Like just about any self-educated individual, Adolf Hitler received his education not only from books and mass-media, but from prominent politicians of his time as well. From politicians who subsequently became his role models.
His first role model was his father – Alois Hitler. His second role model was Dr. Leonard Pötsch – his teacher of history. His third (and by far the most influential) role model was Georg Ritter von Schönerer – an Austrian politician of a virulent German national (and pan-German) variety.
His political views and philosophy, not to mention his great skill as an agitator, would go on to enormously influence Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party as a whole
A radical opponent of political Catholicism and a fierce anti-Semite, von Schönerer was known in his days to be the most radical pan-German nationalist in Austria. Decades later, all these key components of his ideology became the cornerstones of Hitler’s ideology – national-socialism.
He was first elected to the Austro-Hungarian Reichstag (a federal parliament) in 1873, when he was just 30 years old. Elected… as a left-wing Liberal, believe it or not.
Actually, it is believable because it is not unknown for the far-Left to make a political quantum leap to the far-right – because it is far easier to switch from one extreme to another than for a moderate (centrist) to become a radical.
Von Schönerer founded the Pan-German party which program embraced radical German nationalism (i.e. the primacy and superiority of all things German), social reform, anti-liberal popular democracy, and radical anti-Semitism. And thus was essentially an early version of national-socialism, because decades later the NSDAP program will incorporate “all of the above”.
Ian Kershaw wrote in his abovementioned biography of Hitler:
“The ‘Heil’ greeting, the title of ‘Führer’ (bestowed by Schönerer on himself and used by his followers), and the intolerance towards any semblance of democratic decision-making in his movement were among the lasting elements of the Schönerer legacy which Hitler carried over to the later Nazi Party”
Like many other Austrian pan-Germans, von Schönerer hoped for the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and an Anschluss with Germany. His fervent admirer Adolf Hitler made his dream come true in 1938 – 17 years after von Schönerer’s death.
Von Schönerer considered Jews an existential threat to German nation and even told his followers to prepare for an apocalyptic battle between Germans and Jews, saying “If we don’t expel the Jews, we Germans will be expelled!” which further strengthened Hitler’s belief in the existential nature of the war with the Jews and thus contributed significantly to his decision to commence the Holocaust.
So Adolf Hitler, in fact, did not create any new ideology – he took the ideology developed by Georg Ritter von Schönerer and adapted it to the specifics of Weimar Republic in Germany.
Correcting two major deficiencies of von Schönerer’s ideology. First, the latter did not believe in the power of the masses and thus never wanted to establish a mass party.
Being a genuine aristocrat (his father – the wealthy railroad pioneer Matthias Schönerer was knighted by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1860), he believed that any breakthrough (i.e. revolution) would come from the powerful elites.
Second, though Hitler, like von Schönerer, was a firm opponent of political Catholicism (he wanted the Church to stay out of politics entirely), he advocated a far more tolerant policy towards the Catholic Church, eventually signing Reichskonkordats with both Catholic and Protestant Churches.
Not surprisingly, Adolf Hitler did not invent these corrections, but acquired them from the political philosophy of his second Austrian political hero, Dr. Karl Lueger, the Viennese ‘tribune of the people’ (and subsequently Lord Mayor of Vienna) – a populist, Catholic… and an even more rabid anti-Semite than von Schönerer.
Dr. Lueger once said (actually, probably more than once):
“The ‘Jewish problem’ would be solved, and a service to the world achieved, if all Jews were placed on a large ship to be sunk on the high seas.”
Technically, it was not his opinion – he quoted with no dissent a remark made by one of Vienna’s wildest anti-Semites – but he completely and wholeheartedly supported this “Final Solution”.
Decades later, his ardent admirer Adolf Hitler will almost succeed in doing just that – only using death squads and gas chambers instead of large ships. Which was actually not that much different from Dr. Lueger wanted – when accused of saying that did not matter to him whether Jews were hanged or shot, he provided the correction: ‘Beheaded is what I said.”
In addition to the abovementioned corrections, Hitler took from Karl Lueger his firm command of the masses, his careful sculpting of a desired mass movement and his highly efficient use of propaganda to appeal to the “psychological instincts” of the masses to achieve the desired political objective.
Although young Adolf was profoundly influenced by these charismatic politicians, he still did not abandon his dream of becoming a famous artist one day. However, being a genuine patriot of Greater Germany and having such powerful role models in front of him, he undoubtedly started thinking about becoming a politician.
After all, who said you can not be a famous artist and a famous politician at the same time?
Von Schönerer and Karl Lueger were not the only role models for young Adolf. Although he hated the Social Democrats (and everything they stood for) with every fiber of his body, he was very impressed with their organization and activism (especially the power of organized labor).
Impressed and scared. Decades later, as a Führer of Germany, he ruthlessly destroyed the Social Democratic Party and mercilessly sent its members to concentration camps.
And no less ruthlessly destroyed the trade union system (i.e. independent trade unions) in Germany and replaced it with national-socialist German Labor Front headed by Dr. Robert Ley (a guy with a PhD in chemistry who heads a trade union – that was creative).
Interestingly enough, he learned the vital importance and critical value of intimidation and intolerance not from the far-right, but from Social Democrats (who by that time were quite adept at both). Later he wrote in Mein Kampf:
“The psyche of the great masses is not receptive to anything that is half-hearted and weak”.