Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else we're destined to repeat it.
What Was His Childhood Like?
Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, in Braunau am Inn, Austria. His father was Alois Schicklgruber (born 1837) but changed his name to Hitler before Adolf's birth. When he was born, he received his mother's last name Schicklgruber because he was born illegitimate. While Adolf was young, Alois worked in the state customs service but retired and moved the family to Linz, Austria, where Adolf spent most of his childhood. He loved it there and asked to be buried there after his death.
His father died in 1903, while Adolf was only a teen. He left a pension and savings that helped support his wife and children. Adolf feared and disliked his father but was quite fond of his mother. She died four years after her husband, making Hitler an orphan.
Adolf was not an excellent student and never went beyond secondary education. After he left school at 16 years old, he traveled to Vienna but returned to Linz, where he worked as an artist. Hitler was successful enough as an artist to eventually earn enough to live in Vienna. He hoped to study art there, but he failed the entrance to the Academy of Fine Arts twice. He mainly painted postcards and advertisements but often lived isolated from the rest of the world. This way of life continued throughout his life. He also did not eat meat and stopped drinking alcohol in adulthood.
His anti-Semitic views were evident early on, although it is unclear why he felt this way. It was not an original view then, as many Germans had felt that way for at least a century. Unlike others, his hatred for Jewish people became an obsession. In Mein Kampf, his political autobiography, he described a Jewish person as the "destroyer of culture," "a menace," and "a parasite within the nation." In 1919, he also wrote, "Rational anti-Semitism must lead to systematic legal opposition. Its final objective must be the removal of the Jews altogether."
In 1913, Adolf moved to Munich, where he eventually attempted to join the Austrian military. In February 1914, he was classified as unfit due to his physique. He persisted again once World War I broke out, petitioning the Bavarian King Louis III directly to join the German Army. He was allowed to serve in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment. He spent eight weeks training before being deployed in October 1914 to Belgium and fought in the First Battle of Ypres.
He continued to serve throughout the war in the dangerous position of a runner, a job that people seldom survived, yet he managed to hold this position for four years. He was wounded for the first time in October 1916. Then in October 1918, the month before the war ended, he was gassed near Ypres and later hospitalized.
The Germans celebrated his bravery on the front lines as a headquarters runner. They awarded him the Iron Cross, Second Class in December 1914 and the Iron Cross, First Class in August 1918, a rare decoration for a corporal. He enjoyed his time at war and felt there were great heroic virtues of war.
During these near-death experiences, he began to view himself as grander than he was. In Mein Kampf, he wrote about this time and watching many soldiers dying around him who had less severe injuries than he did, yet he survived. He believed this was because Providence chose him, and he would serve a fundamental purpose. This idea was confirmed to him throughout his life because of the 18 known assassination attempts, none of which succeeded. High-ranking officers and generals that had close access to him made some of these attempts.
His Political Career and the Nazi Party
Soon after, the hospital discharged him in September 1919. He began working as an army political agent with the small German Workers' Party in Munich. In 1920, he left the army to boost his political career and was in charge of the Party's propaganda. Then, they officially renamed themselves National-sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (Nazi). The timing was ideal for the Nazi Party because there was a lot of resentment over WWI. Many were angry over the severity of the peace terms that only added to the economic problems in Germany.
Ernst Röhm played a role in furthering Hitler's rise to power due to his position in the Party. He recruited "strong-arm" squads into a private party army called the SA (Sturmabteilung). Röhm was able to use these men to protect himself from the Bavarian government by using terror tactics. Hitler later used this squad to defend himself during party meetings and use violence to gain power and attack socialists and communists whom he loathed.
Soon after Röhm began his ventures, Hitler joined the Party but found it was still very ineffective due to its lack of united leadership. Soon his ambitions caused friction among the other leaders in the Party. Since he was very good at using propaganda, acquiring funds, and organizing publicity events, he became invaluable to the group. Therefore, when he found conflict, to get his way, he threatened resignation, which they were afraid would hurt their mission.
It was in July 1921 when he became the group's official leader. He sought loyalty not just from those within this group but those throughout the country. He did this by continuing to promote his propaganda, primarily through the Party's newspaper Völkischer Beobachter ("Popular Observer). Due to his promotion, the audience of this paper went from a few to thousands.
In 1921, they founded the group National Socialist Party, and Hitler became its 55th member. We know the group as the Nazi Party. They were not socialist but knew the title would draw people in, as the socialist movement was influential at the time. Had Hitler not decided to use this Party as a political force, this group may not have succeeded. The group decided to challenge the Bavarian government and seize power in Munich in November 1923. As they marched forward in threat, the police fired among the group killing a few of them and injuring Hitler. Adolf Hitler was then on trial for treason, but he used this as an opportunity to earn sympathy.
