Hitler’s Interest in Politics

In Vienna, and later, Hitler suffered bouts of depression. Other times he experienced extreme highs, only to be followed by a drop back into the depths. One consistent personality trait was the hysteria evident whenever someone displeased him. Hitler's personality has been described as basically hysterical in nature.

Now, at age 21, he was becoming keenly interested in politics, watching events unfold around him in Vienna. After witnessing a large protest march by workers, he immersed himself in an intensive study of the politics of the workers' party, the Social Democrats.

He gained appreciation of their ability to organize large rallies and use propaganda and fear as political weapons. From the sidelines, he also watched the two other main parties, the Pan German Nationalists and the Christian Social Party, which heightened his interest in German nationalism and anti-Semitism.

Vienna, a city of two million, had a Jewish population of just under two hundred thousand, including many traditionally dressed ethnic Jews. In Linz, Hitler had only known a few "Germanized" Jews. The poor men's home Hitler lived in was near a Jewish community.

Among the middle class in Vienna, anti-Semitism was considered rather fashionable. The mayor, Karl Lueger, a noted anti-Semite, was a member of the Christian Social Party which included anti-Semitism in its political platform.

Hitler admired Lueger, a powerful politician, for his speech making skills and effective use of propaganda in gaining popular appeal. He also admired Lueger's skill in manipulating established institutions such as the Catholic Church. He studied Lueger carefully and modeled some of his later behavior on what he learned. There were also anti-Semitic tabloids and pamphlets available at the newsstands and at local coffee shops.

"Once, as I was strolling through the inner city, I suddenly encountered an apparition in a black caftan and black hair locks. Is this a Jew? was my first thought." "For, to be sure, they had not looked like that in Linz. I observed the man furtively and cautiously, but the longer I stared at this foreign face, scrutinizing feature for feature, the more my first question assumed a new form: is this a German?"

To answer his own question, he immersed himself in anti-Semitic literature. Then he went out and studied Jews as they passed by. "...the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity..."

But at this point Hitler's anti-Semitism was not apparent in his personal relationships with Jews. He still did business with Jewish shop owners in selling his paintings and maintained the friendship with Josef Neumann.

However, the seeds of hate were planted and would be nurtured by events soon to come, laying the foundation for one of the greatest tragedies in all of human history.

Hitler left Vienna at age 24, to avoid mandatory military service in the Austrian army, and thus avoid serving the multicultural Austrian Empire he now despised.

Twenty four years after leaving Vienna, Adolf Hitler would make a triumphant return as Führer of the German Reich. However, the memory of those miserable days of failure in his youth and the attitudes and ideas he acquired would forever remain.