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Adolf Hitler
Date of birth April 20, 1889
Date of death April 30, 1945
Political Party National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP, i.e. the Nazi Party)
Political positions
  • Führer (Leader) of the NSDAP (1921-1945)
  • Reichskanzler of Germany (1933-1945)
  • Führer and Reichskanzler (head of state) of Germany (1934-1945)
"Hitler" redirects here. For other uses, see Hitler (disambiguation).

About this sound Adolf Hitler  (April 20, 1889April 30, 1945) was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 and Führer (Leader) of Germany from 1934 until his death. He was leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP), better known as the Nazi Party.

Hitler gained power in Germany facing crisis after World War I. He used charismatic oratory and propaganda, appealing to economic need, nationalism and anti-Semitism to establish an authoritarian regime. With a restructured economy and rearmed military, Hitler pursued an aggressive foreign policy with the intention of expanding German Lebensraum ('living space') and triggered a major war in Europe by invading Poland. At the height of their power, Germany and the Axis Powers occupied most of Europe, but were eventually defeated by the Allies in what became known as World War II. By then, Hitler's racial policies had culminated in the genocide of 11 million people, including about six million Jews, in what is now known as The Holocaust.

In the final days of the war, Hitler committed suicide in his underground bunker in Berlin, together with his newly wed wife, Eva Braun.

Early years[edit]

Childhood and heritage[edit]

Adolf Hitler as an infant.

Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, at Braunau am Inn, Austria, a small town in Upper Austria, on the border with Germany. He was the fourth of six children of Alois Hitler (1837–1903), a customs official, and Klara Pölzl (1860-1907), Alois's niece and third wife. Of these six children, only Adolf and his younger sister Paula reached adulthood. Alois Hitler also had a son (Alois Junior) and a daughter (Angela) by his second wife.

Because of Alois Hitler's profession, his family moved frequently, from Braunau to Passau, Lambach, Leonding, and Linz. As a young child, Hitler was reportedly a good student at the various elementary schools he attended; however, in sixth grade (1900-1), his first year of high school (Realschule) in Linz, he failed completely and had to repeat the grade. His teachers reported that he had "no desire to work."

Hitler later explained this educational slump as a kind of rebellion against his father Alois, who wanted the boy to follow him in a career as a customs official, although Adolf wanted to become a painter. This explanation is further supported by Hitler's later description of himself as a misunderstood artist. However, after Alois died on January 3, 1903, when Adolf was 13, Hitler's schoolwork did not improve. At the age of 16, Hitler left school with no qualifications.

Early adulthood in Vienna and Munich[edit]

From 1905 onward, Hitler was able to live the life of a Bohemian on a fatherless child's pension and support from his mother. He was rejected twice by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (1907 – 1908) due to "unfitness for painting", and was told his abilities were stronger in architecture.

Following the school rector's recommendation, he too became convinced this was the path to pursue, yet he lacked the proper academic preparation for architecture school:

On December 21, 1907, his mother Klara died a painful death from breast cancer at the age of 47. Hitler gave his share of the orphans' benefits to his younger sister Paula, but when he was 21 he inherited some money from an aunt. He worked as a struggling painter in Vienna, copying scenes from postcards and selling his paintings to merchants and tourists (there is evidence he produced over 2000 paintings and drawings before World War I). During this period, he became close friends with the musician August Kubizek.

File:AHWatercolor1.jpg
A watercolour by Adolf Hitler depicting Laon, France.

After the second refusal from the Academy of Arts, Hitler gradually ran out of money. By 1909, he sought refuge in a homeless shelter, and by the beginning of 1910 settled permanently into a house for poor working men. He made spending money by painting tourist postcards of Vienna scenery. Several biographers noted that a Jewish resident of the house named Hanisch helped him sell his postcards.

It was in Vienna that Hitler first became an active anti-Semite. Vienna had a large Jewish community, including many Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe. (See History of Vienna.) Hitler was slowly influenced over time by the writings of Lanz von Liebenfels and polemics from politicians such as Karl Lueger, founder of the Christian Social Party and mayor of Vienna, and Georg Ritter von Schönerer, leader of the pan-Germanic Away from Rome! movement. He later wrote in his book Mein Kampf that his transition from opposing anti-Semitism on religious grounds to supporting it on racial grounds came from having seen an Orthodox Jew.

Hitler began to claim the Jews were natural enemies of what he called the Aryan race. He held them responsible for Austria's crisis. He also identified Socialism and especially Bolshevism, which had many Jews among its leaders, as Jewish movements, merging his anti-Semitism with anti-Marxism. Blaming Germany's military defeat on the revolution, he considered Jews the culprit of Germany's military defeat and subsequent economic problems as well.

Generalising from tumultuous scenes in the parliament of multi-national Austria, he developed a firm belief in the inferiority of the parliamentary system, and especially social democracy, which formed the basis of his political views. However, according to August Kubizek, his close friend and roommate at the time, he was more interested in the operas of Richard Wagner than in politics.

Hitler received a small inheritance from his father in May 1913 and moved to Munich. He later wrote in Mein Kampf that he had always longed to live in a German city. In Munich, he became more interested in architecture and the writings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Moving to Munich also helped him escape military service in Austria for a time, but the Austrian army later arrested him. After a physical exam (during which his height was measured at 173 cm, or 5 ft 8 in) and a contrite plea, he was deemed unfit for service and allowed to return to Munich. However, when Germany entered World War I in August 1914, he immediately enlisted in the Bavarian army.

