Who Was Adolf Hitler?
Adolf Hitler was the leader of Nazi Germany from 1933 until his suicide in 1945. Hitler was responsible for starting World War II and for killing more than 11 million people during the Holocaust.
Dates: April 20, 1889 -- April 30, 1945
Also Known As: Führer of the Third Reich
Childhood of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 in Braunau am Inn, Austria. Adi, as he was known in his youth, spent his childhood in Austria. His father, Alois, retired from civil service in 1895, when Hitler was only six, which created a tense, strict atmosphere at home.
When Hitler was 13, his father passed away and his mother, Klara, had to care for Hitler and his siblings by herself. Times were tough for the Hitler household. In 1905, at age 16, Adolf quit school and never returned.
Hitler as an Artist
Hitler dreamed of becoming an artist, so in 1907 he applied to the painting school at the Vienna Academy of Art. He did not pass the entrance exam. After his mother passed away just a few months later from breast cancer, Hitler again tried to apply to the Vienna Academy of Art, but this time he was not even allowed to take the test.
Hitler spent the next four years in Vienna, living off what little he earned from selling postcards of his architectural drawings and the small inheritance from his mother. During this period of time, Hitler started to dabble in politics and became especially influenced by pan-Germanism.
Hitler Serves in World War I
To avoid military service in the Austrian army, Hitler moved to Munich, Germany in May 1913 but as soon as World War I broke out, Hitler asked for and received special permission to serve in the Bavarian-German army.
Adolf Hitler quickly proved to be a courageous soldier. By December 1914, he was awarded the Iron Cross (Second Class), in October 1916 he was wounded by a grenade splinter, and in August 1918 he was awarded the Iron Cross (First Class).
On October 13, 1918, a gas attack caused him to go temporarily blind. While recuperating in a hospital, Hitler heard the news of the end of the war and of Germany's defeat. His anger and feelings of betrayal shaped his and the world's future.
Hitler Gets Political
After the war, many in Germany felt betrayed by the German government for their sudden and unexpected surrender. The subsequent inflation made even finding a job and day-to-day living difficult for the average German citizen.
In 1919, Hitler was working for an army organization in which he checked-up on burgeoning local political groups. While spying on these groups in September 1919, Hitler found one he liked. Soon after joining the group (he became the 55th member), he was leading it.
Hitler believed that he could provide a stronger government that would bring strength and prestige back to Germany. So, on November 9, 1923, he attempted a coup of the government, the Beer Hall Putsch. It failed and Hitler was sentenced to five years at Landsberg Prison. Though he only served nine months of his term, he used this time to formulate his thoughts about a new Germany, which he made into a book, Mein Kampf. Once he was released, he continued on his road to ultimate power.
Hitler Comes to Power in Germany
By July 1932, Hitler had enough support to run for president of Germany, though he lost the election to Paul von Hindenburg. However, on January 30, 1933, Hindenburg appointed Hitler as chancellor of Germany. Within a year and a half, Hitler was able to take over both the position of president (Hindenburg died) and chancellor and combine them into one position of supreme leader, the Führer.
After legally gaining power in Germany, Hitler quickly began solidifying his position by putting those that disagreed with him into concentration camps. He created massive amounts of propaganda that strengthened German pride by blaming all their problems on Communists and Jews. The concept of pan-Germanism inspired Hitler to combine German peoples in various countries in Europe as well as look east for lebensraum.
Hitler Starts World War II
Since the world was extremely sensitive about the possibility of starting another world war, Hitler was able to annex Austria in 1938 without a single battle. But when he had his forces enter Poland in August 1939, the world could no longer stand aside and just watch -- World War II began.
From the Nuremberg Laws in 1935 to Kristallnacht in 1938, Hitler slowly removed Jews from German society. However, with the cover of World War II, the Nazis created an elaborate and intensive system to work Jews as slaves and kill them. Hitler is considered one of the most evil people in history because of the Holocaust.
During the beginning of World War II, the German war machine seemed unstoppable. However, the tide turned at the Battle of Stalingrad in the beginning of 1943. As the Allied Army got closer to Berlin, Hitler continued to control his regime from the safety of an underground bunker. Soon, even that was no longer safe.
On April 29, 1945, Adolf Hitler married his long-time mistress, Eva Braun, and wrote both his last will and political testament. The following day, on April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide.