Hitler as a Child

Early Life

Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 in the Austro-Hungarian town of Branau-am-Inn. He was one of six siblings born to Alois Hitler and Klara Polzl. When Hitler was three years old, his family moved to Passau, Germany, however they did not stay long, as just two years later they had moved back to Austria. As Hitler grew up, he often clashed with his father, as he refused to abide by the strict rules put in place by the school he attended.Hitler was a confident, outgoing child, but his personality changed in 1900 with the death of his brother, Edmund. He became withdrawn and fought more often with teachers and his father. Hitler's father wanted him to become a customs bureau officer like himself, but Hitler had plans to become an artist. Attempting to spite his father, Hitler intentionally did poorly in school, hoping his father would see his poor performance and let him realize his dream. His father Alois passed away ion 1903, and his other allowed him to leave school. Despite this, he re-enrolled a year later, where his behavior and grades improved.From 1905 onward, Hitler lived in Vienna, a hotbed of racism and antisemitism. He applied to the Vienna school of Fine Arts twice, in both 1907 and 1908, but was denied both times. In 1913 Hitler returned to Germany, moving to Munich.

Hitler's Time in the German Army

The first World War broke out shortly after Hitler moved to Munich, in 1914. Hitler should not have been able to join the German army as he was an Austrian citizen.
Hitler during WW1

However, an administrative error allowed him to voluntarily join the Bavarian army. He served as a dispatch runner in France and Belgium, usually staying far behind the front lines of combat. Hitler was present at many major battles, such as the first battle of Ypres, the battle of the Somme, and the battle of Passchendale, sustaining heavy injuries at the Somme. Hitler was decorated for his bravery, receiving the Iron Cross,second class in 1914, and the Iron cross, first class in 1918. During his time in the army, he drew cartoons and instructions for the army newspaper. in 1918, he was temporarily blinded in a mustard gas attack. Hitler himself described the war as "The greatest of all experiences", and he was often commended by his higher-ups for his bravery. His experiences in the war strengthen his German patriotism, and he was shocked when Germany surrendered in 1918. The Treaty of Versailles, signed by Germany after the war, was later used by Hitler for political gain.

The Symbol of the NSDAP

Hitler's Origins in Politics

After WW1, Hitler returned to Munich, and with no clear career path, he opted to remain in the army. In 1919, he became an intelligence agent, his assignment being to influence other soldiers and infiltrate the German Worker's Party (DAP). While spying on the DAP, he became attracted to the ideas of its leader, Anton Drexler, which included antisemitism, anti-capitalism, and anti-Marxism. Impressed with Hitler, Drexler invited him to join the party, with Hitler becoming member number 555. To increase the party's appeal to the German public, the DAP changed its name to the National Socialist German Worker's Party (NSDAP), and assumed the logo of a black swastika in a white circle on a red background. Hitler left the army in 1920, and began working full time for the NSDAP. He gained notoriety for his strong speeches against the Treaty of Versailles, Marxists, and Jews. In June 1921, the NSDAP attempted to merge with a rival party, drawing Hitler's resignation. He exclaimed that he would only rejoin if he would replace Drexler as chairman of the party. This proved successful, and on July 29, he took full control of the party. In 1923 Hitler attempted a coup, and despite initial success, was stopped and sentenced to 5 years in jail for high treason. He was still widely popular, and was treated wellby guards, and only served one year before he was pardoned. While in prison, Hitler worked on the first volume of his autobiography, "Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle") Read Mein Kampf here
Pro-communist Berliners during the Great Depression

Hitler's Rise to Power

A speech Hitler gave to the Hitler Youth in 1935

The American Stock market crashed on October 24, 1929, providing a huge political opportunity for Hitler. The German population was highly divided in support for the constitutional republic Germany had in place, and faced challenges from extremists on both sides of the political spectrum. The elections in 1930 broke up the coalition government that had existed beforehand and replaced it with a minority government. Hitler himself was not able to run for president until 1932, due to him not having a German citizenship. Although he did lose the initial election in September, it established Hitler as a strong figure in German politics. However in November, the newly sworn in president Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor of Germany. Hitler used this position to work against his opponents who were attempting to create another majority government, and force Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag, and set another set of elections in March. Hitler fared better in these elections, gaining the most amount of seats out of any party, but failed to win a majority government, necessitating a coalition with the German National People's Party. To achieve full political control, Hitler brought the "Enabling Act" to the Reichstag, which would enable Hitler to enact laws without the consent of the Reichstag for four years, even if the laws were unconstitutional. The vote passed 441-84, a vote inflated due to the fact Hitler barred members of the Social Democrat party, his main opposition, from attending. Having full control over the government, Hitler began to suppress all opposition. All trade unions and other political parties were dissolved, and their leaders sent to concentration camps. On August 1 1934, Hitler enacted a law that would give full power to the Chancellor after the president died. Hindenburg died the next day, and Hitler had full control over Germany. Despite all this, Hitler took great care in making sure that his dictatorship appeared legal, renewing the enabling act twice, and still holding (incredibly rigged) Reichstag elections.

