Political party (NSDAP)
Political positions (Leader) of the NSDAP (1921-1945)
of Germany (1933-1945)
Fьhrer und Reichskanzler (head of state) of Germany (1934-1945)
"Hitler" redirects here. For other uses, see .
(·) (, – , ) was from 1933, and (Leader) of from 1934 until his death. He was leader of the (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP), better known as the Party.
Hitler gained power in a Germany after , using oratory and , appealing to economic need of the lower and middle classes, and to establish an regime. With a restructured economy and rearmed military, Hitler pursued an aggressive foreign policy with the intention of expanding German ("living space") which triggered by ordering the invasion of Poland. At the height of its power, occupied most of , but it and the were eventually defeated by the . By then, Hitler's had culminated in the of 11 million people, including about six million , in what is now known as the .
In the final days of the war, in in with his newlywed wife, .
Childhood and heritage
Adolf Hitler as an infant.
Adolf Hitler was born on , at , , a small town in , on the border with . He was the third son and the fourth of six children of (born Schicklgruber) (1837–1903), a minor official, and (1860–1907), his second cousin, and third wife. Because of the close kinship of the two, a papal dispensation had to be obtained for the marriage. Of Alois and Klara's six children, only Adolf and his younger sister reached adulthood. Alois Hitler also had a son () and a daughter () by his second wife.
Alois was born illegitimate and for the first thirty-nine years of his life bore his mother's name, Schicklgruber. In 1876, Alois began using the name of his , , after visiting a priest responsible for and declaring that Georg was his father (Alois gave the impression that Georg was still alive but he was long dead). The name was variously spelled Hiedler, Huetler, Huettler and Hitler and probably changed to "Hitler" by a clerk. About the origin of the name there are two theories:
From Hittler and similar, "one who lives in a hut", "shepherd".
From Hidlar and Hidlarcek.
Later, Adolf Hitler was accused by his political enemies of not rightfully being a Hitler, but a Schicklgruber. This was also exploited in Allied during the Second World War when bearing the phrase "Heil Schicklgruber" were over German cities. Adolf was legally born a Hitler, however, and was also closely related to Hiedler through his maternal grandmother, .
Hitler's given name, "Adolf", comes from the for "noble wolf" ("Adel"="nobility" + "wolf"). Hence, not surprisingly, one of Hitler's self-given nicknames was Wolf or Herr Wolf — he began using this nickname in the early 1920s and was addressed by it only by intimates (as "Uncle Wolf" by the Wagners) up until the fall of the Third Reich. The names of his various scattered throughout ( in , Wolfsschlucht in , Werwolf in , etc.) seem to reflect this.
Hitler was not sure who his paternal grandfather was, but it was probably either Johann Georg Hiedler or his brother . There have been rumours that Hitler was one-quarter and that his paternal grandmother, , had become pregnant after working as a servant in a Jewish household in . During the 1920s, the implications of these rumours along with his known family history were politically explosive, especially for the proponent of a . Opponents tried to prove that Hitler, the leader of the , had Jewish or ancestors. Although these rumours were never confirmed, for Hitler they were reason enough to conceal his origins. propaganda insisted Hitler was a Jew, though more modern research tends to diminish the probability that he had Jewish ancestors. According to Robert G. L. Waite in The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler, Hitler made it illegal for German women to work in Jewish households, and after the Anschluss with Austria, Hitler had his father's hometown obliterated as an artillery practice area. Hitler seemed to fear that he was Jewish, and as Waite points out, this fact is more important than whether he actually was.
Because of Alois Hitler's profession, his family moved frequently, from to , Lambach, , and . As a young child, Hitler was reportedly a good student at the various he attended; however, in (1900–1), his first year of (Realschule) in Linz, he failed completely and had to repeat the grade. His teachers reported that he had "no desire to work."
Hitler later explained this educational slump as a kind of against his father Alois, who wanted the boy to follow him in a career as a customs official, although Adolf wanted to become a . This explanation is further supported by Hitler's later description of himself as a misunderstood artist. However, after Alois died on , , when Adolf was 13, Hitler's schoolwork did not improve. At the age of 16, Hitler left school with no .
Early adulthood in Vienna and Munich
From 1905 onward, Hitler was able to live the life of a on a fatherless child's and support from his mother. He was rejected twice by the (1907 – 1908) due to "unfitness for painting", and was told his abilities lay rather in the field of . His own memoirs reflect a fascination with the subject:
"The purpose of my trip was to study the picture gallery in the Court Museum, but I had eyes for scarcely anything but the Museum itself. From morning until late at night, I ran from one object of interest to another, but it was always the buildings which held my primary interest." (Mein Kampf, Chapter II, paragraph 3).
