Adolf Hitler was born on April 20th, 1889 in Braunau am Inn, a small Austrian town near the Austro-German frontier. When Hitler was growing up his father, Alois, who died early in young Adolf’s life, was a state customs official. So, during his early years of life Hitler spent most of his childhood in Linz, Austria. Linz became Hitler’s favorite city throughout the rest of his life because he spent so much of his childhood there. Hitler’s father Alois died in 1903 . Alois left a good savings and pension to support his wife and son after his passing. It’s often said that Hitler disliked and feared his father. Hitler appeared to be more devoted to his mother, who followed his father in death four years after in 1908 .
Hitler struggled with school and he never advanced beyond a secondary education. He eventually dropped out of school as he felt he had another calling. After dropping out he tried to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. When he left school, Hitler visited Vienna and then came back home to Linz, where he dreamt more of becoming an artist. He tried two times to realize his dream by applying to the Academy of Fine Arts—and he was rejected both times. The years following rejection he lived a lonely and isolated life where he earned a living by painting scenery and monuments and selling them. During this time where he was trying to make a living, he started to become interested in politics. These ideas would shape the Nazi ideology.
In 1913, Hitler moved to Munich. When World War I broke out the following summer, he petitioned to the Bavarian king to be allowed to volunteer in a reserve infantry regiment. He was deployed in October of 1914 to Belgium. Hitler served throughout the Great War and he won two decorations for his bravery. He won the rare Iron Cross First Class, which he wore to the end of his life. But serving in the war didn’t come without its setbacks. Hitler was wounded twice. The first instance when he was hit in the leg during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and was wounded again two years later in a British Gas attack. Hitler spent the end of the war trying to recover in the hospital in the northeast part of Berlin when he had heard the news of the armistice and Germany’s defeat in World War I. After the end of the war its believed that Hitler, like many of other Germans, believed that the countries devastating defeat was not attributed to the allies, but it was because of the insufficiently patriotic “traitors” at home. This idea set the stage for Hitler to rise to power.
In 1918 Hitler returned to Munich and he joined a small German workers’ party that aimed to unite everyone and the German working class with a strong German nationalism. Even though Hitler wasn’t great with school, he really thrived in the politically. He was very charismatic and that helped him up the party’s ranks until 1920s when he decided to leave the army and took charge of the party’s propaganda efforts. In one of Hitler’s many “strokes of genius” when it came to propaganda the newly named National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazis) adopted a version of the ancient symbol of the hankenkreuz or hooked cross, as its emblem. The symbol was printed in a white circle on a red background. The swastika would take on a new meaning of terrifying in the years to come.
By the end of 1921, Hitler led the growing Nazi Party and was capitalizing on the widespread discontent with the Weimar Republic and the punishing terms of the Versailles Treaty. After this there were many former army officers that would joined the Nazi Party. Most notable person was Ernst Rohm and he recruited the SA (Sturmabteilung) squads and they were used very strategically and very brutal. The SA was used to protect the party meetings and attack opponents, but the SA was a lot better at attacking the opponents and disrupting the other parties rather than protecting their own. During this time Hitler not only got Ernst Rohm to help him but he also caught the eye of General Erich Ludendorff, former quartermaster general of the German Army.
Hitler felt the strength of his party, so he decided to organize a putsch or coup against the government in early November of 1923. The originally planned weekend was November 10th and 11th. Hitler and his storm troopers invaded the beer hall around 8:30 pm and then he proceeded to inspire the crowd with his amazing speech skills and then his goal changed. At this meeting were three members of the Bavarian government present at the beer hall at the time of Hitler’s speech and after the inspiring speech, he tried to intimidate to join in the coup attempt. The three men withheld their choices until Ludendorff had arrived and they ended up joining Hitler. Even by 11:00 pm it seemed Hitler had accomplished his goal but that wasn’t the case the three men renounced their word the next morning and it was all downhill from them for Hitler and Ludendorff.
On November 9th attempting to break as stalemate between them and the Bavarian government Hitler and Ludendorff decided to march their followers to the center of Munich. They thought that it would spark an uprising and that it would be such an uprising that they could take over control without having a shot being fired. The march began about noon and there were bystanders that would join the 2000 plus Nazi party. Everything derailed about twenty minutes after the march started because the Bavarian police had opened fire on the column. Hitler ended up throwing himself to the ground and suffering a separated shoulder but Ludendorff on the other hand kept marching past the police and was then taken in to custody. During the shooting at the end of the march, the Nazi party lost 16 men and the police had lost 3 men. Hitler was also arrested with Ludendorff and was taken to the fortress prison of Landsberg with was outside of Munich.