World War I[edit]

Hitler saw active service in France and Belgium as a messenger for the regimental headquarters of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment (also called Regiment List after its first commander), which exposed him to enemy fire. Unlike his fellow soldiers, Hitler reportedly never complained about the food or hard conditions, preferring to talk about art or history. He also drew some cartoons and instructional drawings for the army newspaper. His behaviour as a soldier was considered somewhat sloppy, but his regular duties required taking dispatches to and from fighting areas and he was twice decorated for his performance of these duties. He received the Iron Cross, Second Class in December 1914 and the Iron Cross, First Class in August 1918, an honour rarely given to a Gefreiter. However, because of the perception of "a lack of leadership skills" on the part of some of the regimental staff, as well as Hitler's unwillingess to leave regimental headquarters, he was never promoted to Unteroffizier. His duty station at regimental headquarters, while often dangerous, gave Hitler time to pursue his artwork. During October 1916 in northern France, Hitler was wounded in the leg, but returned to the front in March 1917. He received the Wound Badge later that year, as his injury was the direct result of hostile fire.

Hitler was considered a "correct" soldier but was reportedly unpopular with his comrades because of his respect toward officers. "Respect the superior, don't contradict anybody, obey blindly," he said, describing his attitude while on trial in 1924.

On October 15, 1918, shortly before the end of the war, Hitler was admitted to a field hospital, temporarily blinded by a poison gas attack. Hitler later said it was during this experience that he became convinced the purpose of his life was to save Germany.

Hitler long admired Germany and during the war he had become a passionate German patriot, although he did not become a German citizen until 1932 (the year before he took over Germany). He was shocked by Germany's capitulation in November 1918 even while the German army still held enemy territory. Like many other German nationalists, Hitler believed in the Dolchstoßlegende ("dagger-stab legend") which claimed that the army, "undefeated in the field," had been "stabbed in the back" by civilian leaders and Marxists back on the home front. These politicians were later dubbed the November Criminals.

The Treaty of Versailles deprived Germany of various territories, demilitarized the Rhineland and imposed other economically damaging sanctions. The treaty was an important factor in both the social and political conditions encountered by Hitler and his National Socialist Party as they sought power.

The early years of the Nazi Party[edit]

A copy of Adolf Hitler's forged DAP membership card. His actual membership number was 555 but later the number was reduced to create the impression that Hitler was one of the founding members.

Hitler's entry and rise[edit]

After the war, Hitler remained in the army, (which was mainly engaged in suppressing socialist uprisings breaking out across Germany) where Hitler returned in 1919. He took part in "national thinking" courses organized by the Education and Propaganda Department (Dept Ib/P) of the Bavarian Reichswehr Group, Headquarters 4 under Captain Mayr. A key purpose of this group was to create a scapegoat for the outbreak of the war and Germany's defeat. The scapegoats were found in "international Jewry," communists and politicians across the party spectrum, especially the parties of the Weimar Coalition, who were deemed "November Criminals".

In July 1919, Hitler was appointed a V-Mann (Verbindungsmann a German term for "police spy") of "Aufklärungskommando" ("Intelligence Commando") of the Reichswehr, for the purpose of influencing other soldiers toward similar ideas and was assigned to infiltrate a small nationalist party, the German Workers' Party (DAP). During his inspection, Hitler was impressed with Drexler's ideas. Here Hitler also met Dietrich Eckart, one of the early founders of the party, member of Thule Society.[1] Eckart became Hitler's mentor, exchanging ideas with him, teaching him how to dress and speak, and introducing him to a wide range of people. Hitler in return thanked Eckart by paying tribute to him in Mein Kampf.

Hitler was discharged from the army in March 1920 and (with his former superiors' continued encouragement) began participating full time in the party's activities. By early 1921, Adolf Hitler was becoming highly effective at speaking in front of even larger crowds. In February, Hitler spoke before a crowd of nearly six thousand in Munich. To publicize the meeting, he sent out two truckloads of Party supporters to drive around with swastikas, cause a commotion and throw out leaflets, their first use of this tactic. Hitler gained notoriety outside of the Party for his speeches against the Treaty of Versailles, rival politicians and groups (especially Marxists) and always the Jews.

The German Workers' Party was centred in Munich which became a hotbed of reactionary German nationalists who included Army officers determined to crush Marxism and undermine or even overthrow the young German democracy centred in Berlin. Gradually they noticed Adolf Hitler and his growing movement as a vehicle to hitch themselves to. Hitler traveled to Berlin to visit nationalist groups during the summer of 1921 and in his absence there was an unexpected revolt among the DAP leadership in Munich.

The Party was run by an executive committee whose original members considered Hitler to be overbearing and even dictatorial. To weaken Hitler's position they formed an alliance with a group of socialists from Augsburg. Hitler rushed back to Munich and countered them by tendering his resignation from the Party on July 11, 1921. When they realized the loss of Hitler would effectively mean the end of the Party, he seized the moment and announced he would return on the condition that he was made chairman and given dictatorial powers. Infuriated committee members (including founder Anton Drexler) held out at first.

The executive committee of the DAP eventually backed down and Hitler's demands were put to a vote of party members. Hitler received 543 votes for and only 1 against. At the next gathering on July 29, 1921, Adolf Hitler was introduced as Führer of the Nazi Party, marking the first time this title was publicly used. Hitler changed the name of the party to the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP).

Hitler's beer hall oratory, attacking Jews, socialists and liberals, capitalists and communists, began attracting adherents. Early followers included Rudolf Hess, the former air force pilot Hermann Göring, and the flamboyant army captain Ernst Röhm, who became head of the Nazis' paramilitary organization, the SA, which protected meetings and attacked political opponents. He also attracted the attention of local business interests, was accepted into influential circles of Munich society, and became associated with wartime General Erich Ludendorff during this time.

