A childhood confrontation between A. Hitler and L. Wittgenstein

While it is acknowledged that the boy on the right is Adolf Hitler there is debate over whether or not the boy on the left is actually Ludwig Wittgenstein.

For an Historiography class I’m in we’re reading Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust and The David Irving Trial (2001) by Richard J. Evans that in addition to tearing apart Holocaust deniers like David Irving also makes the case that historical institutions, methodologies and not being a liar actually matter. In an era where arguments of “subjectivity” and “relativism” and “bias” are thrown around to discredit anyone and everyone, it’s the kind of book that reminds the reader of a simple 21st century truth: historical/artistic/political/philosophical/whatever nihilism is counterproductive and only leaves people like myself sarcastically screaming, “I can’t definitively prove that you exist. So please go away.” The existentialists and post-structuralists may be right, but at the end of the day we need to learn from the compatibilists (who focus more on reconciling determinism with free will) that sometimes we need to function as though something were true.

So one obscure thing that I learned from Lying About Hitler is that, apparently, the most influential 20th-century philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who is known for went to school with a young Adolf Hitler. Yeah, there’s even a photograph of it (but its authenticity is debated). The reason why it’s mentioned in the book is because some historians believe that Hitler’s hatred for the Jews may have stemmed from his youthful jealousy of Wittgenstein (many historians are skeptical of this interpretation). Regardless, I can sympathize with this theory because, I mean, think about it

On the small playground of the local realschule in Linz, Austria, a young Wittgenstein approaches a young Hitler. Though precocious and self-conscious, the young Wittgenstein snaps at the “vicious and aggressive” young Hitler and pushes him to the ground while saying, “Now let me be clear with you …!”

Yes, this entire post was a setup for one of the the lamest, most esoteric jokes you will ever roll your eyes over.

About Joshua Preston

Joshua Preston is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Morris (Political Science and History) and currently a research fellow at Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. There he does big data “Criminal Policy Informatics” and staffs the Journal of Science and Law. His articles and poems have appeared in MinnPost, The Humanist, The Rain Taxi Review of Books, and MAYDAY Magazine.
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