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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. In the opinion of Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw, Hitler is one of a few individuals who single-handedly changed the course of world history.[1]

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.

His father Alois was born out of wedlock and used his mother's surname, Schicklgruber, until he was 40. In 1876, he began using the name of his stepfather, Johann Georg Hiedler, after visiting a priest responsible for birth registries and declaring that Georg was his father (Alois gave the impression that Georg was still alive but he was long dead). The spelling was probably changed to "Hitler" by a clerk. Later, Adolf Hitler was accused by his political enemies of not rightfully being a Hitler, but a Schicklgruber. This was also exploited in Allied propaganda during the Second World War when pamphlets bearing the phrase "Heil Schicklgruber" were airdropped over German cities.[citation needed] Adolf was legally born a Hitler, however, and was also closely related to Hiedler through his maternal grandmother, Johanna Hiedler.

Hitler was not sure who his paternal grandfather was, but it was probably either Johann Georg Hiedler or his brother Johann Nepomuk Hiedler. There have been rumours that Hitler was one-quarter Jewish and that his paternal grandmother, Maria Schicklgruber, had become pregnant after working as a servant in a Jewish household in Graz. During the 1920s, the implications of these rumours along with his known family history were politically explosive, especially for the proponent of a racist ideology. Opponents tried to prove that Hitler, the leader of the anti-Semitic Nazi Party, had Jewish or Czech ancestors. Although these rumours were never confirmed, for Hitler they were reason enough to conceal his origins. Soviet propaganda insisted Hitler was a Jew, though more modern research tends to diminish the probability that he had Jewish ancestors. Historians such as Werner Maser and Ian Kershaw argue this was impossible, since the Jews had been expelled from Graz in the 15th century and were not allowed to return until well after Maria Schicklgruber's alleged employment.

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 lay rather in the field of architecture. His own memoirs reflect a fascination with the subject:

"The purpose of my trip was to study the picture gallery in the Court Museum, but I had eyes for scarcely anything but the Museum itself. From morning until late at night, I ran from one object of interest to another, but it was always the buildings which held my primary interest." (Mein Kampf, Chapter II, paragraph 3).

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:

"In a few days I myself knew that I should some day become an architect. To be sure, it was an incredibly hard road; for the studies I had neglected out of spite at the Realschule were sorely needed. One could not attend the Academy's architectural school without having attended the building school at the Technic, and the latter required a high-school degree. I had none of all this. The fulfillment of my artistic dream seemed physically impossible."(Mein Kampf, Chapter II, paragraph 5 & 6).

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.

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 had settled permanently into a house for poor working men. He made spending money by painting tourist postcards of Vienna scenery. Several biographers have 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. This was a common stance among Austrians at the time, mixing traditional religious prejudice with recent racist theories. 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 the race ideologist and anti-Semite 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:

"There were very few Jews in Linz. In the course of centuries the Jews who lived there had become Europeanized in external appearance and were so much like other human beings that I even looked upon them as Germans. The reason why I did not then perceive the absurdity of such an illusion was that the only external mark which I recognized as distinguishing them from us was the practice of their strange religion. As I thought that they were persecuted on account of their faith my aversion to hearing remarks against them grew almost into a feeling of abhorrence. I did not in the least suspect that there could be such a thing as a systematic anti-Semitism.

Once, when passing through the inner City, I suddenly encountered a phenomenon in a long caftan and wearing black side-locks. My first thought was: Is this a Jew? They certainly did not have this appearance in Linz. I watched the man stealthily and cautiously but the longer I gazed at the strange countenance and examined it feature by feature, the more the question shaped itself in my brain: Is this a German?"
(Mein Kampf, vol. 1, chap. 2: "Years of study and suffering in Vienna")

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.

File:Hitler's Paintings - Landscape.jpg
A landscape painted by Adolf Hitler.

