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Adolf Hitler

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Adolf Hitler

3rd President of Germany (Weimar Republic)
In office
30 January 1933 – 30 April 1945
Preceded by Paul von Hindenburg
(as President)
Succeeded by Karl Dönitz
(as President)
Chancellor of Germany
In office
30 January 1933 – 30 April 1945
Preceded by Kurt von Schleicher
Succeeded by Joseph Goebbels
Reichsstatthalter of Prussia
In office
1933 – 1935
Succeeded by Hermann Göring (acting)
Born 20 April 1889
Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary
Died 30 April 1945 (age 56)
Berlin, Germany
Nationality Austrian until 1925;[1] after 1932 German
Political party National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP)
Spouse Eva Braun
(married on 29 April 1945)
Occupation Politician, Head of State, Writer, Artist
Religion Christianity[2] (see section below)
Adolf Hitler (20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politic
ian who led the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische
Deutsche Arbeiterpartei NSDAP), more commonly known as the Nazi Party. He was Ch
ancellor of Germany (1933–1945) and Führer of Germany (1934–1945).
Hitler was a decorated veteran of World War I who achieved leadership of the Naz
i Party in Weimar Germany. Following his imprisonment after a failed coup, he ga
ined support by promoting nationalism, antisemitism and anti-communism with char
ismatic oratory and propaganda. The Nazis executed or assassinated many of their
opponents, restructured the state economy, rearmed the armed forces (Wehrmacht)
and established a totalitarian and fascist dictatorship. Hitler pursued a forei
gn policy with the declared goal of seizing Lebensraum ("living space"). The Ger
man invasion of Poland in 1939 caused the British and French Empires to declare
war on Germany, leading to the outbreak of World War II in Europe.[3]
The Axis Powers occupied most of continental Europe and parts of Asia and Africa
. Eventually the Allies defeated the Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS). By 1945,
Germany was in ruins. Hitler's bid for territorial conquest and racial subjugati
on caused the deaths of tens of millions of people, including the systematic gen
ocide of an estimated six million Jews, not including various additional "undesi
rable" populations, in what is known as the Holocaust.
During the final days of the war in 1945, as Berlin was being invaded by the Red
Army, Hitler married Eva Braun. Less than 24 hours later, the two committed sui
cide in the Führerbunker.

Early years
Adolf Hitler as an infant.
Childhood and heritage
Adolf Hitler was born at the Gasthof zum Pommer, an inn in Braunau am Inn, Austr
ia-Hungary, on 20 April 1889,[4] the fourth child of six.[5] His father, Alois H
itler, (1837–1903), was a customs official. His mother, Klara Pölzl, (1860–1907)
, was Alois' third wife. She was also his half-niece, so a papal dispensation wa
s obtained for the marriage. Of Alois and Klara's six children, only Adolf and h
is sister Paula, seven years his junior, reached adulthood.[6] Hitler's father a
lso had a son, Alois Jr, and a daughter, Angela, by his second wife.[6]
Hitler had a troubled childhood, as his father was violent to him and possibly v
iolent towards his mother. Hitler himself said that, as a boy, he was often beat
en by his father. Years later he told his secretary, "I then resolved never agai
n to cry when my father whipped me. A few days later I had the opportunity of pu
tting my will to the test. My mother, frightened, took refuge in front of the do
or. As for me, I counted silently the blows of the stick which lashed my rear en
d."[7] Some historians believe a history of family violence committed by his fat
her against his mother is indicated in a section of his book Mein Kampf in which
Hitler describes in vivid detail an anonymous example of family violence commit
ted by a husband against a wife. This along with beatings by his father against
him could explain Hitler's deep emotional attachment to his mother while at the
same time having deep resentment towards his father.
Hitler's family moved often, from Braunau am Inn to Passau, Lambach, Leonding, a
nd Linz. The young Hitler was a good student in elementary school. But in the si
xth grade, his first year of high school (Realschule) in Linz he failed and had
to repeat the grade. His teachers said that he had "no desire to work." One of H
itler's fellow pupils in the Realschule was Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the grea
t philosophers of the 20th century. A book by Kimberley Cornish suggests that co
nflict between Hitler and some Jewish students, including Wittgenstein, was a cr
itical moment in Hitler's formation as an anti-Semite.[8]
Hitler later said that his educational slump was a rebellion against his father,
who wanted the boy to follow him in a career as a customs official; he wanted t
o become a painter instead. This explanation is further supported by Hitler's la
ter description of himself as a misunderstood artist. After Alois died on 3 Janu
ary 1903, Hitler's schoolwork did not improve. At age 16, Hitler dropped out of
high school without a degree.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler attributed his conversion to German nationalism to a time
during his early teenage years when he read a book of his father's about the Fra
nco-Prussian War, which caused him to question why his father and other German A
ustrians failed to fight for the Germans during the war.[9]

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Hitler's father, Alois Hitler was an illegitimate child. For the first 39 years
of his life he bore his mother's surname, Schicklgruber. In 1876, he took the su
rname of his stepfather, Johann Georg Hiedler. The name was spelled Hiedler, Hue
tler, Huettler and Hitler, and probably regularized to Hitler by a clerk. The or
igin of the name is either 'one who lives in a hut' (Standard German Hütte), 'sh
epherd' (Standard German hüten 'to guard,' English heed), or is from the Slavic
word Hidlar and Hidlarcek. (Regarding the first two theories: some German dialec
ts make little or no distinction between the ü-sound and the i-sound.)
Allied propaganda exploited Hitler's original family name during World War II. P
amphlets bearing the phrase "Heil Schicklgruber" were airdropped over German cit
ies. He was legally born a Hitler, however, and was also related to Hiedler via
his maternal grandmother, Johanna Hiedler.
The name "Adolf" comes from Old High German for "noble wolf" (Adel=nobility + wo
lf). Hence, one of Hitler's self-given nicknames was Wolf or Herr Wolf; he began
using this nickname in the early 1920s and was addressed by it only by intimate
s (as "Uncle Wolf" by the Wagners) up until the fall of the Third Reich.[10] The
names of his various headquarters scattered throughout continental Europe (Wolf
sschanze in East Prussia, Wolfsschlucht in France, Werwolf in Ukraine, etc.) ref
lect this. By his closest family and relatives, Hitler was known as "Adi".
Hitler's paternal grandfather was most likely one of the brothers Johann Georg H
iedler or Johann Nepomuk Hiedler. There were rumors that Hitler was one-quarter
Jewish and that his grandmother, Maria Schicklgruber, became pregnant while work
ing as a servant in a Jewish household. The implications of these rumors were po
litically explosive for the proponent of a racist and antisemitic ideology. Oppo
nents tried to prove that Hitler had Jewish or Czech ancestors. Although these r
umors were never confirmed, for Hitler they were reason enough to conceal his or
igins. According to Robert G. L. Waite in The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler, Hi
tler made it illegal for German women to work in Jewish households, and after th
e "Anschluss" (annexation) of Austria, Hitler turned his father's hometown into
an artillery practice area. Waite says that Hitler's insecurities in this regard
may have been more important than whether Judaic ancestry could have been prove
n by his peers.

Early adulthood in Vienna and Munich

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 Vienn
a (1907–1908), citing "unfitness for painting", and was told his abilities lay i
nstead in the field of architecture.[11] 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 b
uildings which held my primary interest.[12]
Following the school rector's recommendation, he too became convinced this was t
he path to pursue, yet he lacked the proper academic preparation for architectur
e school:
In a few days I myself knew that I should some day become an architect. To be su
re, 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 archit
ectural school without having attended the building school at the Technic, and t
he latter required a high-school degree. I had none of all this. The fulfillment
of my artistic dream seemed physically impossible.[12]
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 P
aula. 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.
Hitler said he first became an anti-Semite in Vienna,[12] which had a large Jewi
sh community, including Orthodox Jews who had fled from pogroms in Russia. But a
ccording to a childhood friend, August Kubizek, Hitler was a "confirmed anti-Sem
ite" before he left Linz, Austria.[12] Vienna at that time was a hotbed of tradi
tional religious prejudice and 19th century racism. Hitler may have been influen
ced by the writings of the ideologist and anti-Semite Lanz von Liebenfels and po
lemics from politicians such as Karl Lueger, founder of the Christian Social Par
ty and Mayor of Vienna, the composer Richard Wagner, and Georg Ritter von Schöne
rer, leader of the pan-Germanic Away from Rome! movement. Hitler claims in Mein
Kampf that his transition from opposing antisemitism on religious grounds to sup
porting it on racial grounds came from having seen an Orthodox Jew:
There were very few Jews in Linz. In the course of centuries the Jews who lived
there had become Europeanized in external appearance and were so much like other
human beings that I even looked upon them as Germans. The reason why I did not
then perceive the absurdity of such an illusion was that the only external mark
which I recognized as distinguishing them from us was the practice of their stra
nge religion. As I thought that they were persecuted on account of their faith m
y aversion to hearing remarks against them grew almost into a feeling of abhorre
nce. I did not in the least suspect that there could be such a thing as a system
atic antisemitism. Once, when passing through the inner City, I suddenly encount
ered a phenomenon in a long caftan and wearing black side-locks. My first though
t was: Is this a Jew? They certainly did not have this appearance in Linz. I car
efully watched the man stealthily and cautiously but the longer I gazed at the s
trange countenance and examined it feature by feature, the more the question sha
ped itself in my brain: Is this a German?[12]
If this account is true, Hitler apparently did not act on his new belief. He oft
en was a guest for dinner in a noble Jewish house, and he interacted well with J
ewish merchants who tried to sell his paintings.[13]
Hitler may also have been influenced by Martin Luther's On the Jews and their Li
es. In Mein Kampf, Hitler refers to Martin Luther as a great warrior, a true sta
tesman, and a great reformer, alongside Wagner and Frederick the Great.[14] Wilh
elm Röpke, writing after the Holocaust, concluded that "without any question, Lu
theranism influenced the political, spiritual and social history of Germany in a
way that, after careful consideration of everything, can be described only as f
Hitler claimed that Jews were enemies of the Aryan race. He held them responsibl
e for Austria's crisis. He also identified certain forms of Socialism and Bolshe
vism, which had many Jewish leaders, as Jewish movements, merging his antisemiti
sm with anti-Marxism. Later, blaming Germany's military defeat on the 1918 revol
utions, he considered Jews the culprit of Imperial Germany's downfall and subseq
uent economic problems as well.
Generalising from tumultuous scenes in the parliament of the multi-national Aust
rian monarchy, he decided that the democratic parliamentary system was unworkabl
e. However, according to August Kubizek, his one-time roommate, he was more inte
rested in Wagner's operas than in his politics.
Hitler received the final part of his father's estate in May 1913 and moved to M
unich. He wrote in Mein Kampf that he had always longed to live in a "real" Germ
an 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 Austrian army eventually arrest
ed him. After a physical exam and a contrite plea, he was deemed unfit for servi
ce 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 i
n a Bavarian regiment. This request was granted, and Adolf Hitler enlisted in th
e Bavarian army.[17]

A young Hitler (left) posed with other German soldiers

World War I
Hitler served in France and Belgium in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment (calle
d Regiment List after its first commander), ending the war as a Gefreiter (equiv
alent at the time to a lance corporal in the British and American armies). He wa
s a runner, the most dangerous job on the Western Front, and was often exposed t
o enemy fire.[18] He participated in a number of major battles on the Western Fr
ont, including the First Battle of Ypres, the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of
Arras and the Battle of Passchendaele.[19]
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 Gefr
eiter.[20] However, because the regimental staff thought Hitler lacked leadershi
p skills, he was never promoted to Unteroffizier (equivalent to a British corpor
al). 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 draw
ings for an army newspaper. In 1916, he was wounded in the leg during the Battle
of the Somme, but returned to the front in March 1917. He received the Wound Ba
dge 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[21] and Bernhard
Horstmann suggest the blindness may have been the result of a conversion disorde
r (then known as hysteria). Hitler said it was during this experience that he be
came convinced the purpose of his life was to "save Germany." Some scholars, not
ably Lucy Dawidowicz,[22] argue that an intention to exterminate Europe's Jews w
as fully formed in Hitler's mind at this time, though he probably had not though
t through how it could be done. Most historians think the decision was made in 1
941, 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.[23]
These tactics are based on an accurate estimation of human weakness and must lea
d to success, with almost mathematical certainty, unless the other side also lea
rns how to fight poison gas with poison gas. The weaker natures must be told tha
t here it is a case of to be or not to be.[12]
Hitler had long admired Germany, and during the war he had become a passionate G
erman patriot, although he did not become a German citizen until 1932. He was sh
ocked by Germany's capitulation in November 1918 even while the German army stil
l held enemy territory.[24] Like many other German nationalists, Hitler believed
in the Dolchstoßlegende ("dagger-stab legend") which claimed that the army, "un
defeated in the field", had been "stabbed in the back" by civilian leaders and M
arxists back on the home front. These politicians were later dubbed the November
The Treaty of Versailles deprived Germany of various territories, demilitarised
the Rhineland and imposed other economically damaging sanctions. The treaty re-c
reated Poland, which even moderate Germans regarded as an outrage. The treaty al
so blamed Germany for all the horrors of the war, something which major historia
ns like John Keegan now consider at least in part to be victor's justice: most E
uropean 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 impo
se reparations on Germany (the amount was repeatedly revised under the Dawes Pla
n, the Young Plan, and the Hoover Moratorium). Germany in turn perceived the tre
aty and especially, Article 231 the paragraph on the German responsibility for t
he war as a humiliation. For example, there was a nearly total demilitarisation
of the armed forces, allowing Germany only six battleships, no submarines, no ai
r force, an army of 100,000 without conscription and no armoured vehicles. The t
reaty was an important factor in both the social and political conditions encoun
tered by Hitler and his Nazis as they sought power. Hitler and his party used th
e signing of the treaty by the "November Criminals" as a reason to build up Germ
any so that it could never happen again. He also used the "November Criminals" a
s scapegoats, although at the Paris peace conference, these politicians had had
very little choice in the matter.

