Hitler Essay Research Paper Adolf Hitler was

Hitler Essay, Research Paper

Adolf Hitler was the ruler of Germany from 1933 to 1945. Guided by concepts of elitism

and racism, he established a brutal totalitarian regime under the ideological banner of

National Socialism, or Nazism. His drive for empire resulted in the devastation of World

War II, culminating in Germany’s defeat and the reordering of world power relationships.

Hitler was born on Apr. 20, 1889, in the Austrian town of Braunau am Inn, the son of

Alois, a customs official, and Klara Hitler. Alois, who was illegitimate, used his mother’s

name, Schicklgruber, until 1876, when he adopted the name Hitler. He was very stern

with his son and abhorred Adolf’s dreamy ways. His death, in 1903, came as a relief to

Adolf. Adolf idealized his mother, however, whose death in 1907 had a traumatic effect

on him. Hitler failed as a student in the classical secondary schools, a situation that

contributed to his desire to become an artist. He went to Vienna in 1907 but was unable

to gain admission to the Academy of Fine Arts. He lived a shadowy, alienated existence

in multiracial Vienna until 1913. His years there were characterized by melancholy,

aimlessness, and racial hatred–in Vienna he developed his lifelong obsession with the

“danger” that world Jewry posed to the “Aryan race.”

In 1913, Hitler went to Munich, partly to evade conscription into the Austrian

army. There, however, he answered the call to colors at the outbreak of World War I.

Serving in the Bavarian Sixteenth Regiment on the western front, he distinguished

himself for bravery and was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class. For the first time in his

life Hitler had found a home; he glorified the raw majesty of life under fire, and the

nobility of the warrior. His soldierly dreams of victory and fulfillment were shattered,

however, by Germany’s defeat. He became convinced that Germany had been “stabbed in

the back” by Jews and Marxists. The attempt to root parliamentary democracy in

Germany was beset from the beginning by grave problems. There were so many political

parties–at least six major and many more minor ones- -that it was hard to form stable

coalitions for effective government. Militant minorities–the Communists on the far left

and monarchists and racists on the opposite extreme–sometimes resorted to force in

efforts to overturn the republic. Notable among these efforts was the Munich Putsch of

1923, in which the tiny National Socialist party, led by Adolf Hitler, made a somewhat

farcical attempt to seize power in Bavaria. The continuing unrest made the national

government even more dependent on the basically conservative army.

The year 1923 was one of major crisis. The payment of reparations, in both cash

and kind, had placed an enormous strain on a country already bankrupted by more than

four years of war. As inflation had mounted, Germany had suspended payment in 1922,

provoking the French to occupy the Ruhr area in January 1923. Workers in Ruhr mines

and factories resisted by striking, but such resistance contributed to inflation, which

brought on economic collapse. The situation was saved in November 1923 when the

ablest of Germany’s republican politicians, Gustav Stressman, introduced a new currency

and improved Germany’s relations with the western nations, paving the way for foreign

loans and a more reasonable schedule of reparations payments. During the later 1920s,

therefore, the German economy revived, and politics settled down. Also, during those

years, a remarkable avant-garde culture blossomed in Germany, extending from the epic

theater of Bertolt Brecht, to the Bauhaus school of functional art and architecture, to the

relativity physics of Albert Einstien, and to the existential philosophy of Martin


This new Germany was cut down in its infancy by the onset of the depression of

the 1930?s and the Nazi seizure of power. Depression conditions once more radicalized

politics and so divided the parties in the Reichstag that parliamentary government became

all but impossible. From 1930 on, government functioned by emergency decree. The

Communists profited briefly from this radicalization, but the main beneficiary was

Hitler’s National Socialist, or Nazi party, which had the twin attractions of appearing to

offer radical solutions to economic problems while upholding patriotic values.

Nazism had several elements: (1) A belief–with a theoretical

and pseudoscientific basis in the works of the comte de Gobineau,

Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and Alfred Rosenberg–in an

Aryan German race superior to all others and destined to rule,

together with a violent hatred of Jews that led to the establishment

of concentration camps and to the Holocaust. (2) An extreme

nationalism that called for the unification of all German-speaking

peoples. This led to the occupation of Austria, a German-speaking

country, and of Czechoslovakia, which had a large German minority.

(3) A belief in some form of corporative state socialism, although the

left-leaning members of the party were purged in 1934. (4) A private

army, called the SS or Blackshirts. (5) A youth cult that emphasized

sports and paramilitary outdoor activities. (6) The massive use of

propaganda, masterminded by Joseph Goebbels. (7) The submission

of all decisions to the supreme leader Adolf Hitler, and the glorification

of strength and discipline.

Nazism somewhat resembled Fascism, which preceded it in Italy. It spawned several

small Nazi parties in the occupied countries, Britain, and the United States. By 1932 it

was the largest party in the Reichstag. The following year President Paul von Hindenburg

appointed Hitler chancellor after allowing himself to be convinced by generals and

right-wing politicians that only the Nazi leader could restore order in Germany and that

he could be controlled.

