Adolf Hitler: Quick Facts
Birth Name: Adolf Hitler
Birth Date: 20 April 1889
Birth Place: Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary
Death: 20 April 1945 (56 Years of Age)
Cause of Death: Suicide (Death by Gunshot)
Spouse(s): Eva Braun (Married in 1945)
Father: Alois Hitler
Mother: Klara Polzl
Sibling(s): Gustav Hitler; Ida Hitler; Otto Hitler; Alois Junior; Angela Hitler
Political Party: National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis)
Military Service: Bavarian Army (1914-1920) – 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment (World War I)
Military Rank: Gefreiter
Military Awards: Iron Cross First Class; Iron Cross Second Class; Wound Badge
Occupation: Chancelor of Germany (30 January 1933 – 30 April 1945)
Early Life of Hitler
Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria on 20 April 1889 to both Alois and Klara Hitler. Adolf was the fourth of six children. When he was only three years old, Hitler's family moved to Passau, Germany, but returned to Austria (Leonding) in 1894. Following numerous fights with his father (who often beat young Hitler on a regular basis), Hitler was sent away to the "Realschule" in Linz around September of 1900. Hitler returned home from school in 1903, following the sudden and unexpected death of his father. Back at home, Hitler continued school in Steyr; leaving in 1907 to study art in Vienna. It was in Vienna that Hitler's anti-Semitic tendencies first took form; emerging wholly with the defeat of Germany during the First World War. Hitler's time in Vienna was difficult, especially after the death of his mother in 1907. With no money from home to live by, Hitler lived a peripatetic life in Vienna, running from shelter to shelter each night, and selling artwork of Austrian architecture and scenery.
Hitler's father was Alois Schicklgruber; a man born into poverty along the northwestern sector of Lower Austria (Kershaw, 3). Alois was born on 7 June 1837 in the small village of Strones to Maria Anna Schicklgruber, the daughter of Johann Schicklgruber. Alois was considered an illegitimate child at birth, as there are no records of who his actual father (Hitler's grandfather) was.
At the age of five, Alois' mother, Maria Anna, married Johann Georg Hiedler who worked as a miller's journeyman. Tragedy struck the family five years later, however, as Maria Anna suddenly passed away in 1847. Shortly after his mother's death, young Alois was quickly adopted by his stepfather's brother, Johann Nepomuk Hiedler. Here, young Alois was treated to a good home and upbringing.
Alois was highly ambitious. By the age of eighteen (1855) he began working for the Austrian Ministry of Finance. After only a few years, young Alois achieved a supervisory role (1861) and later was promoted to the rank of "customs officer" (1870), and "customs inspector" (1878).
In 1876, at the age of thirty-nine, Alois decided to change his birth name to "Hitler." Historians remain divided over what promoted Alois to initiate this change. Regardless of his motives, the process was formalized by a notary and parish priest. Alois had Johann Georg listed as his father and, in the process, eliminated his illegitimacy status as a child (as he was now listed as "born within wedlock" on official birth records).
Alois was married multiple times and had a number of affairs before meeting Hitler's future mother, Klara Polzl. In total, Alois fathered nine children before marrying Klara, who was not only his second cousin, but also a maid in the Hitler home for some time.
His first and second marriages (to Anna Glasl [fourteen years his senior], and to Franziska Matzelberger, respectively) both ended abruptly due to the untimely deaths of his wives. Anna died in 1883, while young Franziska died of tuberculosis only a year later (1884), after giving birth to two children. Even before Franziska died, however, it was apparent that Alois had already began seeing Klara, who became pregnant with the couple's first child, Gustav. Only four months after Franziska's death, the pair married and gave birth to their first child in May 1885.
Klara and Alois had two more children shortly afterwards, Ida and Otto, respectively. Young Otto died only days after his birth. Tragedy struck again, however, as both Ida and Gustav died of diphtheria in December 1887 and January 1888. A little over a year later, Klara and Alois gave birth to young Adolf (20 April 1889); a day described as a cold, overcast, Easter Saturday.