Entry into politics

Main article: Hitler's political beliefs
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 adde
d to make the group appear larger) but later the number was reduced to create th
e impression that Hitler was one of the founding members (Ian Kershaw Hubris). H
itler had wanted to create his own party, but was ordered by his superiors in th
e Reichswehr to infiltrate an existing one instead.After World War I, Hitler rem
ained in the army and returned to Munich, where he—in contrast to his later decl
arations—attended the funeral march for the murdered Bavarian prime minister Kur
t Eisner.[25] After the suppression of the Bavarian Soviet Republic, he took par
t in "national thinking" courses organized by the Education and Propaganda Depar
tment (Dept Ib/P) of the Bavarian Reichswehr Group, Headquarters 4 under Captain
Karl Mayr. Scapegoats were found in "international Jewry", communists, and poli
ticians across the party spectrum, especially the parties of the Weimar Coalitio
In July 1919, Hitler was appointed a Verbindungsmann (police spy) of an Aufkläru
ngskommando (Intelligence Commando) of the Reichswehr, both to influence other s
oldiers 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
antisemitic, nationalist, anti-capitalist and anti-Marxist ideas, which favoured
a strong active government, a "non-Jewish" version of socialism and mutual soli
darity of all members of society. Drexler was impressed with Hitler's oratory sk
ills and invited him to join as the party's 55th member. He was also made the se
venth member of the executive committee. Years later, he claimed to be the party
's seventh overall member, but it has been established that this claim is false.
Here Hitler also met Dietrich Eckart, one of the early founders of the party and
member of the occult Thule Society.[26] Eckart became Hitler's mentor, exchangi
ng 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 sec
ond 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.
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 la
rge crowds. In February, Hitler spoke before a crowd of nearly six thousand in M
unich. 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 r
owdy, polemic speeches against the Treaty of Versailles, rival politicians (incl
uding monarchists, nationalists and other non-internationalist socialists) and e
specially against Marxists and Jews.
The DAP was centered in Munich, a hotbed of German nationalists who included Arm
y officers determined to crush Marxism and undermine the Weimar republic. Gradua
lly they noticed Hitler and his growing movement as a vehicle to hitch themselve
s to. 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 Hi
tler 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 resig
nation from the party on 11 July 1921. When they realized the loss of Hitler wou
ld 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 un
limited powers. Infuriated committee members (including Drexler) held out at fir
st. Meanwhile an anonymous pamphlet appeared entitled Adolf Hitler: Is he a trai
tor?, attacking Hitler's lust for power and criticizing the violent men around h
im. Hitler responded to its publication in a Munich newspaper by suing for libel
and later won a small settlement.
The executive committee of the DAP eventually backed down and Hitler's demands w
ere put to a vote of party members. Hitler received 543 votes for and only one a
gainst. At the next gathering on 29 July 1921, Adolf Hitler was introduced as Fü
hrer of the National Socialist Party, marking the first time this title was publ
icly used.
Hitler's beer hall oratory, attacking Jews, social democrats, liberals, reaction
ary monarchists, capitalists and communists, began attracting adherents. Early f
ollowers included Rudolf Hess, the former air force pilot Hermann Göring, and th
e army captain Ernst Röhm, who became head of the Nazis' paramilitary organizati
on, the SA (Sturmabteilung, or "Storm Division"), which protected meetings and a
ttacked political opponents. Hitler also assimilated independent groups, such as
the Nuremberg-based Deutsche Werkgemeinschaft, led by Julius Streicher, who bec
ame Gauleiter of Franconia. Hitler also attracted the attention of local busines
s interests, was accepted into influential circles of Munich society, and became
associated with wartime General Erich Ludendorff during this time.
Drawing of Hitler, 1923.
Beer Hall Putsch
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 appearan
ce and also had adopted some programmatical points, and in 1923, Hitler wanted t
o emulate Mussolini's "March on Rome" by staging his own "Campaign in Berlin". H
itler and Ludendorff obtained the clandestine support of Gustav von Kahr, Bavari
a'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 pol
ice 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 outside of Munich. He declared that he
had set up a new government with Ludendorff and demanded, at gunpoint, the suppo
rt of Kahr and the local military establishment for the destruction of the Berli
n government.[27] Kahr withdrew his support and fled to join the opposition to H
itler at the first opportunity.[28] The next day, when Hitler and his followers
marched from the beer hall to the Bavarian War Ministry to overthrow the Bavaria
n government as a start to their "March on Berlin", the police dispersed them. S
ixteen NSDAP members were killed.[29]
Hitler fled to the home of Ernst Hanfstaengl and contemplated suicide. He was so
on arrested for high treason. Alfred Rosenberg became temporary leader of the pa
rty. 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 w
as sentenced to five years' imprisonment at Landsberg Prison. Hitler received fa
voured treatment from the guards and had much fan mail from admirers. He was par
doned and released from jail in December 1924, as part of a general amnesty for
political prisoners. Including time on remand, he had served little more than on
e year of his sentence.[30]
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.[31]

Mein Kampf
Main article: Mein Kampf
While at Landsberg he dictated Mein Kampf (My Struggle, originally entitled "Fou
r Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice") to his deputy Rudol
f Hess.[30] 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 en
d of the war, about 10 million copies had been sold or distributed (newly-weds a
nd soldiers received free copies).
Hitler spent years dodging taxes on the royalties of his book and had accumulate
d a tax debt of about 405,500 Reichsmarks (€6 million in today's money) by the t
ime he became chancellor (at which time his debt was waived).[32][33]
The copyright of Mein Kampf in Europe is claimed by the Free State of Bavaria an
d scheduled to end on 31 December 2015. Reproductions in Germany are authorized
only for scholarly purposes and in heavily commented form. The situation is howe
ver unclear. Historian Werner Maser, in an interview with Bild am Sonntag has st
ated 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 s
tated he wants no part of the rights to the book, which could be worth millions
of euros.[34] The uncertain status has led to contested trials in Poland and Swe
den. Mein Kampf, however, is published in the US, as well as in other countries
such as Turkey and Israel, by publishers with various political positions.

Rebuilding of the party

Adolf Hitler, behind Hermann Göring, at a Nazi rally in Nuremberg in 1928.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. Thou
gh the Hitler Putsch had given Hitler some national prominence, his party's main
stay was still Munich.
Since Hitler was still banned from public speeches, he appointed Gregor Strasser
, who in 1924 had been elected to the Reichstag, as Reichsorganisationsleiter, a
uthorizing him to organize the party in northern Germany. Strasser, joined by hi
s younger brother Otto and Joseph Goebbels, steered an increasingly independent
course, emphasizing the socialist element in the party's programme. The Arbeitsg
emeinschaft der Gauleiter Nord-West became an internal opposition, threatening H
itler's authority, but this faction was defeated at the Bamberg Conference in 19
26, during which Goebbels joined Hitler.
After this encounter, Hitler centralized the party even more and asserted the Fü
hrerprinzip ("Leader principle") as the basic principle of party organization. L
eaders were not elected by their group but were rather appointed by their superi
or and were answerable to them while demanding unquestioning obedience from thei
r inferiors. Consistent with Hitler's disdain for democracy, all power and autho
rity devolved from the top down.
A key element of Hitler's appeal was his ability to evoke a sense of offended na
tional pride caused by the Treaty of Versailles imposed on the defeated German E
mpire by the Western Allies. Germany had lost economically important territory i
n 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 b
y blaming these humiliations on "international Jewry" were not particularly succ
essful with the electorate. The party learned quickly, and soon a more subtle pr
opaganda 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 Wei
mar Republic to destroy it and establish himself as dictator. Some party members
, especially in the paramilitary SA, opposed this strategy; Röhm ridiculed Hitle
r as "Adolphe Legalité".

Rise to power
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
The political turning point for Hitler came when the Great Depression hit German
y in 1930. The Weimar Republic had never been firmly rooted and was openly oppos
ed by right-wing conservatives (including monarchists), communists and the Nazis
. As the parties loyal to the democratic, parliamentary republic found themselve
s unable to agree on counter-measures, their Grand Coalition broke up and was re
placed by a minority cabinet. The new Chancellor, Heinrich Brüning of the Roman
Catholic Centre Party, lacking a majority in parliament, had to implement his me
asures through the president's emergency decrees. Tolerated by the majority of p
arties, this rule by decree would become the norm over a series of unworkable pa
rliaments and paved the way for authoritarian forms of government.
The Reichstag's initial opposition to Brüning's measures led to premature electi
ons in September 1930. The republican parties lost their majority and their abil
ity to resume the Grand Coalition, while the Nazis suddenly rose from relative o
bscurity to win 18.3% of the vote along with 107 seats. In the process, they jum
ped from the sixth-smallest party in the chamber to the second largest.
In September-October 1930, Hitler appeared as a major defence witness at the tri
al in Leipzig of two junior Reichswehr officers charged with membership of the N
azi Party, which at that time was forbidden to Reichswehr personal[35]. The two
officers, Lieutenants 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[36]. When the Prosec
ution 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 N
azi Party was a law-abiding party[37]. During his testimony, Hitler insisted tha
t his party was determined to come to power legally, that the phrase "National R
evolution" was only to be interpreted "politically", and that his Party was a fr
iend, not an enemy of the Reichswehr[38]. Hitler's testimony of September 25, 19
30 won him many admirers within the ranks of the officer corps[39].
Brüning's measures of budget consolidation and financial austerity brought littl
e economic improvement and were extremely unpopular. 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. Hitler received little response from the urban working classe
s and traditionally Catholic regions.
In September 1931, Hitler's niece Geli Raubal was found dead in her bedroom in h
is 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.[40]
In 1932, Hitler intended to run against the aging President Paul von Hindenburg
in the scheduled presidential elections. 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 N
azi Party participated, appointed Hitler to a minor administrative post and also
made him a citizen of Brunswick on 25 February 1932.[41] In those days, the sta
tes conferred citizenship, so this automatically made Hitler a citizen of German
y and thus eligible to run for president.
The new German citizen ran against Hindenburg, who was supported by a broad rang
e of reactionary nationalist, monarchist, Catholic, republican and even social d
emocratic parties. Also in the field was a Communist candidate and a member of a
fringe right-wing party. Hitler's campaign was called "Hitler über Deutschland"
(Hitler over Germany).[42] The name had a double meaning; besides a reference t
o his dictatorial ambitions, it also referred to the fact that he campaigned by
aircraft.[42] This was a brand new political tactic that allowed Hitler to speak
in two cities in one day, which was practically unheard of at the time. Hitler
came in second on both rounds, attaining more than 35% of the vote during the se
cond one in April. Although he lost to Hindenburg, the election established Hitl
er as a realistic alternative in German politics.

