Adolf Hitler (German: [ˈadɔlf ˈhɪtlɐ] ( listen); 20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the Nazi Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP); National Socialist German Workers Party). He was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and dictator of Nazi Germany (as Führer und Reichskanzler) from 1934 to 1945. Hitler was at the centre of Nazi Germany, World War II in Europe, and the Holocaust.
Hitler was a decorated veteran of World War I. He joined the German Workers' Party (precursor of the NSDAP) in 1919, and became leader of the NSDAP in 1921. In 1923, he attempted a coup d'état in Munich, known as the Beer Hall Putsch. The failed coup resulted in Hitler's imprisonment, during which time he wrote his memoir, Mein Kampf (My Struggle). After his release in 1924, Hitler gained popular support by attacking the Treaty of Versailles and promoting Pan-Germanism, antisemitism, and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and Nazi propaganda. After his appointment as chancellor in 1933, he transformed the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich, a single-partydictatorship based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideology of Nazism.
Hitler's aim was to establish a New Order of absolute Nazi German hegemony in continental Europe. To this end, his foreign and domestic policies had the aim of seizing Lebensraum ("living space") for the Germanic people. He directed the rearmament of Germany and theinvasion of Poland by the Wehrmacht in September 1939, resulting in the outbreak of World War II in Europe. Under Hitler's rule, in 1941 German forces and their European allies occupied most of Europe and North Africa. In 1943, Germany had been forced onto the defensive and suffered a series of escalating defeats. In the final days of the war, during the Battle of Berlin in 1945, Hitler married his long-time partner, Eva Braun. On 30 April 1945, less than two days later, the two committed suicide to avoid capture by the Red Army, and their corpses were burned.
Hitler's aggressive foreign policy is considered the main cause of the outbreak of World War II in Europe. His antisemitic policies andracially motivated ideology resulted in the deaths of at least 5.5 million Jews and millions of other people deemed racially inferior.
Hitler's father, Alois Hitler (1837–1903), was the illegitimate child of Maria Anna Schicklgruber. Because the baptismal register did not show the name of Alois's father, Alois initially bore his mother's surname, Schicklgruber. In 1842, Johann Georg Hiedler married Alois's mother, Maria Anna. After she died in 1847 and Johann Georg Hiedler in 1856, Alois was brought up in the family of Hiedler's brother, Johann Nepomuk Hiedler. In 1876, Alois was legitimated and the baptismal register changed by a priest before three witnesses to register Johann Georg Hiedler as Alois's father (recorded as Georg Hitler). Upon being legitimised as the son of Georg Hitler at age 39, Alois assumed the surname Hitler, also spelled as Hiedler, Hüttler, or Huettler. Thus, the origin of the Hitler surname is probably based on "one who lives in a hut" (Standard German Hütte for hut) or on "shepherd" (Standard German hüten for to guard); alternatively, it may be derived from theSlavic words Hidlar or Hidlarcek.
An alternative theory of Alois's paternity was advanced by Nazi official Hans Frank: it suggested that Alois's mother had been employed as a housekeeper for a Jewish family in Graz and that the family's 19-year-old son, Leopold Frankenberger, had fathered Alois. However, no Frankenberger was registered in Graz during that period, and no record of Leopold Frankenberger's existence has been produced. Historians therefore dismiss the claim that Alois's father was Jewish.
Childhood and education Adolf Hitler as an infant (c. 1889–1890)
Adolf Hitler was born on 20 April 1889 at the Gasthof zum Pommer, an inn located at Salzburger Vorstadt 15, Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary, a town on the border with Bavaria, Germany. He was the fourth of six children to Alois Hitler and Klara Pölzl (1860–1907). Hitler's older siblings—Gustav, Ida, and Otto—died in infancy. When Hitler was three, the family moved to Passau, Germany. There he acquired the distinctivelower Bavarian dialect, rather than Austrian German, which marked his speech all of his life. In 1894 the family relocated to Leonding (near Linz), and in June 1895, Alois retired to a small landholding at Hafeld, near Lambach, where he farmed and kept bees. Hitler attended school in nearbyFischlham. Hitler became fixated on warfare after finding a picture book about the Franco-Prussian War among his father's belongings.
The move to Hafeld coincided with the onset of intense father-son conflicts caused by Hitler's refusal to conform to the strict discipline of his school.Alois Hitler's farming efforts at Hafeld ended in failure, and in 1897 the family moved to Lambach. The eight-year-old Hitler took singing lessons, sang in the church choir, and even considered becoming a priest. In 1898 the family returned permanently to Leonding. The death of his younger brother, Edmund, from measles on 2 February 1900 deeply affected Hitler. He changed from being confident and outgoing and an excellent student, to a morose, detached, and sullen boy who constantly fought with his father and teachers.
