Maya the Bee in the Service of Germany’s Soldiers

The beloved children’s book about the brave little bee who saves her beehive became one of the most popular books among German soldiers during the First World War. What led them to carry this book about the adventures of a small bee with them onto the battlefield? Does it contain hints of the devious ideology that would cause global devastation only a few decades later?

Maya the Bee and German Soldiers in WWI

Maya the Bee is all grown up, and this year (2022) she celebrates 110 years of delighting the world’s children with her adventures in a multitude of languages ​​and media. It was therefore all the more disappointing to discover that the creator of this beloved character was openly antisemitic and promoted some questionable values. However, if you are one of Maya’s fans, don’t worry. We aren’t going to spoil the image of this adorable fictional and animated character. Along the way, we’ll meet Henrietta Szold’s younger sister Adele, who will remind us that books can be read in many ways.

Maya and Willy seem concerned. From the 1975 television cartoon series

First published in Germany in 1912, The Adventures of Maya the Bee tells the story of a little bee who leaves her hive in the midst of a rebellion, encounters the outside world with its friendly and dangerous creatures, and eventually returns to her hive to save it. The book was written by Waldemar Bonsels (1880–1952) for his sons, and became a great success when it was published.

First edition of The Adventures of Maya the Bee

The fact that it was popular not just among German children, but also among Germany’s soldiers in the First World War suggests that there is more to this book than meets the eye. What was it about this story and the adventures of a little bee that brought young men on the battlefield to eagerly read a book that was clearly intended for children?

The reason is that among the flowers, insects and adventures, hide militaristic and nationalist messages and values which can be interpreted as a parable of the German people and its army.

One of the clear messages conveyed in the book is that one must fight—and if necessary be prepared to die—for the homeland. Already at the beginning of the book, the nanny Cassandra says to the newly born young bee: “So do not sting . . . except in dire need, and then do it without flinching or fear of death” (unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from The Adventures of Maya the Bee [New York: Thomas Seltzer, 1922]). Maya internalizes this lesson and when she finds herself captured (for the second time in the book!) she thinks, “I am doomed anyhow. So since death is certain one way or another, I may as well be proud and brave and do everything I can to try to save them . . . If my people are to be vanquished and killed, I want to be killed, too. But first I must do everything in my power to save them.” This message reaches its climax in the battle that takes place between the bees and the wasps, where we find this exchange: “’I should like to die for you,’ Maya stammered, quivering. ‘Don’t worry about us,’ replied the queen. ‘Among the thousands inhabiting this city there is not one who would hesitate a moment to sacrifice his life for me and for the welfare of the country. You can go to sleep peacefully.'”

Here too death in battle is presented as sad but also heroic. The brave commander bee perishes in battle, and the readers learn how “His brave death inspired them all with the wild rapture that comes from utter willingness to die for a noble cause.” Reading these passages makes the book’s presence on the brutal battlefields of the First World War a little more understandable.

The book also emphasizes the duty of loyalty to the homeland. Maya’s leaving the hive is a reprehensible act, and only the fact that she returned to save it means that she is forgiven for “the crime of  leaving her homeland” (from the Hebrew translation by Aryeh Leib Smiatitzky, Devora Zivit, Omanut Publishers, 1928). Even during her journey, the readers understand that it is better to shelter in the shadow of the rulers and serve them, rather than set out on an independent path. “Oh, thought Maya, how happy it made you to be able to count yourself one in a community like that, to feel that everybody respected you, and you had the powerful protection of the state. Here, out in the world, lonely and exposed, she ran great risks of her life. She was cold, too.” Even the wasps admit that “we are a more powerful race, but the bees are a unified nation, and unflinchingly loyal to their people and their state.”

“You did not forget your home and your people… In your heart you were loyal.” The illustration above is by Franz Franke, from a German edition dating to 1920

As can be understood from the last sentence, nationalism is not limited to loyalty to the homeland but also includes expressions of national and racial superiority. Emphasized throughout the book is the bees’ superiority over all other insects. “For it is to our courage as well as our wisdom that we bees owe the universal respect and esteem in which we are held,” explains Cassandra to the young bee Maya. In her meeting with the beetle, the narrator points out that “The bees had more culture and better manners,” than the other insects, and the fly, which is afraid of being stung, declares “Everybody knows that you bees are the most respected of all insects.”

