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Adolf Hitler

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"Hitler" redirects here. For other uses, see Hitler (disambiguation).
Adolf Hitler

20 April 1937 (48th Birthday)

Führer of Germany
In office
2 August 1934 – 30 April 1945
Paul von Hindenburg
Preceded by
(as President)
Karl Dönitz
Succeeded by
(as President)
Reichskanzler (Chancellor) of Germany
In office
30 January 1933 – 30 April 1945
Preceded by Kurt von Schleicher
Succeeded by Joseph Goebbels
20 April 1889
Braunau am Inn, Austria–Hungary
30 April 1945 (aged 56)
Berlin, Germany
Austrian (1889–1932)
German (1932–1945)
Austrian citizen until 1925[1] German
citizen after 1932
National Socialist German Workers Party
Political party
Eva Braun
(married on 29 April 1945)
Occupation politician, soldier, artist, writer


Military service
Allegiance German Empire
Service/branch Reichsheer
Years of service 1914–1918
Rank Gefreiter
Unit 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment
Battles/wars World War I
Iron Cross First and Second Class
Wound Badge
The Holocaust
Early elements

Racial policy · Nazi eugenics · Nuremberg

Laws · Euthanasia program · Concentration
camps (list)


Jews in Nazi Germany (1933–1939)

Pogroms: Kristallnacht · Bucharest ·

Dorohoi · Iaşi · Kaunas · Jedwabne · Lviv
Ghettos: Budapest · Lublin · Lviv · Łódź ·
Kraków · Kovno · Minsk · Warsaw ·
Vilna (list)
Einsatzgruppen: Babi Yar · Rumbula ·
Ponary · Odessa · Erntefest · Ninth Fort
Final Solution: Wannsee · Operation
Reinhard · Holocaust trains · Extermination
Concentration and Extermination camps:
Auschwitz-Birkenau · Bełżec · Bergen-
Belsen · Bogdanovka · Buchenwald ·
Chełmno · Dachau · Gross-Rosen ·
Herzogenbusch · Janowska · Jasenovac ·
Kaiserwald · Majdanek · Maly Trostenets ·
Mauthausen-Gusen · Neuengamme ·
Ravensbrück · Sachsenhausen · Sajmište ·
Salaspils · Sobibór · Stutthof ·
Theresienstadt · Treblinka · Uckermark

Resistance: Jewish partisans · Ghetto

uprisings (Warsaw · Białystok · Łachwa)
End of World War II: Death marches ·
Berihah · Surviving Remnant
Other victims
Romani people · Homosexuals · People with
disabilities · Slavs in Eastern Europe · Poles ·
Soviet POWs · Jehovah's Witnesses
Responsible parties
Nazi Germany: Adolf Hitler · Heinrich
Himmler · Ernst Kaltenbrunner · Theodor
Eicke · Reinhard Heydrich · Adolf
Eichmann · Rudolf Höß · Nazi Party ·
Schutzstaffel · Gestapo · Sturmabteilung


Aftermath: Nuremberg Trials ·

Denazification · Reparations Agreement
between Israel and West Germany
Survivors · Victims · Rescuers
The Destruction of the European Jews
Functionalism versus intentionalism

Adolf Hitler (German pronunciation: [ˈadɔlf ˈhɪtlɐ], 20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) was an
Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German
Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, abbreviated
NSDAP), popularly known as the Nazi Party. He was the authoritarian leader of
Germany from 1933 to 1945, serving as chancellor from 1933 to 1945 and as head of
state (Führer und Reichskanzler) from 1934 to 1945.

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

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

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

In the final days of the war, at the fall of Berlin in 1945, Hitler married his long-time
mistress Eva Braun and, to avoid capture by Soviet forces less than two days later, the
two committed suicide.[4]


• 1 Early years
o 1.1 Ancestry
o 1.2 Childhood
o 1.3 Early adulthood in Vienna and Munich
o 1.4 World War I
• 2 Entry into politics
o 2.1 Beer Hall Putsch
o 2.2 Mein Kampf
o 2.3 Rebuilding of the party
• 3 Rise to power
o 3.1 Brüning Administration
o 3.2 Cabinets of Papen and Schleicher
o 3.3 Appointment as Chancellor
o 3.4 Reichstag fire and the March elections
o 3.5 "Day of Potsdam" and the Enabling Act
o 3.6 Removal of remaining limits
• 4 Third Reich
o 4.1 Economy and culture
o 4.2 Rearmament and new alliances
o 4.3 The Holocaust
• 5 World War II
o 5.1 Early diplomatic triumphs
 5.1.1 Alliance with Japan
 5.1.2 Austria and Czechoslovakia
o 5.2 Start of the Second World War
o 5.3 Path to defeat
o 5.4 Defeat and death
• 6 Legacy
• 7 Religious beliefs
• 8 Health
• 9 Sexuality
• 10 Family
• 11 Hitler in media
o 11.1 Oratory and rallies
o 11.2 Recorded in private conversation
o 11.3 Patria picture disc
o 11.4 Documentaries during the Third Reich
o 11.5 Television
o 11.6 Documentaries post Third Reich
o 11.7 Films
• 12 See also
• 13 Footnotes
• 14 References

• 15 External links

Early years

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

In 1876, Alois took the surname of his stepfather, Johann Georg Hiedler. The name was
spelled Hiedler, Hüttler, Huettler and Hitler, and was probably regularized to Hitler by a
clerk. The origin of the name is either "one who lives in a hut" (Standard German Hütte),
"shepherd" (Standard German hüten "to guard", English heed), or is from the Slavic word
Hidlar and Hidlarcek. (Regarding the first two theories: some German dialects make
little or no distinction between the ü-sound and the i-sound.)[5]


Adolf Hitler was born at the Gasthof zum Pommer, an inn in Braunau am Inn, Austria–
Hungary, the fourth of Alois and Klara Hitler's six children.

Adolf Hitler as an infant.

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

His father's efforts at Hafeld ended in failure and the family moved to Lambach in 1897.
There, Hitler attended a Catholic school located in an 11th-century Benedictine cloister
whose walls were engraved in a number of places with crests containing the symbol of
the swastika.[12] In 1898, the family returned permanently to Leonding.
His younger brother Edmund died of measles on February 2, 1900, causing permanent
changes in Hitler. He went from a confident, outgoing boy who found school easy, to a
morose, detached, sullen boy who constantly battled his father and his teachers.[13]

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

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

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

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

Early adulthood in Vienna and Munich

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

The purpose of my trip was to study the picture gallery in the Court Museum, but I had eyes for
scarcely anything but the Museum itself. From morning until late at night, I ran from one object
of interest to another, but it was always the buildings which held my primary interest.[18]
Following the school rector's recommendation, he too became convinced this was his
path to pursue, yet he lacked the proper academic preparation for architecture school:

In a few days I myself knew that I should some day become an architect. To be sure, it was an
incredibly hard road; for the studies I had neglected out of spite at the Realschule were sorely
needed. One could not attend the Academy's architectural school without having attended the
building school at the Technic, and the latter required a high-school degree. I had none of all this.
The fulfilment of my artistic dream seemed physically impossible.[18]

On 21 December 1907, Hitler's mother died of breast cancer at age 47. Ordered by a
court in Linz, Hitler gave his share of the orphans' benefits to his sister Paula. When he
was 21, he inherited money from an aunt. He struggled as a painter in Vienna, copying
scenes from postcards and selling his paintings to merchants and tourists. After being
rejected a second time by the Academy of Arts, Hitler ran out of money. In 1909, he lived
in a shelter for the homeless. By 1910, he had settled into a house for poor working men
on Meldemannstraße.

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

There were very few Jews in Linz. In the course of centuries the Jews who lived there had
become Europeanised 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 strange religion. As I thought that they were persecuted on account of
their faith my aversion to hearing remarks against them grew almost into a feeling of abhorrence.
I did not in the least suspect that there could be such a thing as a systematic antisemitism. Once,
when passing through the inner City, I suddenly encountered a phenomenon in a long caftan and
wearing black side-locks. My first thought was: Is this a Jew? They certainly did not have this
appearance in Linz. I carefully watched the man stealthily and cautiously but the longer I gazed at
the strange countenance and examined it feature by feature, the more the question shaped itself in
my brain: Is this a German?[18]

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

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

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

Generalising from tumultuous scenes in the parliament of the multi-national Austrian

monarchy, he decided that the democratic parliamentary system was unworkable.
However, according to August Kubizek, his one-time roommate, he was more interested
in Wagner's operas than in his politics.

Hitler received the final part of his father's estate in May 1913 and moved to Munich. He
wrote in Mein Kampf that he had always longed to live in a "real" German city. In
Munich, he became more interested in architecture and, he says, the writings of Houston
Stewart Chamberlain. Moving to Munich also helped him escape military service in
Austria for a time, but the Munich police (acting in cooperation with the Austrian
authorities) eventually arrested him. After a physical exam and a contrite plea, he was
deemed unfit for service and allowed to return to Munich. However, when Germany
entered World War I in August 1914, he petitioned King Ludwig III of Bavaria for
permission to serve in a Bavarian regiment. This request was granted, and Adolf Hitler
enlisted in the Bavarian army.[23]

A young Hitler (left) posing with other German soldiers.

