From his birth in 1889 to his death in 1945, Adolf Hitler’s life was certainly full. He left his mark on history in a particularly bloody and brutal way, responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people.
Historians, psychologists, and other academics have pored over evidence about Adolf Hitler’s life and uncovered many strange and interesting facts about the most vilified man in world history.
Here are 15 surprising facts about Adolf Hitler:
1. Adolf Hitler Was Almost Adolf Schicklgruber
Hitler’s father, Alois, was born out of wedlock and was given the last name of his mother, Maria Anna Schicklgruber. When he was 40, Alois adopted the name of his stepfather, Johann Georg Hiedler, who was speculated to be his biological father. When this change was made, the spelling was changed to “Hitler.” The reason for this change is unknown. It may have been intentional or simply a clerical error.
2. Many of Adolf’s Siblings Died When They Were Young
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Hitler’s father had already been married twice before taking Klara Pölzl as a wife. The couple had six children together, but only two of them reached adulthood. One was Adolf, and the other was Adolf’s younger sister, Paula.
3. Hitler Was Austrian
Despite his association with Germany, Adolf Hitler was actually not born in Germany. He was an Austrian national by birth. Born in Braunau am Inn, directly on the border with Bavaria, Hitler’s German sensibilities were instilled in him from a young age while he was at school. This was not uncommon at the time, as many Austrians resented the Austro-Hungarian government and identified themselves as Germans rather than Austrians.
4. He Performed Poorly at School & Received Beatings From His Father
Alois was strict and sent Adolf to a school that his son absolutely hated. Adolf fought with his teachers and received poor grades. He also fought with his father and was subjected to frequent beatings. His mother was a much softer and conscientious person but was powerless to stop her husband’s temper.
5. He Tried to Become an Artist
Hitler’s father was a civil servant and had plans for his son to follow in his footsteps. Adolf had other ideas and was drawn to the creative side of life. Alois died in 1903 before Adolf had finished school. Klara allowed her son to change schools. He did so in 1904, and his school performance saw a marked increase. Despite being drawn to the arts, it was not until 1907 that he decided he wanted to be an artist.
He moved to Vienna and attempted to enter the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. He failed the entrance exams in 1907 and 1908, and it was suggested that he turn his attention towards architecture. Adolf, however, did not have the money or the qualifications to pursue this career.
6. He Was Poverty Stricken
Hitler’s failure in his chosen field had a significant effect on his financial situation. He worked as a laborer where he could and tried to sell his paintings, but he could not make enough money to cover his expenses. By December 1909, he briefly lived in a homeless shelter before finding enough money to move to a dormitory for men. His situation improved greatly in 1913 when he received his inheritance, and with this money, he moved to Munich, where he sought better fortunes.
7. Hitler was a Decorated Soldier
When World War I broke out in 1914, Hitler immediately joined the German army and was sent to fight on the Western Front. That year, he received the Iron Cross Second Class, and in 1918, he received the Iron Cross First Class. He became a dispatch runner and was well-known and liked by the officer class. He was also wounded in the leg at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and was blinded by mustard gas in 1918. The war ended while he was recovering in the hospital.
8. His Mustache Style Began for Practical Reasons
Up to and during the First World War, Hitler sported a large mustache. He was ordered to trim the sides so it could fit under a gas mask. The result was the toothbrush mustache that he wore for the rest of his life.
9. Hitler Loved Animals
Despite his deserved reputation for inhumanity, Germany’s leader was actually kind to animals. Initiated by Hitler, the Nazis introduced a number of animal welfare laws, and unlike the anthropocentric laws in the rest of the world at the time, the laws in Germany were based on respect for animals for their own sake rather than the sake of man.
Many Nazi top officials were conservationists and environmentalists, including Hermann Goering, who also professed to be an animal lover, and had those who broke conservation laws committed to concentration camps.
10. Between 1925 and 1932, Hitler Didn’t Have a Nationality
Hitler renounced his Austrian citizenship due to his hatred for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although he had fought for Germany in the First World War and subsequently entered German politics, he did not have German citizenship.
This prevented him from running for office, and he risked being deported. This situation was remedied in 1932 when the interior minister for New Brunswick made Hitler a German citizen and gave him an administrative position.
11. Hitler Became a Vegetarian
According to propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s vegetarianism stemmed from the ethical basis of the practice, and he planned to ban slaughterhouses across the Reich after the war.
Hitler’s friend, Albert Speer, recounted how Hitler, at the dinner table, would tell gruesome stories of how animals were slaughtered in order to dissuade his guests from eating meat.
He became a vegetarian in 1938 when his doctors put him on a meat-free diet. Rather than hide the fact, Hitler owned his vegetarianism and became extremely proud of his lifestyle choice.
12. Hitler had a Dog Named Blondi
Gifted to Hitler by Martin Bormann in 1941, Blondi was a German Shepherd who never left the Führer’s side. Hitler grew very attached to Blondi and would take breaks during conferences to play with her and teach her tricks.
Sadly for Blondi, she died with her master in 1945. Hitler had Blondi given a cyanide capsule before he shot himself.
Blondi wasn’t the only dog Hitler owned. During the First World War, he became friends with a stray Fox Terrier who followed him around. Hitler named him Fuchsl and was distraught when he lost the dog in 1917.
Before Blondi, Hitler had owned a series of German Shepherds – a breed for which he had a great affection. In 1942, Hitler acquired another German Shepherd to keep Blondi company. He named her Bella.
Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, had two Scottish Terriers named Negus and Stasi, which she kept away from Blondi.
13. Hitler (Apparently) Helped Design the Volkswagen Beetle
After he became chancellor, Hitler announced his plans to bring automation to the people. He contracted Ferdinand Porsche to design the “People’s Car,” and according to legend, when Hitler saw Porsche’s original sketch, he grabbed the notepad and the pencil and gave the original drawing more rounded features.
Whether this story is true or not, we may never know, but what is true is that Hitler laid the groundwork for the car to be built en masse and introduced the Volkswagen Beetle to Germany.
14. Hitler Enjoyed Whistling
The Führer enjoyed music, with Richard Wagner being his favorite composer. When he whistled, however, he was noticed as having a particular penchant for two common tunes. “Who’s Afraid of The Big Bad Wolf” was one of his favorites. (Perhaps he saw himself as the wolf.) His other favorite to whistle was “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which he performed when in a good mood and in front of friends and guests.
15. Hitler Didn’t Like Getting Up Early
Getting up early is something that most people don’t enjoy, but Hitler avoided it altogether, even during the war. He usually woke up around 10 a.m. On June 6, when the Allied forces were landing on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, Hitler had given strict instructions not to be woken and slept until between 11 a.m. and noon before being made aware of the Allied invasion. Even after being informed, he delayed sending troops to reinforce the German positions in Normandy, as he was convinced the invasion was just a diversionary tactic.
One of the most studied people in the history of the world, and for obvious reasons, Hitler was an incredibly interesting human being. He had idiosyncrasies just like the rest of us and was subject to the same emotions. He loved, he laughed, he hated, he stressed, and he had a terrible temper. Perhaps the fact that he was a human being like the rest of us makes him an even scarier historical figure.