Something of Interest
In 1933, the Daily Mirror published a picture of a gravestone in a Jewish cemetery in Bucharest inscribed with some Hebrew characters and the name Adolf Hitler but it is now known that this Bucharest Hitler could not have been the Nazi leader's grandfather. According to the historian John Toland (known for a biography of Adolf Hitler) this picture sufficiently worried Hitler that he had the Nazi law defining Jewishness written to exclude Jesus Christ and himself.
Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). He was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and dictator of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. Hitler was the centre figure of Nazi Germany, World War II in Europe, and the Holocaust.
Hitler was a decorated veteran of World War I. He joined the German Workers' Party (precursor of the Nazi Party) in 1919, and became leader of the Nazi Party in 1921. In 1923, he attempted a coup in Munich, known as the Beer Hall Putsch. The failed coup resulted in Hitler's imprisonment, during which time he wrote his memoir, Mein Kampf (My Struggle). After his release in 1924, Hitler gained popular support by attacking the Treaty of Versailles and promoting Pan-Germanism, antisemitism, and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and Nazi propaganda. After his appointment as chancellor in 1933, he transformed the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich, a single-party dictatorship based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideology of Nazism.
Hitler's aim was to establish a New Order of absolute Nazi German hegemony in continental Europe. To this end, his foreign and domestic policies had the aim of seizing Lebensraum (living space) for the Germanic people. He directed the rearmament of Germany and the invasion of Poland by the Wehrmacht (Nazi Germany army) in September 1939, resulting in the outbreak of World War II in Europe. Under Hitler's rule, in 1941 German forces and their European allies occupied most of Europe and North Africa. In June 1941, Hitler ordered an invasion of the Soviet Union. Although initially successful, the Russian campaign turned disastrous. By 1943, Germany was forced onto the defensive and suffered a series of escalating defeats. In the final days of the war, during the Battle of Berlin in 1945, Hitler married his long-time partner, Eva Braun. On 30 April 1945, less than two days later, the two committed suicide to avoid capture by the Red Army, and their corpses were burned.
Hitler's aggressive foreign policy is considered to be the primary cause of the outbreak of World War II in Europe. Under Hitler's leadership and racially motivated ideology, the regime was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews, and millions of other people whom he and his followers deemed racially inferior.
Adolf Hitler was born on 20 April 1889 in Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary, a town on the border with Bavaria, Germany. He was the fourth of six children to Alois Hitler and Klara Pölzl. When Hitler was three, the family moved to Passau, Germany. There he acquired the distinctive lower Bavarian dialect, rather than Austrian German, which marked his speech all of his life.
Like many Austrian Germans, Hitler began to develop German nationalist ideas from a young age. He expressed loyalty only to Germany, despising the declining Habsburg Monarchy and its rule over an ethnically variegated empire. Hitler and his friends used the German greeting "Heil", and sang the national anthem of Germany instead of the Austrian Imperial anthem.
In 1905, at age 16, Hitler left school without any ambitions for further schooling or clear plans for a career.
Adulthood in Vienna
From 1905, Hitler lived a bohemian life in Vienna, financed by orphan's benefits and support from his mother. He worked as a casual labourer and eventually as a painter, selling watercolours. The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna rejected him twice, in 1907 and 1908, because of his "unfitness for painting". The director recommended that Hitler study architecture, but he lacked the academic credentials. After the Academy's second rejection, Hitler ran out of money and he lived in a homeless shelter. At the time Hitler lived there, Vienna was a hotbed of religious prejudice and racism. Fears of being overrun by immigrants from the East were widespread, and the populist mayor, Karl Lueger, exploited the rhetoric of virulent antisemitism for political effect. Hitler read local newspapers, such as the Deutsches Volksblatt, that fanned prejudice and played on Christian fears of being swamped by an influx of eastern Jews. Hostile to what he saw as Catholic "Germanophobia", he developed an admiration for Martin Luther. Is it believed that that Hitler first became an antisemite in Vienna.
