Adolf hitler

This essay has a total of 6160 words and 24 pages.

adolf hitler

INTRODUCTION Hitler, Adolf (1889-1945), German political and military leader and one of
the 20th century's most powerful dictators. Hitler converted Germany into a fully
militarized society and launched World War II in 1939 (see Federal Republic of Germany).
He made anti-Semitism a keystone of his propaganda and policies and built the Nazi Party
(see National Socialism) into a mass movement. He hoped to conquer the entire world, and
for a time dominated most of Europe and much of North Africa. He instituted sterilization
and euthanasia measures to enforce his idea of racial purity among German people and
caused the slaughter of millions of Jews, Sinti and Roma (Gypsies), Slavic peoples, and
many others, all of whom he considered inferior.

II EARLY YEARS
Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary, in 1889, the fourth child of
Klara and Alois Hitler. Hitler's father worked his way up in the Austrian customs service
to a position of considerable status, and as a result Hitler had a comfortable childhood.
Hitler began school in 1900, and his grades were above average. It was decided that he
would attend Realschule, a secondary school that prepared students for further study and
emphasized modern languages and technical subjects. However, Hitler and his father
strongly differed about career plans. His father wanted him to enter the civil service;
Hitler insisted on becoming an artist. As a result, Hitler did poorly in Realschule,
having to repeat the first year and improving little thereafter.

During this time, Hitler began to form his political views: a strong sense of German
nationalism, the beginnings of anti-Semitism, and a distaste for the ruling family and
political structure of Austria-Hungary. Like many German-speaking citizens of
Austria-Hungary, Hitler considered himself first and foremost a German.

The death of Hitler's father in January 1903 changed the family. The survivors' income was
adequate to support Hitler, his mother, and his sister, but the absence of a dominant
father figure altered Hitler's position in the family. He spent much time playing and
dreaming, did poorly in his studies, and left school entirely in 1905 after the equivalent
of the ninth grade.

A Time in Vienna
Hitler had hoped to become an artist but was rejected as unqualified by the Vienna Academy
of Fine Arts in October 1907. His mother died in 1908, and Hitler pretended to continue
his studies in Vienna in order to receive an orphan's pension. In reality, he mostly
wandered about the city admiring its public buildings and frequently attending operas,
especially those of Richard Wagner, whom Hitler adored for his heroic portrayals of German
mythology.


When he had exhausted his inherited funds, Hitler, unwilling to take a job, ended up in a
homeless shelter. It was there that he was first exposed to extreme political ideas,
particularly the racial concepts of Lanz von Liebenfels. Liebenfels published a periodical
about the supposed superiority of Aryans, an ill-defined race which included Germans, and
the inferiority of other races, especially Jews. At the same time Hitler acquired a hatred
for socialism and came to equate it with the Jews.

Between 1910 and 1913 Hitler's life improved when he began to paint and sell postcards and
pictures for a living, copying famous paintings and drawing public buildings. He debated
ideas with others in the hostel in which he lived, developing the beginnings of his public
speaking style. Failure to register for the draft in Austria led him to flee for Munich,
Germany, in 1913 to escape Austrian authorities. He was extradited to Austria but was
found physically unfit to serve in the military. He then returned to Munich.

B World War I
The outbreak of World War I in 1914 came as an opportunity for Hitler, as his money was
running out. He volunteered for a Bavarian unit in the German army and served the whole
war. Though repeatedly decorated for bravery, he was never promoted beyond private first
class. In a war of very high casualties, this is difficult to explain. Perhaps officers
considered him a loner who could carry messages and perform other dangerous duties but who
was unsuited to command men.

Hitler saw trench warfare as a form of the struggle for survival among races, a struggle
that he was coming to see as the essence of existence. At the same time, his anti-Semitic
feelings were growing extreme. When Germany was defeated in 1918, Hitler was lying in a
military hospital, temporarily blinded by mustard gas. He decided Jews had caused
Germany's defeat and that he would enter politics to save the country.

Hitler returned to Munich after the war. He was selected to be a political speaker by the
local army headquarters, given special training, and provided with opportunities to
practice his public speaking before returning prisoners of war. His speaking successes led
to his selection as an observer of political groups in the Munich area. In this capacity,
he investigated the German Workers' Party—one of the many nationalist, racist groups
that developed in Munich in the postwar years.

C Beginnings of the Nazi Party
The German Workers' Party, later renamed the National Socialist German Workers' Party
(abbreviated NSDAP or Nazi Party), became Hitler's political focus. Here he found an
outlet for his talents in political agitation and party organization. The party espoused
essentially the same ideas Hitler had picked up in Vienna: violent racial nationalism and
anti-Semitism. He also shared the Nazis' opposition to the liberal democracy of the German
Weimar Republic, which had been established after the war.

Though still in the army, Hitler quickly became the new spokesman for the party. His
talent for public speaking and the use of the local army's resources to generate publicity
drew large audiences to events sponsored by an organization that had only 100 to 200
members. When he presented the party's official program to a gathering on February 24,
1920, there were almost 2000 present.