The Hitler Putsch[edit]

Main article: Beer Hall Putsch

Encouraged by this early support, Hitler decided to use Ludendorff as a front in an attempt to seize power later known as the Hitler Putsch (and sometimes as Beerhall Putsch or Munich Putsch). The Nazi Party copied the Italian Fascists in appearance and also adopted some programmatical points and now, in the turbulent year 1923, Hitler wanted to emulate Mussolini's "March on Rome" by staging his own "Campaign in Berlin". Hitler and Ludendorff obtained the clandestine support of Gustav von Kahr, Bavaria's de facto ruler along with leading figures in the Reichswehr and the police. As political posters show, Ludendorff, Hitler, and the heads of the Bavarian police and military planned on forming a new government.

However on November 8, 1923 Kahr and the military withdrew their support during a meeting in the Bürgerbräu beer hall. A surprised Hitler had them arrested and proceeded with the coup. Unknown to him, Kahr and the other detainees had been released on Ludendorff's orders after he obtained their word not to interfere. That night they prepared resistance measures against the coup and in the morning, when the Nazis marched from the beer hall to the Bavarian War Ministry to overthrow what they saw as Bavaria's traitorous government as a start to their "March on Berlin," the army quickly dispersed them (Ludendorff was wounded and a few other Nazis were killed).

Hitler fled to the home of Ernst Hanfstaengl and contemplated suicide. He was soon arrested for high treason and appointed Alfred Rosenberg as temporary leader of the party but found himself in an environment somewhat receptive to his beliefs. During Hitler's trial, sympathetic magistrates allowed Hitler to turn his debacle into a propaganda stunt. He was given almost unlimited amounts of time to present his arguments to the court along with a large body of the German people, and his popularity soared when he voiced basic nationalistic sentiments shared by the public. On April 1, 1924 Hitler was sentenced to five years' imprisonment at Landsberg prison for the crime of conspiracy to commit treason. Hitler received favoured treatment from the guards and had much fan mail. While at Landsberg he dictated his political book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) to his deputy Rudolf Hess. The book was both an autobiography and an exposition of his political ideology. It was published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926 respectively, but did not sell very well until Hitler came to power (though by the late 1930s nearly every household in Germany had a copy of it). Meanwhile, as he was considered relatively harmless, Hitler was released eight months later in December 1924.

Rebuilding the Nazi Party[edit]

At the time of Hitler's release, the political situation in Germany calmed down, which hampered Hitler's opportunities for agitation. Instead, he began a long effort to rebuild the dwindling party.

Though the Hitler Putsch gave Hitler some national prominence, his party's mainstay was still Munich. To spread the party to the north, Hitler also assimilated independent groups, such as the Nuremberg-based Wistrich.

As Hitler was still banned from public speeches, he appointed Gregor Strasser, who in 1924 had been elected to the Reichstag, as Reichsorganisationsleiter, authorizing him to organise the party in northern Germany. Gregor, joined by his younger brother Otto and Joseph Goebbels, steered an increasingly independent course, emphasizing the socialist element in the party's programme. The Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Gauleiter Nord-West became an internal opposition, threatening Hitler's authority, but this faction was defeated at the Bamberg Conference (1926), during which Goebbels joined Hitler. After this encounter, Hitler centralized the party even more and asserted the Führerprinzip as the basic principle of party organization.

Hitler used the Treaty of Verailles an offense of national pride. Germany had lost economically important territory in Europe along with its colonies and in admitting to sole responsibility for the war had agreed to pay a reparations bill totaling 32 billion marks.

Having failed to overthrow the Republic by a coup, Hitler now pursued the "strategy of legality" meaning he would gain power legally and then to transform liberal democracy into an authoritarian dictatorship. Some party members, especially in the paramilitary SA, opposed this strategy.

The Road to Power[edit]

Main article: Weimar Republic

The Brüning administration[edit]

The political turning point for Hitler came when the Great Depression hit Germany in 1930. The Weimar Republic was never been firmly rooted and right-wing conservaties openly opposed Communists and the Nazis. As the parties loyal to the republic found themselves unable to agree on counter-measures, their Grand Coalition broke up and was replaced by a minority cabinet. The new Chancellor Heinrich Brüning, lacking a majority in parliament, had to implement his measures through the President's emergency decrees. Tolerated by the majority of parties, the exception soon became the rule and paved the way for authoritarian forms of government.

The Reichstag's initial opposition to Brüning's measures led to premature elections in September 1930. The republican parties lost their majority and their ability to resume the Grand Coalition, while the Nazis suddenly rose from relative obscurity to win 18.3% of the vote along with 107 seats in the Reichstag, becoming the second largest party in Germany.

Hitler emerges from the Brown House in Munich (headquarters of the Nazi party during the last days of the Weimar Republic) after a post-election meeting in 1930.

Brüning's measure of budget consolidation and financial austerity brought little economic improvement and was extremely unpopular. Under these circumstances, Hitler appealed to the bulk of German farmers, war veterans and the middle-class who had been hard-hit by the Depression. Hitler received little response from the urban working classes and traditionally Catholic regions.