Hitler's mother, Klara
Alois had made a successful career in the customs bureau and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. Hitler later dramatised an episode from this period when his father took him to visit a customs office, depicting it as an event that gave rise to an unforgiving antagonism between father and son, who were both strong-willed. Ignoring his son's desire to attend a classical high school and become an artist, in September 1900 Alois sent Hitler to the Realschule in Linz. (This was the same high school that Adolf Eichmann would attend some 17 years later.) Hitler rebelled against this decision, and in Mein Kampf revealed that he did poorly in school, hoping that once his father saw "what little progress I was making at the technical school he would let me devote myself to my dream".
Like many Austrian Germans, Hitler began to develop German nationalist ideas from a young age. He expressed loyalty only to Germany, despising the declining Habsburg Monarchy and its rule over an ethnically variegated empire. Hitler and his friends used the German greeting "Heil", and sang the German anthem "Deutschland Über Alles" instead of the Austrian Imperial anthem.
After Alois' sudden death on 3 January 1903, Hitler's performance at school deteriorated. His mother allowed him to quit in autumn 1905. He enrolled at the Realschule in Steyr in September 1904; his behaviour and performance showed some improvement. In the autumn of 1905, after passing a repeat and the final exam, Hitler left the school without any ambitions for further schooling or clear plans for a career.
Early adulthood in Vienna and Munich
The house in Leonding where Hitler spent his early adolescence (c. 1984)
From 1905, Hitler lived a bohemian life in Vienna, financed by orphan's benefits and support from his mother. He worked as a casual labourer and eventually as a painter, selling watercolours. The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna rejected him twice, in 1907 and 1908, because of his "unfitness for painting". The director recommended that Hitler study architecture, but he lacked the academic credentials. On 21 December 1907, his mother died aged 47. After the Academy's second rejection, Hitler ran out of money. In 1909 he lived in a homeless shelter, and by 1910, he had settled into a house for poor working men on Meldemannstraße. At the time Hitler lived there, Vienna was a hotbed of religious prejudice and racism. Fears of being overrun by immigrants from the East were widespread, and the populist mayor,Karl Lueger, exploited the rhetoric of virulent antisemitism for political effect. Georg Schönerer's pan-Germanic antisemitism had a strong following in the Mariahilf district, where Hitler lived. Hitler read local newspapers, such as the Deutsches Volksblatt, that fanned prejudice and played on Christian fears of being swamped by an influx of eastern Jews. Hostile to what he saw as Catholic "Germanophobia", he developed an admiration for Martin Luther.
The Alter Hof in Munich. Watercolour by Adolf Hitler, 1914
The origin and first expression of Hitler's antisemitism have been difficult to locate. Hitler states in Mein Kampf that he first became an antisemite in Vienna. His close friend, August Kubizek, claimed that Hitler was a "confirmed antisemite" before he left Linz. Kubizek's account has been challenged by historian Brigitte Hamann, who writes that Kubizek is the only person to have said that the young Hitler was an antisemite. Hamann also notes that no antisemitic remark has been documented from Hitler during this period. Historian Ian Kershaw suggests that if Hitler had made such remarks, they may have gone unnoticed because of the prevailing antisemitism in Vienna at that time. Several sources provide strong evidence that Hitler had Jewish friends in his hostel and in other places in Vienna. Historian Richard J. Evans states that "historians now generally agree that his notorious, murderous anti-Semitism emerged well after Germany's defeat [in World War I], as a product of the paranoid 'stab-in-the-back' explanation for the catastrophe".
Hitler received the final part of his father's estate in May 1913 and moved to Munich. Historians believe he left Vienna to evade conscription into the Austrian army. Hitler later claimed that he did not wish to serve the Habsburg Empire because of the mixture of "races" in its army. After he was deemed unfit for service—he failed his physical exam in Salzburg on 5 February 1914—he returned to Munich.
World War I At the outbreak of World War I, Hitler was a resident of Munich and volunteered to serve in the Bavarian Army as an Austrian citizen. Posted to the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 16 (1st Company of the List Regiment), he served as a dispatch runner on the Western Front in France and Belgium, spending nearly half his time well behind the front lines. He was present at the First Battle of Ypres, the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras, and the Battle of Passchendaele, and was wounded at the Somme.