Cabinets of Papen and Schleicher

Hindenburg, influenced by the Camarilla, became increasingly estranged from Brün
ing and pushed his Chancellor to move the government in a decidedly authoritaria
n and right-wing direction. This culminated, in May 1932, with the resignation o
f the Brüning cabinet.
Hindenburg appointed the nobleman Franz von Papen as Chancellor, heading a "Cabi
net of Barons". Papen was bent on authoritarian rule and, since in the Reichstag
only the conservative German National People's Party (DNVP) supported his admin
istration, he immediately called for new elections in July. In these elections,
the Nazis achieved their biggest success yet and won 230 seats, becoming the lar
gest party in the Reichstag.
Knowing that it was not possible to form a stable government without Nazi suppor
t, Papen tried to persuade Hitler to become Vice-Chancellor and enter a new gove
rnment with a parliamentary basis. Hitler, however, would settle for nothing les
s than the chancellorship. He put further pressure on Papen by entertaining para
llel 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 consisten
tly 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 d
eputies, the new Reichstag was dissolved, and new elections were called in Novem
ber. This time, the Nazis lost some seats but still remained the largest party i
n the Reichstag.
After Papen failed to secure a majority, he proposed to dissolve the parliament
again along with an indefinite postponement of elections. Hindenburg at first ac
cepted this, but after General Kurt von Schleicher and the military withdrew the
ir support, Hindenburg instead dismissed Papen and appointed Schleicher, who pro
mised he could secure a majority government by negotiations with the Social Demo
crats, the trade unions, and dissidents from the Nazi Party under Gregor Strasse
r. In January 1933, however, Schleicher had to admit failure in these efforts an
d asked Hindenburg for emergency powers along with the same postponement of elec
tions that he had opposed earlier, to which the president reacted by dismissing

Appointment as Chancellor
Meanwhile, Papen tried to get his revenge on Schleicher by working toward the Ge
neral's downfall, through forming an intrigue with the camarilla and Alfred Huge
nberg, media mogul and chairman of the DNVP. Also involved were Hjalmar Schacht,
Fritz Thyssen and other leading German businessmen. They financially supported
the Nazi Party, which had been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by the cost of
heavy campaigning. The businessmen also wrote letters to Hindenburg, urging him
to appoint Hitler as leader of a government "independent from parliamentary par
ties" which could turn into a movement that would "enrapture millions of people.
Finally, the president reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler Chancellor of a coal
ition government formed by the NSDAP and DNVP. However, the Nazis were to be con
tained by a framework of conservative cabinet ministers, most notably by Papen a
s Vice-Chancellor and by Hugenberg as Minister of the Economy. The only other Na
zi besides Hitler to get a portfolio was Wilhelm Frick, who was given the relati
vely powerless interior ministry (in Germany at the time, most powers wielded by
the interior minister in other countries were held by the interior ministers of
the states). As a concession to the Nazis, Göring was named minister without po
rtfolio. While Papen intended to use Hitler as a figurehead, the Nazis gained ke
y positions. For instance, as part of the deal in which Hitler became Chancellor
, Göring was named interior minister of Prussia—giving him command of the larges
t police force in Germany.
On the morning of 30 January 1933, in Hindenburg's office, Adolf Hitler was swor
n in as Chancellor during what some observers later described as a brief and sim
ple ceremony. The Nazis' seizure of power subsequently became known as the Macht
ergreifung. Hitler established the Reichssicherheitsdienst as his personal bodyg

Reichstag fire and the March elections

Having become Chancellor, Hitler foiled all attempts by his opponents to gain a
majority in parliament. Because no single party could gain a majority, Hitler pe
rsuaded President Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag again. Elections were sch
eduled for early March, but on 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building was set
on fire.[44] Since a Dutch independent communist was found in the building, the
fire was blamed on a communist plot to which the government reacted with the Rei
chstag Fire Decree of 28 February which suspended basic rights, including habeas
corpus. Under the provisions of this decree, the German Communist Party (KPD) a
nd other groups were suppressed, and communist functionaries and deputies were a
rrested, put to flight, or murdered.
Campaigning continued, with the Nazis making use of paramilitary violence, anti-
communist hysteria, and the government's resources for propaganda. On election d
ay, 6 March, the NSDAP increased its result to 43.9% of the vote, remaining the
largest party, but its victory was marred by its failure to secure an absolute m
ajority, necessitating maintaining a coalition with the DNVP.[45]

Parade of SA troops past Hitler. Nuremberg, November 1935.

"Day of Potsdam" and the Enabling Act
On 21 March, the new Reichstag was constituted with an opening ceremony held at
Potsdam's garrison church. This "Day of Potsdam" was staged to demonstrate recon
ciliation and union between the revolutionary Nazi movement and "Old Prussia" wi
th its elites and virtues. Hitler appeared in a tail coat and humbly greeted the
aged President Hindenburg.
Because of the Nazis' failure to obtain a majority on their own, Hitler's govern
ment confronted the newly elected Reichstag with the Enabling Act that would hav
e vested the cabinet with legislative powers for a period of four years. Though
such a bill was not unprecedented, this act was different since it allowed for d
eviations from the constitution. Since the bill required a two-thirds majority i
n order to pass, the government needed the support of other parties. The positio
n of the Centre Party, the third largest party in the Reichstag, turned out to b
e decisive: under the leadership of Ludwig Kaas, the party decided to vote for t
he Enabling Act. It did so in return for the government's oral guarantees regard
ing the Church's liberty, the concordats signed by German states and the continu
ed existence of the Centre Party.
On 23 March, the Reichstag assembled in a replacement building under extremely t
urbulent circumstances. Some SA men served as guards within while large groups o
utside the building shouted slogans and threats toward the arriving deputies. Ka
as announced that the Centre Party would support the bill with "concerns put asi
de," while Social Democrat Otto Wels denounced the act in his speech. At the end
of the day, all parties except the Social Democrats voted in favour of the bill
. Deputies of the Communist Party were unable to vote, having already been arres
ted by the Nazis. The Enabling Act was dutifully renewed by the Reichstag every
four years, even through World War II.

Removal of remaining limits

With this combination of legislative and executive power, Hitler's government fu
rther suppressed the remaining political opposition. The Communist Party of Germ
any and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) were banned, while all other political
parties were forced to dissolve themselves. Finally, on 14 July, the Nazi Party
was declared the only legal party in Germany. Labour unions were merged with em
ployers' federations into an organisation under Nazi control, and the traditiona
l autonomy of German state governments was abolished.
Hitler also used the SA paramilitary to push Hugenberg into resigning and procee
ded to politically isolate Vice-Chancellor Papen. Because the SA's demands for p
olitical and military power caused much anxiety among military leaders, Hitler u
sed allegations of a plot by the SA leader Ernst Röhm to purge the SA's leadersh
ip during the Night of the Long Knives. Opponents unconnected with the SA were a
lso murdered, notably Gregor Strasser and former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher.
President Paul von Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934. Rather than holding new pre
sidential elections, Hitler's cabinet passed a law proclaiming the presidency do
rmant and transferred the role and powers of the head of state to Hitler as Führ
er und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor). Thereby Hitler also became supreme
commander of the military, whose officers then swore an oath not to the state o
r the constitution but to Hitler personally.[47] In a mid-August plebiscite, the
se acts found the approval of 84.6% of the electorate.[48] This action technical
ly violated both the constitution and the Enabling Act. The constitution had bee
n amended in 1932 to make the president of the High Court of Justice, not the ch
ancellor, acting president until new elections could be held. The Enabling Act s
pecifically barred Hitler from taking any action that tampered with the presiden
cy. However, no one dared object. With this action, Hitler effectively removed t
he last remedy by which he could be dismissed from office—and with it, all check
s and balances on his power.
In 1938, Hitler forced the resignation of his War Minister (formerly Defense Min
ister), Werner von Blomberg, after evidence surfaced that Blomberg's new wife ha
d a criminal past. Hitler replaced the Ministry of War with the Oberkommando der
Wehrmacht (High Command of the Armed Forces, or OKW), headed by General Wilhelm
Keitel. More importantly, Hitler announced he was assuming personal command of
the armed forces. He took over Blomberg's other old post, that of Commander-in-c
hief of the Armed Forces, for himself. He was already Supreme Commander by virtu
e of holding the powers of the president. The next day, the newspapers announced
, "Strongest concentration of powers in Führer's hands!" Many experts believe th
at it was at this point that Hitler became absolute dictator of Germany. It can
be argued, though, that he became absolute dictator four years earlier with his
assumption of the president's powers.

Third Reich
Main article: Nazi Germany
Having secured supreme political power, Hitler went on to gain their support by
convincing most Germans he was their savior from the economic Depression, commun
ism, the "Judeo-Bolsheviks," and the Versailles treaty, along with other "undesi
rable" minorities. The Nazis eliminated opposition through a process known as Gl

