Adolf Hitler - Biography
Founder of Nazism, dictator of Germany 1933-1945, planned and started World War 2
Adolf Hitler's Historic Background
To understand Adolf Hitler and his rise to power it's important to know the historic background.
World War 1 was primarily the result of the German militarism. In many ways it was the most militarized nation and until the end of that war it was dominated by its military. When it was defeated in 1918, the German military leadership, which stopped the war before the military collapsed, convinced the German people that they were betrayed, "Stabbed in the back by civilians". It was an irrational excuse, given the military's domination, but it became a popular myth. The defeat in World War 1 was therefore a traumatic shock to most Germans, especially to the German soldiers, and almost no one in Western Europe understood it then.
This resulted in a very weak post-war democratic regime in Germany. In addition to that, Germany was divided between a "western" and "eastern" political and social orientations. Today, when Germany is a modern liberal "western" country it's hard to figure it out, but before World War 2, Germany was mostly dominated by the "eastern" orientation that rejected western liberalism and democracy, and had a militarist aggressive orientation facing East, and the "western" orientation which represented peaceful liberalism was a minority. However, this minority orientation governed Germany's weak post-WWI democracy.
In Germany and in its sister ethnic-German Austria there was strong anti-semitism that since the 19th century developed to a strong political force that blamed jews for all problems and trouble. This internal hate was intensified after the defeat of World War 1. This was the background for Adolf Hitler's rise to total power as the dictator of Germany, for his aggressive quest for world domination, and the horrible crimes against humanity committed in his command.
Adolf Hitler's early yearsAdolf Hitler was born in 1889 in a small Austrian village close to the German border, the son of a border customs clerk and a housemaid. As a teenager, he began to develop an artistic talent. At age 16 he quit high-school. At age 17 he applied for the Vienna academy of fine arts, but was rejected. When he was 14 his father died, and when he was 18 his loving mother had cancer. She was treated by a Jewish Doctor, but despite costly and painful treatment she died. He was then 18, and alone in the world.
He returned to Vienna, and quickly became penniless. He wandered in Vienna, slept in bars and in shelters for the homeless. His attempts to make a living as a painter were futile. He had two Jewish friends there, but Vienna was then an active center of strong anti-semitism, and Hitler also read "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion", a FAKE document that was written by the pre-WWI Russian Royal secret police in a cynical attempt to divert public blame of Russia's trouble from the monarchy to the jews. The "protocols" describe an imaginary conspiracy of rich jews to dominate the world by dominating countries like puppets and turning them against each other. Hitler, already a typical anti-semitic, believed every word.
In his poor six years in Vienna, Adolf Hitler developed his extreme hate of jews, was exposed to the idea of anti-Jewish legislation, discovered his remarkable talent of speech, that used grand romantic metaphors from German culture and from his imaginative artistic soul, and developed his view of how a totalitarian state should be managed, following the example of Vienna's very successful Mayor, who was also an anti-semitic.
At age 24, still penniless, Adolf Hitler left Vienna and crossed the border to Germany in order to avoid military service in the Austrian army. He was arrested and brought back to Austria, but was then found "Unfit, too weak, unable to bear arms". Given his later military service and bravery in combat, it's obvious that he successfully played a false figure in order to escape a peacetime military service he wanted to avoid.
A soldier in World War 1
When the fragile European balance of power exploded a year later into World War 1, Hitler's German patriotism was ignited, and he decided to join the military. Because of his previous incident with the Austrian military, he returned to Germany, the ally sister country, and volunteered to the German army.
After a short training, his unit was sent to the bloody static battlefield in the trenches of the western front, and fought mainly against British forces. He fought bravely, narrowly escaped death several times, and was decorated twice with the Iron Cross medal, but not promoted. He was wounded twice in combat. In his 2nd injury he was temporarily blinded. During his recovery from his 2nd injury, still blind, in a military hospital, he was surprised and shocked with the news that the war ended with a German defeat.
It's important to note that during his years in the military, Hitler received political indoctrination that completed his political education, and made him a strong supporter of the "eastern" militarist orientation. His cruel war experience, he later said, also developed in him an uncompromising iron will.
Post-war Germany was in chaos. Communism rose, and Communist movements rioted in the cities, some of them led by jews. Eventually Germany turned from a militarist monarchy to a democracy, with an executive prime minister and a president that kept powerful authorities, the replacement of the king. The socialists gained control of the government. The situation in the streets got worse. The new government finally signed the peace treaty that included loss of territory, a severe economical burden of compensations, and severe limitations on the German military's size and equipment, which were supposed to reduce its threat. It was perceived by most Germans as a great national humiliation.
