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Adolf Hitler was born on 20 April in the small Austrian town of Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria on the Austrian-German border.

His father, Alois, was a customs official while his mother, Klara, came from a poor peasant family. Life was financially comfortable for the Hitler family but Alois was a domineering character and young Adolf frequently found himself on the wrong side of his father's short temper. At primary school Hitler was a clever, popular child. At secondary school he withdrew psychologically, preferring to re-enact battles from the Boer War than study. He left school with no qualifications at 16.

Hitler dreamt of a career as an artist. His father had rejected the idea but after he died in 1903 Hitler would try to make his dream a reality.

He applied to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts but was promptly rejected in October 1907. Shortly after, Hitler's beloved mother died. He moved to Vienna and scratched out a precarious bohemian existence sleeping in hostels and painting postcards. Here he began to develop many of the views which would later characterise his ideology and desire to unite Germany and Austria. The anti-Semitic politics of Vienna's mayor, Karl Lueger, were particularly influential.

Hitler hated the multi-ethnic composition of Austria's ruling Habsburg Empire. Determined to avoid military service, he moved to Munich in 1913.

Hitler was keen to prove his loyalty to Germany. In August 1914 the world plunged into a war unlike any seen before. Hitler quickly enlisted. In the army he finally found purpose; a cause with which he could wholly identify. Serving in both France and Belgium, he was twice decorated for bravery. In 1916, Hitler was wounded at the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Convalescing in Germany, he affected a distinctive toothbrush moustache.

Hitler was wounded for a second time following a British gas attack. While recovering in Pasewalk, the unthinkable happened – Germany surrendered.

Before the surrender, facing serious discontent at home and the prospect of defeat at the front, Germany's High Command sought to shift the blame. The majority parties in the Reichstag were handed a poisoned chalice. They were given more power but implicated in the impending defeat. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated days before Armistice. Like others, Hitler was enraged by what he saw as the betrayal of an undefeated German Army by Jews and socialists at home. He resolved to go into politics.

To the victors the spoils: when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in summer 1919, Germany was forced to accept sole responsibility for the war.

Just as damaging, the peace obliged Germany to pay large amounts in reparations. The huge loss of territory it also dictated came as a devastating blow. Hitler bitterly resented it. Defeat and then humiliation at Versailles challenged his whole sense of worth. Still in the army, Hitler was sent to report on an emerging far-right group, the German Workers' Party (later renamed the Nazi Party). Finding he agreed with their…


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