When Adolf Hitler went to war in 1914, he was just 25 years old. It was a time he would later call the 'most stupendous experience of my life'.
That war ended with Hitler in a hospital bed, temporarily blinded by mustard gas. The world that he opened his newly healed eyes on was new and it was terrible: Germany had been defeated, the Kaiser had fled and the army had been resolutely humbled.
Hitler never accepted these facts. Out of his fury rose a white-hot hatred, an unquenchable thirst for revenge against the 'criminals' who had signed the armistice, against the socialists who he accused of stabbing the army in the back and, most violently, against the Jews – a direct threat to the master race of his imagination – on whose shoulders he would pile all of Germany's woes.
But this was not all about the war; the seeds of that hatred lay in Hitler’s youth.
By peeling back the layers of Hitler's childhood, his war record and his early political career, Paul Ham's Young Hitler: The Making of the Führer seeks the man behind the myth. How did the defining years of Hitler’s life affect his rise to power?
More broadly, Paul Ham seeks to answer the question: Was Hitler a freak accident? Or was he an extreme example of a recurring type of demagogue, who will do and say anything to seize power; who thrives on chaos; and who personifies, in his words and in his actions, the darkest prejudices of humankind?