10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Hitler
1. Nazi Rallies were Inspired by Harvard Cheerleaders
Hitler’s good friend, Ernst Hanfstaengl, had been sent to study at Harvard by his parents. When he returned, he described the cheerleaders to Adolf, who became obsessed with the idea of stirring blind enthusiasm in this way. “‘Rah, rah, rah’ became “Sig Heil, Heil Hitler,” Hanfstaengl recalled later. “That is the origin of it, and I suppose I must take my part of the blame.”
2. He was a draft dodger
As an Austrian, he was required to register for the draft at the age of 20. Historians believe that his failure to do this is the reason he changed addresses so frequently in this period. After five years, Austrian authorities finally tracked him to Munich. They returned him to Austria, where he promptly failed his military physical, was judged unfit for combat, and let go.
3. He was a chronic hypochondriac
He feared disease, and diagnosed himself with numerous conditions, mostly intestinal disorders. He treated these with medications containing poisonous wood alcohol, atropine and strychnine, and bacteria cultivated from human feces. He resorted to leeches to lower his blood pressure. And near the end of the war, he became increasingly concerned about “fresh air poisoning.”
4. He became a vegetarian after attending the autopsy of a girlfriend
She killed herself after being actively pursued by Hitler. He was grief stricken, and felt compelled to attend the autopsy. Afterward, he refused to eat meat, and took every opportunity to ruin meat for others. He would often make jokes about preparing a pudding made from his blood, and called beef broth “corpse tea”
5. Hitler enjoyed playing practical jokes on his staff
One of his favorite targets was his foreign minister. He would have a staffer call the minister with the news that Hitler was furious with something he had said. Hitler would listen on the phone, providing further instructions to drive the minister to a nervous breakdown. One prank famously backfired, when he sent Ernst Hanfstaengl into Spain on a plane full of Gestapo, and made him think he was being set up for a suicide mission. Hanfstaengl took an opportunity while refueling to board a train to Switzerland, and before anyone could let him in on the joke, he turned himself in to the Allies, becoming an invaluable source of information.
6. Hitler was an accomplished whistler
He experimented briefly with playing the harmonica and flute, and sang occasionally, but whistling was his best talent. He could whistle loudly and on pitch, and could even reproduce long passages from Wagner with incredible accuracy.
7. He was a rabid fan of cinema
Having been inspired to a life of oratory prowess by the 1910 film The Tunnel, Hitler was a lifelong fan of movies. After gaining power, he regularly held private screenings for his inner circle. His favorite actresses were Greta Garbo and Shirley Temple. He didn’t care for Charlie Chaplin, even before he made The Great Dictator, and it’s doubtful he ever saw it. He also enjoyed King Kong, even taking to celebrating victories by pounding his chest.
8. He had a dainty sweet tooth
Hitler regularly ate up to two pounds of chocolate a day, in addition to pastries and hot chocolate with copious amounts of whipped cream. He generally took his tea with seven teaspoons of sugar, and Ernst Hanfstaengl once witnessed Hitler adding spoonfuls of sugar to a glass of red wine.
9. He is seen in a famous photograph taken at the beginning of World War One
It is a picture taken by Heinrich Hoffman, who incidentally would later become Hitler’s personal photographer, on the day Germany declared war on Russia in 1914. Hitler can be seen, just an anonymous face in the crowd, clearly very excited by the prospect of war.
He would serve as a dispatch runner in the war, thriving on the terrible conditions at the front, before mustard gas damaged his vocal chords, forcing Hitler to learn to speak again.
10. His dog had a rather large effect on his war policy
Hitler was very proud of his German Shepherd named Blondi. He spent countless hours training her, and would even interrupt meetings with generals to practice her tricks. The generals realized that if Blondi did well, Hitler was in a better mood, and more likely to take their advice. If she did poorly, he would become sullen and stubborn. One of the officers later said, “I sometimes had the impression that the outcome of the Russian campaign depended more on Blondi than the German general staff.