World War I
At the outbreak of World War I, Hitler was a resident of Munich and volunteered to serve in the Bavarian Army as an Austrian citizen. Posted to the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 16, he served as a dispatch runner on the Western Front in France and Belgium and reached the rank of Gefreiter (Lance Corporal). He was wounded at the battle Somme and in 1918, he was temporarily blinded by a mustard gas. He was decorated for bravery, receiving the Iron Cross, Second Class, in 1914 and the Iron Cross, First Class, in 1918.
He was embittered over the collapse of the war effort, and his ideology began to take shape. Like other German nationalists, he believed in the stab-in-the-back myth, which claimed that the German army, "undefeated in the field", had been "stabbed in the back" on the home front by civilian leaders and Marxists.
The Treaty of Versailles stipulated that Germany must relinquish several of its territories and demilitarise the Rhineland. The treaty imposed economic sanctions and levied heavy reparations on the country. Many Germans perceived the treaty, which declared Germany responsible for the war, as a humiliation. The Versailles Treaty and the economic, social, and political conditions in Germany after the war were later exploited by Hitler for political gains.
The Foundation of the Nazi Party
Hitler was attracted to the founder of the German Workers' Party Anton Drexler's antisemitic, nationalist, anti-capitalist, and anti-Marxist ideas. Impressed with Hitler's oratory skills, Drexler invited him to join the party. Hitler accepted on 12 September 1919, becoming the party's 55th member. To increase its appeal, the party changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) - in short the Nazi Party.
In 1921 Hitler replaced Drexler as the young Nazi Party's chairman. At this time Hitler's vitriolic beer hall speeches began attracting regular audiences. He became adept at using populist themes targeted at his audience, including the use of scapegoats (mainly Jews and Marxists) who could be blamed for the economic hardships of his listeners. Historians have noted the hypnotic effect of his rhetoric on large audiences, and of his eyes in small groups.
Early followers included Rudolf Hess, former air force pilot Hermann Göring, and army captain Ernst Röhm. Röhm became head of the Nazis' paramilitary organisation, the Sturmabteilung (SA), which protected meetings and attacked political opponents. A critical influence on his thinking during this period was the Aufbau Vereinigung, a conspiratorial group of White Russian exiles and early National Socialists. The group, financed with funds channelled from wealthy industrialists, introduced Hitler to the idea of a Jewish conspiracy, linking international finance with Bolshevism.
Beer Hall Putsch
The Beer Hall Putsch was a failed attempt by the Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler and others to seize power in Munich, Bavaria, during 8–9 November 1923. Around two-thousand men marched to the centre of Munich and, in the ensuing confrontation with police forces, sixteen Nazis and four policemen were killed. Hitler was arrested two days later and was charged with treason. The failure of the putsch brought Hitler his first national publicity. He was arrested and, after a 24-day trial, sentenced to five years in Landsberg fortress. On 20 December 1924, having served only nine months, Hitler was released. The lasting outcome of the putsch was the development and furthering of Nazi propaganda.
While at Landsberg, Hitler dictated most of the first volume of Mein Kampf to his deputy, Rudolf Hess. The book was an autobiography and exposition of his ideology. Published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926, it sold 228,000 copies between 1925 and 1932. One million copies were sold in 1933, Hitler's first year in office.
Rise to Power
In 1932, Hitler ran against von Hindenburg in the presidential elections. Hitler was supported by many of Germany's most powerful industrialists but nevertheless Hitler came in second in both rounds of the election, garnering more than 35 per cent of the vote in the final election. Although he lost to Hindenburg, this election established Hitler as a strong force in German politics.
Hindenburg reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler as chancellor after two further parliamentary elections—in July and November 1932—had not resulted in the formation of a majority government.
On 27 February 1933, the Reichstag (German Parliament) building was set on fire. Göring blamed a communist plot, because Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe was found in incriminating circumstances inside the burning building. At Hitler's urging, Hindenburg responded with the Reichstag Fire Decree of 28 February, which suspended basic rights and allowed detention without trial. Activities of the German Communist Party were suppressed, and some 4,000 communist party members were arrested. According to some historians the Nazi Party (NSDAP) itself was responsible for starting the fire.
The election of 6 March 1933 resulted in the NSDAP's increased share of the vote to 43.9 per cent, and the party acquired the largest number of seats in parliament. Hitler's party failed to secure an absolute majority, necessitating another coalition.
To achieve full political control despite not having an absolute majority in parliament, Hitler's government brought the Enabling Act to a vote in the newly elected Reichstag. The act gave Hitler's cabinet full legislative powers for a period of four years. The bill required a two-thirds majority to pass. Leaving nothing to chance, the Nazis used the provisions of the Reichstag Fire Decree to keep several Social Democratic deputies from attending; the Communists had already been banned.
The Enabling Act, along with the Reichstag Fire Decree, transformed Hitler's government into a de facto legal dictatorship.
On 14 July 1933, the NSDAP was declared the only legal political party in Germany, although the country had effectively been a one-party state since the passage of the Enabling Act four months earlier.
On 2 August 1934, President von Hindenburg died. The previous day, the cabinet had enacted a law that stated that upon Hindenburg's death, the office of president would be abolished and its powers merged with those of the chancellor. Hitler thus became head of state as well as head of government, and was formally named as Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor).
Under Hitler's regime reconstruction and rearmament were financed through promissory note, printing money, and seizing the assets of people arrested as enemies of the State, including Jews. Hitler oversaw one of the largest infrastructure improvement campaigns in German history, leading to the construction of dams, autobahns, railroads, and other civil works and he also initiated massive rearmament effort. As a result unemployment fell from six million in 1932 to one million in 1936.
Germany withdrew from the League of Nations and the World Disarmament Conference in October 1933. Germany reoccupied the demilitarised zone in the Rhineland in March 1936, in violation of the Versailles Treaty.
In March 1935, Hitler announced an expansion of the Wehrmacht (armed forces of Germany) to 600,000 members—six times the number permitted by the Versailles Treaty—including development of an air force (Luftwaffe) and an increase in the size of the navy.
World War II
On 12 March 1938, Hitler declared unification of Austria with Nazi Germany (Anschluss). Hitler then turned his attention to the ethnic German population of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia.
On 29 September Hitler, Neville Chamberlain (British Prime Minister), Édouard Daladier (French Prime Minister), and Mussolini (Italian Prime Minister) attended a one-day conference in Munich that led to the Munich Agreement, which handed over the Sudetenland districts to Germany. Chamberlain was satisfied with the Munich conference, calling the outcome "peace for our time"
On 15 March 1939, in violation of the Munich accord Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to invade Prague, and from Prague Castle he proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate.
The Ribbentrop–Molotov Pact was a non-aggression pact signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939 including a secret agreement to partition Poland between the two countries.
On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded western Poland under the pretext of having been denied claims to the Free City of Danzig and the right to extraterritorial roads across the Polish Corridor, which Germany had ceded under the Versailles Treaty. In response, Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September and on 17 September, Soviet forces invaded eastern Poland.
On 27 September 1940, the Tripartite Pact was signed in Berlin by Saburō Kurusu of Imperial Japan, Hitler, and Italian foreign minister Ciano, and later expanded to include Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, thus yielding the Axis powers. Hitler's attempt to integrate the Soviet Union into the anti-British bloc failed after inconclusive talks between Hitler and Molotov in Berlin in November, and he ordered preparations for a full-scale invasion of the Soviet Union.
On 22 June 1941, contravening the Hitler–Stalin non-aggression pact of 1939, 5.5 million Axis troops attacked the Soviet Union. This large-scale offensive (codenamed Operation Barbarossa) was intended to destroy the Soviet Union and seize its natural resources for subsequent aggression against the Western powers. The invasion conquered a huge area, including the Baltic republics, Belarus, and West Ukraine.
On 7 December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Four days later, Hitler formally declared war against the United States.
In late 1942, German forces were defeated in the second battle of El Alamein, thwarting Hitler's plans to seize the Suez Canal and the Middle East. Overconfident in his own military expertise following the earlier victories in 1940, Hitler became distrustful of his Army High Command and began to interfere in military and tactical planning with damaging consequences. In February 1943, Hitler's repeated refusal to allow their withdrawal at the Battle of Stalingrad led to the total destruction of the 6th Army. Over 200,000 Axis soldiers were killed and 235,000 were taken prisoner, only 6,000 of whom returned to Germany after the war. Thereafter came a decisive defeat at the Battle of Kursk. Hitler's military judgment became increasingly erratic, and Germany's military and economic position deteriorated along with Hitler's health.
