Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, abbreviated NSDAP), commonly known as the Nazi Party. He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and served as head of state as Führer und Reichskanzler from 1934 to 1945.

A decorated veteran of World War I, Hitler joined the precursor of the Nazi Party (DAP) in 1919, and became leader of NSDAP in 1921. He attempted a failed coup d'etat known as the Beer Hall Putsch, which occurred at the Bürgerbräukeller beer hall in Munich on November 8–9, 1923. Hitler was imprisoned for one year due to the failed coup, and wrote his memoir, "My Struggle" (in German Mein Kampf), while imprisoned. After his release on December 20, 1924, he gained support by promoting Pan-Germanism, anti-semitism, anti-capitalism, and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and propaganda. He was appointed chancellor on January 30, 1933, and transformed the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich, a single-party dictatorship based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideology of Nazism.

Hitler ultimately wanted to establish a New Order of absolute Nazi German hegemony in continental Europe. To achieve this, he pursued a foreign policy with the declared goal of seizing Lebensraum ("living space") for the Aryan people; directing the resources of the state towards this goal. This included the rearmament of Germany, which culminated in 1939 when the Wehrmacht invaded Poland. In response, the United Kingdom and France declared war against Germany, leading to the outbreak of World War II in Europe.[1]

Within three years, German forces and their European allies had occupied most of Europe, and most of Northern Africa, and the Japanese forces had occupied parts of East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean. However, with the reversal of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, the Allies gained the upper hand from 1942 onwards. By 1944, Allied armies had invaded German-held Europe from all sides. Nazi forces engaged in numerous violent acts during the war, including the systematic murder of as many as 17 million civilians,[2] including an estimated six million Jews targeted in the Holocaust and between 500,000 and 1,500,000 Roma,[3] added to the Poles, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, people with disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other political and religious opponents.

In the final days of the war, during the Battle of Berlin in 1945, Hitler married his long-time mistress Eva Braun and, to avoid capture by Soviet forces, the two committed suicide[4] less than two days later on 30 April 1945.

Adolf is sometimes refered to as an Antichrist due to the effects he and the Nazi Party had on society and for causing World War II in general. While Hitler is most remembered for his central role in World War II and the Holocaust, his government left behind other legacies as well, including the Volkswagen,[5] the Autobahn,[6] jet aircraft[7] and rocket technology.[8]

Ancestry

Hitler's father, Alois Hitler, was an illegitimate child of Maria Anna Schicklgruber, so his paternity was not listed on his birth certificate; he bore his mother's surname.[9][10] In 1842, Johann Georg Hiedler married Maria and in 1876 Alois testified before a notary and three witnesses that Johann was his father.[11] Despite this testimony, Alois' paternity has been the subject of controversy. After receiving a "blackmail letter" from Hitler's nephew William Patrick Hitler threatening to reveal embarrassing information about Hitler's family tree, Nazi Party lawyer Hans Frank investigated, and, in his memoirs, claimed to have uncovered letters revealing that Alois' mother was employed as a housekeeper for a Jewish family in Graz and that the family's 19-year-old son, Leopold Frankenberger, fathered Alois.[10] No evidence had, at that time, ever been produced to support Frank's claim, and Frank himself said Hitler's full Aryan blood was obvious.[12] Frank's claims were widely believed in the 1950s, but by the 1990s, were generally doubted by historians.[13][14] Ian Kershaw dismissed the Frankenberger story as a "smear" by Hitler's enemies, noting that all Jews had been expelled from Graz in the 15th century and were not allowed to return until well after Alois was born.[14]

At age 39, Alois took the surname Hitler. This surname was variously spelled Hiedler, Hüttler, Huettler and Hitler, and was probably regularized to Hitler by a clerk. The origin of the name is either "one who lives in a hut" (Standard German Hütte), "shepherd" (Standard German hüten "to guard", English heed), or is from the Slavic word Hidlar and Hidlarcek.

Childhood

Adolf Hitler was born at around 6:30 p.m. on 20 April 1889 at the Gasthof zum Pommer, an inn in Braunau am Inn, Austria–Hungary, the fourth of six children to Alois Hitler and Klara Pölzl.

When he was three years old, his family relocated to Kapuzinerstrasse 5[15] in Passau, Germany, where Hitler would acquire Lower Bavarian rather than Austrian as his lifelong native dialect.[16] In 1894, the family relocated to Leonding near Linz, then in June 1895, Alois retired to a small landholding at Hafeld near Lambach, where he tried his hand at farming and beekeeping. During this time, the young Hitler attended school in nearby Fischlham. As a child, he played "Cowboys and Indians" and, by his own account, became fixated on war after finding a picture book about the Franco-Prussian War among his father's belongings.[17]

His father's efforts at Hafeld ended in failure, and the family relocated to Lambach in 1897. Hitler attended a Catholic school located in an 11th-century Benedictine cloister, where the walls were engraved in a number of places with crests containing the symbol of the swastika.[18] It was in Lambach that the eight-year-old Hitler sang in the church choir, took singing lessons, and even entertained the fantasy of one day becoming a priest.[19] In 1898, the family returned permanently to Leonding.

