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Rediscovering Alexander Moritz Frey: Eye-Witness Account of Hitler's WWI Years Found

By David Gordon Smith

Hitler's years in the German army during World War I have long been a mystery due to the lack of eyewitness accounts. Now a memoir written by a forgotten German author of fantastic literature has been rediscovered -- and sheds new light on the Führer.

Alexander Moritz Frey served together with Adolf Hitler in World War I.
Atrium Verlag

Alexander Moritz Frey served together with Adolf Hitler in World War I.

The words were written by Alexander Moritz Frey, a young medical assistant in the German trenches during World War I:

"One evening a pale, tall man tumbled down into the cellar after the first shells of the daily evening attack had begun to fall, fear and rage glowing in his eyes. At that time he looked tall, because he was so thin. A full moustache … covered the ugly slit of his mouth."

"He sat there panting .... His yellow face grew red ... and he resembled a gobbling turkey as he began to rant about the English. ... I immediately had the same impression that many had of him later -- that he took the military maneuvers of the enemy personally, as if they wanted to take his precious life in particular."

Years later, they would. The man Frey had met was Private Adolf Hitler.

But Frey's writings on Hitler -- in the form of essays and fiction -- were eventually forgotten. Historians have spent the decades since the Nazi dictator took his life in his Berlin bunker at the very end of World War II trying to decipher the Hitler enigma -- but nobody really knew what Hitler the soldier was like.

Until now. German journalist Stefan Ernsting recently rediscovered the work that Frey, who served alongside Hitler in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment, left behind. Ernsting's new biography of Hitler's fellow soldier, "The Fantastic Rebel Alexander Moritz Frey," republishes Frey's eyewitness accounts of the man who would change 20th century history. It is the first reliable, first-person account by someone who served alongside Hitler.

"Two or three of his former comrades tried to cash in on having known Hitler during the war, but their testimonies were not useful for historical research because you couldn't separate facts from fiction and most of it was just nostalgia anyway," Ernsting told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Ernsting stumbled on the trail of Frey's eye-witness accounts of Hitler while reading an anthology of essays about early German science fiction and fantasy writing. "One essay about Frey mentioned in passing that he had fought alongside Hitler in World War I," Ernsting recalls. "I thought, wait a minute. I have to check this out."

Ernsting began scouring libraries and archives for information about the obscure writer. He struck gold when he found an obscure essay by Frey entitled "The Unknown Private -- Personal Memories of Hitler" ("Der unbekannte Gefreite -- persönliche Erinnerungen an Hitler") in an archive in the German town of Marbach.

Article...

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2007
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