Following the school rector's recommendation, he too became convinced this was the path to pursue, yet he lacked the proper academic preparation for school:
"In a few days I myself knew that I should some day become an architect. To be sure, it was an incredibly hard road; for the studies I had neglected out of spite at the Realschule were sorely needed. One could not attend the Academy's architectural school without having attended the building school at the Technic, and the latter required a high-school degree. I had none of all this. The fulfillment of my artistic dream seemed physically impossible.''"(Mein Kampf, Chapter II, paragraph 5 & 6).
On , , his mother Klara died a painful death from at the age of 47. Hitler gave his share of the ' benefits to his younger sister , but when he was 21 he inherited some money from an . He worked as a struggling painter in Vienna, copying scenes from and selling his paintings to and tourists (there is evidence he produced over 2000 paintings and drawings before ). Several biographers have noted that a Jewish resident of the house named Hanisch helped him sell his postcards.
A watercolour by Adolf Hitler depicting , .
After the second refusal from the Academy of Arts, Hitler gradually ran out of money. By 1909, he sought refuge in a , and by the beginning of 1910 had settled permanently into a house for poor working men.
It was in Vienna that Hitler first became an active anti-Semite, or so he says. Nothing Hitler wrote should be accepted at face value, and his early childhood was likely awash in antisemitism. Still, it is true that antisemitism was in the air in Vienna, mixing traditional religious prejudice with recent racist theories. Vienna had a large Jewish community, including many from . (See .) Hitler was influenced over time by the writings of the race ideologist and anti-Semite and from such as , founder of the and , one of the most outrageous demagogues in history. and , leader of the pan-Germanic Away from Rome! movement. He later wrote in his book that his transition from opposing anti-Semitism on religious grounds to supporting it on racial grounds came from having seen an :
"There were very few Jews in Linz. In the course of centuries the Jews who lived there had become in external appearance and were so much like other human beings that I even looked upon them as Germans. The reason why I did not then perceive the absurdity of such an illusion was that the only external mark which I recognized as distinguishing them from us was the practice of their strange religion. As I thought that they were persecuted on account of their faith my aversion to hearing remarks against them grew almost into a feeling of abhorrence. I did not in the least suspect that there could be such a thing as a systematic anti-Semitism.
Once, when passing through the inner City, I suddenly encountered a phenomenon in a long caftan and wearing black side-locks. My first thought was: Is this a Jew? They certainly did not have this appearance in Linz. I carefully watched the man stealthily and cautiously but the longer I gazed at the strange countenance and examined it feature by feature, the more the question shaped itself in my brain: Is this a German?"
(Mein Kampf, vol. 1, chap. 2: "Years of study and suffering in Vienna")
Hitler began to claim the Jews were natural enemies of what he called the . He held them responsible for Austria's crisis. He also identified certain forms of and especially , which had many Jews among its leaders, as Jewish movements, merging his anti-Semitism with anti-Marxism. Blaming Germany's military defeat on the 1917 Revolutions, he considered Jews the culprit of Imperial Germany's military defeat and subsequent economic problems as well.
Generalising from tumultuous scenes in the parliament of the multi-national , he developed a firm belief in the inferiority of the democratic , which formed the basis of his political views. However, according to , his close friend and at the time, he was more interested in the of than in .
A landscape painted by Adolf Hitler.
Hitler received the final part of his father's estate in May 1913 and moved to . He later wrote in that he had always longed to live in a "real" German city. In Munich, he became more interested in architecture and the writings of . Moving to Munich also helped him escape in Austria for a time, but the Austrian army later arrested him. After a physical exam (during which his height was measured at 173 cm, or 5 ft 8 in) and a contrite plea, he was deemed unfit for service and allowed to return to Munich. However, when Germany entered in August 1914, he immediately petitioned King Ludwig III of Bavaria for permission to serve in a Bavarian regiment, this request was granted, and Adolf Hitler enlisted in the army.
World War I
Hitler saw active service in and as a messenger for the regimental headquarters of the 16th Bavarian Reserve (also called Regiment List after its first commander), which exposed him to enemy fire. Unlike his fellow soldiers, Hitler reportedly never complained about the food or hard conditions, preferring to talk about or . He also drew some and drawings for the army newspaper. His behaviour as a soldier was considered somewhat sloppy, but his regular duties required taking dispatches to and from fighting areas and he was twice decorated for his performance of these duties. He received the , Second Class in December 1914 and the Iron Cross, First Class in August 1918, an honour rarely given to a . However, because of the perception of "a lack of leadership skills" on the part of some of the regimental staff, as well as (according to Kershaw) Hitler's unwillingness to leave regimental headquarters (which would have been likely in event of promotion), he was never promoted to . Other historians, however, say that the reason he was not promoted is that he did not have German citizenship. His duty station at regimental headquarters, while often dangerous, gave Hitler time to pursue his artwork. During October 1916 in northern France, Hitler was in the leg, but returned to the front in March 1917. He received the later that year, as his injury was the direct result of hostile fire. , referring to Hitler's experience at the front, suggests he did have at least some understanding of the military.
