A Short Biography of Adolf Hitler
A general biography of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, covering the pertinent aspects of his life and deeds.
A Short Biography of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler, the dictator who preached that the German people were superior to all other races, was not in fact a German citizen by birth. He was born on 20th April 1889 in Braunau-am-inn in Austria, the son of a customs official. He left school in 1905 at 16 with no qualifications and in 1907 moved to Vienna to study art. He was rejected twice by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and struggled to make a living as a painter. Pan-Germanic ideas and anti-Semitic prejudice were commonplace in Vienna at that time, and Hitler became well-versed in both during his years there.
In May 1913, he moved to Munich and, upon the outbreak of the First World War, on August 3rd 1914, enlisted with the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment. He served as a runner, was wounded and decorated for bravery, being awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class and achieving the rank of lance-corporal by the end of the war. On October 13th 1918 he was blinded temporarily by a gas attack and was still recuperating in hospital when the First World War ended on 11th November 1918.
Hitler believed the German surrender to be unnecessary and caused by political betrayal, and was incensed at the subsequent humiliation of Germany due to the harsh demands of the Treaty of Versailles signed on June 28th 1919, which assigned primary responsibility for the First World War to Germany, stripped her of parts of her sovereign territory, her colonies and her arms and demanded payment of $33 billion to the Allied Powers. The resentment of the Versailles settlement was not confined to Hitler; the German people in general were angry at this harsh treatment, which would provide him with a solid basis of support in his post-war political career.
After the war, Hitler joined the small right-wing German Workers Party on September 20th 1919. The party wanted radical solutions to Germany’s post-war problems, for which Jews and Bolsheviks were blamed, a cause which Hitler readily identified with. Hitler was put in charge of Party propaganda and organising mass meetings. By July 1921 Hitler was the unchallenged Fuhrer (leader) of what was now the National Socialist German Workers Party, which would be popularly referred to as the Nazi Party. The same year, the Party’s ‘storm troopers’ were organised as the Sturmabeiltung (SA) or ‘Brownshirts’ and became the private army of the Nazi Party.
On November 8th–9th 1923 Hitler helped to lead the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, a failed coup d’état to take over Bavaria. For his participation in the Putsch, Hitler was arrested and tried from February 26th 1924 for treason. He would use the trial, which received national coverage, as a forum to broadcast his message to all of Germany. He was imprisoned on April 1st 1924 for nine months in Landsberg Prison.
While in jail, he dictated ‘Mein Kampf’, his autobiography and political manifesto. In it he outlined his view that life was a pseudo–Darwinian struggle in which the strong survive and the weak perish, but that the basis of this struggle was race. He put forward the idea of an Aryan Master Race as the source of all civilization, and argued that German Aryans were superior to all other races and should rule the world through conquest. However, the Germans struggle was being undermined by the Jews, who Hitler saw as an inferior race who also sought to control the world but parasitically through international finance and communism, and whose triumph would mean the destruction of civilization. To Hitler, for Germany to triumph, this enemy would have to be decisively dealt with. The world view outlined in Mein Kampf was the basis for much of what Hitler and the Nazis did later. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925; Volume 2 was published in 1926.
Upon his release on December 20th 1924, he began to build the Nazi Party into a major electoral force, using propaganda and terrorism to win support. His efforts bore fruit: by 1928 the Nazi Party held twelve seats in the Reichstag (German parliament).With the onset of the Great Depression and the unemployment of three million citizens, the Nazis promised they could deliver economic progress and their promises won votes; by September 1930 they acquired 107 seats and by 31st July 1932 were the largest political party in the Reichstag with 230 seats, powerful enough to ensure that Hitler was granted German citizenship on 25th February that same year. He would run for the Presidency in July of that year, losing to Field Marshal Paul Von Hindenburg.
On January 30th 1933, however, the Nazi Party was still powerful enough for Hitler to be appointed Chancellor of a coalition government by President Von Hindenburg. From this position he began to acquire dictatorial powers, using the Reichstag Fire on 27th February 1933 as a pretext to have the German parliament pass a presidential decree on March 23rd 1933 called the Enabling Act, giving him emergency powers for four years. On July 14th 1933 the Nazi Party was declared the only legal political party in Germany, with all other political opposition outlawed.
