Adolf Hitler Biography

Adolf Hitler 20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP), commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state (as Führer und Reichskanzler) from 1934 to 1945. Hitler is most commonly associated with the rise of fascism in Europe, World War II, and the Holocaust.

A decorated veteran of World War I, Hitler joined the German Workers' Party, precursor of the Nazi Party, in 1919, and became leader of the NSDAP in 1921. In 1923 Hitler attempted a coup d'état, known as the Beer Hall Putsch, at the Bürgerbräukeller beer hall in Munich. The failed coup resulted in Hitler's imprisonment, during which time he wrote his memoir, Mein Kampf (My Struggle). After his release in 1924, Hitler gained support by promoting Pan-Germanism, antisemitism, and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and propaganda. He was appointed chancellor in 1933 and transformed the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich, a single-party dictatorship based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideology of Nazism.

Hitler's avowed aim was to establish a New Order of absolute Nazi German hegemony in continental Europe. His foreign and domestic policies had the goal of seizing Lebensraum (living space) for the Germanic people. He oversaw the rearmament of Germany and the invasion of Poland by the Wehrmacht in September 1939, which led to the outbreak of World War II in Europe.[2]

Under Hitler's direction, German forces and their European allies at one point occupied most of Europe and North Africa. These gains were reversed in 1945 when the Allied armies defeated the German army. Hitler's racially motivated policies resulted in the deaths of as many as 17 million people,[3] including an estimated six million Jews and between 500,000 and 1,500,000 Roma targeted in the Holocaust.[4]

In the final days of the war, during the Battle of Berlin in 1945, Hitler married his long-time mistress, Eva Braun. On 30 April 1945—less than two days later— the two committed suicide to avoid capture by the Red Army, and their corpses were burned.[5]

Contents

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Early years

Ancestry

Adolf's mother, Klara

Hitler's father, Alois Hitler, was an illegitimate child of Maria Anna Schicklgruber. The name of Alois' father was not listed on Alois' birth certificate, and he bore his mother's surname.[6][7] In 1842 Johann Georg Hiedler married Maria, and in 1876 Johann testified before a notary and three witnesses that he was the father of Alois.[8] Despite his testimony, the question of Alois' paternity remained unresolved. For example, Hans Frank suggested the existence of letters claiming that Alois' mother was employed as a housekeeper for a Jewish family in Graz and that the family's 19-year-old son, Leopold Frankenberger, had fathered Alois.[7]. No Frankenberger, Jewish or otherwise, is registered in Graz for that period.[9] This claim remained unsupported, however, and Frank himself did not believe that Hitler had Jewish ancestry.[10] The suggestion that Alois' father was Jewish was also doubted by historians in the 1990s,[11][12] and Ian Kershaw dismisses the Frankenberger story as a "smear" by Hitler's adversaries. Kershaw noted that there was no evidence for a family named Frankenberger living in Graz at the time. All Jews had been expelled from Graz under Maximilian I in the 15th century, and were not allowed to settle in Styria until the Basic Laws were passed in 1849.[9][12]

At age 39 Alois assumed the surname Hitler, also spelled as Hiedler, Hüttler, or Huettler; the name was probably regularised to its final spelling by a clerk. The origin of the name is either "one who lives in a hut" (Standard German Hütte), "shepherd" (Standard German hüten "to guard", English heed), or is from the Slavic words Hidlar and Hidlarcek.[13]

Childhood

Adolf Hitler was born on 20 April 1889 at around 6:30 pm at the Gasthof zum Pommer, an inn in Ranshofen,[14] a village annexed in 1938 to the municipality of Braunau am Inn, Upper Austria. He was the third of five children to Alois Hitler and Klara Pölzl. Adolf's older siblings – Gustav and Ida – died in infancy.[15] Psychologist Erich Fromm describes the mother and father as "stable, well-intentioned" people.[16] Hitler was attached to his mother, who is thought to have pampered him in his early years. His father was a hard-working self-made man who secured a comfortable livelihood for the family. Though often described as a tyrant, Alois' character conformed to the authoritarian type of his age, milieu, and class. There is no evidence he ever beat his son.[17]

