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Adolf Hitler, Essay Example

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Essay

Adolf Hitler is a name, which instills terror into human beings now, 65 years after Fuehrer’s mysterious death. As defined by BBC Historic Figures, Hitler, “military and political leader of Germany 1933 – 1945, launched World War Two and bears responsibility for the deaths of millions, including six million Jewish people in the Nazi genocide.” Born to become an artist, this man eventually turned into the curse of the 20st century. These days, looking back at the deeds of German Nazi Party leader, one can only wonder how one man could bring so much evil and terror into being. Whether he was a madman, a fanatic, a genius or a living embodiment of devil is still to ask. It is obvious, however, that his triumph was not due to who he was solely, but rather to how the circumstances were, since, as Conrad Adenauer once said, “history is the sum total of the things that could have been avoided.”

Adolf Hitler was born in Austria in 1889, in the family of a customs official. Having failed to succeed as an artist in Vienna, young man moved to Munich in 1913. As the World War I broke out, he enlisted in the German army, where he was injured and consequently decorated. He became the leader of the Nazi Party in 1921. Hitler’s interest number one had always been an establishment of a pure race of German people through a policy of nationalism, anti-Semitism, anti-capitalism and anti-communism.

“Against a background of economic depression and political turmoil, the Nazis grew stronger and in the 1932 elections became the largest party in the German parliament.” (BBC Histroy) In 1933, Hitler was elected as a chancellor of a coalition government. He took his chance immediately, established himself as a dictator and started off with instituting the anti-Jewish laws. The course of action he took implied the process of German militarization and territorial expansion that eventually resulted into World War Two, started in 1939 by Hitler’s commanding his armies to enter Poland. He eventually committed suicide in 1945, just before Germany lost the war, in order to avoid capture by Soviet forces.

“The world has come to know Adolph Hitler for his insatiable greed for power, his ruthlessness, cruelty and utter lack of feeling, his contempt for established institutions and his lack of moral restraints.” (Langer) The question is not, however, whether he was a madman or not, but rather is what influenced his psychological development to make him what he was. Hitler’s early life, when his basic mentality and mindset were obviously formed, is believed to have the most profound impact on his adult character.

“Freud’s earliest and greatest contribution to psychiatry in particular and to an understanding of human conduct in general was his discovery of the importance of the first years of a child’s life in shaping his future character.” (Langer) It is, however, questionable whether Freud’s theory of psychosexual development can be applied when discussing Hitler’s case. Attempting to relate Hitler’s behavior to a diversity of unproven sexual oddities attributed to future dictator seems far-fetched.

It is true, nevertheless, that during early years, when a child’s view of life is still immature, there is a serious threat of misinterpreting the nature of the world around him. The intellect of a child is not enough adequate to comprehend the complex requirements of society he is supposed to meet, as well as a perplexing experience to which he is constantly exposed. As a result, the child’s personality may turn out to be composed of wrong ideas about the world he lives in.

Close analyses of Hitler’s personal statements and the available information about his background, family in particular, allows for an assumption that Hitler’s ill nature was indeed formed at very young age. His view of reality was deeply affected by family issues. Even though he claims himself to be growing up in a normal middle class family, with “father a faithful civil servant, the mother devoting herself to the cares of the household and looking after her children with eternally the same loving care”, the actual state of affairs appears to be somewhat different (Hitler, 1925). Hitler seems to conceal very carefully his true family environment. Nowhere else in the whole book any of his family members are mentioned. Never did he as well refer to any of his brothers or sisters to his associate, with the only exception of his half-sister, Angela. His mentions of own beloved mother are met not quite more often.

Why would he be so secretive about own family if, as he claimed in statement quoted above, living in a perfectly friendly and peaceful environment? The explanation is provided by third person descriptions of the low class family life, he declares to be witnessing personally for many times in his life, that are included in ‘Mein Kampf’.  For instance, he writes: “Among the five children there is a boy, let us say, of three… When the parents fight almost daily, their brutality leaves nothing to the imagination; then the results of such visual education must slowly but inevitably become apparent to the little one. Those who are not familiar with such conditions can hardly imagine the results, especially when the mutual differences express themselves in the form of brutal attacks on the part of the father towards the mother or to assaults due to drunkenness. The poor little boy at the age of six, senses things which would make even a grown-up person shudder…” (Mein Kampf) Many more references to hard family conditions are present in his writings. And even though he rejects to be a full participant of those scenes, one may assume Hitler is in fact describing his personal experience, which aroused revulsion and resentment in his early childhood.

Relationship with his father turned him into a rebellious young man. Instead of providing an image of a reliable, balanced, socially-adjusted and outstanding individual, which the little boy could perceive as a guiding model, Hitler’s father proved to be full of inconsistency. “As a child Hitler must have felt this lack very keenly for throughout his later life we find him searching for a strong masculine figure whom he can respect and emulate.” (Langer) In contrast, Hitler’s mother is believed to be an extremely respectable woman. There are numerous evidences that show there was an exceptional attachment between herself and Adolph, which is no surprise, since she obviously supplied her little son with all the love and care she had to give.