Hitler stood trial on February 26th, 1924 in a large brick lecture hall on the campus of the Infantry School in Munich. Hitler was charged with high treason. During the days of the trail, Hitler was able to use his speech skills and was able to swing the crowd in his direction and for his sympathy. Even after the first day of the trail Hitler had the people that attended the trail on his side and behind him. But it was very easy for Hitler to capture millions of the German people because the news of the trail was everywhere in the newspapers. The final verdicts of the trail were handed down on April 1st, 1924 when Chief Justice Neithardt read the results, which had been reached by a vote, by the judges of four to one. Hitler sentence from the judges was a minimum of five years of fortress confinement with the possibility of parole after six months. While in prison, Hitler made good use of his time. There were even people sending him chocolates, most of them were females. But one big thing came out of Hitler’s prison time and that was when he composed the first volume of Mein Kampf or My Struggle. The book didn’t receive all of the attention that it does today back in the 1920’s.
Mein Kampf showed his ideas of racial supremacy and his belief in a new and victorious Third Reich was in his mind and now on paper. Hitler was sent on parole for good behavior on December 20th, 1924 He only spent about nine months in jail. When he walked out of the doors of the prison, he walked out stronger and more confident and very much more popular man to the German people. They regarded him as a hero and a nationalistic figure. The first volume of Mein Kampf would be published in 1925. By 1940, Mein Kampf would sell six million copies.
As we saw in his writings of Mein Kampf, Hitler was obsessed with race and the idea of ethnic “purity”. Hitler saw the “Aryan race” was at the top of the so-called chain of races and they were the best of the best. Mein Kampf also addressed the need for living space for Germany to fulfill its destiny, Germany had to expand its empire and take over the surrounding countries and get rid of the “inferior” Slavic people.
When Hitler was released from prison after only serving nine months on his five-year sentence, we start to see the economic recovery start to happen and bring support for the Nazis. Over the next few years, Hitler flew under the radar so to speak and worked on reshaping and reorganizing the Nazi party. During this time Hitler established the Hitler Youth to organize the younger generation. Also, during this time, he created the Schutzstaffel (SS) and they were much more reliable than the SA. Members of the SS wore black uniforms and swore a personal oath of loyalty to him.
As for Hitler’s love life, it was strange. During the years leading up to the Great Depression, Hitler spent most of his time at Berchtesgaden with his half-sister and her two daughters. Hitler became infatuated with one of his blonde nieces and Hitler became so jealous that it led her to commit suicide in 1931. This loss devastated Hitler. He thought of her as his one true love but after that Hitler met and had a long relationship with Eva Braun, who was a shop assistant from Munich. He refused to even marry her, though. But with the worldwide Great Depression happening around the same time, Hitler chose to stay determined to achieve political power and lead his revolution. During this time, we start to see Hitler build up support for him and the Nazi’s among the German conservatives and the army and the business and industrial leaders. This is where we begin to see the rise of the Nazis and the Hitler Myth.
In 1932 Hitler ran against war hero Paul von Hindenburg for president but he only received 36.8 percent of the vote. During this time the government was in complete chaos. Three successive chancellors failed to maintain control. In January of 1933, Hindenburg name Hitler chancellor. When Hitler was given the spot of chancellor he was at the age of 43 years old. This movement capped the stunning rise of a very unlikely leader if we were to look at his back ground. January 30, 1933 marked the birth of the Third Reich or as the Nazis called it the “Thousand-Year Reich”. It got that nickname because it Hitler thought it would endure an entire millennium. On March 23rd the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act. This act gave Hitler full powers and would allow him to pretty much do anything that he wanted. But during this period the German army was weak and diplomatically isolated. In May 1933 he gave a speech that struck a lot of people the wrong way by stating that Germany supported disarmament and peace. But I don’t think that’s the case at all with Hitler because of his strategy of domination and expansion still was his aim and goal. By the following year he had withdrawn Germany from the League of Nations and begun to militarize the nation in anticipations of his plans to dominate and expand.
Hitler was not a fan of people or people that challenged him. For instance, the Night of the Long Knives, he had hundreds of members of his own party murdered because they didn’t agree with his way of doing things and that deemed them problematic. Nazi and Hitler were not big on the Jews either. But Hitler didn’t want to go straight to the method of execution to get rid of them. He gave them opportunities to leave, and some of them did, but some of them stayed and they were treated like they weren’t even humans. After the Nuremberg Laws passed they weren’t allowed Germans citizenship and it barred them from marrying or having relations with persons of German or German related blood.
In March of 1936, against the advice of his generals, Hitler tried to reoccupy the left bank of the Rhine. Over the next few years Germany gained alliances with Italy and Japan and annexed Austria and moved against Czechoslovakia. On September 1, 1939, Hitler and Nazi troops invaded Poland, finally prompting that Britain and France declare war on Germany. This was the start of World War II. Throughout the war, Germany’s defeats happening, and the tide of the war turning, Hitler becoming increasingly unwell and dependent on medications. At midnight on the night of April 29th, Hitler married Eva Braun in a Berlin bunker and then two days after marrying her, Hitler shot himself and Braun took poison. Their bodies were burned according to Hitler’s instructions. Shortly after Hitler committed suicide, Germany surrendered unconditionally on all fronts on May 7th, 1945 bringing the war in Europe to a close.