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 (according to Kershaw) Hitler's unwillingess to leave regimental headquarters (which would have been likely in event of promotion), 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 an uncritical attitude toward officers. "Respect the superior, don't contradict anybody, obey blindly," he said, describing his attitude while on trial in 1924. One fellow soldier later remarked, "we all grumbled on him and found it intolerable that we had a white raven among us." (Heiden, 1936)

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. Research by Bernhard Horstmann indicates the blindness may have been the result of a hysterical reaction to Germany's defeat. Hitler later said it was during this experience that he became convinced the purpose of his life was to save Germany. Meanwhile he was treated by a military physician and specialist in psychiatry who reportedly diagnosed the corporal as "incompetent to command people" and "dangerously psychotic." His commander at the time said, "I will never promote this hysteric!" (cited from Heiden, 1937) However, historian Sebastian Haffner, referring to Hitler's experience at the front, suggests he did have at least some understanding of the military.

Two passages in Mein Kampf mention the use of poison gas:

At the beginning of the Great War, or even during the War, if twelve or fifteen thousand of these Jews who were corrupting the nation had been forced to submit to poison-gas . . . then the millions of sacrifices made at the front would not have been in vain. (Volume 2, Chapter 15 "The Right to Self-Defence)
These tactics are based on an accurate estimation of human weakness and must lead to success, with almost mathematical certainty, unless the other side also learns how to fight poison gas with poison gas. The weaker natures must be told that here it is a case of to be or not to be. (Volume 1, Chapter 2 "Years of Study and Suffering in Vienna")

Hitler had 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 also declared Germany the culprit for all the horrors of the Great War, as a basis for later imposing not yet specified reparations on Germany (the amount was repeatedly revised under the Dawes plan, Young plan and the Hooever moratorium). Germans however perceived the treaty and especially the paragraph on the German guilt as a humiliation, not least as it was damaging in the extreme to their pride, for example, there was an almost full demilitarisation of the armed forces, allowing Germany only 6 battleships, no submarines, no air force, an army of 100,000 without conscription and no armoured vehicles. 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. Hitler and his party used the signing of the treaty by the "November Criminals" as a reason to build up Germany so that it could never happen again. He also used the November Criminals" as scapegoats, however at the Paris peace conference, these politicians had very little choice in the matter.

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 (Ian Kershaw Hubris). Hitler had wanted to create his own party, but was ordered by his superiors in the Reichswehr to infiltrate an existing one instead.

Hitler's entry and rise[edit]

After the war, Hitler remained to be black and smoke crack and learn how to cat Daddy in the army, which was mainly engaged in suppressing socialist uprisings breaking out across Germany, including Munich (Bavarian Soviet Republic), 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 is the German term for a 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 of the party, Hitler was impressed with Drexler's anti-Semitic, nationalist and anti-Marxist ideas. Here Hitler also met Dietrich Eckart, one of the early founders of the party, member of Thule Society.[2] 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 the second volumne of 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 rowdy, polemic speeches against the Treaty of Versailles, rival politicians and especially against Marxists and Jews.

The German Workers' Party was centred in Munich which had become a hotbed of reactionary German nationalists who included Army he loved niggers he hated 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. Meanwhile an anonymous pamphlet appeared entitled Adolf Hitler: Is he a traitor?, attacking Hitler's lust for power and criticizing the violence-prone men around him. Hitler responded to its publication in a Munich newspaper by suing for libel and later won a small settlement.

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 one 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 had copied the Italian Fascists in appearance and also had 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 friends 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 from admirers. While at Landsberg he dictated his political book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) to his deputy Rudolf Hess. The book, dedicated to Thule Society member Dietrich Eckart, 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 in December 1924.

The rebuilding of the party[edit]

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

Though the Hitler Putsch had given 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, led by Julius Streicher, who now became Gauleiter of Franconia.

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. Leaders were not elected by their group but were rather appointed by their superior and were answerable to them while demanding unquestioning obedience from their inferiors. Consistent with Hitler's disdain for democracy, all power and authority devolved from the top down.

A key element of Hitler's appeal was his ability to convey a sense of offended national pride caused by the Treaty of Versailles imposed on the defeated German Empire by the Entente. 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 huge reparations bill totaling 32 billion marks. Most Germans bitterly resented these terms but early Nazi attempts to gain support by blaming these humiliations on "international Jewry" were not particularly successful with the electorate. The party learned quickly and soon a more subtle propaganda emerged, combining anti-Semitism with an attack on the failures of the "Weimar system" and the parties supporting it.

