Adolf Hitler is undisputedly the most historically influential and best known dictator of the 20th century. No other person has been the subject of as many books, scholarly studies and documentary films. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, records in the Russian archives have been made available to historians for the first time since the end of the Second World War. These records shed light on the character and hobbies of this talented and unusual individual. Unbeknownst to many, Hitler was a muscular and athletic man of immense proportions. Indeed, he was a man who cared just as much about his physical body as his political vision. Adolf Hitler is often regarded as a hypocrite; a small and physically weak man who preached the greatness of Aryan superhumans. These new documents prove that he was, on the contrary, a fiercely dedicated body builder who practised what he preached. This short article attempts to delve into the world of physical splendour that is Adolf Hitler - a man affectionately known to his friends as "The Fuehrer".
The Early Years
Adolf Hitler in the Alps in the early days, shortly after his release from Landsberg prison.
Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria in 1889. After a short and miserable career as an unemployed vagabond and painter in Vienna, Hitler entered the Bavarian political scene with a storm. Following a failed coup in 1923 ("The Beerhall Putsch"), he was sentencted to five years' imprisonment in the Landsberg penal facility. Due to his immense political popularity, he enjoyed considerable privileges during this period of incarceration. It should come as no surprise that it was in Landsberg that he first discovered the joy of body building. With so much time on his hands, Adolf started taking great interest in the development of his musculature. This interest eventually led to regular workouts in the prison gym, where he would spent up to six hours a day while serving out his sentence.
During this time, Hitler also wrote his famous book Mein Kampf or "My Battle". Rudolf Hess, Hitler's loyal friend and assistant, wrote the following in his memoirs:
Adolf liked to dictate his masterpiece, Mein Kampf, while bench pressing. He would lift up to 400 lbs. while simultaneously discussing Aryan Theory and the Subjugation of the Slavs. It was really amazing. Adolf is the only man I know who has the strength of character to do something as demanding as that.
Hitler did not limit his literary endeavours to Aryan Theory. He also wrote a staggeringly comprehensive guide to pectoral muscle development, which he called Meine Muskeln or "My Muscles". The guide enjoyed a brief period of intense popularity in Germany. Hitler used the profits from the sale of this bestseller to finance the Nazi Party's own publication, the Volkische Beobachter.
Adolf Acclaimed for Physical Beauty
Adolf Hitler gracefully receiving the first prizes in the Herr Deutschland competition and the "Pectoral Muscle Beauty" contests.
Adolf's photograph submission in the "Pectoral Muscle Beauty" contest. This photo appeared in respected newspapers such as Der Berliner and of course on the cover of the Volkische Beobachter.
Shortly after his release from prison, Adolf Hitler signed up for the Herr Deutschland fitness contest and, unsurprisingly, received first prize with an overwhelming majority of votes. Hitler was later to exploit this popularity in politics.
A lesser known fact is that Adolf Hitler also participated in the "Pectoral Muscle Beauty" contest and again received first prize. Of course, it is probable that Hitler used illegal steroids to win, but unreliable drug testing during this period in history made detection difficult. Adolf later admitted to Hess that he was using steroids regularly.
Parading around Germany to gather supporters, Adolf soon amassed a considerable body of followers, largely thanks to the fact that he never wore anything above the waist. Close friends report that he was very happy at this period in his life, when one might guess he reached his physical prime, weighing 250 lbs. and benchpressing 500 lbs.
Hitler Becomes Chancellor and Abandons All Hope of Going Professional
Nazi propaganda photo from 1936. It shows Adolf Hitler "The Fuehrer" shouting the Nazi salute of "Sieg Heil!" (Hail Victory!) while non-Aryan children kneel at his feet, adoring the self-styled "Ubermensch".
Hitler demonstrates to the German press that he hasn't let the duties of office get in the way of physical splendour. This photo is taken inside the Wolfsschanze ("Wolf's Lair") early in the war. Hitler's personal gym, installed at great expense from his royalties fund, can be seen in the background.
