Hitler, Adolf (1889 — 1945)
Adolf Hitler was born on April 20 th 1889 in Braunau-am-Inn, Austria. The town is near to the Austro-German border, and his father, Alois, worked as a customs officer on the border crossing. In 1896, his mother Klara gave birth to Adolf ‘s sister, Paula, who survived to outlive him.
Adolf Hitler grew up with a poor record at school and left, before completing his tuition, with an ambition to become an artist he unsuccessfully applied for admission to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.
The Vagabond — 1909-1913
Klara Hitler died from cancer when Adolf was nineteen and from then onwards he had no relatives willing or able to support him. He had declined to take regular employment and took occasional menial jobs and sold some of his paintings or advertising posters whenever he could to provide sustenance. Munich and The Great War — 1913-1918 At the outbreak of the First World War, in 1914, he volunteered for service in the German army and was accepted into the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment . Hitler fought bravely in the war and was promoted to corporal and decorated with both the Iron Cross Second Class and First Class.
Early Politics — 1918-1919
Between December 1918 and March 1919 Hitler worked at a prisoner-of-war camp at Traunstein .He was asked to become part of a local army organization which was responsible for persuading returning soldiers not to turn to communism or pacifism. During his training for this tasks and during his subsequent duties he was able to hone his oratory skills. As part of his duties he was also asked to spy on certain local political groups.
The First Hofbrauhaus Speech — 1919-1920
Given responsibility for publicity and propaganda, Hitler first succeeded in attracting over a hundred people to a meeting held in October at which he delivered his first speech to a large audience.In February 1920 he organized a much larger event in the Munich Hofbrauhaus, and presented a twenty-five point programme of ideas which were to be the basis of the party. The name of the party was itself changed from German’s Workers Party to the National Socialist German Workers Party (or Nazi for short) on April 1st 1920.
Hitler continued to expand his influence in the party and began to form a private group of thugs which he used to quash disorder at party meetings and later to break up rival party’s meetings. This group subsequently became the Sturmabteilung or S.A. — Hitler’s brown shirted storm troopers. He also became the regular main speaker at party events from then onwards, attracting large crowds for each meeting. During the summer of 1920 Hitler chose the swastika as the Nazi party emblem.
Leader of the Nazi Party — 1921-
By 1921 Adolf Hitler had virtually secured total control of the Nazi party, and had its members to accept him as formal leader of the party with dictatorial powers. The Beer Hall Putsch — 1923
Up to November 1923 Hitler continued to build up the strength of the Nazi Party. On November 8th 1923 Hitler led an attempt to take over the local Bavarian Government in Munich in an action that became known as the "Beer Hall Putsch." The coup was not successful. It was ended on the morning of November 9th, when a column of three thousand SA men headed by Hitler and General Ludendorff (one of the most senior generals of the First World War) were halted on their way to the centre of Munich by armed police. Hitler had fled the scene and was later arrested and charged with treason. After his trial for treason he was sentenced to five years in Landsberg prison, however he had successfully used the trial itself to gain publicity for himself and his ideas. During his term in prison Hitler began dictating his thoughts and philosophies to Rudolf Hess which became the book "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle).
Re-Building the Nazi Party — 1924-1932
Hitler was released from Landsberg prison in December 1924 after serving only six months of his sentence. Then Hitler created the infamous SS (Schutzstaffel) which was initially intended to be Hitler’s bodyguard under the leadership of Heinrich Himmler.
The collapse of the Wall Street. stock exchange in New York 1929 led to a world wide recession which hit Germany especially hard. All loans to Germany from foreign countries dried up, German industrial production slumped and millions were made unemployed. These conditions were beneficial to Hitler and his Nazi campaigning. President Hindenburg was forced to dissolve the Reichstag and call for new elections. The Nazi Party won 6.4 million votes which made them the second largest party in the Reichstag. At this time Hitler also began to win over the support of both the army and the big industrialists, the latter contributing substantially to the finances of the Nazi Party.
Hitler Versus Hindenburg — 1932
In February 1932 Hitler decided to stand against Hindenburg in the forthcoming Presidential election. In order to do this he became a German citizen on 25th February 1932. In the 1932 presidential elections Hindenburg was re-elected to office and Hitler was forced to wait for another opportunity to win power.
Nazis Become the Largest Party — 1932
Hitler Becomes Chancellor — 1932-1933
In September 1932, the Nazi members of the Reichstag, together with support form the Center Party elected the prominent Nazi Herman Goering as President of the Reichstag (equivalent to House Speaker). Using his new position, Goering managed to prevent the Chancellor from presenting an order to dissolve the Reichstag, whilst a vote of no confidence in the Chancellor and his government was passed. On January 30th, 1933 President Hindenburg decided to appoint Hitler Chancellor in a coalition government with Papen as Vice-Chancellor.
