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Adolf Hitler
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-S33882, Adolf Hitler retouched

20 April 1937


In office
2 August 1934 – 30 April 1945
Preceded by Paul von Hindenburg
(as President)
Succeeded by Karl Dönitz
(as President)

In office
30 January 1933 – 30 April 1945
Preceded by Kurt von Schleicher
Succeeded by Joseph Goebbels

Born 20 April 1889
Braunau am Inn, Austria–Hungary
Died 30 April 1945 (aged 56)
Berlin, Germany
Nationality Austrian citizen until 1925[1] German citizen after 1932
Political party National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP)
Spouse Eva Braun
(married on 29 April 1945)
Occupation politician, soldier, artist, writer
Signature Signatur Adolf Hitler
Military service
Allegiance Flag of the German Empire German Empire
Service/branch War Ensign of Germany 1903-1918 Reichsheer
Years of service 1914–1918
Rank Gefreiter
Unit 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Iron Cross First and Second Class
Wound Badge

Adolf Hitler (German pronunciation: [ˈadɔlf ˈhɪtlɐ], 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, abbreviated NSDAP), popularly known as the Nazi Party. He was the ruler of Germany from 1933 to 1945, serving as chancellor from 1933 to 1945 and as head of state (Führer und Reichskanzler) from 1934 to 1945.

A decorated veteran of World War I, Hitler joined the Nazi Party (DAP) in 1919 and became leader of NSDAP in 1921. Following his imprisonment after a failed coup in Bavaria in 1923, he gained support by promoting German nationalism, anti-semitism, and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and propaganda. He was appointed chancellor in 1933, and quickly transformed the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich, a single party dictatorship based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideals of national socialism.

Hitler ultimately wanted to establish a New Order of absolute Nazi German hegemony in Europe. To achieve this, he pursued a foreign policy with the declared goal of seizing Lebensraum "living space" for the Aryan people; directing the resources of the state towards this goal. This included the rearmament of Germany, which culminated in 1939 when the Wehrmacht invaded Poland. In response, the United Kingdom and France declared war against Germany, leading to the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe.[2]

Within three years, Germany and the Axis powers had occupied most of Europe, and most of Northern Africa, East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean. However, the Allies gained the upper hand from 1942 onwards and in 1945 Allied armies invaded Germany from all sides. Nazi forces committed numerous atrocities during the war, including the systematic killing of as many as 17 million civilians[3], an estimated six million of whom were Jews targeted in a genocide known as the Holocaust.

During the final days of the war in 1945, Hitler married his long-time mistress Eva Braun. Less than two days later, the two committed suicide.[4]

Early years Edit

Ancestry Edit

Hitler's father, Alois Hitler, was an illegitimate child and, for the first 39 years of his life, bore his mother's surname, Schicklgruber.[5] Alois’ paternity was not listed on his birth certificate, and has been the subject of much controversy. After receiving a "blackmail letter" from Hitler's nephew William Patrick Hitler threatening to reveal embarrassing information about Hitler's family tree, Nazi Party lawyer Hans Frank investigated, and, in his memoirs, claimed to have uncovered letters that revealed Ms. Schicklgruber was employed as a housekeeper for a Jewish family in Graz and that the family’s nineteen year old son, Leopold Frankenberger, fathered Alois.[5] No evidence has ever been produced to support Frank's claim, and Frank himself said Hitler's full Aryan blood was obvious.[6] Frank's claims were widely believed in the 1950s, but by the 1990s, were generally doubted by historians.[7][8] Ian Kershaw dismisses the Frankenberger story as a "smear" by Hitler's enemies, noting that all Jews had been expelled from Graz in the 15th century and were not allowed to return until well after Alois was born.[8] (For more, see Leopold Frankenberger)

In 1876, Alois took the surname of his stepfather, Johann Georg Hiedler. The name was spelled Hiedler, Hüttler, Huettler and Hitler, and was probably regularized to Hitler 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 word Hidlar and Hidlarcek. (Regarding the first two theories: some German dialects make little or no distinction between the ü-sound and the i-sound.)[5]

Childhood Edit

Adolf Hitler was born at the Gasthof zum Pommer, an inn in Braunau am Inn, Austria–Hungary, the fourth of Alois and Klara Hitler's six children.
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1989-0322-506, Adolf Hitler, Kinderbild

Adolf Hitler as an infant.

