Little is known about Hitler before 1920 as many who knew him in his early years were murdered in the 1934 Nazi purge known as the night of a thousand knives. Additionally, files about Hitler’s life in Vienna were likely expunged when the Nazis entered the city in 1938.
One persistent rumor about Hitler, not proven, was that he was a male prostitute in Vienna where he lived in the years leading up to his move to Munich and the outbreak of the world war in 1914. It is known that he lived in Vienna as a bohemian artist and that he associated with the artist community. Hitler had inherited money from his late father and as a result he never had to work.
This left him with enough time to study politics and, according to his own autobiography, Mein Kampf, he immersed himself in Marxist studies. In spite of his brave actions during the war, actions which earned him the Iron Cross, he was never promoted higher than the rank of corporal. There has been some speculation that this lack of promotion might have been due to his communist associations or politics. The truth will never be known as his war records disappeared.
After the armistice of November, 1918, Hitler returned to Munich around the same time that Kurt Eisner, a left-wing leader of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) declared Bavaria to be a free state and a Socialist Republic on November 8, 1918. Eisner, who was subsequently assassinated on his way to submit his resignation to German authorities on February 21, 1919, had overthrown the seven centuries old Wittlesbach monarchy and had formed an alliance with the Soviet Union.
Eisner’s assassination was followed by an uprising that led to a brief and violent Bavarian Soviet Republic under Eugen Levine which lasted from April to May, 1919. A photograph has survived that seems to indicate that Hitler marched in Kurt Eisner’s funeral procession. The Freikorps, made up of German army personnel returning from the war, and under the command of German General Franz Ritter von Epp, responded to the attempted Soviet takeover in Bavaria by marching into Munich in May, 1919. The short lived Bavarian Soviet Republic was crushed, many of its leaders were executed, and thousands of its irregulars were imprisoned.
Along with thousands of other soldiers, Hitler was arrested and imprisoned assumedly for his support of the Soviet uprising although the exact reasons for his arrest have never been clear. Hitler, assumedly seeking to make a deal to win his freedom and to save his reputation, volunteered to serve the German government as a spy and to identify other soldiers who had supported the two Bavarian socialist regimes. Hitler thus began working for an official commission investigating the Bavarian uprisings. It can be assumed that Hitler knew the various subversives involved in the Soviet inspired attempted coup as why else would the German authorities entrust him to infiltrate these cadres? One question that will likely remain unanswered was how many of Hitler’s friends, who might have taken part in the Soviet conspiracy, joined him in the nascent German Workers Party, later to be known as the Nazi party.
Bavarian authorities asked Hitler infiltrate the small and recently formed German Workers Party in 1920. It is reasonable to assume that the German authorities were concerned that the new party might be a communist cell and their might have been reasons for this suspicion. Hitler was impressed by the party leader Anton Drexler who favored a strong central government, what he called a non-Jewish version of Socialism, and a strong spirit of fraternity amongst all Germans.
Thus was born the nationalist strain of socialism that would become the trademark of the German Nazi State. Drawing inspiration from the same European enlightenment font that gave birth to Communism, Nazism patented socialism in one state as opposed to the Communist model which was a one world socialist collective. The German language is structured in such a way that when an organization has two names the second name is the formal name and the first name is a descriptive qualifier. Thus the term National Socialist was understood to mean the socialist party that was a nationalist socialist party.