Who was Hitler? – Adolf Hitler changed the history of the 20th century. Self-taught and a brilliant orator, he spread his Nazi ideology throughout Germany. Leader of the Nazi party from 1921, appointed Chancellor in 1933, his dictatorship was established from 1934, when he became the “Führer”. Faced with its military policy of annexation of territories, the Second World War became inevitable.
As he had announced in his book Mein Kampf, he implemented the “Final Solution” intended for the extermination of the Jews. 6 million people died in the concentration camps (Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, handicapped).
Young Adolf Hitler
Born in 1889 in Braunau am Inn (Austria), Adolf Hitler was the fourth child of a customs officer and a mother of peasant origin. The young Adolf, who would have suffered the violence of his father, becomes an orphan at the age of fourteen. A mediocre student, he abandoned his studies at the age of sixteen. He leads a bohemian existence, frequenting theaters. He appreciates the music of Wagner and is interested in architecture.
Adolf Hitler et la peinture
Painting initially played a key role in Adolf Hitler’s career, since he tried twice and without success to enter the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, in 1907 and 1908. financial, the one who receives a small orphan’s pension, paints and sells paintings to earn a living. He discovers writings advocating anti-parliamentarianism, pan-Germanism, racism, nationalism and forges his own convictions. He has a great contempt for the masses and thinks that the Jewish people are the source of all the problems that the German nation knows. . Hitler moved to Munich to escape military service in the Austrian army. His attempt fails. But a medical examination by the Austrian authorities declares him unfit for weak constitution. Hitler returns to Germany.
Hitler and the Great War 1914-1918: serving in the Bavarian army
When World War I broke out, Hitler volunteered. He was wounded twice and received the Iron Cross 1st Class. At the end of the war in 1918, he remained in the Army and returned to Munich. In 1919, he witnessed the repression of the far left revolution. He participates in a commission investigating these events. He then receives the mission to fight Marxist ideas and begins to make propaganda.
Hitler’s Speeches and the Nazi Party
Hitler joined the Small German Workers’ Party (DAP) in 1919, which became the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) the following year . In 1921, he became Führer or president of this party which then had more than 3,000 militants. Hitler organizes meetings to spread his ideas which become the basis of Nazi ideology. A talented orator, his speeches gained in popularity and he became one of the key figures on the Bavarian political scene.
My struggle: le livre d’Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler tries to seize power by force on November 8, 1923 but the Munich putsch fails. Hitler is arrested. During his trial, he claims to be an outraged patriot and wins the sympathy of all German nationalists. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but only spent nine months there during which he wrote Mein Kampf (My fight), which appeared in 1925. This experience made him understand that if he wanted to become the head of the nation German, he will have to do it legally.
He was released during the general amnesty of 1924. Hitler changed his party. It was at this time that he met Joseph Goebbels. The NSDAP sees its popularity skyrocket between 1928 and 1932. The unstable political climate and the catastrophic economic situation following the crisis of 1929 contribute to the success of the party. In the 1930 elections, the party obtained 107 seats in the Reichstag. Hitler continued his propaganda, attributing the country’s poor economic situation to Jews and Communists. His followers (Göring, Goebbels, Rosenberg) set up a veritable cult of personality. Hitler appears to be the man Germany needs.
The President of the German Republic, Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, refuses for a time to appoint Hitler chancellor, although the NSDAP achieves important scores in the regional elections. The climate is deteriorating considerably and the country is on the verge of civil war. It was in this context that President Hindenburg decided against his will to appoint Hitler to the Reich Chancellery on January 30, 1933 . He has no sympathy for the leader of the National Socialist Party whom he calls a “bohemian corporal”. In his entourage, he is pushed by the former Chancellor Franz von Papen and the magnate of the nationalist press Alfred Hugenberg. The two men hoped to recover the popularity of the NSDAP for their benefit and to be able to control its charismatic leader.
Hindenburg instructs the new chancellor to form a government of “national concentration”. The new cabinet includes three members of the Nazi party in strategic places: Hitler at the head of the government, Göring as interior commissioner for Prussia and Frick at the interior ministry. On the night of February 27, 1933, a fire ravaged the Reichstag . Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe is arrested at the scene of the fire. He is immediately designated as guilty by the new chancellor, who sees in this criminal act a communist plot. The National Socialist Party (NSDAP) seized on the accident to proceed with the elimination of the German Communists. The next day, 4,000 CP officials were arrested.
The day after this event, the President of the Reich promulgates an ordinance which establishes a state of emergency and gives all powers to the government. The dictatorship is set up and the repression against political opponents develops. The prohibition of the Communist party and the support of the conservatives generate a new victory of the NSDAP at the time of the elections of March 1933. On March 23, the vote of a “law of authorization” gives for four years full powers to Hitler. Hitler now has free rein to ban all unions and political parties. All signs of disagreement are repressed and the Gestapo , the secret police, reigns fear.
