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Hitler Essay, Research Paper
Hitler, Adolf (1889-1945) Early Years
Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria, the son of a minor customs official
and a peasant girl. A poor student, he never completed high school. He
applied for admission to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna twice but was
rejected for lack of talent. Staying in Vienna until 1913, he lived first on an
orphan’s pension, later on small earnings from pictures he drew. He read
voraciously, developing anti-Jewish and antidemocratic convictions, an
admiration for the outstanding individual, and a contempt for the masses.
In World War I (1914-1918), Hitler, by then in Munich, volunteered for service
in the Bavarian army. He proved a dedicated, courageous soldier, but was
never promoted beyond private first class because his superiors thought him
lacking in leadership qualities. After Germany’s defeat in 1918 he returned to
Munich, remaining in the army until 1920. His commander made him an
education officer, with the mandate to immunize his charges against pacifist
and democratic ideas. In September 1919 he joined the nationalist German
Workers’ Party, and in April 1920 he went to work full time for the party, now
renamed the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party. In 1921 he was
elected party chairman (F?hrer) with dictatorial powers.
Rise to Power
Hitler spread his gospel of racial hatred and contempt for democracy. He
organized meetings, and terrorized political foes with his personal bodyguard
force, the Sturmabteilung (SA, or Storm Troopers). He soon became a key
figure in Bavarian politics, aided by high officials and businessmen. In
November 1923, a time of political and economic chaos, he led an uprising
(Putsch) in Munich against the postwar Weimar Republic, proclaiming himself
chancellor of a new authoritarian regime. Without military support, however,
the Putsch collapsed.
As leader of the plot, Hitler was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and
served nine months, which he spent dictating his autobiography Mein Kampf
(My Struggle). The failure of the uprising taught Hitler that the Nazi Party must
use legal means to assume power. Released as a result of a general amnesty
in December 1924, he rebuilt his party without interference from those whose
government he had tried to overthrow. When the Great Depression struck in
1929, he explained it as a Jewish-Communist plot, an explanation accepted by
many Germans. Promising a strong Germany, jobs, and national glory, he
attracted millions of voters. Nazi representation in the Reichstag (parliament)
rose from 12 seats in 1928 to 107 in 1930.
During the following two years the party kept expanding, benefiting from
growing unemployment, fear of Communism, Hitler’s self-certainty, and the
diffidence of his political rivals. Nevertheless, when Hitler was appointed
chancellor in January 1933, he was expected to be an easily controlled tool of
Once in power, however, Hitler quickly established himself as a dictator. A
subservient legislature passed the Enabling Act that permitted Hitler’s
government to make laws without the legislature. The act effectively made the
legislature powerless. Hitler used the act to Nazify the bureaucracy and the
judiciary, replace all labor unions with one Nazi-controlled German Labor
Front, and ban all political parties except his own. The economy, the media,
and all cultural activities were brought under Nazi authority by making an
individual’s livelihood dependent on his or her political loyalty. Thousands of
anti-Nazis were taken to concentration camps and all signs of dissent
Hitler relied on his secret police, the Gestapo, and on jails and camps to
intimidate his opponents, but many Germans supported him enthusiastically.
His armament drive wiped out unemployment, an ambitious recreational
program attracted workers and employees, and his foreign policy successes
impressed the nation. He thus managed to build support among the German
people; he needed their support to establish German rule over Europe and
other parts of the world. Discrediting the churches with charges of corruption
and immorality, he imposed his own brutal moral code. He derided the concept
of human equality and claimed racial superiority for the Aryans, of which he
said the Germans were the highest form. As the master race, they were told,
they had the right to dominate all nations they subjected. The increasingly
ruthless persecution of the Jews was to inure the Germans to this task.
Hitler successfully appealed to a Germany that was humiliated by defeat in
World War I and the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. Many Germans, and even
other Europeans, believed that the terms of the treaty were too harsh, and
Hitler was successful in defying some of them. His efforts to rearm Germany in
1935 met with little protest from other European countries,and when he sent
troops into the demilitarized Rhineland in 1936, France did not react.
When the Spanish Civil War began in July 1936, Hitler supported Nationalist
leader Francisco Franco, supplying airplanes and weapons. German aid to
Franco gave Hitler the opportunity to test his strategies and weapons
technology. In October 1936 Hitler signed a pact with Italy’s Fascist leader,
Benito Mussolini. In November 1936 he signed the Anti-Comintern treaty with
Japan. In 1940 Germany signed a tripartite alliance with both Italy and Japan,
pledging mutual support.
Hitler believed that Germany needed to expand to the east in order to find
living space, or Lebensraum, which could be used as both agricultural and
industrial land. In 1938 when Hitler occupied Austria claiming that Germans
were being persecuted, he encountered no resistance. In September 1938,
stating that Germans in the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia were being
oppressed, he encouraged them to make demands on the Czechoslovakian
government that it could not fulfill. Thus Germany had an excuse to march into
Czechoslovakia. Britain and France feared the outbreak of war and agreed to
the Munich Pact, which gave the Sudetenland to Germany in exchange for
Germany’s promise not to take additional Czech territory. However, by March
1939 Hitler had brought the remainder of Czechoslovakia under German
control. He was actively preparing for an aggressive maneuver toward the
World War II
Germany signed a nonaggression pact with the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics (USSR) in August 1939 and in the pact, the two countries secretly
divided up Poland. Having neutralized the USSR, Hitler attacked Poland in
September 1939. The Poles were quickly overpowered, and their allies, the
British and French, who had declared war on Germany, would do nothing to
help. In the spring of 1940 Hitler’s forces overran Denmark and Norway and a
few weeks later routed the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. The defeat of
Britain was averted by the Royal Air Force, which fended off the German
Driven by his need for land and his hatred of communism, Hitler invaded the
USSR in June 1941. Believing that the war would be brief, he did not allow the
troops to take provisions for the winter. The German troops were initially
successful and almost reached Moscow and Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg)
before the Soviet armies counterattacked in December 1941. Hitler, who had
assumed total control of the army, severely underestimated the size and the
endurance of the Soviet armies. He also misjudged the significance of the
entrance of the United States into the war. Obsessed with defeating the USSR,
Hitler neglected the Western Front.
Throughout this period he continued the campaign to destroy world Jewry. In
1942 Hitler met with high ranking Reich officials to create the final solution to
the Jewish problem. The Germans began building large extermination camps
to accompany the concentration camps. Six million Jews were murdered in
these camps. Endless trains took millions of Jews to the camps, seriously
interfering with the war effort.
As time passed and defeat became more likely, Hitler refused to surrender. In
1944, a group of German officers attempted to assassinate Hitler but the
attempt failed. Finally, on April 30, 1945, with all of Germany overrun by Allied
invaders, Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker, as did his long-time
companion, Eva Braun, whom he had married the day before.
Hitler had a forceful, charismatic personality. An amoral man, rootless and
incapable of personal friendships, he looked on his fellow humans as mere
bricks in the world structure he wished to erect. He knew how to appeal to
people’s baser instincts and made use of their fears and insecurities. He was
successful, however, only because many Germans were willing to be led, even
though his program was one of hatred and violence. His impact was wholly
destructive, and nothing of what he instituted and built survived.
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