The author Waldemar Bonsels

This feeling of superiority is connected to the fact that Bonsels, a humanist and lover of nature, was also an avowed antisemite. He openly expressed his support for the Nazis with their rise in 1933 by publishing a hateful article about the Jews. According to the article, the Jewish people are a deadly enemy that poisons German culture and must be stopped. The book about Maya the Bee was written years before, but some believe that an inkling of this thinking can also be found among its pages. On one of the first pages of the book, the governess Cassandra tells Maya: “The hornets are our most formidable enemy, and the wickedest, and the wasps are a useless tribe of thieves, without home or religion. We are a stronger, more powerful nation, while they steal and murder wherever they can.” It is not unreasonable to assume that the evil wasps in the book symbolize the Jewish people. Bonsels was even approached to turn Maya the Bee into an animated film in the service of Nazi propaganda. The request came from a German studio established in 1941, with the aim of presenting an alternative to Walt Disney’s American studios and spreading German ideology through animated films. Bonsels accepted the offer and only a financial dispute led to the deal’s falling apart. After the war, Bonsels’ ties with the Nazi Party led to the boycott of his books for a short period.

Maya the Bee appears in a Nazi magazine for Germany’s soldiers, June, 1941

In the United States, the book was first published in 1922. The English translator was none other than Adele Szold-Seltzer, the younger sister of Henrietta Szold, leader and founder of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. At the time, Bonsels’ views were not yet widely known and the story was seen as a naïve children’s book. Reading it today, we cannot ignore what we now know about the writer’s personal views or the various militaristic messages embedded throughout. Nevertheless, it also shows appreciation for nature’s beauty, as well as the values of curiosity, compassion, and coming to the aid of one’s fellow creatures. Maya befriends many insects she meets along the way, marvels at the beauty of the butterfly, the dragonfly and the night gnome, the song of the red-breasted robin, the melody of the cricket. The various insects share information with her and come to each other’s rescue—Maya helps the dung beetle regain its footing, and later he will be the one to save her from almost certain death in the spider’s web. And we haven’t yet mentioned love. In one episode, upon seeing a loving young couple and thinking it the most glorious sight, Maya says to herself “human beings are most beautiful when they are in love.”

The American edition of The Adventures of Maya the Bee, translated by Adele Szold-Seltzer

But let’s be honest, most of us first fell in love with Maya the Bee at the movies or on television and not in the pages of a book. The first film adaptation was a silent film starring real animals, released in 1926 during Bonsels’ lifetime and with his collaboration. Yet Maya’s great success came only in 1975, over twenty years after Bonsels’ death, and from Japan, of all places. It was the Japanese animated 104-episode series that brought Maya into homes all over the world and turned her into a famous and beloved children’s character and star of an array of merchandise from chocolates and puddings to dolls and bedding. The series also brought us Willy and Flip, two beloved characters who don’t appear in Bonsels’ book and were only added in the animated series. Willy became so popular that he appeared in almost every adaptation of the story (for example, in the French animated series from 2012), even though, as mentioned, he doesn’t appear at all in the original book.

A Hebrew poster for the movie Maya the Bee. L.A.C. Productions


The first Hebrew translation of the original book was by Aryeh Leib Smiatitzky in 1928, titled Hadvorah Zivit. A new translation by Bezalel Wechsler appeared in 1977 under the title Hadvora Maya VeHarpatka’oteha.  Added to these were shorter books based on the television series, which were already far removed in spirit from the original.

Hadvora Maya Veharpatka’oteha, 1977


Hadvora Maya Nilhemet BaTzra’ot (“Maya the Bee Battles the Wasps”)


The makeover was finally completed in 2014, with another motion picture based on the book (Maya the Bee Movie), featuring even fewer ties to the original narrative. The film received poor reviews but was quite successful at the box office and also spawned two sequels. It even managed to completely overturn Bonsels’ doctrine from beginning to end. Not only does it erase all traces of any antisemitic undercurrent and offer a practically pacifist message, but it also reverses Bonsels’ most basic message for young, especially female readers – to obey and conform. Instead, the film teaches its young viewers to see Maya’s free spirit and independence in a sympathetic and positive light, and in the spirit of the times educates them to listen to their hearts and to be themselves. Bonsels, who died in 1952, but whose name appears in the credits as one of the writers, would not have approved.

A Hebrew poster for Maya the Bee Movie, 2014

How a Diamond From the UK’s Imperial State Crown Ended Up in an Israeli Engagement Ring

Set in the center of the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom is an enormous diamond. A part of the original stone is in the possession of an Israeli family. How did this happen?


Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation wearing the Imperial State Crown with the diamond at its center. Photo: Cecil Beaton. Source: Wikipedia

In the Imperial State Crown that Queen Elizabeth II wore at her coronation, the same crown that has now passed to King Charles III, you will find 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 5 rubies. Embedded in the center of the crown is a huge diamond. A piece of the original stone from which it was cut is in the hands of an Israeli family. This is the story of that diamond’s fascinating journey:

The Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom. Some of you may recognize it from the opening credits of the Netflix series The Crown. Source: Wikipedia

In 1907, an unusual diamond was mined in South Africa. At the time, it was the largest diamond ever found, weighing 3,106 carats, the size of a human heart. It came to be known as the Cullinan Diamond. The new government in South Africa, which only five years earlier had gained independence from the British Crown, decided to give the stone as a gift to King Edward VII, Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandfather, on the occasion of his birthday.

The unpolished Cullinan Diamond. Source: Wikipedia

A good diamond requires top diamond cutters who can bring out the stone’s brilliance, so King Edward looked for someone to entrust the job to. He found the Asschers—a Dutch family known for its supreme diamond cutting skills. This is my grandmother’s family.

My grandmother Elizabeth (Elisheva) and her older sister in Amsterdam before WWII. Photo courtesy of the family

From London to Amsterdam – A Bold and Discreet Operation

How does one securely transport such a precious treasure from London to Amsterdam without having it stolen? In 1908 a British battleship left London for Amsterdam. In its belly it carried a secure box with the unpolished diamond inside—or at least that is what many were led to believe. This operation was actually a cover up, because at the same time, the real diamond was in the pocket of one of the sons of the diamond cutter family. Abraham Asscher set sail from London to Amsterdam around the same time on an ordinary ship traveling without baggage – only a large coat to protect himself from the cold and to disguise his precious cargo.

Queen Elizabeth II with her husband Prince Philip on her coronation day, 1953. The Queen is wearing the Imperial State Crown with the large diamond at the center. Source: Wikipedia

The operation was a success and the diamond arrived safely in Amsterdam. But then a new problem emerged—the Asscher family discovered that the huge diamond could not be cut. The chisel broke with the very first blow! It would take another two years, and the invention of a new diamond cutting patent—which to this day is called the “Asscher Cut”—for the Asscher family to finally cut the treasure as requested.

The nine diamonds cut from the original Cullinan Diamond. Source: Wikipedia

Finally, some two years later, the Asschers were able to return the diamond to King Edward, after it had been cut into nine polished diamonds and 96 smaller stones. The same year, 1910, the central diamond, weighing 530 carats, was placed in the scepter of the King of England and given the name “The Great Star of Africa.” This diamond alone was then valued at £2.5 million, which is about £52 million today. The second largest diamond was named “The Second Star of Africa” ​​and was set in the center of the Queen’s crown.

The nine diamonds cut from the original Cullinan Diamond. Source: Wikipedia


When Cutting Diamonds, Expect the Chips to Fly

How much were the Asschers paid for their work? When diamonds are cut, chips fly. In this case, the chips turned out to be reasonably sized diamonds, which were given to my great-great-great-grandfather, Joseph Asscher, as payment for his work. Shortly afterwards he also received a knighthood from the Queen of Holland.

The Queen of Holland bestowed a knighthood upon Joseph Asscher, a report from January 22, 1909 in the Hebrew Standard newspaper

The Asschers decided that the diamonds would be passed down from generation to generation by the men in the family, who would give them to the women they married in their wedding rings. Many members of the Asscher family were murdered in the Holocaust, but my grandmother, Elizabeth Asscher, survived. After the war, she was able to retrieve two of the diamonds that somehow managed to be hidden from the Nazis.

My grandmother’s family. From right to left: Jul was murdered in the Holocaust; Jap survived and lived to the age of 100 in the United States; my grandmother Elizabeth (Elisheva) survived the Holocaust and lived in Israel until her death a few years ago; Betty who is still alive and lives in Israel, just celebrated her 103rd birthday a few months ago. Photo courtesy of the family

One of these diamonds adorned my Grandmother Elizabeth’s ring for 65 years—a royal diamond set in a cheap metal ring, in the best thrifty Zionist-Dutch tradition.

One of the diamonds was given to my brother, who, with the help of an amazing jeweler on Sheinkin Street in Tel Aviv, set it on a ring and gave it to his beloved Nynke, who happens to be both adorable and Dutch.

The family diamond ring my brother gave to his fiancée Nynke. Photo courtesy of the family

And so, a piece of the magnificent Imperial State Crown diamond ended up in Israel, by way of my family’s connection to the British royal family. Who knows how the diamond’s journey will continue?