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He also discovered that real power would not be done by physical force alone, but he also needed to seek power in legal terms. After the trial, he was sentenced to prison for five years but only served nine months in Landsberg castle. His time imprisoned was more like house arrest than a prison sentence. While there, he wrote his first volume of Mein Kampf.
Hitler wrote Mein Kampf while he was in prison. As stated before, his prison stay was more similar to house arrest. Media attention towards his incarceration brought him a lot of sympathetic followers, which made his autobiographical book sought after.
Mein Kampf was overtly anti-Semitic and outlined how Germany would be able to become a superior power across the world. He stated that there should be inequality among races, nations, and individuals as part of the natural order. Hitler exalted the "Aryan race," which included blonde-haired, blue-eyed Christians and the German people as a nation. He felt that the German people or Volk were of the utmost importance. The Volk refers to the collective unit, not the individual. Therefore, some might suffer for the betterment of society as a whole. He was very against a democratic government because it believed that all people were equal. He also felt that to help the Volk, they needed to endow perfect authority to a Führer. The Führer would then safeguard the Volk.
Some thought his ideas were ludicrous and didn't take them seriously, although he followed his plan closely to relative success. Few understood the power he would wheel across Europe. They dismissed him as a ranting racist.
His plan consisted of several objectives that would allow Germany to rule over the world. His book laid out these objectives in his book. They included:
- Unify all German-speaking people in Europe, specifically Austria and Germany.
- Quash the treaty of Versailles.
- Regain the territory lost through WWI.
- "Destroy the virus." Virus refers to Jewish people.
- End Bolshevism in Russia.
- Expand German territory.
Rising to Power
In 1923, Hitler tried to overthrow the German government and take over with his party, ideas, and antisemitism views. While pursuing this, he backed a well-known military hero, Erich von Ludendorff. Then a coup known as the Beer Hall Putsch failed, ending with Hitler being arrested. When he was released, he was forbidden to make speeches in Bavaria and, eventually, other German states. Some of these prohibitions were still in place in 1928.
In 1926, Hitler began establishing his position and gaining a following mainly in northern Germany. He did so due to his fear of communism and instilling that fear upon others. At this point, Rosa Luxemburg, known as the "Red Roses" and of Jewish birth, led the communist party in Germany. Many involved in the communist party were also of Jewish descent, confirming his antisemitic views of Hitler. Since many in Germany were previously opposed to communism and somewhat fearful, he used this to his advantage.
The Nazi party was not yet a powerful force until about 1929. Worldwide, the economy tanked. Starting in the United States, it eventually reached Germany, where hundreds of thousands of people were unemployed. The German government was not effectively helping them, so they were looking for someone who could help. Hitler appeared to be that man.
In 1930, Hitler made friends with Alfred Hugenbergin, who owned a newspaper. He used this connection to reach people nationwide, businesses, and industries. Hitler claimed that Germany would become great, and people were drawn to his message. He could make his primary income by writing for the newspapers and using the party's funds.
Unfortunately, as the Great Depression across the world raged on, it only served to boost Hitler's power. The Nazis slowly increased their seats in the Reichstag, which was the German Parliament. Although in the early years, they started at 7%, eventually, they would get as many as 40% of the seats. It was then that Hitler felt he could genuinely proceed with his plan. The Nazi party became the second-largest party. In the Reichstag, the Nazis began to battle with political enemies. Sometimes the fights got so severe; that they would start to engage on the floor of the Reichstag physically, throwing punches.
The Weimar Republic was led by General Paul von Hindenberg, who was quite elderly despite having been a war hero in his youth. Hitler strove to be appointed chancellor, the second-highest position, the president being the only post higher. The president was the only one who could grant the position of chancellor. Von Hindenberg did not like Hitler and referred to him as the "Bohemian corporal." Finally, due to enormous pressure from Hitler, on January 30, 1933, he decided to give him the position, assuming that this would mollify him.
Once in this position, he began to use force to get his way, including beating opposing politicians to death. Soon after that, he presented the Enabling Act to the Reichstag. This bill gave him absolute power, making the Reichstag completely powerless. Although it seems that Reichstag would never have passed the bill, they did due to their great fear of Hitler. President Hindenberg died soon after that, leaving Hitler in complete control of Germany.