Having failed in overthrowing the Republic by a coup, Hitler now pursued the "strategy of legality": this meant formally adhering to the rules of the Weimar Republic until he had legally gained power and then to transform liberal democracy into an authoritarian dictatorship. Some party members, especially in the paramilitary SA, opposed this strategy. Ernst Röhm, Hitler's long-time associate and leader of the SA, ridiculed Hitler as "Adolphe Legalité", resigned from his post and emigrated to Bolivia.

The road to power[edit]

Main article: Weimar Republic
File:Inge Terboven and Hitler.jpg
Adolf Hitler with a little girl in traditional Bavarian dress.

The Brüning administration[edit]

The political turning point for Hitler came when the Great Depression hit Germany in 1930. The Weimar Republic had never been firmly rooted and was openly opposed by right-wing conservatives (including monarchists), 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 both the inflation of the 1920s and the unemployment of the Depression. Hitler received little response from the urban working classes and traditionally Catholic regions.

Meanwhile on September 18, 1931 Hitler's niece Geli Raubal was found dead in her bedroom in his Munich apartment (his half-sister Angela and her daughter Geli had been with him in Munich since 1929), an apparent suicide. Geli was 19 years younger than he was and had used his gun, drawing rumours of a relationship between the two. The event is viewed as having caused lasting turmoil for him.

In 1932 Hitler intended to run against the aging President Paul von Hindenburg in the scheduled presidential elections. Though Hitler had 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). The name had a double meaning. 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 ran against Hindenburg, who was supported by the Republican parties, the Communist candidate came in second on both rounds, attaining more than 35% of the vote during the second one in April. Although he lost, the election established Hitler as a realistic and fresh alternative in German politics.

The cabinets of Papen and Schleicher[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 was bent on authoritarian rule and since in the Reichstag only the conservative DNVP supported his administration, he immediately called for new elections in July. In these elections, the Nazis achieved their biggest success yet and won 230 seats.

The Nazis had become the largest party in the Reichstag without which no stable government could be formed. Papen tried to convince Hitler to become Vice-Chancellor and enter a new government with a parliamentary basis. Hitler however rejected this offer and put further pressure on Papen by entertaining parallel negotiations with the Centre Party, Papen's former party, which was bent on bringing down the renegade Papen. In both negotiations Hitler demanded that he, as leader of the strongest party, must be Chancellor, but President Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint the "Bohemian private" to the Chancellorship.

After a vote of no-confidence in the Papen government, supported by 84% of the deputies, the new Reichstag was dissolved and new elections were called in November. This time, the Nazis lost some votes but still remained the largest party in the Reichstag.

After Papen failed to secure a majority he proposed to dissolve the parliament again along with an indefinite postponement of elections. Hindenburg at first accepted this, but after General Kurt von Schleicher and the military withdrew their support, Hindenburg instead dismissed Papen and appointed Schleicher, who promised he could secure a majority government by negotiations with both the Social Democrats, the trade unions, and dissidents from the Nazi party under Gregor Strasser. In January 1933 however, Schleicher had to admit failure in these efforts and asked Hindenburg for emergency powers along with the same postponement of elections that he had opposed earlier, to which the President reacted by dismissing Schleicher.

Hitler's appointment as Chancellor[edit]

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 Hjalmar Schacht, Fritz Thyssen and 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."[3]

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 and on that basis convinced 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. Since a Dutch independent communist was found in the building, the fire was blamed on a Communist plot to which the government reacted with the Reichstag Fire Decree of February 28, which suspended basic rights including habeas corpus. Under the provisions of this decree, the Communist Party and other groups were suppressed; 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, 6 March, the NSDAP 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 had gained a slim majority.

The Day of Potsdam and the Enabling Act[edit]

On 21 March, the new Reichstag was constituted itself with an impressive opening ceremony held at Potsdam's garrison church. This "Day of Potsdam" was staged to demonstrate reconciliation and union between the revolutionary Nazi movement and "Old Prussia" with its elites and virtues. Hitler himself appeared not in Nazi uniform but in a tail coat, and humbly greeted the aged President Hindenburg.