At the age of three, his family moved to Kapuzinerstrasse 5[9] in Passau, Germany where the young Hitler would acquire Lower Bavarian rather than Austrian as his lifelong native dialect.[10] In 1894 the family moved to Leonding near Linz, then in June 1895, Alois retired to a small landholding at Hafeld near Lambach, where he tried his hand at farming and beekeeping. During this time, the young Hitler attended school in nearby Fischlham. He was a happy, carefree child who tirelessly played "Cowboys and Indians" and, by his own account, became fixated on war after finding a picture book about the Franco-Prussian War in his father's things.[11] He wrote in Mein Kampf: "It was not long before the great historic struggle had become my greatest spiritual experience. From then on, I became more and more enthusiastic about everything that was in any way connected with war or, for that matter, with soldiering."

His father's efforts at Hafeld ended in failure and the family moved to Lambach in 1897. There, Hitler attended a Catholic school located in an 11th-century Benedictine cloister whose walls were engraved in a number of places with crests containing the symbol of the swastika.[12] In 1898, the family returned permanently to Leonding.

His younger brother Edmund died of measles on February 2, 1900, causing permanent changes in Hitler. He went from a confident, outgoing boy who found school easy, to a morose, detached, sullen boy who constantly battled his father and his teachers.[13]

Hitler was close to his mother, but had a troubled relationship with his tradition-minded authoritarian father, who frequently beat him, especially in the years after Alois's retirement and disappointed farming efforts. Alois wanted his son to follow in his footsteps as an Austrian customs official, and this became a huge source of conflict between them.[11] Despite his son's pleas to go to classical high school and become an artist, his father would not budge, and sent him to the technical high school in the city of Linz in September 1900. Hitler rebelled, and, in Mein Kampf confessed to failing his first year in hopes that once his father saw "what little progress I was making at the technical school he would let me devote myself to the happiness I dreamed of." But Alois never relented and Hitler became even more bitter and rebellious.

For young Hitler, German Nationalism quickly became an obsession, and a way to rebel against his father, who proudly served the Austrian government. Most people that lived along the German-Austrian border considered themselves German-Austrians, but Hitler expressed loyalty only to Germany. In defiance of the Austrian Monarchy, and his father who continually expressed loyalty to it, Hitler and his young friends liked to use the German greeting, "Heil," and sing the German anthem "Deutschland Über Alles," instead of the Austrian Imperial anthem.[11]

After Alois' sudden death on January 3, 1903, Hitler's behavior at the technical school became even more disruptive, and he was asked to leave. He enrolled at the Realschule in Steyr in 1904, but upon completing his second year, he and his friends went out for a night of celebration and drinking, and an intoxicated Hitler tore his school certificate into four pieces and used it as toilet paper. When someone turned the stained certificate in to the school's director, he “... 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.”[14] Hitler was expelled, and never to return to school again.

Hitler was confirmed on Whitsunday, 22 May 1904 at the Linz Cathedral.[15] His sponsor was Emanuel Lugert, a friend of his late father.[16]

Early adulthood in Vienna and Munich Edit

From 1905 on, Hitler lived a bohemian life in Vienna on an orphan's pension and support from his mother. He was rejected twice by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (1907–1908), citing "unfitness for painting", and was told his abilities lay instead in the field of architecture.[17] His memoirs reflect a fascination with the subject:

The purpose of my trip was to study the picture gallery in the Court Museum, but I had eyes for scarcely anything but the Museum itself. From morning until late at night, I ran from one object of interest to another, but it was always the buildings which held my primary interest.[18]

Following the school rector's recommendation, he too became convinced this was his path to pursue, yet he lacked the proper academic preparation 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 Technic, and the latter required a high-school degree. I had none of all this. The fulfilment of my artistic dream seemed physically impossible.[18]

On 21 December 1907, Hitler's mother died of breast cancer at age 47. Ordered by a court in Linz, Hitler gave his share of the orphans' benefits to his sister Paula. When he was 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. By 1910, he had settled into a house for poor working men on Meldemannstraße.

