When it comes to the total number of deaths one person is responsible for, Hitler comes third after Stalin and Mao – but just how many did Hitler kill personally?
Did Hitler kill personally?
This post looks at all feasible periods, incidents and opportunities in which Hitler could kill personally. ‘Personally’ means a Hitler kill caused by his own hand or by direct action – such as pulling the trigger on a gun.
The deaths Hitler was responsible for
The number of non-combatants killed under the Nazi regime is in the region of 11,000,000 according to Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale. The true devastation and trauma of murder is easily forgotten when simply tallying death tolls as statistics – even more so when we are discussing an amount as colossal as 11,000,000. As Snyder puts it himself:
“Discussion of numbers can blunt our sense of the horrific personal character of each killing and the irreducible tragedy of each death. As anyone who has lost a loved one knows, the difference between zero and one is an infinity. (1)
Did Hitler kill personally in WW1?
One of the most likely periods for a Hitler kill personally would have been during his service in the First World War.
Hitler fought in the war as part of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment. This regiment took part in some very serious and bloody fighting and were almost entirely wiped out on one occasion whilst fighting the French in the Battle of Ypres, 1914.
Statistically, Hitler was lucky to have survived at all. His role within the Bavarian Reserve Regiment was as a regimental runner and was relatively safe compared to most combat positions. This is due to him mainly being kept to the rear of the fighting delivering and communicating messages to personnel.
Officially, Hitler had no documented kills. He won his his 1st class Iron Cross for his service to regimental HQ and his 2nd class Iron Cross for rescuing a wounded officer. Furthermore, if he had killed someone in the First World War it is likely that he would have mentioned it in Mein Kampf where he was candid about his service. However, nothing was mentioned in his autobiography. Nor did he mention any kills in WW1 in later life.
Beer Hall Putsch deaths
The Weimar Years was a period when the Nazi party was routinely involved in street violence. One of the most infamous events during this period was the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. Unfortunately, it’s not that clear what Hitler’s activity or role in the violence was on this day, only that he was in attendance. Four police officers and sixteen Nazis died during the Beer Hall Coup but there is no evidence that Hitler pulled the trigger on any of the fatal shots.
Did Hitler kill his niece?
Next comes the tragic story of Geli Raubal – Hitler’s half-niece. She stayed with him in Munich from 1929 until her death in 1931. Hitler considered her “the only women he’d ever loved” and was incredibly possessive and abusive towards her.
He kept her as something similar to a prisoner in his house. In 1931 Rabaul wanted to travel to Vienna for singing lessons, to which Hitler refused to let her go. A terrible fight ensued and Rabaul allegedly shot herself with Hitler’s pistol.
It was immediately speculated that it was Hitler who had murdered her, but Ian Kershaw, Hitler’s definitive biographer, dismisses such stories as contemporary anti-Hitler propaganda.
Night of the long knives
There is another instance that it is often a subject of speculation during the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ when Ernst Rohm was arrested and killed. It is accpeted that Hitler arrested Rohm personally, and upon his arrest, Rohm was given the option of suicide to which he responded;
“If I am to be killed, let Adolf [Hitler] do it himself.”
However, Michael Lippert, a Waffen SS commander, is now known as the person who killed Rohm
So, did Hitler kill personally?
Out of all of the 11,000,000 people killed under Hitler and the Nazi regime, a total of zero Hitler kill can be personally attributed to the man himself.
It is an astonishing fact given the personal history of Hitler and the amount of death that surrounded him.
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(1) Snyder, Timothy: Hitler vs Stalin: Who Killed More? The New York Review of Books, 2011.