Life as a Dicator
On February 27, 1933, a fire of the Reichstag occurred, which was believed to be done by a Dutch communist, which caused a lot of tension against the communist party; At the next election on March 5, Nazis had 43.9 percent of the votes. Due to the pressures and the Nazis gaining control, the government passed an Enabling Bill on March 23, giving Hitler full powers. Soon after, all non-Nazi organizations ceased to exist.
Although Hitler had been given the title chancellor back on January 30, 1933, now that Hindenburg was dead, he was given the twin title of Führer (which means leader) on August 2, 1934.
With the complete authority of the German people, he now strove to abolish the treaty of Versailles. He believed he could do this without starting a war since he was successful in getting his agenda without war. His second mission was to eliminate all Jewish people from Germany and, eventually, all of Europe and possibly the world. His third mission was to make a resilient German economy.
New officers replaced the old and had complete allegiance to Hitler. The German economy began to recover, with a fast drop in unemployment. Hitler credited himself, which caused him and the Nazi party to gain popularity. Through this success and the use of police terror, Hitler gained the support of 90 percent of the voters.
Hitler structured the government very strategically. He gave many people power in certain spheres, but he ensured that each person's field of control overlapped others' sphere of authority to ensure that no one gained too much power in any area.
As he pointed out in his book Mein Kampf, he felt he could expand his area of influence by invading Poland. He eventually wanted to expand to Ukraine and the U.S.S.R. To successfully do this, he needed to end the Treaty of Versailles. He did that by promoting himself through propaganda as a peaceful person. Despite his plan, he signed a non-aggression pact with Poland, continuing his peaceful image. He maintained a calm front, and in June of 1935, he convinced the British to a naval treaty that would allow Germany to have a large navy.
Soon he began showing his true colors as he made a pact with Italy and Japan. There was also conflict between Germany and France. Although France had allies and Germany did not, Germany became the dominant European power. Soon he encroached on Poland, and the world reacted.
By 1938, Germany became the most powerful and feared country in Europe before they ever entered the war. Hitler then accepted the Munich Agreement on September 30, 1938, and claimed that that was Germany's last territorial demand, which proved false. By 1939, World War II began, and in 1940, it appeared as if Hitler was going to win. Fortunately, Winston Churchill led Britain with resistance against Hitler and could thwart some of his efforts.
World War II and the Holocaust
Unlike World War I, where many people contributed to the outbreak, Hitler alone was responsible for the start of World War II. He began the extermination of Jews, locking many into concentration camps and having many executed for the only crime of being of the wrong race. It was the invasion of Poland that started World War II. Britain and France immediately resisted him. Unfortunately, he had a pact with Italy, and on August 23, 1939, he signed the non-aggression pact with the U.S.S.R. These alliances would impede the British and French missions to stop Germany.
Hitler had a keen sense of people and could exploit other leaders' weaknesses despite not knowing any foreign language. Early on, he had a lot of success and rarely was hindered. He was involved in the small details of the German military operations. The Germans had much more success in the second world war than they did in the first. They reached many Channel Ports in only ten days, but they could not reach any during the first world war. They also managed to get Holland to surrender in only four days, while Belgium did in only sixteen days. By June 10, 1939, Italy joined the war supporting Germany.
On June 22, 1941, the tide began to change as Hitler commanded the invasion of the U.S.S.R., the same country he had made a pact with. The Germans took three million Russian prisoners but failed to overtake Russia. Hitler also began having conflicts with his military.
Then on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, causing the United States to join the war. Since Hitler had an alliance with Japan, this put the United States and Germany at war with one another. Unfortunately, by this time, many of Hitler's concentration camps included extermination camps, such as Auschwitz. There were also mobile extermination squads. Although the Jews remained the most numerable of victims, Nazis targeted the disabled, Gypsies, Catholics, Poles, and homosexuals.
By the end of 1942, the Allied Parties, who fought against Germany and the Axis powers, had great defeats in El-Alamein and Stalingrad. Germany's success looked bleaker.
Hitler's health also had gotten worse, and his physician Theodor Morell treated him and prescribed many medicines. Relations with his head military men continued to be strained.
Then on June 6, 1944, a day that would become known as D-Day, the Allied parties invaded Normandy. Hitler's Germany had only one more victory after this point during the Battle of the Bulge, which was the last victory, and Hitler knew his time was limited before he would be assassinated. He made plans to commit suicide. Germany would surrender shortly after his death.
How Did Hitler Die?
In 1943 and 1944, several attempts were made on Hitler's life. The worst that happened was superficial injuries on July 2, 1944, when Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg planted a bomb at a conference held at his headquarters in East Prussia. Hitler became very ill with what is believed to be Parkinson's around this time, yet he still maintained control.