Hitler said he first became an anti-Semite in Vienna,[18] which had a large Jewish community, including Orthodox Jews who had fled the pogroms in Russia. According to childhood friend August Kubizek, however, Hitler was a "confirmed anti-Semite" before he left Linz.[18] Vienna at that time was a hotbed of traditional religious prejudice and 19th century racism. Hitler may have been influenced by the writings of the ideologist and anti-Semite Lanz von Liebenfels and polemics from politicians such as Karl Lueger, founder of the Christian Social Party and Mayor of Vienna, the composer Richard Wagner, and Georg Ritter von Schönerer, leader of the pan-Germanic Away from Rome! movement. Hitler claims in Mein Kampf that his transition from opposing antisemitism on religious grounds to supporting it on racial grounds came from having seen an Orthodox Jew.

Template:Bquote

If this account is true, Hitler apparently did not act on his new belief. He often was a guest for dinner in a noble Jewish house, and he interacted well with Jewish merchants who tried to sell his paintings.[19]

Hitler may also have been influenced by Martin Luther's On the Jews and their Lies. In Mein Kampf, Hitler refers to Martin Luther as a great warrior, a true statesman, and a great reformer, alongside Wagner and Frederick the Great.[20] Wilhelm Röpke, writing after the Holocaust, concluded that "without any question, Lutheranism influenced the political, spiritual and social history of Germany in a way that, after careful consideration of everything, can be described only as fateful."[21][22]

Hitler claimed that Jews were enemies of the Aryan race. He held them responsible for Austria's crisis. He also identified certain forms of Socialism and Bolshevism, which had many Jewish leaders, as Jewish movements, merging his antisemitism with anti-Marxism. Later, blaming Germany's military defeat in World War I on the 1918 revolutions, he considered Jews the culprits of Imperial Germany's downfall and subsequent economic problems as well.

Generalising from tumultuous scenes in the parliament of the multi-national Austrian monarchy, he decided that the democratic parliamentary system was unworkable. However, according to August Kubizek, his one-time roommate, he was more interested in Wagner's operas than in his politics.

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 became more interested in architecture and, he says, the writings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Moving to Munich also helped him escape military service in Austria for a time, but the Munich police (acting in cooperation with the Austrian authorities) eventually arrested him. After a physical exam and a contrite plea, he was deemed unfit for service and allowed to return to Munich. However, when Germany entered World War I in August 1914, he petitioned King Ludwig III of Bavaria for permission to serve in a Bavarian regiment. This request was granted, and Adolf Hitler enlisted in the Bavarian army.[23]

File:Hitler with other German soldiers.jpg

World War I Edit

Hitler served in France and Belgium in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment (called Regiment List after its first commander), ending the war as a Gefreiter (equivalent at the time to a lance corporal in the British and private first class in the American armies). He was a runner, one of the most dangerous jobs on the Western Front, and was often exposed to enemy fire.[24] He participated in a number of major battles on the Western Front, including the First Battle of Ypres, the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras and the Battle of Passchendaele.[25] The Battle of Ypres (October 1914), which became known in Germany as the Kindermord bei Ypern (Massacre of the Innocents) saw approximately 40,000 men (between a third and a half) of the nine infantry divisions present killed in 20 days, and Hitler's own company of 250 reduced to 42 by December. Biographer John Keegan has said that this experience drove Hitler to become aloof and withdrawn for the remaining years of war.[26]

Hitler was twice decorated for bravery. He received the Iron Cross, Second Class, in 1914 and Iron Cross, First Class, in 1918, an honour rarely given to a Gefreiter.[27] However, because the regimental staff thought Hitler lacked leadership skills, he was never promoted to Unteroffizier (equivalent to a British corporal). Other historians say that the reason he was not promoted is that he was not a German citizen. His duties at regimental headquarters, while often dangerous, gave Hitler time to pursue his artwork. He drew cartoons and instructional drawings for an army newspaper. In 1916, he was wounded in either the groin area[28] or the left thigh[29] during the Battle of the Somme, but returned to the front in March 1917. He received the Wound Badge later that year. Sebastian Haffner, referring to Hitler's experience at the front, suggests he did have at least some understanding of the military.

