Did you know Hitler was derided as a “Bohemian corporal” due to a misunderstanding?

Hitler (sitting, far right) in World War I, only neither a Bohemian nor a corporal
(Photo: Bundesarchiv)
You might know from one of our past articles that Field Marshal Paulus (Read our earlier article – The field marshal who surrendered) once referred to Hitler as a “Bohemian corporal” while surrounded in Stalingrad. You might also know that the derisive nickname was actually used by several high-ranking Prussian officers (in private) who hated Hitler. But why was he called that if he was not actually from Bohemia?
 
As far as we know, the first person to describe Hitler as such was Paul von Hindenburg, German war hero and President of Germany until his death and Hitler’s ascension to dictatorial power.
(Read our earlier article – Becoming Führer) Hindenburg hated Hitler, rightly considering him an upstart rabble-rouser, and to make matters worse, not even a proper German but an Austrian foreigner.
Hindenburg (left) with Hitler (Photo: Bundesarchiv)
Hindenburg (left) with Hitler
(Photo: Bundesarchiv)
Bohemia is a historical part of Central Europe that lies within the modern-day Czech Republic. It had been a part of the Habsburg Empire for a long time, but Hitler was patently not born there, and “Bohemian corporal” comes down to a geographical misunderstanding. The future Führer was born in a town called Braunau am Inn near the Austrian-German border. There was, however, another Braunau, today called Broumov in the Czech Republic, which is in the region of Bohemia. It’s likely that Hindenburg once heard or read that Hitler was born in Braunau and assumed the wrong town. The notion probably also fed into a Prussian prejudice against Bohemians, whom they have considered even lowlier than Austrians.
The house where Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn (Photo: Author’s own)
The house where Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn
(Photo: Author’s own)
And just to make it more interesting, even “corporal” is a mistake. Hindenburg’s original phrase was “böhmische Gefreiter,” but Gefreiter, Hitler’s highest rank in World War I, is not actually “corporal.” The U.S. does not have a direct equivalent, but it was a rank one step above a “regular” private, but still below a corporal.
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