books are sold.