The Burning of the Reichstag — February 1933
The penultimate step towards Adolf Hitler gaining complete control over the destiny of Germany were taken on the night of 27th February 1933 when the Reichstag was destroyed by fire. The fire was almost certainly planned by the Nazis, Goebbels and Goering in particular. A Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe, was made scapegoat for the fire, but the main outcome was that Hitler was given an excuse to have all the Communist deputies of the Reichstag arrested.
The Enabling Act — March 1933
Thus dictatorial powers were finally conferred, legally, on Adolf Hitler. By July 14th Hitler had proclaimed a law stating that the Nazi Party was to be the only political party allowed in Germany. The Nazification of Germany was underway.
The Night of the Long Knives — 1934
After the initial rise to power of the Nazis, many of them, including the head of the SA Ernst Roehm, wanted to see a further change in the power structure of Germany by taking over control of big businesses and installing the SA as the main army of Germany with the existing army subordinate to it. Hitler however thought differently and wanted to keep the German economy in good shape, reduce unemployment and enable him to quickly re-arm the Wehrmacht. To Hitler, the SA was purely a political force not a military one. In June Hitler ordered the SA to go on leave for the entire month. Hitler ordered Himmler and Goering to take action against the leaders of the SA. On June 30th 1934 Himmler’s SS and Goering’s special police arrested and executed the leaders of the SA, including Ernst Roehm, and many others not connected with the SA, but against whom the Nazi leaders had a score to settle.
The Death of Hindenburg August 1934
President Hindenburg died on August 2nd 1934. Hitler had already agreed with the Cabinet that upon Hindenburg’s death the offices of President and Chancellor would be combined. Having already ensured the support of the Army, Hitler went a step further by making the whole of the armed forces swear an oath of loyalty to him personally. A plebiscite was then held — 90% of voters gave their approval. Thus Hitler had become "Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor" and the title of President was then abolished.
"Nazification" — 1934-1937
During the years following Hitler’s consolidation of power he set about the "Nazification" of Germany and its release from the armament restrictions of the Versailles Treaty, function as a trade union. The churches were persecuted and ministers who preached non-Nazi doctrine were frequently arrested by the Gestapo and carted off to concentration camps. All youth associations were abolished and re-formed as a single entity as the Hitler Youth organisation. The Jewish population was increasingly persecuted and ostracised from society . Hostility towards Jews from other Germans was encouraged and even shops began to deny entry to Jews. From a very early stage, Hitler geared the German economy towards war. He appointed Dr. Hjalmar Schacht minister of economics with instructions to secretly increase armaments production. This put Germany on a total war economy and entailed strict control of imports, materials prices and wages as well as the creation of factories and industrial plants to produce essential war materials (e.g. synthetic rubber, fuels and steel). Workers were low paid and their freedom to move between jobs was increasingly restricted. Hitler was the law when it came to the judicial system and had the ultimate say over legal actions of any kind. Any judge who was not favourable to the Nazi regime was dismissed, and a "Special Court" for political crimes and a "Peoples Court" for accusations of treason were introduced. Both of these courts were controlled by the Nazi Party.
Breaking the Versailles Treaty — 1934-1937
Hitler ordered the army to be trebled in size, from the 100,000 man Versailles Treaty limit, to 300,000 men by October of 1934. In addition, Goering had also been tasked by Hitler with the training of air force pilots and the design of military aircraft. In March 1935 Hitler decided to take a gamble and test the resolve of Britain and France by authorising Goering to reveal to a British official the existence of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force).There was little reaction (its existence was already known anyway). At the same time that Hitler was increasing the strength of the armed forces, he was also following a policy of making speeches proclaiming a desire for peace and the folly of war.
The Re-militarisation of the Rhineland — 1936
On March 7th 1936 a small force of German troops marched across the Rhine bridges into the demilitarised areas of Germany towards Aachen, Trier and Saarbruecken. Thus, breaking the Locarno Pact of 1925.Immediately following the re-militarisation of the Rhineland areas, Hitler once again preached in public his desire for peace throughout Europe and offered to negotiate new non-aggression pacts with several countries including France and Belgium. At the same time rapid construction of German defensive fortifications began along the French and Belgian frontiers.
Weakening of Austrian Security and the Birth of the Axis — 1936
The security that Hitler had gained for Germany from the military stronghold in the Rhineland meant less security for those countries in Central Europe (e.g. Austria and Czechoslovakia) who were reliant on a swift response from France in the event of German aggression. This led the Austrian Government, headed by Dr. Schuschnigg, during the summer of 1936, to begin a course of appeasement of Hitler by, for example, giving Austrian Nazis influential positions within the government in return for a pledge from Hitler to confirm his recognition of Austrian sovereignty. The position of Austria was further undermined in October 1936 when the Italian dictator, Mussolini, who had previously pledged to maintain Austrian independence, formed an alliance with Hitler. This alliance, which became known as the Rome-Berlin Axis had been formed following the German and Italian support of fellow fascist, General Franco, in the Spanish Civil War. The Axis partnership included an agreement on a common foreign policy between the two countries.