On 15 October 1918, Hitler was admitted to a field hospital, temporarily blinded by a mustard gas attack. The English psychologist David Lewis and Bernhard Horstmann suggest the blindness may have been the result of a conversion disorder (then known as hysteria).[30] Hitler said it was during this experience that he became convinced the purpose of his life was to "save Germany." Some scholars, notably Lucy Dawidowicz,[31] argue that an intention to exterminate Europe's Jews was fully formed in Hitler's mind at this time, though he probably had not thought through how it could be done. Most historians think the decision was made in 1941, and some think it came as late as 1942.

Two passages in Mein Kampf mention the use of poison gas:

At the beginning of the Great War, or even during the War, if twelve or fifteen thousand of these Jews who were corrupting the nation had been forced to submit to poison-gas . . . then the millions of sacrifices made at the front would not have been in vain.[32]

These tactics are based on an accurate estimation of human weakness and must lead to success, with almost mathematical certainty, unless the other side also learns how to fight poison gas with poison gas. The weaker natures must be told that here it is a case of to be or not to be.[18]

Hitler had long admired Germany, and during the war he had become a passionate German patriot, although he did not become a German citizen until 1932. Hitler found the war to be 'the greatest of all experiences' and afterwards he was praised by a number of his commanding officers for his bravery.[33] He was shocked by Germany's capitulation in November 1918 even while the German army still held enemy territory.[34] Like many other German nationalists, Hitler believed in the Dolchstoßlegende ("dagger-stab legend") which claimed that the army, "undefeated in the field," had been "stabbed in the back" by civilian leaders and Marxists back on the home front. These politicians were later dubbed the November Criminals.

The Treaty of Versailles deprived Germany of various territories, demilitarised the Rhineland and imposed other economically damaging sanctions. The treaty re-created Poland, which even moderate Germans regarded as an outrage. The treaty also blamed Germany for all the horrors of the war, something which major historians such as John Keegan now consider at least in part to be victor's justice: most European nations in the run-up to World War I had become increasingly militarised and were eager to fight. The culpability of Germany was used as a basis to impose reparations on Germany (the amount was repeatedly revised under the Dawes Plan, the Young Plan, and the Hoover Moratorium). Germany in turn perceived the treaty and especially, Article 231 the paragraph on the German responsibility for the war as a humiliation. For example, there was a nearly total demilitarisation of the armed forces, allowing Germany only six battleships, no submarines, no air force, an army of 100,000 without conscription and no armoured vehicles. The treaty was an important factor in both the social and political conditions encountered by Hitler and his Nazis as they sought power. Hitler and his party used the signing of the treaty by the "November Criminals" as a reason to build up Germany so that it could never happen again. He also used the "November Criminals" as scapegoats, although at the Paris peace conference, these politicians had had very little choice in the matter.

Entry into politics Edit

Main article: Hitler's political beliefs
Hitler's DAP membership card

A copy of Adolf Hitler's forged German Workers' Party (DAP) membership card. His actual membership number was 555 (the 55th member of the party—the 500 was added to make the group appear larger) but later the number was reduced to create the impression that Hitler was one of the founding members.[35] Hitler had wanted to create his own party, but was ordered by his superiors in the Reichswehr to infiltrate an existing one instead.

After World War I, Hitler remained in the army and returned to Munich, where he—in contrast to his later declarations—attended the funeral march for the murdered Bavarian prime minister Kurt Eisner.[36] After the suppression of the Bavarian Soviet Republic, he took part in "national thinking" courses organized by the Education and Propaganda Department (Dept Ib/P) of the Bavarian Reichswehr Group, Headquarters 4 under Captain Karl Mayr. Scapegoats were found in "international Jewry", communists, and politicians across the party spectrum, especially the parties of the Weimar Coalition.

