Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945) was an Austrian-born Chancellor of Germany and leader of the Nazi Party, being in power from 1933 to 1945. He created the Third Reich as he did away with the Weimar Republic. Before coming to power in Germany, he had fought in the trenches of the Great War as an infantry corporal and was decorated with the Iron Cross.
Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau-am-Inn, Austria, on the German border, at 6:30 AM, on April 20, 1889, to Alois Hitler and Klara Pölzl. His father was a customs official. He was the fourth son of six children. Hitler’s family moved often, from Braunau am Inn to Passau, Lambach, Leonding, and Linz. The young Hitler was a good student in elementary school. But in the sixth grade, his first year of high school in Linz he failed and had to repeat the grade. His teachers said that he had no desire to work. From an early age Hitler showed strong leadership skills. At school he used the German greeting “Heil”, and enjoyed singing the German anthem “Deutschland Uber Alles.” When he was 11, Hitler had developed a strong habit of reading. He was intelligent and had photographic memory.
Adolf Hitler left school at 16, and, from 1905, lived a bohemian life in Vienna on an orphan’s pension and support from his mother. He struggled to make a living as a painter in Vienna selling his paintings to merchants and tourists. Vienna was the city where many of his extreme political and racial ideas originated. In 1907, his mother died of breast cancer and Hitler had give his share of the orphans’ benefits to his sister Paula. When Adolf Hitler was 21, he inherited some money from an aunt. In 1908, despite his talent, Hitler was rejected a second time by the Academy of Arts. As he ran out of money, he lived in a shelter for the homeless. By 1910, he had settled into a house for poor working men on Meldemannstraße.
In 1913, Adolf Hitler moved to Munich where he lived until the outbreak of World War One, when he voluntarily enlisted in the German army. Hitler served in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment in Belgium and France, fighting in a number of ferocious battles on the Western Front, including the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras, the First Battle of Ypres, and the Third Battle of Ypres, Because he was a despatch runner, the most dangerous job on the Western Front, and often exposed to enemy fire, he was wounded three times and won five medals, one of them was the Iron Cross. The First Battle of Ypres of 1914 saw approximately 40,000 German soldiers killed in twenty days, and Hitler’s own company of 250 was reduced to 42 by December. This experience made of Hitler an aloof and withdrawn man for the remaining years of war. But Hitler also liked the excitement of fighting in a war and did not mind risking his life, impressing his commanding officers for volunteering for dangerous missions. When the war ended, he reached the rank of corporal.
A photo of Adolf Hitler taken during WWI. The one sitting on the left
In 1919 Hitler joined the German Workers’ Party. He played to the resentments of right-wingers, promising extremist ‘remedies’ to Germany’s post-war problems which he and many others blamed on Jews and Bolsheviks. By 1921 he was the unquestioned leader of what was now the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi Party. In September 1921, Hitler was sent to prison for three months for being part of a mob who beat up a rival politician. When he was released from prison, he organized his own private army called Sturm Abteilung.
In 1923 Hitler attempted an unsuccessful coup in Munich and was sent to prison for nine months, during which time he wrote “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle), which outlined his political ideology. When he was released, he began to rebuild the Nazi Party and used new techniques of mass communication to get his message across. Against a background of economic depression and political turmoil, the Nazi party grew stronger and in the 1932 elections became the largest party in the Reigstag (German Parliament). On January 30, 1933 Hitler became chancellor of a coalition government. He quickly assumed dictatorial powers, dissolving the Reigstag and passing anti-Jewish laws.
Adolf Hitler began an arms race and German militarization, following a policy of territorial expansion, annexing Austria in March 1938, and Czechoslovakia in March 1939. He entered into a defensive alliance with Italy, then with Japan, creating the Axis. On September 1, 1939, Hitler’s invasion of Poland triggered World War Two. After his military conquest of Denmark, Norway, and Western Europe, Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Jewish populations of the countries conquered by the Nazis were rounded up and killed. Millions of others whom the Nazis considered racially inferior were also killed or worked to death. In December 1941, Hitler declared war on America.
In 1943 seven assassination attempts were planned but none of them was successfully carried out. The most dramatic of these attempts was the July Plot. On July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who was attending one of Hitler’s military conferences, laid a bomb in a briefcase under the table. When the bomb exploded it killed four people and seriously injured ten others, but Hitler only suffered minor cuts and burns. With war on the eastern front draining Germany’s resources, the British and Americans landed on Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. With Soviet troops poised to take the German Berlin, Hitler committed suicide in his bunker of the German capital, on April 30, 1945.