Because of the Nazis' failure to obtain a majority on their own, Hitler's government confronted the newly elected Reichstag with the Enabling Act that would have vested the cabinet with legislative powers for a period of four years. Though such a bill was not unprecedented, this act was different since it allowed for deviations from the constitution. As the bill required a two-thirds majority in order to pass, the government needed the support of other parties. The position of the Catholic Centre Party, at this point the third largest party in the Reichstag, turned out to be decisive: under the leadership of Ludwig Kaas, the party decided to vote for the Enabling Act. It did so in return for the government's oral guarantees regarding the Church's liberty, the concordats signed by German states and the continued existence of the Centre Party itself. According to historians, notably Professor Klaus Scholder, Hitler also agreed to initiate negotiations for the Reichskonkordat, a treaty between the Catholic Church and the German Reich. Scholder maintains that in making this agreement Kaas was guided by his friend Cardinal Pacelli, Vatican Secretary of State and later Pope Pius XII.[4]

On 23 March, the Reichstag assembled in a replacement building under extreme turbulent circumstances. Some SA men served as guards within while large groups outside the building shouted slogans and threats toward the arriving deputies. Kaas announced that the Centre would support the bill amid "concerns put aside.", while Social Democrat Otto Wels denounced the Act in his speech. At the end of the day, all parties except the Social Democrats voted in favour of the bill. The Enabling Act was dutifully renewed every four years, even through World War II.

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
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.

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.[5]


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. To indicate their Jewishness, Jews were forced to adopt a second name and had their papers stamped with a big red "J". The policy was successful in causing the emigration of many thousands but nevertheless turned increasingly violent in the mid to late 1930s. In 1938 a pogrom orchestrated by Joseph Goebbels and endorsed by Hitler called Kristallnacht destroyed many Jewish businesses and synagogues and resulted in about 100 deaths. Between November 1938 and September 1939 more than 180,000 Jews fled Germany and the Nazis seized whatever property they left behind. From 1941 Jews were required to wear a yellow Star of David in public. Throughout the 1930s the Propaganda Ministry disseminated anti-Semitic propaganda.

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.

The Holocaust[edit]

Main article: Holocaust

[[Image:Himmler_Hitler.jpg|Adolf Hitler with Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS]]

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[6], in concentration camps, ghettos and mass executions, or through less systematic methods elsewhere. Besides being gassed to death, many also died of starvation and disease while working as slave labourers. Along with Jews, non-Jewish Poles (over 3 million of whom died), alleged communists or political opposition, members of resistance groups, resisting Roman Catholics and Protestants, homosexuals, Roma, the physically handicapped and mentally retarded, Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah's Witnesses, anti-Nazi clergy, trade unionists, and psychiatric patients were killed. This industrial-scale genocide in Europe is referred to as the Holocaust (the term is also used by some authors in a narrower sense, to refer specifically to the unprecedented destruction of European Jewry in particular).

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 has 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. The records of this meeting provide the clearest evidence of central planning for the Holocaust. 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]

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 had not been able 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 had 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 had 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, the Soviet Union 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 (sometimes by starvation in solitary confinement followed by slow strangulation). The main resistance movement 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 had driven the last German troops from Soviet territory and began charging into Central Europe. The western allies were also rapidly advancing into Germany. The Germans had 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. (The Morgenthau Plan for postwar Germany, promulgated by the Allies, aimed at a similar deindustrialization, but also failed to 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 (it is likely he simultaneously bit into a cyanide ampoule). Hitler's body and that of Eva Braun (his long-term mistress whom he had 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.


"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]]

Hitler's religious beliefs[edit]

Adolf Hitler was raised as a Roman Catholic by his Roman Catholic parents. According to historian Bradley F. Smith, Hitler's father, though nominally a Catholic, was a freethinker, while his mother was a devoted Catholic.[7] Michael Rissmann states that young Hitler began to object to the Church and Catholicism as an adolescent, protesting against being confirmed. A boyhood friend reports that after Hitler had left home, he never saw him attending mass or receiving the sacraments.[8]

According to the eminient church historian Owen Chadwick, Hitler found in Houston Stewart Chamberlain ideas which well expressed a justification for the nationalist and antisemitic doctrines about which he was already fanatical. These ideas where that Jesus was not a Jew but an Aryan, and the churches had corrupted his influence and Judaized his message. Chadwick claims that from his late teens Hitler hated Roman Catholic priests and despised Protestant pastors.[9] Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw, however, fails to note any such hatred at this point in young Hitler's life.[10]