World War I

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

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

On 15 October 1918, Hitler was admitted to a field hospital, temporarily blinded by a

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

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

At the beginning of the Great War, or even during the War, if twelve or fifteen thousand of these
Jews who were corrupting the nation had been forced to submit to poison-gas . . . then the
millions of sacrifices made at the front would not have been in vain.[32]
These tactics are based on an accurate estimation of human weakness and must lead to success,
with almost mathematical certainty, unless the other side also learns how to fight poison gas with
poison gas. The weaker natures must be told that here it is a case of to be or not to be.[18]

Hitler had long admired Germany, and during the war he had become a passionate
German patriot, although he did not become a German citizen until 1932. Hitler found the
war to be 'the greatest of all experiences' and afterwards he was praised by a number of
his commanding officers for his bravery.[33] He was shocked by Germany's capitulation in
November 1918 even while the German army still held enemy territory.[34] Like many
other German nationalists, Hitler believed in the Dolchstoßlegende ("dagger-stab
legend") which claimed that the army, "undefeated in the field," had been "stabbed in the
back" by civilian leaders and Marxists back on the home front. These politicians were
later dubbed the November Criminals.
The Treaty of Versailles deprived Germany of various territories, demilitarised the
Rhineland and imposed other economically damaging sanctions. The treaty re-created
Poland, which even moderate Germans regarded as an outrage. The treaty also blamed
Germany for all the horrors of the war, something which major historians such as John
Keegan now consider at least in part to be victor's justice: most European nations in the
run-up to World War I had become increasingly militarised and were eager to fight. The
culpability of Germany was used as a basis to impose reparations on Germany (the
amount was repeatedly revised under the Dawes Plan, the Young Plan, and the Hoover
Moratorium). Germany in turn perceived the treaty and especially, Article 231 the
paragraph on the German responsibility for the war as a humiliation. For example, there
was a nearly total demilitarisation of the armed forces, allowing Germany only six
battleships, no submarines, no air force, an army of 100,000 without conscription and no
armoured vehicles. The treaty was an important factor in both the social and political
conditions encountered by Hitler and his Nazis as they sought power. Hitler and his party
used the signing of the treaty by the "November Criminals" as a reason to build up
Germany so that it could never happen again. He also used the "November Criminals" as
scapegoats, although at the Paris peace conference, these politicians had had very little
choice in the matter.

Entry into politics

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 added
to make the group appear larger) but later the number was reduced to create the
impression that Hitler was one of the founding members.[35] Hitler had wanted to create
his own party, but was ordered by his superiors in the Reichswehr to infiltrate an existing
one instead.

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

In July 1919, Hitler was appointed a Verbindungsmann (police spy) of an

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

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

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

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

The party was run by an executive committee whose original members considered Hitler
to be overbearing. They formed an alliance with a group of socialists from Augsburg.
Hitler rushed back to Munich and countered them by tendering his resignation from the
party on 11 July 1921. When they realized the loss of Hitler would effectively mean the
end of the party, he seized the moment and announced he would return on the condition
that he replace Drexler as party chairman, with unlimited powers. Infuriated committee
members (including Drexler) held out at first. Meanwhile an anonymous pamphlet
appeared entitled Adolf Hitler: Is he a traitor?, attacking Hitler's lust for power and
criticizing the violent men around him. Hitler responded to its publication in a Munich
newspaper by suing for libel and later won a small settlement.
The executive committee of the NSDAP eventually backed down and Hitler's demands
were put to a vote of party members. Hitler received 543 votes for and only one against.
At the next gathering on 29 July 1921, Adolf Hitler was introduced as Führer of the
National Socialist German Workers' Party, marking the first time this title was publicly

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

Drawing of 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 appearance and had adopted
some of their policies, and in 1923, Hitler wanted to emulate Benito Mussolini's "March
on Rome" by staging his own "Campaign in Berlin". Hitler and Ludendorff obtained the
clandestine support of Gustav von Kahr, Bavaria's de facto ruler, along with leading
figures in the Reichswehr and the police. As political posters show, Ludendorff, Hitler
and the heads of the Bavarian police and military planned on forming a new government.
On 8 November 1923, Hitler and the SA stormed a public meeting headed by Kahr in the
Bürgerbräukeller, a large beer hall in Munich. He declared that he had set up a new
government with Ludendorff and demanded, at gunpoint, the support of Kahr and the
local military establishment for the destruction of the Berlin government.[43] Kahr
withdrew his support and fled to join the opposition to Hitler at the first opportunity.[44]
The next day, when Hitler and his followers marched from the beer hall to the Bavarian
War Ministry to overthrow the Bavarian government as a start to their "March on Berlin",
the police dispersed them. Sixteen NSDAP members were killed.[45]

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

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

Mein Kampf

Main article: Mein Kampf

Mein Kampf

While at Landsberg he dictated most of the first volume of Mein Kampf (My Struggle,
originally entitled Four and a Half Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and
Cowardice) to his deputy Rudolf Hess.[47] The book, dedicated to Thule Society member
Dietrich Eckart, was an autobiography and an exposition of his ideology. It was
published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926, selling about 240,000 copies between 1925
and 1934. By the end of the war, about 10 million copies had been sold or distributed
(newlyweds and soldiers received free copies).
Hitler spent years dodging taxes on the royalties of his book and had accumulated a tax
debt of about 405,500 Reichsmarks (€6 million in today's money) by the time he became
chancellor (at which time his debt was waived).[49][50]

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

Rebuilding of the party

Adolf Hitler (left), standing up behind Hermann Göring at a Nazi rally in Nuremberg,

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

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

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

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

Having failed in overthrowing the Republic by a coup, Hitler pursued a "strategy of

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

Rise to power
Main article: Hitler's rise to power

Nazi Party Election Results

Date Votes Percentage Background
in Reichstag

May 1924 1,918,300 6.5 32 Hitler in prison

907,300 3.0 14 Hitler is released from prison
May 1928 810,100 2.6 12

6,409,600 18.3 107 After the financial crisis

After Hitler was candidate for

July 1932 13,745,800 37.4 230

11,737,000 33.1 196

During Hitler's term as

March 1933 17,277,000 43.9 288
Chancellor of Germany

Brüning Administration

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

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

The Reichstag's initial opposition to Brüning's measures led to premature elections in

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

In September–October 1930, Hitler appeared as a major defence witness at the trial in

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

Brüning's measures of budget consolidation and financial austerity brought little

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

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

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

Cabinets of Papen and Schleicher

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Hindenburg, influenced by the Camarilla, became increasingly estranged from Brüning

and pushed his Chancellor to move the government in a decidedly authoritarian and right-
wing direction. This culminated, in May 1932, with the resignation of the Brüning

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

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

After a vote of no-confidence in the Papen government, supported by 84% of the

deputies, the new Reichstag was dissolved, and new elections were called in November.
This time, the Nazis lost some seats but still remained the largest party in the Reichstag,
with 33.1% of the vote.

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

Appointment as Chancellor

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Meanwhile, Papen tried to get his revenge on Schleicher by working toward the General's
downfall, through forming an intrigue with the camarilla and Alfred Hugenberg, 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 wrote letters to Hindenburg, urging him to appoint Hitler as leader of a
government "independent from parliamentary parties" which could turn into a movement
that would "enrapture millions of people."[67]

Adolf Hitler, at a window of the Reich's Chancellory, receives an ovation from supporters
in his first day in office as Chancellor. (30 January 1933)

Finally, the president reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler Chancellor of a coalition

government formed by the NSDAP and DNVP. However, the Nazis were to be contained
by a framework of conservative cabinet ministers, most notably by Papen as Vice-
Chancellor and by Hugenberg as Minister of the Economy. The only other Nazi besides
Hitler to get a portfolio was Wilhelm Frick, who was given the relatively 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 portfolio. While Papen intended to use Hitler
as a figurehead, the Nazis gained key positions.

On the morning of 30 January 1933, in Hindenburg's office, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as
Chancellor during what some observers later described as a brief and simple ceremony.
His first speech as Chancellor took place on 10 February. The Nazis' seizure of power
subsequently became known as the Machtergreifung.

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 persuaded President
Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag again. Elections were scheduled for early March,
but on 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building was set on fire.[68] Since a Dutch
independent communist was found in the building, the fire was blamed on a communist
plot. The government reacted with the Reichstag Fire Decree of 28 February which
suspended basic rights, including habeas corpus. Under the provisions of this decree, the
German Communist Party (KPD) and other groups were suppressed, and Communist
functionaries and deputies were arrested, 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 day, 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 majority, necessitating
maintaining a coalition with the DNVP.[69]

Parade of SA troops past Hitler – Nuremberg, November 1935

"Day of Potsdam" and the Enabling Act

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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
reconciliation and unity between the revolutionary Nazi movement and "Old Prussia"
with 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 government
confronted the newly elected Reichstag with the Enabling Act that would have 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 deviations from the constitution.
Since the bill required a ⅔ majority in order to pass, the government needed the support
of other parties. The position of the Centre Party, the third largest party in the Reichstag,
turned out to be decisive: under the leadership of Ludwig Kaas, the party decided to vote
for the Enabling Act. It did so in return for the government's oral guarantees regarding
the Church's liberty, the concordats signed by German states and the continued existence
of the Centre Party.

On 23 March, the Reichstag assembled in a replacement building under extremely

turbulent circumstances. Some SA men served as guards within while large groups
outside the building shouted slogans and threats toward the arriving deputies. Kaas
announced that the Centre Party would support the bill with "concerns put aside," 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. The Communists, as well
as some Social Democrats, were barred from attending. The Enabling Act, combined
with the Reichstag Fire Decree, transformed Hitler's government into a legal dictatorship.

Removal of remaining limits

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At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense I tell you that the Nazi movement
“ will go on for 1,000 years! ... Don't forget how people laughed at me 15
years ago when I declared that one day I would govern Germany. They laugh
now, just as foolishly, when I declare that I shall remain in power! ”
—Adolf Hitler to a British correspondent in Berlin, June 1934[70]

With this combination of legislative and executive power, Hitler's government further
suppressed the remaining political opposition. The Communist Party of Germany 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.

Hitler used the SA paramilitary to push Hugenberg into resigning, and proceeded to
politically isolate Vice-Chancellor Papen. Because the SA's demands for political and
military power caused much anxiety among military and political leaders, Hitler used
allegations of a plot by the SA leader Ernst Röhm to purge the SA's leadership during the
Night of the Long Knives. As well, opponents unconnected with the SA were murdered,
notably Gregor Strasser and former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher.[71]
In 1934, Hitler became Germany's president under the title Führer und Reichskanzler
(Leader and Chancellor of the Reich).