Hitler (far right, seated) with his army comrades of the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 16 (c. 1914–1918)
He was decorated for bravery, receiving the Iron Cross, Second Class, in 1914. Recommended by Hugo Gutmann, he received the Iron Cross, First Class, on 4 August 1918, a decoration rarely awarded to one of Hitler's rank (Gefreiter). Hitler's post at regimental headquarters, providing frequent interactions with senior officers, may have helped him receive this decoration.Though his rewarded actions may have been courageous, they were probably not highly exceptional. He also received the Black Wound Badge on 18 May 1918.
During his service at the headquarters, Hitler pursued his artwork, drawing cartoons and instructions for an army newspaper. During the Battle of the Somme in October 1916, he was wounded either in the groin area or the left thigh by a shell that had exploded in the dispatch runners' dugout. Hitler spent almost two months in the Red Cross hospital at Beelitz, returning to his regiment on 5 March 1917. On 15 October 1918, he was temporarily blinded by a mustard gas attack and was hospitalised in Pasewalk. While there, Hitler learnt of Germany's defeat, and—by his own account—on receiving this news, he suffered a second bout of blindness.
The Treaty of Versailles stipulated that Germany must relinquish several of its territories and demilitarise the Rhineland. The treaty imposed economic sanctions and levied heavy reparations on the country. Many Germans perceived the treaty—especially Article 231, which declared Germany responsible for the war—as a humiliation. The Versailles Treaty and the economic, social, and political conditions in Germany after the war were later exploited by Hitler for political gains.
Entry into politics
After World War I, Hitler returned to Munich. Having no formal education and career prospects, he tried to remain in the army for as long as possible. In July 1919 he was appointed Verbindungsmann (intelligence agent) of an Aufklärungskommando (reconnaissance commando) of theReichswehr, to influence other soldiers and to infiltrate the German Workers' Party (DAP). While monitoring the activities of the DAP, Hitler became attracted to the founder Anton Drexler's antisemitic, nationalist, anti-capitalist, and anti-Marxist ideas. Drexler favoured a strong active government, a non-Jewish version of socialism, and solidarity among all members of society. Impressed with Hitler's oratory skills, Drexler invited him to join the DAP. Hitler accepted on 12 September 1919, becoming the party's 55th member.
A copy of Adolf Hitler's German Workers' Party (DAP) membership card
At the DAP, Hitler met Dietrich Eckart, one of the party's founders and a member of the occult Thule Society. Eckart became Hitler's mentor, exchanging ideas with him and introducing him to a wide range of people in Munich society. To increase its appeal, the DAP changed its name to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party – NSDAP). Hitler designed the party's banner of a swastika in a white circle on a red background.
Hitler was discharged from the army in March 1920 and began working full-time for the NSDAP. In February 1921—already highly effective at speaking to large audiences—he spoke to a crowd of over 6,000 in Munich. To publicise the meeting, two truckloads of party supporters drove around town waving swastika flags and throwing leaflets. Hitler soon gained notoriety for his rowdy polemic speeches against the Treaty of Versailles, rival politicians, and especially against Marxists and Jews. At the time, the NSDAP was centred in Munich, a major hotbed of anti-government German nationalists determined to crush Marxism and undermine the Weimar Republic.
In June 1921, while Hitler and Eckart were on a fundraising trip to Berlin, a mutiny broke out within the NSDAP in Munich. Members of the its executive committee, some of whom considered Hitler to be too overbearing, wanted to merge with the rival German Socialist Party (DSP). Hitler returned to Munich on 11 July and angrily tendered his resignation. The committee members realised his resignation would mean the end of the party. Hitler announced he would rejoin on the condition that he would replace Drexler as party chairman, and that the party headquarters would remain in Munich. The committee agreed; he rejoined the party on 26 July as member 3,680. He still faced some opposition within the NSDAP: Opponents of Hitler had Hermann Esser expelled from the party and they printed 3,000 copies of a pamphlet attacking Hitler as a traitor to the party. In the following days, Hitler spoke to several packed houses and defended himself and Esser, to thunderous applause. His strategy proved successful: at a general membership meeting, he was granted absolute powers as party chairman, with only one nay vote cast.
Hitler's vitriolic beer hall speeches began attracting regular audiences. He became adept at using populist themes targeted at his audience, including the use of scapegoats who could be blamed for the economic hardships of his listeners. Historians have noted the hypnotic effect of his rhetoric on large audiences, and of his eyes in small groups. Kessel writes, "Overwhelmingly ... Germans speak with mystification of Hitler's 'hypnotic' appeal. The word shows up again and again; Hitler is said to have mesmerized the nation, captured them in a trance from which they could not break loose". Historian Hugh Trevor-Roper described "the fascination of those eyes, which had bewitched so many seemingly sober men". He used his personal magnetism and an understanding of crowd psychology to his advantage while engaged in public speaking. Alfons Heck, a former member of the Hitler Youth, describes the reaction to a speech by Hitler: "We erupted into a frenzy of nationalistic pride that bordered on hysteria. For minutes on end, we shouted at the top of our lungs, with tears streaming down our faces: Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil! From that moment on, I belonged to Adolf Hitler body and soul". Although his oratory skills and personal traits were generally received well by large crowds and at official events, some who had met Hitler privately noted that his appearance and demeanour failed to make a lasting impression.
