Adolf Hitler (20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei,abbreviated NSDAP), commonly known as the Nazi Party. He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and, after 1934, also head of state as Führer und Reichskanzler, ruling the country as an absolute dictator.
A decorated veteran of World War I, Hitler joined the precursor of the Nazi Party (DAP) in 1919 and became leader of NSDAP in 1921. He attempted a failed coup called the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in 1923, for which he was imprisoned. Following his imprisonment, in which he wrote his book, Mein Kampf, he gained support by promoting German nationalism, anti-semitism, anti-capitalism, and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and propaganda. He was appointed chancellor in 1933, and quickly transformed the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich, a single-party dictatorship based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideals of national socialism.
Hitler ultimately wanted to establish a New Order of absolute Nazi German hegemony in continental Europe. To achieve this, he pursued a foreign policy with the declared goal of seizing Lebensraum (“living space”) for the Aryan people; directing the resources of the state towards this goal. This included the rearmament of Germany, which culminated in 1939 when the Wehrmacht invaded Poland. In response, the United Kingdom and France declared war against Germany, leading to the outbreak of World War II in Europe.
Within three years, Germany and the Axis powers had occupied most of Europe, and most of Northern Africa, East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean. However, with the reversal of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, the Allies gained the upper hand from 1942 onwards. By 1945, Allied armies had invaded German-held Europe from all sides. Nazi forces engaged in numerous violent acts during the war, including the systematic murder of as many as 17 million civilians.including an estimated six million Jews targeted in the Holocaust and between 500,000 and 1,500,000 Roma.
Poles, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, people with disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other political and religious opponents. In the final days of the war, during the Battle of Berlin in 1945, Hitler married his long-time mistress Eva Braun and, to avoid capture by Soviet forces less than two days later, the two committed suicide on 30 April 1945.
Hitler’s father, Alois Hitler, was an illegitimate child of Maria Anna Schicklgruber, so his paternity was not listed on his birth certificate; he bore his mother’s surname.In 1842, Johann Georg Hiedler married Maria and in 1876 Alois testified before a notary and three witnesses that Johann was his father.
At age 39, Alois took the surname Hitler. This surname was variously spelled Hiedler, Hüttler, Huettler and Hitler, and was probably regularized to Hitler by a clerk. The origin of the name is either “one who lives in a hut” (Standard German Hütte), “shepherd” (Standard German hüten “to guard”, English heed), or is from the Slavic word Hidlar and Hidlarcek. Despite this testimony, Alois’ paternity has been the subject of controversy. After receiving a “blackmail letter” from Hitler’s nephew William Patrick Hitler threatening to reveal embarrassing information about Hitler’s family tree, Nazi Party lawyer Hans Frank investigated, and, in his memoirs, claimed to have uncovered letters revealing that Alois’ mother, Maria Schicklgruber, was employed as a housekeeper for a Jewish family in Graz and that the family’s 19-year-old son, Leopold Frankenberger, fathered Alois.No evidence had, at that time, ever been produced to support Frank’s claim, and Frank himself said Hitler’s full Aryan blood was obvious.Frank’s claims were widely believed in the 1950s, but by the 1990s, were generally doubted by historians.Ian Kershaw dismissed the Frankenberger story as a “smear” by Hitler’s enemies, noting that all Jews had been expelled from Graz in the 15th century and were not allowed to return until well after Alois was born.
Adolf Hitler was born on 20 April 1889 at half-past six in the evening at the Gasthof zum Pommer, an inn in Braunau am Inn, Austria–Hungary, the fourth of Alois and Klara Hitler’s six children.At the age of three, his family moved to Kapuzinerstrasse 5.in Passau, Germany where the young Hitler would acquire Lower Bavarian rather than Austrian as his lifelong native dialect.In 1894, the family moved to Leonding near Linz, then in June 1895, Alois retired to a small landholding at Hafeld near Lambach, where he tried his hand at farming and beekeeping. During this time, the young Hitler attended school in nearby Fischlham. As a child, he tirelessly played “Cowboys and Indians” and, by his own account, became fixated on war after finding a picture book about the Franco-Prussian War in his father’s things.
