The story of the making of Adolf Hitler that we are all familiar with is the one Hitler himself wove in his 1924 trial, and then expanded upon in Mein Kampf. It tells of his rapid emergence as National Socialist leader in 1919, and of how he successfully rallied most of Munich and the majority of Bavaria's establishment to support the famous beer-hall putsch of 1923. It is an account which has largely been taken at face value for over ninety years. Yet, on closer examination, Hitler's account of his experiences in the years immediately following the First World War turns out to be every bit as unreliable as his account of his experiences as a soldier during the war itself.
In Becoming Hitler, Thomas Weber continues from where he left off in his previous book, Hitler's First War, stripping away the layers of myth and fabrication in Hitler's own tale to tell the real story of Hitler's politicization and radicalization in post-First World War Munich. It is the gripping account of how an awkward and unemployed loner with virtually no recognizable leadership qualities and fluctuating political ideas turned into the charismatic, self-assured, virulently anti-Semitic leader with an all-or-nothing approach to politics with whom the world was soon to become tragically familiar. As Weber clearly shows, far from the picture of a fully-formed political leader which Hitler wanted to portray in Mein Kampf, his ideas and priorities were still very uncertain and largely undefined in early 1919 — and they continued to shift until 1923.
It was the failed Ludendorff putsch of November 1923 - and the subsequent Ludendorff trial — which was to prove the making of Hitler. And he was not slow to spot the opportunity that it offered. As the movers and shakers of Munich's political scene tried to blame everything on him in the course of the trial, Hitler was presented with a golden opportunity to place himself at the centre of attention, turning what had been the 'Ludendorff trial' into the 'Hitler trial'. Henceforth, he would no longer be merely a local Bavarian political leader. From now on, he would present himself as a potential 'national saviour'. In the months after the trial, Hitler cemented this myth by writing Mein Kampf from his comfortable prison cell. His years of metamorphosis were now behind him. His years as Führer were soon to come.
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