Thus empowered, Hitler was able to purge his rebellious SA leaders who were clamouring to become the official German Army in the ‘Night of The Long Knives’ on 30th June 1934 to consolidate his position. Following the death of Hindenburg on August 2nd 1934, on 19th August he combined the offices of President and Chancellor under the title of Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor and had a plebiscite in which 38 million to 4 ½ million votes confirmed him as the German Head of State. Germany was now referred to as the Third Reich. (The First Reich being the Holy Roman Empire, the Second Reich being the German Empire under the House of Hohenzollern).
Once at the helm, Hitler began instituting anti-Semitic measures, first ordering a one-day boycott of all Jewish businesses on April 1st 1933. More systematic was the introduction of the Nuremberg Laws on September 15th 1935, which deprived German Jews of German citizenship. The biggest pre-war outrage was the ‘Crystal Night’ pogrom on 9th/10th November 1938, in the course of which 7,500 Jewish shops were destroyed, 400 synagogues were burnt, 2,500 Jews were killed and 20,000 more Jews were sent to concentration camps.
Hitler also began pursuing policies of military and territorial expansion. He withdrew Germany from the League of Nations on October 14th 1933. On March 16th 1935 Hitler introduced military conscription. This was in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles, as was the reoccupation of the demilitarised Rhineland on M arch 7th 1936, which had been ceded from Germany as part of the Versailles settlement. Britain and France, how ever, were follow ing a policy of appeasement as they felt Versailles had been too harsh and so did not intervene. In 1936 he formed alliances with Italy and Japan who, together with Germany, would be collectively known as the Axis Powers.
On March 12th 1938, Hitler had annexed Austria without any conflict. An Anschluss (Union) between Germany and Austria was announced and Austria was incorporated into the Third Reich. He then demanded the return of the Sudetenland, which had become the borderlands of Czechoslovakia, mobilising the German military on August 12th 1938. Still pursuing appeasement, Britain and France negotiated handing over the Sudetenland to Nazi Germany at the Munich Conference on September 30th 1938. German troops occupied the Sudetenland on October 15th 1938 and the Czechoslovak government resigned.
On March 15th 1939, Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. It was clear that appeasement was not working, and so Britain and France were resolved to stop Hitler by force if Hitler invaded his next target, Poland. Knowing that any resistance the West could muster would be ineffective without the help of the Soviet Union, Hitler signed a non-aggression pact with Josef Stalin on August 23rd 1939. The pact stipulated that Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia would not attack each other, but there was also a secret clause in the pact stating that the two countries would agree to invade and divide Poland. Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1st 1939 started the Second World War. On September 3rd 1939, Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany. As Hitler guessed though, this declaration couldn’t save Poland, whose army was no match for the German’s Blitzkrieg (lightning warfare) tactics, a combination of tanks and motor artillery w ith air bombing. The Soviets invaded on September 17th, Warsaw surrendered to the Germans on September 27th, and Poland was divided between Germany and Russia on September 29th as per the secret clause of the non-aggression pact. After less than one month, Poland had fallen. The alliance with Russia, however, was to Hitler a temporary expedient. He planned to conquer the Soviet Union later.
When military success was achieved against Denmark and Norway, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was forced to resign as he had been the leading exponent of appeasement, which was now thoroughly discredited. He was replaced by Winston Churchill, who had spent the preceding years urging that rearmament become a priority to counter the Nazi threat. He was appointed on May 10th 1940, the same day Hitler invaded Belgium and the Netherlands.
The Germans moved into southwest France, bypassing the Maginot Line the French had been preparing as a defence against invasion. The British attempted to assist the French, but were repulsed north to Dunkirk at the English Channel and had to retreat to England. Belgium surrendered on May 28th and while the French did put up resistance, Paris fell to the Germans on June 14th 1940. An armistice was signed by the French and German governments on June 22nd, which put northern France under German control and southern France under a collaborationist government based in Vichy headed by Marshal Henri Petain. A resistance movement formed which called itself the “Free French”, who did not accept the legitimacy of the Vichy regime and would spend the remainder of the war working to undermine the German occupation.