When Hitler became Chancellor he hired a Swedish personal trainer and fitness instructor by the name of Jurgen Malmquist. He also had a private gym installed in his secret hidden fortress the "Wolf's Lair", at enormous expense. Malmquist mentions Hitler fondly in his memoirs:
Adolf was a spectacular client, wonderful to work with. I've never seen such dedication in anyone I've trained. He spent on average between four and six hours in the gym every day, on top of his official duties as Chancellor. This man had great future in the bodybuilding business. It's a shame he threw it all away with all that political nonsense. I expected much more ambition from him, and it was a great personal disappointment when he told me he had abandoned all hopes of going professional.
Hitler's muscular body was displayed constantly in Nazi propaganda, encouraging the German people to pursue a life of physical fitness. This led to a great increase in businesses specialising in workout gyms. Needless to say, these businesses contributed heavily to the Nazi Party coffers while stimulating an economic boom that strengthened the German economy and triumphed over the depression ravaging the country. American journalist Frederick Froleson wrote the following in The New York Times:
Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany, is indeed a super-man of the people. He is an excellent and inspiring image for his people to follow. One pines for an Adolf here in the States, instead of a polio-ridden cripple!
Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Britain, was a great admirer of Hitler's striking physique. This eventually led to his dismissal by parliament when war broke out between Britain and Germany. His successor, Winston Churchill, did not share Chamberlain's views on physical fitness. Consequently, the relations between the two countries became frigid. Hitler is reported to have said that Churchill's weight problem was the root of all the senseless slaughter, and that two weeks in the gym with Jurgen would have done wonders for his outlook and the political situation.
Adolf Hitler's Henchmen and Lieutenants
Heinrich Himmler, commander of the Schutz Staffel (SS) and Geheime Staatspolitzei (Gestapo), was anxious to please Hitler and did some really amazing work. Himmler writes in his diary:
I gained 80 lbs. in three months [...] I was a skinny little loser [...] now I'm an ubermensch, just like the Fuehrer!
This photograph was taken during Himmler's vacation in Australia shortly before the war.
The Last Days of Hitler
Adolf Hitler hears the news of the German 6th Army's defeat at Stalingrad. Loyal personal assisstants try to cheer him up by doubling the daily steroid dosage.
In the last few months of the war, Hitler's frustration and anger became apparent to everyone around him. He had a second private gym installed in his underground bunker underneath the Reich Chancellery. It gradually became his place of refuge from reality. The news of the defeat of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad was a great shock, and the musclebound Fuehrer almost became a recluse, eating, sleeping and living in the gym. Many of Hitler's top generals (amongst them Yodl and Keitel) blame him squarely for the ultimate defeat of Germany. Albert Speer told Allied interrogators the following during the Nuremberg trials:
[Our defeat] was all Adolf's fault. He couldn't take the stress that came with the job. As the reports of reversals on the Eastern Front became more frequent, he lost a grip on himself. He started spending more and more time in the gym, until he practically lived there. He was pumping irons to vent his anger and frustration. When the invasion of Normandy took place, he came close to benchpressing 600 lbs. If only that power had been directed in a more fruitful direction."
New records from the Russian archives report the finding of Hitler's body by the Soviet troops. According to them, Adolf did not, as is commonly believed, commit suicide. He died of cardiac arrest, in all likelihood caused by steroid overdose. Soviet doctors were understaffed and underqualified due to Stalin's purges, however, and their reports must be taken with a grain of salt. It is not improbable that it was stress which eventually did away with the self-styled "Fuehrer". According to Soviet documents, his heavily bemuscled body was eventually burned since none of the Russian soldiers felt up to the task of lifting it or moving it about. Eva Braun, Adolf's mistress, who also shared his passion for body building, managed to escape. She has remained successfully in hiding ever since, largely, it is believed, thanks to the fact that many mistake her physique for that of a man.
And thus ends the story of perhaps the greatest body builder of the Industrial Age. In whatever way Adolf may have been lacking in political correctness and humility, his contribution to the world of bodybuilding remains a heritage that will long outlive his meagre and outdated political opinions.
Dr. Walknut Hoompsohn