Adolf Hitler went to extraordinary lengths to suppress the secrets of his youth and family, an extraordinary book on the dictator's childhood has revealed.

At the age of 12 he was an angry bully who had no friends, failed math and history, and only liked to draw.

As a teen he had believed "dark forces" ruled his life, and as a young man he became a dirty, dishevelled tramp with an unruly beard, shoulder-length hair and the soles of his shoes so thin, he replaced them with paper, according to the Daily Mail.

Growing up, Hitler had a growing resentment of his father who did not support his dream to become an artist. Photo / Getty Images
Growing up, Hitler had a growing resentment of his father who did not support his dream to become an artist. Photo / Getty Images

Adolf Hitler said himself in Mein Kampf, he had to alter the disturbing details of his adolescence, his depraved youth, and life as a homeless crank before serving in the military in WWI.

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All those angry years as a ranting, solitary young man needed to be amended in order to transform him into a legend and messiah-like figure.

"After he was elected chancellor, Hitler went to extraordinary lengths to suppress the facts about his youth – even ordering the execution of an "art dealer" who had befriended him as a young man and who threatened to reveal unsavoury details of his early life in Vienna", writes Paul Ham in Young Hitler: The Making of the Führer, published by Pegasus Books.

Adolf Hitler's father, Alois, was born to an unmarried farmer's daughter, Maria Schicklgruber, who was impregnated possibly by a blood relative.

The Schicklgrubers were poor farmers who had so little money that they sometimes slept in a cattle trough for lack of a bed.

Maria later married a poor miller's assistant, Johann Hiedler and at age 39, Alois adopted the surname of "Hitler" – a variant of Hiedler – to distance himself from his impoverished past and the name Schicklgruber.

He then claimed he was the son of Johann Hitler – and not a Schicklgruber.

This was the first lie that was made official in the parish directory. Legitimising Adolf's father erased the greatest impediment to his prospects as a politician.

Alois married his housemaid Klara, his third wife who was 24 years younger. He was a brute and a boor who spent more time in the local tavern than at home, where he regularly beat their son, Adolf, Ham writes.

Hitler, right, as a young dispatch runner on the Western Front, with his beloved dog Fox. Photo / Young Hitler: The Making of the Fuhrer
Hitler, right, as a young dispatch runner on the Western Front, with his beloved dog Fox. Photo / Young Hitler: The Making of the Fuhrer

The family constantly changed homes and villages before settling in Bavaria, on the German side of the Austrian border in 1892.

Klara coddled her son and took care of Alois's two children from his second marriage but it was Adolf she smothered with love.

Adolf hated his father - feelings which manifested in temper tantrums well into adulthood.

Klara gave birth to a second son, Edmund in 1894 and two years later, a little girl, Paula. Adolf was 9 years old and resented not being the only child.

The family moved to just outside of Linz, Austria in 1898, where Adolf's younger brother died of measles, restoring Adolf's status as his mother's only son.

However, that did not abate his hatred for his father that he expressed in his attitude toward teachers and classmates.

He turned to the western novels of German Karl May and stories of cowboys and Indians, and recruited younger boys into playing shoot 'em up games with him.

Now he became even more imperious and heartless with no friends and listened to no one. He'd fly into a rage over any triviality.

The only teacher he liked was Dr Leopold Poetsch, who taught history with "stirring tales of Germany's heroic past".

It was Poetsch who "activated his nascent pride in a Greater Germany and seeded the idea of Jews and Slavs as not only undesirable aliens but also as inferior races".

Adolf's dream was to be a "great artist", a worthless future criticised by his father.

When Alois died at his local cafe in 1903, the family was relieved.

Adolf continued to fulfill his father's low expectations. He was expelled from one school, dropped out of the second school, and then abandoned all formal education at age 16.

He told his mother that his final school report had blown out of the window of the train when in fact he had used it as toilet paper.

The making of the Fuhrer: Adolf Hitler (pictured in 1933) had to lie about his background and upbringing to transform himself into a powerful leader. Photo / Getty Images
The making of the Fuhrer: Adolf Hitler (pictured in 1933) had to lie about his background and upbringing to transform himself into a powerful leader. Photo / Getty Images

Adolf frittered away his time pursuing "a life of leisure". As a teen he lived in a fantasy world imagining he was a genius who would redesign the city of Linz.

A former teacher, Dr Eduard Huemer, recalled Hitler as "stubborn, high-handed, dogmatic, and hot tempered, prone to playing pranks on other boys", Ham quotes Jetzinger.

He hated school, his schoolmates, his teachers and blamed them all for his failure — as well as the Catholic Church and a school priest who had offended him.

When he quit school, he loafed and refused to help his mother. He was above being a labourer.