Alois was once again promoted in 1892 to the rank of "Higher Collector of Customs." Following a substantial inheritance, along with his more than adequate salary, the Hitler family was able to live a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle that allowed for both a cook and maid. Alois and Klara later gave birth to two additional children, Edmund (who later died at the age of six), and Paula (born in 1896).
Memoirs and testimonies from family members and neighbors of the Hitler family describe Alois as "pompous, status-proud, strict, humourless, frugal...and devoted to duty" (Kershaw, 11). Although well-respected in his community, Alois was also well-known for his terrible temper, and alcoholic tendencies. Alois maintained little interest in his family, as he much preferred work and his hobby of bee-keeping over familial responsibilities. Hitler described his father as stern, aloof, and quite irritable. Klara, however, took wholeheartedly to the role of being a mother, and was described by her children and neighbors as kind, loving, humble, and a "pious churchgoer" (Kershaw, 12). According to historians, Klara "bestowed a smothering, protective love and devotion on her two surviving children, Adolf and Paula" (along with her stepchildren) which was, in turn, reciprocated by her children and stepchildren, particularly by Adolf (Kershaw, 12).
Later accounts by Adolf describe his genuine love and admiration that he held toward his mother, along with the hate and fear that he equated with his father, Alois, who often beat young Adolf and his siblings, mercilessly, for the slightest infractions.
Hitler's Family Photos
Fact #1: One of the most interesting aspects of Hitler is the fact that he wasn’t German at all. Hitler was Austrian by birth; being born in Braunau am Inn (1889). In his youth, Hitler dreamed of becoming an artist in Austria, and applied multiple times to the Vienna Academy of Art (was denied on both occasions). Following the death of his mother, Hitler lived on the streets of Vienna and sold his artwork in the form of postcards for meager wages.
Fact #2: Hitler moved to Munich, Germany in 1913. He volunteered for military service at the beginning of World War I, earning the rank of Corporal, and two decorations for valor. During the war, Hitler was injured on two separate occasions. At the Battle of the Somme (October 1916), Hitler sustained a major shrapnel wound that required two months of hospital rest. Later in 1918, Hitler was temporarily blinded by a British mustard gas attack.
Fact #3: Following the defeat of Germany and the humiliation imposed on the German people by the Versailles Treaty, Hitler returned to Munich where he joined the German Workers’ Party. Hitler quickly took control of the party for himself; designing the swastika as its political symbol. In 1920, the party was renamed the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi Party). Hitler’s unique gift at public speaking garnered him tremendous support (both publically and financially). Part of Hitler’s appeal lied with his ability to channel the German people’s anger (from their defeat in World War I) into a nationalist fervor; blaming Jews and political elites for Germany’s humiliating defeat and postwar suffering.
Fact #4: Hitler spent nine months in jail for an attempted coup in Munich. Inspired by Benito Mussolini’s seizure of power in Italy, Hitler attempted his own coup in Germany on the night of 8 November 1922. With nearly 2,000 Nazi supporters, Hitler and his followers raided downtown Munich in an attempt to overthrow the local government. The coup (known as the “Beer Hall Putsch”) was a tremendous failure, however, leaving sixteen Nazis dead, and numerous party members in jail. During his time behind bars, Hitler published his autobiography, known as Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”). The book offered a unique glimpse into the thought patterns of Hitler, as well as the policies he would later initiate during his reign as Chancellor of Germany. Upon being released from prison, Hitler reassumed his position in the Nazi Party; using the next few years to build it from the ground up into a powerful political force in Germany.
Fact #5: Through Hitler’s guidance, the Nazi Party was able to consolidate power (legally) through local elections. Following months of economic stagnation from the worldwide Great Depression, the Nazi Party scored a major victory during the July 1932 elections (held only a few months after Hitler became a German citizen). After obtaining a majority in the German Reichstag, Hitler was appointed Chancellor on 30 January 1933.
Fact #6: In only a few years, Hitler consolidated power with the Nazi Party further; using a mysterious fire at the German Reichstag (27 February 1933) as an opportunity to suspend basic rights across Germany in favor of martial law. Following the death of German President, Paul von Hindenburg (2 August 1934), Hitler assumed complete control of the German government and began a systematic rebuilding of the German military. During the late 1930s, Hitler began to implement laws that aimed to subdue Jews and the disabled, while also annexing Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia in 1938.