In July 1919, Hitler was appointed a Verbindungsmann (police spy) of an Aufklärungskommando (Intelligence Commando) of the Reichswehr, both to influence other soldiers and to infiltrate a small party, the German Workers' Party (DAP). During his inspection of the party, Hitler was impressed with founder Anton Drexler's anti-semitic, nationalist, anti-capitalist and anti-Marxist ideas, which favoured a strong active government, a "non-Jewish" version of socialism and mutual solidarity of all members of society. Drexler was impressed with Hitler's oratory skills and invited him to join the party. Hitler joined DAP on 12 September 1919[37] and became party's 55th member.[38] He was also made the seventh member of the executive committee.[39] Years later, he claimed to be the party's seventh overall member, but it has been established that this claim is false.[40]

Here Hitler met Dietrich Eckart, one of the early founders of the party and member of the occult Thule Society.[41] Eckart became Hitler's mentor, exchanging ideas with him, teaching him how to dress and speak, and introducing him to a wide range of people. Hitler thanked Eckart by paying tribute to him in the second volume of Mein Kampf. To increase the party's appeal, the party changed its name to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or National Socialist German Workers Party (abbreviated NSDAP).

Hitler was discharged from the army in March 1920 and with his former superiors' continued encouragement began participating full time in the party's activities. By early 1921, Hitler was becoming highly effective at speaking in front of large crowds. In February, Hitler spoke before a crowd of nearly six thousand in Munich. To publicize the meeting, he sent out two truckloads of party supporters to drive around with swastikas, cause a commotion and throw out leaflets, their first use of this tactic. Hitler gained notoriety outside of the party for his rowdy, polemic speeches against the Treaty of Versailles, rival politicians (including monarchists, nationalists and other non-internationalist socialists) and especially against Marxists and Jews.

The NSDAP[42] was centered in Munich, a hotbed of German nationalists who included Army officers determined to crush Marxism and undermine the Weimar republic. Gradually they noticed Hitler and his growing movement as a suitable vehicle for their goals. Hitler traveled to Berlin to visit nationalist groups during the summer of 1921, and in his absence there was a revolt among the DAP leadership in Munich.

The party was run by an executive committee whose original members considered Hitler to be overbearing. They formed an alliance with a group of socialists from Augsburg. Hitler rushed back to Munich and countered them by tendering his resignation from the party on 11 July 1921. When they realized the loss of Hitler would effectively mean the end of the party, he seized the moment and announced he would return on the condition that he replace Drexler as party chairman, with unlimited powers. Infuriated committee members (including Drexler) held out at first. Meanwhile an anonymous pamphlet appeared entitled Adolf Hitler: Is he a traitor?, attacking Hitler's lust for power and criticizing the violent men around him. Hitler responded to its publication in a Munich newspaper by suing for libel and later won a small settlement.

The executive committee of the NSDAP eventually backed down and Hitler's demands were put to a vote of party members. Hitler received 543 votes for and only one against. At the next gathering on 29 July 1921, Adolf Hitler was introduced as Führer of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, marking the first time this title was publicly used.

Hitler's beer hall oratory, attacking Jews, social democrats, liberals, reactionary monarchists, capitalists and communists, began attracting adherents. Early followers included Rudolf Hess, the former air force pilot Hermann Göring, and the army captain Ernst Röhm, who eventually became head of the Nazis' paramilitary organization, the SA (Sturmabteilung, or "Storm Division"), which protected meetings and attacked political opponents. As well, Hitler assimilated independent groups, such as the Nuremberg-based Deutsche Werkgemeinschaft, led by Julius Streicher, who became Gauleiter of Franconia. Hitler attracted the attention of local business interests, was accepted into influential circles of Munich society, and became associated with wartime General Erich Ludendorff during this time.

Drawing of Adolf Hitler

Drawing of Hitler, 1923

Beer Hall Putsch Edit

Main article: Beer Hall Putsch

Encouraged by this early support, Hitler decided to use Ludendorff as a front in an attempted coup later known as the Beer Hall Putsch (sometimes as the Hitler Putsch or Munich Putsch). The Nazi Party had copied Italy's fascists in appearance and had adopted some of their policies, and in 1923, Hitler wanted to emulate Benito Mussolini's "March on Rome" by staging his own "Campaign in Berlin". Hitler and Ludendorff obtained the clandestine support of Gustav von Kahr, Bavaria's de facto ruler, along with leading figures in the Reichswehr and the police. As political posters show, Ludendorff, Hitler and the heads of the Bavarian police and military planned on forming a new government.