Then on June 6, 1944, the tide of the war shifted when the Allied Powers invaded Normandy, and eight European capitals were liberated, including Rome and Paris.
By January 1945, Hitler knew his life was in danger. He stayed in the Chancellery in Berlin. Hitler hid at the expense of his plans to fight against Soviet forces. When he knew that defeat was inevitable, he made plans to take his own life.
As he prepared for his death, he decided to marry Eva Braun, his lifelong lover, whom he refused to marry for years, believing it would interfere with his career, yet she remained utterly loyal to the end.
Then he took care of his country as he felt was best. He appointed Admiral Karl Dönitz as head of the state, and his friend Joseph Goebbels was appointed chancellor. He wrote a letter asking the Germans to continue their struggle against the Jews by stating, "Above all, I enjoin the government and the people to uphold the race laws to the limit and to resist mercilessly the poisoner of all nations, international Jewry."
On April 30, 1945, he said his final goodbye to his friend Goebbel. He went to his suite, where he shot himself, and his wife took poison as he directed her. As he had requested, their bodies were burned.
Although Hitler claimed that his Third Reich would last a thousand years, it ended after only twelve. Unfortunately, those twelve years had harmed civilization more during that time than any other time in history.
Interview with Former Maid of Hitler
Hitler Brainwashing a Nation: How He Succeeded
Many look back at the time where Hitler was a dictator of Germany and wonder how could so many people follow him. Many factors played a considerable role. For one, he was very charismatic and a very gifted speaker. People enjoyed listening to him speak, even when his speeches lasted for hours.
Just as President Roosevelt captivated the United States with his "fireside chats' talking directly to the American people through the radio, Hitler found the same success using the radio to speak to his followers. By having a box in their living room where they could hear Hitler speak, they felt close to him.
He knew how to give people a sense of purpose, even if that purpose was to do evil. He promoted unemployed people to become "brown shirts," which were named such because of their brown uniforms with an armband that had a swastika on it. He gave them power over other people, even providing them with weapons to enforce their authority.
He used their fear of communism by proving he was a better option than the communists that wanted to take over. By playing on this fear, he was able to fund his missions.
Then there was also the control that he didn't enforce. The majority of people supported Hitler, if not intentionally, then passively. The fact that not enough people resisted him was one of the biggest reasons he was so largely successful. Inaction proved to be supporting this evil man in his endeavors by not trying to stop it. More than just the inactivity of the masses, but there was no political leader within Germany trying to oppose him. No one tried to take his spot as a national leader.
There were many reasons he was so successful in his plans to decimate the Jewish population and take over Germany and most of Europe; his playing off of other's fear, his cunning speeches, but most of all, the inaction of those who opposed him. Eventually, those who did take action succeeded in stopping him, but maybe things would not have gotten so far, had more people acted sooner.
- "Adolf Hitler." Biography.com. August 05, 2017. Accessed February 10, 2018. https://www.biography.com/people/adolf-hitler-9340144.
- History.com Staff. "World War II." History.com. 2009. Accessed March 09, 2018. https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/world-war-ii-history.
- Jewish History. Accessed February 10, 2018. http://www.jewishhistory.org/the-coming-of-hitler/.
- Lukacs, John, Alan Bullock Baron Bullock, and Wilfrid F. Knapp. "Adolf Hitler." Encyclopædia Britannica. December 15, 2017. Accessed February 10, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Hitler.
© 2018 Angela Michelle Schultz
Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on April 09, 2018:
Yes, I agree with you. Being able to tap into the evil that was already there was a huge part of it. That is why it is scary when you see evil in your own country that could be easily turned against you or those you love. You know that this type of thing very well could happen again, given the right leadership and the right climate. When people are desperate they do desperate things and blame others. During this time there was also a depression throughout the world.
Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on April 09, 2018:
One reason Hitler was successful for so long, his antisemitism was pretty much all through Europe at the time.
Hitler 'tapped' into that evil in a way that no other ever had
France sent half a million jews to the gas chambers because thry refused them exit visas in the 1930s when they tried to leave.
Churchill, on the other hand, was an ardent Zionist and was instrumental in the Balfour declaration.
As soon as Churchill realised Hitler's hatred of the Jews, he knew that war was inevitable, the evil had to be stopped, no matter the cost!
I thoroughly enjoyed this hub and the information here.
Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on March 09, 2018:
I truly hope not...
BitCast - The Daily Bitcoin Forecast Challenge from Melbourne on March 09, 2018: