Childhood

Born on April 20, 1889 to Alois Schickelgruber Hitler and Klara Poelzl in Braunau, Austria. A fourth child of the two, two of his other siblings died from diphtheria, and one died right after birth. His father was a customs official, a bastard (the original definition of the word), and was described by a maid as a "very strict but comfortable" man. Adolf was loved and loved by his mother and loved her back.

When he was three, the family moved to Passau, on the German side of the the Inn River. A brother, Edmond, was born two years later. The family moved again in 1895 to the farm community of Hafeld, southwest of Linz. Another sister, Paula, was born a year later, the sixth child. The family was filled out now, along with a half-brother and half-sister from one of his father's previous marriages (2).

They moved again, and Adolf lived six months across from a Benedictine monastery. The monastery's coat of arms' had a swastika. Adolf wanted to be a priest. There has been anecdotal evidence that Adolf's father regularly beat him, but it was not unusual for discipline to be physical during that time.

By 1900, Hitler's was recognized to be a somewhat talented artist. He was good enough in school to attend the university preparatory "gymnasium" or the technical/scientific Realschule. Due to a drawing course, Adolf’s father decided to enroll him in the Realschule, which was acceptable to Adolf. He did not do well in school after this.

Alois Schickelgruber, his father, died in 1903 due to a pleural hemorrhage. Adolf wasn’t exactly totally healthy, either, and had regular lung infections. He quit school at 16, partially ill health and partially school work.

In 1906, Adolf visited Vienna, but was unable get admitted to art school.

His mother developed breast cancer and was treated by Dr. Edward Bloch, a Jewish doctor who served poor people. An operation later, and excruciatingly painful and expensive treatments with dangerous drugs, she died in agony on December 21, 1907. This hit Hitler particularly hard. He was truly a momma’s boy.

Hitler spent six years in Vienna, living on a small inheritance from father and an orphan's pension. Dead broke by 1909, he lived as a transient, sleeping in bars, flophouses, and shelters for the homeless, (including those financed by Jewish philanthropists). Off and on he would sell watercolor paintings. This didn't really work out for him. (We may want see the upcoming film Max, with John Cusack, which seems potentially interesting.)

During this his prejudices about Jews grew, as did his interest in politics. He honed his debating skills. John Toland’s biography claims that two of his closest friends at this time were Jewish, and Adolf admired Jewish art dealers and Jewish operatic performers and producers. Despite this, Vienna was a center of anti-Semitism, and the media portrayed Jews as scapegoats with stereotyped attributes. (For a cool fictional account of some of this, read Henry James’ Midnight Song.)


WWI and Hitler

In May 1913, Hitler left Vienna for Munich, the capital of Bavaria to avoid military service, living off money from a dying aunt. In January, police came with a draft notice from Austria. They threatened a year in prison and a fine for leaving his native land with the intent of evading conscription. Hitler was arrested and taken to the Austrian Consulate. When he arrived at Salzburg for duty, he was found "unfit...too weak...and unable to bear arms."

This did not end his military involvment, however.

World War I was offically started by the assassination of the heir to the Austrian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serb. Hitler's biases, particularly Slavs, were inflamed. Caught up in the patriotism of the time he petitioned to enlist in the Bavarian army.

Less than two months of training later, Hitler's regiment saw its first combat near Ypres, against Belgians and British. Hitler nearly died in battle several times, and was awarded two Iron Crosses for bravery. He was eventually awarded the rank of lance corporal. In October 1916, he was wounded by a shell and taken to a Berlin hospital. After serving four years in the trenches, he was temporarily blinded by a mustard gas attack in Belgium in October 1918. (October doesn’t seem to be his month.)

Communist insurrections ran through Germany while Hitler was recovering. Jews were sometime leaders of these unsuccessful revolutions, and this helped spread hatred of Jews as well as Communists. On November 9th, the Kaiser abdicated and the Socialists gained control. Anarchy was more like it.


The state of the state.

With the loss of the WWI, the German monarchy came to an end, and replaced with a republic. A constitution was written, a President with political and military power and a parliamentary. National elections were held to elect 423 people to the National Assembly. Centrist parties were popular. This became what was known as the Weimar Republic.

On June 28, 1919, the government ratified the Treaty of Versailles. Under the terms of the treaty which ended hostilities, Germany had to pay reparations for all civilian war damages. Germany also lost colonies and large portions of territory. A 30-mile strip on the right bank of the Rhine was demilitarized. Limits were placed on German military strength. The terms of the treaty were humiliating, and condemnation of its terms undermined the government and was a beacon for those like Hitler who believed Germany was destined for greatness.