Hitler was discharged from the army the following month, and he soon attained dominance in
the Nazi party. He was the party's most effective recruiter and, thanks to paid attendance
at his speeches, its most successful fundraiser. When opposed within the party, he found
ways to push out rivals and dissenters. Several times he did so by threatening to leave
the party himself. Hitler obtained enough support to have himself chosen as Führer
(absolute leader) of the party on July 29, 1921.

III RISE TO POWER
Hitler appealed to a wide variety of people by combining an effective and carefully
rehearsed speaking style with what looked like absolute sincerity and determination. He
found a large audience for his program of national revival, racial pride in Germanic
values, hatred for France and of Jews and other non-German races, and disdain for the
Weimar Republic. Hitler asserted only a dictatorship could rescue Germany from the depths
to which it had fallen. His views changed only minimally in subsequent years and attracted
increasingly larger audiences.

A Economic Collapse At the end of World War I, the Allies (those countries who had
fought against Germany) had demanded that Germany pay reparations—that is, payments for
war damages. The government refused to pay all that was demanded by the Allies. When
Germany failed to pay enough, France and Belgium occupied the coal mines in the Ruhr
industrial area in west central Germany in January 1923.

In protest, the German government halted all reparation payments and called for passive
resistance by all the workers in the Ruhr area. This resistance took the form of a general
strike, with laborers throughout the Ruhr refusing to work. To pay the striking workers,
and to make up for money lost due to the stoppage of coal production, the government
printed huge amounts of new money. This vast increase in the money supply triggered
runaway inflation, as the German currency rapidly lost value. People saw their savings
become worthless, while the price of goods skyrocketed.

B The Beer Hall Putsch Faced with massive inflation and growing civic unrest, the
German government abandoned passive resistance and attempted to work out a new agreement
with the Allies. At this point, Hitler decided the time was right to start a revolution.
His followers were becoming restless, and he feared that the opportunity to launch a coup
might pass as the government worked out an agreement and ended inflation.

On November 8, 1923, Hitler and 600 armed members of the Sturmabteilungen (or SA, a Nazi
paramilitary force) made their move. They marched on a Munich beer hall where Gustav von
Kahr, head of the provincial Bavarian government, was addressing a public meeting. Hitler
took von Kahr and his associates hostage and declared in von Kahr's name the formation of
a new national government. Von Kahr was then released, and he immediately retracted the
statement, outlawed the Nazi party, and ordered the Bavarian police to crush Hitler's
revolution.

Undaunted, Hitler and his men led a march to the center of Munich the following day. State
police halted the march, shooting started, and 16 of Hitler's followers were killed.
Lacking mass support, Hitler had no chance against the police and military power of the
Bavarian government. The so-called Beer Hall putsch (revolt) had failed. Hitler fled but
was soon arrested and tried. In court he practically took over the proceedings, denouncing
both the Weimar Republic and the Bavarian government. Hitler was sentenced to five years
in prison for treason, but was released after less than one year.

Even though the putsch failed, it proved useful to Hitler. He received a great deal of
publicity and learned an important lesson about the way to destroy democracy. It was not
to be destroyed by outside force, but by working within its system to build up popular
support, always avoiding a confrontation with its police and military power.

C Mein Kampf While in prison, Hitler dictated the first volume of Mein Kampf (My
Struggle, translated 1939); after his release he continued with a second volume. This work
contained many of his basic ideas. Hitler believed that history was the record of
struggles among races. He held that the superior Aryan race, centered in Germany, would be
the final victor and would rule the world. But to win this struggle, Germany would have to
be ruled by a dictator and would have to be racially aware. Racial awareness would come
through a process of mobilizing the masses with propaganda that appealed to their
feelings, not their reason, and aroused their hatred for all other allegedly inferior
races, especially Jews. No class or other distinctions in German society mattered.

Another of Hitler's major ideas was the concept of Lebensraum (living space). He denounced
as hopelessly stupid those German political parties and movements that wanted to reverse
the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and reclaim what Germany had then lost. Instead, Hitler
argued that Germany needed large amounts of territory in which to expand, a need that he
would meet by conquering territory and expelling or killing the local populations. Such
measures naturally required wars, but not for political or economic objectives. Hitler's
wars would be fought to win vast stretches of land on which German settlers would raise
large families. Eventually more land would be needed, but the population would have grown
sufficiently to provide the soldiers needed to replace the losses caused by war and to
conquer more land. What would happen when the German settlers met on the other side of the
globe was not explained.

D Reorganization of the Party
During his time in jail, Hitler had turned over direction of the party to Alfred
Rosenberg. Rosenberg edited the party's newspaper, the Volkischer Beobacter (Popular
Observer), but had no administrative ability. As a result, Hitler easily resumed complete
control of the party upon his release in December 1924. In the years from 1925 to 1930,
Hitler built up a network of local party organizations over most of Germany, and
reorganized the SA. At the same time he organized the black-shirted Schutzstaffel (defense
corps), or SS, to protect him, supervise and control the party, and perform police tasks.

