World leaders are formidable, respectable and awe-inspiring people. But they have their idiosyncrasies and vices. They are people, after all.
In light of this, brought to you are 7 interesting facts about the men on top.
1. Hiedler, Huttler, Hitler
Adolf Hitler, Nazi Führer of Germany from 1933 to 1945, was never known as Adolf Schicklgrüber – despite the popular belief that he was.
Hitler’s father, Alois, was the illegitimate son of a servant girl called Maria Schicklgrüber. Five years after the birth of Alois, she married one Johann Georg Hiedler, but took no steps to legitimize the boy, who used his mother’s name until he was nearly 40. Then his step-father’s brother, Johann Huttler, persuaded the local priest to amend the parish register to show that Hiedler acknowledged his paternity of Alois, though Huttler himself may well have been his father. From then on, Alois called himself Hitler.
The variations in the spelling of the family name seem to have been due to the illeteracy that was then common in rural communities. The amendment took place 12 years before Adolf’s birth. The name Schicklgrüber had long been forgotten until his political opponents tried to discredit him by revealing his father’s illegitimacy.
2. The Red Priest
The mother of Joseph Stalin (1879 – 1953), dictator of Soviet Russia from 1927 until his death, intended her son to become a priest, not a revolutionary. In 1894, when the young Stalin was 14, he was awarded a scholarship to study at the theological Academy in Tiflis, the capital city of his native province of Georgia.
According to his own account, he was expelled for preaching Marxism, but according to his mother, he left for reasons of health. At the time, Stalin was known by his original name of Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. It was only later, after he became a revolutionary leader, that he adopted as an image-building alias the name by which he is known to history: Stalin, or ‘man of steel’.
3. The Pickled Hero
The British Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson (1758 – 1805), who joined the Navy at the age of 12, and was made captain at the age of 20, made his last sea voyage in a barrel. Mortally wounded in his hour of triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, he died aboard his flagship “Victory”. His body was brought back to England pickled in brandy to stop it decomposing on the way home.
4. Sergeant Major Gandhi
Mohandas Gandhi (1869 – 1948), advocate of non-violence and leader of India’s struggle for independence from Britain, served twice under British forces and was awarded a British decoration.
On the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa in 1899, Gandhi was living in Natal. For a mixture of motives, but primarily because of his beliefs that winning civil rights could come only by taking on responsibilities, he raised an Indian Ambulance Corps of more than 1000 men. At the end of the War, he and 37 men were awarded the War Medal.
In 1906, he tried to persuade the British authorities to accept Indian recruits to help put down a Zulu uprising. The government, however, would accept them only as stretcher-bearers, commanded by Gandhi as sergeant-major.
Gandhi’s pro-British stance continued after he left South Africa. On the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, while based in England, he again helped raise a Field Ambulance Corps from amongst Indians studying in the country.
Ill health forced his return to India, and there, in 1917, to took part in a recruitment of drive for the Indian Army at the request of the British administration.
5. Turning Point
The Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand might well have escaped assassination in Sarajevo in 1914, and the First World War might not have broken out then – if chauffeur had been told of a change in plan. At the beginning of the archduke’s visit to the capital of Bosnia, then under Austrian rule, a bomb was thrown at his car. But it fell on the road and injured the occupants of the car behind. Panicked by the failure, six other would-be assassins – all members of the bomb-throwers group – left their posts along the route.
Later, after an official reception at the city hall, the archduke announced that he wanted to go to the hospital to visit the injured men. Nobody passed on the message to the chauffeurs, though, so the leading car turned to follow the route originally planned to a museum – and Franz Ferdinand’s driver followed suit.
Realizing the mistake, the governor of Bosnia, who was riding with the archduke, told the chauffeur to turn around. The driver stopped and began to reverse, precisely opposite the spot where one of the last conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, was standing on the pavement. With his target only a few metres away in an almost motionless open car, Princip could hardly miss. He shot both the archduke and his wife, and was about to shoot himself when he was seized by bystanders. Because Princip was only 19 he escaped the death penalty, but he survived only 4 years before dying in 1918 of tuberculosis in an Austrian prison.
6. Phoney Hero
Senator Joseph McCarthy (1908 – 57), the scourge of alleged Red traitors in the United States in the early 1950s exaggerated hjs war record to further his political career. He had been a ground intelligence officer with a marine dive-bomber squadron in the Pacific during the Second World War, but his campaign literature described him as ‘Tail Gunner Joe’ and showed him wearing a flying helmet and standing by a bomber’s machine guns. McCarthy did fly some operational missions as a gunner and photographer, but the number he claimed to have flown multiplied over the years – from 14 in 1944 to 32 in 1951. His commanding officer put McCarthy’s total at only 11.
7. Mao On The March
Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976), ruler of Communist China from 1949 until his death, to power largely through his leadership of the Long March in the 1930s. In this, some 100,000 Chinese communists with their wives and families, marched and fought the staggering distance of 10,000 km from the south eastern part of China to the Northern province of Shaanxi to escape from the Nationalist forces of Jiang Jieshi.