His younger brother Edmund died of measles on 2 February 1900, causing permanent changes in Hitler. He went from a confident, outgoing boy who excelled in school, to a morose, detached, sullen boy who constantly battled his father and his teachers.[20]

Hitler was attached to his mother, though he had a troubled relationship with his father, who frequently beat him, especially in the years after Alois' retirement and disappointing farming efforts.[21] Alois wanted his son to follow in his footsteps as an Austrian customs official, and this became a huge source of conflict between them.[17] Despite his son's pleas to go to classical high school and become an artist, his father sent him to the Realschule in Linz, a technical high school of about 300 students, in September 1900. Hitler rebelled, and in Mein Kampf confessed to failing his first year in hopes that once his father saw "what little progress I was making at the technical school he would let me devote myself to the happiness I dreamed of." Alois never relented, however, and Hitler became even more bitter and rebellious.

German Nationalism quickly became an obsession for Hitler, and a way to rebel against his father, who proudly served the Austrian government. Most people who lived along the German-Austrian border considered themselves German-Austrians, but Hitler expressed loyalty only to Germany. In defiance of the Austrian monarchy, and his father who continually expressed loyalty to it, Hitler and his young friends liked to use the German greeting "Heil", and sing the German anthem "Deutschland Über Alles" instead of the Austrian Imperial anthem.[17]

After Alois' sudden death on 3 January 1903, Hitler's behaviour at the technical school became even more disruptive, and he was asked to leave. He enrolled at the Realschule in Steyr in 1904, but upon completing his second year, he and his friends went out for a night of celebration and drinking, and an intoxicated Hitler tore his school certificate into four pieces and used it as toilet paper. When someone turned the stained certificate in to the school's director, he "... gave him such a dressing-down that the boy was reduced to shivering jelly. It was probably the most painful and humiliating experience of his life."[22] Hitler was expelled, never to return to school again.

At age 15, Hitler took part in his First Holy Communion on Whitsunday, 22 May 1904, at the Linz Cathedral.[23] His sponsor was Emanuel Lugert, a friend of his late father.[24]

Early adulthood in Vienna and Munich

From 1905 on, Hitler lived a bohemian life in Vienna on an orphan's pension and support from his mother. He was rejected twice by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (1907–1908), citing "unfitness for painting", and was told his abilities lay instead in the field of architecture.[25] Following the school rector's recommendation, he too became convinced this was his path to pursue, yet he lacked the proper academic preparation for architecture 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.[26]

On 21 December 1907, Hitler's mother died of breast cancer at age 47. Ordered by a court in Linz, Hitler gave his share of the orphans' benefits to his sister Paula. When he was 21, he inherited money from an aunt. He struggled as a painter in Vienna, copying scenes from postcards and selling his paintings to merchants and tourists. After being rejected a second time by the Academy of Arts, Hitler ran out of money. In 1909, he lived in a shelter for the homeless. By 1910, he had settled into a house for poor working men on Meldemannstraße. Another resident of the house, Reinhold Hanisch, sold Hitler's paintings until the two men had a bitter falling-out.[27]

Hitler said he first became an anti-Semite in Vienna,[26] which had a large Jewish community, including Orthodox Jews who had fled the pogroms in Russia. According to childhood friend August Kubizek, however, Hitler was a "confirmed anti-Semite" before he left Linz.[26] Vienna at that time was a hotbed of traditional religious prejudice and 19th century racism. Hitler may have been influenced by the occult writings of the anti-Semite Lanz von Liebenfels in his magazine Ostara; it is usually taken for granted that he read the publication (he recounts in Mein Kampf his conversion to anti-semitism being after reading some pamphlets) and he most likely did read it, although it is uncertain to what degree he was influenced by the anti-semitic occult work.[28]

If this account is true, Hitler apparently did not act on his new belief. He often was a guest for dinner in a noble Jewish house, and he interacted well with Jewish merchants who tried to sell his paintings.[29]

Hitler may also have been influenced by Martin Luther's On the Jews and their Lies. In Mein Kampf, Hitler refers to Martin Luther as a great warrior, a true statesman, and a great reformer, alongside Richard Wagner and Frederick the Great.[30] Wilhelm Röpke, writing after the Holocaust, concluded that "without any question, Lutheranism influenced the political, spiritual and social history of Germany in a way that, after careful consideration of everything, can be described only as fateful."[31][32]

Hitler claimed that Jews were enemies of the Aryan race. He held them responsible for Austria's crisis. He also identified certain forms of socialism and Bolshevism, which had many Jewish leaders, as Jewish movements, merging his antisemitism with anti-Marxism. Later, blaming Germany's military defeat in World War I on the 1918 revolutions, he considered Jews the culprits of Imperial Germany's downfall and subsequent economic problems as well.

Hitler received the final part of his father's estate in May 1913 and moved to Munich. He wrote in Mein Kampf that he had always longed to live in a "real" German city. In Munich, he became more interested in architecture and, he says, the writings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Moving to Munich also helped him escape military service in Austria for a time, but the Munich police (acting in cooperation with the Austrian authorities) eventually arrested him. After a physical exam and a contrite plea, he was deemed unfit for service and allowed to return to Munich. However, when Germany entered World War I in August 1914, he petitioned King Ludwig III of Bavaria for permission to serve in a Bavarian regiment. This request was granted, and Adolf Hitler enlisted in the Bavarian army.[33]