“Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.” – Adolf Hitler
- NAME: Adolf Hitler
- OCCUPATION: Military Leader, Dictator
- BIRTH DATE: April 20, 1889
- DEATH DATE: April 30, 1945
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Braunau am Inn, Austria
- PLACE OF DEATH: Berlin, Germany
- NICKNAME: Der Führer (“The Leader”)
- FULL NAME: Adolf Hitler
Baptized a Catholic, Born in Austria in 1889, Adolf Hitler rose to power in German politics as leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, also known as the Nazi Party. Hitler was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and served as dictator from 1934 to 1945. His policies precipitated World War II and the Holocaust. Hitler committed suicide with wife Eva Braun on April 30, 1945, in his Berlin bunker.
The house where Hitler was born
Born in Branau am Inn, Austria, on April 20, 1889, Adolf Hitler was the fourth of six children born to Alois Hitler and Klara Polzl. When Hitler was 3 years old, the family moved from Austria to Germany. As a child, Hitler clashed frequently with his father. Following the death of his younger brother, Edmund, in 1900, he became detached and introverted. His father did not approve of his interest in fine art rather than business. In addition to art, Hitler showed an early interest in German nationalism, rejecting the authority of Austro-Hungary. This nationalism would become the motivating force of Hitler’s life.
Alois died suddenly in 1903. Two years later, Adolf’s mother allowed her son to drop out of school. He moved to Vienna and worked as a casual laborer and a watercolor painter. Hitler applied to the Academy of Fine Arts twice, and was rejected both times. Out of money, he moved into a homeless shelter, where he remained for several years. Hitler later pointed to these years as the time when he first cultivated his anti-Semitism, though there is some debate about this account.
At the outbreak of World War I, Hitler applied to serve in the German army. He was accepted in August 1914, though he was still an Austrian citizen. Although he spent much of his time away from the front lines, Hitler was present at a number of significant battles and was wounded at the Somme. He was decorated for bravery, receiving the Iron Cross First Class and the Black Wound Badge.
Hitler became embittered over the collapse of the war effort. The experience reinforced his passionate German patriotism, and he was shocked by Germany’s surrender in 1918. Like other German nationalists, he believed that the German army had been betrayed by civilian leaders and Marxists. He found the Treaty of Versailles degrading, particularly the demilitarization of the Rhineland and the stipulation that Germany accept responsibility for starting the war.
After World War I, Hitler returned to Munich and continued to work for the military as an intelligence officer. While monitoring the activities of the German Workers’ Party (DAP), Hitler adopted many of the anti-Semitic, nationalist and anti-Marxist ideas of DAP founder Anton Drexler. Drexler invited Hitler to join the DAP, which he did in 1919.
To increase its appeal, the DAP changed its name to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP). Hitler personally designed the party banner, featuring a swastika in a white circle on a red background. Hitler soon gained notoriety for his vitriolic speeches against the Treaty of Versailles, rival politicians, Marxists and Jews.
Hitler’s vitriolic beer-hall speeches began attracting regular audiences. Early followers included army captain Ernst Rohm, the head of the Nazi paramilitary organization, the Sturmabteilung (SA), which protected meetings and frequently attacked political opponents. On November 8, 1923, Hitler and the SA stormed a public meeting of 3,000 people at a large beer hall in Munich. Hitler announced that the national revolution had begun and declared the formation of a new government. After a short struggle including 20 deaths, the coup, known as the “Beer Hall Putsch,” failed.
Hitler was arrested three days later and tried for high treason. He served a year in prison, during which time he dictated most of the first volume of Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) to his deputy, Rudolf Hess. The book laid out Hitler’s plans for transforming German society into one based on race.
