Hitler, the German dictator, painter, and author was born on 20 April 1889 in at Braunau-am-Inn, Austria, as the fourth child of Alois Hitler and his wife Klara Poelzl.
Hitler was 14 when his father died and the family moved to Linz where his mother managed to keep her and the two children on a government pension. He was a bright and talented student at the local village school, but now felt out of place in the much larger urban secondary school. He did a lot of aimless reading, dreamed about becoming an artist, and developed a talent for evading responsibilities. Poor school marks barred him from obtaining the customary graduation certificate. It was in Linz that he decided that his future was that of an artist. The fact that his talent was insignificant did not dissuade him and in 1907, when he was 18, he moved to Vienna to pursue his calling. He attempted to enter the Vienna Academy of Art but met with a firm rejection to become a student. His second application to enter as a student in Architecture failed in 1908.
Hitler struggled in poverty and pursued a soul-deep search for a political philosophy that would guide him to his destiny. He now spent his time lounging around cafes and joining in any and every discussion on politics and philosophy. Reluctantly, he decided to support himself by painting postcards and watercolours and to accommodate himself, and living with all the people in similar situations, he learned an invaluable lesson – how to evaluate and exploit the mentality of these marginal people, the Lumpenproletariat.
The mental picture of him soon became even more absurdly divorced from reality when his mother died in 1908. At this stage in his life, he still did not have a single close friend. What he indeed acquired, was a fierce hatred of the Jewish people. In classic style, the self-blame that should have been brought to bear on his own disappointments, was shifted to another “guilty” party. Other traits that came to the fore were his inability to establish ordinary human relationships, his hatred of the establishment and his sudden, passionate, and ranting outbursts.
In 1913 he moved to Munich but not for the reason he gave. The cross-border move was to escape his conscription into the Austrian military service and the hope of finding a better life in the Germany. Opportunities here were even less in Munich and his Ã¢€Å“better lifeÃ¢€Â and enthusiasm began with the outbreak of World War I. Throughout the war Hitler served as a volunteer in a Bavarian infantry regiment, which mainly operated in the front line as a headquarters runner. He became a corporal, was wounded in the leg in 1916 and gassed in 1918. It is of significance that he was never promoted to a leadership position, but he was awarded unusually high decorations for bravery in action (he won the Iron Cross twice).
War and Hitler
The war had an intense impact on Hitler. He finally found a purpose that filled the emptiness in his life. He learned much about violence and its uses. Following the war Hitler the artist was dead, and the politician in him was soon to emerge. After demobilization in September 1919, he joined the small nationalist group, the German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), which later became the Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP or Nazi), and discovered a talent for demagoguery.
Hitler became leader of the Nazis in 1921, and staged an abortive uprising in 1923 – the Munich ‘beer-hall putsch’. During months shared in a prison with Rudolph Hess he dictated Mein Kampf, a political policy in which he spelt out Germany’s need to rearm, strive for economic self-sufficiency, suppress trade unionism and communism, and exterminate its Jewish minority.
The Great Depression which began in 1929 brought him a flood of supporters so that, assisted by violence against political enemies, his Nazi Party prospered. After the failure of three successive Chancellors, the aged President Hindenburg appointed Hitler head of the government on 30 January 1933. Within months he radically established his mastery over them, and over all other political groups. He destroyed both the Communist and Socialist parties, and the labour unions. He forced the bourgeois and right wing parties to disband, undermined or destroyed the paramilitary organizations, eliminated the federal structure of the republic, and on 23 March 1933, won from a devastated and intimidated Reichstag an enabling law that granted him dictatorial powers.
From 1935 onwards he consolidated his dictatorship. The basis of his power was still his control over the masses, which admired him as the “man of the people”. He used his position to escalate the persecution of the Jews through the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which deprived Jews of their citizenship and forbade marriages between Jews and non-Jews. After the death of Hindenburg, Hitler assumed the title of President and “Fuhrer of the German Reich”. In contravention of the Treaty of Versailles, he initiated rearmament, reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936, and took the first steps in his intended expansion of his Third Reich: the Anschluss with Austria in 1938 and the gradual acquisition of Czechoslovakia, starting with the Sudetenland.
He signed the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact with Stalin to enable him to invade Poland, but ignored the pact when he attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941. His invasion of Poland had triggered World War II.
Against the advice of his military advisors he followed ‘intuitive’ tactics. Initially he won massive victories, and he took direct military control of the armed forces in 1941. As the tide of war turned against him, he intensified the mass assassination that culminated in the Jewish Holocaust. The first victories were overshadowed by crushing defeats at Moscow (December 1941) and Stalingrad (winter of 1942-43).
The USA entered the war in December 1941, and by 1944 the Allied Forces invaded occupied Europe at Normandy Beach on the French coast. Bombing destroyed German cities. Italy, Germany’s major ally under the leadership of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, had fallen. Hitler escaped the July plot to kill him, and undertook a vicious purge of all involved.
In 1945, as the Soviet army entered Berlin, and he went through a marriage ceremony with his mistress, Eva Braun. Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945. His long-term mistress and new bride, Eva, joined him in suicide. All evidence suggests that their bodies were cremated in an underground bunker.