Hitler, finally recovered from his injury, and still officially a soldier, joined a para-military militia of war veterans who clashed with the communists in the streets of German cities. He was then given the task of closely monitoring a tiny right-wing political group called "German Worker's Party".
Hitler enters politics
Hitler quickly realized that their ideas match his, and that they can be his vehicle for political power, that he decided that he wants as a result of the affair of the war's defeat and the humiliating peace treaty. In April of 1920, at age 31, still with no profession, he resigned from the military to enter career politics as the new leader of this tiny political group that he initially spied on. It had a militarist "eastern" oriented, anti-semitic, nationalist foreign policy, with a domestic policy of state-controlled "Socialism". It was basically the policy of the previous totalitarian militarist regime, with a big dose of added anti-semitism, and like the communists, it addressed the wide public of workers and ex-soldiers.
In 1923 the German economy collapsed into wild hyper-inflation. The peace treaty compensation was blamed for it, but the real reason was that Germany's long time costly militarism that was previously paid for by the fruits of victories, had no victory now to pay its huge national debt, and the government ignored good economical advice that came from top foreign experts. The inflation was such that a visiting US Congressman exchanged $7 for 4,000,000,000 DM, the German currency. Most Germans lost everything they had. They blamed the peace treaty compensations and "Jewish traders".
The political crisis that followed resulted in an emergency wide coalition, but also in new violent Communist riots. Eager for power, Hitler thought it's the right time for a revolution of his own. His supporters captured the members of the local government of the state of Bavaria, and he appointed himself the new political master of Bavaria. He marched 3000 of his supporters in the city, but then the police fired at them, and the "revolution" failed.
Hitler received a sentence of 5 years in prison, but thanks to the dominance of the "eastern" politicians, which included himself, his imprisonment was like a VIP hotel stay. Instead of a prison cell and prisoner's uniform, he was busy receiving guest politicians and fans six hours a day, wearing traditional Bavarian clothes, and in his 35th birthday, the flowers candies and presents he received filled several rooms.
Instead of 5 years, his imprisonment lasted just 9 months. During those months three things happened:
- Finally, following top international experts' advice, the government successfully stabilized the economy and started a period of several years of steady economical growth.
- The "western" German orientation lost its remaining popular support, and the German people began to steadily drift back to totalitarianism and militarism. The author D.H. Lawrence, who visited Germany in 1921 and again in 1924 noticed this dramatic drift in public orientation. He wrote "The Germans are disconnecting from the West and drift to the deserts of the East. Germany no longer seeks to join Western Europe and peacefulness. It's over. Germany is turning back to the destructive magic of the East that produced Atila. There is a disturbing sense of danger. There is no more hope for peace and prosperity. Instead there is a return to Tartar savagery and further from Christian European civilization. It happens, and it's deeper than any actual event." - an amazingly sensitive and breathtaking early observation, a precise warning 15 years! before the war began.
- Hitler formed his final ideological and practical political agenda. He detailed it in his book Mein Kampf (my struggle).
The main points of Hitler's mad "ideology" were that :
- International relations are an endless and merciless inter-racial struggle for domination.
- His "racial" division of mankind is a hierarchy, with the "Aryan race" (the Germans) as the master race at the top, followed by the "Nordic" peoples of northern Europe, followed by other nations and races, with the Slav peoples of Eastern Europe at the bottom, and the jews totally outside the hierarchy as a demonic arch-enemy of the Germans.
- As the master race, the Germans are entitled to, and must, expand their territory by merciless force, and enslave "Lower races".
- Particularly, the Germans should occupy the vast lands of Eastern Europe, enslave its peoples, exploit its endless natural and agricultural resources, and fill it with Germans.
- To be as strong as possible, the Germans must strictly keep their "Racial purity", and be led by a Fuhrer (leader) of total authority - Adolf Hitler.
- The jews, the "Arch enemy", should be eliminated.
- Hitler also believed that Communism, and particularly the Soviet Union, are in Jewish control. This doubled his motivation to attack Russia.
- Finally, with Eastern Europe's resources in their hands and with the jews out of the way, The 3rd Reich (Hitler referred to Nazi Germany as the 3rd German Empire in history) will be able to defeat all other nations and dominate the entire world "For at least a thousand years".
