Airbrush the uniforms and the three men posing in front of the Eiffel Tower could be tourists enjoying one of the iconic Parisian landmarks.
The bizarre and haunting snapshot of a smiling, triumphal Adolf Hitler and his cohorts is just one of over 300 arresting images in Patrick Delaforce’s unique anecdotal book which charts a fascinating journey through the German leader’s life from birth to bunker, from ordinary young man to callous dictator.
Using bite-size nuggets of information gleaned from Hitler’s own writings, speeches, conversations, poetry and art, from the accounts of those who knew him, loved or loathed him, and even from his underwhelming school reports, Delaforce paints a compelling portrait of the man, his life, his career and his beliefs.
It is an extraordinary story told by an extraordinary Second World War veteran. Delaforce served as a troop leader in Normandy with the Royal Horse Artillery, was wounded by Hitler’s Wehrmacht in Holland and by a rifle grenade near the River Elbe, was with the first battle group into Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 and served on a War Crimes Tribunal in Hamburg which tried concentration camp guards.
Part biography, part miscellany, part historical overview, Adolf Hitler: The Curious and Macabre Anecdotes casts a light on the darkest corners of the Fuhrer’s complex psyche, helping us to understand how the loner son of a lowly Austrian customs official became the evil architect of the ‘Final Solution.’
Adolf Hitler, one of four siblings, was born in Austria in April 1889 and shot himself in a bunker in Berlin in April 1945, surrounded by the ruins of the country he had vowed to restore to greatness.
His early life gave little clue as to his later years. His teachers found him notoriously cantankerous, one describing him as wilful, arrogant, bad tempered and lazy, often reacting ‘with ill-concealed hostility to advice or reproof.’
After serving as a church choirboy, one of the young Adolf’s ambitions was to become an abbot but instead, he settled on devoting himself ‘wholly to art,’ producing paintings which were later dismissed by Nazi architect Albert Speer, the only cultured man in Hitler’s coterie, as flat, pedantic work ‘with brush strokes that lacked all character.’
His political ambitions burgeoned after the First World War. Using his military career as a decorated, twice-wounded soldier and through shrewd manipulation of Germany’s offended national pride in the post-war period, Hitler ascended rapidly through the political system.
And so the ‘misfit’ with very little education, no notable family genes and no political background created the infamous Third Reich by sheer determination, thundering rhetoric, confidence, will power... and luck.
By the age of 44, he had become a millionaire with secret bank accounts in Switzerland and Holland, and the unrivalled leader of Germany, whose military might he had resurrected.
But Hitler, the superstitious loner, was dogged by his own personal eccentricities and inadequacies. Her grew his distinctive moustache to ‘relieve the effect’ of his ‘big nose’ and initiated the Nazi arm salute because he considered mounted officers ‘cut a wretched figure’ when they used the normal military salute.
Hitler also employed a Jewish clairvoyant (later kidnapped and murdered) as his ‘special’ guru to advise him on his choice of colleagues and speech-making. Along with Goering and Himmler, he also became immersed in occult practices and carefully staged his Nazi rallies in a quasi-religious atmosphere.
Goebbels always vehemently presented him as the ‘German Messiah’ and the Mayor of Hamburg once publicly stated that ‘we can communicate directly to God through Adolf Hitler.’
But Italian dictator Mussolini, who first met Hitler in 1935, was singularly unimpressed by Hitler’s ‘lank, ill-brushed hair and watery eyes,’ contemptuously labelling the German leader as ‘the silly little clown.’
Delaforce’s provocative, accessible and revealing book, packed with startling images, takes us deep into the life and mind of Hitler, allowing us a better understanding of the nature of his influence, and demonstrating just how this deranged man and his motley collection of street brawlers managed to overwhelm Europe and threaten the rest of the world.
(Fonthill Media, paperback, £12.99)