In 1932 Hitler intended to run against the aging President Paul von Hindenburg in the scheduled presidential elections. Though Hitler left Austria in 1913, he still had not acquired German citizenship and hence could not run for public office. In February however, the state government of Brunswick, in which the Nazi Party participated, appointed Hitler to some minor administrative post and also gave him citizenship. The new German citizen ran against Hindenburg, who was supported by the Republican parties, and the Communist candidate. His campaign was called "Hitler über Deutschland" (Hitler over Germany). Besides an obvious refrence to Hitler's dictatorial intentions, it also referred to the fact that Hitler was campaigning by airplane. This was a brand new political tactic that allowed Hitler to speak sometimes in two cities in one day, which was then unheard of at the time. Hitler attaining more than 35% of the vote during the second round in April. Although he lost, the election established Hitler as a realistic and fresh alternative in German politics.

Hitler's Appointment as Chancellor[edit]

President Hindenburg, influenced by the Camarilla, became increasingly estranged from Brüning and pushed his Chancellor to move the government in a decidedly authoritarian and right-wing direction. This culminated in May 1932 with the resignation of the Brüning cabinet.

Hindenburg appointed the nobleman Franz von Papen as chancellor, heading a "cabinet of barons". Papen (bent on authoritian power), however, had little support in the Reichstag (as most were Nazis). He called for two relections of the seats, but both times Nazis still held a majority. President Hindenburg later dismissed Papen when he asked for emergency powers and a third postponement of elections.

Meanwhile Papen, resentful because of his dismissal, tried to get his revenge on Schleicher by working toward the General's downfall, through forming an intrigue with the camarilla and Alfred Hugenberg, media mogul and chairman of the DNVP. Also involved were other leading German businessmen. They financially supported the Nazi Party, which had been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by the cost of heavy campaigning. The businessmen also wrote letters to Hindenburg, urging him to appoint Hitler as leader of a government "independent from parliamentary parties" which could turn into a movement that would "enrapture millions of people."[2]

Finally, the President reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler Chancellor of a coalition government formed by the NSDAP and DNVP. Hitler and two other Nazi ministers (Frick, Göring) were to be contained by a framework of conservative cabinet ministers, most notably by Papen as Vice-Chancellor and by Hugenberg as Minister of Economics. Papen wanted to use Hitler as a figure-head, but the Nazis had gained key positions, most notably the Ministry of the Interior. On the morning of January 30, 1933, in Hindenburg's office, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor during what some observers later described as a brief and simple ceremony.

Reichstag Fire and the March elections[edit]

Having become Chancellor, Hitler foiled all attempts to gain a majority in parliament convincing President Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag again. Elections were scheduled for early March, but before that day, the Reichstag building was set on fire on February 27 under still unclear circumstances. The fire was blamed on a Communist plot inlfuencing the Reichstag Fire Decree of February 28. Communist functionaries and deputies were arrested, put to flight or murdered.

Campaigning still continued, with the Nazis making use of paramilitary violence, anti-Communist hysteria and the government's resources for propaganda. On election day, March 6th, the Nazi Party increased its result to 43.9% of the vote, remaining the largest party, but this success was marred by its failure to secure an absolute majority. Hence, Hitler had to maintain his coalition with the DNVP, which jointly gained a slim majority.

Removal of remaining limits[edit]

With this combination of legislative and executive power, Hitler's government further suppressed the remaining political opposition. The KPD and the SPD were banned, while all other political parties dissolved themselves. Labour unions were merged with employers' federations into an organisation under Nazi control and the autonomy of state governments was abolished.

[[Image:Hitler-triumph.JPG|Adolf Hitler, larger than life, in Triumph of the will.]]

Hitler also used the SA paramilitary to push Hugenberg into resigning and proceeded to politically isolate Vice Chancellor Papen. As the SA's demands for political and military caused much anxiety among the populace in general and especially among the military, Hitler used allegations of a plot by the SA leader Ernst Röhm to purge the paramilitary force's leadership during the Night of the Long Knives. Opponents unconnected with the SA were also murdered, notably Gregor Strasser and former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher.

Soon after, president Paul von Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934. Rather than holding new presidential elections, Hitler's cabinet passed a law proclaiming the presidency dormant and transferred the role and powers of the head of state to Hitler as Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor). Thereby Hitler also became supreme commander of the military, which swore their military oath not to the state or the constitution but to Hitler personally. In a mid-August plebiscite these acts found the approval of 90% of the electorate. Combining the highest offices in state, military and party in his hand, Hitler had attained supreme rule that could no longer be legally challenged.

The Third Reich[edit]

Main article: Nazi Germany
File:Hitler-girl.jpg
Photographs like this one were used to promote Hitler's populist-nationalist (Völkisch) image.

Having secured supreme political power, Hitler went on to gain their support by persuading most Germans he was their saviour from the Depression, the Communists, the Versailles Treaty, and the Jews along with other "undesirable" minorities. The Third Reich that he created lasted twelve years in total.

Influence in Economics and culture[edit]

Hitler oversaw one of the greatest expansions of industrial production and civil improvement Germany had ever seen, mostly based on debt flotation and expansion of the military. Nazi policies toward women strongly encouraged them to stay at home to bear children and keep house. In a September 1934 speech to the National Socialist Women's Organization, Adolf Hitler argued that for the German woman her “world is her husband, her family, her children, and her home,” a policy which was reinforced by the bestowing of the Cross of Honor of the German Mother on women bearing four or more babies. The unemployment rate was cut substantially, mostly through arms production and sending women home so that men could take their jobs. Given this, claims that the German economy achieved near full employment are at least partly artifacts of propaganda from the era. Much of the financing for Hitler's reconstruction and rearmament came from currency manipulation by Hjalmar Schacht, including the clouded credits through the Mefo bills. The negative effects of this inflation were offset in later years by the acquisition of foreign gold from the treasuries of conquered nations.