Hitler's meteoric political riseBetween 1924 and 1929, Hitler's party grew slowly, but then, a combination of a global economic crisis, that sharply increased unemployment to a peak of 43% and revived the worst fears of the previous crisis, that strengthened the communists, who returned to street violence, this combination brought fear, and Hitler rose meteorically over this wave of fear, promising Germans a return to the old ways and a bright future. His talent as a demagogue served him well in those years.
The German political system was in increasing chaos, with political street violence, frequent elections, very high unemployment, and general worry. Hitler openly declared that voting for him is a vote to end democracy. In May 1932 his electorate doubled to 37% .
His political opponents constantly misjudged him until it was too late, and so in January 30, 1933, at age 44, after two months of political negotiations, Adolf Hitler became the prime minister of Germany. It was supposed to be a coalition government, only 3 of the 12 cabinet members were Nazis, but Hitler now had the full authority of a prime minister, including emergency authorities, and got control of the police. In addition, he controlled his party's 500,000 strong "Brown shirts" militia that used brutal violence in city streets.
From prime minister to dictatorHitler used his new authority and acted swiftly. His friend Goebels once said "Once we get to power, we will never give it back unless we're taken out of our offices as dead corpses". 12 years later he and Hitler indeed finished their careers as dead corpses, but at this moment, in 1933, they were just seizing power.
At that night the Nazis celebrated their victory by marching outside the government offices. The next morning they took control of the police. Not just ministerial control. They replaced many senior police officers with Nazis. They expanded the secret police with Nazi officers. Four days later Hitler used his emergency authority to issue an order that allowed the government to close newspapers and ban public gatherings. A new "Auxillary police" of 50,000 Nazis was formed. Their order was to dismantle any non-Nazi organization that might express resistance. Hermann Goering clearly instructed them "Legal and beaurocratic aspects will not limit the means I'll use...My job is not justice. My job is to eliminate and destroy, that's all...If you use your pistols in following my orders, you're protected...If someone calls it murder, fine, I'm a murderer". In February 28th, after a month in power, Hitler issued two more emergency orders that "temporarily" allowed the Nazi-controlled police to bypass the legal system, which practically means that Hitler "legally" abolished ALL human rights (the order specified a long list of rights which were "canceled"), and gained total power. This order remained valid until the end of World War 2.
A month later, while surrounded by armed Nazi militia, the German Reichstag (Congress) voted to pass its legislative authority to Hitler. This allowed him to change the constitution, and passed the legislative authority of the president to Hitler. It was a move that cancelled legal government and gave Adolf Hitler total power. He was now "Der Fuhrer", The Leader. The opposition leaders were murdered, or fled. In June all other parties and their organizations were dismantled, and finally in July Hitler's party was declared the only legal party.
Backed by anti-democratic popular support, it took Hitler five months from the day he was appointed prime minister to complete the official establishment of a totalitarian police state in formerly democratic Germany. The actual change was much faster, because right from the beginning the Nazis practically ruled by using brutal force that murdered or permanently imprisoned anyone who dared to express disagreement, as Goering instructed his pseudo-legal Nazi policemen.
Every German quickly realized that anyone the Nazis dislike disappears, quickly and permanently. And so began an age of total terror, that continued until the end of World War 2. Hitler commended Hermann Goering for his brutality.
Adolf Hitler - Dictator of GermanyIn order to ensure his total personal control, Hitler designed a regime in which each power center had a rival parallel, or even two. Internal security for example, was the realm of not only the regular police, but also of the S.A militia, the S.S (the Nazi party's other private force that sworn personal loyalty to Hitler), the GESTAPO (security police). Hitler encouraged the rivalries under him. Each senior Nazi spied after his peers. They all informed Hitler. In addition to the regular army, a small "private" army, the "Waffen SS" was formed, and so on. He started working mainly at nights, no longer wrote anything by himself, and made all major decisions in private meetings, or alone. All his orders were verbal, never written.
Hitler didn't have an economical policy, but he did have a national policy - he wanted Germany to fully re-arm itself as soon as possible. That, and the natural strength of the German economy, reduced unemployment in 3 years to none, and later even created shortage of workers. He said "We don't have to nationalize the banks and factories. Instead we nationalized the people".
While he allowed the Nazi party to brutally dominate all other aspects of life, he kept it away from the industry and the military, because for his intended war he wanted them both to reach peak performance as soon as possible.
