In his late teens during the rise of the Third Reich, Shmidt got his most prosperous job, a bellhop in a major hotel. There he served the rooms of Adolf Hitler himself. By chance, he was present when Hitler was furiously berating an officer and swore he could train Johann himself, a simple bellhop, to be a better National Socialist. Looking closely at him and sensing his dark inner nature, Hitler decided to take up the challenge and recruited Shmidt.
Dissatisfied with the standard drill instruction his subordinates used to train Shmidt, Hitler took over personally. Upon completion, Hitler gave Shmidt a unique uniform with a grotesque red skull mask, and he emerged as the Red Skull. His role was the embodiment of Nazi intimidation, while Hitler could remain the popular leader of Germany. The Red Skull was appointed head of Nazi terrorist activities with an additional large role in external espionage and sabotage. He was spectacularly successful, wreaking havoc throughout Europe in the early stages of World War II. The propaganda effect was so great that the United States government decided to counter it by creating their own equivalent using the recipient of the lost Operation Rebirth, Steve Rogers, Captain America.