Revealed: Immigration Documents Filled Out by Austrian Jews During the Nazi Occupation

A trove of documents from Vienna’s Jewish community during the Anschluss period has been revealed to the public for the first time thanks to a collaboration between MyHeritage and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People at the National Library of Israel. The collection contains 228,250 records, including scanned original documents submitted by Jews hoping to emigrate from Vienna. These documents, available on the Library’s website, provide extraordinary insights into the life of Vienna’s thriving Jewish community in the years 1938–1939

هجرة جماعية ليهود فيينا، تشرين الأول 1941 (تصوير: موقع بلدية فيينا)، على خلفية وثائق الهجرة المحفوظة في الأرشيف المركزي لتاريخ الشعب اليهودي في المكتبة الوطنية

A photograph showing Jews leaving Vienna, October 1941 (photo: Vienna Municipality website), against the background of immigration documents preserved in the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People at the National Library of Israel

On March 12, 1938, Nazi Germany invaded Austria, an event euphemistically known by the German term “Anschluss”—meaning a territorial annexation.

This was no ordinary invasion, and when Hitler arrived three days later for a triumphal march across Vienna, hundreds of thousands of Austrians gathered to cheer him along his route. According to various testimonies, there was not a single rose left in Austria that hadn’t been picked for the occasion.

The Austrian crowds at the Heldenplatz cheering Hitler’s arrival. Source: The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People

For Austria’s roughly quarter of a million Jews however, it was not a cause for celebration. The abuse against the community’s leaders and rabbis began immediately after the Anschluss with many arrested and sent to the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps. The Nazis also closed the community’s offices in Vienna.

The Austrian crowd give the Nazi salute as Hitler passes by on route along the Ringstrasse. Source: The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People

Two months later, the offices re-opened, and now contained a new department: “The Vienna Jewish Community Welfare Department – Immigration Office.” Every Jew who wanted to emigrate from Vienna—meaning more or less all of the city’s Jews, from the Hasidic to the assimilated, had to fill out forms, in duplicate, which were submitted to the office.

The Vienna Jewish community archive is one of the largest and most important community archives in the CAHJP. The collection, which dates back to the 17th century, from the period before the expulsion of Vienna’s Jews, was sent to Jerusalem by the community in Vienna after the Holocaust. The immigration forms are part of this important archive.

The forms included the applicant’s first and last name, his or her exact address, date of birth, place of birth, personal status (married, single, etc.), personal information, citizenship, the date from when the applicant had resided in Vienna, where the applicant resided before arriving in Vienna; the applicant’s profession, occupational history, languages, financial situation and monthly income, as well as information regarding the desired immigration destination. The information regarding the immigration destination included the names of relatives and friends abroad (as well as their address and degree of kinship), and passport and immigrant visa information. The questionnaires included information not only about the applicant, but also about the applicant’s household members, mainly their spouse and children, but often also parents or in-laws.

The forms were submitted in duplicate with additional attachments inserted at various stages in the immigration process. Each form was assigned a serial number. At first, the forms were arranged only by serial number, but later, the immigration department separated the duplicate copies, keeping the numerical system for one, and arranging the other (incomplete) alphabetically by German surname. The immigration department maintained three indexes for the forms: numerical, alphabetical and one by profession, which was extremely pertinent for immigration applications. As early as 1938–1940, the community’s research department and international Jewish aid organizations such as HIAS prepared reports based on the important data gathered from the forms to optimize the emigration process.

However, in those first years of the Nazi occupation, the community was not working in a vacuum. The Gestapo was supervising its operation, with this effort led by Adolf Eichmann. In this first stage, as Eichmann had been tasked with emptying Vienna of its Jews through emigration, the Jews and the Nazis shared a common interest. In the later stages, when emigration was no longer allowed, the Gestapo used the information from the transmigration forms to optimize its euphemistically termed policy of “relocation to the East” of Vienna’s Jews, effectively sending them to concentration and extermination camps.

The two sets of immigration files kept by the Vienna Jewish community’s immigration office arrived in Jerusalem along with the rest of the community archives. Both sets have been preserved in their original order: the set according to serial number from 1-400, 401-800, etc. and the alphabetical set according to last name. Given this system, it was not possible to know whether a certain individual’s form was included in the alphabetical set without physically going to the archive and inspecting the relevant folder’s contents. Similarly, the numerical set was not easily searchable because it was impossible to guess the serial number of a particular individual.