Hitler also oversaw one of the largest infrastructure improvement campaigns in German history, with the construction of dozens of dams, autobahns, railroads and other civil works. Hitler's policies emphasised the importance of family life: Men were the "breadwinners", while women's priorities were to lie in bringing up children and in household work. This revitalising of industry and infrastructure came at the expense of the overall standard of living, at least for those not affected by the chronic unemployment of the later Weimar Republic, since wages were slightly reduced in pre-war years despite a 25% increase in the cost of living (Shirer 1959).

Hitler's government sponsored architecture on an immense scale, with Albert Speer becoming famous as the first architect of the Reich. While important as an Architect in implementing Hitler's classicist reinterpretation of German culture, Speer would prove much more effective as armaments minister during the last years of WWII. In 1936 Berlin hosted the summer Olympic games, which were opened by Hitler and choreographed to demonstrate Aryan superiority over all other races. Olympia, the movie about the games and documentary propaganda films for the German Nazi Party were directed by Hitler's personal filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl.

Although Hitler made plans for a Breitspurbahn (broad gauge railroad network), they were pre-empted by World War II. Had the railroad been built, its gauge would have been three metres, even wider than the old Great Western Railway of Britain.

Hitler contributed to the design of the car that later became the Volkswagen Beetle, and charged Ferdinand Porsche with its construction.[3]

Repression[edit]

Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler (left)

The Gestapo-SS complex (the SS and Gestapo organizations) were primarily responsible for repression in the Nazi state. This was implemented not only against political enemies such as communists but also against perceived "asocials" such as habitual criminals and the work-shy along with "racial enemies," mainly Jews.

The racial policies of Nazi Germany during the early to mid-1930s included the harassment and persecution of Jews through legislation, restrictions on civil rights and limiting their economic opportunities. Under the 1935 Nuremberg Laws Jews lost their German citizenship and were expelled from government employment, their professions and most forms of economic activity.

Rearmament and new alliances[edit]

In March 1935 Hitler repudiated the Treaty of Versailles by reintroducing conscription in Germany. He set about building a massive military machine, including a new Navy (the Kriegsmarine) and an Air Force (the Luftwaffe). The enlistment of vast numbers of men and women in the new military seemed to solve unemployment problems but seriously distorted the economy. For the first time in a generation, Germany's armed forces were as strong as those of her neighbour, France.

In March 1936 Hitler again violated the Treaty of Versailles by reoccupying the demilitarized zone in the Rhineland. When Britain and France did nothing, he grew bolder. In fact Hitler claimed that if one of those countries actually tried to stop him, he would have been defeated easily and the outbreak of war in Europe would probably have been prevented. In July 1936 the Spanish Civil War began when the military, led by General Francisco Franco, rebelled against the elected Popular Front government of Spain. Hitler sent troops to support Franco and Spain served as a testing ground for Germany's new armed forces and their methods, including the bombing of undefended towns such as Guernica, which was destroyed by the Luftwaffe in April 1937, prompting Pablo Picasso's famous eponymous painting (see Guernica).

An Axis was declared between Germany and Italy by Galeazzo Ciano, foreign minister of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini on October 25, 1936. This alliance was later expanded to include Japan, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. They were collectively known as the Axis Powers. Then on November 5, 1937, at the Reich Chancellory, Adolf Hitler held a secret meeting and stated his plans for acquiring "living space" (Lebensraum) for the German people. [[Image:Himmler_Hitler.jpg|Adolf Hitler with Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS]]

The Holocaust[edit]

Main article: Holocaust

Between 1939 and 1945 the SS, assisted by collaborationist governments and recruits from occupied countries, systematically killed about 11 million people, including about 6 million Jews.

The massacres that led to the coining of the word "genocide" (the Endlösung der jüdischen Frage or "Final Solution of the Jewish Question") were planned and ordered by leading Nazis, with Himmler playing a key role. While no specific order from Hitler authorizing the mass killing of the Jews surfaced, there is documentation showing that he approved the Einsatzgruppen and the evidence also suggests that sometime in the fall of 1941 Himmler and Hitler agreed in principle on mass extermination by gassing. During interrogations by Soviet intelligence officers declassified over fifty years later, Hitler's valet Heinz Linge and his military aide Otto Gunsche said Hitler had "pored over the first blueprints of gas chambers."

To make for smoother intra-governmental cooperation in the implementation of this "Final Solution" to the "Jewish question", the Wannsee conference was held near Berlin on January 20, 1942, with fifteen senior officials participating, led by Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann. Days later, on February 22, Hitler was recorded saying to his closest associates, "we shall regain our health only by eliminating the Jew".

World War II[edit]

Opening moves[edit]

Main article: Blitzkrieg


On March 12, 1938, Hitler pressured his native Austria into unification with Germany (the Anschluss) and made a triumphal entry into Vienna. Next, he intensified a crisis over the German-speaking Sudetenland districts of Czechoslovakia. This led to the Munich Agreement of September 1938, which authorized the annexation and immediate military occupation of these districts by Germany. As a result of the summit, Hitler was TIME magazine's Man of the Year in 1938. British prime minister Neville Chamberlain hailed this agreement as "Peace in our time", but by giving way to Hitler's military demands Britain and France also left Czechoslovakia to Hitler's mercy.

