The brutal tyrant rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and then as Fuhrer in 1934, during which time he initiated World War 2 and allowed the slaughter of six million Jews under the Holocaust. Hitler was born to a practising Catholic mother and was baptised in the Roman Catholic Church. He publicly expressed favourable opinions towards Christianity in Mein Kampf, but progressively distanced himself from it later in life and some experts describe his latter posture as being potentially “anti-Christian”.
But a historian discovered a secret, second autobiography that he said was “almost certainly” written by Hitler himself which potentially provides an even deeper, twisted insight into his mind.
Published in 1923, ‘Adolf Hitler: Sein Leben und seine Reden’ (Adolf Hitler: His Life and his Speeches) was the first major profile of the would-be dictator and appeared under the name of north German aristocrat Victor von Koerber.
Professor Thomas Weber, from the University of Aberdeen, unearthed compelling evidence – including signed testimony – hidden in a South African archive which he says reveals the real author as Hitler.
He said: “The book, which also includes a collection of Hitler’s speeches, makes some outlandish claims arguing that it should become ‘the new bible of today’ and uses terms such as ‘holy’ and ‘deliverance’, comparing Hitler to Jesus likening his moment of politicisation to Jesus’ resurrection.
The book paints a very different picture of Hitler’s early life
Adolf Hitler rose to power in the Thirties
“To find it was actually written by Hitler himself not only demonstrates that he was a conniving political operator with a masterful understanding of political processes and narratives long before he drafted what is regarded as his first autobiography, Mein Kampf, but also challenges the accepted view that at this stage in his life he did not see himself as the man to lead the German revolution.
“The image of Hitler that has been conveyed in recent years is of someone who even once he had entered the Nazi Party was really doing the bidding for someone else – a gift to propaganda to attract populist support – and that it was only in the writing of Mein Kampf several years later that he came to believe he could be the saviour or German messiah.
“The fact Hitler wrote the biography and collated the speeches himself and put it together under a different name speaks to the fact that at a much earlier time he saw himself in this ‘saviour’ role and that he started in a very manipulative way to plot his way to the top.”
Professor Weber says the discovery of this “shameless but clever act of self-promotion” is significant because the biography played a crucial role in helping Hitler to build his profile among the more conservative elements of German society in anticipation of an imminent national revolution.
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He believes this is the reason that von Koerber was handpicked for the role and introduced to Hitler by General Erich Ludendorff.
He added: “Von Koerber was a blue-eyed and blonde East-German aristocrat, military hero and writer.
“This made him the perfect candidate to present a biography of Hitler as it implied that the Nazi leader was already in receipt of widespread support among traditional conservatives.”
Professor Weber made the discovery while carrying out research for a book on how Hitler rose to power.
He continued: “While completing my book, I stumbled across a reference to von Koerber’s private papers at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
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Hitler reportedly compared himself to Jesus
Hitler later wrote Mein Kampf
“Once I had flown to South Africa, it quickly became apparent that surprisingly they had not previously been investigated in this context.
“Going through his papers, I soon realised that von Koerber, who later broke with the Nazis, had merely been a front for the profile and not its real author.
“I found a signed testimony given under oath by the wife of the book’s publisher stating that Victor von Koerber had not written the book and that Hitler had asked General Ludendorff if he could find a conservative writer without any connection to the Nazi party to put his name to it.
“I also found a statement by Koerber as well as a letter he wrote to a man with whom he had been incarcerated in a concentration camp that gave details about Hitler’s authorship of the book.
“Subsequently, in Germany, I found a document from 1938 in which von Koerber alludes to Hitler writing the book, stating that it was written ‘on the initiative of and with the active participation of Adolf Hitler.’”
Professor Weber said he had further evidence to support his theory.
He added in 2016: “The 1923 book also bears a striking similarity to a letter Hitler had written in late 1921 to introduce himself to a major donor to the party and contains the first references to his time in a military hospital after World War 1 as his period of political awakening, which would later be repeated in almost identical language in Mein Kampf.
“Taken together, the pieces of evidence now available to us build a compelling picture that this was indeed an autobiography written to boost Hitler’s profile as the ‘German saviour’ and that even at this early stage of his career he was an astute and manipulative political operator.”
‘Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi’ was published in 2017 by OUP Oxford and is available here.