President Paul von Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934. Rather than holding new
presidential elections, Hitler's cabinet passed a law proclaiming the presidency dormant
and transferred the role and powers of the head of state to Hitler as Führer und
Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor). As head of state, Hitler now became supreme
commander of the armed forces. When it came time for the soldiers and sailors to swear
the traditional loyalty oath, it had been altered into an oath of personal loyalty to Hitler.[72]
In a mid-August plebiscite, these acts found the approval of 84.6% of the electorate.[73]
This action technically violated both the constitution and the Enabling Act. The
constitution had been amended in 1932 to make the president of the High Court of
Justice, not the chancellor, acting president until new elections could be held. The
Enabling Act specifically barred Hitler from taking any action that tampered with the
presidency. However, no one dared object.

In 1938, Hitler forced the resignation of his War Minister (formerly Defense Minister),
Werner von Blomberg, after evidence surfaced that Blomberg's new wife had a criminal
past. Prior to removing Blomberg, Hitler and his clique removed Fritsch whom they
denounced as a homosexual.[74] 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-chief of the Armed Forces, for himself. He was already Supreme
Commander by virtue of holding the powers of the president. The next day, the
newspapers announced, "Strongest concentration of powers in Führer's hands!"

Third Reich
Main article: Nazi Germany

Having secured supreme political power, Hitler went on to gain public support by
convincing most Germans he was their savior from the economic Depression, the
Versailles treaty, communism, the "Judeo-Bolsheviks", and other "undesirable"
minorities. The Nazis eliminated opposition through a process known as Gleichschaltung
("bringing into line").

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 National 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 bearing four or more
babies. The unemployment rate was cut substantially, mostly through 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 Hitler's reconstruction and
rearmament came from currency manipulation by Hjalmar Schacht, including the clouded
credits through the Mefo bills.

1934 Nuremberg rally

Hitler oversaw one of the largest infrastructure-improvement campaigns in German

history, with the construction of dozens of dams, autobahns, railroads, and 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 up children and in
household work. This revitalising of industry and infrastructure 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 cost of living.[75] Laborers and farmers, the traditional
voters of the NSDAP, however, saw an increase in their standard of living.

Hitler's government sponsored architecture on an immense scale, with Albert Speer

becoming famous as the first architect of the Reich. While important as an architect in
implementing Hitler's classicist reinterpretation of German culture, Speer proved much
more effective as armaments minister during the last years of World War II. In 1936,
Berlin hosted the summer Olympic games, which were opened by Hitler and
choreographed to demonstrate Aryan superiority over all other races, achieving mixed

Although Hitler made plans for a Breitspurbahn (broad gauge railroad network), they
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 Britain.
Hitler contributed slightly to the design of the car that later became the Volkswagen
Beetle and charged Ferdinand Porsche with its design and construction.[76] Production
was deferred because of the war.

Hitler considered Sparta to be the first National Socialist state, and praised its early
eugenics treatment of deformed children.[77]

An important historical debate about Hitler’s economic policies concerns the

“modernization” debate. Historians such as David Schoenbaum and Henry Ashby Turner
have argued that social and economic polices under Hitler were modernization carried out
in pursuit of anti-modern goals.[78] Other group of historians centered around Rainer
Zitelmann have contended that Hitler had a deliberate strategy of pursuing a
revolutionary modernization of German society.[79]

Rearmament and new alliances

Main articles: Axis Powers, Tripartite Treaty, and German re-armament

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during Hitler's visit to Venice from 14–16 June 1934.

In a meeting with his leading generals and admirals on 3 February 1933 Hitler spoke of
"conquest of Lebensraum in the East and its ruthless Germanisation" as his ultimate
foreign policy objectives.[80] 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), Prince Bernhard von Bülow (not to be
confused with his more famous uncle, the former 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 a German zone of influence in Eastern Europe as goals for the future. Hitler found
the goals in Bülow's memo to be too modest.[81] In March 1933, to resolve the deadlock
between the French demand for sécurité (“security”) and the German demand for
gleichberechtigung (“equality of armaments”) at the World Disarmament Conference in
Geneva, Switzerland, the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald presented the
compromise “MacDonald Plan”. Hitler endorsed the “MacDonald Plan”, correctly
guessing that nothing would come of it, and that in the interval he could win some
goodwill in London by making his government appear moderate, and the French

In May 1933, Hitler met with Herbert von Dirksen, the German Ambassador in Moscow.
Dirksen advised the Führer that he was allowing relations with the Soviet Union to
deteriorate to a unacceptable extent, and advised to take immediate steps to repair
relations with the Soviets.[83] Much to Dirksen's intense disappointment, Hitler informed
that he wished for an anti-Soviet understanding with Poland, which Dirksen protested
implied recognition of the German-Polish border, leading Hitler to state he was after
much greater things than merely overturning the Treaty of Versailles.[84]

In June 1933, Hitler was forced to disavow Alfred Hugenberg of the German National
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.[85] Speaking to the Burgermeister of Hamburg in 1933, Hitler
commented that Germany required several years of peace before it could be sufficiently
rearmed enough to risk a war, and until then a policy of caution was called for.[86] 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 work within the international system.[87] In
private, Hitler's plans were something less than pacific. At the first meeting of his
Cabinet in 1933, Hitler placed military spending ahead of unemployment relief, and
indeed was only prepared to spend money on the latter if the former was satisfied first.[88]
When the president of the Reichsbank, the former Chancellor Dr. Hans Luther, offered
the new government the legal limit of 100 million Reichmarks to finance rearmament,
Hitler found 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
worth of "Mefo-bills" to pay for rearmament.[89]

A major initiative in Hitler's foreign policy in his early years was to create an alliance
with Britain. In the 1920s, Hitler wrote that a future National Socialist foreign policy goal
was "the destruction of Russia with the help of England."[90] In May 1933, Alfred
Rosenberg in his capacity as head of the Nazi Party's Aussenpolitisches Amt (Foreign
Political Office) visited London as part of a disastrous effort to win an alliance with
Britain.[91] In October 1933, Hitler pulled Germany out of both the League of Nations and
World Disarmament Conference after his Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von
Neurath made it appear to world public opinion that the French demand for sécurité was
the principal stumbling block.[92]

In line with the views he advocated in Mein Kampf and Zweites Buch about the necessity
of building an Anglo-German alliance, Hitler, in a meeting in November 1933 with the
British Ambassador, Sir Eric Phipps, offered a scheme in which Britain would support a
300,000-strong German Army in exchange for a German “guarantee” of the British
Empire.[93] 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.[93] 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 German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact of January 1934.[92]

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.[94] In the fall of 1934, Hitler was seriously concerned over the
dangers of inflation damaging his popularity.[95] In a secret speech given before his
Cabinet on 5 November 1934, Hitler stated he had "given the working class his word that
he would allow no price increases. Wage-earners would accuse him of breaking his word
if he did not act against the rising prices. Revolutionary conditions among the people
would be the further consequence."[95]

Although a secret German armaments programme 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 expanded 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 (Kriegsmarine). Britain, France, Italy and the League of Nations quickly
condemned these actions. However, after re-assurances from Hitler that Germany was
only interested 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 security 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.[96] During his talks with
Simon and Eden, Hitler first used what he regarded as the brilliant colonial negotiating
tactic, when Hitler parlayed an offer from Simon to return to the League of Nations by
demanding the return of the former German colonies in Africa.[97]

Starting in April 1935, disenchantment with how the Third Reich had developed in
practice as opposed to what been promised led many in the Nazi Party, especially the
Alte Kämpfer (Old Fighters; i.e., those who joined the Party before 1930, and who tended
to be the most ardent anti-Semitics in the Party), and the SA into lashing out against
Germany's Jewish minority as a way of expressing their frustrations against a group that
the authorities would not generally protect.[98] 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” and 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."[99] As
a result, Nazi Party activists and the SA started a major wave of assaults, vandalism and
boycotts against German Jews.[100]

On 18 June 1935, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement (A.G.N.A.) was signed in

London which allowed for increasing the allowed German tonnage up to 35% of that of
the 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
predicted in Mein Kampf.[101] This agreement was made without consulting either France
or Italy, directly undermined the League of Nations and put the Treaty of Versailles on
the path towards irrelevance.[102] After the signing 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 League (Reichskolonialbund) which
over the next few years waged an extremely aggressive propaganda campaign for
colonial restoration.[103] Hitler had no real interest in the former German African colonies.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler had excoriated the Imperial German government for pursuing
colonial expansion in Africa prior to 1914 on the grounds that the natural area for
Lebensraum was Eastern Europe, not Africa.[104] It was Hitler’s intention to use colonial
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 German terms.[105]

In the summer of 1935, Hitler was informed that, between inflation and the need to use
foreign exchange to buy raw materials Germany lacked for rearmament, there were only
5 million Reichmarks available for military expenditure, and a pressing need for some
300,000 Reichmarks/day to prevent food shortages.[106] 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.[107] Following Dr. Schacht’s
complaints, plus reports that the German public did not approve of the wave of anti-
Semitic violence, and that continuing police toleration of the violence was hurting the
regime's popularity with the wider public, Hitler ordered a stop to "individual actions"
against German Jews on 8 August 1935.[107] 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 disappointed with Hitler's halt order of 8 August, especially because Hitler had
only reluctantly given the halt order for pragmatic reasons, and his symapthies were with
the Party radicals.[107] The annual Nazi Party Rally held at Nuremberg in September 1935
was to feature the first session of the Reichstag held at that city since 1543. Hitler had
planned to have the Reichstag pass a law making the Nazi Swastika flag the flag of the
German Reich, and a major speech in support of the impending Italian aggression against
Ethiopia.[108] Hitler felt that the Italian aggression opened great opportunities for
Germany. In August 1935, Hitler told Goebbels his foreign policy vision as: "With
England eternal alliance. Good relationship with Poland . . . Expansion to the East. The
Baltic belongs to us . . . Conflicts Italy-Abyssinia-England, then Japan-Russia