On 8 November 1923, Hitler and the SA stormed a public meeting headed by Kahr in the Bürgerbräukeller, a large beer hall in Munich. He declared that he had set up a new government with Ludendorff and demanded, at gunpoint, the support of Kahr and the local military establishment for the destruction of the Berlin government.[43] Kahr withdrew his support and fled to join the opposition to Hitler at the first opportunity.[44] The next day, when Hitler and his followers marched from the beer hall to the Bavarian War Ministry to overthrow the Bavarian government as a start to their "March on Berlin", the police dispersed them. Sixteen NSDAP members were killed.[45]

Hitler fled to the home of Ernst Hanfstaengl and contemplated suicide. He was soon arrested for high treason. Alfred Rosenberg became temporary leader of the party. During Hitler's trial, he was given almost unlimited time to speak, and his popularity soared as he voiced nationalistic sentiments in his defence speech. A Munich personality became a nationally known figure. On 1 April 1924, Hitler was sentenced to five years' imprisonment at Landsberg Prison. Hitler received favoured treatment from the guards and had much fan mail from admirers. He was pardoned and released from jail on 20 December 1924, by order of the Bavarian Supreme Court on 19 December, which issued its final rejection of the state prosecutor's objections to Hitler's early release.[46] Including time on remand, he had served little more than one year of his sentence.[47]

On 28 June 1925, Hitler wrote a letter from Uffing to the editor of The Nation in New York City stating how long he had been in prison at "Sandberg a. S." [sic] and how much his privileges had been revoked.[48]

Mein Kampf Edit

Main article: Mein Kampf
Erstausgabe von Mein Kampf

Mein Kampf

While at Landsberg he dictated most of the first volume of Mein Kampf (My Struggle, originally entitled Four and a Half Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice) to his deputy Rudolf Hess.[47] The book, dedicated to Thule Society member Dietrich Eckart, was an autobiography and an exposition of his ideology. It was published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926, selling about 240,000 copies between 1925 and 1934. By the end of the war, about 10 million copies had been sold or distributed (newlyweds and soldiers received free copies).

Hitler spent years dodging taxes on the royalties of his book and had accumulated a tax debt of about 405,500 Reichsmarks (€6 million in today's money) by the time he became chancellor (at which time his debt was waived).[49][50]

The copyright of Mein Kampf in Europe is claimed by the Free State of Bavaria and scheduled to end on 31 December 2015. Reproductions in Germany are authorized only for scholarly purposes and in heavily commented form. The situation is, however, unclear. Historian Werner Maser, in an interview with Bild am Sonntag has stated that Peter Raubal, son of Hitler's nephew, Leo Raubal, would have a strong legal case for winning the copyright from Bavaria if he pursued it. Raubal has stated he wants no part of the rights to the book, which could be worth millions of euros.[51] The uncertain status has led to contested trials in Poland and Sweden. Mein Kampf, however, is published in the U.S., as well as in other countries such as Turkey and Israel, by publishers with various political positions.

Rebuilding of the party Edit

File:Hitler 1928.jpg

At the time of Hitler's release, the political situation in Germany had calmed and the economy had improved, which hampered Hitler's opportunities for agitation. Though the Hitler Putsch had given Hitler some national prominence, his party's mainstay was still Munich.

The NSDAP and its organs were banned in Bavaria after the collapse of the putsch. Hitler convinced Heinrich Held, Prime Minister of Bavaria, to lift the ban, based on representations that the party would now only seek political power through legal means. Even though the ban on the NSDAP was removed effective 16 February 1925,[52] Hitler incurred a new ban on public speaking as a result of an inflammatory speech. Since Hitler was banned from public speeches, he appointed Gregor Strasser, who in 1924 had been elected to the Reichstag, as Reichsorganisationsleiter, authorizing him to organize the party in northern Germany. Strasser, joined by his younger brother Otto and Joseph Goebbels, steered an increasingly independent course, emphasizing the socialist element in the party's programme. The Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Gauleiter Nord-West became an internal opposition, threatening Hitler's authority, but this faction was defeated at the Bamberg Conference in 1926, during which Goebbels joined Hitler.