By the mid 1930s Adolf Hitler was a brutal, but successful and popular dictator. Everyone was employed again, and national dignity was restored. Employment was full partly because a huge chunk of the national budget was spent on very massive military production, the Nazi police state regime created a huge number of new jobs in the multiple police and party organizations, and also a very large number of former workers, both jews and political enemies, were now prisoners in large "Concentration camps".
Pre-war expansionNow Hitler was ready to begin a dramatic series of daring expansion moves. Each of those moves that succeeded without starting a war further enhanced Hitler image as a political-strategic genius, and increased his daring self-confidence. The main reasons for those successes were that the deeply pacifist war-traumatized Great Britain and France, which always preferred appeasement over confrontation, and Hitler, who made no mistakes until the end of 1938, repeatedly used two excuses for his expansion:
- "This is/was a German territory" or "There is a German population there that should be united with Germany"
- "This is my last demand, so why don't you accept it. You will not start a war for that".
Hitler's pre-war expansion steps were:
- In January 1935 he sent the German military to the neutral Saar region.
- In March 1936 he sent the German military to the demilitarized Rhine region.
- In March 1938 he annexed Austria
- In October 1938 he annexed the western part of Czechoslovakia.
- In March 1939 he annexed the rest of Czechoslovakia.
He now intended to dismantle and swallow Poland too, as he did to Czechoslovakia, using the threat of his military power to achieve conquest without fighting. But he didn't realize that his actions finally alarmed Great Britain, which realized that war is inevitable and decided not to accept Hitler's next move.
Hitler thought that his actions will not start a war with Great Britain. He intended to head East, through Poland, and finally be in position to execute the next step of his global plan, to attack the Soviet Union. He intended to confront the British Empire and the rest of the world only after occupying Russia and after his plan to build a huge oceanic German Navy (plan Z) will be complete, circa 1944.
So in March 1939, right after the annexation of Czechoslovakia, he cancelled the German-Polish non-aggression pact. Just 3 days later the British government guaranteed Polish independence.
Since he was not going to stop, and since Great Britain and France began to negotiate a military pact with the Soviet Union, Hitler made a very surprising move. He signed a non-aggression pact with his near future prey, the Soviet Union, in which the two dictatorships also secretly agreed that they will both invade Poland and divide it between them.
World War 2In August 22nd, 1939, based on his experience so far, the confident Hitler told his Generals that Great Britain and France will not declare war in response to an invasion of Poland. This was his first big mistake. He didn't realize that when forced to confront someone like himself, the pacifist West finally had no options left but to fight.
A few days later, in September 1st, 1939, the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe, the German army and Air Force, attacked Poland in a way that shocked the world with its speed and efficiency. This was Blitzkrieg ("Lightning war"), a new powerful tactic that coordinated and concentrated the power and mobility of tanks and aircraft to a devastating force. Today's modern tactics are a direct descendant of Blitzkrieg.
Hitler's entire career was a countdown to war. He wanted it since 1918, and now he started it.
Like in most wars, it did not progress as the aggressor expected. He had great victories, but his obsessive involvement with the professional management of the war, first strategically and later at the daily tactical level, with less and less attention to his Generals advise, resulted in several fatal mistakes that resulted in his defeat. During the war he executed his plan to an organized mass murder of the millions of jews among the populations of the countries under his control. About six million European jews were murdered before the war ended, in various ways, from plain shooting, to starvation of prisoners, to murder by poison gas in death camps. Millions of Slavs, both civilians and captured soldiers, were also murdered in various ways, following Hitler's commands that explicitly demanded maximum cruelty. Tens of millions died in the war itself.
As years pass, some neo-Nazis, anti-semitics, and plain ignorants, try to claim that this unprecedented mass murder and mass brutality did not happen, or that it was "Not that bad", or that the numbers were not so big.
It's important to emphasize that there is plenty of detailed and absolutely undisputed evidence that this mass evil, both in detail and in numbers, did happen. And as General Eisenhower said, as he personally witnessed the remaining piles of dead bodies and the extremely starved survivors : "The world must know what happened, and never forget".In April 30th, 1945, at age 56, still a bachelor, Adolf Hitler's struggle for world domination ended in total defeat. With advancing Soviet forces less than a mile away from his underground bunker in Berlin, he married his mistress, and right after the brief wedding they committed suicide in their private room. She took poison and he fired a pistol at his head. Their bodies were burned.