Economy and culture

Hitler oversaw one of the greatest expansions of industrial production and civil
improvement Germany had ever seen, mostly based on debt flotation and expansion
of the military. Nazi policies toward women strongly encouraged them to stay at
home to bear children and keep house. In a September 1934 speech to the Nationa
l Socialist Women's Organization, Adolf Hitler argued that for the German woman
her "world is her husband, her family, her children, and her home." This policy
was reinforced by bestowing the Cross of Honor of the German Mother on women bea
ring four or more babies. The unemployment rate was cut substantially, mostly th
rough arms production and sending women home so that men could take their jobs.
Given this, claims that the German economy achieved near full employment are at
least partly artifacts of propaganda from the era. Much of the financing for Hit
ler's reconstruction and rearmament came from currency manipulation by Hjalmar S
chacht, including the clouded credits through the Mefo bills.
Hitler also oversaw one of the largest infrastructure-improvement campaigns in G
erman history, with the construction of dozens of dams, autobahns, railroads, an
d other civil works. Hitler's policies emphasised the importance of family life:
men were the "breadwinners", while women's priorities were to lie in bringing u
p children and in household work. This revitalising of industry and infrastructu
re came at the expense of the overall standard of living, at least for those not
affected by the chronic unemployment of the later Weimar Republic, since wages
were slightly reduced in pre-World War II years, despite a 25% increase in the c
ost of living.[49] Laborers and farmers, the traditional voters of the NSDAP, ho
wever, saw an increase in their standard of living.
Hitler's government sponsored architecture on an immense scale, with Albert Spee
r becoming famous as the first architect of the Reich. While important as an arc
hitect in implementing Hitler's classicist reinterpretation of German culture, S
peer proved much more effective as armaments minister during the last years of W
orld War II. In 1936, Berlin hosted the summer Olympic games, which were opened
by Hitler and choreographed to demonstrate Aryan superiority over all other race
s, achieving mixed results.
Although Hitler made plans for a Breitspurbahn (broad gauge railroad network), t
hey were preempted by World War II. Had the railroad been built, its gauge would
have been three metres, even wider than the old Great Western Railway of Britai
Hitler contributed slightly to the design of the car that later became the Volks
wagen Beetle and charged Ferdinand Porsche with its design and construction.[50]
Production was also deferred because of the war.
Hitler considered Sparta to be the first National Socialist state, and praised i
ts early eugenics treatment of deformed children.[51]
An important historical debate about Hitler’s economic policies concerns the “mo
dernization” debate. Historians such as David Schoenbaum and Henry Ashby Turner
have argued that social and economic polices under Hitler were modernization car
ried out in pursuit of anti-modern goals[52]. Other group of historians centered
around Rainer Zitelmann have contended that Hitler had a delibrate strategy of
pursuing a revolutionary modernization of German society[53].
Rearmament and new alliances
Main articles: Axis Powers and Tripartite Treaty
Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during Hitler s visit to Venice from 14–16 Jun
e 1934.In a meeting with his leading generals and admirals on 3 February 1933 Hi
tler spoke of "conquest of Lebensraum in the East and its ruthless Germanisation
" as his ultimate foreign policy objectives.[54] In March 1933, the first major
statement of German foreign policy aims appeared with the memo submitted to the
German Cabinet by the State Secretary at the Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office), P
rince Bernhard von Bülow (not to be confused with his more famous uncle, the for
mer Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow), which advocated Anschluss with Austria, the
restoration of the frontiers of 1914, the rejection of the Part V of Versailles,
the return of the former German colonies in Africa, and German zone of influenc
e in Eastern Europe as goals for the future. Hitler found the goals in Bülow s m
emo to be too modest.[55] In March 1933, to resolve the deadlock between the Fre
nch demand for sécurité (“security”) and the German demand for gleichberechtigun
g (“equality of armaments”) at the World Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switz
erland, the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald presented the compromise “Ma
cDonald Plan”. Hitler endorsed the “MacDonald Plan”, correctly guessing that not
hing would come of it, and that in the interval he could win some goodwill in Lo
ndon by making his government appear moderate, and the French obstinate.[56]
In June 1933, Hitler was forced to disallow Alfred Hugenberg of the German Natio
nal People s Party who while attending the London World Economic Conference put
forth a programme of colonial expansion in both Africa and Eastern Europe, which
created a major storm abroad.[57] Speaking to the Burgermeister of Hamburg in 1
933, Hitler commented that Germany required several years of peace before she co
uld be sufficiently rearmed enough to risk a war, and until then a policy of cau
tion was called for.[58] In his "peace speeches" of 17 May 1933; 21 May 1935 and
7 March 1936 Hitler stressed his supposed pacific goals and a willingness to wo
rk within the international system.[59] In private, Hitler s plans were somethin
g less than pacific. At the first meeting of his Cabinet in 1933, Hitler placed
military spending ahead of unemployment relief, indeed was only prepared to spen
d money on the latter if the former was satisfied first.[60] When the president
of the Reichsbank, the former Chancellor, Dr. Hans Luther offered the new govern
ment the legal limit of 100 million Reichmarks to finance rearmament, Hitler fou
nd the sum too low, and sacked Luther in March 1933 to replace him with Hjalmar
Schacht, who during the next five years was to advance 12 billion Reichmarks wor
th of "Mefo-bills" to pay for rearmament.[61]
A major initiative in Hitler s foreign policy in his early years was to create a
n alliance with Britain. In the 1920s, Hitler wrote that a future National Socia
list foreign policy goal as being "the destruction of Russia with the help of En
gland".[62] In May 1933, Alfred Rosenberg in his capacity as head of the Nazi Pa
rty s Aussenpolitisches Amt (Foreign Political Office) visited London as part of
a disastrous effort to win an alliance with Britain.[63] In October 1933, Hitle
r pulled Germany out of both the League of Nations and World Disarmament Confere
nce after his Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath made it appear to wo
rld public opinion that the French demand for sécurité was the principle stumbli
ng block.[64]
In line with the views he advocated in Mein Kampf and Zweites Buch about the nec
essity of building an Anglo-German alliance, Hitler, in a meeting in November 19
33 with the British Ambassador, Sir Eric Phipps, offered a scheme in which Brita
in would support a 300,000-strong German Army in exchange for a German “guarante
e” of the British Empire.[65] In response, the British stated a ten-year waiting
period would be necessary before Britain would support an increase in the size
of the German Army.[65] A more successful initiative in foreign policy occurred
with relations with Poland. In spite of intense opposition from the military and
the Auswärtiges Amt who preferred closer ties with the Soviet Union, Hitler, in
the fall of 1933 opened secret talks with Poland that were to lead to the Germa
n-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of January 1934.[64]
In February 1934, Hitler met with the British Lord Privy Seal, Sir Anthony Eden,
and hinted strongly that Germany already possessed an Air Force, which had been
forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles.[66] Although a secret German armaments p
rogramme had been on-going since 1919, in March 1935, Hitler rejected Part V of
the Versailles treaty by publicly announcing that the German army would be expan
ded to 600,000 men (six times the number stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles)
, introducing an Air Force (Luftwaffe) and increasing the size of the Navy (Krie
gsmarine). Britain, France, Italy and the League of Nations quickly condemned th
ese actions. However, after re-assurances from Hitler that Germany was only inte
rested in peace, no country took any action to stop this development and German
re-armament continued. Later in March 1935, Hitler held a series of meetings in
Berlin with the British Foreign Secretary Sir John Simon and Eden, during which
he successfully evaded British offers for German participation in a regional sec
urity pact meant to serve as an Eastern European equivalent of the Locarno pact
while the two British ministers avoided taking up Hitler s offers of alliance.[6
7] During his talks with Simon and Eden, Hitler first used what he regarded as t
he brilliant colonial negotiating tactic, when Hitler parlayed an offer from Sim
on to return to the League of Nations by demanding the return of the former Germ
an colonies in Africa.[68]
Starting in April 1935, disenchantment with how the Third Reich had developed in
practice as opposed to what been promised had led to many in the Nazi Party, es
pecially the Alte Kämpfer (Old Fighters; i.e those who joined the Party before 1
930, and who tended to the most ardent anti-Semitics in the Party), and the SA i
nto lashing out against Germany s Jewish minority as a way of expressing their f
rustrations against a group that the authorities would not generally protect[69]
. The rank and file of the Party were most unhappy that two years into the Third
Reich, and despite countless promises by Hitler prior to 1933, no law had been
passed banning marriage or sex between those Germans belonging to the “Aryan” an
d Jewish “races”. A Gestapo report from the spring of 1935 stated that the rank
and file of the Nazi Party would "set in motion by us from below" a solution to
the "Jewish problem", "that the government would then have to follow"[70]. As a
result, Nazi Party activists and the SA started a major wave of assaults, vandal
ism and boycotts against German Jews[71].
On 18 June 1935, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement (A.G.N.A.) was signed in Londo
n which allowed for increasing the allowed German tonnage up to 35% of that of t
he British navy. Hitler called the signing of the A.G.N.A. "the happiest day of
his life" as he believed the agreement marked the beginning of the Anglo-German
alliance he had predicated in Mein Kampf.[72] This agreement was made without co
nsulting either France or Italy, directly undermined the League of Nations and p
ut the Treaty of Versailles on the path towards irrelevance.[73] After the signi
ng of the A.G.N.A., in June 1935 Hitler ordered the next step in the creation of
an Anglo-German alliance: taking all the societies demanding the restoration of
the former German African colonies and coordinating (Gleichschaltung) them into
a new Reich Colonial Association (Reichskolonialbund) which over the next few y
ears waged an extremely aggressive propaganda campaign for colonial restoration.
[74] Hitler had no real interest in the former German African colonies. In Mein
Kampf, Hitler had excoriated the Imperial German government for pursuing colonia
l expansion in Africa prior to 1914 on the grounds that the natural area for Leb
ensraum was Eastern Europe, not Africa.[75] It was Hitler’s intention to use col
onial demands as a negotiating tactic that would see a German “renunciation” of
colonial claims in exchange for Britain making an alliance with the Reich on Ger
man terms.[76].
In August 1935, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht advised Hitler that the wave of anti-Semitic
violence was interfering with the workings of the economy, and hence rearmament
[77]. Following Dr. Schacht’s complaints, plus reports that the German public di
d not approve of the wave of anti-Semitic violence, and that continuing police t
oleration of the violence was hurting the regime s popularity with the wider pub
lic, Hitler ordered a stop to "individual actions" against German Jews on August
8, 1935[78]. From Hitler s perspective, it was imperative to bring in harsh new
anti-Semitic laws as a consolation prize for those Party members who were disap
pointed with Hitler s halt order of August 8, especially because Hitler had only
reluctantly given the halt order for pragmatic reasons, and his symapthies were
with the Party radicals[79]. The annual Nazi Party Rally held at Nuremberg in S
eptember 1935 was to feature the first session of the Reichstag held at that cit
y since 1543. Hitler had planned to have the Reichstag pass a law making the Naz
i Swastika flag the flag of the German Reich, and a major speech in support of t
he impending Italian aggression against Ethiopia[80]. However, at the last minut
e, the German Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath persuaded Hitler to
cancel his speech as being too provocative to public opinion abroad as it contra
dicted the message of Hitler’s “peace speeches”, thus leaving Hitler with the su
dden need to have something else to address the first meeting of the Reichstag i
n Nuremberg since 1543, other than the Reich Flag Law[81]. On September 13, 1935
, Hitler hurriedly ordered two civil servants, Dr. Bernhard Lösener and Franz Al
brecht Medicus of the Interior Ministry to fly to Nuremberg to start drafting an
ti-Semitic laws for Hitler to present to the Reichstag for September 15[82]. On
the evening of September 15, Hitler presented two laws before the Reichstag bann
ing sex and marriage between “Aryan” and Jewish Germans, the employment of “Arya
n” woman under the age of 45 in Jewish households, and deprived “non-Aryans” of
the benefits of German citizenship[83]. The laws of September 1935 are generally
known as the Nuremberg Laws.
In an interview with the French journalist Bertrand de Jouvenel in February 1936
, Hitler appeared to disallow Mein Kampf by saying that parts of his book was no
w out of date, and he was not guided by them (through just what precise parts we
re out of date was left unclear)[84]. In March 1936, Hitler again violated the t
reaty by reoccupying the demilitarized zone in the Rhineland. When Britain and F
rance did nothing, he grew bolder. In July 1936, the Spanish Civil War began whe
n the military, led by General Francisco Franco, rebelled against the elected Po
pular Front government. After receiving an appeal for help from General Franco i
n July 1936, Hitler sent troops to support Franco, and Spain served as a testing
ground for Germany s new forces and their methods. At the same time, Hitler con
tinued with his efforts to create an Anglo-German alliance. In July 1936, he off
ered to Phipps a promise that if Britain were to sign an alliance with the Reich
, then Germany would commit to sending twelve divisions to the Far East to prote
ct British colonial possessions there from a Japanese attack.[85] Hitler s offer
was refused.
In August 1936, in response to a growing crisis in the German economy caused by
the strains of rearmament, Hitler issued the "Four-Year Plan Memorandum" orderin
g Hermann Göring to carry out the Four Year Plan to have the German economy read
y for war within the next four years.[86] During the 1936 economic crisis, the G
erman government was divided into two fractions with one (the so-called "free ma
rket" fraction) centering around the Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schacht and th
e Price Commissioner Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler calling for decreased military
spending and a turn away from autarkic policies, and another fraction around Gö
ring calling for the opposite. Hitler hesitated for the first half of 1936 befor
e siding with the more radical fraction in his "Four Year Plan" memo of August.[
87] Historians such as Richard Overy have argued that the importance of the memo
, which was written personally by Hitler, can be gauged by the fact that Hitler,
who had something of a phobia about writing, hardly ever wrote anything down, w
hich indicates that Hitler had something especially important to say.[88] The "F
our-Year Plan Memorandum" predicated an imminent all-out, apocalyptic struggle b
etween "Judo-Bolshevism" and German National Socialism, which necessitated a tot
al effort at rearmament regardless of the economic costs.[89] In the memo, Hitle
r wrote:
Since the outbreak of the French Revolution, the world has been moving with ever
increasing speed toward a new conflict, the most extreme solution of which is c
alled Bolshevism, whose essence and aim, however, are solely the elimination of
those strata of mankind which have hitherto provided the leadership and their re
placement by worldwide Jewry. No state will be able to withdraw or even remain a
t a distance from this historical conflict...It is not the aim of this memorandu
m to prophesy the time when the untenable situation in Europe will become an ope
n crisis. I only want, in these lines, to set down my conviction that this crisi
s cannot and will not fail to arrive and that it is Germany s duty to secure her
own existence by every means in face of this catastrophe, and to protect hersel
f against it, and that from this compulsion there arises a series of conclusions
relating to the most important tasks that our people have ever been set. For a
victory of Bolshevism over Germany would not lead to a Versailles treaty, but to
the final destruction, indeed the annihilation of the German people...I conside
r it necessary for the Reichstag to pass the following two laws: 1) A law provid
ing the death penalty for economic sabotage and 2) A law making the whole of Jew
ry liable for all damage inflicted by individual specimens of this community of
criminals upon the German economy, and thus upon the German people.[90]
Hitler called for Germany to have the world s "first army" in terms of fighting
power within the next four years and that "the extent of the military developmen
t of our resources cannot be too large, nor its pace too swift" (italics in the
original) and the role of the economy was simply to support "Germany s self-asse
rtion and the extension of her Lebensraum".[91][92] Hitler went on to write that
given the magnitude of the coming struggle that the concerns expressed by membe
rs of the "free market" faction like Schacht and Goerdeler that the current leve
l of military spending was bankrupting Germany were irrelevant. Hitler wrote tha
t: "However well balanced the general pattern of a nation s life ought to be, th
ere must at particular times be certain disturbances of the balance at the expen
se of other less vital tasks. If we do not succeed in bringing the German army a
s rapidly as possible to the rank of premier army in the world...then Germany wi
ll be lost!"[93] and "The nation does not live for the economy, for economic lea
ders, or for economic or financial theories; on the contrary, it is finance and
the economy, economic leaders and theories, which all owe unqualified service in
this struggle for the self-assertion of our nation".[93]
In August 1936, the freelance Nazi diplomat Joachim von Ribbentrop was appointed
German Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Before leaving to take up his post
in October 1936, Hitler told Ribbentrop: “Ribbentrop...get Britain to join the
Anti-Comintern Pact, that is what I want most of all. I have sent you as the bes
t man I’ve got. Do what you can... But if in future all our efforts are still in
vain, fair enough, then I’m ready for war as well. I would regret it very much,
but if it has to be, there it is. But I think it would be a short war and the m
oment it is over, I will then be ready at any time to offer the British an honou
rable peace acceptable to both sides. However, I would then demand that Britain
join the Anti-Comintern Pact or perhaps some other pact. But get on with it, Rib
bentrop, you have the trumps in your hand, play them well. I’m ready at any time
for an air pact as well. Do your best. I will follow your efforts with interest