Hitler's religious beliefs changed over the years, and as they are gathered from his public and private statements, present a discrepant picture and are disputed. In public statements, Hitler frequently spoke positively about the Christian heritage of German culture and his belief in Christ. For example, on March 23, 1933, he addressed the Reichstag:

"The National Government regards the two Christian confessions (i.e. Catholicism and Protestantism) as factors essential to the soul of the German people. ... We hold the spiritual forces of Christianity to be indispensable elements in the moral uplift of the German people."[11]

About his own religious stance, he said:"I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so."[12]. Hitler’s private statements were more mixed. There are negative statements about Christianity reported by Hitler’s intimates, Goebbels, Speer, and Bormann.[13]. Joseph Goebbels, for example, notes in a diary entry in 1939: “The Führer is deeply religious, but deeply anti-Christian. He regards Christianity as a symptom of decay.” Albert Speer reports a similar statement: “You see, it’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn’t we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?[14] Though Hitler spoke against traditional Christianity in general, he in fact may have been referring to Catholicism, according to Steigmann-Gall. In any event, "No matter how much he vituperated against Christianity or the churches, Hitler gave no indication that he was now agnostic or atheistic: He displayed a continued attachment to a belief in God."[15]

In contrast to other Nazi leaders, Hitler did not adhere to esoteric ideas, occultism or neo-paganism and even ridiculed such beliefs in private. Drawing on Higher Criticism and some branches of theologically liberal Protestantism, Hitler advocated what he termed Positive Christianity, purged of everything that he found objectionable. Hitler never directed his attacks on Jesus himself, but viewed traditional Christianity as a corruption of the original ideas of Jesus[16], who Hitler thought of as an Aryan opponent of the Jews.[17] In 1927 he said: "My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter."[18][19]Hitler did not believe in a "remote, rationalist divinity" but "in one providential, active, deity."[20]. In Hitler's belief God created a world in which different races fought each other for survival along social darwinist lines. He often referred to "Providence" guarding and guiding the "Aryan race", supposedly the bearer of civilisation, in its fight against the Jews, supposedly the enemies of all civilisation.

As some branches of liberal Protestantism also had similar views, Hitler demonstrated a preference for Protestantism over Catholicism.[21] His views were supported by the German Christians movement, but rejected by the Confessing Church. According to Steigmann-Gall, Hitler regretted that "the churches had failed to back him and his movement as he had hoped."[22], stating according to Albert Speer: "Through me the Protestant Church could become the established church, as in England”.

Hitler as a child admired the pomp of Catholic ritual and the hierarchical organisation of the clergy. Later, he drew on these elements, organizing his party along hierarchical lines and including liturgical forms into events or using phraseology taken from hymns.[23]. Because of these liturgical elements, Hitler's Messiah-like status and the ideology's all-encompassing nature, the Nazi movement is sometimes termed a "political religion".[24] Hitler himself, however, deplored the idea that Nazism was in any way a religion. He never renounced his belonging to the Catholic church.

Speer claims Hitler remained a member of the Catholic church until his suicide, although he also notes that Hitler said "he had no real attachment to it."[25].

Notable Hitler biographer John Toland wrote of Hitler's religion and its effect: "Still a member in good standing of the Church of Rome despite detestation of its hierarchy, he carried within him its teaching that the Jew was the killer of god. The extermination, therefore, could be done without a twinge of conscience since he was merely acting as the avenging hand of god..." Professor Guenter Lewy, author of "The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany" quotes Hitler as saying that he "... regard Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of our national life."

According to historian Richard Steigmann-Gall, much is known about Hitler's views on religion through Hitler's book, Mein Kampf.[26] In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote neither as an atheist, nor an agnostic, nor as a believer in a remote, rationalist divinity; instead he expressed his belief in one providential, active, deity:

"What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and the reproduction of our that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission alloted it by the creator of the universe...Peoples that bastardize themselves, or let themselves be bastardized, sin against the will of eternal Providence."[26]

Elsewhere in Mein Kampf Hitler makes it clear that "creator of the universe" and "eternal Providence" are synonyms he uses for God. He also states his belief that the Aryan race was created by God, and that it would be a sin to dilute it through racial intermixing. Hitler writes:

"The folkish-minded man, in particular, has the sacred duty, each in his own denomination, of making people stop just talking superficially of God's will, and actually fulfill God's will, and not let God's word be desecrated. For God's will gave men their form, their essence and their abilities. Anyone who destroys His work is declaring war on the Lord's creation, the divine will."