On the night of June 30, 1934, called “the Night of the Long Knives” , Hitler ordered the army to arrest and kill various political opponents, including Ernst Röhm and Franz von Papen. On the death of Hindenburg on August 2, 1934, Hitler succeeded him as Reich President and combined the positions of Chancellor and Führer. Hitler takes anti-Semitic measures with the Nuremberg Laws in 1935. Jews, political opponents and democrats are sent to concentration camps. On March 16, 1935, the Führer reinstated compulsory military service. Germany was “brought into line” by Hitler and his party.
Hitler and World War II
Based on the idea of belonging to a superior race (the Aryan race), Hitler decided to annex the bordering German-speaking countries ( Anschluss ): Austria, Czechoslovakia. Faced with the invasion of Poland by Germany to ensure a “living space”, the international community reacts and the Second World War breaks out. In 1940, the German armies invaded Denmark and Norway, then the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Hitler becomes master of much of Europe. The Führer adopts paying strategies, but he is sometimes too ambitious as in Stalingrad. He pays little attention to the opinions of experienced generals.
In 1941, Hitler’s troops entered the Soviet Union. Anticipating a quick war, Hitler did not anticipate provisions for the winter. The German armies progress, are stopped in the near region of Moscow, then undergo the counter-attack of the Soviet armies in December 1941. Occupied on the eastern front, Hitler forsakes a little the Atlantic facade. Defeats make him more and more irritable. On July 20, 1944, the Führer escaped an assassination attempt orchestrated by Colonel Stauffenberg and a few other officers. He senses defeat looming and orders the destruction of all of Germany’s industrial infrastructure (an order only partially executed).
Hitler and the Shoah
Alongside the fighting, Adolf Hitler applies the “Final Solution”, which must lead to the extermination of the Jews. Six million people were killed in concentration and extermination camps . This policy of purifying the Aryan race began in 1939 with the disappearance of people with mental illnesses. The first ghettos make their appearance; Jews are herded into secure quarters. It is the beginning of the Holocaust. The first executions by bullets will be quickly replaced by gas trucks, then by the camps. The Jewish people are not the only ones concerned since Gypsies, homosexuals and political opponents will also be interned or killed.
Death of Adolf Hitler
On April 30, 1945, as Red Army troops entered Berlin, Adolf Hitler ended his life in his bunker. His mistress, Eva Braun, whom he married the day before, commits suicide with cyanide. In his will, the Führer designates Admiral Karl Dönitz as successor and asks that his body be burned. Since the day of his death in 1945, rumors have been piling up about the possibilities that Hitler did not die in his bunker. Most of them refer to his flight to South America, notably to Argentina. The FBI also fed the rumors by investigating his disappearance until 1956. Some websites try to prove, with supporting photographs, that such and such a person resembled the character, and feed the most eccentric hypotheses. In 2014, a Brazilian academic speculated that Adolf Hitler had died in 1984 at the age of 95 in Brazil.
Adolf Hitler: key dates
- April 20, 1889: Birth of Adolf Hitler
- Adolf Hitler was born in a small Austrian village, Braunau, in April 1889. The fourth child of a customs officer and a woman of peasant origin, he became an orphan at the age of fourteen.
- February 24, 1920: Hitler presents Nazi doctrine
- During a public meeting organized at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Adolf Hitler presented Nazi ideology for the first time to an audience of 2,000 people. He proposes, through the creation of a Nazi party, to create a “racist National Socialist state”. Hitler will publish his program book “Mein Kampf” (My fight) five years later, in 1925.
- January 30, 1933: Hitler Chancellor of Germany
- The President of the German Republic, Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, without conviction appoints Hitler to the Reich Chancellery. He is hostile to the leader of the National Socialist Party, whom he describes as a “bohemian corporal”. Hindenburg instructs Adolf Hitler to form a new government called “national concentration”. The new cabinet includes three members of the Nazi party who appear in strategic places: Hitler at the head of the government, Göring as interior commissioner for Prussia and Frick at the Ministry of the Interior. When Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, Hitler succeeded him as Reich President.
- February 27, 1933: Reichstag fire
- During the night, the German Parliament is set ablaze. Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe is arrested at the scene of the fire. He is immediately designated as guilty by the new Chancellor Adolf Hitler, who sees in this criminal act a communist plot. The National Socialist Party (NSDAP) seized on the accident to proceed with the elimination of the German Communists. The next day, 4,000 CP officials were arrested.
- March 16, 1935: Hitler restores military service
- German Chancellor Adolf Hitler announces the restoration of compulsory military service in Germany. At the same time he decides that the numbers of the army will be increased from 100,000 to 500,000 men. France, England and the United States, winners of the First World War, helplessly witness the first violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler no longer hides his desire to form an offensive and powerful army.