At the last minute before the Nuremberg Party Rally was due to begin, the German
Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath persuaded Hitler to cancel his speech
praising Italy for her willingness to commit aggression. Neurath convinced Hitler that his
speech was too provocative to public opinion abroad as it contradicted the message of
Hitler’s “peace speeches”, thus leaving Hitler with the sudden need to have something
else to address the first meeting of the Reichstag in Nuremberg since 1543, other than the
Reich Flag Law.[110] On 13 September 1935, Hitler hurriedly ordered two civil servants,
Dr. Bernhard Lösener and Franz Albrecht Medicus of the Interior Ministry to fly to
Nuremberg to start drafting anti-Semitic laws for Hitler to present to the Reichstag for 15
September.[108] On the evening of 15 September, Hitler presented two laws before the
Reichstag banning sex and marriage between “Aryan” and Jewish Germans, the
employment of “Aryan” woman under the age of 45 in Jewish households, and deprived
“non-Aryans” of the benefits of German citizenship.[111] The laws of September 1935 are
generally known as the Nuremberg Laws.
In October 1935, in order to prevent further food shortages and the introduction of
rationing, Hitler reluctantly ordered cuts in military spending[112] In the spring of 1936 in
response to requests from Richard Walther Darré, Hitler ordered 60 million Reichmarks
of foreign exchange to be used to buy seed oil for German farmers, a decision that led to
bitter complaints from Dr. Schacht and the War Minister Field Marshal Werner von
Blomberg that it would be impossible to achieve rearmament as long as foreign exchange
was diverted to preventing food shortages[109] Given the economic problems which was
affecting his popularity by early 1936, Hitler felt the pressing need for a foreign policy
triumph as a way of distracting public attention from the economy.[109]

In an interview with the French journalist Bertrand de Jouvenel in February 1936, Hitler
appeared to disavow Mein Kampf by saying that parts of his book were now out of date
and he was not guided by them, though precisely which parts were out of date was left
unclear.[113] In March 1936, Hitler again violated the Versailles treaty by reoccupying the
demilitarized zone in the Rhineland. When Britain and France did nothing, he grew
bolder. In July 1936, the Spanish Civil War began when the military, led by General
Francisco Franco, rebelled against the elected Popular Front government. After receiving
an appeal for help from General Franco in 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 continued with his efforts to create an Anglo-German
alliance. In July 1936, he offered 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 protect British colonial possessions there from a Japanese attack.[114] 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" ordering
Hermann Göring to carry out the Four Year Plan to have the German economy ready for
war within the next four years.[115] During the 1936 economic crisis, the German
government was divided into two factions, with one (the so-called "free market" faction)
centering around the Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schacht and the former Price
Commissioner Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler calling for decreased military spending and a
turn away from autarkic policies, and another faction around Göring calling for the
opposite. Supporting the "free-market" faction were some of Germany's leading business
executives, most notably Hermann Duecher of AEG, Robert Bosch of Robert Bosch
GmbH, and Albert Voegeler of Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG.[116] Hitler hesitated for the
first half of 1936 before siding with the more radical faction in his "Four Year Plan"
memo of August.[117] 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,
which indicates that Hitler had something especially important to say.[118] The "Four-Year
Plan Memorandum" predicated an imminent all-out, apocalyptic struggle between "Judo-
Bolshevism" and German National Socialism, which necessitated a total effort at
rearmament regardless of the economic costs.[119] In the memo, Hitler 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 called Bolshevism, whose
essence and aim, however, are solely the elimination of those strata of mankind which have
hitherto provided the leadership and their replacement by worldwide Jewry. No state will be able
to withdraw or even remain at a distance from this historical conflict . . . It is not the aim of this
memorandum to prophesy the time when the untenable situation in Europe will become an open
crisis. I only want, in these lines, to set down my conviction that this crisis 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 herself 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 consider it necessary for the
Reichstag to pass the following two laws: 1) A law providing the death penalty for economic
sabotage and 2) A law making the whole of Jewry liable for all damage inflicted by individual
specimens of this community of criminals upon the German economy, and thus upon the German

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 development 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-assertion and the extension of her
Lebensraum."[121][122] Hitler went on to write that given the magnitude of the coming
struggle that the concerns expressed by members of the "free market" faction like Schacht
and Goerdeler that the current level of military spending was bankrupting Germany were
irrelevant. Hitler wrote that: "However well balanced the general pattern of a nation's life
ought to be, there must at particular times be certain disturbances of the balance at the
expense of other less vital tasks. If we do not succeed in bringing the German army as
rapidly as possible to the rank of premier army in the world . . . then Germany will be
lost!"[123] and "The nation does not live for the economy, for economic leaders, 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."[116][clarification needed] Documents such as the Four Year Plan Memo
have often used by right historians such as Henry Ashby Turner and Karl Dietrich
Bracher who argue for a “primacy of politics” approach (that Hitler was not subordinate
to German business, but rather the contrary was the case) against the “primacy of
economics” approach championed by Marxist historians (that Hitler was a “agent” of and
subordinate to German business).[124]

In August 1936, the freelance Nazi diplomat Joachim von Ribbentrop was appointed
German Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Before Ribbentrop left to take up his post
in October 1936, Hitler told him: “Ribbentrop . . . get Britain to join the Anti-Comintern
Pact, that is what I want most of all. I have sent you as the best 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 moment it is over, I will then be ready at any time to offer the
British an honourable 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,
Ribbentrop, 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”.[125]
On 25 October 1936, an Axis was declared between Italy and Germany.

An 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 sent out for Britain, China, 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. Both the military and the Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office)
were strongly opposed to ending the informal German alliance with China that existed
since the 1910s, and pressured Hitler to avoid offending the Chinese. The Auswärtiges
Amt and the military both argued to Hitler that given the foreign exchange problems
which afflicted German rearmament, and the fact that various Sino-German economic
agreements provided Germany with raw materials that would otherwise use up precious
foreign exchange, it was folly to seek an alliance with Japan that would have the
inevitable result of ending the Sino-German alignment.

By the latter half of 1937, Hitler had abandoned his dream of an Anglo-German alliance,
blaming "inadequate" British leadership for turning down his offers of an alliance.[126] In a
talk with the League of Nations High Commissioner for the Free City of Danzig, the
Swiss diplomat Carl Jacob Burckhardt in September 1937, Hitler protested what he
regarded as British interference in the "German sphere" in Europe, though in the same
talk, Hitler made clear his view of Britain as an ideal ally, which for pure selfishness was
blocking German plans.[126]

Hitler had suffered severely from stomach pains and eczema in 1936–37, leading to his
remark to the Nazi Party's propaganda leadership in October 1937 that because both
parents died early in their lives, he would probably follow suit, leaving him with only a
few years to obtain the necessary Lebensraum.[127][128] About the same time, Dr. Goebbels
noted in his diary Hitler now wished to see the "Great Germanic Reich" he envisioned in
his own lifetime rather than leaving the work of building the "Great Germanic Reich" to
his successors.[129]

On 5 November 1937, at the Reich Chancellory, Adolf Hitler held a secret meeting with
the War and Foreign Ministers and the three service chiefs, recorded in the Hossbach
Memorandum, and stated his intentions for acquiring "living space" Lebensraum for the
German people. He ordered the attendees to make plans for war in the east no later than
1943 in order to acquire Lebensraum. Hitler stated the conference minutes were to be
regarded as his "political testament" in the event of his death.[130] In the memo, Hitler was
recorded as saying that such a state of crisis had been reached in the German economy
that the only way of stopping a severe decline in living standards in Germany was to
embark sometime in the near-future on a policy of aggression by seizing Austria and
Czechoslovakia.[131][132] Moreover, Hitler stated that the arms race meant that time for
action had to occur before Britain and France obtained a permanent lead in the arms race.
A striking change in the Hossbach Memo was Hitler’s changed view of Britain from
the prospective ally of 1928 in the Zweites Buch to the "hate-inspired antagonist" of 1937
in the Hossbach memo.[133] The historian Klaus Hildebrand described the memo as the
start of an "ambivalent course" towards Britain while the late historian Andreas
Hillgruber argued that Hitler was embarking on expansion "without Britain," preferably
"with Britain," but if necessary "against Britain."[105][134]

Hitler's intentions outlined in the Hossbach memorandum led to strong protests from the
Foreign Minister, Baron Konstantin von Neurath, the War Minister Field Marshal Werner
von Blomberg and the Army Commander General Werner von Fritsch that 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 sanitaire and if a Franco-
German war broke out, then Britain was almost certain to intervene rather than risk the
chance of a French defeat.[135] 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 Germany was ready for such a conflict, and advised Hitler to wait until Germany
had more time to rearm. Neurath, Blomberg and Fritsch had no moral objections to
German aggression, but rather based their opposition on the question of timing—
determining the best time for aggression.[135]

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. Speaking of
changes to Germany's frontiers, Halifax told Hitler that: "All other questions fall into the
category of possible alterations in the European order which might be destined to come
about with the passage of time. Amongst these questions were Danzig, Austria and
Czechoslovakia. England was interested to see that any alterations should come through
the course of peaceful evolution and that the methods should be avoided which might
cause far-reaching disturbances."[136] Significantly, Halifax made clear in his statements to
Hitler, though whether Hitler appreciated the significance of this or not is unclear, that
any possible territorial changes had to be accomplished peacefully, and that though
Britain had no security commitments in Eastern Europe beyond the Covenant of the
League of Nations, that Britain would not tolerate territorial changes via war.[137] Hitler
seems to have misunderstood Halifax's remarks as confirming his conviction that Britain
would just stand aside while he pursued his strategy of limited wars in Eastern Europe.