Refering to God as the "Lord of Creation" and the necessity of obeying "His" will, show Hitler's Christian thinking, according to Steigmann-Gall. Elsewhere in Mein Kampf, he says, Hitler makes references to Jesus. Other sources also show Hitler's Christian thinking, according to Steigmann-Gall. He notes an unpublished manuscript where Hitler sketched out his world-view, and he gives as an example a speech on April 1922 where Hitler said that Jesus was "the true God". Finally, Steigmann-Gall gives another example where in a private Nazi meeting Hitler again stated the centrality of Jesus' teachings to the Nazi movement.

Hitler's religious beliefs demonstrated the anti-Semitic view that Jesus was an Aryan rather than a Jew, and saw himself as acting according to what he described as "true Christianity." Hitler write:

"Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.

Hitler writes of his Christian influence on his view of Jews:

"His life is only of this world, and his spirit is inwardly as alien to true Christianity as his nature two thousand years previous was to the great founder of the new doctrine. Of course, the latter made no secret of his attitude toward the Jewish people, and when necessary he even took the whip to drive from the temple of the Lord this adversary of all humanity, who then as always saw in religion nothing but an instrument for his business existence. In return, Christ was nailed to the cross, while our present-day party Christians debase themselves to begging for Jewish votes at elections and later try to arrange political swindles with atheistic Jewish parties-- and this against their own nation."

Medical health[edit]

Hitler's alleged health problems in his later years have long been the subject of debate, and he has variously been suggested to have suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, skin lesions, irregular heartbeat, tremors on the left side of his body, syphilis, Parkinson's disease and a strongly suggested addiction to methamphetamines.

Hitler's family[edit]

Paula Hitler, the last living member of Adolf Hitler's immediate family, passed away in 1960.

The most prominent, and longest-living direct descendants of Adolf Hitler's father, Alois, was his nephew William Patrick Hitler. With his wife Phyllis, he eventually moved to Long Island, New York and had four sons. None of William Hitler's children have yet had any children of their own; by some reports, this is by mutual agreement, to put an end to the Hitler bloodline.

Over the years various investigative reporters have attempted to track down other distant relatives of the Führer; many are now alleged to be living inconspicuous lives and have long since changed their last name.

Adolf Hitler's Genealogy

The origin of the name "Hitler"[edit]

There are two theories about the origin of the name "Hitler":

  • (1) From German Hittler and similar, "one who lives in a hut", "shepherd".
  • (2) From Slavonic Hidlar and Hidlarcek and similar.

People associated with Hitler[edit]


  • Hitler's given name, "Adolf", comes from the Old High German for "noble wolf" (adal, "nobility" + wolf, "wolf").[27] 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.[28] 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.[29]
  • 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.[30][31]
  • 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.[32]
  • 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]

See also: Hitler in popular culture

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).


  • 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.


  • 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.


Many books have been written about Adolf Hitler with his life and legacy thoroughly researched. See this list for an extensive annotated bibliography, containing also a list of works authored by Hitler.

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]]