Hitler’s rise to power paralleled the unstable course of the Weimar Republic,

which replaced the fallen Hohenzollern monarchy. The abortive Communist revolution

in Germany and the dictated Peace of Versailles determined Hitler’s decision to enter

politics. In 1919 he joined a small political faction in Munich and within the next year

formed the National Socialist German Workers’ party (NSDAP). He directed the

organization with an iron hand and used its meetings to deliver forceful rhetorical assaults

on Germany’s “enemies.” In 1923 he led the party into the ill-fated Munich Putsch. This

action resulted in his imprisonment. While in prison at Landsberg, Hitler wrote Mein

Kampf, which became the standard work of Nazi political philosophy. He defined the

enemy as world Jewry, international communism, effete liberalism, and decadent

capitalism. Hitler offered instead pure Aryan blood and the renewal of German

nationalism under a fighting elite.

One of the most important political tracts of the 20th century,

Mein Kampf is considered the bible of Nazism. Written by

Adolf Hitler while he served a sentence in Landsberg Prison,

the book presents Hitler’s major ideas on anti-Semitism,

anti-Communism, superiority of the Aryan race, German

nationalism, the state’s superiority over the individual, and

Hitler’s feelings of hostility for democracy and miscegenation.

The importance of the book, which calls for German domination

of Europe, is derived from the notoriety of its author rather than

from his logical presentation of National Socialist ideas.?

Germany would once more become the leading power on the Continent and gain its

living space in central Europe and Russia. Released after serving 9 months of a 5-year

sentence, Hitler reemerged as the NSDAP’s leader in 1925. He moved swiftly to reshape

the party and neutralize Gregor Strasser, who had built a Nazi power base for himself in

the industrial north. Hitler gathered around him a devoted cadre of lieutenants, including

the air ace Hermann Goering, the propagandist Joseph Goebbels, the police technician

Heinrich Himmler, and the rabid anti-Semitic journalist Julius Streicher.

The Great Depression opened the way for Hitler’s success.

No country suffered more than Germany from the

worldwide economic collapse. Foreign loans abruptly

ceased or were recalled. Factories ground to a halt. There

were 6 million unemployed. The middle class had not

really recovered from the great inflation of 1923; when

struck again, after so brief a respite, they lost all faith in

the economic system and in its system. The Communists

vote steadily mounted; the great middling masses, who

saw in communism their own death warrant, and who

are extremely numerous in any highly developed society,

looked about desperately for someone to save them

from Bolshevism.(Palmer and Colton p.822)

Mass unemployment, Communist insurgency, and an alliance between the Nazis

and the industrialist Alfred Hugenberg’s Nationalist party all contributed to the NSDAP’s

electoral breakthrough in September 1930. It increased its seats in the Reichstag from 12

to 107, becoming the second largest party. Hitler capitalized on the violent political

climate by employing the Brownshirts, the Nazi paramilitary arm, in the battle for the

streets. His strategy worked. In April 1932 he only narrowly lost the presidential

election to the incumbent Paul von Hindenburg, and elections in July made the Nazis the

largest party in the Reichstag, with 37% of the vote. The party retained this position

despite a decline in its vote in the November elections. Finally, Hindenburg, having

failed to gain stability under the regimes of Heinrich Brunning, Franz von Papen, and

Kurt von Schleicher, named Hitler as chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933. Nazi Dictatorship

Most Germans who supported Hitler during his rise to power did so out of

desperation, scarcely knowing what he planned to do. They received much more than

they had bargained for. After half -persuading, half-coercing the Reichstag to grant him

absolute power, Hitler lost no time in founding a totalitarian state, known unofficially as

the Third Reich–supposedly in the tradition of the Holy Roman Empire and the unified

German Empire set up by Bismarck.

Hitler called his new order the Third Reich. He declared

that, following on the First Reich, or Holy Roman Empire,

and the Second Reich, or empire founded by Bismarck,

the Third Reich carried on the process of true German

history, of which, he said it, it was the organic outgrowth

and natural culmination. The Third Reich he prophesized,

would last a thousand years.(Palmer and Colton p.826)

When confronted by demands from Storm Trooper, Brownshirts leader Ernst Roehm and

others for a second revolution that would make good on Nazi claims to socialist ideals,

Hitler purged Roehm and his associates on the weekend of June 30, 1934. Four years

later, he forced out two of the top generals on trumped-up charges in order to assure

himself of full control of the expanding German armed forces. Hitler’s virulent racism

gave rise to a cruel system of Anti- Semitism. The Nuremberg Laws of September 1935,

which deprived Jews of most civil rights, were supplemented by other measures designed

to rid Germany of Jews. These measures were to culminate in a policy of deliberate

extermination during World War II, taking the lives of approximately 6 million European

Jews. More immediately, however, a concerted state program of ending unemployment

with public works projects and a restoration of business confidence produced remarkable

economic recovery in Germany. The efficient propaganda ministry of Joseph Goebbles

controlled the media to assure that Hitler would be viewed as a genius and Nazi Germany

as the best of all possible worlds.