Fact #7: To the German people and his military officers, Hitler appeared to be omniscient in his decisions regarding war; leading the Germans to multiple victories in the early years of World War Two. Despite these early victories, Hitler made the serious blunder of invading the Soviet Union in 1941, and declaring war on the United States in December of that year. Unwilling to concede to military advisers, Hitler’s attempts to lead the German people to victory soon gave way to more and more failures as the war dragged on.
Fact #8: Even with defeat inevitable in 1945, Hitler refused to surrender to the Allied forces. In April 1945, Hitler and his military high-command continued to hold out in an underground bunker; directing the last remnants of the German military against the rapidly approaching Soviet and American forces on the outskirts of Berlin. Once it became evident that the Soviet forces would reach Hitler’s bunker before the Americans, Hitler married his mistress, Eva Braun, before committing a double-suicide the following day. Before killing themselves, Hitler ordered his military officers to burn their bodies. Only two days after Hitler’s death, Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allies (2 May 1945), ending hostilities.
Fact #9: As part of Hitler’s belief in Aryan superiority over other races, Hitler believed that Germans should not indulge in alcohol, smoking, or the consumption of “unclean substances” (biography.com). As a result, Hitler was a devout vegan, and abstained from all forms of alcohol. He also “promoted [widespread] anti-smoking campaigns” across Germany (biography.com).
Fact #10: In addition to hundreds of anti-Semitic laws enacted in Germany, Hitler’s mass-repression against Jews reached unprecedented heights across Europe as the Wehrmacht expanded its control over the European continent. During the Holocaust, the Nazi Party executed over six-million Jews (nearly two-thirds of the Jewish population across Europe). Nearly a million more people (of various ethnic backgrounds and beliefs) were killed as well. Hitler and his supporters facilitated these deaths with the construction of concentration camps across Europe.
"It is not truth that matters, but victory."— Adolf Hitler
Fast Facts About Hitler
Fast Fact #1: Although Hitler despised Christianity (particularly the Catholic Church), Hitler admired the Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther.
Fast Fact #2: Hitler's last name wasn't really "Hitler." It was actually "Schicklgruber." His father, Alois, was the illegitimate child of Maria Anna Schicklgruber. Alois changed his last name to "Hitler" in 1876 (perhaps to cover up this fact).
Fast Fact #3: According to many biographers, one of Hitler's favorite hobbies was whistling various songs.
Fast Fact #4: Some historians believe that Hitler suffered from Parkinson's disease, given his mental and physical symptoms during the last decade of his life.
Fast Fact #5: Although Hitler played a prominent role in the "Final Solution," he never visited any of the concentration camps that were constructed by the Nazis.
Fast Fact #6: During his youth, Hitler aspired to become a Catholic priest, and often sang in church choirs. This, of course, later changed with his conversion to atheism.
Fast Fact #7: Hitler was an animal rights activist; because of this, he refused to eat meat of any sort. He even had a greenhouse near his home that supplied a constant supply of vegetables for him and his guests to eat.
Fast Fact #8: Ironically, Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939. After failing to win, however, Hitler forbade any German citizen from winning the prize.
Fast Fact #9: Hitler's small mustache was the result of gas attacks during the First World War. Hitler maintained a small mustache in order to wear his gas mask. A full mustache would have prevented his mask from sealing properly in the event of a gas attack.
Quotes by Hitler
Quote #1: “How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.”
Quote #2: “Strength lies not in defense but in attack.”
Quote #3: “The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.”
Quote #4: “If you wish the sympathy of the broad masses, you must tell them the crudest and most stupidest things.”
Quote #5: “Terrorism is the best political weapon for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death.”
Quote #6: “It is not truth that matters, but victory.”
Quote #7: “All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach.”
Quote #8: “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.”
Quote #9: “Struggle is the father of all things. It is not by the principles of humanity that man lives or is able to preserve himself above the animal world; but solely by means of the most brutal struggle.”
Quote #10: “The doom of a nation can be averted only by a storm of flowing passion; but only those who are passionate themselves can arouse passion in others.”