When an offer of peace with Great Britain was rejected by the Churchill government, the conquest of Great Britain was attempted next by Hitler, but this was attempted solely with the Luftwaffe (air force) under the direction of Reichmarshall Hermann Goering. The British Royal Air Force was to prove more than a match for the Luftwaffe and the British had an excellent radar warning system to warn of German air raids. The Luftwaffe’s offensive began on July 10th 1940, bombing British airfields, ports, bridges, factories and power plants. Hitler miscalculated, however, when he ordered the Luftwaffe to concentrate their attacks on London. This gave the RAF a chance to repair damaged planes and fit out new aircraft in other areas of Great Britain, and they were able to fight off the Luftwaffe. By September 1940 it was clear that Hitler had failed to conquer Great Britain, and so the campaign was quietly dropped in frustration.
The war with the British continued, however. On October 28th 1940, Mussolini launched a surprise invasion of Greece. British forces came to the aid of Greece, and attacked the Italian fleet at Taranto and successfully fought Italian troops in Greece. This angered Hitler, who hadn’t been informed by Mussolini of the invasion in advance and who was planning to use the oilfields of Romania as the fuel supply for his planned invasion of the Soviet Union. Mussolini’s blunder had now put the British within proximity of these oilfields, so Hitler was now forced to intervene in Greece. The Yugoslav government, however, refused to provide the railroad transportation Hitler required to transport his troops there. Furious, Hitler decided to smash Yugoslavia. To do this, he had to amend his invasion plans for the Soviet Union, delaying the invasion date from May 15th 1941 to June 22nd 1941. This delay would be one of his biggest strategic errors.
When Operation Barbarossa (Hitler's term for the invasion of the Soviet Union) began, he ordered his troops to invade the Soviet Union on 22nd June 1941, attacking on three fronts. But Hitler had delayed the invasion for too long, and the Russian winter set in, taking a heavy toll on German troops who had been ill-equipped to deal with the winter as Hitler had believed the invasion would take a matter of weeks and so refused to provide winter clothing for his troops. He also badly underestimated the strength of Soviet forces, and months of bitter fighting ensued.
On December 11th 1941, four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hitler declared war on the United States in support of Japan. Nazi Germany was now simultaneously at war with Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States, who formed a Grand Alliance against the Axis Powers. And it would be this Alliance that would eventually defeat him.
By 1942, Adolf Hitler was effectively the master of continental Europe, and was able to put the initial stages of his New Order into effect. In the countries occupied by the Nazis, their anti-Semitic campaign became more monstrous: the Jewish populations were rounded up, herded into concentration camps, and killed. This was in accordance with Hitler’s ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’, a deliberate attempt to exterminate the entire Jewish race. Planning of the Final Solution was completed at the Wannsse Conference on 20th January 1942. Six million Jewish people perished in what became known as the Holocaust. Other minorities whom the Nazis deemed inferior were either killed outright or worked to death.
It was in 1942, however, that the tide started to turn against Hitler. His war on the Eastern Front with the Soviet Union was draining German resources, especially after being defeated at Stalingrad on 2nd February 1943. By June 1944, the Americans and British landed on France. By this time, several of Hitler’s generals realised that his ambitions would bring only disaster to Germany, and on 20th July 1944, unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate Hitler. In reprisal, several thousand people associated with the conspirators were murdered.
On 30th April 1945, with Soviet troops encircling the German capital of Berlin, Adolf Hitler and his longtime mistress, Eva Braun, whom he married on 28th April,committed suicide in Hitler’s underground bunker rather than face capture. One week later, on 8th May 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered.
Today, Adolf Hitler is regarded as synonymous with evil. 55 million people lost their lives in World War II, which remains to this day the most destructive war in human history. The Holocaust saw six million people massacred through industrial gas chambers simply for being Jews. Both the Second World War and the Holocaust form the dominant legacy of Adolf Hitler, who left no positive legacy to counterbalance such misery and suffering. Hence his demonic image in the annals of history.