Adolf Hitler (far right) in Poland 1939
Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria on 20 April 1889. Adolf Hitler was the son of a fifty-
After spending four years in the Realschule in Linz, he left school at the age of sixteen with dreams of becoming a painter. In October 1907 the provincial, middle-
In Vienna he acquired his first education in politics by studying the demagogic techniques of the popular Christian –social Mayor, Karl Lueger, and picked up the stereotyped, obsessive anti-
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 during the fighting on the Ypres Salient on 14 October 1918 and spent three months recuperating in a hospital in Pasewalk military 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 form 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-
Hitler discovered a powerful talent for oratory as well as giving the new Party its symbol – the swastika – and its greeting ‘Heil’ His hoarse, grating voice , for all the bombastic, humourless, histrionic content of his speeches, dominated audiences by dint of his tone of impassioned conviction and gift for self-
Hitler focused his propaganda against the Versailles Treaty, the ‘November criminals,’ the Marxists and the internal enemy, the ‘Jew,’ who was responsible for all Germany’s domestic difficulties. In the twenty-
Hitler and Ludendorff then marched through Munich, at the head of 3,000 men, only to be met by deadly fire from the police, which left sixteen dead and brought the attempted putsch to an ignominious end. Hitler was arrested and brought to trial on 26 February 1924, but he succeeded in turning the tables on his accusers with a confident propagandist speech, which ended with the prophecy: ‘Pronounce us guilty a thousand times over: the goddess of the eternal court of history will smile and tear to pieces the State Prosecutor’s submission and the court’s verdict for she acquits us.’ Hitler was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in Landsberg fortress. Hitler though was released after only nine months during which time he dictated Mein Kampf (My Struggle), to Rudolf Hess, his loyal follower. Mein Kampf became the ‘bible’ of the Nazi Party, though few people read this almost unreadable harangue, but by 1939 had sold over five million countries and had been translated into eleven languages.
The next five years were, for Germany, the good years, the terrible post-
Slowly the Nazi Party was re-
In the elections of September 1930 the Nazis share of the vote increased from 800,000 to 6,500,000 and the Communists too increased their share. Thus between one-
In February 1932 Hitler officially became a German citizen and decided to run for the Presidency, receiving 13, 418, 011 votes in the run-
Hitler was offered the Vice Chancellorship in a von Papen government, but he rejected this, then Hindenburg offered him the Chancellorship of a coalition government that could command a majority in the Reichstag. Hitler wanted to rule by absolute power and rejected that proposal too.
More elections were held on 6 November and the Nazis lost 2,000,000 votes and Hitler was again offered the chance of being the Chancellor of a coalition government or Vice Chancellor in a von Papen government, which he again refused. Kurt von Schleicher, a professional army officer became Chancellor, but he was dismissed on 28 January 1933, when Hindenburg refused to let him institute a military dictatorship.
On 30 January 1933 Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor, with von Papen as Vice Chancellor, the Reichstag was dissolved and new elections set for 5 March 1933, but on 27 February 1933 the Reichstag was burnt down, the Nazis blamed the Communists. At the March 1933 elections with the full power of the police state behind them, with naked intimidation and propaganda to help them the Nazis increased their share of the vote to over 17,000,000 or 44% of the votes cast.
Adolf Hitler further strengthened his grip on power following the destruction of the senior cadre of the SA storm troopers including his long time comrade Ernst Röhm, during the so-
In the course of the next four years Hitler enjoyed a dazzling string of domestic and international triumphs, outwitting rival politicians abroad just as he had defeated his opponents at home. In 1935 he flouted the Treaty of Versailles and began to build up the army by conscripting five times its permitted number. He persuaded the British government to allow an increase in the German navy and in March 1936 he occupied the de-
Hitler sought closer ties with Benito Mussolini which resulted in the Rome –Berlin pact of 1936 and two years later saw the Anschluss (Annexation) of his homeland Austria and in the same year the ‘liberation’ of the Sudeten Germans. Hitler’s sabre-
With Poland conquered Hitler then embarked on his domination of Europe, Denmark, Norway and a lightning campaign in Western Europe with the campaigns against Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg and France in six weeks. After the fall of France in June 1940 only Great Britain opposed the might of Nazi Germany, and the courageous Royal Air Force defeated the Luftwaffe over the skies of Britain and thus Hitler experienced his first reverse. Hitler abandoned plans to launch a sea-
Hitler’s fatal decision to invade the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 was to prove the turning point of the Second World War. Hitler was convinced of an easy victory, told Jodl, his Chief of Staff: “You only have to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.” At first the German armies carried all before them overwhelming the Red Army, encircling Leningrad and reaching the outer suburbs of Moscow but are halted by determined Soviet resistance and the onset of one of the coldest Russian winters. The German generals favoured a swift strike against Moscow before the winter set in, but Hitler over-
During the month of July 1943 the Allied forces captured Sicily and Mussolini’s regime collapsed in Italy, and after a long campaign in Italy liberated Rome on 4 June 1944. Two days later the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy, under Operation Overlord, and the Nazis grip on mainland Europe was being loosened for all time. German generals visiting Hitler at the Führer’s Headquarters known as he Wolf’s Lair at Rastenburg deep in the East Prussian forests were shocked at how Hitler’s health had deteriorated under the regime of drugs prescribed by his physician Dr. Theodor Morell. Hitler now shunned all public appearances and retreated into an isolated world, mistrusting his Generals and all but his trusted sycophants. On 20 July 1944 Claus von Stauffenberg, a severely wounded officer carried a bomb in his briefcase, which he placed by a table support in the map room, where Hitler was giving a briefing. The briefcase was moved and whilst the explosion killed four officers, Hitler suffered only minor injuries, though four officers were killed and seven more injured. The plot collapsed and those arrested were either murdered by drum-
As the Red Army advanced Hitler abandoned the FHQ in Rastenburg and sought refuge in the Führerbunker in Berlin and as the Soviet forces approached Berlin on 19 March 1945 Hitler ordered the destruction of what remained of the German industry, still standing after the ferocious Allied bombing campaign, had reduced most major German cities to rubble. Hitler to the end showed the same passion for destruction to his own German people as he had to the extermination of the Jews of Europe and Slavic people, whom he considered sub-
On 29 April 1945 he married his long-
Who’s Who in Nazi Germany by Robert S Wistrich, published by Routledge, London 1995
Leaders and Personalities of the Third Reich by Charles Hamilton published by R. James Bender 1984
History of the Second World War – The Brutal Reich, published by Purnell & Sons Limited 1966
Fall Weiss by Slawomir Wucyna published by Agencja Wydawnicza, Warsaw 1997
Photograph – Chris Webb Archive
© Holocaust Historical Society 2014