Early followers included Rudolf Hess, former air force pilot Hermann Göring, and army captain Ernst Röhm. Röhm became head of the Nazis' paramilitary organisation, the Sturmabteilung (SA, "Stormtroopers"), which protected meetings and frequently attacked political opponents. A critical influence on his thinking during this period was the Aufbau Vereinigung, a conspiratorial group of White Russian exiles and early National Socialists. The group, financed with funds channelled from wealthy industrialists like Henry Ford, introduced Hitler to the idea of a Jewish conspiracy, linking international finance with Bolshevism.
Beer Hall Putsch Hitler enlisted the help of World War I General Erich Ludendorff for an attempted coup known as the "Beer Hall Putsch". The Nazi Party used Italian Fascism as a model for their appearance and policies. Hitler wanted to emulate Benito Mussolini's "March on Rome" (1922) by staging his own coup in Bavaria, to be followed by challenging the government in Berlin. Hitler and Ludendorff sought the support of Staatskommissar (state commissioner) Gustav von Kahr, Bavaria's de facto ruler. However, Kahr, along with Police Chief Hans Ritter von Seisser (Seißer) and Reichswehr General Otto von Lossow, wanted to install a nationalist dictatorship without Hitler.
Hitler wanted to seize a critical moment for successful popular agitation and support. On 8 November 1923 he and the SA stormed a public meeting of 3,000 people that had been organised by Kahr in the Bürgerbräukeller, a large beer hall in Munich. Hitler interrupted Kahr's speech and announced that the national revolution had begun, declaring the formation of a new government with Ludendorff. Retiring to a backroom, Hitler, with handgun drawn, demanded and got the support of Kahr, Seisser, and Lossow. Hitler's forces initially succeeded in occupying the local Reichswehr and police headquarters; however, Kahr and his consorts quickly withdrew their support and neither the army nor the state police joined forces with him. The next day, Hitler and his followers marched from the beer hall to the Bavarian War Ministry to overthrow the Bavarian government, but police dispersed them. Sixteen NSDAP members and four police officers were killed in the failed coup.
Dust jacket of Mein Kampf (1926–1927)
Hitler fled to the home of Ernst Hanfstaengl, and by some accounts contemplated suicide. He was depressed but calm when arrested on 11 November 1923 for high treason. His trial began in February 1924 before the special People's Court in Munich, and Alfred Rosenberg became temporary leader of the NSDAP. On 1 April Hitler was sentenced to five years' imprisonment at Landsberg Prison. He received friendly treatment from the guards; he was allowed mail from supporters and regular visits by party comrades. The Bavarian Supreme Court issued a pardon and he was released from jail on 20 December 1924, against the state prosecutor's objections. Including time on remand, Hitler had served just over one year in prison.
While at Landsberg, Hitler dictated most of the first volume of Mein Kampf (My Struggle; originally entitled Four and a Half Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice) to his deputy, Rudolf Hess. The book, dedicated to Thule Society member Dietrich Eckart, was an autobiography and an exposition of his ideology. Mein Kampf was influenced by The Passing of the Great Race by Madison Grant, which Hitler called "my Bible". The book laid out Hitler's plans for transforming German society into one based on race. Some passages impliedgenocide. Published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926, it sold 228,000 copies between 1925 and 1932. One million copies were sold in 1933, Hitler's first year in office.
Rebuilding the NSDAP
At the time of Hitler's release from prison, politics in Germany had become less combative and the economy had improved, limiting Hitler's opportunities for political agitation. As a result of the failed Beer Hall Putsch, the NSDAP and its affiliated organisations were banned in Bavaria. In a meeting with Prime Minister of Bavaria Heinrich Held on 4 January 1925, Hitler agreed to respect the authority of the state: he would only seek political power through the democratic process. The meeting paved the way for the ban on the NSDAP to be lifted. However, Hitler was barred from public speaking, a ban that remained in place until 1927. To advance his political ambitions in spite of the ban, Hitler appointed Gregor Strasser, Otto Strasser, and Joseph Goebbels to organise and grow the NSDAP in northern Germany. A superb organiser, Gregor Strasser steered a more independent political course, emphasising the socialist element of the party's programme.