World War I
In May 1913 Hitler left Vienna for Munich and, when war broke out in August 1914, he joined the Sixteenth Bavarian Infantry Regiment, serving as a despatch runner. Hitler proved an able, courageous soldier, receiving the Iron Cross (First Class) for bravery, but did not rise above the rank of Lance Corporal. Twice wounded, he was badly gassed four weeks before the end of the war and spent three months recuperating in a hospital in Pomerania. Temporarily blinded and driven to impotent rage by the abortive November 1918 revolution in Germany as well as the military defeat, Hitler, once restored, was convinced that fate had chosen him to rescue a humiliated nation from the shackles of the Versailles Treaty, from Bolsheviks and Jews.
Assigned by the Reichswehr in the summer of 1919 to “educational” duties which consisted largely of spying on political parties in the overheated atmosphere of post-revolutionary Munich, Hitler was sent to investigate a small nationalistic group of idealists, the German Workers’ Party. On 16 September 1919 he entered the Party (which had approximately forty members), soon changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) and had imposed himself as its Chairman by July 1921.
Rise to Power
The Great Depression in Germany provided a political opportunity for Hitler. Germans were ambivalent to the parliamentary republic and increasingly open to extremist options. In 1932, Hitler ran against Paul von Hindenburg for the presidency. Hitler came in second in both rounds of the election, garnering more than 35 percent of the vote in the final election. The election established Hitler as a strong force in German politics. Hindenburg reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler as chancellor in order to promote political balance.
Hitler used his position as chancellor to form a de facto legal dictatorship. The Reichtag Fire Decree, announced after a suspicious fire at the Reichtag, suspended basic rights and allowed detention without trial. Hitler also engineered the passage of the Enabling Act, which gave his cabinet full legislative powers for a period of four years and allowed deviations from the constitution.
Having achieved full control over the legislative and executive branches of government, Hitler and his political allies embarked on a systematic suppression of the remaining political opposition. By the end of June, the other parties had been intimidated into disbanding. On July 14, 1933, Hitler’s Nazi Party was declared the only legal political party in Germany.
Military opposition was also punished. The demands of the SA for more political and military power led to the Night of the Long Knives, which took place from June 30 to July 2, 1934. Ernst Röhm and other SA leaders, along with a number of Hitler’s political enemies, were rounded up and shot.
The day before Hindenburg’s death in August 1934, the cabinet had enacted a law abolishing the office of president and combining its powers with those of the chancellor. Hitler thus became head of state as well as head of government, and was formally named as leader and chancellor. As head of state, Hitler became supreme commander of the armed forces. He began to mobilize for war. Germany withdrew from the League of Nations, and Hitler announced a massive expansion of Germany’s armed forces.
The Nazi regime also included social reform measures. Hitler promoted anti-smoking campaigns across the country. These campaigns stemmed from Hitler’s self-imposed dietary restrictions, which included abstinence from alcohol and meat. At dinners, Hitler sometimes told graphic stories about the slaughter of animals in an effort to shame his fellow diners. He encouraged all Germans to keep their bodies pure of any intoxicating or unclean substance.
A main Nazi concept was the notion of racial hygiene. New laws banned marriage between non-Jewish and Jewish Germans, and deprived “non-Aryans” of the benefits of German citizenship. Hitler’s early eugenic policies targeted children with physical and developmental disabilities, and later authorized a euthanasia program for disabled adults.
The Holocaust was also conducted under the auspices of racial hygiene. Between 1939 and 1945, Nazis and their collaborators were responsible for the deaths of 11 million to 14 million people, including about 6 million Jews, representing two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe. Deaths took place in concentration and extermination camps and through mass executions. Other persecuted groups included Poles, communists, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and trade unionists, among others. Hitler probably never visited the concentration camps and did not speak publicly about the killings.
Hitler As Fuhrer
The destruction of the radical SA leadership under Ernst Rohm in the Blood Purge of June 1934 confirmed Hitler as undisputed dictator of the Third Reich and by the beginning of August, when he united the positions of Fuhrer and Chancellor on the death of von Hindenburg, he had all the powers of State in his hands. Avoiding any institutionalization of authority and status which could challenge his own undisputed position as supreme arbiter, Hitler allowed subordinates like Himmler, Goering and Goebbels to mark out their own domains of arbitrary power while multiplying and duplicating offices to a bewildering degree.
