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I am currently reading Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. IMHO it is unfortunately much weaker than its impressive predecessor (as can of course happen with "second" books). At one point the author claims this:

[Hitler] wasn't a successful businessman or a union activist, he didn't have friends or relatives in high places, or any money to speak of. At first, he didn't even have German citizenship. He was a penniless immigrant.

When Hitler appealed to the German voters and asked for their trust, he could muster only one argument in his favor: his experiences in the trenches had taught him what you can never learn at university, at general headquarters or at a government ministry. People followed him, and voted for him because they identified with him, and because they too believed that the world is a jungle, and that what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger.

Is there any evidence that Hitler came to power because voters were impressed by his war record or by the lessons that he drew from having served in the war? At another point the author points out Hitler's undistinguished military service record over four years, which makes this conjecture even odder.

Hitler wasn't a senior officer -- in four years of war, he rose no higher than the rank of corporal.

Yes, 1932 voters may have identified with him, but did Hitler's "experiences in the trenches" of WW I really play a significant role in his ascent except in the broad sense of sharing a generation's fate?

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To be frank, it seems the author has no clue.

[...], he didn't have friends or relatives in high places, [...]

He was in the Beer Hall Putsch which was promoted by Erich Ludendorff, the former German General of World War I and idolized as "the brain of the war". While not leading anymore, Ludendorff had tremendous connections and support. His influence was so great that Ludendorff was acquitted despite being the leading force of the Putsch.

He was a penniless immigrant

True insofar as he entered Germany after leaving Vienna 1914. But not in the war (soldier pay) and definitely not after entering politics.

When Hitler appealed to the German voters and asked for their trust, he could muster only one argument in his favor: his experiences in the trenches had taught him what you can never learn at university, at general headquarters or at a government ministry. People followed him, and voted for him because they identified with him, and because they too believed that the world is a jungle, and that what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger.

Sorry to be blunt: Bullshit.
First of all: The German military had a comment: an unspoken rule book what is appropiate for a soldier. Bragging or pointing out the own role in the war was out of order.

People followed him because he was a demagogue and a good speaker. He knew how to push the lizard buttons: Animosity against an common enemy, scapegoating, giving easy to understand destinations and worldviews. Giving people the hope of a comeback and revenge of Germany against the perceived humiliating defeat and the Treaty of Versailles.

At least one thing is pointing in the right direction: During the fight for power there was an influential party almost exclusively supported by soldiers: The Stahlhelm. Hitler had naturally as WWI veteran automatically its sympathies.

It is also important to know that "German voters" were not unison. Communists, Nazis and the middle-class voters were hostile to each other and had very different ideas how Germany should continue.

At another point the author points out Hitler's undistinguished military service record over four years.

How did he explain that Hitler was awarded the Iron Cross First Class ? While the number of crosses were inflated, still there were only 200 000 crosses IC 1st for 13 000 000 soldiers, making it 1 for 50 soldiers.

I am not a historian, but from a German perspective the books sounds like badly researched kitsch.

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    Hitler downplayed his World War 1 experience very cleverly actually....wearing very bespoke uniforms and taking a keen interest in the rest and relaxation routine of the German People. He is an interesting guy to study actually...but certainly not as a War Leader. – Doctor Zhivago Oct 15 '16 at 17:52
  • I've added another quote that refers to "4 years". – Drux Oct 17 '16 at 4:13
  • This is a nice answer; also to be added is that Hitler rose through the ranks of the Nazi party due to his nice oratory skills at the expense of others. He made friends with Goering, and especially his wife, who saw to his needs and paraded him. To go a little out of my way - Yuval Noah Harrari doesn't seem to be concentrating on much these days with his views. He's all over the place making a name for himself as a pop-historian and publishing idealistic theories under the pretense of a professor. This is just one example.. – Mariah Oct 16 '18 at 23:29
  • The whole notion of undistinguished because of maxing at Corporal level is kind of silly as well. Western armies distinguish very clearly between enlisted men, non-coms and officers. It is not that easy to rise through the ranks from an enlisted man - you might make to Senior Sergeant or somesuch, but becoming an officer means officer school. Accepting his achievements as a regular soldier is not to say that Hitler was a competent military leader or could have a been a good officer - his conduct of WW2 operations show otherwise. Nor does it mean he wasn't a raving homicidal loony. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Oct 26 '18 at 7:28
  • Also note his constant wearing of that cross on his clothes in public. While he may have had a really unimpressive war time performance, he and his comrades emphasised exactly that a show so great and brave that he got that medal. – LаngLаngС Nov 14 '18 at 1:44

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