Adolf Hitler as an infant (c. 1889/1890)

At the age of three, his family moved to Kapuzinerstrasse 5[18] in Passau, Germany. There, Hitler would acquire the distinctive lower Bavarian dialect, rather than Austrian German, which marked his speech all of his life.[19][20][21] In 1894, the family relocated to Leonding near Linz, and in June 1895, Alois retired to a small landholding at Hafeld near Lambach, where he tried his hand at farming and beekeeping. Adolf attended school in nearby Fischlham, and in his free time, he played "Cowboys and Indians". Hitler became fixated on warfare after finding a picture book about the Franco-Prussian War among his father's belongings.[22][23]

The move to Hafeld appears to have coincided with the onset of intense father-son conflicts, because Adolf refused to conform to strict school discipline.[24] Alois Hitler's farming efforts at Hafeld ended in failure, and in 1897 the family moved to Lambach. Hitler attended a Catholic school in an 11th-century Benedictine cloister, the walls of which bore engravings and crests that contained the symbol of the swastika.[18] In Lambach the eight-year-old Hitler sang in the church choir, took singing lessons, and even entertained thoughts of one day becoming a priest.[25] In 1898, the family returned permanently to Leonding. The death of his younger brother, Edmund from measles on 2 February 1900 deeply affected Hitler. He changed from being confident and outgoing and an excellent student, to a morose, detached, and sullen boy who constantly fought his father and his teachers.[26]

Alois had made a successful career in the customs bureau and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. Hitler later dramatised an episode from this period when his father took him to visit a customs office, depicting it as an event that gave rise to a unforgiving antagonism between father and son who were both equally strong-willed.[27][28][29]

Ignoring his son's desire to attend a classical high school and become an artist, in September 1900 his father sent Adolf to the Realschule in Linz, a technical high school of about 300 students. (This was the same high school that Adolf Eichmann would attend some 17 years later.)[30] Hitler rebelled against this decision, and in Mein Kampf revealed that he did poorly in school, hoping that once his father saw "what little progress I was making at the technical school he would let me devote myself to my dream."[31]

Hitler became obsessed with German nationalism from a young age as a way to rebel against his father, who proudly served the Austrian government. Although many Austrians considered themselves Germans, they were loyal to Austria. Hitler expressed loyalty only to Germany, despising the declining Habsburg Monarchy and its rule over an ethnically-variegated empire.[32][33] Hitler and his friends used the German greeting "Heil", and sang the German anthem "Deutschland Über Alles" instead of the Austrian Imperial anthem.[34]

After Alois' sudden death on 3 January 1903, Hitler's behaviour at the technical school became even more disruptive, and he was asked to leave in 1904. He enrolled at the Realschule in Steyr in September 1904, but upon completing his second year, he and his friends went out for a night of celebration and drinking. While drunk, Hitler tore up his school certificate and used the pieces as toilet paper. The stained certificate was brought to the attention of the school's principal, who "… gave him such a dressing-down that the boy was reduced to shivering jelly. It was probably the most painful and humiliating experience of his life."[35] Hitler was expelled, never to return to school again.

At age 15, Hitler took part in his First Communion on Whitsunday, 22 May 1904, at the Linz Cathedral.[36] His sponsor was Emanuel Lugert, a friend of his late father.[37]

Early adulthood in Vienna and Munich

From 1905, Hitler lived a bohemian life in Vienna with financial support from orphan's benefits and his mother. He was rejected twice by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (1907–1908), because of his "unfitness for painting", and was recommended to study architecture.[38] However, he lacked the academic credentials required for architecture school:

In a few days I myself knew that I should some day become an architect. To be sure, it was an incredibly hard road; for the studies I had neglected out of spite at the Realschule were sorely needed. One could not attend the Academy's architectural school without having attended the building school at the Technik, and the latter required a high-school degree. I had none of all this. The fulfilment of my artistic dream seemed physically impossible.[39]