Prince Yasuhito Chichibu, who met Hitler during the 1937 Nuremberg RallyAn Axis
was declared between Germany and Italy by Count Galeazzo Ciano, foreign minister
of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini on 25 October 1936. On 25 November of the
same year, Germany concluded the Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan. At the time of
the signing of the Anti-Comintern Pact invitations were send out for Britain, Ch
ina, Italy and Poland to adhere; of the invited powers only the Italians were to
sign the pact, in November 1937. To strengthen relationship with Japan, Hitler
met in 1937 in Nuremberg Prince Chichibu, a brother of emperor Hirohito. However
, the meeting with Prince Chichibu had little consequence, as Hitler refused the
Japanese request to halt German arms shipments to China or withdraw the German
officers serving with the Chinese in the Second Sino-Japanese War. By the later
half of 1937, Hitler had abandoned his dream of an Anglo-German alliance, blamin
g "inadequate" British leadership for turning down his offers of an alliance.[95
] In a talk with the League of Nations High Commissioner for the Free City of Da
nzig, the Swiss diplomat Carl Jacob Burckhardt in September 1937, Hitler protest
ed what he regarded as British interference in the "German sphere" in Europe, th
ough in the same talk, Hitler made clear his view of Britain as an ideal ally, w
hich for pure selfishness was blocking German plans.[95]
Hitler had suffered severely from stomach pains and eczema in 1936–37, leading t
o his remark to the Nazi Party s propaganda leadership in October 1937 that beca
use both parents died early in their lives, he would probably follow suit, leavi
ng him with only a few years to obtain the necessary Lebensraum.[96][97] About t
he same time, Dr. Goebbels noted in his diary Hitler now wished to see the "Grea
t Germanic Reich" he envisioned in his own lifetime rather than leaving the work
of building the "Great Germanic Reich" to his successors.[98]
On 5 November 1937, at the Reich Chancellory, Adolf Hitler held a secret meeting
with the War and Foreign Ministers plus the three service chiefs, recorded in t
he Hossbach Memorandum and stated his intentions for acquiring "living space" Le
bensraum for the German people. He also ordered them to make plans for war in th
e east no later than 1943 in order to acquire Lebensraum. Hitler stated the conf
erence minutes were to be regarded as his "political testament" in the event of
his death.[99] In the memo, Hitler was recorded as saying that such a state of c
risis had been reached in the German economy that the only way of stopping a sev
ere decline in living standards in Germany was to embark sometime in the near-fu
ture on a policy of aggression by seizing Austria and Czechoslovakia.[100][101]
Moreover, Hitler stated that the arms race meant that time for action had to occ
ur before Britain and France obtained a permanent lead in the arms race.[100] A
striking change in the Hossbach Memo was Hitler’s changed view of Britain from t
he prospective ally of 1928 in the Zweites Buch to the "hate-inspired antagonist
" of 1937 in the Hossbach memo.[102] The historian Klaus Hildebrand described th
e memo as the start of an "ambivalent course" towards Britain while the late his
torian Andreas Hillgruber argued that Hitler was embarking on expansion "without
Britain", preferably "with Britain", but if necessary "against Britain".[103][1
Hitler s intentions outlined in the Hossbach memorandum led to strong protests f
rom the Foreign Minister, Baron Konstantin von Neurath, the War Minister Field M
arshal Werner von Blomberg and the Army Commander General Werner von Fritsch tha
t any German aggression in Eastern Europe was bound to trigger a war with France
because of the French alliance system in Eastern Europe, the so-called cordon s
anitaire and if a Franco-German war broke out, then Britain was almost certain t
o intervene rather than risk the chance of a French defeat.[105] The aggression
against Austria and Czechoslovakia were intended to be the first of a series of
localized wars in Eastern Europe that would secure Germany’s position in Europe
before the final showdown with Britain and France. Fritsch, Blomberg and Neurath
all argue that Hitler was pursuing an extremely high risk strategy of localized
wars in Eastern Europe that was most likely to cause a general war before Germa
ny was ready for such a conflict, and advised Hitler to wait until Germany had m
ore time to rearm. Neurath, Blomberg and Fritsch had no moral objections to Germ
an aggression, but rather based their opposition on the question of timing—deter
mining the best time for aggression.[105]
Late in November 1937, Hitler received as his guest the British Lord Privy Seal,
Lord Halifax who was visiting Germany ostensibly as part of a hunting trip. Spe
aking of changes to Germany s frontiers, Halifax told Hitler that: "All other qu
estions fall into the category of possible alterations in the European order whi
ch might be destined to come about with the passage of time. Amongst these quest
ions were Danzig, Austria and Czechoslovakia. England was interested to see that
any alterations should come through the course of peaceful evolution and that t
he methods should be avoided which might cause far-reaching disturbances".[106]
Significantly, Halifax made clear in his statements to Hitler, though whatever H
itler appreciated the significance of this or not is unclear, that any possible
territorial changes had to be accomplished peacefully, and that though Britain h
ad no security commitments in Eastern Europe beyond the Covenant of the League o
f Nations, that Britain would not tolerate territorial changes via war.[107] Hit
ler seems to have misunderstood Halifax s remarks as confirming him in his convi
ction that Britain would just stand aside while he pursued his strategy of limit
ed wars in Eastern Europe.
Hitler was most unhappy with the criticism of his intentions expressed by Neurat
h, Blomberg, and Fritsch in the Hossbach Memo, and in early 1938 asserted his co
ntrol of the military-foreign policy apparatus through the Blomberg-Fritsch Affa
ir, the abolition of the War Ministry and its replacement by the OKW, and by sac
king Neurath as Foreign Minister on 4 February 1938.[108] The British economic h
istorian Richard Overy commented that the establishment of the OKW in February 1
938 was a clear sign of what Hitler s intentions were since supreme headquarters
organizations such as the OKW are normally set up during wartime, not peacetime
.[109] The Official German history of World War II has argued that from early 19
38 onwards, Hitler was not carrying out a foreign policy that had carried a high
risk of war, but was carrying out a foreign policy aiming at war.[110]

The Holocaust
Main article: The Holocaust
One of the foundations of Hitler s social policies was the concept of racial hyg
iene. It was based on the ideas of Arthur de Gobineau, a French count, eugenics,
a pseudo-science that advocated racial purity, and social Darwinism, a mis-use
of Charles Darwin s thought. Applied to human beings, "survival of the fittest"
was interpreted as requiring racial purity and killing off "life unworthy of lif
e." The first victims were children with physical and developmental disabilities
; those killings occurred in a programme dubbed Action T4.[111] After a public o
utcry, Hitler made a show of ending this program, but the killings in fact conti
nued (see Nazi eugenics).
Between 1939 and 1945, the SS, assisted by collaborationist governments and recr
uits from occupied countries, systematically killed somewhere between 11 and 14
million people, including about six million Jews,[112][113] in concentration cam
ps, ghettos and mass executions, or through less systematic methods elsewhere. B
esides being gassed to death, many also died as a result of starvation and disea
se while working as slave labourers (sometimes benefiting private German compani
es). Along with Jews, non-Jewish Poles (over three million), communists or polit
ical opponents, members of resistance groups, homosexuals, Roma, the physically
handicapped and mentally retarded, Soviet prisoners of war (possibly as many as
three million), Jehovah s Witnesses, Adventists and Neopagans, trade unionists,
and psychiatric patients were killed. One of the biggest centres of mass-killing
was the extermination camp complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Hitler never visited
the concentration camps and did not speak publicly about the killing in precise
The Holocaust (the Endlösung der jüdischen Frage or "Final Solution of the Jewis
h Question") was planned and ordered by leading Nazis, with Heinrich Himmler pla
ying a key role. While no specific order from Hitler authorizing the mass killin
g has surfaced, there is documentation showing that he approved the Einsatzgrupp
en, killing squads that followed the German army through Poland and Russia, and
that he was kept well informed about their activities. The evidence also suggest
s that in the fall of 1941 Himmler and Hitler decided upon mass extermination by
gassing. During interrogations by Soviet intelligence officers declassified ove
r fifty years later, Hitler s valet Heinz Linge and his military aide Otto Gunsc
he said Hitler had "poured over the first blueprints of gas chambers." Also his
private secretary, Traudl Junge, testified that Hitler knew all about the death
To make for smoother cooperation in the implementation of this "Final Solution",
the Wannsee conference was held near Berlin on 20 January 1942, with fifteen se
nior officials participating, led by Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann. The r
ecords of this meeting provide the clearest evidence of planning for the Holocau
st. On 22 February, Hitler was recorded saying to his associates, "we shall rega
in our health only by eliminating the Jews".

