“Adolf Hitler: Sein Leben und seine Reden (Adolf Hitler: His Life and his Speeches)” was the first major profile of Hitler and appeared in 1923, authored by Victor von Koerber.
Historian Thomas Weber, from Aberdeen University, has unearthed documents in a South African archive which indicates the book was “almost certainly” written by Hitler himself as a “shameless but clever act of self-promotion”.
“The book, which also includes a collection of Hitler's speeches, makes some outlandish claims arguing that it should become 'the new bible of today' and uses terms such as 'holy' and 'deliverance', comparing Hitler to Jesus and likening his moment of politicalisation to Jesus' resurrection,” Weber said.
“To find it was actually written by Hitler himself…demonstrates that he was a conniving political operator with a masterful understanding of political processes and narratives long before he drafted what is regarded as his first autobiography, 'Mein Kampf'.”
Weber, a professor of history and international affairs and a visiting scholar at Harvard University, said he found the evidence while reviewing von Koerber's papers at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg for his new book about how Hitler became a Nazi.
The historian believes von Koerber was selected to front the biography due to his aristocratic lineage and reputation as a war hero.
“I found a signed testimony given under oath by the wife of the book's publisher stating that Victor von Koerber had not written the book and that Hitler had asked General Ludendorff (an ally in the failed putsch of 1923) if he could find a conservative writer without any connection to the Nazi party to put his name to it,” he said.
“I also found a statement by Koerber as well as a letter he wrote to a man with whom he had been incarcerated in a concentration camp that gave details about Hitler's authorship of the book.
“Subsequently, in Germany, I found a document from 1938 in which von Koerber alludes to Hitler writing the book, stating that it was written 'on the initiative of and with the active participation of Adolf Hitler'.”
The book also contains the first reference to Hitler's “political awakening” in a military hospital which “would later be repeated in almost identical language in Mein Kampf”.
Weber said: “Taken together, the pieces of evidence now available to us build a compelling picture that this was indeed an autobiography written to boost Hitler's profile as the 'German saviour' and that even at this early stage of his career he was an astute and manipulative political operator.”