16 Facts About Adolf Hitler That Made Us Say 'Really?'

Adolf Hitler is one of the most studied and written-about figures in history, but that doesn't mean new facts aren't constantly being found out about him. The Hitler biography is full of troubling anecdotes and historical oddities, especially about his childhood.

The man was from a huge family, with an elderly father who had uncertain parentage. The future Fuhrer was vain, but paranoid about his image and the sound of his voice. He was a teetotaler, but consumed scores of narcotics. Here are some Adolf Hitler facts that offer a glimpse into the life of one of World War II's most infamous figures.

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  • His Family Tree Is Complicated
    Photo: Walty1971 / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    His Family Tree Is Complicated

    Both genealogists and historians are endlessly fascinated by Hitler's family, especially the family details that helped turn him from failed artist to soldier to political agitator to ruthless dictator. Like many families of the era, it's a confusing tangle of marriages, remarriages, step-siblings, half-nieces and half-nephews, and adoptive parents.

    It's made all the more opaque by conflicting spellings of names and identically named relatives. There are real questions about who Hitler's grandfather was, with the two candidates being brothers, and each named Johann Heidler - though they had different middle names.

    Hitler's father Alois was married three times, confusing matters even further, and giving Hitler a number of half-siblings who would be in and out of his life until the very end.

    • By Age 18, Hitler Was A Homeless Orphan
      Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

      By Age 18, Hitler Was A Homeless Orphan

      Hitler's father, Alois, was married three times, and it was the third marriage to Klara that produced Adolf. Alois was already in his 50s and uninterested in raising more children, so the two had a combative relationship.

      Alois was a heavy drinker, cared more about his hobby of beekeeping than raising children, and would beat both Adolf and his older son, Alois Jr.

      Alois passed in 1903, leaving Hitler's mother a small pension. In 1907, when Hitler was only 18, Klara passed - crushing him emotionally and leaving him a homeless orphan. 

      • He Had A Photographer Snap Pictures Of Him While He Practiced Speeches
        Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-13774 / Heinrich Hoffmann / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

        He Had A Photographer Snap Pictures Of Him While He Practiced Speeches

        After being released from prison in 1925, Hitler was keen to increase the popularity and power of the Nazi Party. He intended to use his natural talent for oratory for these purposes, but was self-conscious about his facial expressions and hand movements. So he arranged for a photographer named Heinrich Hoffmann to take pictures of him as he rehearsed his screeds, intending to use them to refine his persona.

        The pictures are humanizing and bizarre, showing the dictator in a variety of exaggerated poses. Though Hitler ordered the photos destroyed, Hoffmann hung on to them. The photographer was arrested by the Allies for war profiteering, and the nine pictures became public after his passing in 1957.

        • He Had A Domineering Relationship With His Niece

          While Eva Braun is the woman most linked to Hitler, he also had a close - and troubling - relationship with his half-niece, Geli Raubal.

          Raubal was 19 years younger than Hitler, and her uncle gave her mother a job as a housekeeper at Hitler's mountain retreat. Raubal moved into Hitler's Munich apartment, where he kept a tight leash on her. She was forbidden to leave without escort, couldn't see friends, and wasn't allowed to conduct even basic errands.

          After about two years as a virtual prisoner, Raubal and Hitler had an argument after he forbade her from going to Vienna. After he left for a meeting, she's thought to have shot herself in the chest - though some have speculated that Hitler had her executed. Whatever the cause, the event devastated Hitler and sent him into a deep depression.

          He kept her room exactly the way she lived in it, and declared her to be the only woman he ever loved. It's been rumored, though never confirmed, that the two had an intimate relationship.