Soon after the WWI, Hitler joined a military intelligence unit and kept up on the German Worker's Party, which, at the time, had only a handful of members, was disorganized, and had no program, but its members views rang sympathetically with Hitler's. He saw this party as a vehicle to reach his ends. His hatred of the Jews grew and became part of the political platform. Hitler built up the party, from a de facto discussion group to an real political party. Advertising for party meetings appeared in anti-Semitic newspapers.

The turning point of Hitler's mesmerizing oratorical career occurred at one meeting held on October 16, 1919. Hitler's impromptu speech captivated his audience. Word of mouth spread, donations poured into the party's, and subsequent mass meetings attracted hundreds of Germans to hear the young, forceful, and hypnotic leader.

With the assistance of his staff, Hitler drafted a program consisting of twenty-five points. This was presented at a public meeting on February 24, 1920, with over 2,000 participants. After hecklers were removed by supporters armed with rubber truncheons and whips, Hitler drew in the audience with his demagoguery. Jews were the target. Some of the 25 points were revoking the Versailles Treaty, confiscating war profits, expropriating land without compensation for use by the state, revoking civil rights for Jews, and expelling Jews who had emigrated into Germany after the war began.

The following day, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were published in a local anti-Semitic newspaper. Soon after, treatment of the Jews was a major theme of Hitler's orations, and the blaming of Jews for inflation, political instability, unemployment, and the humiliation, found a audience. Jews got tied to "internationalism" by Hitler. The party name was changed to the National Socialist German Worker's party, and the red flag with the swastika was the party symbol. In a shrewd move, a local newspaper which appealed to anti-Semites was going bankrupt--Hitler raised funds to purchase it for the party.

January 1923, Belgian and French troops march into Germany to settle a reparations dispute. This occupation had an adverse effect on the economy, and was disliked intensely by the population. The party benefited by the reaction, and exploited it by holding protest rallies despite a ban by the local police.

The Nazi party drew thousands of members, many victims of hyper-inflation and found comfort in blaming Jews. The price of an egg was 30 million times its original price 10 years ago. Economic upheaval is nearly always tied with political upheaval, and 1920s Germany was not an exception.


Aborted Revolution

The Bavarian government accused the Weimar Republic of being too far left. Hitler wanted the Weimar Republic to fall, and declared at a public rally on October 30, 1923 that he was prepared to march on Berlin to rid the government of the Communists and Jews. On November 8, 1923, Hitler held a rally at a Munich beer hall and proclaimed revolution. The next day, he led 2,000 "brown-shirts," who were armed, in an attempt to take over the Bavarian government. This coup was put down--more than a dozen were killed. Hitler’s arm was dislocated and broken in the fighting, was arrested, and imprisoned at Landsberg. He got a five-year sentence.


Mein Kampf

Hitler served nine months of his term. In prison, he dictated the first volume of Mein Kampf to Rudolf Hess. Partly autobiographical, it also detailed his views on the future of the German people. He attacked democrats, Communists, internationalists, and more. He reserved most of his viciousness for the Jews, whom he portrayed as responsible for all evils of the world, specifically democracy, Communism, and internationalism, as well as Germany's defeat in WWI. Jews were Germany’s true enemy, he wrote. They had no culture of their own, he asserted, but perverted existing ones, like Germany's with their parasitism. They were not a race, but an anti-race.

"[The Jews'] ultimate goal is the denaturalization, the promiscuous bastardization of other peoples, the lowering of the racial level of the highest peoples as well as the domination of his racial mishmash through the extirpation of the folkish intelligentsia and its replacement by the members of his own people," he wrote. The German people were of the highest racial purity and destined to be the master race, at least according to Hitler. To maintain purity, it was necessary to avoid intermarriage with subhuman races such as Jews and Slavs.

Germany could stop the Jews from conquering the world by eliminating them. Also, Germany needed to find Lebensraum, living space, without which German culture would decay. This living space, Hitler continued, would come from conquering Russia (which was under the control of Jewish Marxists, he believed) and the Slavic countries. This empire would be launched after democracy was eliminated and a "Führer" called upon to rebuild the German Reich.

A second volume of Mein Kampf was published in 1927 and had a history of the Nazi party to that time and programs, as well as a primer on how to obtain and retain political power, howtos on propaganda and terrorism, and building a political organization.

The book sold more than five million copies by the start of World War II.


The Rise of the Third Reich

After he got out of jail, and a ban on the Nazi Party was lifted, Hitler decided to seize power constitutionally rather than by force. Using his amazing demagogic oratory, Hitler spoke to huge audiences, calling for the German people to resist the Jews and Communists, and to create a new empire which would rule the world for 1,000 years.

