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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

big business.

Germany’s Dictator

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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