Timeline of Events in Hitler's Life
20 April 1889
Hitler is born in Austria.
3 January 1903
Hitler's Father dies.
14 January 1907
Hitler's Mother dies.
1914 - 1918
Hitler serves in First World War
Hitler joins German Workers' Party
Nazi Party Formed
24 February 1920
Hitler gives "Twenty Five Theses" Speech
Hitler becomes leader of Nazi Party
8 November 1923
Beer Hall Putsch occurs
1 April 1924
Hitler is sentenced to five years in prison for treason.
"Mein Kamp" published.
1929 - 1930
Hitler and the Nazis beginning centralizing more and more power in their hands.
Hitler runs for president.
30 January 1933
Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.
30 June 1934
"Night of the Long Knives"
Hitler becomes Fuhrer
25 November 1936
Axis Powers Formed
9 November 1938
German occupies Poland with Soviet Union
24 August 1939
"Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact" is signed with Soviet Union
22 June 1940
France surrenders to Germany
16 July 1940
"Operation Sealion" is issued against Great Britain
22 June 1941
"Operation Barbarossa" begins against the Soviet Union.
11 December 1941
Hitler declares war on United States
9 July 1943
Allies invade Sicily
26 May 1944
Hitler gives "Platterhof Address"
7 January 1945
Hitler withdraws forces from Ardennes
30 April 1945
Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his bunker as Soviet and American forces close on his position
Hitler and the Academy of Fine Arts
Around 1907, young Hitler left his home in Linz to study fine art in Vienna, following the death of his father. Receiving financial support through orphan benefits and from his mother, Hitler immediately set out to gain admission into the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. To his dismay, however, Hitler was rejected twice by the school's director, who suggested that young Adolf would be more suited to architectural school instead.
The rejection came as a complete shock to Hitler, as he had convinced himself long before applying to the academy that he was destined for the artistic life. The rejection became even harder for Hitler as his mother passed away soon after on 21 December 1907 from breast cancer (at forty-seven years of age). Crushed by the death of his mother, depression soon engulfed Adolf as he returned to Vienna. By 1909, Hitler was completely broke. Rather than returning home, however, Hitler turned to a pedantic lifestyle, frequenting homeless shelters and dormitories across Vienna, and earning small sums of money through various odd-jobs and watercolor paintings.
Origins of Hitler's Anti-Semitism
Historians remain uncertain over the origins and development of Hitler's anti-Semitic views. However, it is believed by many scholars that these views first took form in Vienna, as he was exposed to the racial rhetoric espoused by Karl Lueger. Playing on German nationalism, Lueger's message was particularly strong and influential on Hitler. These feelings were further exacerbated by the works and speeches of Georg Ritter von Schonerer. Combined with local newspaper articles and pamphlets that fanned fears of Eastern European Jews, Hitler's exposure to Vienna's culture set the stage for his murderous policies of the 1930s and 1940s.
Despite these early influences, other historians proclaim that Hitler's anti-Semitic views did not emerge fully until the end of the First World War. Subscribing to the false doctrine that Germany had been "stabbed in the back" by Jewish traitors, and that German defeat was a result of a Jewish conspiracy, historians such as Richard J. Evans argue that Hitler personally blamed German defeat on the Jews; prompting him to develop not only a strong sense of nationalism, but also a strong hatred for the Jewish people, in general.
Hitler in the First World War
Following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Hitler voluntarily enlisted in the Bavarian Army, despite the fact that he was considered an Austrian citizen and should have been returned to Austria. According to historical records, Hitler was soon posted to the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment, where her served as a runner along the Western Front (France and Belgium).
Despite spending most of his time at regimental headquarters, Hitler also participated in numerous battles, including: The First Battle of Ypres, the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Passchenaele, as well as the Battle of Arras. It was at the Battle of the Somme that Hitler was wounded in combat, and sustained serious injuries from an artillery shell that hit his runner's dugout. He was later decorated for his bravery at the Somme with the Iron Cross, Second Class. Later, in 1918, Hitler received the Iron Cross, First Class on the recommendation of Lieutenant Hugo Gutmann (Hitler's commanding officer, who also happened to be of Jewish descent). It was also in 1918 that Hitler received the Black Wound Badge.