Hitler's Nazi party captured 18% of the popular vote in the 1930 elections. Febuary, 1932, Hitler became an official German citizen. Later that year, he ran for President and won 30% of the vote, forcing the eventual victor, Paul von Hindenburg, into a runoff election. A deal was made to make Hitler chancellor in exchange for political support. He was appointed to that office in January 1933. He was not elected to this position, though he had popular support, generally.

However, president Hindenburg died in August 1934, Hitler was the obvious successor. The economy was improving, and Hitler claimed credit. He consolidated his power as a dictator, having eliminated challenges from other parties and institutions. The German industrial machine was built up for war. By 1937, he put his master plan, as outlined in Mein Kampf, into effect. He called his military aides together for the "Führer Conference" in November 1937, he outlined his plans for world domination. Those who objected were dismissed.

Hitler annexed Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938. Then invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, sparking France and England to declare war on Germany. A Blitzkrieg (lightning war) of tanks and infantry swept through Western Europe.


Occult Influences in the Nazi Party

Heinrich Himmler seems to be the main proponant of occult activities. From promoting sex in cemetaries where war heros were buried to help create a new master race. But Hitler followed along pretty vigorously. Nazi Archeologists were sent as far as Tibet looking for evidence of the master race. This is an entirely facinating subject, and totally worthy of its own node


The Beginning of end

Hitler ignored a non-aggression pact he had signed with the Soviet Union in August 1939. Several victories against the Soviet Union were reversed with defeats at Moscow (December 1941) and Stalingrad (Winter, 1942-43). The United States entered the war in December 1941. By 1944, Allies invaded Europe at Normandy Beach on the French coast, German cities were being dismantled by bombing, and Italy, Germany's major ally under the leadership of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, had fallen.

There were several assassination attempts Hitler's life during the war, but none was successful. As he realized that the war was lost and his hand-picked lieutenants, seeing the end being near, defied his orders, he killed himself on April 30, 1945. His long-term girlfriend and recent bride, Eva Braun, joined him. He shot himself in the mouth and they were brought to Reich Chancellary, covered in petrol and burned

By that time, two-thirds of European Jewry had been annihalated.


A couple small facts w/r/t Hitler:

Liked water sports.
Claimed to have painted over one thousand paintings.
Claimed up to three paintings a day.
Ordered all forged works destroyed.
Main criticism w/r/t his art was that he lacked creativity.
1938 Time Magazine Man of the Year.

The popular view of Hitler is that he is a terrible person, one who killed people such as Jews and that he is a merciless, demonic man. Although most of this is true, there is another side to him, quite a warm and culturallly interested one.

When he failed his examinations at a special school, he dropped out at sixteen. He eventually went to Vienna, to become an art student. But the Academy rejected him, so he made a living by doing odd-jobs and painting postcards and selling them in the streets. During this time he began to support nationalist parties, and began to hate foreigners, such as Jews. He also regularly visited the Vienna Opera House, he sat in the cheap seats at the back as he couldn’t afford anything. He went once or twice a week, and his chosen operas included ones by Wagner, who was heavily influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, who some people think supported racism.

Hitler was also a ‘film buff’ and in his later years of 'success', watched one or two films every night, the German film industry simply could not keep up with his demand, so his favourite films were repeated. He also had a girlfiend called Eva Braun, who he liked to go mountain-walking with.

Even after failing as an artist he liked to eat at an artist’s cafe in Vienna, along with his anti-semite comrades.

Disclaimer: my first attempt at noding my homework...

Hitler as a person

Many journalists have tried to analyze Hitler's psyche, from the decisive influences in his childhood, over the rejections he experienced as the artist he wanted to be, to his relationship to women as a grown-up (e.g., Guido Knopp has written a whole book about "Hitler's Women", which was aired as one episode of a - rather populistic - Guido Knopp tv series about Hitler in Germany, too), always trying to find the crucial motives that made such a monster out of this person.

In my history class, the same discussions were started over and over again when coming to Hitler, but I still keep considering looking at the whole "Third Reich" item from this point of view as precarious, because it can easily distract from the more essential issues.

I'm sure Germany, as any other country, has always had, and will always have, a Hitler, that is: Any kind of brutal, pathologically mislead tyrant, obviously lacking everything usually considered as "human" ("human" in the positive sense). The question is whether this person has the opportunity (a society which will provide enough support, or, at least, enough lack of interest, as well as political and financial "mentors" and a matching point in historical development) to realize what would otherwise just stay the megalomaniac fantasies of a poor moron who might as well work as a street sweeper or a dentist or a shopkeeper, mentioned in the newspapers only in his obituary.