After this encounter, Hitler centralized the party even more and asserted the Führerprinzip ("Leader principle") as the basic principle of party organization. Leaders were not elected by their group but were rather appointed by their superior and were answerable to them while demanding unquestioning obedience from their inferiors. Consistent with Hitler's disdain for democracy, all power and authority devolved from the top down.

A key element of Hitler's appeal was his ability to evoke a sense of offended national pride caused by the Treaty of Versailles imposed on the defeated German Empire by the Western Allies. Germany had lost economically important territory in Europe along with its colonies and in admitting to sole responsibility for the war had agreed to pay a huge reparations bill totaling 132 billion marks. Most Germans bitterly resented these terms, but early Nazi attempts to gain support by blaming these humiliations on "international Jewry" were not particularly successful with the electorate. The party learned quickly, and soon a more subtle propaganda emerged, combining antisemitism with an attack on the failures of the "Weimar system" and the parties supporting it.

Having failed in overthrowing the Republic by a coup, Hitler pursued a "strategy of legality": this meant formally adhering to the rules of the Weimar Republic until he had legally gained power. He would then use the institutions of the Weimar Republic to destroy it and establish himself as dictator. Some party members, especially in the paramilitary SA, opposed this strategy; Röhm and others ridiculed Hitler as "Adolphe Legalité".

Rise to power Edit

Main article: Hitler's rise to power
Nazi Party Election Results
Date Votes Percentage Seats in Reichstag Background
May 1924 1,918,300 6.5 32 Hitler in prison
December 1924 907,300 3.0 14 Hitler is released from prison
May 1928 810,100 2.6 12  
September 1930 6,409,600 18.3 107 After the financial crisis
July 1932 13,745,800 37.4 230 After Hitler was candidate for presidency
November 1932 11,737,000 33.1 196  
March 1933 17,277,000 43.9 288 During Hitler's term as Chancellor of Germany

Brüning Administration Edit

Bundesarchiv Bild 119-0289, München, Hitler bei Einweihung "Braunes Haus"

An NSDAP meeting in December 1930, with Hitler in the centre

The political turning point for Hitler came when the Great Depression hit Germany in 1930. The Weimar Republic had never been firmly rooted and was openly opposed by right-wing conservatives (including monarchists), communists and the Nazis. As the parties loyal to the democratic, parliamentary republic found themselves unable to agree on counter-measures, their grand coalition broke up and was replaced by a minority cabinet. The new Chancellor, Heinrich Brüning of the Roman Catholic Centre Party, lacking a majority in parliament, had to implement his measures through the president's emergency decrees. Tolerated by the majority of parties, this rule by decree would become the norm over a series of unworkable parliaments and paved the way for authoritarian forms of government.[53]

The Reichstag's initial opposition to Brüning's measures led to premature elections in September 1930. The republican parties lost their majority and their ability to resume the grand coalition, while the Nazis suddenly rose from relative obscurity to win 18.3% of the vote along with 107 seats. In the process, they jumped from the ninth-smallest party in the chamber to the second largest.[54]

In September–October 1930, Hitler appeared as a major defence witness at the trial in Leipzig of two junior Reichswehr officers charged with membership of the Nazi Party, which at that time was forbidden to Reichswehr personnel.[55] The two officers, Leutnants Richard Scheringer and Hans Ludin admitted quite openly to Nazi Party membership, and used as their defence that the Nazi Party membership should not be forbidden to those serving in the Reichswehr.[56] When the Prosecution argued that the Nazi Party was a dangerous revolutionary force, one of the defence lawyers, Hans Frank had Hitler brought to the stand to prove that the Nazi Party was a law-abiding party.[56] During his testimony, Hitler insisted that his party was determined to come to power legally, that the phrase "National Revolution" was only to be interpreted "politically", and that his Party was a friend, not an enemy of the Reichswehr.[57] Hitler's testimony of 25 September 1930 won him many admirers within the ranks of the officer corps.[58]