Hitler was most unhappy with the criticism of his intentions expressed by Neurath,
Blomberg, and Fritsch in the Hossbach Memo, and in early 1938 asserted his control of
the military-foreign policy apparatus through the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair, the abolition
of the War Ministry and its replacement by the OKW, and by sacking Neurath as Foreign
Minister on 4 February 1938, assuming the rank, role and tile of the Oberster
Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht.[138] The British economic historian Richard Overy
commented that the establishment of the OKW in February 1938 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.[139] The Official German history of World
War II has argued that from early 1938 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

The Holocaust

Main article: The Holocaust

An American soldier stands near a wagon piled high with corpses outside the
crematorium in the newly liberated Buchenwald concentration camp

One of the foundations of Hitler's social policies was the concept of racial hygiene. It was
based on the ideas of Arthur de Gobineau, a French count; eugenics, a pseudo-science
that advocated racial purity; and social Darwinism. Applied to human beings, "survival of
the fittest" was interpreted as requiring racial purity and killing off "life unworthy of
life." The first victims were children with physical and developmental disabilities; those
killings occurred in a programme dubbed Action T4.[141] After a public outcry, Hitler
made a show of ending this program, but the killings in fact continued (see Nazi

Between 1939 and 1945, the SS, assisted by collaborationist governments and recruits
from occupied countries, systematically killed somewhere between 11 and 14 million
people, including about six million Jews,[142][143] in concentration camps, ghettos and mass
executions, or through less systematic methods elsewhere. In addition to those gassed to
death, many died as a result of starvation and disease while working as slave labourers
(sometimes benefiting private German companies). Along with Jews, non-Jewish Poles,
Communists and political 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, 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[citation
and did not speak publicly about the killing in precise terms.

The Holocaust (the Endlösung der jüdischen Frage or "Final Solution of the Jewish
Question") was planned and ordered by leading Nazis, with Heinrich Himmler and
Reinhard Heydrich playing key roles. While no specific order from Hitler authorizing the
mass killing has surfaced, there is documentation showing that he approved the
Einsatzgruppen killing squads that followed the German army through Poland and
Russia, and that he was kept well informed about their activities. The evidence also
suggests that in the fall of 1941 Himmler and Hitler decided upon mass extermination by
gassing. During interrogations by Soviet intelligence officers declassified over fifty years
later, Hitler's valet Heinz Linge and his military aide Otto Gunsche said Hitler had "pored
over the first blueprints of gas chambers." His private secretary, Traudl Junge, testified
that Hitler knew all about the death camps.

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 senior
officials participating, led by Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann. The records of
this meeting provide the clearest evidence of planning for the Holocaust. On 22 February,
Hitler was recorded saying to his associates, "we shall regain our health only by
eliminating the Jews".

World War II
Main article: World War II

Early diplomatic triumphs

Alliance with Japan

Japanese Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka with Hitler in Berlin.

In February 1938, Hitler finally ended the dilemma that had plagued German Far Eastern
policy, namely whether to continue the informal Sino-German alliance that existed with
Republic of China since the 1910s or to create a new alliance with Japan. The military at
the time strongly favored continuing Germany's alliance with China. China had the
support of Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath and War Minister Werner von
Blomberg, the so called "China Lobby" who tried to steer German foreign policy away
from war in Europe.[144] Both men, however, were sacked by Hitler in early 1938. Upon
the advice of Hitler's newly appointed Foreign Minister, the strongly pro-Japanese
Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler chose to end the alliance with China as the price of
gaining an alignment with the more modern and powerful Japan. In an address to the
Reichstag, Hitler announced German recognition of Manchukuo, the Japanese-occupied
puppet state in Manchuria, and renounced the German claims to the former colonies in
the Pacific held by Japan.[145] Hitler ordered an end to arm shipments to China, and
ordered the recall of all the German officers attached to the Chinese Army.[145] In
retaliation for ending German support to China in the war against Japan, Chinese
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek canceled all of the Sino-German economic agreements,
which deprived the Germans of raw materials such as tungsten that the Chinese had
previously provided. The ending of the Sino-German alignment increased the problems
of German rearmament as the Germans were now forced to use their limited supply of
foreign exchange to buy raw materials on the open market.

Austria and Czechoslovakia

In March 1938, Hitler pressured Austria into unification with Germany (the Anschluss)
and made a triumphant entry into Vienna on 14 March.[146][147] Next, he intensified a crisis
over the German-speaking Sudetenland districts of Czechoslovakia.[148]

On 3 March 1938, the British Ambassador Sir Neville Henderson met with Hitler and
presented on behalf of his government a proposal for an international consortium 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.[149] Hitler, who was more
interested in Lebensraum in Eastern Europe then in participating 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 that it was totally outrageous on Britain’s part to
impose conditions on German conduct in Europe as the price for territory in Africa.[150]
Hitler ended the conversation by telling Henderson he would rather wait twenty years for
the return of the former colonies than accept British conditions for avoiding war.[150][151]

On 28 to 29 March 1938, Hitler held a series of secret meetings in Berlin with Konrad
Henlein of the Sudeten Heimfront (Home Front), the largest of the ethnic German parties
of the Sudetenland. During the Hitler-Henlein meetings, it was agreed that Henlein would
provide the pretext for German aggression against Czechoslovakia by making demands
on Prague for increased autonomy for Sudeten Germans that Prague could never be
reasonably expected to fulfill. In April 1938, Henlein told the foreign minister of
Hungary that “whatever the Czech government might offer, he would always raise still
higher demands ... he wanted to sabotage an understanding by all means because this was
the only method to blow up Czechoslovakia quickly”.[152] In private, Hitler considered the
Sudeten issue unimportant; his real intentions being to use the Sudeten question as the
justification both at home and abroad for a war of aggression to destroy Czechoslovakia,
under the grounds of self-determination, and Prague’s refusal to meet Henlein’s demands.
Hitler’s plans called for a massive military build-up along the Czechoslovak border,
relentless propaganda attacks about the supposed ill treatment of the Sudetenlanders, and
finally, “incidents” between Heimfront activists and the Czechoslovak authorities to
justify an invasion that would swiftly destroy Czechoslovakia in a few days campaign
before other powers could act.[154] 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.[155]

In April 1938, Hitler ordered the OKW to start preparing plans for Fall Grün (Case
Green), the codename for an invasion of Czechoslovakia.[156] Further increasing 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 the weekend of the
municipal elections in that country, erroneous reports of major German troop movements
along the Czechoslovak border just prior to the elections, 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 invasion was indeed scheduled for the
weekend, which led to a partial Czechoslovak mobilization and firm warnings from
London against a German move against Czechoslovakia before it was realized that no
invasion was intended for that weekend.[157] Though no invasion had been planned for
May 1938, it was believed in London that such a course of action was indeed being
considered in Berlin, leading to two warnings on 21 May and 22 May that the United
Kingdom would go to war with Germany if France became involved in a war with
Germany.[158] Hitler, for his part, was 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 London and Paris, when he had in fact been planning nothing for that
weekend.[159] Though plans had already been drafted in April 1938 for an invasion of
Czechoslovakia 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 not possible, and
expansion "against Britain" was the only viable course.[160] In the immediate aftermath of
the May crisis, Hitler ordered an acceleration of German naval building beyond the limits
of the A.G.N.A., and in the "Heye memorandum", drawn at Hitler's orders, envisaged the
Royal Navy for the first time as the principle opponent of the Kriegsmarine.[161]

At the conference of 28 May 1938, Hitler declared that it was his "unalterable" decision
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 France.[162] 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 was still ahead.[162] Hitler's
determination to go through with Fall Grün in 1938 provoked a major crisis in the
German command structure.[163] The Chief of the General Staff, General Ludwig Beck
protested in a lengthy series of memos that Fall Grün would start a world war that
Germany would lose, and urged Hitler to put off the projected war.[163] Hitler called
Beck's arguments against war "kindische Kräfteberechnugen" ("childish calculations").

On 4 August 1938, a secret Army meeting was held at which Beck read his report. They
agreed something had to be done to prevent certain disaster. Beck hoped they would all
resign together but no one resigned except Beck. However his replacement, General
Franz Halder, sympathised with Beck and together they conspired with several top
generals, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (Chief of German Intelligence), and Graf von
Helldorf (Berlin's Police Chief) to arrest Hitler the moment he gave the invasion order.
However the plan would only work if both Britain and France made it known to the
world that they would fight to preserve Czechoslovakia. This would help to convince the
German people that certain defeat awaited Germany. Agents were therefore sent to
England to tell Chamberlain that an attack on Czechoslovakia was planned and their
intentions to overthrow Hitler if this occurred. However the messengers were not taken
seriously by the British. In September, Chamberlain and Daladier decided not to threaten
a war over Czechoslovakia and so the planned removal of Hitler could not be justified.[165]
The Munich Agreement therefore preserved Hitler in power.