In addition to injuries sustained at the Battle of the Somme, Hitler was also temporarily blinded by a mustard gas attack in 1918. During his recovery, Hitler learned of Germany's defeat in the war and was stunned by his country's surrender. The defeat caused Hitler to develop a great sense of bitterness and anger, particularly toward German politicians, Jews, Marxists, and civilian leaders across Germany. The embarrassing Treaty of Versailles only reinforced these feelings further.
The "Beer Hall Putsch" and "Landsberg Prison"
In the early 1920s, Hitler attempted to organize a coup known as the "Beer Hall Putsch" that used Italian Fascism as their means of inspiration. In his attempt to emulate Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini and his "March on Rome" (1922), Hitler sought to stage a challenge to Berlin by storming and occupying the local Reichswehr and police headquarters of Bavaria (8 November 1923). To the dismay of Hitler, however, neither the army or police joined forces with Hitler and his followers, and by the next day sixteen of the NSDAP members had been killed by government forces, forcing Hitler into hiding.
On 11 November 1923, Hitler was arrested for "high treason," and was tried by a special People's Court in Munich only a few months later (February 1924). For his part in the failed coup, Hitler was sentenced to five years in jail at Landsberg Prison. He was later pardoned, however, by the Bavarian Supreme Court on 20 December 1924, after spending less than a year in prison.
Despite his short stay at Landsberg, Hitler used his time in prison to write the first volume of Mein Kampf ("My Struggle"). The book, which he dedicated to Dietrich Eckart, was written as both an autobiography and exposition of his ideological beliefs. In the book, Hitler described his plan to transform Germany into a society that was based solely around the notion of "race." It was also in Mein Kampf that Hitler first penned his ideas concerning Jews, which he equated with "germs" and enemies of the state, as well as the need to destroy the Jewish race.
Mein Kampf was later published in two separate volumes (1925 and 1926, respectively), and sold approximately 228,000 copies by 1932. Hitler's work gained unprecedented attention, however, during his first year in office, selling over a million copies in 1933, alone.
Rebuilding the NSDAP
After being released from prison, politics in Germany (as well as the economy) appeared to be improving steadily with each passing month. This greatly limited Hitler and the Nazi Party's plans for political agitation. Nevertheless, Hitler set himself to work enlarging the NSDAP, particularly in the northern sectors of Germany. To accomplish this, he appointed Joseph Goebbels, Otto Strasser, and Gregor Strasser to lead the fight for political enrichment.
Despite a short window of economic growth, however, Hitler and the NSDAP got a second chance for political agitation in Germany following the stock market crash of 1929 in the United States. The effect of the crash had detrimental effects on Germany, resulting in millions of people losing their jobs, as well as the collapse of numerous banks in the region. Hitler and the NSDAP took full advantage of the chaos, promising German citizens that under their leadership, the embarrassing Versailles Treaty would be put to rest, and that Nazi leadership would bring in a new era of economic strength to the beleaguered country.
Hitler's Religious Views
Adolf Hitler was born into a Catholic family. Although his father maintained anticlerical views, his mother remained a practicing Catholic for the remainder of her life. According to historical records, Hitler never officially left the church (perhaps because of his mother's devotion to the church). Upon leaving home, however, he never attended another Mass service, or took part in the receiving of sacraments. Despite attacking the church and its officials in later life, Albert Speer once stated that Hitler felt that organized religion was somewhat important to Nazi Germany in that it prevented individuals from turning toward mysticism. For this reason, Hitler often attempted to use the church in a manner that aided his political ambitions, despite his disdain for Christianity and his atheist beliefs. Speer also reported that Hitler held a particular fondness for both Japanese religious beliefs and Islam, which he felt were far more suitable religions for the German people than Christianity.
According to reports from the United States "Office of Strategic Services" (OSS), one of Hitler's later goals was to destroy the influence of the Christian church altogether, once his political ambitions and goals had been realized. During the pre-war years, however, this goal was seen as "inexpedient" as the German public viewed such as position as too extreme, even for the Nazi regime. According to historian, Alan Bullock, such a plan would have likely been implemented after the Second World War concluded (Bullock, 219).