Hitler and Nazi Germany

Adolf Hitler salutes troops of the Condor Legion who fought alongside Spanish Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, during a rally upon their return to Germany, 1939..jpg
Hitler began preparing the economy for war almost immediately after coming into power. He financed this by printing money and seizing assets of people such as Jews, who were arrested as enemies of the state. Under Hitler, German unemployment fell from six million to one million. One of the largest infrastructure reforms in German history occurred under Hitler, creating new dams, railroads, highways, and other civil works. Hitler sponsored architecture, an old passion of his, and civics, remodeling Berlin and hosting the 1936 Olympic Games. although Hitler often spoke of peace at his rallies, his foreign policies and decisions did not support those ideals. he aimed to restore the borders of Germany before the Treaty of Versailles came into effect, and he withdrew Germany from the League of Nations as well as the World Disarmament Conference in 1933. He grew the German army to six times the treaty-permitted size. Germany reoccupied the Rhineland. He also continued to strive for an alliance with Britain, but gave up on it after Britain did not sign the Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany, Italy, and Japan, he gave up on this. As German war preparations dragged on longer and longer, the quality of life in Germany fell drastically. Hitler felt that the only way to stop this decline was military aggression aimed at Austria and Czechoslovakia. From then on, Hitler's foreign policies were focused solely on war.
A map of WW2 Europe

World War Two

At the start of WWII, Hitler had a few diplomatic successes. Hitler ended his current alliance with China, and opted to form a new one with the more powerful Japan. In March 1938, Hitler declared the unification of Austria with Nazi Germany, and turned his attention towards the large German population in Czechoslovakia. On March 15, 1938, Hitler invaded Prague and took control of Czechoslovakia. At this time Hitler considered Britain to be his main enemy, and decided that taking over Poland would be necessary in order for Germany to be able to hold off Britain. Hitler knew that this move would require Soviet support, so he signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, with a secret agreement to split Poland between the two states. On September 1 1939, Hitler invaded western Poland, which led to both Britain and France declaring war on Germany. Soviet forces invaded Poland from the west on 13 September, and soon Poland had come under German rule. On April 9 of that same year, Hitler invaded Denmark and Norway. He followed that up with the invasions of France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium.Despite all this, Britain continued to fight Germany in the Battle of the Atlantic. On June 22 1941, Hitler broke the Soviet-German non-aggression pact and invaded the Soviet Union. Hitler managed to advance within 400km of Moscow, nut then ordered his troops elsewhere, allowing the Soviets time to mobilize
US troops on D-Day
more troops.On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, leading Germany to declare war on the United States 2 days later. In 1943, Mussolini was removed from power in Italy by allied forces, and Italy surrendered to the allies. On June 6 1944 Allied troops landed in Normandy, France as part of Operation Overlord. Now called D-day, this was one of the largest amphibious operations in history, and marked the turning point of the war for the Allies. By late 1944, both the Soviet Red Army as well as Allied troops had advanced into Germany. on April 23, 1945, the Red Army had surrounded Berlin, and on April 30, Hitler and his Wife Eva Braun committed suicide in the Reich Chancellery. Germany had lost the war, and the country was split between the allies and the Soviet Union.
People being held in a concentration camp

The Holocaust

The Holocaust was based on the view Hitler had, that Jews were the main enemy of the German people. Hitler's original goal was to deport the population of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to Siberia to be used as slaves or killed, and replace them with German people. When his plans to take over the Soviet Union failed, Hitler moved the plans ahead, and decided that all those that would have been deported shall now be killed. Between 1935-1945, Hitler's SS troops were responsible for the deaths of 11 million people, including 5.5 to 6 million Jews. Most deaths took place in concentration or extermination camps, ghettos, and mass executions. Many victims were gassed to death, with other dying of starvation or disease while performing slave labor. The Holocaust showed the extent Hitler would have gone to in order to achieve racial purity in Germany. A tour of the Auschwitz concentration camp


Neo-Nazis at a rally

By the time Hitler died, public support of him practically vanished, and few mourned his passing. Today, Hitler's actions and ideology are considered gravely immoral, and are only supported by Neo-Nazi groups. Hitler brought about another world war, leaving eastern and central Europe devastated.The Nazis were responsible for the deaths of 19.3 million civilians, adding on to the 29 million soldiers killed in the war. Today, many countries have outlawed Nazism and Holocaust denial. The void left by Germany when it was defeated was filled by the Cold War. Historian Sebastian Haffner states that other than Alexander the Great, Hitler had a more significant impact than any other comparable historical figure, in that he too caused a wide range of worldwide changes in a relatively short time span.