Starting in August 1938, information reached London that Germany was beginning to
mobilize reservists, together with information leaked by anti-war elements in the German
military that the war was scheduled for sometime in September.[166] Finally, as a result of
intense French, and especially British diplomatic pressure, President Edvard Beneš
unveiled on 5 September 1938, the “Fourth Plan” for constitutional reorganization of his
country, which granted most of the demands for Sudeten autonomy made by Henlein in
his Karlsbad speech of April 1938, and threatened to deprive the Germans of their pretext
for aggression.[167] Henlein’s Heimfront promptly responded to the offer of “Fourth Plan”
by having a series of violent crashes with the Czechoslovak police, culminating in major
clashes in mid-September that led to the declaration of martial law in certain Sudeten
districts.[168][169] In a response to the threatening situation, in late August 1938, the British
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had conceived of Plan Z, namely to fly to Germany,
meet Hitler, and then work out an agreement that could end the crisis.[170][171] On 13
September 1938, Chamberlain offered to fly to Germany to 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 invasion was due to start any time after 18
September.[172] Though Hitler was not happy with Chamberlain’s offer, he agreed to see
the British Prime Minister because to refuse Chamberlain’s offer would confirm the lie to
his repeated claims that he was a man of peace driven reluctantly to war because of
Beneš’s intractability.[173] In a summit at Berchtesgaden, Chamberlain promised to
pressure Beneš into 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
military action until Chamberlain had given a chance to fulfill his promise.[174] Hitler 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.[175] The talks between
Chamberlain and Hitler in September 1938 were made difficult by their innately differing
concepts of what Europe should look like, with Hitler aiming to use the Sudeten issue as
a pretext for war and Chamberlain genuinely striving for a peaceful solution.[176]

When Chamberlain returned to Germany on 22 September to present his peace plan for
the transfer of the Sudetenland at a summit with Hitler at Bad Godesberg, the British
delegation was most unpleasantly surprised to have Hitler reject his own terms he had
presented at Berchtesgaden as now unacceptable.[177] To put an end to Chamberlain’s
peace-making efforts once and for all, Hitler demanded the Sudetenland be ceded to
Germany no later then 28 September 1938 with no negotiations between Prague and
Berlin and no international commission to oversee the transfer; no plebiscites to be 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.[178] The differing views between the two leaders were
best symbolized when Chamberlain was presented with Hitler’s new demands and
protested at being presented with an ultimatum, leading Hitler in turn to retort that
because his document stating his new demands was entitled “Memorandum”, it could not
possibly be an ultimatum.[179] On 25 September 1938 Britain rejected the Bad Godesberg
ultimatum, and began preparations for war.[180][181] To further underline the point, Sir
Horace Wilson, the British government’s Chief Industrial Advisor, and a close associate
of Chamberlain was dispatched to Berlin to inform Hitler that if the Germans attacked
Czechoslovakia, then France would honor her commitments as demanded by the Franco-
Czechoslovak alliance of 1924, and “then England would feel honor bound, to offer
France assistance”.[182] Initially, determined to continue with attack planned for 1 October
1938, sometime between 27 and 28 September, Hitler changed his mind, and asked to
take up a suggestion, of and through the intercession of Mussolini, for a conference to be
held in Munich with Chamberlain, Mussolini, and the French Premier Édouard Daladier
to discuss the Czechoslovak situation.[183] Just what had caused Hitler to change his
attitude is not entirely clear, but it is likely that the combination of Franco-British
warnings, and especially the mobilization of the British fleet, had finally convinced him
of what the most likely result of Fall Grün would be; the minor nature of the alleged
casus belli being the timetables for the transfer made Hitler appear too much like the
aggressor; the view from his advisors that Germany was not prepared either militarily or
economically 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 fight on behalf
of Germany; and very visible signs that the majority of Germans were not enthusiastic
about the prospect of war.[184][185][186] Moreover, Germany lacked sufficient supplies of oil
and other crucial raw materials (the plants that would produce the synthetic oil for the
German war effort were not in operation yet), and was highly dependent upon imports
from abroad.[187] The Kriegsmarine reported that should war come with Britain, it could
not break a British blockade, and since Germany had hardly any oil stocks, Germany
would be defeated for no other reason than a shortage of oil.[188] The Economics Ministry
told Hitler that Germany had only 2.6 million tons of oil at hand, and should war with
Britain and France, would require 7.6 million tons of oil.[189] Starting on 18 September
1938, the British refused to supply metals to Germany, and on 24 September 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 immediate economic
pain in Germany.[190] Given Germany's dependence on imported oil (80% of German oil
in the 1930s came from the New World), and the likelihood that a war with Britain would
see a blockade cutting Germany off from oil supplies, historians have argued that Hitler's
decision to see a peaceful end to call off Fall Grün was due to concerns about the oil

Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler and Mussolini at the Munich Conference

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 gave in to
Hitler's ostensible demands by handing over the Sudetenland districts to Germany.[191]
Since London and Paris had already agreed to the idea of a transfer of the disputed
territory in mid-September, the Munich Conference mostly comprised discussions in one
day of talks on technical questions about how the transfer of the Sudetenland would take
place, and featured the relatively minor concessions from Hitler that the transfer would
take place over a ten day period in October, overseen by an international commission,
and Germany would wait until Hungarian and Polish claims were settled.[192] At the end
of the conference, Chamberlain had Hitler sign a declaration of Anglo-German
friendship, to which Chamberlain attached great importance and Hitler none at all.[193]
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.[194][195] As a result of the
summit, Hitler was TIME magazine's Man of the Year for 1938.[196]
Hitler enters the German populated Sudetenland region of Czechoslavakia in October
1938 which was annexed to Germany proper due to the Munich agreement

By appeasing Hitler, Britain and France left Czechoslovakia to Hitler's mercy.[191] Though
Hitler professed happiness in public over the achievement of his ostensible demands, in
private he was determined to have a war the next time around by ensuring that Germany's
future demands would not be met.[197] In Hitler’s view, a British-brokered peace, though
extremely favorable to the ostensible German demands, was a diplomatic defeat which
proved that Britain needed to be ended as a power to allow him to pursue his dreams of
eastern expansion.[198][199] In the aftermath of Munich, Hitler felt since Britain would not
ally herself nor stand aside to facilitate Germany’s continental ambitions, it had become a
major threat, and accordingly, Britain replaced the Soviet Union in Hitler’s mind as the
main enemy of the Reich, with German policies being accordingly reoriented.[200][201][202]
Hitler expressed his disappointment over the Munich Agreement in a speech on 9
October 1938 in Saarbrücken when he lashed out against the Conservative anti-appeasers
Winston Churchill, Alfred Duff Cooper and Anthony Eden, whom Hitler described as a
warmongering anti-German fraction, who would attack Germany at the first opportunity,
and were likely to come to power at any moment.[204] In the same speech, Hitler claimed
“We Germans will no longer endure such governessy interference. Britain should mind
her own business and worry about her own troubles”.[205] In November 1938, Hitler
ordered a major anti-British propaganda campaign to be launched with the British being
loudly abused for their "hypocrisy" in maintaining world-wide empire while seeking to
block the Germans from acquiring an empire of their own.[206] A particular highlight in
the anti-British propaganda was alleged British humans rights abuses in dealing with the
Arab uprising in the Palestine Mandate and in India, and the "hyprocrisy" of British
criticism of the November 1938 Kristallnacht event.[207] This marked a huge change from
the earlier years of the Third Reich, when the German media had portrayed the British
Empire in very favorable terms.[208] In November 1938, the Foreign Minister Joachim von
Ribbentrop was ordered to convert the Anti-Comintern Pact into an open anti-British
military alliance, as a prelude for a war against Britain and France.[209] On 27 January
1939, Hitler approved the Z Plan, a five-year naval expansion program which called for a
Kriegsmarine of 10 battleships, four aircraft carriers, three battlecruisers, eight heavy
cruisers, 44 light cruisers, 68 destroyers and 249 U-boats by 1944 that was intended to
crush the Royal Navy.[210] The importance of the Z Plan can be seen in Hitler's orders that
henceforward the Kriegsmarine was to go from third to one in allotment of raw materials,
money and skilled workers.[211] In the spring of 1939, the Luftwaffe was ordered to start
building a strategic bombing force that was meant to level British cities.[212] Hitler’s war
plans against Britain called for a joint Kriegsmarine-Luftwaffe offensive that was to stage
"rapid annihilating blows" against British cities and shipping with the expectation that
"The moment England is cut off from her supplies she is forced to capitulate" as Hitler
expected that the experience of living in a blockaded, famine-stricken, bombed out island
to be too much for the British public.[213]

Destroyed Jewish businesses in Magdeburg following Kristallnacht

In November 1938, in a secret speech to a group of German journalists, Hitler noted 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".[86] In the same
speech, Hitler complained that his peace propaganda of the last five years had been too
successful, and it was time for the German people to be subjected to war propaganda.[214]
Hitler stated: "It is self-evident that such peace propaganda conducted for a decade has its
risky aspect; because it can too 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 circumstances", and instead called for new journalism that "had to present
certain foreign policy events in such a fashion that the inner voice of the people itself
slowly begins to shout out for the use of force."[214] In later November 1938, Hitler
expressed his frustration with his more cautious advice he was receiving from some
quarters[215] Hitler called the economic expert Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, General Ludwig
Beck, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, the diplomat Ulrich von Hassell, and the economist Rudolf
Brinkmann as “the overbred intellectual circles" whom were trying to block him from
fulifilling his mission by their appeals to caution, and but for the fact that he needed their
skills "otherwise, perhaps we could someday exterminate them or do something of this
kind to them"[216]

