Born 1889 in Braunau, a small town on the border between Germany and Austria. Father was a low ranking customs officer – his mother used to be a maidservant. Hitler was Austrian and was to live in the Austro-Hungarian Empire till he was 24.
He showed early promise at primary school but does badly in his first year at secondary school. Teachers described him as being lacking self-control and lazy. He was bossy and unwilling to accept other people’s opinions. When Hitler was 13 his father died and he continued to do badly at school.
In 1913 he moved to Munich to avoid doing military service but joins the German army in the following year when the First World War begins. He proved to be a brave soldier, acting as a company runner, carrying messages from one commander to another during the fighting. He was awarded the Iron Class (2nd Class) – a high military award and was promoted to corporal by the end of the war. He was almost blinded in a gas attack as the war came to an end.
After the war he stayed in the army for a while and was ordered to spy on a number of extremist political parties that were emerging in Munich. One of these was called the ‘German Workers Party’ led by Anton Drexler. Hitler liked their ideas and joined – he was given the membership number of 555. Within a year he had taken over the party and had renamed it the National Socialist German Workers Party (NAZIS). Soon the numbers had risen from 50 in 1919 to 6,000 by 1921 to over 50,000 by 1923. It had its own newspapers and a private army of storm troopers to fight its opponents.