- September 15, 1935: Creation of the Nuremberg Laws
- In Nuremberg, during the Nazi Party Congress, Hitler promulgates his first anti-Semitic laws. It deprives Jews of German citizenship and also prohibits them from marrying or dating “Aryans”. Thirty months after the Nazis came to power, these laws inaugurated a process of exclusion that would lead to the “Final Solution”.
- March 7, 1936: Germany violates the Treaty of Versailles
- Wehrmacht troops occupy the demilitarized zone of Ruhr. The German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, declares null and void the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles by which Germany undertakes to demilitarize the Ruhr. If the Western powers rebel against this violation of international law, they do not take any concrete measures to counter Germany. Compulsory military service had already been illegally reinstated a year earlier. In 1938, the agreements on the borders will be flouted again when the Führer will order the invasion of Austria.
- March 13, 1938: Hitler carries out the Anschluss
- After the forced resignation of the Austrian Chancellor, Hitler orders his troops to invade Austria in the early morning. The Austrians acclaim the soldiers of the Reich, who encounter no difficulty in taking possession of the country. The German Chancellor will parade through his hometown, Braunau-am-Inn. He will proclaim the reunification of Austria and Germany in the name of the “Anschluss”, the “attachment”. Attempted in 1934 but aborted under the threat of Italy, this rapprochement between the two countries was prohibited by the Treaties of Versailles and Saint-Germain, yet the Western democracies did not react. A referendum organized by Hitler in Germany and Austria will massively approve this annexation. Austria, a new pawn on the Nazi chessboard, becomes the march of
- September 30, 1938: Signing of the Treaty of Munich
- During the night, Hitler, Mussolini and the two English and French Prime Ministers, Chamberlain and Daladier, sign an agreement in Munich on the status of Czechoslovakia. After twelve hours of negotiation and with the aim of avoiding a new European conflict, France and Great Britain give in to German ambitions. The Czechoslovak government, reluctant to admit this breach of the Treaty of Versailles and Saint-Germain-en-Laye, had to submit to the wishes of the great powers. Germany is the big winner of this meeting. Hitler invaded the Sudetenland the next day, thus beginning the dismantling of the only democracy in Central Europe. The Munich agreements would later become the symbol of the weakness of European democracies in the face of the rise of fascism.
- August 23, 1939: German-Soviet Pact
- The USSR and Germany sign a non-aggression pact in Moscow valid for 10 years. A secret protocol distributes their zone of influence in Eastern Europe. Hitler, who thus obtained the neutrality of the USSR, declared war on Poland on September 1. Stalin will then take the opportunity to attack Finland, annex the Baltic countries and invade Romania. This pact will be broken when Hitler launches an attack against the USSR on June 22, 1941.
- September 1, 1939: The Wehrmacht invades Poland
- Twenty years after the end of the First World War, which the survivors wanted as the “der des ders” (the last), Hitler, who seeks to ensure the “living space” of Germany, invades Poland. Two days later, Great Britain and France will declare war on Germany. It is the beginning of the Second World War, which will not end until 1945 and will cause more than 50 million deaths. The defeat of Poland, endowed with an obsolete army, will be rapid. The fate of Poland during the occupation will be particularly difficult.
- May 10, 1940: Hitler invades Belgium
- 7 months after the declaration of war by France and England, Germany breaks the western front. The Führer thus puts an end to the “phony war” by launching his armies on the Netherlands, Belgium and France. In a few days, 8 to 10 million Belgians and French people find themselves on the roads. The Dutch and Belgian general staffs capitulated on May 15 and 27. The Germans enter Paris on June 14 and Marshal Pétain asks for an armistice which will be signed on June 22.
- June 22, 1941: Operation “Barbarossa” in the USSR
- German troops enter the Soviet Union. Name of the operation: “Barbarossa”. Yet alerted by his secret services, Stalin did not expect Hitler to break the non-aggression pact signed two years earlier. Although an enemy of Bolshevism, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, immediately gave his support to the USSR. The Wehrmacht, initially victorious against a demoralized Red Army, will be stopped by winter before reaching Moscow. Considering the Slavs as subhuman and communism as their main enemy, the Nazis waged a much more cruel war in the USSR than in the west. This attitude will work against them, stimulating Russian patriotism among the entire population.
- July 20, 1944: Assassination attempt on Hitler
- Attending a meeting at Rastenburg headquarters, the “Führer” escapes an assassination attempt fomented by the German military nobility. Count Claus von Stauffenberg, Chief of Staff of the Home Army, organizes the attack with the aim of restoring the monarchy or at least setting up a conservative dictatorship. He himself places a booby-trapped suitcase under the meeting table and leaves the room. But the suitcase is fortuitously moved. It explodes around noon, far from Hitler. He is only slightly injured. Stauffenberg will be executed the same evening and replaced by Himmler.
- April 30, 1945: Hitler commits suicide
- As the Russian armies entered Berlin on April 30, 1945, Hitler committed suicide in his bunker with his companion, Eva Braun.