In December 1938, the Chancellery of the Führer headed by Philipp Bouhler received a
letter concerning a severely physically and mentally disabled baby girl named Sofia
Knauer living in Leipzig.[217] At that time, there was a furious rivalry existing between
Bouhler’s office, the office of the Reich Chancellery led by Hans-Heinrich Lammers, the
Presidential Chancellery of Otto Meissner, the office of Hitler’s adjutant Wilhelm
Brückner and the Deputy Führer's office which was effectively headed by Martin
Borman over control over access to Hitler.[218] As part of a power play against his rivals,
Bouhler presented the letter concerning the disabled girl to Hitler, who thanked Bouhler
for bringing the matter to his attention and responded by ordering his personal physician
Dr. Karl Brandt to kill Knauer.[219] In January 1939, Hitler ordered Bouhler and Dr.
Brandt to henceforward have all disabled infants born in Germany killed.[219] This was the
origin of the Action T4 program. Subsequently Dr. Brandt and Bouhler acting on their
own initiative, in the expectation of winning Hitler’s favor, expanded the T4 program to
killing, first, all physically or mentally disabled children in Germany, and, second, all
disabled adults.[220]
In late 1938 and early 1939, the continuing economic crisis caused by problems of
rearmament, especially the shortage of foreign hard currencies needed to pay for raw
materials Germany lacked together with reports from Göring that the Four Year Plan was
hopelessly behind schedule forced Hitler in January 1939 to reluctantly order major
defense cuts with the Wehrmacht having its steel allocations cut by 30%, aluminum 47%,
cement 25%, rubber 14% and copper 20%.[221] On 30 January 1939, Hitler made his
"Export or die" speech calling for a German economic offensive ("export battle", to use
Hitler's term), to increase German foreign exchange holdings to pay for raw materials
such high-grade iron needed for military materials.[221] The "Export or die" speech of 30
January 1939 is also known as Hitler’s "Prophecy Speech". The name which that speech
is known comes from Hitler’s "prophecy" issued 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 it was in the first instance the Jewish race which
only received my prophecies with laughter when I said I would one day take over the leadership
of the State, and 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 some 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 result will not be the bolsheviszation of the earth, and thus the victory
of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"[222]

A significant historical debate has swung around the “Prophecy Speech”. Historians who
take an intentionist line such as Eberhard Jäckel have argued that at minimum from the
time of the “Prophecy Speech” onwards, Hitler was committed to genocide of the Jews as
his central goal.[223] Lucy Dawidowicz and Gerald Fleming have argued that the
"Prophecy Speech" was simply Hitler's way of saying that once he started a world war, he
would use that war as a cover for his already pre-existing plans for genocide.[222]
Functionalist historians as Christopher Browning have dismissed this interpretation under
the grounds that if Hitler were serious with the intentions expressed in the “Prophecy
Speech”, then why the 30-month “stay of execution” between the outbreak of World War
II in September 1939, and the opening of the first Vernichtungslager in late 1941.[224] In
addition, Browning has pointed to the existence of the Madagascar Plan of 1940–41 and
various other schemes as proof that there was no genocidal master plan.[224] In
Browning’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 policies.[224]

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.[225] Hitler ordered Germany's army to enter Prague on 15 March
1939, and from Prague Castle proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate.

Start of the Second World War

As part of the anti-British course, it was deemed necessary by Hitler to have either
Poland a satellite state or otherwise neutralized. Hitler believed this necessary on both
strategic grounds as way of securing the Reich's eastern flank and on economic grounds
as a way of evading the effects of a British blockade.[226] Initially, the German hope was
to 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 foreign policy goal of 1939.[227] On 3 April
1939 Hitler ordered the military to start preparing for Fall Weiss (Case White), the plan
for a German invasion to be executed on 25 August 1939[227] In August 1939, Hitler
spoke to his generals that his original plan for 1939 had to “... establish a acceptable
relationship with Poland in order to fight against the West” but since the Poles would not
co-operate in setting up an “acceptable relationship” (i.e. becoming a German satellite),
he believed he had no other choice other than wiping Poland off the map.[228] The
historian Gerhard Weinberg has argued since Hitler’s audience comprised men who were
all for the destruction 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 quite likely
that Hitler was speaking the truth on this occasion.[228] In his private discussions 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 was the necessary prelude to that goal by
securing the eastern flank and helpfully adding to Germany’s Lebensraum.[229] Hitler was
much offended by the British “guarantee” of Polish independence issued on 31 March
1939, and told his associates that "I shall brew them a devil's drink"[230] In a speech in
Wilhelmshaven for the launch of the Admiral Tirpitz battleship on 1 April 1939, Hitler
threatened to denounce the A.G.N.A if the British persisted with their "encirclement"
policy as represented by the "guarantee" of Polish independence.[230] As part of the new
course, in a speech before the Reichstag on 28 April 1939, Adolf Hitler complaining of
British “encirclement" of Germany, renounced both the Anglo-German Naval Agreement
and the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact.

As a pretext for aggression against Poland, Hitler claimed the Free City of Danzig and the
right for “extra-territorial” roads across the Polish Corridor which Germany had
unwillingly ceded under the Versailles treaty. For Hitler, Danzig was just a pretext for
aggression as the Sudetenland had been intended to be in 1938, and throughout 1939,
while highlighting the Danzig issue as a grievance, the Germans always refused to
engage in talks about the matter.[231] A notable contradiction existed in Hitler's plans
between the long-term anti-British course, whose 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 attacking Poland.[232][233] 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-Polish war would accordingly be a limited regional war.[234][235] Ribbentrop based
his appraisal partly on an alleged statement made to him by the French Foreign Minister
Georges Bonnet in December 1938 that France now recognized Eastern Europe as
Germany’s exclusive sphere of influence.[236] In addition, Ribbentrop's status 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 honor her commitments to
Poland carried much weight with Hitler.[236] Ribbentrop only showed Hitler diplomatic
cables that supported his analysis.[237] In addition, the German Ambassador in London,
Herbert von Dirksen tended to send 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 of the British Empire, would not survive the chaos of even a
victorious war”, and so would back down.[235] 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 for a limited mobilization against Poland alone.[238] Hitler chose late August as his
date for Fall Weiss in order to limit disruption to German agricultural production caused
by mobilization.[239] The problems caused 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.[239]

The Munich agreement appeared to be sufficient to dispel most of the remaining hold
which the "collective security" idea may have had in Soviet circles,[240] and, on 23 August
1939, Joseph Stalin accepted Hitler's proposal to conclude a non-aggression pact (the
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact), whose secret protocols contained an agreement to partition
Poland. A major historical debate about the reasons for Hitler’s foreign policy choices in
1939 concerns whether a structural economic crisis drove Hitler into a “flight into war”
as claimed by the Marxist historian Timothy Mason or whether Hitler’s actions were
more influenced by non-economic factors as claimed by the economic historian Richard
Overy.[241] Historians such as William Carr, Gerhard Weinberg and Ian Kershaw have
argued that a non-economic reason for Hitler’s rush to war was due to Hitler’s morbid
and obsessive fear of an early death, and hence his feeling that he did not have long to
accomplish his work.[128][242][243] In the last days of peace, Hitler oscillated between the
determination to fight the Western powers if he had to, and various schemes intended to
keep Britain out of the war, but in any case, Hitler was not to be deterred from his aim of
invading Poland.[244] Only very briefly, when news of the Anglo-Polish alliance being
signed on 25 August 1939 in response to the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact
(instead of the severing of ties between London and Warsaw predicted by Ribbentrop)
together with news from Italy that Mussolini would not honor the Pact of Steel, caused
Hitler to postpone the attack on Poland from 25 August to 1 September.[245] Hitler chose
to spend the last days of peace either trying to maneuver the British into neutrality
through his offer of 25 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.[246]
On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded western Poland. Britain and France declared
war on Germany on 3 September but did not immediately act. Hitler was most
unpleasantly surprised at receiving the British declaration of war on 3 September 1939,
and turning to Ribbentrop angrily asked “Now what?”[248] Ribbentrop had nothing to say
other then that Robert Coulondre, the French Ambassador would probably be by later that
day to present the French declaration of war.[248] Not long after this, on 17 September,
Soviet forces invaded eastern Poland.[249]
Members of the Reichstag greet Hitler in October 1939 after the conclusion of the Polish

Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, 1940.

Adolf Hitler in Paris, 1940, with Albert Speer (left) and Arno Breker (right)
Poland never will rise again in the form of the Versailles treaty. That is
“ guaranteed not only by Germany, but also ... Russia.[250] ”
—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 part of
north-western Poland annexed to Germany, Hitler instructed the two Gauleiters in charge
of the area, namely Albert Forster and Arthur Greiser to “Germanize” the area, and
promised them "There would be no questions asked" about how this "Germanization"
was to be accomplished.[251] Hitler’s orders were interpreted in very different ways by
Forster and Greiser. Forster followed a policy of simply having the local Poles sign forms
stating they had German blood with no documentation required, whereas Greiser carried
out a brutual ethnic cleansing campaign of expelling the entire Polish population into the
Government-General of Poland.[252] When Greiser, seconded by Himmler complained to
Hitler that Forster was allowing thousands of Poles to be accepted as “racial” Germans
and thus "contaminating" German “racial purity”, and asked Hitler to order Forster to
stop. Hitler merely told Himmler and Greiser to take up their difficulties with Forster, and
not to involve him.[253] Hitler’s handling of the Forster-Greiser dispute has often been
advanced as an example of Ian Kershaw's theory of “Working Towards the Führer”,
namely that Hitler issued vague instructions, and allowed his subordinates to work out
policy on their own.

After the conquest of Poland, another major dispute broke out between different factions
with one centering around Reichsfüherer SS Heinrich Himmler and Arthur Greiser
championing and carrying out ethnic cleansing schemes for Poland, and another centering
around Hermann Göring and Hans Frank calling for turning Poland into the "granary" of
the Reich.[254] At a conference held at Göring's Karinhall estate on 12 February, 1940, the
dispute was settled in favor of the Göring-Frank view of economic exploitation, and
ending mass expulsions as economically disruptive.[254] On 15 May, 1940 Himmler
showed Hitler a memo entitled "Some Thoughts on the Treatment of Alien Population in
the East", which called for expelling the entire Jewish population of Europe into Africa
and reducing the remainer of the Polish population to a “"leaderless laboring class"[254]
Hitler called Himmler's memo "good and correct".[254] Hitler’s remark had the effect of
scuttling the so-called Karinhall argreement, and led to the Himmler-Greiser viewpoint
triumphing 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 forces
attacked France, conquering the Luxembourg, Netherlands and Belgium in the process.
These victories persuaded Benito Mussolini of Italy to join the war on Hitler's side on 10
June 1940. France surrendered on 22 June 1940.