Researchers over the past few decades have offered numerous reports about Hitler's overall health; particularly during his final years in the Third Reich. Currently, reports indicate that Hitler suffered from a wide-range of health ailments that included irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), an irregular heartbeat, coronary sclerosis, various skin lesions, giant-cell arteritis, tinnitus, as well as the early stages of Parkinson's Disease.
In addition to poor health, scholars have also evaluated Hitler's mental health, and have argued that Hitler likely suffered from "borderline personality disorder" (Langer, 126). Contrary to popular belief, however, many scholars believe that Hitler never suffered from pathological delusions that are common with this ailment. In fact, it has been argued that Hitler was "always fully aware of...his decisions," allowing him to, in turn, be clearly categorized as a "neurotic psychopath" (Gunkel, 2010).
For his ailments (either real or imaginary), Hitler later became addicted to a wide array of drugs in the 1930s and 1940s; most prominently, amphetamine. By the end of World War Two, it is estimated that Hitler was taking nearly ninety different prescription medications a day that were prescribed by his physician, Theodor Morell. These pills, which were supposedly prescribed for his stomach issues and chronic pain, included barbiturates, opiates, potassium bromide, atropa belladonna, and even cocaine. Speer later attributed the use of drugs by Hitler to his erratic behavior and inflexible decisions.
According to memoirs from Hitler and his associates, it is evident that Adolf Hitler followed a strict vegetarian diet (vegetarianism). Martin Bormann, a Nazi Party official and head of the "Nazi Party Chancellary" (as well as Hitler's private secretary) even ordered the construction of a private greenhouse near Berghof for Hitler so that he could enjoy a supply of fresh vegetables and fruit on a daily basis. Hitler's vegetarianism derived from his disdain for the slaughter of animals. At various social events, Hitler was known to provide his attendees with graphic accounts of slaughterhouses and their treatment of animals in an attempt to encourage his guests to avoid the consumption of meat.
Hitler was also well-known for his avoidance of alcohol and smoking. Although he occasionally drank wine and German beer in more private settings, he gave up drinking altogether in 1943 after gaining a substantial amount of weight. Hitler also disapproved of cigarettes and smoking, despite being a chain-smoker in his early life (smoking anywhere from twenty to forty cigarettes a day during his service in World War One). After quitting, however, Hitler described the habit as a complete "waste of money" (Proctor, 219). It was also noted by his associates, particularly Albert Speer, that Hitler actively encouraged military officers and political officials to quit smoking as well. He even offered to buy gold watches for anyone capable of breaking the habit for good.
Hitler's Leadership Style
Hitler has long been described as autocratic and dictatorial in his ruling principles. He ascribed to a system of rule known as Fuhrerprinzip (leader principle) which advocated complete obedience to an individual's superiors (whether political or military superiors). Hitler viewed the structure of his Nazi government as a pyramid, of sorts, with himself positioned atop, and subordinates positioned strategically below.
In this pyramid-structure, ranks within the Nazi government were not decided by elections, but rather appointments by the Fuhrer himself. In doing so, Hitler expected unwavering obedience to his decrees and wishes. To contradict his leadership would be seen as both disloyal and treasonous.
To maintain his hold over the Nazi Party, Hitler often placed his subordinates into positions that overlapped with other positions in the party. By structuring his government in this manner, Hitler was able to foster an environment of competition and distrust among the Nazi Party, as each individual sought to gain the trust and support of Hitler, himself, through any means necessary.
From this leadership style, Hitler directed all political and military decisions, having the final say on all issues regarding the German military (particularly during World War II). It was for this reason that the German Army began to suffer defeat after defeat at the hands of the Allies, as Hitler refused to hearken to the voices of his military leadership, and their calls for strategic retreats. From his perspective, Hitler's arrogance pushed him to believe that only his leadership and decisions could lead his country to victory. Despite this position of weakness, Hitler's military officers never challenged the Fuhrer's decisions for the war effort, and actively supported his proposals.
