The Hitler Puzzle

All of the major biographers devote only a minuscule part of the volume of their works to the first half of Hitler’s life. Konrad Heiden, one of the first biographers, gave only 95 pages of his 788-page biography over to this crucial period. Alan Bullock managed just 54 of 868 pages. And the list continues: John Toland (89 of 1031 pages), Ernst Deuerlein (43 of 179 pages), Werner Maser (176 of 529 pages), Joachim Fest (125 of 1198 pages) and finally Ian Kershaw, the most recent biographer, with a mere 165 of a total of 2312 pages on the life of Adolf Hitler. It comes as no surprise that none of these biographers offers a satisfactory answer to the “Hitler puzzle”, the why and how behind the sudden metamorphosis of an insignificant unknown into a towering - and gruesome - historical figure. Young Hitler takes a fundamentally different approach: it focuses on Hitler’s early days and intentionally covers just the first thirty years of his life: from his birth to his first appearance as a political leader in 1920. Rather than trying to evade the seemingly unanswerable question behind his meteoric rise, Young Hitler focuses on the extraordinary and epoch-making metamorphosis of its protagonist.

While biographers may have disregarded Hitler’s early life story, there does in fact exist a wealth of data relating to this period. Countless historians, psychologists, sociologists, psychiatrists, philosophers, art historians, and other academic researchers have amassed a plethora of information that covers all conceivable aspects of the first part of Hitler’s life, down to the most insignificant detail. The more I learned about the transformation of the young Hitler into the Hitler we all know, the more I realized that, to approach this enigma, I had to look at the entire picture, i.e. piece the puzzle together and collate all of the different data accumulated by the various researchers over the past decades concerning the psychological, sociological, political, cultural, religious and historical facts that ultimately make up young Hitler's life.

It was then a matter of conveying the picture that emerges from the complexity of this enormous volume of information in a way that was still accessible. Writing an ordinary non-fiction book and recounting the many facts that layer young Hitler's life would have resulted in a daunting reading experience. The essence, the reasons behind Hitler’s transformation, would have been buried beneath an avalanche of information. Similarly, a novel was clearly not an option. After all, the insights that had been gained after years of research were based, not on a writer's imagination, but on verifiable facts. So I settled for a “non-fiction novel”, a narrative form in which individual scenes are envisioned solely to animate the scientifically established facts.

Audience 1921 seen from Hitler's viewpoint

Audience 1921 seen from Hitler's viewpoint

I feel that this narrative form is the ideal way to communicate the relevant information as it allows my readers to re-enact in their minds what I have learned from extensive research. I can spare my readers the chore of absorbing the massive body of details that weighs down the huge amount of corresponding academic literature, leaving my audience free to focus on the essentials instead.

The text comes with reference numbers that point to a detailed appendix where the relevant research is summarised. Any readers wishing to know more about certain details can consult the appendix. An explanation of what is fact and what is fiction within this non-fiction novel is provided on a separate page.