And who knows, if things had worked out differently, Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler might have been some unimportant civil servants as well. But, in fact, they happened to find things settled for their purposes, and this is the really terrible thing. Although the best national election results the NSDAP ever managed were only 43,9 percent (on March 5, 1933)1, and despite the nonvoters, this was obviously sufficient for their intentions. And the public gets what the public wants...


1Informationen zur politischen Bildung 123/126/127, "Der Nationalsozialismus", Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Bonn, Germany, 1991.

Why did Hitler become Chancellor?

In 1918, Germany left the First World War (WW1) having lost to the Allies and signing an armistice. The years that followed were dire; having signed the Treaty of Versailles the country was in great debt and in the midst of an economic disaster. There were high unemployment levels and hyperinflation occurred, making Germany an almost impossible place to live in comfortably. The Weimar Republic, a new German government, was formed on 6 February 1919 and was a coalition government, leading to disagreements within the Reichstag and making major changes near impossible. This left the people of Germany deeply unsatisfied and wanting a new government promising new ideas.

In the midst of this unhappiness within Germany, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party was growing in popularity under new leadership from a man named Adolf Hitler. The party, nicknamed the Nazi Party, grew from membership of 50 in January 1919 to over 50000 in 1923. They made it clear that they did not agree with the Treaty of Versailles and wanted only people of the German race to be citizens of Germany. The party continued to grow in popularity and on 30 January 1932 Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany. There were many factors involved in this rise to power which Hitler used to his advantage, though he had less control over some than others.

It can be argued that a main reason for Hitler becoming the Chancellor of Germany was his character and personality. After being jailed for nearly a year in 1924 for high treason, Hitler decided to continue his fight to become leader of Germany. Instead of continuing with his illegal tactics in order to gain control, he decided to change the Nazi Party’s tactics to overthrow the government. He described this by saying “...we shall have to hold our noses and enter the Reichstag.” This was Hitler’s way of saying that the Nazis must gain control through the Reichstag, the German Parliament, rather than using illegal tactics.

Hitler’s speeches were also a great help to the Nazi propaganda campaign. It can be argued that his ability to manipulate situations within Germany was his greatest strength. He used the situation within the country - the aftermath of the Great Depression, the Weimar Republic and the unsatisfaction of the German people - to gain support from the German public. He showed the public that he identified with their unhappiness and would therefore want to change Germany into a better, happier place to live.

Following hyperinflation, the faith that the German people put into their economy was gone and no one would trust the value of money. This was worsened by the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Hyperinflation made all money worthless and bartering became common. Hyperinflation was worse for people who lived on a fixed wage such as a pension. Workers could ask for a pay rise but pensioners had no way of doing this. Monetary value could change within a day. This was part of the reasons why Germans were so unsatisfied with their government, and Hitler manipulated this unsatisfaction to his own advantage. Hitler’s Nazi Party were a new start for Germany and they used this propaganda technique to gain support from the German people. Playing on the unhappiness of others to gain power for Hitler and the Nazis was an intelligent method for Hitler to become Chancellor.

WW1 was also a factor in the unhappiness of German natives and one that the Nazi Party used to gain power. Hitler openly called the signers of the armistice “the November criminals” - as a strong patriot, he believed that Germany could have won the war and should not have surrendered. This appealed to other patriots of Germany.

As well as all of these manipulative tactics, the Nazis also used illegal methods of gaining power. Stormtroopers went into Communist and Socialist Democrat meetings to break them up and attacked people there. This could have scared people into supporting the Nazi Party and was therefore a factor in Hitler becoming Chancellor.

Hindenburg, the German President, had two Chancellors in eight months. Neither had the support of the German public or the Reichstag - Papen, the first of the two, had only 68 supporters in the Reichstag - and therefore did not survive in the Reichstag. The Reichstag would not agree to Schleicher, the second Chancellor’s decisions, and so he asked Hindenburg to rule by decree. However, only weeks previous to this Schleicher had warned of civil war if Papen had ruled by decree, and Hindenburg was therefore suspicious. He refused the request to rule by decree and asked Schleicher to resign. Hitler was the leader of the largest party in the Reichstag, and was asked to be Chancellor.

All of these factors contributed to Hitler becoming Chancellor. However, Hitler’s ability to manipulate situations both in and out of his control can be argued as his largest asset in the struggle to become Chancellor. This ability meant that he could gain power from circumstances even out of his control, such as the Wall Street Crash, the Great Depression and the hyperinflation. If Hitler could only use situations within his control for his own purposes then there would have been a limit to the support he would gain. However, being able to manipulate situations out of his reach meant that there was no limit to the support he could gain and therefore becoming Chancellor became a much easier task.

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