World War II
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al may be challenged and removed. (April 2008)
Main article: World War II
Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, 1940
Early triumphs
In February 1938, Hitler finally ended the dilemma that plagued German Far Easte
rn policy, namely whatever to continue the informal alliance that existed with C
hina or create a new alliance with Japan. Upon the advice of his newly appointed
Foreign Minister, the strongly pro-Japanese Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler chos
e to end the informal alliance with China as the price of gaining an alignment w
ith Japan. In an address to the Reichstag, Hitler announced German recognition o
f Manchukuo and renounced the German claims to the former colonies in the Pacifi
c held by Japan[114]. Hitler ordered an end to arm shipments to China, and order
ed the recall of all the German officers attached to the Chinese Army[115].
In March 1938, Hitler pressured Austria into unification with Germany (the Ansch
luss) and made a triumphant entry into Vienna on 14 March.[116][117] Next, he in
tensified a crisis over the German-speaking Sudetenland districts of Czechoslova
On 3 March 1938, the British Ambassador Sir Neville Henderson met with Hitler an
d presented upon behalf of his government a proposal for an international consor
tium to rule much of Africa (in which Germany would be assigned a leading role)
in exchange for a German promise never to resort to war to change the frontiers.
[119] Hitler who was more interested in Lebensraum in Eastern Europe then in par
ticipating in international consortiums rejected the British offer, using as his
excuse that he wanted the former German African colonies returned to the Reich,
not an international consortium running Central Africa. Moreover Hitler argued
it was totally outrageous on Britain’s part to impose conditions about German co
nduct in Europe as the price for territory in Africa.[120] Hitler ended the conv
ersation by telling Henderson he would rather wait twenty years for the return o
f the former colonies then accept British conditions about avoiding war.[120][12
On 28–29 March 1938, Hitler held a series of secret meetings in Berlin with Konr
ad Henlein of the Sudeten Heimfront (Home Front), the largest of the ethnic Germ
an parties of the Sudetenland. During the Hitler-Henlein meetings, it was agreed
that Henlein would provide the pretext for German aggression against Czechoslov
akia by making demands on Prague for increased autonomy for Sudeten Germans that
Prague could never be reasonably expected to fulfill. In April 1938, Henlein to
ld the foreign minister of Hungary that “whatever the Czech government might off
er, he would always raise still higher demands...he wanted to sabotage an unders
tanding by all means because this was the only method to blow up Czechoslovakia
quickly”.[122] In private, Hitler considered the Sudeten issue unimportant; his
real intentions being to use the Sudeten question as the justification both at h
ome and abroad for a war of aggression to destroy Czechoslovakia, under the grou
nds of self-determination, and Prague’s refusal to meet Henlein’s demands.[123]
Hitler’s plans called for a massive military build-up along the Czechoslovak bor
der, relentless propaganda attacks about the supposed ill treatment of the Sudet
enlanders, and finally, “incidents” between Heimfront activists and the Czechosl
ovak authorities to justify an invasion that would swiftly destroy Czechoslovaki
a in a few days campaign before other powers could act.[124] Since Hitler wished
to have the fall harvest brought in as much as possible, and to complete the so
-called “West Wall” to guard the Rhineland, the date for the invasion was chosen
for late September or early October 1938.[125]
In April 1938, Hitler ordered the OKW to start preparing plans for Fall Grün (Ca
se Green), the codename for an invasion of Czechoslovakia.[126] Further increasi
ng the tension in Europe was the May Crisis of 19–22 May 1938. The May Crisis of
1938 was a false alarm caused by rumors that Czechoslovakia would be invaded th
e weekend of the municipal elections in that country, erroneous reports of major
German troop movements along the Czechoslovak border just prior to the election
s, the killing of two ethnic Germans by the Czechoslovak police and Ribbentrop s
highly bellicose remarks to Henderson when the latter asked the former if an in
vasion was indeed scheduled for the weekend which led to a partial Czechoslovak
mobilization and firm warnings from London against a German move against Czechos
lovakia before it was realized that no invasion was intended for that weekend.[1
27] Through no invasion had been planned for May 1938, it was believed in London
that such a course of action was indeed be considered in Berlin, leading to two
warnings on 21 May and 22 May that the United Kingdom would go to war with Germ
any, if France was involved in a war with Germany.[128] Hitler, for his part, wa
s to use the words of an aide, highly “furious” with the perception that he had
been forced to back-down by the Czechoslovak mobilization, and warnings from Lon
don and Paris, when he had in fact had been planning nothing for that weekend.[1
29] Through plans had already been drafted in April 1938 for an invasion of Czec
hoslovakia in the near future, the May Crisis and the perception of a diplomatic
defeat further reinforced Hitler in his chosen course. The May Crisis seemed to
have had the effect of convincing Hitler that expansion "without Britain" was n
ot possible, and expansion "against Britain" was the only viable course.[130] In
the immediate aftermath of the May crisis, Hitler ordered an acceleration of Ge
rman naval building beyond the limits of the A.G.N.A., and in the "Heye memorand
um", drawn at Hitler s orders, envisaged the Royal Navy for the first time as th
e principle opponent of the Kriegsmarine.[131]
At the conference of 28 May 1938, Hitler declared it was his "unalterable" decis
ion to "smash Czechoslovakia" by 1 October of the same year, which was explained
as securing the eastern flank "for advancing against the West, England and Fran
ce.[132] At the same conference, Hitler expressed his belief that Britain would
not risk a war until British rearmament was complete, which Hitler felt would be
around 1941–42, and Germany should in a series of wars eliminate France and her
allies in Europe in the interval in the years 1938–41 while German rearmament w
as still ahead.[132] Hitler s determination to go through with Fall Grün in 1938
provoked a major crisis in the German command structure.[133] The Chief of the
General Staff, General Ludwig Beck protested in a lengthy series of memos that F
all Grün would start a world war that Germany would lose, and urged Hitler to pu
t off the projected war.[133] Hitler called Beck s arguments against war "kindis
che Kräfteberechnugen" ("childish calculations").[134]
Starting in August 1938, information reached London that Germany was beginning t
o mobilize reservists, together with information leaked by anti-war elements in
the German military that the war was scheduled for sometime in September.[135] F
inally, as a result of intense French, and especially British diplomatic pressur
e, President Edvard Beneš unveiled on 5 September 1938, the “Fourth Plan” for co
nstitutional reorganization of his country, which granted most of the demands fo
r Sudeten autonomy made by Henlein in his Karlsbad speech of April 1938, and thr
eatened to deprive the Germans of their pretext for aggression.[136] Henlein’s H
eimfront promptly responded to the offer of “Fourth Plan” by having a series of
violent crashes with the Czechoslovak police, culminating in major clashes in mi
d-September that led to the declaration of martial law in certain Sudeten distri
cts.[137][138] In a response to the threatening situation, in late August 1938,
the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had conceived of Plan Z, namely t
o fly to Germany, meet Hitler, and then work out an agreement that could end the
crisis.[139][140] On 13 September 1938, Chamberlain offered to fly to Germany t
o discuss a solution to the crisis. Chamberlain had decided to execute Plan Z in
response to erroneous information supplied by the German opposition that the in
vasion was due to start any time after 18 September.[141] Though Hitler was not
happy with Chamberlain’s offer, he agreed to see the British Prime Minister beca
use to refuse Chamberlain’s offer would put to the lie his repeated claims that
he was a man of peace driven reluctantly to war because of Beneš’s intractabilit
y.[142] In a summit at Berchtesgaden, Chamberlain promised to pressure Beneš int
o agreeing to Hitler s publicly stated demands about allowing the Sudetenland to
join Germany, in return for a reluctant promise by Hitler to postpone any milit
ary action until Chamberlain had given a chance to fulfill his promise.[143] Hit
ler had agreed to the postponement out of the expectation that Chamberlain would
fail to secure Prague’s consent to transferring the Sudetenland, and was by all
accounts, most disappointed when Franco-British pressure secured just that.[144
] The talks between Chamberlain and Hitler in September 1938 were made difficult
by their innate differing concepts of what Europe should look like, which Hitle
r aiming to use the Sudeten issue as a pretext for war and Chamberlain genuinely
striving for a peaceful solution.[145]
When Chamberlain returned to Germany on 22 September to present his peace plan f
or the transfer of the Sudetenland at a summit with Hitler at Bad Godesberg, the
British delegation were most unpleasantly surprised to have Hitler reject his o
wn terms he presented at Berchtesgaden as now unacceptable.[146] To put an end t
o Chamberlain’s peace-making efforts once and for all, Hitler demanded the Sudet
enland be ceded to Germany no later then 28 September 1938 with no negotiations
between Prague and Berlin and no international commission to oversee the transfe
r; no plebiscites to held in the transferred districts until after the transfer;
and for good measure, that Germany would not forsake war as an option until all
the claims against Czechoslovakia by Poland and Hungary had been satisfied.[147
] The differing views between the two leaders was best symbolized when Chamberla
in was presented with Hitler’s new demands, protested at being presented with an
ultimatum, leading Hitler in his turn to state that because his document statin
g his new demands was entitled “Memorandum”, it could not possibly be an ultimat
um.[148] On 25 September 1938 Britain rejected the Bad Godesberg ultimatum, and
began preparations for war.[149][150] To further underline the point, Sir Horace
Wilson, the British government’s Chief Industrial Advisor, and a close associat
e of Chamberlain was dispatched to Berlin to inform Hitler that if the Germans a
ttacked Czechoslovakia, then France honor her commitments as demanded by the Fra
nco-Czechoslovak alliance of 1924, and “then England would feel honor bound, to
offer France assistance”.[151] Initially, determined to continue with attack pla
nned for 1 October 1938, sometime between 27 and 28 September, Hitler changed hi
s mind, and asked to take up a suggestion of, and through the intercession of Mu
ssolini, for a conference to be held in Munich with Chamberlain, Mussolini, and
the French Premier Édouard Daladier to discuss the Czechoslovak situation.[152]
Just what had caused Hitler to change his attitude is not entirely clear, but it
is likely that the combination of Franco-British warnings, especially the mobil
ization of the British fleet had finally convinced him of what the most likely r
esult of Fall Grün would be; the minor nature of the alleged casus belli being t
he timetables for the transfer made Hitler appear like the aggressor too much; t
he view from his advisors that Germany was not prepared either militarily or eco
nomically for a world war; warnings from the states that Hitler saw as his would
-be allies in the form of Italy, Japan, Poland and Hungary that they would not f
ight on behalf of Germany; and very visible signs that the majority of Germans w
ere not enthusiastic about the prospect of war.[153][154][155] Moreover, Germany
lacked sufficient supplies of oil and other crucial raw materials (the plants t
hat would produce the synthetic oil for the German war effort were not in operat
ion yet), and was highly dependent upon imports from abroad.[156] The Kriegsmari
ne reported that should war come with Britain, it could not break a British bloc
kade, and since Germany had hardly any no oil stocks, Germany would be defeated
for no other reason then a shortage of oil.[157] The Economics Ministry told Hit
ler that Germany had only 2.6 million tons of oil at hand, and should war with B
ritain and France, would require 7.6 million tons of oil.[158] Starting on 18 Se
ptember 1938, the British refused to supply metals to Germany, and on 24 Septemb
er the Admiralty forbade British ships to sail to Germany. The British detained
the tanker Invershannon carrying 8, 600 tons of oil to Hamburg, which caused imm
ediate economic pain in Germany[159] Given Germany s dependence on imported oil
(80% of German oil in the 1930s came from New World), and the likelihood that a
war with Britain would see a blockade cutting Germany off from oil supplies, his
torians have argued that Hitler s decision to see a peaceful end to call off Fal
l Grün was due to concerns about the oil problem.[156]
On 30 September 1938, a one-day conference was held in Munich attended by Hitler
, Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini that led to the Munich Agreement, which ga
ve to Hitler s ostensible demands by handing over the Sudetenland districts to G
ermany.[160] Since London and Paris had already agreed to the idea of a transfer
of the disputed territory in mid-September, the Munich Conference mostly compri
sed discussions in one day of talks on technical questions about how the transfe
r of the Sudetenland would take place, and featured the minor relatively concess
ions from Hitler that the transfer would take place over a ten day period in Oct
ober overseen by an international commission and Germany could wait until Hungar
ian and Polish claims were settled.[161] At the end of the conference, Chamberla
in had Hitler sign a declaration of Anglo-German friendship, to which Chamberlai
n attached great importance and Hitler none at all.[162] Though Chamberlain was
well-satisfied with the Munich conference, leading to his infamous claim to have
secured “peace in our time”, Hitler was privately furious about being “cheated”
out of the war he was desperate to have in 1938.[163][164] As a result of the s
ummit, Hitler was TIME magazine s Man of the Year for 1938.[165]
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain hailed this agreement as "peace in ou
r time", but by appeasing Hitler, Britain and France left Czechoslovakia to Hitl
er s mercy.[160] Through Hitler professed happiness in public over the achieveme
nt of his ostensible demands, in private he was determined to have a war the nex
t time around by ensuring that Germany s professed demands would not be met.[166
] In Hitler’s view, a British-brokered peace, through extremely favorable to the
ostensible German demands was a diplomatic defeat that proved that Britain need
ed to be ended as a power to allow him to pursue his dreams of eastern expansion
.[167][168] In the aftermath of Munich, Hitler felt since Britain would ally her
self nor stand aside to Germany’s continental ambitions, this proved that Britai
n needed to be ended as a power, and accordingly, Britain replaced the Soviet Un
ion in Hitler’s mind as the main enemy of the Reich, with German policies being
accordingly reoriented.[169][170][171][172] Hitler expressed his disappointment
over the Munich Agreement in a speech on 9 October 1938 in Saarbrücken when he l
ashed out against the Conservative anti-appeasers Winston Churchill, Alfred Duff
Cooper and Anthony Eden, whom Hitler described as a warmongering anti-German fr
action, who would attack Germany at the first opportunity, and were likely to co
me to power at any moment.[173] In the same speech, Hitler claimed “We Germans w
ill no longer endure such governessy interference. Britain should mind her own b
usiness and worry about her own troubles”.[174] In November 1938, Hitler ordered
a major anti-British propaganda campaign to launched with the British being lou
dly abused for the "hypocrisy" for maintaining world-wide empire while seeking t
o block the Germans from acquiring an empire of their own.[175] A particular hig
hlight in the anti-British propaganda was on alleged British humans rights abuse
s in dealing with the Arab uprising in the Palestine Mandate and in India, and t
he "hyprocrisy" of British criticism of the Kristallnacht.[176] This marked a hu
ge change from the earlier years of the Third Reich, when the German media had p
ortrayed the British Empire in very favorable terms.[177] In November 1938, the
Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was ordered to convert the Anti-Cominter
n Pact into an open anti-British military alliance, as a prelude for a war again
st Britain and France.[178] On 27 January 1939, Hitler approved the Z Plan, whic
h called for a Kriegsmarine of 10 battleships, 4 aircraft carriers, 3 battle cru
isers, 44 light cruisers, 8 heavy cruisers, 68 destroyers and 249 U-boats by 194
4 that was intended to crush the Royal Navy.[179] The importance of the Z Plan c
an be seen in Hitler s orders that henceforward the Kriegsmarine was to go from
third to one in allotment of raw materials and skilled workers.[180] In the spri
ng of 1939, the Luftwaffe was ordered to start building a strategic bombing forc
e that was meant to level British cities.[181] Hitler’s war plans against Britai
n called for a joint Kriegsmarine-Luftwaffe offensive that was to stage "rapid a
nnihilating blows" against British cities and shipping with the expectation that
"The moment England is cut off from her supplies she is forced to capitulate" a
s Hitler expected that the experience of living in a blockaded, famine-stricken,
bombed out island to be too much for the British public.[182]
In November 1938, in a secret speech to a group of German journalists, Hitler no
ted that he had been forced to speak of peace as the goal in order to attain the
degree of rearmament "which were an essential prerequisite...for the next step"
.[58] In the same speech, Hitler complained that his peace propaganda of the las
t five years had been too successful, and it was time for the German people to b
e subjected to war propaganda.[183] Hitler stated: "It is self-evident that such
peace propaganda conducted for a decade has its risky aspect; because it can to
o easily induce people to come to the conclusion that the present government is
identical with the decision and with the intention to keep peace under all circu
mstances", and instead called for new journalism that "had to present certain fo
reign policy events in such a fashion that the inner voice of the people itself
slowly begins to shout out for the use of force."[183]
In late 1938 and early 1939, the continuing economic crisis caused by problems o
f rearmament, especially the shortage of foreign hard currencies needed to pay f
or raw materials Germany lacked together with reports from Göring that the Four
Year Plan was hopelessly behind schedule forced Hitler in January 1939 to reluct
antly order major defense cuts with the Wehrmacht having its steel allocations c
ut by 30%, aluminum 47%, cement 25%, rubber 14% and copper 20%.[184] On 30 Janua
ry 1939, Hitler made his "Export or die" speech calling for a German economic of
fensive ("export battle", to use Hitler s term), to increase German foreign exch
ange holdings and pay for raw materials needed for military materials.[184] The
“Export or die” speech of January 30, 1939 is also known as Hitler’s “Prophecy S
peech”. The name which that speech is known comes from Hitler’s “prophecy” issue
d towards the end of the speech:
“One thing I should like to say on this day which may be memorable for others as
well for us Germans: In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet,
and I usually been ridiculed for it. During the time of my struggle for power i
t was in the first instance the Jewish race which only received my prophecies wi
th laughter when I said I would one day take over the leadership of the State, a
nd it that of the whole nation, and I that I would then among many other things
settle the Jewish problem. Their laughter was uproarious, but I think that for s
ome time now they have been laughing on the other side of the face. Today I will
be once more the prophet. If the international Jewish financiers outside Europe
should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the res
ult will not be the bolsheviszation of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry,
but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!”[185].
A significant historical debate has swung around the “Prophecy Speech”. Historia
ns who take an intentionist line such as Eberhard Jäckel have argued that at min
imum from the time of the “Prophecy Speech” onwards, Hitler was committed to gen
ocide of the Jews as his central goal[186]. Lucy Dawidowicz and Gerald Fleming h
ave argued that the "Prophecy Speech" was simply Hitler s way of saying that onc
e he started a world war, he would use that war as a cover for his already pre-e
xisting plans for genocide[187]. Functionalist historians as Christopher Brownin
g have dismissed this interpretation under the grounds that if Hitler were serio
us with the intentions expressed in the “Prophecy Speech”, then why the thirty-m
onth “stay of execution” between the outbreak of World War II in September 1939,
and the opening of the first Vernichtungslager in late 1941[188]. In addition,
Browning has pointed to the existence of the Madagascar Plan of 1940-41 and vari
ous other schemes as proof that there was no genocidal master plan[189]. In Brow
ning’s opinion, the “Prophecy Speech” was merely an manifestation of bravado on
Hitler’s part, and had little connection with actual unfolding of anti-Semitic p
At least part of the reason why Hitler violated the Munich Agreement by seizing
the Czech half of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 was to obtain Czechoslovak assets
to help with the economic crisis.[191]. Hitler ordered Germany s army to enter
Prague on 15 March 1939, and from Prague Castle proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia a
German protectorate.
As part of the anti-British course, it was deemed necessary by Hitler to have ei
ther Poland a satellite state or otherwise neutralized. Hitler believed this nec
essary on both strategic grounds as way of securing the Reich’s eastern flank an
d on economic grounds as a way of evading the effects of a British blockade.[192
] Initially, the German hope was transform Poland into a satellite state, but by
March 1939 when the German demands had been rejected by the Poles three times,
which led Hitler to decide upon the destruction of Poland as the main German for
eign policy goal of 1939.[193] In the spring 1939, Hitler ordered Fall Weiss (Ca
se White), the plans for a German invasion to be executed on 25 August 1939[193]
In August 1939, Hitler spoke to his generals that his original plan for 1939 ha
d to “...establish a acceptable relationship with Poland in order to fight again
st the West” but since the Poles would not co-operate in setting up an “acceptab
le relationship” (i.e. becoming a German satellite), he believed he had no other
choice other than wiping Poland off the map.[194] The historian Gerhard Weinber
g has argued since Hitler’s audience comprised men who were all for the destruct
ion of Poland (anti-Polish feelings were traditionally very strong in the German
Army), but rather less happy about the prospect of war with Britain and France,
if that was the price Germany had to pay for the destruction of Poland, it is q
uite likely that Hitler was speaking the truth on this occasion.[194] In his pri
vate dissuasions with his officials in 1939, Hitler always described Britain as
the main enemy that had to be defeated, and in his view, Poland’s obliteration w
as the necessary prelude to that goal by securing the eastern flank and helpfull
y adding to Germany’s Lebensraum.[195]
As a pretext for aggression against Poland, Hitler claimed the Free City of Danz
ig and the right for “extra-territorial” roads across the Polish Corridor which
Germany had unwillingly ceded under the Versailles treaty. For Hitler, Danzig wa
s just a pretext for aggression as the Sudetenland had been intended to be in 19
38, and throughout 1939, while highlighting the Danzig issue as a grievance, the
Germans always refused to engage in talks about the matter.[196] A notable cont
radiction existed in Hitler s plans between the long-term anti-British course, w
hose major instruments such as a vastly expanded Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe that
would take several years to complete, and Hitler s immediate foreign policy in
1939, which was likely to provoke a general war by engaging in such actions as a
ttacking Poland.[197][198] Hitler s dilemma between his short-term and long-term
goals was resolved by Foreign Minister Ribbentrop who told Hitler that neither
Britain nor France would honor their commitments to Poland, and any German-Polis
h war would accordingly be a limited regional war.[199][200] Ribbentrop based hi
s appraisal partly on an alleged statement made to him by the French Foreign Min
ister Georges Bonnet in December 1938 that France now recognized Eastern Europe
as Germany’s exclusive sphere of influence.[201] In addition, Ribbentrop s statu
s as the former Ambassador to London made him in Hitler s eyes the leading Nazi
British expert, and as a result, Ribbentrop s advice that Britain would not hono
r her commitments to Poland carried much weight with Hitler.[201] In addition, t
he German Ambassador in London, Herbert von Dirksen tended to sent reports that
supported Ribbentrop s analysis such as a dispatch in August 1939 that reported
Neville Chamberlain knew “the social structure of Britain, even the conception o
f the British Empire, would not survive the chaos of even a victorious war”, and
so would back down.[202] The extent that Hitler was influenced by Ribbentrop’s
advice can be seen in Hitler s orders to the German military on 21 August 1939 f
or a limited mobilization against Poland alone.[203] Hitler chose the late Augus
t as his date for Fall Weiss in order to not to limit the amount of disruption w
ith German agricultural production caused by mobilization.[204] The problems cau
sed by the need to begin a campaign in Poland in late August or early September
in order to have the campaign finished before the October rains arrived, and the
need to have sufficient time to concentrate German troops on the Polish border
left Hitler in a self-imposed situation in August 1939 where Soviet co-operation
was absolutely crucial if he were to have a war that year.[204]
Britain was unable to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union for an alliance a
gainst Germany, and, on 23 August 1939, Hitler concluded a non-aggression pact (
the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) with Joseph Stalin, whose secret protocols containe
d an agreement to partition Poland. A major historical debate about the reasons
for Hitler’s foreign policy choices in 1939 concerns whether a structural econom
ic crisis drove Hitler into a “flight into war” as claimed by the Marxist histor
ian Timothy Mason or whether Hitler’s actions were more influenced by non-econom
ic factors as claimed by the economic historian Richard Overy.[205] Historians s
uch as William Carr, Gerhard Weinberg and Ian Kershaw have argued that a non-eco
nomic reason for Hitler’s rush to war was due to Hitler’s morbid and obsessive f
ear of an early death, and hence his feeling that he did not have long to accomp
lish his work.[206][207][208] In the last days of peace, Hitler oscillated betwe
en the determination to fight the Western powers if he had to, and various schem
es intended to keep Britain out of the war, but in any case, Hitler was not to b
e deterred from his aim of invading Poland.[209] Only very briefly, when news of
the Anglo-Polish alliance being signed on 25 August 1939 in response to the Ger
man-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (instead of the severing of ties between London a
nd Warsaw predicated by Ribbentrop) together with news from Italy that Mussolini
would not honor the Pact of Steel, caused Hitler to postpone the attack on Pola
nd from 25 August to 1 September.[210] Hitler chose to spend the last days of pe
ace either trying to maneuver the British into neutrality through his offer of 2
5 August 1939 to “guarantee” the British Empire, or having Ribbentrop present a
last-minute peace plan to Henderson with an impossibly short time limit for its
acceptance as part of an effort to blame the war on the British and Poles.[211][
212] On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded western Poland. Britain and France dec
lared war on Germany on 3 September but did not immediately act. Not long after
this, on 17 September, Soviet forces invaded eastern Poland.[213]

Adolf Hitler in Paris, 1940, with Albert Speer (left) and Arno Breker (right)“ P
oland never will rise again in the form of the Versailles treaty. That is guaran
teed not only by Germany, but also... Russia.[214] ”
—Adolf Hitler in a public speech in Danzig at the end of September 1939.
After the fall of Poland came a period journalists called the "Phoney War". In p
art of north-western Poland annexed to Germany, Hitler instructed the two Gaulei
ters in charge of the area, namely Albert Forster and Arthur Greiser to “Germani
ze” the area, and promised them "There would be no questions asked" about how th
is "Germanization" was to be accomplished[215]. Hitler’s orders were interpreted
in very different ways by Forster and Greiser. Forster followed a policy of sim
ply having the local Poles sign forms stating they had German blood with no docu
mention required, whereas Greiser carried out a brutual ethnic cleansing campaig
n of expelling the entire Polish population into the Government-General of Polan
d[216]. When Greiser, seconded by Himmler complained to Hitler that Forster was
allowing thousands of Poles to be accepted as “racial” Germans and thus "contami
nating" German “racial purity” , and asked Hitler to order Forster to stop. Hitl
er merely told Himmler and Greiser to take up their difficulties with Forster, a
nd not to involve him[217]. Hitler’s handling of the Forster-Greiser dispute has
often been advanced as an example of Ian Kershaw s theory of “Working Towards t
he Führer”, namely that Hitler issued vague instructions, and allowed his subord
inates to work out policy on their own.
After the conquest of Poland, another major dispute broke out between different
fractions with one centering Reichsfüherer SS Heinrich Himmler and Arthur Greise
r championing and carrying out ethnic cleansing schemes for Poland, and another
centering around Hermann Göring and Hans Frank calling for turning Poland into t
he "granary" of the Reich[218]. At a conference held at Göring s Karinhall estat
e on February 12, 1940, the dispute was settled in favor of the Göring-Frank vie
w of economic exploitation, and ending mass expulsions as economically disruptiv
e[219]. On May 15, 1940 Himmler showed Hitler a memo entitled "Some Thoughts on
the Treatment of Alien Population in the East", which called for expelling the e
ntire Jewish population of Europe into Africa and reducing the remainer of the P
olish population to a “"leaderless laboring class"[220]. Hitler called Himmler s
memo "good and correct"[221]. Hitler’s remark had the effect of scuttling the s
o-called Karinhall argreement, and led to the Himmler-Greiser viewpoint triumpin
g as German policy for Poland.
During this period, Hitler built up his forces on Germany s western frontier. In
April 1940, German forces invaded Denmark and Norway. In May 1940, Hitler s for
ces attacked France, conquering the Luxembourg, Netherlands and Belgium in the p
rocess. France surrendered on 22 June 1940. These victories persuaded Benito Mus
solini of Italy to join the war on Hitler s side on 10 June 1940.
Britain, whose forces evacuated France by sea from Dunkirk, continued to fight a
longside other British dominions in the Battle of the Atlantic. After having his
overtures for peace rejected by the British, now led by Winston Churchill, Hitl
er ordered bombing raids on the United Kingdom. The Battle of Britain was Hitler
s prelude to a planned invasion. The attacks began by pounding Royal Air Force
airbases and radar stations protecting South-East England. However, the Luftwaff
e failed to defeat the Royal Air Force. On 27 September 1940, the Tripartite Tre
aty was signed in Berlin by Saburo Kurusu of Imperial Japan, Hitler, and Ciano.
The purpose of the Tripartite treaty, which was directed against an unnamed powe
r that was clearly meant to be the United States was to deter the Americans from
supporting the British. It was later expanded to include Hungary, Romania and B
ulgaria. They were collectively known as the Axis Powers. By the end of October
1940, air superiority for the invasion Operation Sealion could not be assured, a
nd Hitler ordered the bombing of British cities, including London, Plymouth, and
Coventry, mostly at night.

Path to defeat
On 22 June 1941, three million German troops attacked the Soviet Union, breaking
the non-aggression pact Hitler had concluded with Stalin two years earlier. Thi
s invasion, Operation Barbarossa, seized huge amounts of territory, including th
e Baltic states, Belarus, and Ukraine. It also encircled and destroyed many Sovi
et forces, which Stalin had ordered not to retreat. However, the Germans were st
opped barely short of Moscow in December 1941 by the Russian winter and fierce S
oviet resistance. The invasion failed to achieve the quick triumph Hitler wanted
Hitler s declaration of war against the United States on 11 December 1941, four
days after the Empire of Japan s attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and six days aft
er Nazi Germany s closest approach to Moscow, set him against a coalition that i
ncluded the world s largest empire (the British Empire), the world s greatest in
dustrial and financial power (the United States), and the world s largest army (
the Soviet Union).