Hitler ordered Germany's army to enter Prague on March 10 1939 and from Prague Castle proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate. After that, Hitler was claiming territories ceded to Poland under the Versailles Treaty. Britain was unable to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union for an alliance against Germany, and, on August 23, 1939, Hitler concluded a secret non-aggression pact (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) with Stalin on which it was likely agreed that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany would partition Poland. On September 1, Germany invaded the western portion of Poland. Britain and France, who had guaranteed assistance to Poland, declared war on Germany. Not long after this, on September 17, Soviet forces invaded eastern Poland.

After conquering Western Poland by the end of September, Hitler built up his forces much further during the so-called Phony War. In April 1940, he ordered German forces to march into Denmark and Norway. In May 1940, Hitler ordered his forces to attack France, conquering the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium in the process. France surrendered on June 22, 1940. This series of victories convinced his main ally, Benito Mussolini of Italy, to join the war on Hitler's side in May 1940.

Britain, whose defeated forces evacuated France from the coastal town of Dunkirk, continued to fight alongside Canadian forces in the Battle of the Atlantic. After having his overtures for peace systematically rejected by the British Government, now led by Winston Churchill, Hitler ordered bombing raids on the British Isles, leading to the Battle of Britain, a prelude of the planned German invasion. The attacks began by pounding the RAF airbases and the radar stations protecting South-East England. However, the Luftwaffe failed to defeat the RAF by the end of October 1940. Air superiority for the invasion, code-named Operation Sealion, could not be assured and Hitler ordered bombing raids to be carried out on British cities, including London and Coventry, mostly at night.

Path to defeat[edit]

On June 22, 1941, Hitler gave the signal for three million German troops to attack the Soviet Union, breaking the non-aggression pact he had concluded with Stalin less than two years earlier. This invasion, code-named Operation Barbarossa, seized huge amounts of territory, including the Baltic states, Belarus, and Ukraine, along with the encirclement and destruction of many Soviet forces. German forces, however, were stopped short of Moscow in December 1941 by the Russian winter and fierce Soviet resistance (see Battle of Moscow), and the invasion failed to achieve the quick triumph over the Soviet Union which Hitler anticipated.

Hitler's declaration of war against the United States on December 11, 1941, (which arguably was called for by Germany's treaty with Japan) set him against a coalition that included the world's largest empire (the British Empire), the world's greatest industrial and financial power (the USA), and the world's largest army (the Soviet Union).

In May 1942 Reinhard Heydrich, one of the highest SS officers and one of Hitler's favorite subordinates, was assassinated by British-trained Czech operatives in Prague. Hitler reacted by ordering brutal reprisals, including the massacre of Lidice.

In late 1942, German forces under Feldmarschall Erwin Rommel were defeated in the second battle of El Alamein, thwarting Hitler's plans to seize the Suez Canal and the Middle East. In February of 1943, the lengthy Battle of Stalingrad ended with the complete encirclement and destruction of the German 6th Army. Both defeats were turning points in the war, although the latter is more commonly considered primary. From this point on, the quality of Hitler's military judgment became increasingly erratic and Germany's military and economic position deteriorated. Hitler's health was deteriorating too. His left hand started shaking uncontrollably. The biographer Ian Kershaw believes he suffered from Parkinson's disease. Other conditions that are suspected by some to have caused some (at least) of his symptoms are methamphetamine addiction and syphilis.

Hitler's ally Benito Mussolini was overthrown in 1943 after Operation Husky, an American and British invasion of Sicily. Throughout 1943 and 1944, Russia steadily forced Hitler's armies into retreat along the eastern front. On June 6, 1944 the Western allied armies landed in northern France in what was the largest amphibious operation ever conducted, Operation Overlord. Realists in the German army knew defeat was inevitable and some officers plotted to remove Hitler from power. In July 1944 one of them, Claus von Stauffenberg, planted a bomb at Hitler's military headquarters in Rastenburg (the so-called July 20 Plot), but Hitler narrowly escaped death. He ordered savage reprisals, resulting in the executions of more than 4,000 people. The main resistance movement against Hitler was destroyed although smaller isolated groups such as Die Rote Kapelle continued to operate.

Defeat and death[edit]

Main article: Hitler's death

By the end of 1944, the Red Army drove the last German troops from Soviet territory and began charging into Central Europe as the Western Allies were also rapidly advancing into Germany. The Germans lost the war from a military perspective, but Hitler allowed no negotiation with the Allied forces, and as a consequence the German military forces continued to fight. Hitler's stubbornness and defiance of military realities also allowed the continued mass killing of Jews and others to continue. He even issued the Nero Decree on March 19 1945, ordering the destruction of what remained of German industry, communications and transport. However, Albert Speer, who was in charge of that plan, didn't carry it out.

In April 1945 Soviet forces were at the gates of Berlin. Hitler's closest lieutenants urged him to flee to Bavaria or Austria to make a last stand in the mountains, but he seemed determined to either live or die in the capital. SS leader Heinrich Himmler tried on his own to inform the Allies (through the Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte) that Germany was prepared to discuss surrender terms. Meanwhile Hermann Göring sent a telegram from Bavaria in which he argued that since Hitler was cut off in Berlin, as Hitler's designated successor he should assume leadership of Germany. Hitler angrily reacted by dismissing both Himmler and Göring from all their offices and the party, declaring them traitors.

When after intense street-to-street combat Soviet troops were spotted within a block or two of the Reich Chancellory in the city centre, Hitler committed suicide in the Führerbunker on April 30 1945 by means of a self-delivered shot to the head. Hitler's body and that of Eva Braun (his long-term mistress whom he married the day before) were put in a bomb crater, partially burned with gasoline by Führerbunker aides and hastily buried in the Chancellory garden as Russian shells poured down and Red Army infantry continued to advance only two or three hundred metres away.