Propaganda became a principle branch of government. Propaganda

was hardly new, but in the past, and still in the democratic countries,

and had been a piecemeal affair, urging the public to accept this or

that political party, or to buy this or that brand of coffee. Now, like

all else, it became ?total?. Propaganda was monopolized by the state,

and it demanded faith in a whole view of life and in every detail of this

coordinated whole. Formerly the control of books and newspapers had

been mainly negative; under Napolean or Metternich, for example, censors

had forbidden statements on particular subjects, events or persons. Now in

totalitarian countries (Germany) control of the press became frighteningly

positive. (Palmer and Colton p.830)

Given this combination of coercion, achievement, and thought control, it is perhaps not

surprising that there was little resistance, aside from limited opposition from some

elements in the churches and the army.

Hitler’s consolidation of power was a gradual process that involved both the

assumption of dictatorial authority and the elimination of opposition outside and within

the Nazi party. The Reichstag fire of Feb. 27, 1933, provided a pretext for outlawing the

Communist party and arresting its leaders. The real breakthrough, however, came with

the Reichstag’s passage of the Enabling Act on Mar. 23, 1933, giving Hitler 4 years of

dictatorial powers. Having won a commanding lead in the last free elections, held in

March, Hitler proceeded to dismantle all parties except the NSDAP. All federal and state

institutions and organizations were “coordinated,” purged of Jewish influence, and

brought under party control. On June 30, 1934, Hitler liquidated Ernst Roehm,

commander of the SA, along with hundreds of other Nazi radicals. With the death of

Hindenburg in August 1934, Hitler also assumed the functions of the presidency. He

adopted the title of Fuhrer, or supreme leader, of the Third Reich.

Institutional supremacy was reinforced by an elaborate terror apparatus,

established by Reichsfuhrer Himmler, leader of the SS Blackshirts, the paramilitary

organization that supplanted the Brownshirts. The Brownshirts and Gestapo instituted

the notorious system of Concentration Camps. Although other groups and institutions

suffered persecution by the Nazis because of their political unacceptability, the Jews were

abused solely because of their racial identity. One decree after another eliminated

them from their positions in the professions and bureaucracy. The Nuremberg Racial

Laws of 1935 deprived them of their citizenship. Propaganda went hand in hand with

terror. Goebbels adroitly orchestrated themes that were synchronized with Hitler’s

successes in both domestic and foreign affairs. Germany’s economic recovery reinforced

the widespread support Hitler enjoyed throughout the Reich during in the 1930s.

Hitler’s economic policies were initially geared to recovery from the depression;

thereafter, they were tied to his foreign-policy goals. By appointing Hjalmar Schacht, the

architect of Germany’s financial recovery in the 1920s, as his economics minister, Hitler

reaffirmed his support of conservative economic policies. He undertook a vast program

of public works, including construction of a network of superhighways (Autobahnen),

which both returned the unemployed to work and primed the economy. By naming

Goering director of the Four Year Plan in 1936, however, Hitler focused the entire

economy on preparations for war.

Hitler’s foreign-policy goals were spelled out in Mein Kampf: to overturn the

Versailles settlement and unite all Germans in a single Greater Germany, to destroy

Bolshevism, and to conquer and colonize eastern Europe. At first he proceeded

cautiously. He withdrew Germany from the League of Nations as early as October 1933,

but he offset criticism by repeated declarations of his peaceful intentions and by

concluding a series of bilateral agreements, including a nonaggression pact with Poland

(1934). As the indecisiveness of his opponents became clear, Hitler acted more


In March 1935 he announced the rearmament of Germany in open violation of

the Treaty of Versailles. He was rewarded by Britain’s concurrence in the form of an

Anglo-German Naval Pact (June 1935). The following year, without warning, he

remilitarized the Rhineland, and France remained immobile. The two major European

democracies, fearful of war, seemed set on the course of appeasement.

Bolstered by the formation (1936) of the Rome-Berlin Axis and the

Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan, Hitler outlined his war plans to the German military

leaders in a secret meeting in November 1937. Several of them objected and were

promptly dismissed. In March 1938 he annexed Austria. Later that year, after an

international crisis over alleged abuses to ethnic Germans in the Sudeten area of western

Czechoslovakia, Britain and France joined Italy in signing the Sudetenland over to

Germany at the Munich Conference. In March 1939, German troops completed the

dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. Belatedly, Britain and France moved to guarantee

Poland’s integrity. Hitler, undeterred, concluded (August 1939) the Nazi-Soviet Pact,

which cleared the way for his attack on Poland on September 1. He was surprised but

prepared when France and Britain declared war on September 3. The pact with the USSR

provided him the opportunity to crush his enemies in the west piecemeal.

Adolf Hitler?s rise to power was partly because of excellent timing; Germany was

looking for someone to save their economy and do away with the Weimar Rupublic,

which germans no longer had any faith in its effectiveness. The person the people chose

was Adolf Hitler. His rise was also due to planning. Hitler used propaganda to convince

Germany he was the person to save them. He new the rise of nationalism would unite

Germany behind him and give him a strong hold over the government. Hitler controlled

everything in government and he won much support by being the major figure in

Germany?s economic recovery. Hitler was a brilliant leader as far as gaining control and

building a strong, successful country. His rise to power would change the world and the

future forever.


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