The Courtyard of the Old Residency in Munich. Adolf Hitler, 1914

On 21 December 1907, Hitler's mother died of breast cancer at age 47; Hitler was devastated, and carried the grief from her death with him for the rest of his life. Ordered by a court in Linz, Hitler gave his share of the orphan's benefits to his sister Paula, and at the age of 21, he inherited money from an aunt. He struggled as a painter in Vienna, copying scenes from postcards and selling his paintings to merchants and tourists. After being rejected a second time by the Academy of Arts, Hitler ran out of money. In 1909, he lived in a shelter for the homeless, and by 1910, he had settled into a house for poor working men on Meldemannstraße. Another resident of the shelter, Reinhold Hanisch, sold Hitler's paintings, until the two men had a bitter falling-out.[40]

Hitler stated that he first became an antisemite in Vienna,[41] which had a large Jewish community, including Orthodox Jews who had fled the pogroms in Russia.

There were few Jews in Linz. In the course of centuries their outward appearance had become Europeanised and had taken on a human look; in fact, I even took them for Germans. The absurdity of this idea did not dawn on me because I saw no distinguishing feature but the strange religion. The fact that they had, as I believed, been persecuted on this account sometimes almost turned my distaste at unfavorable remarks about them into horror. Thus far I did not so much as suspect the existence of an organized opposition to the Jews. Then I came to Vienna.[41]

Once, as I was strolling through the Inner City, I suddenly encountered an apparition in a black caftan and black hair locks. Is this a Jew? was my first thought. For, to be sure, they had not looked like that in Linz. I observed the man furtively and cautiously, but the longer I stared at this foreign face, scrutinizing feature for feature, the more my first question assumed a new form: Is this a German?[42]

Hitler's account has been questioned by his childhood friend, August Kubizek, who suggested that Hitler was already a "confirmed antisemite" before he left Linz for Vienna. Brigitte Hamann has challenged his account, writing that "of all those early witnesses who can be taken seriously Kubizek is the only one to portray young Hitler as an anti-Semite and precisely in this respect he is not trustworthy."[43] If Hitler was an antisemite even before settling in Vienna, apparently he did not act on his views. He was a frequent dinner guest in a wealthy Jewish home: he interacted well with Jewish merchants, and sold his paintings almost exclusively to Jewish dealers.[44][45]

At the time Hitler lived there, Vienna was a hotbed of traditional religious prejudice and 19th-century racism. Fears of been overrun by immigrants from the East were widespread and the populist mayor, Karl Lueger, was adept at exploiting the rhetoric of virulent antisemitism for political effect. Georg Schönerer's pangermanic ethnic antisemitism had a strong following and base in the Mariahilf district, where Hitler lived.[46] Local newspapers like the Deutsches Volksblatt, which Hitler read, fanned prejudices, as did Rudolf Vrba's writings, which played on Christian fears of being swamped by an influx of eastern Jews.[47] He probably read occult writings, like the antisemitic magazine Ostara, published by Lanz von Liebenfels.[48] Hostile to what he saw as Catholic "Germanophobia", he developed a strong admiration for Luther.[49] Luther's foundational antisemitic writings were to play an important role in later Nazi propaganda.[50]

Hitler received the final part of his father's estate in May 1913 and moved to Munich. He wrote in Mein Kampf that he had always longed to live in a "real" German city. In Munich he further pursued his interest in architecture and studied the writings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who, a decade later, was to become the first person of national—and even international—repute to align himself with Hitler and the Nazi movement.[51] Hitler also may have left Vienna to avoid conscription into the Austrian army; he was disinclined to serve the Habsburg state and was repulsed by what he perceived as a mixture of "races" in the Austrian army.[52] After a physical exam on 5 February 1914, he was deemed unfit for service and returned to Munich.aaaa

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