During the next four years Hitler enjoyed a dazzling string of domestic and international successes, outwitting rival political leaders abroad just as he had defeated his opposition at home. In 1935 he abandoned the Versailles Treaty and began to build up the army by conscripting five times its permitted number. He persuaded Great Britain to allow an increase in the naval building programme and in March 1936 he occupied the demilitarized Rhineland without meeting opposition. He began building up the Luftwaffe and supplied military aid to Francoist forces in Spain, which brought about the Spanish fascist victory in 1939.
The German rearmament programme led to full employment and an unrestrained expansion of production, which reinforced by his foreign policy successes–the Rome-Berlin pact of 1936, the Anschluss with Austria and the “liberation” of the Sudeten Germans in 1938 — brought Hitler to the zenith of his popularity. In February 1938 he dismissed sixteen senior generals and took personal command of the armed forces, thus ensuring that he would be able to implement his aggressive designs.
Hitler’s saber-rattling tactics bludgeoned the British and French into the humiliating Munich agreement of 1938 and the eventual dismantlement of the Czechoslovakian State in March 1939. The concentration camps, the Nuremberg racial laws against the Jews, the persecution of the churches and political dissidents were forgotten by many Germans in the euphoria of Hitler’s territorial expansion and bloodless victories. The next designated target for Hitler’s ambitions wasPoland (her independence guaranteed by Britain and France) and, to avoid a two-front war, the Nazi dictator signed a pact of friendship and non-aggression with Soviet Russia.
World War II
In 1938, Hitler, along with several other European leaders, signed the Munich Agreement. The treaty ceded the Sudetenland districts to Germany, reversing part of the Versailles Treaty. As a result of the summit, Hitler was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year for 1938. This diplomatic win only whetted his appetite for a renewed German dominance. On September 1, Germany invaded Poland. In response, Britain and France declared war on Germany.
Hitler escalated his activities in 1940, invading Scandinavia as well as France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium. Hitler ordered bombing raids on the United Kingdom, with the goal of invasion. Germany’s formal alliance with Japan and Italy, known collectively as the Axis powers, was signed to deter the United States from supporting and protecting the British.
On June 22, 1941, Hitler violated a non-aggression pact with Joseph Stalin, sending 3 million German troops into the Soviet Union. The invading force seized a huge area before the German advance was stopped outside Moscow in December 1941.
On December 7, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Hitler was now at war against a coalition that included the world’s largest empire (Britain), the world’s greatest financial power (the U.S.) and the world’s largest army (the Soviet Union).
Facing these odds, Hitler’s military judgment became increasingly erratic. Germany’s military and economic position deteriorated along with Hitler’s health. Germany and the Axis could not sustain Hitler’s aggressive and expansive war. In late 1942, German forces failed to seize the Suez Canal. The German army also suffered defeats at the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Kursk.
On June 6, 1944, the Western Allied armies landed in northern France. As a result of these significant setbacks, many German officers concluded that defeat was inevitable and that Hitler’s denial would result in the destruction of the country.
Death and Legacy
Rommel’s defeat at El Alamein and the subsequent loss of North Africa to the Anglo-American forces were overshadowed by the disaster at Stalingrad where General von Paulus’s Sixth Army was cut off and surrendered to the Russians in January 1943. In July 1943 the Allies captured Sicily and Mussolini’s regime collapsed in Italy. In September the Italians signed an armistice and the Allies landed at Salerno, reaching Naples on 1 October and taking Rome on June 4, 1944. The Allied invasion of Normandy followed on June 6, 1944 and soon a million Allied troops were driving the German armies eastwards, while from the opposite direction the Soviet forces advanced relentlessly on the Reich. The total mobilization of the German war economy under Albert Speer and the energetic propaganda efforts of Joseph Goebbels to rouse the fighting spirit of the German people were impotent to change the fact that the Third Reich lacked the resources equal to a struggle against the world alliance which Hitler himself had provoked.