Hitler, Mannerheim and Ryti in Finland in 1942In late 1942, German forces were d
efeated in the second battle of El Alamein, thwarting Hitler s plans to seize th
e Suez Canal and the Middle East. In February 1943, the titanic Battle of Stalin
grad ended with the destruction of the German 6th Army. Thereafter came the giga
ntic Battle of Kursk. Hitler s military judgment became increasingly erratic, an
d Germany s military and economic position deteriorated. Hitler s health was als
o deteriorating. His left hand trembled. The biographer Ian Kershaw and others b
elieve that he may have suffered from Parkinson s disease.[222] Syphilis has als
o been suspected as a cause of at least some of his symptoms, although the evide
nce is slight.[223]
Following the allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) in 1943, Mussolini was
deposed by Pietro Badoglio, who surrendered to the Allies. Throughout 1943 and
1944, the Soviet Union steadily forced Hitler s armies into retreat along the Ea
stern Front. On 6 June 1944, the Western Allied armies landed in northern France
in what was one of the largest amphibious operations in history, Operation Over
lord. Realists in the German army knew defeat was inevitable, and some plotted t
o remove Hitler from power. In July 1944, Claus von Stauffenberg planted a bomb
in Hitler s Führer Headquarters, the Wolfsschanze (Wolf s Lair) at Rastenburg, b
ut Hitler narrowly escaped death. He ordered savage reprisals, resulting in the
executions of more than 4,900 people,[224] sometimes by starvation in solitary c
onfinement followed by slow strangulation. The main resistance movement was dest
royed, although smaller isolated groups continued to operate.

Defeat and death

Main article: Death of Adolf Hitler
By late 1944, the Red Army had driven the Germans back into Central Europe and t
he Western Allies were advancing into Germany. Hitler realized that Germany had
lost the war, but allowed no retreats. He hoped to negotiate a separate peace wi
th America and Britain, a hope buoyed by the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on 1
2 April 1945.[225][226][227][228] Hitler s stubbornness and defiance of military
realities also allowed the Holocaust to continue. He also ordered the complete
destruction of all German industrial infrastructure before it could fall into Al
lied hands, saying that Germany s failure to win the war forfeited its right to
survive.[229] Rather, Hitler decided that the entire nation should go down with
him. Execution of this scorched earth plan was entrusted to arms minister Albert
Speer, who disobeyed the order.[229]
In April 1945, Soviet forces attacked the outskirts of Berlin. Hitler s follower
s urged him to flee to the mountains of Bavaria to make a last stand in the Nati
onal Redoubt. But Hitler was determined to either live or die in the capital.

20 April 1945. Hitler awards the Iron Cross to Hitler Youth outside his bunker.O
n 20 April, Hitler celebrated his 56th birthday in the "Führer s shelter" (Führe
rbunker) below the Reich Chancellery (Reichskanzlei). The garrison commander of
the besieged "fortress Breslau" (Festung Breslau), General Hermann Niehoff, had
chocolates distributed to his troops in honor of Hitler s birthday.[230]
By 21 April, Georgi Zhukov s 1st Belorussian Front had broken through the defens
es of German General Gotthard Heinrici s Army Group Vistula during the Battle of
the Seelow Heights. The Soviets were now advancing towards Hitler s bunker with
little to stop them. Ignoring the facts, Hitler saw salvation in the ragtag uni
ts commanded by General Felix Steiner. Steiner s command became known as "Army D
etachment Steiner" (Armeeabteilung Steiner). But "Army Detachment Steiner" exist
ed primarily on paper. It was something more than a corps but less than an army.
Hitler ordered Steiner to attack the northern flank of the huge salient created
by the breakthrough of Zhukov s 1st Belorussian Front. Meanwhile, the German Ni
nth Army, which had been pushed south of the salient, was ordered to attack nort
h in a pincer attack.
Late on 21 April, Heinrici called Hans Krebs chief of the Supreme Army Command (
Oberkommando des Heeres or OKH) and told him that Hitler s plan could not be imp
lemented. Heinrici asked to speak to Hitler but was told by Krebs that Hitler wa
s too busy to take his call.
On 22 April, during one of his last military conferences, Hitler interrupted the
report to ask what had happened to General Steiner s offensive. There was a lon
g silence. Then Hitler was told that the attack had never been launched, and tha
t the withdrawal from Berlin of several units for Steiner s army, on Hitler s or
ders, had so weakened the front that the Russians had broken through into Berlin
. Hitler asked everyone except Wilhelm Keitel, Hans Krebs, Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm
Burgdorf, and Martin Bormann to leave the room,[231] and launched a tirade again
st the perceived treachery and incompetence of his commanders. This culminated i
n an oath to stay in Berlin, head up the defense of the city, and shoot himself
at the end.[232]
Before the day ended, Hitler again found salvation in a new plan that included G
eneral Walther Wenck s Twelfth Army.[233] This new plan had Wenck turn his army—
currently facing the Americans to the west—and attack towards the east to reliev
e Berlin.[233] Twelfth Army was to link up with Ninth Army and break through to
the city. Wenck did attack and, in the confusion, managed to make temporary cont
act with the Potsdam garrison. But the link with the Ninth Army, like the plan i
n general, was ultimately unsuccessful.[234]
On 23 April, Joseph Goebbels made the following proclamation to the people of Be
I call on you to fight for your city. Fight with everything you have got, for th
e sake of your wives and your children, your mothers and your parents. Your arms
are defending everything we have ever held dear, and all the generations that w
ill come after us. Be proud and courageous! Be inventive and cunning! Your Gaule
iter is amongst you. He and his colleagues will remain in your midst. His wife a
nd children are here as well. He, who once captured the city with 200 men, will
now use every means to galvanize the defense of the capital. The Battle for Berl
in must become the signal for the whole nation to rise up in battle...[231]
Also on 23 April, second in command of the Third Reich and commander of the Luft
waffe Hermann Göring sent a telegram from Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. Göring argue
d that, since Hitler was cut off in Berlin, he should assume leadership of Germa
ny as Hitler s designated successor. Göring mentioned a time limit after which h
e would consider Hitler incapacitated.[235] Hitler responded, in anger, by havin
g Göring arrested, and when he wrote his will on 29 April, Göring was removed fr
om all his positions in the government.[235][236][237]
By the end of the day on 27 April Berlin was completely cut off from the rest of
On 28 April, Hitler discovered that SS leader Heinrich Himmler was trying to dis
cuss surrender terms with the Allies (through the Swedish diplomat Count Folke B
ernadotte).[238] Hitler ordered Himmler s arrest and had Himmler s representativ
e in Berlin Hermann Fegelein shot.[239][236]
During the night of 28 April, General Wenck reported that his Twelfth Army had b
een forced back along the entire front. Wenck noted that no further attacks towa
rds Berlin were possible. General Alfred Jodl (Supreme Army Command) did not pro
vide this information to Hans Krebs in Berlin until early in the morning of 30 A

Cover of US military newspaper The Stars and Stripes, May 1945On 29 April, Hans
Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Joseph Goebbels, and Martin Bormann witnessed and signe
d the last will and testament of Adolf Hitler.[236] Hitler dictated the document
to his private secretary, Traudl Junge.[240] Hitler was also that day informed
of the violent death of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on 28 April, which is
presumed to have increased his determination to avoid capture.[241]
On 30 April 1945, after intense street-to-street combat, when Soviet troops were
within a block or two of the Reich Chancellory, Hitler committed suicide, shoot
ing himself while simultaneously biting into a cyanide capsule.[242][243] Hitler
s body and that of Eva Braun (his mistress whom he had married the day before)
were put in a bomb crater,[244][245] doused in gasoline by Otto Günsche and othe
r Führerbunker aides, and set alight as the Red Army advanced and shelling conti
On 2 May, Berlin surrendered. There have been conflicting reports about what hap
pened to Hitler s remains. According to Russian reports, they dug up the remains
, which were reburied by SMERSH at their headquarters in Magdeburg.[246] In 1970
, when the facility was to be turned over to the East German government, the rem
ains were reportedly exhumed and cremated.[246] According to the Russian Federal
Security Service, a fragment of human skull stored in its archives and displaye
d to the public in a 2000 exhibition came from the remains of Hitler s body and
is all that remains of Hitler. The authenticity of the skull has been challenged
by many historians and researchers.[246]

Further information: Consequences of German Nazism and Neo-Nazism
Outside the building in Braunau am Inn, Austria where Adolf Hitler was born is a
memorial stone warning of the horrors of World War IIHitler, the Nazi Party and
the results of Nazism are typically regarded as immoral. Historians, philosophe
rs, and politicians have often used the word evil in both a secular sense of the
word and in a religious sense. Historical and cultural portrayals of Hitler in
the west are overwhelmingly condemnatory. The display of swastikas or other Nazi
symbols is prohibited in Germany and Austria. Holocaust denial is prohibited in
both countries.
Outside of Hitler s birthplace in Braunau am Inn, Austria is a stone marker engr
aved with the following message:
Für Frieden Freiheit
Und Demokratie
Nie wieder Faschismus
Millionen Tote mahnen
Loosely translated, it reads: "For Peace, Freedom and Democracy — Never Again Fa
scism — Remember the Millions Dead."
However, some people have referred to Hitler s legacy in neutral or favourable t
erms. Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat spoke of his admiration of Hitler
in 1953, when he was a young man, though it is possible he was speaking in the c
ontext of a rebellion against the British Empire.[247] Louis Farrakhan has refer
red to him as a "very great man".[248] Bal Thackeray, leader of the right-wing H
indu Shiv Sena party in the Indian state of the Maharashtra, declared in 1995 th
at he was an admirer of Hitler.[249] Friedrich Meinecke, the German historian qu
otes of Hitler, "It is one of the great examples of the singular and incalculabl
e power of personality in historical life".[250]

Religious beliefs
Main articles: Adolf Hitler s religious beliefs, Positive Christianity, and Nazi
Hitler was raised by Roman Catholic parents, but after he left home, he never at
tended Mass or received the sacraments,[251] Hitler often praised Christian heri
tage, German Christian culture, and professed a belief in Jesus Christ.[252] In
his speeches and publications Hitler even spoke of Christianity as a central mot
ivation for his antisemitism, stating that "As a Christian I have no duty to all
ow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justi
ce".[253][254] His private statements, as reported by his intimates, are more mi
xed, showing Hitler as a religious man but critical of traditional Christianity.
[255] However, in contrast to early Nazi ideologues, Hitler did not adhere to es
oteric ideas, occultism, or Ariosophy,[255] and ridiculed such beliefs in Mein K
ampf.[256][257] Rather, Hitler advocated a "Positive Christianity",[256][258] a
belief system purged from what he objected to in traditional Christianity, and w
hich reinvented Jesus as a fighter against the Jews.
Hitler believed in Arthur de Gobineau s ideas of struggle for survival between t
he different races, among which the "Aryan race"—guided by "Providence"—was supp
osed to be the torchbearers of civilization. In Hitler s conception Jews were en
emies of all civilization.
Hitler, despite his native Catholicism, favored aspects of Protestantism if they
were more amenable to his own objectives. At the same time, he adopted some ele
ments of the Catholic Church s hierarchical organization, liturgy and phraseolog
y in his politics.[259][260]
Hitler expressed admiration for the Muslim military tradition. According to one
confidant, Hitler stated in private, "The Mohammedan religion too would have bee
n much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christiani
ty with its meekness and flabbiness..."[261]

Health and sexuality

Main articles: Adolf Hitler s medical health and Vegetarianism of Adolf Hitler
Hitler s health has long been the subject of debate. He has variously been said
to have suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, skin lesions, irregular heartbea
t, Parkinson s disease,[223] syphilis,[223] and a strongly suggested addiction t
o methamphetamine. One film exists that shows his left hand trembling, which mig
ht suggest Parkinson s.[262] Another film, to which words have been added using
lip-reading technology, shows him complaining of his arm shaking.[263] Beyond th
ese accounts, however, the evidence is sparse.
After the early 1930s, Hitler generally followed a vegetarian diet, although he
ate meat on occasion. There are reports of him disgusting his guests by giving t
hem graphic accounts of the slaughter of animals in an effort to make them shun
meat.[264] A fear of cancer (from which his mother died) is the most widely cite
d reason, though many authors also assert Hitler had a profound and deep love of
animals. Martin Bormann had a greenhouse constructed for him near the Berghof (
near Berchtesgaden) to ensure a steady supply of fresh fruit and vegetables for
Hitler throughout the war. Photographs of Bormann s children tending the greenho
use survive and, by 2005, its foundations were among the only ruins visible in t
he area that was associated with Nazi leaders.
Hitler was a non-smoker and promoted aggressive anti-smoking campaigns throughou
t Germany. He reportedly promised a gold watch to any of his close associates wh
o quit (and gave a few away). Several witness accounts relate that, immediately
after his suicide was confirmed, many officers, aides, and secretaries in the Fü
hrerbunker lit cigarettes.