When Adolf Hitler rose to power, he began a systematic liquidation of documents that shed any light on his earlier life, the better to compose his own legend. This is why Hitler-related documents from the pre-Nazi era are so rare today.
The first is a 1916 post card that just surfaced during a Europeana digital project road show event in Munich. A hospitalized Hitler had written it to a regimental pal Karl Lanzhammer, promising his speedy recovery and voluntary return to the front.
Armchair psychologists make much of this postcard. They claim, for instance that Hitler’s desire to return to the front voluntarily as soon as he could is a sign of — fill in whatever psychological baggage appeals to you today — . Ditto for he fact that Hitler apparently didn’t keep in touch with his family and his pre-war acquaintances, only with his army buddies; ergo he saw the army as his real home, ergo there are all kinds of psychological implications, etc. etc. I myself say 20-20 hindsight bunk, but okay. People are free to think.
The second document, which gives an ominous preview of Hitler’s perspective on the so-called Jewish Question, was revealed in June 2011 by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Unlike any other document concerning Jews, it actually contains his signature.
Hitler created the document, dated September 16, 1919, while assigned to a German Army propaganda unit, as a result of an order to articulate the German Army’s position on Jews. He concluded that the German government’s final goal must be Entfernung der Juden (removal of Jews). He identified Judaism as a race, not a religion, that has been preserved “through a thousand years of inbreeding” and is only concerned with “the pursuit of money and power….The result of which is that a non-German race lives among us with its feelings, thoughts and aspirations, while having all the same rights as we do.” And: “To accomplish these goals, only a government of national power is capable and never a government of national weakness.”
Parenthetically, Hitler was also spying on the German Workers Party at the time. This was a tiny group, founded only six months earlier from members of the Free Workers’ Committee for a Good Peace. He was invited to join, took it over withing a year, and built in into the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP, or Nazi party). The NSDAP would give him the “government of strength” that he wanted and, before three decades’s end, he would come very close to his stated goal of Entfernung der Juden.
The document, which puts post-paid to all denier claims that Hitler didn’t know about the Holocaust because he never signed anything related to it, is now on permanent display at the Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.