  1. ^ Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: 1939-1936 Hubris. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-04671-0.  p. XX
  2. ^ Joachim C. Fest, The Drummer in The Face Of The Third Reich (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1970; URL accessed June 11,2005).
  3. ^ "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
  4. ^ Klaus Scholder "The Churches and the Third Reich" volume 1: especially part 1 chap 10 'Concordat Policy and the Lateran Treaties (1930-33); part 2 chap 2 "The Capitulation of Catholicism" (February-March 1933)
  5. ^ Robert Wistrich,Who's Who in Nazi Germany (New York: Routledge, 2002), p. 193.
  6. ^ "There is no precise figure for the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. The figure commonly used is the six million quoted by Adolf Eichmann, a senior SS official. Most research confirms that the number of victims was between five to six million." How many Jews were murdered in the Holocaust? How do we know? Do we have their names?; FAQs About The Holocaust, Yad Vashem (URL accessed on January 3, 2006)
    "Between 1942 and 1944, Nazi Germany deported millions more Jews from the occupied territories to extermination camps, where they murdered them in specially developed killing facilities" The Holocaust; Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (URL accessed on January 3, 2006).
  7. ^ - Smith, Bradley F. Adolf Hitler: His Family, Childhood and Youth Stanford/California, 1967. On page 27 Smith writes about Alois: "Closely related to his support of education was his tolerant skepticism concerning religion. He looked upon religion as a series of conventions and as a crutch for human weakness, but, like most of his neighbors, he insisted that the women of his household fulfill all religious obligations. He restricted his own participation to donning his uniform to take his proper place in festivals and processions. As he grew older Alois shifted from relative passivity in his attitude toward the power and influence of the institutional Church to a firm opposition to "clericalism," especially when the position of the Church came into conflict with his views on education.", while on page 42 he discusses Klara: "Alois insisted she attend regularly as an expression of his belief that the woman's place was in the kitchen and in church....Happily, Klara really enjoyed attending services and was completely devoted to the faith and teachings of Catholicism, so her husband's requirements worked to her advantage. "
  8. ^ Michael Rissmann, Hitlers Gott. Vorsehungsglaube und Sendungsbewußtsein des deutschen Diktators, Zürich München: Pendo, 2001, pp. 94-96 ISBN 3858424218;
  9. ^ Edited by McManners, John (1992). Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. p.360. ISBN 0192854399. 
  10. ^ Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: 1939-1936 Hubris. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-04671-0. 
  11. ^ quoted by Dennis Barton.[1].
  12. ^ cited by John Toland, Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, New York: Anchor Publishing, 1992, p. 507 ISBN 0385420536.
  13. ^ The collection called Table Talk is questioned by some; while most historians consider it a useful, they do not regard it as a wholly reliable source. Ian Kershaw alludes to the questionable nature of Table Talk as a historical source; see his Hitler 1889-1936 Hubris London, 1998, xiv. Richard Carrier goes further contending that certain portions of Table Talk, especially those regarding Hitler's alleged hatred of Christianity, are outright inventions: see his "Hitler's Table Talk, Troubling Finds" German Studies Review26:3 (forthcoming 2003). However, although Kershaw recommends treating the work with caution, he does not suggest dispensing with it altogether. (The Holy Reich, p. 253)
  14. ^ Steigmann-Gall, pp. 252-253; Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, Orion Pub., 1997 ISBN 1857992180, p. 96.
  15. ^ Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich p.255
  16. ^ Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 257, 260
  17. ^ Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich p. 260
  18. ^ Cited in Norman H. Baynes, The Speeches of Adolf Hitler: April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1, New York: Oxford University Press, 1942, pp. 19-20 ISBN 0598758933.
  19. ^ In a speech delivered on 12 April 1922, Munich
  20. ^ Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 26
  21. ^ Steigmann-Gall, p.84
  22. ^ Steigmann-Gall, p.260
  23. ^ Michael Rissmann, p. 96.
  24. ^ Especially Eric Voegelin: in Political Religions, (Edward Mellen Press, 1986) ISBN 0889467676, advocated such a classification. Discussion at Rissmann, p. 191-197.
  25. ^ Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, p. 96
  26. ^ a b Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p.26
  27. ^ Origin and Meaning of the Name "Adolph" -
  28. ^ Walter C. Langer, The Mind of Adolf Hitler, p. 246 (Basic Books: New York, 1972)
  29. ^ "What's In a (German-Jewish) Name?"
  30. ^ Hitler's Anti-Tobacco Campaign
  31. ^ John Toland, Adolf Hitler, p. 741
  32. ^ Hugh Trevor-Roper (ed.), Hitler's Table Talk, 1941-1944, section 66

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Anton Drexler
Leader of the NSDAP
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Franz Pfeffer von Salomon
Leader of the SA
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Kurt von Schleicher
Chancellor of Germany(1)
Succeeded by
Joseph Goebbels
Preceded by
Paul von Hindenburg (as President)
Führer of Germany(a)(b)
Succeeded by
Karl Dönitz (as President)
Preceded by
Walther von Brauchitsch
Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (Army Commander)
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