He wrote in Mein Kampf: “It was not long before the great historic struggle had become my greatest spiritual experience. From then on, I became more and more enthusiastic about everything that was in any way connected with war or, for that matter, with soldiering.” His father’s efforts at Hafeld ended in failure and the family moved to Lambach in 1897. There, Hitler attended a Catholic school located in an 11th-century Benedictine cloister whose walls were engraved in a number of places with crests containing the symbol of the swastika.
It was in Lambach that the eight year-old Hitler sang in the church choir, took singing lessons, and even entertained the fantasy of one day becoming a priest.In 1898, the family returned permanently to Leonding. His younger brother Edmund died of measles on 2 February 1900, causing permanent changes in Hitler. He went from a confident, outgoing boy who found school easy, to a morose, detached, sullen boy who constantly battled his father and his teachers.Hitler was close to his mother, but had a troubled relationship with his authoritarian father, who frequently beat him, especially in the years after Alois’ retirement and disappointing farming efforts.Alois wanted his son to follow in his footsteps as an Austrian customs official, and this became a huge source of conflict between them.
Despite his son’s pleas to go to classical high school and become an artist, his father sent him to the Realschule in Linz, a technical high school of about 300 students, in September 1900. Hitler rebelled, and in Mein Kampf confessed to failing his first year in hopes that once his father saw “what little progress I was making at the technical school he would let me devote myself to the happiness I dreamed of.” Alois never relented, however, and Hitler became even more bitter and rebellious.
For young Hitler, German Nationalism quickly became an obsession, and a way to rebel against his father, who proudly served the Austrian government. Most people who lived along the German-Austrian border considered themselves German-Austrians, but Hitler expressed loyalty only to Germany. In defiance of the Austrian monarchy, and his father who continually expressed loyalty to it, Hitler and his young friends liked to use the German greeting “Heil”, and sing the German anthem “Deutschland Über Alles” instead of the Austrian Imperial anthem.
After Alois’ sudden death on 3 January 1903, Hitler’s behaviour at the technical school became even more disruptive, and he was asked to leave. He enrolled at the Realschule in Steyr in 1904, but upon completing his second year, he and his friends went out for a night of celebration and drinking, and an intoxicated Hitler tore his school certificate into four pieces and used it as toilet paper. When someone turned the stained certificate in to the school’s director, he “… gave him such a dressing-down that the boy was reduced to shivering jelly. It was probably the most painful and humiliating experience of his life.”
Hitler was expelled, never to return to school again. At age 15, Hitler took part in his First Holy Communion on Whitsunday, 22 May 1904, at the Linz Cathedral.His sponsor was Emanuel Lugert, a friend of his late father.
World War I
Hitler served in France and Belgium in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment (called Regiment List after its first commander), ending the war as a Gefreiter (equivalent at the time to a lance corporal in the British and private first class in the American armies). He served on the Western Front as a regimental runner, “a relatively safe job” based at regimental headquarters, several miles from the Front.
According to research by Dr Thomas Weber of the University of Aberdeen, earlier historians of the period had not distinguished between regimental runners who were based away from the front “in relative comfort”, and company or battalion runners who moved among the trenches and were often subjected to machine gun fire.
He was present at a number of major battles on the Western Front, including the First Battle of Ypres, the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras and the Battle of Passchendaele,The Battle of Ypres (October 1914), which became known in Germany as the Kindermord bei Ypern (Massacre of the Innocents) saw approximately 40,000 men (between a third and a half) of the nine infantry divisions present killed in 20 days, and Hitler’s own company of 250 reduced to 42 by December. Biographer John Keegan has said that this experience drove Hitler to become aloof and withdrawn for the remaining years of war.Hitler was twice decorated for bravery. He received the relatively common Iron Cross, Second Class, in 1914 and Iron Cross, First Class, in 1918, an honour rarely given to a Gefreiter.