On , , shortly before the end of the war, Hitler was admitted to a , temporarily by a attack. Research by Bernhard Horstmann indicates the blindness may have been the result of a reaction to Germany's defeat. Hitler later said it was during this experience that he became convinced the purpose of his life was to "save Germany".
Some scholars, including Lucy Dawidowicz, argue that an intention to mass murder Europe's Jews was fully formed in Hitler's mind, though he probably hadn't thought through how it could be done.
Two passages in mention the use of :
At the beginning of the Great War, or even during the War, if twelve or fifteen thousand of these Jews who were corrupting the nation had been forced to submit to poison-gas . . . then the millions of sacrifices made at the front would not have been in vain. (Volume 2, Chapter 15 "The Right to Self-Defence").
These tactics are based on an accurate estimation of human weakness and must lead to success, with almost mathematical certainty, unless the other side also learns how to fight poison gas with poison gas. The weaker natures must be told that here it is a case of to be or not to be. (Volume 1, Chapter 2 "Years of Study and Suffering in Vienna")
Hitler had long admired Germany, and during the war he had become a passionate German , although he did not become a German citizen until 1932. He was shocked by Germany's in November 1918 even while the German army still held enemy territory. Like many other German , Hitler believed in the ("dagger-stab legend") which claimed that the army, "undefeated in the field," had been "stabbed in the back" by civilian leaders and Marxists back on the . These politicians were later dubbed the .
The deprived Germany of various territories, the and imposed other economically damaging sanctions. The treaty also declared Germany the culprit for all the horrors of the Great War, as a basis for later imposing not yet specified reparations on Germany (the amount was repeatedly revised under the , and the ). Germans, however, perceived the treaty and especially the paragraph on the German guilt as a humiliation, not least as it was damaging in the extreme to their pride. For example, there was nearly a full demilitarisation of the armed forces, allowing Germany only 6 battleships, no submarines, no air force, an army of 100,000 without and no armoured vehicles. The treaty was an important factor in both the social and political conditions encountered by Hitler and his National Socialist Party as they sought power. Hitler and his party used the signing of the treaty by the "November Criminals" as a reason to build up Germany so that it could never happen again. He also used the 'November Criminals' as scapegoats, although at the Paris peace conference, these politicians had very little choice in the matter.
The early years of the Nazi Party
A copy of Adolf Hitler's forged membership card. His actual membership number was 555 (the 55th member of the party - the 500 was added to make the group appear larger) but later the number was reduced to create the impression that Hitler was one of the founding members (Ian Kershaw Hubris). Hitler had wanted to create his own party, but was ordered by his superiors in the Reichswehr to infiltrate an existing one instead.
Hitler's entry into politics
After the First World War, Hitler remained in the army, which was mainly engaged in suppressing uprisings breaking out across Germany, including Munich (the ), where Hitler returned in 1919. He took part in "national thinking" courses organized by the Education and Propaganda Department (Dept Ib/P) of the Bavarian Reichswehr Group, Headquarters 4 under Captain . A key purpose of this group was to create a  for the outbreak of the war and Germany's defeat. The scapegoats were found in "international Jewry", communists, and politicians across the party spectrum, especially the parties of the , who were deemed "". In July 1919, Hitler was appointed a Verbindungsmann (police spy) of an Aufklдrungskommando (Intelligence Commando) of the , for the purpose of influencing other soldiers toward similar ideas and was assigned to a small party, the (DAP), which was thought of to be a possibly party. During his , Hitler was impressed with 's , and anti- ideas, which favoured an concept of the strong universally present state, a "non-Jewish" version of socialism and mutual solidarity of all members of society. Here Hitler also met , one of the early founders of the party and member of the occult . Eckart became Hitler's mentor, exchanging ideas with him, teaching him how to dress and speak, and introducing him to a wide range of people. Hitler in return thanked Eckart by paying tribute to him in the second volume of Mein Kampf.
Hitler was discharged from the army in March 1920 and with his former superiors' continued encouragement began participating full time in the party's activities. By early 1921, Adolf Hitler was becoming highly effective at speaking in front of even larger crowds. In February, Hitler spoke before a crowd of nearly six thousand in . To publicize the meeting, he sent out two truckloads of Party supporters to drive around with , cause a commotion and throw out , their first use of this tactic. Hitler gained notoriety outside of the Party for his rowdy, speeches against the Treaty of Versailles, rival politicians (including monarchists, nationalists and other non-internationalist socialists) and especially against Marxists and Jews.
The German Workers' Party was centered in Munich which had become a hotbed of German nationalists who included Army officers determined to crush Marxism and undermine or even overthrow the young German democracy centred in Berlin. Gradually they noticed Adolf Hitler and his growing movement as a vehicle to hitch themselves to. Hitler traveled to Berlin to visit nationalist groups during the summer of 1921 and in his absence there was an unexpected among the DAP leadership in Munich.
