A war – any war – is a horrible, even a hellish event. However, for some individuals it becomes a bootstrap, a springboard that pushes them “forward and up” – well beyond their wildest expectations.
For Adolf Hitler, the Great War became exactly such a springboard – an enormously powerful instrument for making a genuine Quantensprung – a quantum leap – towards an entirely new life and an entirely new Mission. And ultimately brought him the absolute power over the Greater Germany.
Although Hitler did spent some free time (when “all was quite on the Western front” and there was no need to deliver messages to the frontlines) painting watercolors, by the end of the war (and possibly way earlier) he completely abandoned his ambition to become the great artist or a great architect.
And it is not at all difficult to understand why. In the German Army, on the battlefields of the Great War he finally found his new home, his new family and his natural environment.
Ian Kershaw in his biography of Hitler wrote:
“For the first time in his life – certainly the first time since the carefree childhood days as a mummy’s boy in Upper Austria – Hitler felt truly at ease with himself. He referred later to his war years as ‘the greatest and most unforgettable time of my earthly existence’”
Actually, it was more than just an environment – it was the whole natural world complete with the rules, values, beliefs, principles and – what was the most important of all – the raison d’être. Victory is not everything – it is the only thing.
Now he knew precisely – at least subconsciously – what was his. His natural world was the German Army – the Armed Forces; his natural attire – the military uniform and his raison d’être, his great and glorious Mission was to fight and win the existential war (kill or be killed) with the sworn enemies of his beloved Fatherland – the Greater Germany. Fight and win in a very literal sense – on very real battlefields.
This knowledge formed an enormously powerful synergy with what was already inside him – his German nationalism and racism, his belief in the vital need to create the Greater Germany (Ein Reich) by uniting Austria with Germany proper, his anti-Semitism and, last but not the least, his Wagnerian desire to destroy the existing order (“system”) and replace it with a radical new one – an ideal society of German culture triumphant.
Now he had a crystal clear picture of this ideal world, ideal German state which was essentially a giant and comprehensive military unit. And that’s exactly how he structured the Third Reich using the (in)famous Führer’s Principle (a 100% military concept) as its fundamental rule.
After he became The Führer, he wore almost exclusively the military uniform. He made his party – NSDAP – essentially a paramilitary organization whose members wore its own military-style uniform. As did the security services – SA and SS, National Socialist Motor Corps (NSKK), Hitlerjugend, BDM and dozens of other Nazi organizations.
In fact, just about every Nazi organization (even government entities) had its own uniform that its members were supposed to wear. And Hitler fully supported Himmler’s practice of bestowing the honorary SS ranks on Nazi government officials thus effectively making them generals and officers who were supposed to wear the uniform as well.
Historians – and not just historians – keep asking: “Why Hitler? Why not someone else?” The answer to this fundamental question is very simple – because Adolf Hitler was the only one who had the potential to become The Führer. He was simply born that way. True, it was a bit of nurture (quite a bit, actually), but it was mostly nature.
Nature that needed a vision to express itself in genuinely grandiose (and in many ways glorious) achievements. Finally, at the age of twenty-nine, Adolf Hitler had this vision – crystal clear.
Now all he needed was an opportunity to start implementing this vision. He did not have to wait very long.