However, because the regimental staff thought Hitler lacked leadership skills, he was never promoted to Unteroffizier (equivalent to a British corporal). According to Weber, Hitler’s First Class Iron Cross was recommended by Hugo Gutmann, a Jewish List adjutant, and this rarer award was commonly awarded to those posted to regimental headquarters, such as Hitler, who had more contact with more senior officers than combat soldiers Some historians,say that the reason he was not promoted is that he was not a German citizen. His duties at regimental headquarters gave Hitler time to pursue his artwork. He drew cartoons and instructional drawings for an army newspaper. In 1916, he was wounded in either the groin area or the left thigh during the Battle of the Somme, but returned to the front in March 1917. He received the Wound Badge later that year. A noted German historian and author, Sebastian Haffner, referring to Hitler’s experience at the front, suggests he did have at least some understanding of the military. On 15 October 1918, Hitler was admitted to a field hospital, temporarily blinded by a mustard gas attack. The English psychologist David Lewis and Bernhard Horstmann suggest the blindness may have been the result of a conversion disorder (then known as “hysteria”) In fact, Hitler said it was during this experience that he became convinced the purpose of his life was to “save Germany.” Some scholars, notably Lucy Dawidowicz,
argue that an intention to exterminate Europe’s Jews was fully formed in Hitler’s mind at this time, though he probably had not thought through how it could be done. Most historians think the decision was made in 1941, and some think it came as late as 1942.
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 ,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 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. Hitler found the war to be “the greatest of all experiences” and after wards he was praised by a number of his commanding officers for his bravery. 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, demilitarised the Rhineland and imposed other economically damaging sanctions. The treaty re-created Poland, which even moderate Germans regarded as an outrage. The treaty also blamed Germany for all the horrors of the war, something which major historians such as John Keegan now consider at least in part to be victor’s justice; most European nations in the run-up to World War I had become increasingly militarised and were eager to fight. The culpability of Germany was used as a basis to impose reparations on Germany (the amount was repeatedly revised under the Dawes Plan, the Young Plan, and the Hoover Moratorium). Germany in turn perceived the treaty, especially Article 231 on the German responsibility for the war, as a humiliation. For example, there was a nearly total demilitarisation of the armed forces, allowing Germany only six 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 Nazis 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, although at the Paris peace conference, these politicians had had very little choice in the matter.
One of the foundations of Hitler’s social policies was the concept of racial hygiene. It was based on the ideas of Arthur de Gobineau, a French count; eugenics, a pseudo-science that advocated racial purity; and social Darwinism. Applied to human beings, “survival of the fittest” was interpreted as requiring racial purity and killing off “life unworthy of life.” The first victims were children with physical and developmental disabilities; those killings occurred in a programme dubbed Action T4.After a public outcry, Hitler made a show of ending this program, but the killings continued.
Between 1939 and 1945, the SS, assisted by collaborationist governments and recruits from occupied countries, systematically killed somewhere between 11 and 14 million people, including about six million Jews,in concentration camps, ghettos and mass executions, or through less systematic methods elsewhere. In addition to those gassed to death, many died as a result of starvation and disease while working as slave labourers (sometimes benefiting private German companies). Along with Jews, non-Jewish Poles, Communists and political opponents, members of resistance groups, homosexuals, Roma, the physically handicapped and mentally retarded, Soviet prisoners of war (possibly as many as three million), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Adventists, trade unionists, and psychiatric patients were killed. One of the biggest centres of mass-killing was the industrial extermination camp complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau. As far as is known, Hitler never visited the concentration camps and did not speak publicly about the killing in precise terms.
The Holocaust (the “Endlösung der jüdischen Frage” or “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”) was planned and ordered by leading Nazis, with Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich playing key roles. While no specific order from Hitler authorizing the mass killing has surfaced, there is documentation showing that he approved the Einsatzgruppen killing squads that followed the German army through Poland and Russia, and that he was kept well informed about their activities. The evidence also suggests that in the fall of 1941 Himmler and Hitler decided upon 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.” His private secretary, Traudl Junge, testified that Hitler knew all about the death camps.
Goring gave a written authorization to Hendrick to “make all necessary preparations” for a “total solution of the Jewish question”. To make for smoother cooperation in the implementation of this “Final Solution”, the Wannsee conference was held on 20 January 1942, with fifteen senior officials participating (including Adolf Eichmann) and led by Reinhard Heydrich. The records of this meeting provide the clearest evidence of planning for the Holocaust. On 22 February, Hitler was recorded saying to his associates, “we shall regain our health only by eliminating the Jews”.