Biography, like big game hunting, is one of the recognized forms of sport, and it is unfair as only sport can be… Philip Guedalla


Even though it was only 100 years ago and in the age of modern record keeping even if you have a complete service record and personal recollections of a  soldier who saw service in the World War it is exceedingly difficult to construct a biography of them. If they were engaged in politics in any way, shape, manner or form thereafter it is almost impossible as the record will have been carefully edited and burnished after the fact – vide the self-proclaimed heroism of our current secretary of state AND the reassessment of the record based on the men who served around him. Given the limitations under which Weber had to work he has more than adequately swift boated Private Hitler in a manner which must appease those who begin with the assumption that they are dealing with a psychotic first, last and always. While he may well be correct there may also be alternative explanations and they may be as important as Weber’s conjectures.

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Hitler’s first war : Adolf Hitler, the men of the List Regiment, and the First World War  Thomas Weber  Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2010  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xvi, 450 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm Includes bibliographical references (pages 413-433) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Perhaps no individual in modern history has received more intensive study than Adolf Hitler. His many biographers have provided countless conflicting interpretations of his life, but virtually all agree on one thing: Hitler’s formative experience was his service in World War I. Unfortunately, historians have found little to illuminate this critical period.

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In Hitler’s First War, Weber delivers a revision of our understanding of Hitler’s life. Weber paints a group portrait of the List Regiment, Hitler’s unit during World War I, to rewrite the story of his military service. Drawing on imaginative research, Weber refutes the story crafted by Hitler himself, and so challenges the historical argument that the war led naturally to Nazism.

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In Weber’s version – contrary to the accepted history – the regiment consisted largely of conscripts, not enthusiastic volunteers. Hitler served with scores of Jews, including noted artist Albert Weisberger, who proved more heroic, and popular, than the future Führer. Indeed, Weber finds that the men shunned Private Hitler as a “rear area pig,” and that Hitler himself was still unsure of his political views when the war ended in 1918.

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Through the stories of such comrades as a soldier-turned-concentration camp commandant, veterans who fell victim to the Holocaust, an officer who became Hitler’s personal adjutant in the 1930s but then cooperated with British intelligence, and the veterans who simply went back to their Bavarian farms and never joined the Nazi ranks, Weber demonstrates how and why Hitler aggressively policed the myth of his wartime experience.

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Underlying all Hitler studies is a seemingly unanswerable question: Was he simply a product of his times, or an anomaly beyond all calculation? Weber’s work sheds light on this puzzle and offers a profound challenge to the idea that World War I served as the perfect crucible for Hitler’s subsequent rise.

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