Young Hitler – Claus Hant

I have recently developed an interest in the psychology behind people who commit acts of evil and so I jumped at the chance to read this book.

Young Hitler is a non-fiction novel showing Hitler’s life as a teenager and young man through the eyes of his best friend.  This was a fantastic device as it allowed us to see his actions and hear his words, but never know exactly what was going through his mind. This meant that many of his actions were open to interpretation, allowing to reader to come to their own conclusions about Hilter’s motivations.

‘No, sir! I live in a world of ideas!’ retorted Dolferl.

‘A mask is an idea,’ countered Herr Maurer. ‘Think of it as an idea that allows you to say and do anything you want amongst strangers who are also posing as ideas. Therefore, everyone and everything is on an equal footing. I find masks allow for a greater exchange of ideas and … everything.’

‘I don’t need any mask to hide behind,’ declared Dorlferl.

‘Then find a mask instead that allows you to become more of who you are,’ replied Herr Maurer.

‘I have that already,’ said Dolferl, pointing to his face. ‘I say whatever I want to whomever I want. And I allow that person the privilege of looking me directly in the eye. And sometimes that, my gracious host, is the most effective mask of all.’

The book was very easy to read and became increasingly gripping as it progressed. I knew very little about Hitler’s early life and so found the details fascinating. It also taught me a bit more about the history of Germany leading up to WWII.

My only problem with this book was that it was a non-fiction novel and there were times, especially in the beginning, when it was more non-fiction than novel. The book was meticulously researched, even including 150 pages of appendices to validate the facts, but there were times when I felt that every tiny detail known about Hitler had to be included. These random details sometimes got in the way of the story and I felt that a few more of these facts should have been left in the appendices.

Overall this was a fascinating book. It is a must-read for anyone interested in Hitler or the causes of WWII, but I think that this insight into Hitler’s life will be of interest to a far wider audience.

Highly recommended.

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  1. Verity says:

    This sounds intriguing – I would have enjoyed that whilst studying Hitler at school and University! I may have to find a copy to take on my honeymoon as we are planning to visit Hitler’s mountain retreat in Austria!

    Sorry it has been so long since I have commented on your blog.

    1. Jackie says:

      Veruty, Its great to see you back in the blogging world. I’ve missed you. :-)

      This is a must read book for anyone studying Hitler and I think it would be great to read this in Austria. I hope you manage to get hold of a copy.

      1. Verity says:

        I’m wondering though if it is feel good enough for a honeymoon – lol. Mind you, what are we doing, planning to visit the mountain retreat.

        Been so busy and have busy term ahead but hope the be back around a bit more – I have, believe it or not, been reading your posts everyday on my mobile, but it is so difficult to comment (as it’s just an old nokia) that I don’t.

        1. Jackie says:

          Verity, LOL! Sorry – you’re right. Probably not the best subject for a honeymoon ;-)

          Don’t worry about not commenting – I have been away a lot over the Summer and have read most posts, but commenting via phone is so frustrating that I’ve given up too!

  2. Violet says:

    I don’t know a lot about Hitler too but I am very intrigued by him. I tried reading his autobiography but it was too tedious. Glad this book was good. I’ll keep it in mind.

    1. Jackie says:

      Violet, I didn’t even know he had an autobiography! I can see from this book that he might be a tedious author, but I assure you that this book is easy to read. I think you’d like it.

      1. Verity says:

        It’s called Mein Kampf and is full of political exposition…I’d stick to a decent biography, the Ian Kershaw one is pretty good, as is the Alan Bullock but the latter is a little dated.

        1. I would agree with Verity. Mein Kampf is virtually unreadable, even ignoring the views espoused in it. The Kershaw biography is excellent and there is now a one volume edition of it. I first read the Bullock biography at school and still think it is worth a go. Another “classic” biography of Hitler is by Joachim Fest. I’ve not read it but have read some of his other books and I suspect this would be a worthwhile read also.

          1. Jackie says:

            Verity/Falaise, I have heard of Mein Kampf, knew it was about Hitler, but for some reason didn’t realise he wrote it – another good fact to know for the pub quizzes :-)

            I’m not a big fan of biographies – the emotional element is normally missing and that is why I like these non-fiction novels so much more. Perhaps I’ll be more tolerant of non-fiction now I know a bit more about the subject.