Allied bombing began to have a telling effect on German industrial production and to undermine the morale of the population. The generals, frustrated by Hitler’s total refusal to trust them in the field and recognizing the inevitability of defeat, planned, together with the small anti-Nazi Resistance inside the Reich, to assassinate the Fuhrer on 20 July 1944, hoping to pave the way for a negotiated peace with the Allies that would save Germany from destruction. The plot failed and Hitler took implacable vengeance on the conspirators, watching with satisfaction a film of the grisly executions carried out on his orders.
As disaster came closer, Hitler buried himself in the unreal world of the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin, clutching at fantastic hopes that his “secret weapons,” the V-1 and V-2 rockets, would yet turn the tide of war. He gestured wildly over maps, planned and directed attacks with non-existent armies and indulged in endless, night-long monologues which reflected his growing senility, misanthropy and contempt for the “cowardly failure” of the German people.
As the Red Army approached Berlin and the Anglo-Americans reached the Elbe, on 19 March 1945 Hitler ordered the destruction of what remained of German industry, communications and transport systems. He was resolved that, if he did not survive, Germany too should be destroyed. The same ruthless nihilism and passion for destruction which had led to the extermination of six million Jews in death camps, to the biological “cleansing” of the sub-human Slavs and other subject peoples in the New Order, was finally turned on his own people.
On April 29, 1945, he married his mistress Eva Braun and dictated his final political testament, concluding with the same monotonous, obsessive fixation that had guided his career from the beginning: “Above all I charge the leaders of the nation and those under them to scrupulous observance of the laws of race and to merciless opposition to the universal poisoner of all peoples, international Jewry.”
The following day Hitler committed suicide, shooting himself through the mouth with a pistol. His body was carried into the garden of the Reich Chancellery by aides, covered with petrol and burned along with that of Eva Braun. This final, macabre act of self-destruction appropriately symbolized the career of a political leader whose main legacy to Europe was the ruin of its civilization and the senseless sacrifice of human life for the sake of power and his own commitment to the bestial nonsense of National Socialist race mythology. With his death nothing was left of the “Greater Germanic Reich,” of the tyrannical power structure and ideological system which had devastated Europe during the twelve years of his totalitarian rule.
By early 1945, Hitler realized that Germany was going to lose the war. The Soviets had driven the German army back into Western Europe, and the Allies were advancing into Germany. On April 29, 1945, Hitler married his girlfriend, Eva Braun, in a small civil ceremony in his Berlin bunker. Around this time, Hitler was informed of the assassination of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Afraid of falling into the hands of enemy troops, Hitler and Braun committed suicide the day after their wedding, on April 30, 1945. Their bodies were carried to the bombed-out garden behind the Reich Chancellery, where they were burned. Berlin fell on May 2, 1945.
Hitler’s political program had brought about a world war, leaving behind a devastated and impoverished Eastern and Central Europe, including Germany. His policies inflicted human suffering on an unprecedented scale and resulted in the death of an estimated 40 million people, including about 27 million in the Soviet Union. Hitler’s defeat marked the end of a phase of European history dominated by Germany, and the defeat of fascism. A new ideological global conflict, the Cold War, emerged in the aftermath of World War II.
-Interesting facts about Hitler-
- Despite becoming the dictator of Germany, Hitler was not born there. Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria on April 20, 1889.
- Hitler’s parents were Alois (1837-1903) and Klara (1860-1907) Hitler.
- Hitler had only one sibling that survived childhood, Paula (1896-1960).
- However, Hitler also had four other siblings that died in childhood: Gustav (1885-1887), Ida (1886-1888), Otto (1887), and Edmund (1894-1900).
- In addition to his sister Paula, Hitler had one step-brother, Alois (b. 1882) and one step-sister, Angela (1883-1949), both from his father’s previous marriage.
- Hitler was known as “Adi” in his youth.