The great amount of love provided to him by his mother and the unattractive character of his father contributed to dynamic development of Hitler’s complexes. Naturally, he became more and more needy for the warmth his mother gave him and more and more aggressive towards his useless father.  The later was viewed by Hitler as intruder and could possible provoke Adolf’s ultimate desire for “pure race”. It is also quite possible that all the affection and love he had once felt for his mother became instinctively relocated to Germany after her untimely death.

Naturally, Hitler was no less influenced by social forces as a young man, than he was by family issues as being a child. For young Hitler, German Nationalism became an obsession as an alternative way to rebel against his father. The later served the Austrian government, greatly respected his position and the society he lived in, and tended to require that all others, including his own son, were doing same way.  The majority of people who lived alongside the German-Austrian border regarded themselves as German-Austrian citizens, but Hitler, in contrast, declared devotion only to Germany. Provoked by desire to disobey own father, Hitler refused to comply with the Austrian Monarchy.

The development of anti-Semitism is ascribed to his Vienna period. Historians still argue about the reasons that provoked such a fatal hatred to the entire race. Hitler was probably influenced by anti-Semitism moods widespread in Vienna. The extensive propaganda against Jews, popularized among Austrian citizens, turned possibly indifferent or even sympathetic Adolf into a hawkish racist. Hitler described Jews as disgraceful and corrupt human beings accountable for most of society’s problems. Whether he truly supported general believes, or simply adjusted own attitudes to be better accepted among peers, is an open question.

He led a passive, pathetic, beggarly life at Vienna, “in which activity was held at the lowest level consistent with survival. He seemed to enjoy being dirty and even filthy in his appearance and personal cleanliness.”(Stein) After all, he finally found his proper place in German army during World War I.  Hitler’s political and religious extremism at last began to fully absorb him while his short military service. He proved himself to be a courageous soldier, and also learned strategy and warfare tactics firsthand. Outraged by Germany’s surrender and the political outcomes of war, Hitler decided to become active in politics, and that is when the world was changed for good.

Apparently, Hitler’s awkward manner, nervous temperament and antisocial behavior were provoked by environment he was growing up in. His views of life and people were maturing under brutal guidance of his father. His emotional instability, aggressiveness and violence as a child and teenager, however, appear to be the innate characteristics of his personality, rather than acquired traits that were produced under the influence of given circumstances. His unhappy childhood eventually shaped an unstable human being who lived in a world of pure fancy.  However, if not for his inborn cruelty and for the way the history had played out, Hitler would probably have just been a one more miserable teenager from a dysfunctional family.

It is clear now that some exceptional traits of Hitler’s personality were formed during his childhood years. In what exact way did they however influence him? If applying Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development to Adolf Hitler, one can observe where he failed as a personality and what were the psychological development gaps that eventually caused him to become the man he was. Hitler who had a troublesome childhood failed on the very first stages of psychological growth.  According to Erikson, on each stage of development people go through a conflict that serves as a turning point in personality formation. “These conflicts are centered on either developing a psychological quality or failing to develop that quality. During these times, the potential for personal growth is high, but so is the potential for failure.” (About.com). Thus, Hitler obviously failed on first and second stages (Trust vs. Mistrust and Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt correspondingly), which provoked fear and developed in him a belief that the world is unpredictable and changeable, as well as a sense of inadequacy and self-doubt. Hitler seems to be failing on almost all of the following stages, since one failure negatively affects the success when facing the subsequent conflict. Hitler however appeared to be having a strong identity and sense of self, which contradicts the theory. Fuehrer’s triumph over this or that conflict probably depended on the current stage of his political career development and social interaction he was going through.

Social Learning Theory explains how a personality is formed through the observation of society. Albert Bandura stated: “Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” (About.com) It can, therefore, be assumed that Hitler’s cruelty was provoked by the observation of his father’s brutality. The fact that Hitler failed to alter his behavior through the observation of his mother as well fits the theory, since it specifies that learning does not automatically cause a change in behavior. The theory does not, however, clarify why a person chooses to change or not to change own behavior, and what knowledge leads to transformation.

Therefore, Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development seems to be the most suitable when talking about Adolf Hitler. Being based on person’s ability to resolve various psychological conflicts, it provides more sufficient explanation for the complexity and contradictoriness of Hitler’s nature. His failure on first stages resulted into increasing number of complexes, growing into feeling of superiority.

Hitler’s personality is, however, too extraordinary to be fully explained by one single theory; some of his behaviors seem to contradict all theories at once. Despite being a bad-tempered, violent, anti-social person, he eventually developed into a charismatic, outstanding leader and brilliant strategist. Tragically, “it was not only Hitler, the madman, who created German madness, but German madness which created Hitler. Having created him as its spokesman and leader, it has been carried along by his momentum, perhaps far beyond the point where it was originally prepared to go.” (Langer) It is always important to remember that Hitler, in spite of the chaos that he was responsible for, failed monumentally in all his major intentions, leaving, however, such a profound track in the history of 20st century that his personality is to be studied for centuries to come.

Works Cited

About.com. Psychology Theories. Retrieved April 10, 2010, from http://psychology.about.com/od/psychology101/u/psychology-theories.htm

BBC. Historic Figures: Adolf Hitler. Retrieved April 10, 2010, from  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/hitler_adolf.shtml

Hitler, A. (1925). Mein Kampf.

Langer, Walter C. A Psychological Profile of Adolph Hitler. His Life and Legend.  Retrieved April 10, 2010, from http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/documents/osstitle.htm

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