When Russian forces reached the Chancellory they found his body and an autopsy was performed using dental records (and German dental assistants who were familiar with them) to confirm the identification. To avoid any possibility of creating a potential shrine the remains of Hitler and Braun were repeatedly moved, then secretly buried by SMERSH at their new headquarters in Magdeburg. In April 1970, when the facility was about to be turned over to the East German government, the remains were reportedly exhumed, thoroughly cremated, and the ashes finally dumped unceremoniously into the Elbe.

Legacy[edit]

"I would have preferred it if he'd followed his original ambition and become an architect." — Paula Hitler, Hitler's younger sister, during an interview with a U.S. intelligence operative in late 1945.

At the time of Hitler's death most of Germany's infrastructure and major cities were in ruins and he had left explicit orders to complete the destruction. Millions of Germans were dead with millions more wounded or homeless. In his will he dismissed other Nazi leaders and appointed Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz as Reichspräsident (President of Germany) and Goebbels as Reichskanzler (Chancellor of Germany). However, Goebbels and his wife Magda committed suicide on 1 May 1945. On 8 May 1945, in Reims, France, the German armed forces surrendered unconditionally ending the war in Europe and with the creation of the Allied Control Council on 5 June 1945, the Four Powers assumed "supreme authority with respect to Germany." Adolf Hitler's proclaimed Thousand Year Reich had lasted 12 years.

Since the defeat of Germany in World War II, Hitler, the Nazi Party and the results of Nazism have been regarded in most of the world as synonymous with evil. Historical and cultural portrayals of Hitler in the west are almost uniformly negative, sometimes neglecting to mention the adulation the German people bestowed on Hitler during his lifetime, and the vast majority of present-day Germans share a negative view of Hitler.

The copyright of Hitler's book Mein Kampf is held by the Free State of Bavaria and will expire in 2015. Reproductions in Germany are generally authorized only for scholarly purposes and in heavily commented form. The display of swastikas or other Nazi symbols is prohibited in Germany and political extremists are generally under surveillance by the Verfassungsschutz, one of the federal or state-based offices for the protection of the constitution.

There have been instances of public figures referring to his legacy in neutral or favourable terms, particularly in South America, the Islamic World and parts of Asia, South Africa included. Future Egyptian President Anwar Sadat wrote favourably of Hitler in 1953. Bal Thackeray, leader of the right-wing Shiv Sena party in the Indian state of the Maharashtra, declared in 1995 that he was an admirer of Hitler. The future Prime-Minister of South Africa, Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, was once accused of being an active Nazi.

Further information: Consequences of German Nazism and Neo-Nazism

Trivia[edit]

  • Hitler's given name, "Adolf", comes from the Old High German for "noble wolf" (adal, "nobility" + wolf, "wolf").[4] Hence, not surprisingly, one of Hitler's self-given nicknames was Wolf or Herr Wolf — he began using this nickname in the early 1920s and was addressed by it only by intimates (as "Uncle Wolf" by the Wagners) up until the fall of the Third Reich.[5] The names of his various headquarters scattered throughout continental Europe (Wolfsschanze in East Prussia, Wolfsschlucht in France, "Werewolf" in Ukraine, etc.) seem to reflect this.
  • A nickname for Hitler used by German soldiers was Gröfaz, a derogatory acronym for Größter Feldherr aller Zeiten ("Greatest War Lord of all Time"), a title initially publicized by Nazi propaganda after the surprisingly quick occupation of France.
  • During the early 20th century, Adolf was a popular name for German Jews. After World War II many survivors who had been born with this name changed it and the popularity of the name decreased dramatically.[6]
  • Hitler had spent years evading taxes on royalties from sales of Mein Kampf. He owed the German government 405,000 Reichmarks (equivalent to $8 million at 2004 exchange rates) by the time he took power and the tax debt was cancelled.
  • Most of Hitler's biographers have characterized him as a vegetarian who abstained from eating meat beginning in the early 1930s until his death (although his actual dietary habits are sometimes hotly disputed). A fear of cancer (which his mother died from) is the most widely cited reason. He did consume dairy products and eggs. Martin Bormann constructed a large greenhouse close to the Berghof (near Berchtesgaden) in order to ensure a steady supply of fresh fruits and vegetables for Hitler throughout the war. Personal photographs of Bormann's children tending the greenhouse survive and by 2005 its foundations were among the only ruins visible in the area which were directly associated with Nazi leaders. For more information on this topic, see Vegetarianism of Adolf Hitler.
  • Contrary to popular legend, there is some evidence Hitler did not abstain entirely from alcohol. During post war interrogation in the USSR his valet Heinz Linge indicated Hitler drank champagne now and then with Eva Braun.
  • Hitler was an avid non-smoker and promoted aggressive anti-smoking campaigns throughout Germany. He reportedly promised a gold watch to any of his close associates who quit (and gave a few away). Several witness accounts relate that immediately after his suicide was confirmed, many officers, aides and secretaries in the Führerbunker lit cigarettes.[7][8]
  • Hitler did not like women to wear cosmetics, since they contained animal by-products, and frequently teased his mistress Eva Braun about her habit of wearing makeup.[9]
  • He almost never wore a uniform to social engagements, which he attended frequently whenever in Berlin during the 1930s. When he did wear uniforms, they were tailored and understated compared to those of other prominent Nazis who often wore elaborate uniforms with extensive decorations and medals.
  • At dinner he was known to complain about the quality of popular music in Germany, then hum a hit song with his own improvements.[citation needed]
  • In response to a shortage of servants during the war, Hitler is reported to have said, "I create whole divisions out of nothing! And I can't get a few more serving wenches for the Berghof? Organise it now!"