Brüning's measures of budget consolidation and financial austerity brought little economic improvement and were extremely unpopular.[59] Under these circumstances, Hitler appealed to the bulk of German farmers, war veterans and the middle class, who had been hard-hit by both the inflation of the 1920s and the unemployment of the Depression.[60] In September 1931, Hitler's niece Geli Raubal was found dead in her bedroom in his Munich apartment (his half-sister Angela and her daughter Geli had been with him in Munich since 1929), an apparent suicide. Geli, who was believed to be in some sort of romantic relationship with Hitler, was 19 years younger than he was and had used his gun. His niece's death is viewed as a source of deep, lasting pain for him.[61]

In 1932, Hitler intended to run against the aging President Paul von Hindenburg in the scheduled presidential elections. His 27 January 1932 speech to the Industry Club in Düsseldorf won him, for the first time, support from a broad swath of Germany's most powerful industrialists.[62] Though Hitler had left Austria in 1913, he still had not acquired German citizenship and hence could not run for public office. In February, however, the state government of Brunswick, in which the Nazi Party participated, appointed Hitler to a minor administrative post and therby made him a citizen of Brunswick on 25 February 1932.[63] In those days, the states conferred citizenship, so this automatically made Hitler a citizen of Germany and thus eligible to run for president.[64]

The new German citizen ran against Hindenburg, who was supported by a broad range of nationalist, monarchist, Catholic, republican and even social democratic parties. Another candidate was a Communist and member of a fringe right-wing party. Hitler's campaign was called "Hitler über Deutschland" (Hitler over Germany).[65] The name had a double meaning; besides a reference to his dictatorial ambitions, it referred to the fact that he campaigned by aircraft.[65] Hitler came in second on both rounds, attaining more than 35% of the vote during the second one in April. Although he lost to Hindenburg, the election established Hitler as a realistic alternative in German politics.[66]

Cabinets of Papen and Schleicher Edit

Hindenburg, influenced by the Camarilla, became increasingly estranged from Brüning and pushed his Chancellor to move the government in a decidedly authoritarian and right-wing direction. This culminated, in May 1932, with the resignation of the Brüning cabinet.

Hindenburg appointed the nobleman Franz von Papen as Chancellor, heading a "Cabinet of Barons". Papen was bent on authoritarian rule and, since in the Reichstag only the conservative German National People's Party (DNVP) supported his administration, he immediately called for new elections in July. In these elections, the Nazis achieved their biggest success yet and won 230 seats, becoming the largest party in the Reichstag.

Knowing that it was not possible to form a stable government without Nazi support, Papen tried to persuade Hitler to become Vice-Chancellor and enter a new government with a parliamentary basis. Hitler, however, would settle for nothing less than the chancellorship. He put further pressure on Papen by entertaining parallel negotiations with the Centre Party, Papen's former party, which was bent on bringing down the renegade Papen. In both negotiations, Hitler demanded that he, as leader of the strongest party, must be Chancellor, but Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint the "Bohemian lance corporal" to the chancellorship.

After a vote of no-confidence in the Papen government, supported by 84% of the deputies, the new Reichstag was dissolved, and new elections were called in November. This time, the Nazis lost some seats but still remained the largest party in the Reichstag, with 33.1% of the vote.

After Papen failed to secure a majority, he proposed to dissolve the parliament again along with an indefinite postponement of elections. Hindenburg at first accepted this, but after General Kurt von Schleicher and the military withdrew their support, Hindenburg instead dismissed Papen and appointed Schleicher, who promised he could secure a majority government by negotiations with the Social Democrats, the trade unions, and dissidents from the Nazi Party under Gregor Strasser. In January 1933, however, Schleicher had to admit failure in these efforts and asked Hindenburg for emergency powers along with the same postponement of elections that he had opposed earlier, to which the president reacted by dismissing Schleicher.

Appointment as Chancellor Edit

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