What Did Adolf Hitler Do in World War One?

Adolph Hitler was not born a German citizen, but in 1913 he moved to Munich, Bavaria, possibly to avoid conscription in his native Austria. When World War One broke out the following year the 25 year old had no such reservations about military life and volunteered for the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment. His experiences there intensified his nationalism and anti-Semitism.

Hitler’s War Service: Wounding and Commendation

Hitler served on the western front for a long time, primarily as a dispatch runner. He was present at the first, second and third battles of Ypres as well as the Battle of the Somme, where he was wounded in 1916.


In 1918 a Jewish officer Lieutenant Hugo Gutman recommended him for the Iron Cross First Class which he subsequently received. The patriotism encouraged by Army propaganda reinforced his own nationalist beliefs and he believed fanatically in the war effort.

Hospitalisation and the End of the War

On 15 March 1918 Hitler was caught in a mustard gas attack and became temporarily blinded. He was consequently removed from active service to a hospital in Pasewalk. There he learned of the end of the war.


Aftermath: The Effects of the War on Hitler’s Psyche

The news devastated Hitler and many other German nationalists who came to place the blame erroneously with civilian leaders, Jews and Marxists — a conspiracy theory known as the ‘Dolchstoßlegende’ or stab-in-the-back-myth. This would form a key part of his ideology as Nazi leader and contribute to his popular appeal in the inter-war years.

Alex is a history student at King's College London focusing on Europe and the Near East in the Middle Ages. He currently works writing and editing content for madefromhistory.