Hitler had one childhood friend, August "Gustl" Kubizek, who later wrote a memoir detailing their very "lopsided relationship", dominated by Hitler who continually berated his one and only friend, a shy and talented musician, for his conventional ideas.

"Hitler was the braggart and poser, Kubizek, the self-effacing acolyte and patient listener", writes Ham.

It was an audience of one for the bossy, self-important and aggressive Hitler who twirled a small black cane.

Adolf was obsessed with "dark forces" he believed intervened in his life. When he lost the lottery, he attributed that loss to those mysterious dark forces as well as the lottery organisers and government who clearly had rigged the outcome against him, Kubizek wrote in his book, The Young Hitler I Knew.

"Harmless things, like a couple of hasty words, could make him explode with anger".

"All he wanted from me, was one thing – agreement", writes Kubizek describing his friend's "gusts of unbroken verbiage" about art, the city's design, the bridge over the Danube, the underground railway system and any performance of a Wagner opera.

With a rising fury, Hilter astonished his friend with these tempestuous bursts.

"Such rapture I had only witnessed so far in the theatre, when an actor had to express some violent emotions", Kubicek detailed.

These garrulous outbursts lacked all compassion, humility and wit.

What was extraordinary to Gustl Kubizek about his friend was his eyes.

"Never in my life have I seen any other person whose appearance was so completely dominated by the eyes ... In fact, Adolf spoke with his eyes, and even when his lips were silent one knew what he wanted to say", Kubicek remembered.

Those eyes were stronger than his facial features — thin lips, fleshy nostrils and faint facial hair.

Kubicek's mother remembered those eyes as "shining, blank and cruel".

Early in 1906, Hitler confessed to Gustl that he was in love with the tall, blonde Stefanie Isak he often saw walking in Linz.

She was Jewish but Ham writes that Hitler "showed few signs of antisemitism at this time, partly because he simply gave the matter little thought", quoting a BBC documentary, The Making of Hitler.

Young Hitler: The Making of the Führer, reveals the disturbing details of the German dictator's childhood.
Young Hitler: The Making of the Führer, reveals the disturbing details of the German dictator's childhood.

Hitler presumed Stefanie reciprocated his feelings and adored him with the same passion. He wrote letters and poems to her that he never mailed and she had no clue he even existed.

He was too shy to speak to her and enlisted Gustl to spy on her for him.

Gustl observed that Stefanie loved waltzing and had several suitors. He advised Hitler to take dancing lessons which only enraged him because he loathed dancing.

He later described the waltz as "much too effeminate for a man", Ham quotes German writer Hanfstaengl.

"I shall never dance!" he told Gustl. "Stefanie only dances because she is forced to by society on which she unfortunately depends. Once she is my wife, she won't have the slightest desire to dance."

With no notice from Stefanie, Hitler's jealousy drove him to contemplate suicide by jumping in the Danube.

"Either that or he would kidnap her and force her to marry him", his friend wrote.

For four years, Hitler fantasised Stefanie as the "purest dream of his life" — and never was a word exchanged in those years.

When Hitler moved to Vienna in pursuit of a failed art career, he sent her an unsigned postcard declaring his love and that she should wait for him.

"He was going to return and marry me", Stefanie is quoted. She had no clue who he even was when she received the postcard.

That fantasy of Hitler's evaporated when she married an officer stationed in Linz.

Hitler's obsession turned to Wagner's operas and he believed that Rienzi, the hero in Rienzi: The Last of the Tribunes, was "sending him a psychic message to lead the German people out of darkness."

Determined to make a go of it as an artist, he took exams for the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna but failed.

When his mother died of breast cancer in 1907, he had lost "the only person he loved", writes the author.

Now his anger was directed at the graduates of the Art Academy, the wider artistic movement and counterparts in architecture and music and poetry he viewed as "the sounds and scenes of a monstrous decadence".

He turned back to opera and "his moods oscillated between fury and despair, lethargy and anxiety", Gustl wrote.

He was obsessed with
He was obsessed with "dark forces" he believed intervened in his life and blamed them for losing the lottery and other misfortunes. Photo / Getty Images

Hitler never learned to read music or write music but told his friend he was writing an opera. It was all fantasy since he wasn't earning any money and sinking further into his own bleak poverty and living on the street. He refused to work as an ordinary labourer.

His anger turned on politicians in Vienna seeing the poverty surrounding him. He slept on park benches and scrounged for food.

He had become "a dirty, dishevelled tramp, unrecognisable from the debonair dandy of Linz".

He was "notoriously dirty even among the destitute and in danger of being expelled from the hostel as too unkempt".

