Biography of Adolf Hitler: Artist, Writer, Dictator
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 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 only four years after her husband, making Hitler, an orphan.
Adolf was not an excellent student and never went beyond secondary education. Briefly, after he left school at 16 years old, he traveled to Vienna but came back to Linz, where he worked as an artist. Hitler was successful enough as an artist to earn enough to live in Vienna eventually. 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 not clear why he felt this way. It was not an original view at that time, as many Germans had felt that way for at least a century previous. 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 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, which was a job that people seldom survived, yet he managed to hold this position for four years. He was wounded the first time in October 1916. Then in October 1918, the month before the war ended, he was gassed near Ypres, later hospitalized.
The Germans celebrated his bravery in the front lines as a headquarters runner. They awarded him the Iron Cross, Second Class in December 1914, as well as the Iron Cross, First Class in August 1918, which was a rare decoration for a corporal. He enjoyed his time at war and felt there were great heroic virtues of war.
It was these near-death experiences, where 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 was going to 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 his work 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. It was then that 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, ass well as to use violence for gaining power and attacking socialists and communists whom he loathed.
Soon after Röhm began his ventures, Hitler joined the party but found it was still yet very ineffective due to its lack of united leadership. Soon his ambitions caused friction within 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 groups' 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 at all but knew the title would draw people in, as the socialist movement was powerful 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 chose to use this as an opportunity to earn sympathy.
He also discovered that real power would not be done by physical force alone, but he needed to seek power in legal terms as well. 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 due to its belief that all people were equal. He also felt that in order 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 it seriously, although he ended up following his plan quite closely into near 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. These objectives were laid out 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," which is what he referred to Jewish people as.
- End Bolshevism in Russia.
- Expand German territory.
Do you believe that Hitler understood the evil he led?
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.
It was in 1926 when 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, which to Hitler confirmed his already antisemitic views. 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, then eventually, it 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, as well as businesses and industries. Hitler claimed that Germany was going to become great, and people were drawn to his message. He was able to 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 Nazi's 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; 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 by this time was quite elderly despite having been a war hero in his youth. Hitler strove to be appointed the chancellor, which was 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 by 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 it, 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 5th, Nazis had 43.9 percent of the votes. Due to the pressures and the Nazi's gaining control, the government passed an Enabling Bill on March 23, which gave full powers to Hitler. 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 so far 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 with Hitler. The Germany economy began to recover, with a fast drop in unemployment. Hitler credited himself, which caused him and the Nazi party to gain popularity. Through a combination of this success and the use of police terror, Hitler gained the support of 90 percent of voters.
Hitler structured the government very strategically. He gave many people power in certain spheres, but he made sure that each person's field of control overlapped others sphere of authority, to assure that no one gained too much power in any one 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 peaceful front, and in June of 1935, he convinced the British to a naval treaty that would allow Germany to have a considerable 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 still 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 to be 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 was able to 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 the wrong race. It was the invading 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 was able to 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. It appeared that the Germans were having much more success in the second world war, then they did the first. They succeeded in reaching many Channel Ports in only ten days, whereas they were unable to 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 a made a pact with. The Germans took three million Russian prisoners, but they did not succeed in overtaking Russia. Hitler also began having conflicts with his military.
Then on December 7th, 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 handicapped, Gypsies, Catholics, Poles, and homosexuals as well.
By the end of 1942, the Allied Parties, who fought against Germany and the Axis powers, had great defeats in both El-Alamein and Stalingrad. Germany's success looked bleaker.
Hitler's health also had gotten worse, and his physician Theodor Morell treated him as well as prescribed a large number of 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 occurred 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, that 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, in the way 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 to. 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.
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.
Interview with Former Maid of Hitler
- "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.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Angela Michelle Schultz