The Holocaust and "Final Solution"
Adolf Hitler's persecution and murder of Jews residing in Europe derived chiefly from his view of "Lebensraum" and the need for German expansion into Eastern Europe. With the defeat of Poland and the Soviet Union (which Hitler felt was guaranteed, given his belief in their racial inferiority), Hitler's plans called for the removal and execution of Jews and Slavs across the region. For those not executed, Hitler intended to use these individuals as slave labor in the conquered territories who would serve under German settlers.
Although the original plan for this policy was intended to be carried out after the defeat of the Soviet Union, the Russian-led reversal of the Nazi Army forced Hitler to reconsider his original goals in favor of the "Final Solution." In January of 1942, Hitler made the fatal decision that all Jews, Slavs, and "undesirables" needed to be killed. Under the organization and direction of Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich, plans for a systematic murder of Jews and Slavs was implemented. Through the implementation of the Einsatzgruppen, death squads emerged in the German Army that carried out vast killing-sprees across Eastern Europe. By mid-1942, concentration camps, such as Auschwitz, were in full operation across central and Eastern Europe, and were greatly expanded to accommodate vast numbers of Jews and other deportees. While some of these concentration camps were developed for enslavement operations, multiple camps were developed exclusively for the role of execution and extermination (later known as "death camps").
In collaboration with recruits from axis-controlled regions (and German allies), the Schutzstaffel (SS) and Einsatzgruppen began a systematic cleansing of non-German populations across Europe. In the event later known as the Holocaust, Nazi forces are estimated to have killed nearly six million Jews (approximately two-thirds of the total Jewish population across Europe at the time). In addition, approximately 1,500,000 Romani people were also executed by the SS through camps and mass-shootings.
Later records indicate that the Holocaust was only the beginning of Hitler's maniacal goals. Had the Allies failed to stop Hitler and the German Army in 1945, Hitler planned to initiate an action known as the "Hunger Plan." Through this operation, Hitler planned to cut off food supplies to Nazi-controlled territories in an attempt to reduce their population numbers by at least thirty-million people. In doing so, food supplies would be diverted toward the German Army and civilian sectors, as foreign cities were razed and destroyed to make room for German colonists to resettle and develop for themselves. Although parts of this plan were initiated in the final years of World War Two, historians estimate that if Hitler had succeeded (fully) in this plan, approximately eighty-million people would have likely perished in the Soviet Union, alone. Nevertheless, starvation policies, such as this, were still catastrophic in Europe. In addition to the aforementioned Jewish and Romani deaths mentioned prior, historians have long argued that starvation pushed the total number of people killed by the Nazi regime to an astonishing 19.3 million individuals.
Conspiracy Theories Surrounding Adolf Hitler
There are numerous conspiracy theories that surround the death of Adolf Hitler. Most contend that Hitler did not commit suicide within the Fuhrerbunker, but that he and his wife, Eva Braun, escaped from Berlin and Europe to an undisclosed location in South America. The theory was first presented by Marshal Georgy Zhukov at the request of Joseph Stalin on 9 June 1945. Western scholars, however, argue that the theory was part of a disinformation campaign sponsored by the Soviet Union.
Numerous declassified FBI documents also describe a number of Hitler "sightings," adding fuel to the theories proposed by conspiracy theorists. However, none of these sightings have ever been verified.
Were you surprised by any of these facts about Hitler?
To this day, Adolf Hitler remains one of the most studied dictators in world history. His efforts toward global domination, and his attempt to eliminate the Jewish race constituted one of the greatest war crimes in world history. Scholars continue to reassess Hitler’s legacy in an attempt to understand the motivations that drove this madman to commit so many of these atrocities. In his wake, Hitler brought about war on a global scale, left much of central and eastern Europe in ruin, and brought vast devastation to the German nation; devastation and chaos that lasted well into the late 1900s. Only time will tell what new things can be learned about Hitler from future scholarly projects.
Suggestions for Further Reading:
Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: A Biography. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010.
Shirer, WIlliam and Ron Rosenbaum. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
Toland, John. Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography. New York, New York: Anchor Books, 1992.
Ullrich, Volker. Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939. New York, New York: Vintage Books, 2017.
"Adolf Hitler." Wikipedia. August 18, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler.
Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: 1889-1936, Hubris. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.
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© 2018 Larry Slawson