Thomas Weber (historian)

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Thomas Weber (born 29 April 1974) is a German historian and university lecturer. Since 2013 he has been Professor of History and International Affairs at the University of Aberdeen.


  • More important than what I think about Hitler’s performance as a soldier during the war is what the other members of Hitler’s unit thought of him. A letter I found through serendipity in the US National Archives testifies that frontline soldiers in the trenches considered Hitler an Etappenschwein (‘rear area pig’), as they thought that, unlike them, he had landed a cushy job with regimental HQ a few miles behind the front. The reason this is so important is because it puts a lie to the orthodox view that Hitler was a typical product of his wartime unit.
    • Paul Lay, “Interview: Thomas Weber on Hitler's First War", History Today, 22nd September 2011, [1]

Hitler’s First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War (2011)[edit]

Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011

  • [O]n surviving film footage of Eisner’s funeral we see Hitler with a few men from his unit walking behind Eisner’s coffin in the funeral procession of the Bavarian leader. We clearly see Hitler wearing two armbands: one black band to mourn the death of Eisner and the other a red armband in the colour of the Socialists revolution. Similarly, Hitler appears on one of Heinrich Hoffman’s photographs of the funeral process for Eisner.
    • p. 251
  • Perhaps surprisingly, once back in Munich, Hitler did not act in any way consistent with his later beliefs. In fact, his actions during the five months after his return to Bavaria did not show any consistency at all. They were full of contradictions and reveal a deeply disoriented man without a clear mental compass to steer him through the post-war world.
    • p. 250
  • Even two days after the Soviet Republic had been proclaimed, Hitler stood for election again, when the new regime conducted an election among Munich's soldier councils to ensure support for the Soviet Republic by Munich's military units. Hitler was now elected Deputy Battalion Representative and remained in the post for the entire lifespan of the Soviet Republic.
    • p. 251
  • Hitler’s undetermined political future becomes even less surprising if we bear in mind that the intellectual origins of Fascism share central tenets with the non-Marxist Left. According to one argument, despite its eventual collision with the conservative Right once Fascism tried to come to power, early Fascism had been in its promise, rather than in its eventual application, more socialist than capitalist, more plebeian than bourgeois.
    • p. 253

Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi (2017)[edit]

New York, NY, Basic Books, 2017

  • Rudolf Hess, Hitler's future deputy, who recently had moved to Munich and now lived in Elisabethstraße, close to the barracks in which Hitler resided at the time, did not think that the Soviet Republic was something worth getting upset about... Hess wrote to his parents on April 23. 'I have not experienced any unrest at all. Yesterday we had an orderly march with red flags, nothing else out of the ordinary.'
    • p. 47
  • Whatever his inner thoughts and intentions, Hitler now had to serve as a representative of his unit within the new Soviet regime. By his willingness to run for office as Bataillons-Rat, he had become even more significant cog in the machine of Socialism than previously had been the case. Hitler’s actions helped sustain the Soviet Republic.
    • pp. 49-50
  • In theory, all Munich-based military units and thus Hitler’s regiment, too, were part of the Red Army. In that sense, Hitler served in the Red Army. In reality, however, most regiments neither actively supported the Soviet regime nor opposed it.
    • p. 52
  • The Freikorps movement was surprisingly heterogeneous... The 158 Jews members of Bavarian Freikorps amounted to about 0.5 percent of the members of the Bavarian Freikorps movement. This was a figure not out of proportion with the overall ratio of Jews among the Bavarian population,…
    • pp. 61-62
  • The question is not whether Hitler supported the left during the revolution, which he clearly did, but what kind of left-wing ideas and groups he supported or at least accepted.
    • p. 64
  • Being that soldiers, who overwhelmingly had voted for the SPD in the Bavarian elections in January 1919, had elected Hitler as their representative, that Hitler’s closest companion during the revolution had been a member of an SPD-affiliated union; and that the SPD under Erhard Auer had stood against international socialism and cooperated on many an occasion with conservative and centrist groups, one thing is quite clear: Hitler had stood close to the SPD but either had missed the opportunity or lacked the willpower to jump ship after the establishment of the second Soviet Republic.
    • pp. 64-65
  • Auer, himself, also claimed that Hitler had held sympathies for the SPD during the winter and spring of 1919. In a 1923 article Auer wrote for the Münchener Post , he stated that Hitler ‘due to his beliefs was regarded as a Majority Socialist [Mehrheitssozialist] in the circles of the Propaganda Department and claimed to be one, like so many others; but he was never politically active or a member of a trade union.
    • Thomas Weber, Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi, Basic Books, 2017, p. 65
  • At his military HQ [Hitler] would be recorded as saying on February 1, 1942, ‘The only problem for the Social Democrats at the time was that they did not have a leader.’
    • p. 65
  • Konrad Heiden, a Social Democrat writer with a Jewish mother who came to Munich as a student in 1920 and after graduation started to work as a Munich correspondent of the liberal Frankurter Zeitung would report in 1930 that Hitler had supported the SPD and had even talked about joining the party.
    • p. 66
  • Hitler himself would imply that he had had Social Democratic leanings in the past when he told some of his fellow National Socialists in 1921, ‘Everybody was a Social Democrat once.’
    • p. 66
  • When [Friedrich] Krohn and Hitler first met around the time that Hitler first attended a meeting of what was to become the Nazi Party, Hitler told him that he favored a ‘socialism’ that took the form of a ‘national Social Democracy’ that was loyal to the state, not dissimilar to that of Scandinavia, England, and prewar Bavaria.
    • pp. 66-67
  • The dividing line in military units based in Munch during the time of the Soviet Republic ran not between the left and the right, but between the radical left and the moderate left, which puts Hitler on the moderate left.
    • p. 67
  • It is certainly true that Hitler returned from the war as a man without a compass and embarked on a path of self-discovery. Yet opportunism and expediency and vague political idea coexisted and at times competed with each other, within Hitler.
    • p. 67
  • Yet Hitler managed not to get caught up in the violence directed against real and imagined supporters of the Munich Soviet Republic. According to his friend Ernst Schmidt, he was released again from captivity through the intervention of an officer, who encountered him in the wake of his arrest and who knew him from the front.
    • p. 70
  • Exploiting the fears among Munich’s new rulers about a repeat of the Munich Soviet Republic, [Hitler] volunteered to become an informant for the new masters of the city. By becoming a turncoat, he managed against all odds, not only to escape decommissioning and thus to escape an uncertain future, but also to emerge strengthened from a situation that otherwise might have resulted in deportation to his native Austria, imprisonment, or even death.
    • p. 72
  • ‘On May 3, 1919, 6 months after the revolution, Hitler said he was in favor of majoritarian democracy at a meeting of members of the 2nd Infantry Regiment in the regimental canteen on Oberwiesenfeld.’ The testimony states that the meeting had been called to discuss who should become the new commander of the regiment, adding that Hitler identified himself ‘as a supporter of Social Democracy [Mehrheitssozialdemokratie; i.e. the SPD], albeit with some reservations.’
    • p. 75

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Thomas Watson had written a fine if difficult to read book about Hitler's activities from the end of WWI to about 1923 in Munich during which time he became a Nazi and antisemite. The only qualification I have is that he is far too sympathetic to Catholicism in Bavaria as if it were better than Catholicism elsewhere. It wasn't. It quickly got Nazified.