An early biography praising Adolf Hitler, credited to German aristocrat Baron Adolf Victor von Koerber, was in fact written by Hitler himself, according to a researcher from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
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“Adolf Hitler: His Life and His Speeches” was published in mid-1923, shortly before Hitler's abortive Beer Hall Putsch in Munich and two years before the publication of Hitler's magnum opus "Mein Kampf."
It proclaimed Hitler, then no more than a beer hall attraction, as the savior of the German nation and even compared him to Jesus, according to an article in the New York Times.
It was previously thought that Hitler turned to von Koerber to write the book, because he thought that the aristocrat's conservative credentials and lack of links with the Nazi Party would help legitimize him as a leader.
According to the new research, however, Hitler wrote the book himself, suggesting he had designs on taking power earlier than many historians have previously thought – and that he manipulated public opinion in order to achieve it.
"It’s 1923, and Hitler suddenly decides he needs to boost his national profile,” said Thomas Weber, a professor of history and international affairs at the university, who bases his argument that Hitler was the true author of the biography on documents he discovered among von Koerber’s archival papers.
“He brings out a book in anticipation of revolution,” Weber said in an interview with the newspaper, “and we see here a political operator who understands the political process extremely well and knows how to produce a narrative for the kind of leader only he feels he can be.
“So he does not have to expressly say, ‘I want to be leader.’ He creates the expectation that others will call him to become the leader."
Weber came across von Koerber's papers in Johannesburg, South Africa, while researching his new book, “Metamorphosis: How Adolf Hitler Became a Nazi,” which is due to be published next year.
Von Koerber, who became disenchanted with Nazism, was arrested on July 21, 1944, the day after an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Hitler, and spent the rest of the war in a Gestapo prison and then a concentration camp. He died in Johannesburg in 1969.
Weber's thesis about Hitler's authorship of the biography was supported by other researchers. "I’m convinced from the presented sources that Hitler himself wrote this short text or gave at least the basic information to an editor,” said Sven Felix Kellerhoff, author of a recent book on “Mein Kampf” and a senior editor at the German newspaper Die Welt.
“This is important because it shows that Hitler thought about himself as the ‘German savior’ as early as 1923. So I think this is a small but important advance in researching Hitler’s biography.”