The vagrant, Reinhold Hanisch, whose bad luck it was to sleep in the shelter's adjoining bed, recalled the tramp whose feet were bleeding from walking the streets and who said he was a painter dispossessed by his landlady.

"Hitler had been reduced to a beggar, preying on misfits and drunks," writes the author.

As Führer, Hitler would go to murderous lengths to suppress any account of his "lost" years, and in 1936 ordered Hanisch "hunted down and killed".

But it was Hanish who 18 years earlier, insinuated himself into Hitler's life and suggested he paint postcards that Hanish would then sell to tourists.

These little pictures of street scenes, buildings, and monuments sold well and Hitler won commissions to sketch consumer products like hair tonic, mattress stuffing, soap, and an antiperspirant powder.

Hanisch soon tired of Hitler's bombastic speeches about a world ruled by Germany, ended their friendship when Hitler accused him of short-changing him on a picture and reported him to the police. That cost Hanisch a week in jail.

Hitler later claimed he knew "many beautiful women in Vienna" and loved "big blonde" girls.

His ideal woman was "a cute, cuddly, naïve little thing – tender, sweet and stupid."

Sexual intercourse horrified him – as well as the idea of syphilis. Celibacy appealed to his hatred of decadence and homosexuality disgusted him.

According to his old friend, Kubizek, he even refrained from masturbating.

All of it was a cover for his fear of sexual inadequacy.

A candid photograph of Eva Braun with Adolf Hitler at the dining table. Photo / Getty Images
A candid photograph of Eva Braun with Adolf Hitler at the dining table. Photo / Getty Images

Hitler's life and faith was focused on Germany with the idea of Germany as Saviour of Europe and the German people - an idea that germinated in his youth and heated up when Germany signed the Armistice – in 1918.

His greatest champion had always been Count Otto von Bismarck, who had unified Germany in 1871, hated social democracy, non-Germans, and believed in secular rule over the Catholic Church.

He was Hitler's inspiration through those angry early years.

Another lie he penned in Mein Kampf was that he left Vienna with a violent hatred of the Jewish people.

In fact, two of his close friends were Jews. And they were the biggest buyers of his postcards that kept him from dire poverty.

His antisemitism during that period was only that the orthodox Jews in their traditional black kaftans, broad hats, beards and tassles, provoked a morbid curiosity and not hatred.

This fabrication that he was always antiseptic, was contrived years later "to enhance his political ambitions", according to Ham, and "an attempt to validate retrospectively his life from impoverished artist to political thinking to revolutionary leader".

The truth was that his murderous hatred of the Jewish people stemmed from his fear that the Jewish race posed a serious threat to his Aryan fantasy that Germany would be great again.

Years later, he softened his anti-Catholicism when expedient and turned his wrath on a single target – the Jews.

Hitler moved from Vienna to Munich in 1913 – as a "draft dodger" on the run.

In another lie in Mein Kampf, he blamed his flight on Vienna's racial diversity and degradation.

People close to Hitler said he was ill-tempered and
People close to Hitler said he was ill-tempered and "harmless things, like a couple of hasty words, could make him explode with anger".

Back in his hometown of Linz, he had not responded to the call to military service and Linz police tracked him down, threatened a possible jail term and heavy fine.

The homeless Hitler pleaded poverty. He hired a lawyer and argued that at that time, he had "no other companion but eternally gnawing hunger".

When he was examined, he was declared medically "unfit for military service" – "unsuitable for combat and support duty, too weak, and incapable of firing weapons".

This was yet another truth he would later attempt to hide.

The orphaned, unemployed, and friendless 24-year-old was rescued from himself when Germany declared war on Russia at the start of WWI.

Hitler volunteered for the German army and was rejected. He tried again and was accepted as a trained infantryman.

Hitler had found a home, a cause, regular employment, and comradeship.

"The war would be the greatest and most unforgettable time of my earthly existence", he later said.

He served four days as a foot soldier and then a dispatch runner delivering orders from headquarters to commanders nearer the front line.

Never was he in "a muddy, rat-infested dugout under constant bombardment".

His regiment was a motley assortment of homeless misfits, romantic students, unemployed workers, idealists and Pan-Germans like Hitler.

When the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, Germany had lost the war on the front line.

In four years, 37 million people were killed or wounded.

A white-hot hatred exploded in Hitler for those who signed the armistice. He longed for a future ruled by a Greater Germany.

"Post war Germany performed the role of Dr Frankenstein to cranks, extremists and criminals and provided a man like Hitler a launch pad and a breeding ground", writes the author who warns it could happen again here with young fascists signing up for organised oppression – and vilifying "Muslims" or "Jews" or Mexicans – and all the while failing to deal with the deep economic trauma that is the true scourge of the West.