- Hitler’s father, Alois, was in his third marriage and 51 years old when Hitler was born. He was known as a strict man who retired from the civil service when Hitler was only six. Alois died when Hitler was 13.
Artist and Anti-Semite
- Throughout his youth, Hitler dreamed of becoming an artist. He applied twice to the Vienna Academy of Art (once in 1907 and again in 1908) but was denied entrance both times.
- At the end of 1908, Hitler’s mother died of breast cancer.
- After his mother’s death, Hitler spent four years living on the streets of Vienna, selling postcards of his artwork to make a little money.
- No one is quite sure where or how Hitler picked up his virulent antisemitism. Some say it was because of the questionable identity of his grandfather (was Hitler’s grandfather Jewish?). Others say Hitler was furious at a Jewish doctor that let his mother die. However, it is just as likely that Hitler picked up a hatred for Jews while living on the streets of Vienna, a city known at the time for its antisemitism.
Hitler as a Soldier in World War I
- Although Hitler attempted to avoid Austrian military service by moving to Munich, Germany in May 1913, Hitler volunteered to serve in the German army once World War I began.
- Hitler endured and survived four years of World War I. During this time, he was awarded two Iron Crosses for bravery.
- Hitler sustained two major injuries during the war. The first occurred in October 1916 when he was wounded by a grenade splinter. The other was on October 13, 1918, when a gas attack caused Hitler to go temporarily blind.
- It was while Hitler was recovering from the gas attack that the armistice (i.e. the end of the fighting) was announced. Hitler was furious that Germany had surrendered and felt strongly that Germany had been “stabbed in the back” by its leaders.
Hitler Enters Politics
- Furious at Germany’s surrender, Hitler returned to Munich after the end of World War I, determined to enter politics.
- In 1919, Hitler became the 55th member of a small antisemitic party called the German Worker’s Party.
- Hitler soon became the party’s leader, created a 25-point platform for the party, and established a bold red background with a white circle and swastika in the middle as the party’s symbol. In 1920, the party’s name was changed to National Socialist German Worker’s Party (i.e. the Nazi Party).
- Over the next several years, Hitler often gave public speeches that gained him attention, followers, and financial support.
- In November 1923, Hitler spearheaded an attempt to take over the German government through a putsch (a coup), called the Beer Hall Putsch.
- When the coup failed, Hitler was caught and sentenced to five years in prison.
- It was while in Landsberg prison that Hitler wrote his book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle).
- After only nine months, Hitler was released from prison.
- After getting out of prison, Hitler was determined to build up the Nazi Party in order to take over the German government using legal means.
Hitler Becomes Chancellor
- In 1932, Hitler was granted German citizenship.
- In the July 1932 elections, the Nazi Party obtained 37.3 percent of the vote for the Reichstag (Germany’s parliament), making it the controlling political party in Germany.
- On January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor. Hitler then used this high-ranking position to gain absolute power over Germany. This finally happened when Germany’s president, Paul von Hindenburg, died in office on August 2, 1934.
- Hitler took the title of Führer and Reichskanzler (Leader and Reich Chancellor).
Hitler as Führer
- As dictator of Germany, Hitler wanted to increase and strengthen the German army as well as expand Germany’s territory. Although these things broke the terms of the Versailles Treaty, the treaty that officially ended World War I, other countries allowed him to do so. Since the terms of the Versailles Treaty had been harsh, other countries found it easier to be lenient than risk another bloody European war.
- In March 1938, Hitler was able to annex Austria into Germany (called the Anschluss) without firing a single shot.
- When Nazi Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, the other European nations could no longer stand idly by. World War II began.
- On July 20, 1944, Hitler barely survived an assassination attempt. One of his top military officers had placed a suitcase bomb under the table during a conference meeting at Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair. Because the table leg blocked much of the blast, Hitler survived with only injuries to his arm and some hearing loss. Not everyone in the room was so lucky.
- On April 29, 1945, Hitler married his long-time mistress, Eva Braun.
- The following day, April 30, 1945, Hitler and Eva committed suicide together.