The stock market in the United States crashed on 24 October 1929. The impact in Germany was dire: millions were thrown out of work and several major banks collapsed. Hitler and the NSDAP prepared to take advantage of the emergency to gain support for their party. They promised to repudiate the Versailles Treaty, strengthen the economy, and provide jobs.
Defeat and death
By late 1944, both the Red Army and the Western Allies were advancing into Germany. Recognising the strength and determination of the Red Army, Hitler decided to use his remaining mobile reserves against the American and British troops, which he perceived as far weaker. On 16 December, he launched an offensive in the Ardennes to incite disunity among the Western Allies and perhaps convince them to join his fight against the Soviets. When the offensive failed, Hitler realised that Germany was going to lose the war. His last hope to negotiate peace with the United States and Britain was buoyed by the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on 12 April 1945; however, contrary to his expectations, this caused no immediate rift among the Allies. Acting on his view that Germany's military failures had forfeited its right to survive as a nation, Hitler ordered the destruction of all German industrial infrastructure before it could fall into Allied hands. Arms minister Albert Speer was entrusted with executing this scorched earth plan, but he quietly disobeyed the order.Front page of the U.S. Armed Forces newspaper, Stars and Stripes, 2 May 1945
On 20 April, his 56th birthday, Hitler made his last trip from the Führerbunker ("Führer's shelter") to the surface. In the ruined garden of the Reich Chancellery, he awarded Iron Crosses to boy soldiers of the Hitler Youth. By 21 April, Georgy Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front had broken through the defences of German General Gotthard Heinrici's Army Group Vistula during the Battle of the Seelow Heights and advanced into the outskirts of Berlin. In denial about the dire situation, Hitler placed his hopes on the units commanded by Waffen SS General Felix Steiner, the Armeeabteilung Steiner ("Army Detachment Steiner"). Hitler ordered Steiner to attack the northern flank of the salient and the German Ninth Army was ordered to attack northward in a pincer attack.
During a military conference on 22 April, Hitler asked about Steiner's offensive. He was told that the attack had never been launched and that the Russians had broken through into Berlin. This prompted Hitler to ask everyone except Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Jodl, Hans Krebs, and Wilhelm Burgdorf to leave the room. Hitler then launched a tirade against the treachery and incompetence of his commanders, culminating in his declaration—for the first time—that the war was lost. Hitler announced that he would stay in Berlin until the end and then shoot himself.
By 23 April the Red Army had completely surrounded Berlin, and Goebbels made a proclamation urging its citizens to defend the city. That same day, Göring sent a telegram from Berchtesgaden, arguing that since Hitler was isolated in Berlin, he, Göring, should assume leadership of Germany. Göring set a deadline after which he would consider Hitler incapacitated. Hitler responded by having Göring arrested, and in his will, written on 29 April, he removed Göring from all government positions. On 28 April Hitler discovered that Himmler, who had left Berlin on 20 April, was trying to discuss surrender terms with the Western Allies. He ordered Himmler's arrest and had Hermann Fegelein (Himmler's SS representative at Hitler's HQ in Berlin) shot.
After midnight on 29 April, Hitler married Eva Braun in a small civil ceremony in a map room within the Führerbunker. After a modest wedding breakfast with his new wife, he then took secretary Traudl Junge to another room and dictated his last will and testament. The event was witnessed and documents signed by Hans Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Joseph Goebbels, and Martin Bormann. Later that afternoon, Hitler was informed of the assassination of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, which presumably increased his determination to avoid capture.
On 30 April 1945, after intense street-to-street combat, when Soviet troops were within a block or two of the Reich Chancellery, Hitler and Braun committed suicide; Braun bit into a cyanidecapsule and Hitler shot himself. Both their bodies were carried up the stairs and through the bunker's emergency exit to the bombed-out garden behind the Reich Chancellery, where they were placed in a bomb crater and doused with petrol. The corpses were set on fire as the Red Army shelling continued.
Berlin surrendered on 2 May. Records in the Soviet archives—obtained after the fall of the Soviet Union—showed that the remains of Hitler, Braun, Joseph and Magda Goebbels, the sixGoebbels children, General Hans Krebs, and Hitler's dogs, were repeatedly buried and exhumed. On 4 April 1970, a Soviet KGB team used detailed burial charts to exhume five wooden boxes at the SMERSH facility in Magdeburg. The remains from the boxes were burned, crushed, and scattered into the Biederitz river, a tributary of the nearby Elbe.
Source: wikipedia.org, news.lv, nekropole.info
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