To extract the information hidden in this historically important trove of documents, the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People and the National Library teamed up with MyHeritage. As a leading commercial genealogy company, MyHeritage understood the value contained in these forms. Beyond comprehensive documentation of Vienna Jewry, one of the largest Jewish communities in the Jewish world on the eve of the Holocaust, the collection could also provide information about relatives living on other continents, a missing link that was not readily available in the databases generally used for researching family roots.

As part of the project, the Central Archives team separated the contents of the binders into the individual forms, which were then sent to the National Library of Israel’s state of the art digitization center for scanning. The scans were linked to entries in the archive’s catalog, which at this stage contained no information and were still inaccessible to the public. A digital copy of the hundreds of thousands of scanned pages was also sent to MyHeritage, which engaged a large international team that set to work developing a detailed key of the main data points contained in the forms. The result was a huge Excel file, with over three hundred thousand lines, spanning 129 columns. A copy was sent to the CAHJP, and the data was simultaneously processed and uploaded to MyHeritage’s systems.

The archive team processed the millions of data points into catalog records adapted to the archive’s own data structure. Great effort was invested in unifying various terms, such as the hundreds of different ways personal status or the nature of the kinship of family members and relatives abroad was recorded. We also had to correct quite a few errors, many of which were made on the original forms. We all make mistakes when we have to fill out endless forms like this. We enter our place of birth instead of our address, switch a date of birth with the date on which we are filling out the form, and we might even get confused about the century we were born in. For example, in 1938, some people wrote that they were born in 1988, when of course they meant 1888. It is easy for people in a terribly stressful situation to make mistakes like these, even more if you were an immigrant from regions of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire (Galicia, Bohemia, Moravia, Bukovina, Hungary, etc.) and didn’t have a very good command of German. A great deal of work has taken place and the effort is still ongoing to unify and standardize the names of the applicants’ birthplaces and of places where their relatives lived. It is fascinating to see how Galician Jews in Vienna imagined the geography of the United States, and the dozens of different ways New York and its boroughs were written on the immigration applications.

After resolving the various data errors, we created coherent information from the fragments of details, according to computer algorithms, to produce the following sequences: applicant: last name, first name, date of birth (day/month/year), place of birth (geographical place) and personal status. We created other sequences for the family members listed on the application and for relatives listed as living abroad.

Sometimes the original form is missing, and a note was inserted indicating that the form had been removed for various administrative purposes and not been returned. In cases where these notes included useful information, such as the applicant’s name and the form’s serial number, we left the information to indicate that there was once a form here, even if it is not extant today.

The catalog information was uploaded to the (initially) hidden catalog entries created at the early stages of the project, and these were then made accessible to the public, along with the scans.

The collection is accessible on the Library and CAHJP’s website and it is accessible to MyHeritage users as well. The MyHeritage platform is also able to compare the information with that contained in other databases available on their website, yielding further insights from various sources about the individuals mentioned in the records.

In the weeks since the collection went online, many have managed to learn more about their family history and fill in unknown details. If your family resided in Vienna on the eve of World War II, there is a good chance that they also filled out a form, and you can find it on the National Library of Israel website, or at the following link.

If you are experiencing difficulty with the site, please contact us at

Vienna Jewish Community Welfare Department- Immigration Bureau form, filled out by Siegmund (Zsigo) Wertheimer on August 11, 1938. Zsigo Wertheimer was a well-respected professional women’s swimming coach. He was married to swimmer Hedi (Hedwig) Bienenfeld who excelled at the breast and backstroke and who became famous in 1924 for winning first place in an “Across Vienna” open-water swim competition

This one-of-a-kind source contains more than personal information and family stories. From it, one can learn not only about those terrible days, but also about the richness of Jewish life in Vienna between the two world wars. You can discover the exact addresses of writers, playwrights, musicians, Rebbes and Torah scholars, or map out the streets and neighborhoods where Jews lived or the places from which they immigrated to Vienna, their occupations and the many languages they spoke.

But above all, the collection tells the story of how the Jews of Vienna woke up one morning to find themselves under Nazi rule. It tells of their desperate attempts to secure the sums that would enable them to leave and the bureaucratic nightmare of validating passports, obtaining an immigration visa as well as a “transit” permit to an intermediate country.

In her novel Transit, Anna Seghers, herself a Jewish refugee who attempted to leave Europe, tells a joke that circulated among the refugee community trying to emigrate via the port of Marseille, which was under the control of the French Vichy government:

A person gets to heaven and arrives in a waiting room where there are two doors, one to heaven and one to hell. For half a year, he is shuffled from one clerk to another in an endless pursuit of forms and signatures. At some point he turns to the clerk in charge and tells him that he can’t deal any longer with all this waiting. He is giving up his chance to go to heaven and prefers instead to be sent to Hell. ‘I’m sorry for having to tell you this,’ says the clerk, ‘but you are in Hell.’

“Vienna of the Sewers”: A School for Dictators

In 1907 a young man from a small provincial town in Austria arrived in Vienna, the European art capitol of the era, with hopes of enrolling in the art academy. His rejection led him to roam the streets of “the other Vienna,” which many historians viewed to be a “school for the future dictator.”

Adolf Hitler’s Party Membership Card. Though in Mein Kampf he claimed that he was the seventh member to join the Nazi party, this card proves that he was in fact the 555th

In 1907 a young man from a small provincial town in Austria arrived in Vienna, the European art capitol of the era, with hopes of enrolling in the art academy. His rejection led him roam the streets of “the other Vienna,” which many historians viewed to be a “school for the future dictator.”

The young Adolf Hitler

The Vienna Hitler met with was not the same Vienna familiar to art lovers. The neighborhood where the impoverished young man lived was not one of the glorious cultural districts that had produced cultural and artistic greats like Gustav Klimt, Stefan Zweig and Arthur Schnitzler. The Vienna where Hitler lived was known as the Vienna of the sewers: a city where thousands of penniless young people wandered in search of a paltry income. It was a Vienna of poor men struggling to live in crumbling apartments or pay-by-the-day government subsidized public housing. This was a school for the future dictator: in Vienna, the multinational capitol of a mighty empire, Hitler encountered an array of cultures and “races.” He perfected the poisonous hatred of foreigners he had brought with him from his provincial upbringing. From his visit to the multilingual parliament he developed a hatred of democracy which he viewed as a nonfunctional system of government. He saw Vienna as a place where the glorious German race had deteriorated by mixing with inferior races, chief among them of course, the hated Jews.

Adolf Hitler, The Vienna State Opera House, first decade of the twentieth century

His failure to gain entry to the art academy and the general failure that characterized his life was a blow to his pride. From a deep loathing of the miserable situation in which he found himself, Hitler was drawn toward German nationalism, which enabled young Austrians like him to see themselves as part of something greater than just themselves. They were the superior German race that will once again have the upper hand and rule over others. During those days when he was barely eking out a living from selling postcards with his drawings to passersby, he entertained himself with fantasies of the restoration of Greater Germany (which included Austria) and the part he would play in it.

The outbreak of World War I (known as The Great War for that generation) offered the young man an escape from the suffocating capitol. A year earlier he had crossed the border to Munich and in 1914 joined the German army. For most of the war he was running along the French/German front, a post he dutifully fulfilled at great personal risk. Word of the German defeat reached him in a hospital where he was recovering from a gas attack.

Hitler celebrates with the crowds in Munich at the outbreak of the First World War

After the war, while looking for a job, he found his true calling: inspiring crowds to hatred and violence. As more and more crises plagued his new-old homeland Germany, the party he had founded rose higher and higher. In 1933, the man who declared himself Führer (the leader) of the Nazi party was appointed Chancellor of Germany.

Adolf Hitler’s Party Membership Card. Though in Mein Kampf he claimed that he was the seventh member to join the Nazi party, this card proves that he was in fact the 555th

The kind of popular politics that characterized Hitler was the politics of shrill and venomous attacks. They characterized his professional career as a dictator and led him on 1 September 1939 to form a temporary alliance with the Soviet Union and divide between the two powers neighboring Poland. After the West’s appeasement with Germany in Munich the previous year, Hitler believed that the occupation of Poland would also pass without much of a response. He was mistaken. The invasion of Poland, Britain and France’s close ally, sparked the most terrible war humanity had ever known. It was during this war that the most systematic and brutal genocide in the annals of history was perpetrated: the Holocaust of European and North African Jewry.

Adolf Hitler passed six directionless yet intense years in Vienna. In his autobiography from1924 he wrote, “Vienna was and still is for me the most difficult school but also the most profound I have attended.”

Historians have been grappling for generations with the question of whether history is created by great people or by great events? Either way, many historians, philosophers, and ordinary people believed that had a rather spoiled young man had been accepted to the academy of art in Vienna back in 1907, the world might have gained another mediocre painter but also would have avoided the most bloody and terrible war of all time.