In this process of extending National Socialist power, Hitler was assisted by several men
who had worked with him before 1923. Hermann Goring was a World War I fighter pilot who
saw to the reorganization of the SA and was Hitler's closest confidante. Rudolf Hess, also
a former pilot, became Hitler's secretary and played a major role in party organization.
Joseph Goebbels was an aspiring author who came to worship Hitler and developed the Nazi
propaganda techniques that swayed more Germans to join in that worship. Ernst Rohm was an
army officer whose involvement increased army support and who built up the SA; he was
killed on Hitler's orders in 1934 when Hitler felt that Rohm was becoming a threat to his
plans. Heinrich Himmler, who had studied agriculture, began his work in the party in a
secretarial capacity but moved into the SS, which he later headed. Max Amann had been
Hitler's immediate superior in World War I and was placed in charge of the party's
newspaper and publishing firm, which he turned into profitable businesses.

E Increasing Popularity
In 1928 Hitler began his attempt to build the power of the party by democratic means. In
the 1928 election the Nazi Party received just under 3 percent of the vote, but during the
campaign it had gathered a strong base. In 1929 a new settlement of the war reparations
question, the Young Plan, was adopted, opening up the possibility of an early end to the
remaining foreign occupation of a portion of Germany. Such an event might stabilize the
republic, and in fear of this, the republic's opponents organized a national initiative
against the plan. This initiative, which was financed by the German nationalist Alfred
Hugenberg, provided Hitler with opportunities to speak throughout Germany. The initiative
to stop the Young Plan failed, but Hitler had recruited new followers who not only
believed his message but were also willing to finance the Nazi Party.

In late 1929 the first effects of the worldwide economic depression were felt in Germany.
The last government of the Weimar Republic based on a majority in the Reichstag (the
German parliament) was not able to cope with the crisis and fell in March 1930. President
Paul von Hindenburg appointed a new government led by Heinrich Brüning as chancellor
(prime minister). However, Brüning and the Reichstag could not agree on how to resolve
the crisis. Hindenburg dissolved the legislature and operated the government by emergency
decree, rather than through the normal legislative procedure. In new elections held that
September, the Nazis scored a great electoral breakthrough, increasing their
representation in the Reichstag from 12 to 107.


The victory of the Nazi Party, which had campaigned vigorously for the repudiation of all
of Germany's financial obligations, caused foreign investors to withdraw their money from
Germany, and the German banking system collapsed due to lack of capital. As economic
conditions worsened, the appeal of the Nazis was far more effective than that of other
parties: The Nazis were the one group that claimed to have all the answers. In a short
time, the other political parties lost voters to the Nazis. Unemployment rose drastically,
and in this time of great economic hardship many who had never voted before were drawn to
the Nazi Party, which offered simplistic but appealing solutions to their problems and was
not tied to one class or interest group. Consequently, they believed it could establish a
government that would be more effective than the republic. In elections held in 1932, the
Nazis received more votes than any other party, and Hitler demanded that President
Hindenburg appoint him chancellor.

Though Hindenburg at first refused to appoint Hitler, a small group of men around the
president urged him to do so. They felt that Hitler could be controlled and his popularity
and talents could be used to further the interests of the government. As the year
progressed, Brüning's successor Franz von Papen grew unpopular as his attempts to revive
the economy failed. Hindenburg replaced him with the political leader of the army, Kurt
von Schleicher. Von Papen took revenge on Schleicher by joining forces with Hitler and
Alfred Hugenberg. They talked the elderly Hindenburg into making Hitler chancellor in a
cabinet in which von Papen would be vice-chancellor and most other ministers would be
non-Nazis. On January 30, 1933, Hitler was sworn in as chancellor of Germany. Those who
disliked the republic had persuaded the president to turn over authority to its sworn
enemy.

IV THE NAZI REGIME
Immediately upon becoming chancellor, Hitler moved to consolidate his power. He persuaded
Hindenburg to issue a decree suspending all civil liberties in Germany. A subservient
legislature passed the Enabling Act, which permitted Hitler's government to make laws
without legislative approval. The act effectively made the legislature powerless. Hitler
then installed loyal Nazis in important posts in the bureaucracy, the judiciary, and the
German provincial governments. He replaced all labor unions with the Nazi-controlled
German Labor Front and banned all political parties except his own. The economy, the
media, and all cultural activities were brought under Nazi authority. An individual's
livelihood was made dependent on his or her political loyalty. Thousands of anti-Nazis
were taken to concentration camps—the existence of which was widely publicized—and all
signs of dissent were suppressed. A massive propaganda campaign celebrated the end of
democracy in Germany, and huge, staged demonstrations gave the impression that everyone
supported Hitler.


Existing social, economic, and professional organizations were quickly taken over by
individuals either already in the party or who would quickly join it. For the most part,
leaders of Germany's Protestant and Catholic churches rallied to the new government.
Schools taught Nazi ideology. Soon the spare time of the young was absorbed by the Nazi
Party as well—boys were drawn into the Hitler Youth, and girls became members of the
Nazi-led League of German Girls. The goal was to indoctrinate people into the party
starting at a young age. By the summer of 1933, the Nazi Party was in complete control of
the country.
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