  3. Sandy says:

    I am all over this. If you want to read a very clever book about Hitler’s youth, you should read Norman Mailer’s Castle in the Forest (it may have been his last published work before he died, but I’m not sure). The book is narrated by one of the devil’s minions assigned to “groom” Hitler from birth. Actual historical fact is built into the story, but when it is mixed with Mailer’s killer, dry wit, it is brilliant. I thought so anyway. Thanks for the review!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I haven’t heard of Mailer’s book, but it sounds like something I’d really enjoy. I’ll keep an eye out for it – thank you :-)

  4. Amy says:

    I’ve been intrigued with this book since I first heard about it, but for some reason haven’t picked it up yet. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, It is as good as it sounds. I hope that you are able to read it at some point.

  5. Meghan says:

    This sounds like an interesting read to me. I’m also very intrigued by the psychology and history behind people who do horrible things. How did he decide such things were okay – and worth convincing other people to do? I’ll be looking out for this one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Meghan, This book did go some way to showing us why he did the things he did. I guess we’ll never know what he was thinking, but I do feel I understand Hitler a bit more now.

  6. sakura says:

    This sounds fascinating especially since when I studied him at school we were told that we mustn’t think of him as an evil madman. He wasn’t mad but he was capable of such evil. Difficult concept to get around when you’re young. I’ve been watching ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ on telly which often touches on the Holocaust and it always makes me want to know how someone can become that way.

    1. Jackie says:

      sakura, I think we were taught that he was mad in school :-( He was a very intelligent man, radicalised by various events in his life and reading books like this provide valuable lessons for us all – someone like him could surface again if we aren’t careful. Scary stuff.

  7. Jackie,

    This does sound intriguing, although I’m not normally a great fan of “faction” – I think I find the blurred boundaries between fact and fiction irritating. If you are interested in how historians have looked at Hitler’s psychology, you might try “Exploring history” by Ron Rosenbaum. It is a great overview of the various theories of Hitler’s character and written for a generalist readership.


    1. Jackie says:

      Falise, I can understand why you find the blurring between fact and fiction irritating, but I don’t think you’ll have a problem with this book. There are very detailed appendices which explain exactly which parts are true and give lots of additional information.

      Thanks for the recommendation. I am interested in Hitler’s psychology and so I’ll see if I can find a copy in my library :-)

  8. stujallen says:

    I really enjoyed this book toom Jackie a wonderful insight in to the man his make up and Claus research is amazing he seems to have looked at every point of his life ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I agree. The research that went into this book was outstanding. The appendices were like a whole other book. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who loved it.

  9. Amy says:

    I meant to pick this up the last time I was book shopping & forgot. So I was excited when I saw this book in your margin! I’m glad to hear it was as fascianting a read as it looked to be. I find myself both interested & repelled by Hitler as a young man but the opportunity to get a glimpse of what he was like, his behavior, his thoughts when growig up is too good to ignore (I think so aynway!)
    Somebody else who commetned on this post mentioned that Hitler’s autobiography Meni Kampf is very difficult to read. I agree – it’s tedious & headache inducig so thak goodness books like this one exist!

    ~ Amy

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, Sorry it stayed in my sidebar for so long – it is such a detailed book that it took me several weeks to read. I hope that you manage to get hold of a copy soon and enjoy it as much as I did. Now I must find some books about other evil dictators ;-)

  10. Stephanie says:

    This sounds fascinating, especially since it was so well researched. It does sound like it could have benefited from some editing, though.

  11. Andi says:

    I do believe I would love this. I know spotty facts here and there about Hitler’s youth thanks to a high school history teacher, but I’ve always been fascinated, so it would be rewarding to delve deeper.

  12. This does sound fascinating. There is a little dark part of me that wants to find out what goes on in the minds of evil people too, and this sounds like a readable book too.

  13. Interesting! I’m a huge fan of novels about real people, but I the non-fiction novel is a unique device. Although the idea of it intrigues me, I think I’d rather just read a novel about Hitler (I do adore fiction.)

  14. Anna says:

    I’m adding this one to my to-read list! Last year, I read He Was My Chief by Christa Schroeder, the memoir’s of Hitler’s secretary. It’s not a novel but I found it fascinating. Hope it’s okay to link to your review on War Through the Generations.


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