Andrew James John Mackenzie
an historiography
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Adolf Hitler, Draft Dodger

National socialist propaganda, over the course of the entire Third Reich Germania, was a matter of glorifying and honouring the First World War, attributing blame for the German defeat on ‘defeatists’, ‘pacifists’ and ‘Untermenschen’. The glorious leader himself, the Führer, winner of the Iron Cross, First Class, was ever portrayed as a war hero, a staunch believer of the ‘stab in the back’ and an advocate of aggressive expansion through warfare. However, it is surprising perhaps to learn that before the beginning of the First World War, in the year of 1913, Adolf Hitler was arrested for dodging the Austrian military draft.

On 18 January 1914, a German police detective arrived at the Munich apartment of one Adolf Hietler, a 24 year old Austrian artist who had fled the Hapsburg realm in May 1913 in order to avoid military service in Austria-Hungary. During this time, Imperial Germany and the Austria-Hungarian Empire had an agreement between themselves to repatriate members of society that failed to turn up for military service. In so doing, Adolf Hitler (as he chose to spell his name) was arrested on the grounds of draft dodging and taken to the Austrian consulate, where he was ordered to report to his hometown of Linz, Austria, for a subsequent fitness exam.


It transpired that a turbulent and thoroughly ambitious man with a fanatical opposition to regular work habits, Adolf Hitler was never prepared to engage in regular, menial work let alone the tedium of military drill and barracks life. He was quite willing, therefore, to lie as best as he could to ensure avoidance. In response to the charges put towards him, Hitler addressed a letter to Austrian officials, pleading the defence of poverty, ignorance, and extenuating circumstances in order to deter the measures set against him.


A passage of the letter read as follows:


“The main reason making it impossible for me to honor your summons is that it has not been possible for me to muster the sum necessary for such a journey at such short notice…While it is true that I am earning my keep as a painter, I do so only since I am entirely without assets (my father was a government official)… Therefore my earnings are extremely modest, just sufficient for subsistence purposes.”

Naturally, the letter was one of complete fabrication; Hitler wasn’t actually poor, having inherited legacies from both his parents as well as an aunt, he just chose to live in squaler because it was cheap and helped ensure his avoidance from work.


Perhaps the most telling reason behind the draft dodge was the multi-cultural and relative ethnic diversity within the Hapsburg army at the time. Hitler was embittered to the commission of Slavs, Jewish persons together with Hungarians, Italians and Romanians, all of whom were found within the Austrian armed forces throughout the Austria-Hungarian Empire.


The idea that the Great War hero was indicted for draft dodging is a telling one. It just goes to show the lengths to which Adolf Hitler went to expound upon his ideals and beliefs, even if they were for want of idleness.




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