Between 1939 and 1945, there were many plans to assassinate Hitler, some of which proceeded to significant degrees. The most well known came from within Germany and was at least partly driven by the increasing prospect of a German defeat in the war. In July 1944, in the 20 July plot, part of Operation Valkyrie, Claus von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in one of Hitler's headquarters, the Wolf's Lair at Rastenburg. Hitler narrowly survived because someone unknowingly pushed the briefcase containing the bomb behind a leg of the heavy conference table. When the bomb exploded, the table deflected much of the blast away from Hitler. Later, Hitler ordered savage reprisals resulting in the execution of more than 4,900 people.
By 23 April the Red Army had completely surrounded Berlin, and Goebbels made a proclamation urging its citizens to defend the city. That same day, Göring sent a telegram arguing that since Hitler was isolated in Berlin, he, Göring, should assume leadership of Germany. Göring set a deadline after which he would consider Hitler incapacitated. Hitler responded by having Göring arrested, and in his last will and testament, written on 29 April, he removed Göring from all government positions. On 28 April Hitler discovered that Himmler, who had left Berlin on 20 April, was trying to discuss surrender terms with the Western Allies.
After midnight on 29 April, Hitler married Eva Braun in a small civil ceremony in the Führerbunker. After a modest wedding breakfast with his new wife, he then dictated his will to his secretary. The event was witnessed and documents signed by Krebs, Burgdorf, Goebbels, and Bormann. Later that afternoon, Hitler was informed of the execution of Mussolini, which presumably increased his determination to avoid capture.
On 30 April 1945, after intense street-to-street combat, when Soviet troops were within a block or two of the Reich Chancellery, Hitler and Braun committed suicide; Braun bit into a cyanide capsule and Hitler shot himself. Both their bodies were carried up the stairs and through the bunker's emergency exit to the bombed-out garden behind the Reich Chancellery, where they were placed in a bomb crater and doused with petrol. The corpses were set on fire as the Red Army shelling continued.
The Holocaust was the mass murder or genocide of approximately six million Jews during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, throughout the German Reich and German-occupied territories.
Some scholars argue that the mass murder of the Romani and people with disabilities should be included in the definition, and some use the common noun "holocaust" to describe other Nazi mass murders, including those of Soviet prisoners of war, Polish and Soviet civilians, and homosexuals.
The persecution and genocide were carried out in stages. Various laws to exclude the Jews from civil society, most prominently the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, were enacted in Germany before the outbreak of World War II in Europe. Concentration camps were established in which inmates were subjected to slave labor until they died of exhaustion or disease. Where Germany conquered new territory in eastern Europe, specialized paramilitary units called Einsatzgruppen murdered more than a million Jews and political opponents in mass shootings.
The occupiers required mostly Jews, Romani and others to be confined in overcrowded ghettos before being transported by freight train to extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, most were systematically killed in gas chambers. Every arm of Germany's bureaucracy was involved in the logistics that led to the genocides, turning the Third Reich into what one Holocaust scholar has called "a genocidal state".
Hitler's actions and Nazi ideology are almost universally regarded as gravely immoral; never in history has such ruination—physical and moral—been associated with the name of one man. Hitler's political programme brought about a world war, leaving behind a devastated and impoverished Eastern and Central Europe. Germany itself suffered wholesale destruction. Hitler's policies inflicted human suffering on an unprecedented scale; the Nazi regime was responsible for the democidal killing of an estimated 19.3 million civilians and prisoners of war. In addition, 29 million soldiers and civilians died as a result of military action in the European Theatre of World War II, and Hitler's role has been described as "... the main author of a war leaving over 50 million dead and millions more grieving their lost ones ...". Historians, philosophers, and politicians often use the word "evil" to describe the Nazi regime. Many European countries have criminalised both the promotion of Nazism and Holocaust denial.
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