Adolf Hitler (April 20, 1889 in Austria to April 30, 1945 in Berlin) was the Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and the Fuhrer after 1934. He led Germany through the Great Depression and World War II. A member of the antisemitic and xenophobic National Socialist German Worker's Party, better known as the Nazi Party, Hitler oversaw the Final Solution, which resulted in the murder of 6 million Jews and 6 million others.
Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, in a small Austrian village near the German border. His father was Alois Hitler. Hitler spent much of his childhood in Munich, where he gained his lifelong Bavarian accent. An average student, he moved to Vienna after graduation to pursue a career in painting. He was rejected from the art academy twice; the director suggested he become an architect, but he lacked the requisite education. At the time, Vienna was a hotbed of antisemitism, and it is possible that this is where Hitler developed his hatred of the Jews, although there is no conclusive evidence.
World War IEdit
A fervent German nationalist, Hitler immediately signed up for the German army after World War I began. He fought with distinction on the Western Front, earning an Iron Cross. He was known to give rousing speeches to his fellow soldiers before battle. Towards the end of the war, he was temporarily blinded by poison gas. He was recuperated behind the front line when he heard of Germany's surrender, which enraged him.
After the war, Hitler joined the National Socialist German Worker's Party, which promised to return Germany to greatness. It placed the blame for the defeat in World War I on the Jews and communists. He quickly rose through the ranks due to his persuasiveness and zeal. He led the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, which attempted to overthrow the Weimar government. It failed, and he was thrown in prison for several years. During this time, he wrote Mein Kampf, documenting his life and his plans for the future.
After his release from prison, he became a German citizen, and began to become a major player in politics. After the onset of the Great Depression, and Heinrich Bruning's failure to prevent it, he was considered a serious contender for President. However, the liberals convinced Paul von Hindenburg, a popular politician and hero of World War I, to run for reelection. He narrowly beat Hitler and the Nazi Party. Although Hindenburg personally despised Hitler, he was convinced by Franz von Papen to appoint him Chancellor in 1933. Upon Hindenburg's death in 1934, Hitler abolished the office of President of Germany and declared himself Fuhrer, the sole ruler.
Chancellor and FuhrerEdit
One of Hitler's first acts as ruler was the Night of the Long Knives, a political purge of his enemies. The power of the Sturmabteilung, the paramilitary division of the Nazi Party, was broken, and the Schutzstaffel took its place. Hitler also helped turn around the economy by increasing production to prepare for war. He turned Germany into a single-party state by expanding his powers and outlawing opponents.
In 1938, Hitler peacefully annexed Austria, an event known as the Anchluss. During the Munich Conference, Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, allowed him to take Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. Six months later he fully annexed the Czech Republic and turned Slovakia into a client state. He also solidified his alliance with Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, setting the stage for World War II.
World War IIEdit
On September 1, 1939, the German invasion of Poland began. France and the United Kingdom immediately declared war on Germany, but took little action. Poland was pacified within a month, and much of its eastern territory was annexed by the Soviet Union. Most of Poland's Jews were rounded up and placed in ghettos.
In Spring 1940, the Wehrmacht launched stunningly successful invasions of France, Norway, Yugoslavia, and Greece. Its innovative blitzkrieg tactics surprised and overwhelmed its opponents. By 1941, Hitler controlled most of Europe, with only the United Kingdom standing against him. The Luftwaffe failed to gain air superiority in the Battle of Britain, and were began to conduct night raids of major cities.
On June 22, 1941, he launched Operation Barbarossa, an invasion of the Soviet Union. German forces rapidly advanced and by the end of the year were at the gates of Moscow. However, they were stopped at the Leningrad and Stalingrad, and many Germans died in the fierce Russian winter. Additionally, the German declaration of war on the United States on December 8, 1941, contributed to their eventual defeat.
In 1942 and 1943, the Wehrmacht suffered several major defeats: El Alamein, Stalingrad, Kursk, and the collapse of Fascist Italy. German forces were forced to retreat from the Soviet Union, and permanently lost their advantage. At the same time, Hitler authorized the expansion of the concentration camp system in order to speed up the extermination of the Jews and others.
An assassination attempt on Hitler in 1944 left him with both physical and psychological scars. His left hand sometimes shook uncontrollably afterwards, and he deluded himself into thinking Germany was still winning. As the situation became more desperate in 1944 and 1945, with the U.K. and the U.S. advancing from the west and the Soviet Union from the east, he retreated to the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin. On April 29, 1945, he married his longtime mistress Eva Braun in a simple ceremony. The next day, both of them committed suicide to avoid capture by the Soviets.
Other than Eva Braun, Hitler was not known to have any lovers. This has sparked unsubstantiated rumors that he was a homosexual or even an asexual. However, the most likely reason is that he wanted to project the image of a man totally devoted to his country. He was a teetotaler, vegetarian, and non-smoker. He kept a German shepherd named Blondi. Although he was born a Catholic, he never showed significant religious tendencies, and he never attended Mass after his childhood.