The Party was run by an executive whose original members considered Hitler to be overbearing and even . To weaken Hitler's position they formed an with a group of socialists from . Hitler rushed back to Munich and countered them by tendering his from the Party on , . When they realized the loss of Hitler would effectively mean the end of the Party, he seized the moment and announced he would return on the condition that he was made chairman and given dictatorial powers. Infuriated committee members (including founder ) held out at first. Meanwhile an appeared entitled Adolf Hitler: Is he a ?, attacking Hitler's lust for power and criticizing the violence-prone men around him. Hitler responded to its publication in a Munich newspaper by for and later won a small settlement.
The executive committee of the DAP eventually backed down and Hitler's demands were put to a vote of party members. Hitler received 543 votes for and only one against. At the next gathering on , , Adolf Hitler was introduced as of the National Socialist Party, marking the first time this title was publicly used. Hitler changed the name of the party to the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or ).
Hitler's beer hall , attacking Jews, , , reactionary , and , began attracting adherents. Early followers included , the former air force pilot , and the flamboyant army , who became head of the Nazis' , the , which protected meetings and attacked political opponents. He also attracted the attention of local business interests, was accepted into influential circles of Munich society and became associated with wartime General during this time.
The Beer Hall Putsch
Encouraged by this early support, Hitler decided to use Ludendorff as a front in an later known as the (and sometimes as the Hitler Putsch or Munich Putsch). The Nazi Party had copied the Italian in appearance and also had adopted some programmatical points and now, in the turbulent year 1923, Hitler wanted to emulate "" by staging his own "Campaign in Berlin". Hitler and Ludendorff obtained the clandestine support of , 's ruler along with leading figures in the and the police. As political posters show, Ludendorff, Hitler and the heads of the Bavarian police and military planned on forming a new government.
However on , Kahr and the military withdrew their support during a meeting in the Bьrgerbrдukeller, a large beer hall outside of Munich. A surprised Hitler had them arrested and proceeded with the coup. Unknown to him, Kahr and the other detainees had been released on Ludendorff's orders after he obtained their word not to interfere. That night they prepared resistance measures against the coup and in the morning, when Hitler and his followers marched from the beer hall to the Bavarian War Ministry to overthrow the Bavarian government as a start to their "March on Berlin," the army quickly dispersed them (Ludendorff was wounded and a few other Nazis were killed).
Hitler fled to the home of and contemplated suicide. He was soon arrested for and appointed as temporary leader of the party but found himself in an environment somewhat receptive to his beliefs. During Hitler's trial, sympathetic magistrates allowed Hitler to turn his debacle into a stunt. He was given almost unlimited amounts of time to present his arguments to the court along with a large body of the German people, and his popularity soared when he voiced basic nationalistic sentiments shared by the public. On , Hitler was sentenced to five years' imprisonment at for the crime of conspiracy to commit treason. Hitler received favoured treatment from the guards and had much fan mail from . As he was considered relatively harmless, Hitler was released on December 20 .
While at Landsberg he dictated his political book (My Struggle) to his deputy . The book, dedicated to member , was both an autobiography and an exposition of his political ideology. It was published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926 respectively, but did not sell very well until Hitler came to power (though by the late 1930s nearly every household in Germany had a copy of it). Hitler spent years dodging taxes on the income from his book. By 1934 he had accumulated about 405,500 Reichsmarks (6m euros) in backtaxes, all of which were waived once he became chancellor..
The rebuilding of the party
At the time of Hitler's release, the political situation in Germany had calmed down, and the economy had improved, which hampered Hitler's opportunities for agitation. Instead, he began a long effort to rebuild the dwindling party.
Though the Hitler Putsch had given Hitler some national prominence, his party's mainstay was still Munich. To spread the party to the north, Hitler also assimilated independent groups, such as the Nuremberg-based Wistrich, led by , who now became of .
As Hitler was still banned from public speeches, he appointed , who in 1924 had been elected to the , as Reichsorganisationsleiter, authorizing him to organise the party in northern Germany. Gregor, joined by his younger brother and , steered an increasingly independent course, emphasizing the socialist element in the party's programme. The Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Gauleiter Nord-West became an internal opposition, threatening Hitler's authority, but this faction was defeated at the , during which Goebbels joined Hitler.
After this encounter, Hitler centralized the party even more and asserted the as the basic principle of party organization. Leaders were not elected by their group but were rather appointed by their superior and were answerable to them while demanding unquestioning obedience from their inferiors. Consistent with Hitler's disdain for , all power and devolved from the top down.
A key element of Hitler's appeal was his ability to convey a sense of offended national pride caused by the imposed on the defeated by the . Germany had