Hitler in various media[edit]

Movie clip[edit]

Hitler at Berchtesgaden: Video clips of Hitler at his mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

Propaganda films[edit]

During Hitler's reign, he appeared in and was involved to varying degrees with a series of propaganda films by the pioneering filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. They were:

Out of the four films, Hitler was the star of the first three and was prominently featured in the fourth (Olympia), and he served as a co-producer on one (Triumph of the Will).

Documentaries[edit]

  • The World at War (1974) is a famous Thames Television series which contains much information about Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, including an interview with his secretary, Traudl Junge.
  • Adolf Hitler's Last Days, from the BBC series "Secrets of World War II" tells (obviously) the story about Hitler's last days.
  • Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary (2002) is an exclusive 90 minute interview with Traudl Junge, Hitler's final trusted secretary. Made by Austrian Jewish director André Heller shortly before Junge's death from lung cancer, Junge recalls the last days in the Berlin bunker. Clips used in Downfall.

Dramatizations[edit]

  • Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973) is a movie depicting the days leading up to Adolf Hitler's death, starring Sir Alec Guinness.
  • The Bunker (1978) by James O'Donnell, describing the last days in the Führerbunker from 1945-01-17 to 1945-05-02. Made into the TV movie The Bunker (1981), starring Anthony Hopkins.
  • Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003) is a two-part TV series about the early years of Adolf Hitler and his rise to power (up to 1933). Stars Robert Carlyle.
  • Der Untergang (2004) is a German movie about the last days of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, starring Bruno Ganz. This film is partly based on the autobiography of Traudl Junge, a favorite secretary of Hitler's. In 2002 Junge said she felt great guilt for "...liking the greatest criminal ever to have lived."
  • Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's Hitler - Ein Film aus Deutschland (Hitler, A Film From Germany), 1977. Originally presented on German television, this is a 7-hour work in 4 parts: The Grail; A German Dream; The End Of Winter's Tale; We, Children Of Hell. The director uses documentary clips, photographic backgrounds, puppets, theatrical stages, and other elements from almost all the visual arts, with the "actors" addressing directly the audience/camera, in order to approach and expand on this most taboo subject of European history of the 20th century.
  • Max (film) is a 2002 Drama movie, that depicts a friendship between art dealer Max Rothman (who is Jewish) and a young Adolf Hitler as a failed painter in Vienna.


Speeches and talk by Hitler[edit]

Hitler was a gifted orator who captivated many with his beating of the podium and growling speech. Authentic though they may seem, Hitler's speeches were often full of propaganda, used to merely touch a spot with his audience as a way to persuade them to his perspective. His actions many times did not reflect his intentions as presented in his public addresses and discourses.

Further, the archives of the Finnish Yleisradio broadcasting company contain an audio tape segment of a Hitler conversation with Finnish Marshal Mannerheim and other officers which may be the only known recording of Hitler speaking in a conversational tone of voice rather than with the intense delivery he used for official speeches. It was secretly recorded by Finnish intelligence agents when Hitler unexpectedly flew to Finland to congratulate Marshall Mannerheim on his 75th birthday on 4 June 1942. Swiss actor Bruno Ganz is said to have studied the eleven-minute recording extensively while preparing for his portrayal of Hitler in the 2004 Academy Award nominated German film Der Untergang.

See also[edit]

Further information: Category:Adolf Hitler

References[edit]

  1. ^ Joachim C. Fest, The Drummer in The Face Of The Third Reich (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1970; URL accessed June 11,2005).
  2. ^ "Die Übertragung der verantwortlichen Leitung eines mit den besten sachlichen und persönlichen Kräften ausgestatteten Präsidialkabinetts an den Führer der grössten nationalen Gruppe wird die Schlacken und Fehler, die jeder Massenbewegung notgedrungen anhaften, ausmerzen und Millionen Menschen, die heute abseits stehen, zu bejahender Kraft mitreissen." Glasnost archives
  3. ^ Robert Wistrich,Who's Who in Nazi Germany (New York: Routledge, 2002), p. 193.
  4. ^ Origin and Meaning of the Name "Adolph" - Babynamesworld.com
  5. ^ Walter C. Langer, The Mind of Adolf Hitler, p. 246 (Basic Books: New York, 1972)
  6. ^ "What's In a (German-Jewish) Name?"
  7. ^ Hitler's Anti-Tobacco Campaign
  8. ^ John Toland, Adolf Hitler, p. 741
  9. ^ Hugh Trevor-Roper (ed.), Hitler's Table Talk, 1941-1944, section 66

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Anton Drexler
Leader of the NSDAP
1921–1945
Succeeded by
None
Preceded by
Franz Pfeffer von Salomon
Leader of the SA
1930–1945
Succeeded by
None
Preceded by
Kurt von Schleicher
Chancellor of Germany(a)
1933–1945
Succeeded by
Joseph Goebbels
Preceded by
Paul von Hindenburg (as President)
Führer of Germany(a)(b)
1934–1945
Succeeded by
Karl Dönitz (as President)
Preceded by
Walther von Brauchitsch
Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (Army Commander)
1941–1945
Succeeded by
Ferdinand Schörner
Notes and references
1. The Presidency and the Chancellorship were combined 1934-1945 in the office of Führer und Reichskanzler
2. Technically, given the meaning of Führer, Hindenburg was leader of Germany (as President, head of state) and preceded Hitler