Britain, whose forces evacuated France by sea from Dunkirk, continued to fight alongside
other British dominions in the Battle of the Atlantic. After having his overtures for peace
rejected by the British, now led by Winston Churchill, Hitler 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 Luftwaffe failed to defeat the Royal Air Force. On 27
September 1940, the Tripartite Treaty 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 power 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 Bulgaria. 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,
and Hitler ordered the bombing of British cities, including London, Plymouth, and
Coventry, mostly at night.

In the Spring of 1941, Hitler was distracted from his plans for the East by various
activites in North Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East. In February, German forces
arrived in Libya to bolster the Italian forces there. In April, he launched the invasion of
Yugoslavia which was followed quickly by the invasion of Greece. In May, German
forces were sent to support Iraqi rebel forces fighting against the British and to invade
Crete. On 23 May, Hitler released Fuhrer Directive No. 30.[255]

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. A major historical
dispute concerns Hitler's reasons for Operation Barbarossa. Some historians such as
Andreas Hillgruber have argued that Barbarossa was merely one "stage" of Hitler's
Stufenplan (stage by stage plan) for world conquest, which Hillgruber believed that Hitler
had formulated in the 1920s.[256] Other historians such as John Lukacs have contended
that Hitler never had a stufenplan, and that the invasion of the Soviet Union was an ad
hoc move on the part of Hitler due to Britain's refusal to surrender.[257] Lukacs has argued
that the reason Hitler gave in private for Barbarossa, namely that Winston Churchill held
out the hope that the Soviet Union might enter the war on the Allied side, and that the
only way of forcing a British surrender was to eliminate that hope, was indeed Hitler's
real reason for Barbarossa.[258] In Lukacs's perspective, Barbarossa was thus primarily an
anti-British move on the part of Hitler intended to force Britain to sue for peace by
destroying her only hope of victory rather than an anti-Soviet move. Klaus Hildebrand
has maintained that Stalin and Hitler were independently planning to attack each other in
1941.[259] Hildebrand has claimed that the news in the spring of 1941 of Soviet troop
concentrations on the border led to Hitler engaging in a flucht nach vorn ("flight
forward"—i.e. responding to a danger by charging on rather than retreating.)[259] A third
fraction comprising a diverse group such as Viktor Suvorov, Ernst Topitsch, Joachim
Hoffmann, Ernst Nolte, and David Irving have argued that the official reason given by
the Germans for Barbarossa in 1941 was the real reason, namely that Barbarossa was a
"preventive war" forced on Hitler to avert an impeding Soviet attack scheduled for July
1941. This theory has been widely attacked as erroneous; the American historian Gerhard
Weinberg once compared the advocates of the preventive war theory to believers in "fairy

This invasion seized huge amounts of territory, including the Baltic states, Belarus, and
Ukraine. It also encircled and destroyed many Soviet forces, which Stalin had ordered not
to retreat. However, the Germans were stopped barely short of Moscow in December
1941 by the Russian winter and fierce Soviet resistance. The invasion failed to achieve
the quick triumph Hitler wanted. On 18 December 1941, the appointment book of the
Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler shows he met with Hitler, where to in answer to
Himmler's question "What to do with the Jews of Russia?", Hitler's response is recorded
as "als Partisanen auszurotten" ("exterminate them as partisans").[261] The Israeli
historian Yehuda Bauer has commented that the remark recorded in Himmler’s book is
probably as close historians will ever get to a definitive order from Hitler for the

Adolf Hitler in Reichstag during his speech against Franklin D. Roosevelt. 11 December

The destroyed 'Wolf's Lair' barracks after the 20 July 1944 plot

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 after Nazi
Germany's closest approach to Moscow, set him against a coalition that included the
world's largest empire (the British Empire), the world's greatest industrial and financial
power (the United States), and the world's largest army (the Soviet Union).

In late 1942, German forces were defeated in the second battle of El Alamein, thwarting
Hitler's plans to seize the Suez Canal and the Middle East. In February 1943, the Battle of
Stalingrad ended with the destruction of the German 6th Army. Thereafter came the
Battle of Kursk. Hitler's military judgment became increasingly erratic, and Germany's
military and economic position deteriorated along with Hitler's health, as indicated by his
left hand's severe trembling. Hitler's biographer Ian Kershaw and others believe that he
may have suffered from Parkinson's disease.[262] Syphilis has also been suspected as a
cause of at least some of his symptoms, although the evidence is slight.[263]

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 Eastern 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 Overlord. Realists in the German
army knew defeat was inevitable, and some plotted to 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, but Hitler narrowly escaped death. He ordered
savage reprisals, resulting in the executions of more than 4,900 people,[264] sometimes by
starvation in solitary confinement followed by slow strangulation. The main resistance
movement was destroyed, 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 the
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 with America and
Britain, a hope buoyed by the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on 12 April 1945.[265][266][267]
Hitler's stubbornness and defiance of military realities allowed the Holocaust to
continue. He ordered the complete destruction of all German industrial infrastructure
before it could fall into Allied hands, saying that Germany's failure to win the war
forfeited its right to survive.[269] 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.[269]

In April 1945, Soviet forces attacked the outskirts of Berlin. Hitler's followers urged him
to flee to the mountains of Bavaria to make a last stand in the National Redoubt. But
Hitler was determined to either live or die in the capital.

On 20 April, Hitler celebrated his 56th birthday in the Führerbunker ("Führer's shelter")
below the Reichskanzlei (Reich Chancellery). The garrison commander of the besieged
Festung Breslau ("fortress Breslau"), General Hermann Niehoff, had chocolates
distributed to his troops in honor of Hitler's birthday.[270]

By 21 April, Georgi Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front had broken through the defenses 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 units commanded by Waffen
SS General Felix Steiner. Steiner's command became known as Armeeabteilung Steiner
("Army Detachment Steiner"). But "Army Detachment Steiner" existed 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 Ninth Army, which had been pushed south of
the salient, was ordered to attack north in a pincer attack.

Late on 21 April, Heinrici called Hans Krebs chief of the Oberkommando des Heeres
(Supreme Army Command or OKH) and told him that Hitler's plan could not be
implemented. Heinrici asked to speak to Hitler but was told by Krebs that Hitler was 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 long silence. Then
Hitler was told that the attack had never been launched, and that the withdrawal from
Berlin of several units for Steiner's army, on Hitler's orders, 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,[271] and launched a tirade against the perceived treachery and incompetence of his
commanders. This culminated in an oath to stay in Berlin, head up the defense of the city,
and shoot himself at the end.[272]

Before the day ended, Hitler again found salvation in a new plan that included General
Walther Wenck's Twelfth Army.[273] This new plan had Wenck turn his army—currently
facing the Americans to the west—and attack towards the east to relieve Berlin.[273]
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 contact with the Potsdam
garrison. But the link with the Ninth Army, like the plan in general, was ultimately

On 23 April, Joseph Goebbels made the following proclamation to the people of Berlin:

I call on you to fight for your city. Fight with everything you have got, for the 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 will come after us. Be proud and courageous! Be
inventive and cunning! Your Gauleiter is amongst you. He and his colleagues will remain in your
midst. His wife and 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 Berlin must become
the signal for the whole nation to rise up in battle ...[271]

The same day, second in command of the Third Reich and commander of the Luftwaffe
Hermann Göring sent a telegram from Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. Göring argued that,
since Hitler was cut off in Berlin, he should assume leadership of Germany as Hitler's
designated successor. Göring mentioned a time limit after which he would consider Hitler
incapacitated.[275] Hitler responded, in anger, by having Göring arrested. Later when
Hitler wrote his will on 29 April, Göring was removed from all his positions in the
government.[275][276][277] Further on the 23 April, Hitler appointed General der Artillerie
Helmuth Weidling as the commander of the Berlin Defense Area. Weidling replaced
Lieutenant General (Generalleutnant) Helmuth Reymann and Colonel (Oberst) Ernst
Kaether. Hitler also appointed Waffen SS General (SS Brigadeführer) Wilhelm Mohnke
the (Kommandant) Battle Commander for the defense of the government sector (Zitadelle
sector) that included the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker.

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 discuss
surrender terms with the Western Allies (through the Swedish diplomat Count Folke
Bernadotte).[278] Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest and had Himmler's representative in
Berlin Hermann Fegelein shot.[276][279]

Cover of US military newspaper The Stars and Stripes, May 1945

During the night of 28 April, General Wenck reported that his Twelfth Army had been
forced back along the entire front. Wenck noted that no further attacks towards Berlin
were possible. General Alfred Jodl (Supreme Army Command) did not provide this
information to Hans Krebs in Berlin until early in the morning of 30 April.

On 29 April, Hitler dictated his will and political statement to his private secretary,
Traudl Junge.[280] Hans Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Joseph Goebbels, and Martin Bormann
witnessed and signed this last will and testament of Adolf Hitler.[276] On the same day,
Hitler was informed of the violent death of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on 28 April,
which is presumed to have increased his determination to avoid capture.[281]

On 30 April 1945, after intense street-to-street combat, when Soviet troops were within a
block or two of the Reich Chancellery, Hitler committed suicide, shooting himself in the
temple while simultaneously biting into a cyanide capsule.[282][283][284] Hitler's body and
that of Eva Braun were put in a bomb crater,[285][286] doused in gasoline by SS
Sturmbannführer Otto Günsche and other Führerbunker aides, and set alight as the Red
Army advanced and shelling continued.[282]

On 2 May, Berlin surrendered. In the postwar years there were conflicting reports about
what happened to Hitler's remains. After the fall of the Soviet Union it was revealed from
records in the Soviet archives that the bodies of Hitler, Eva Braun, Joseph and Magda
Goebbels, the six Goebbels children, General Hans Krebs and Hitler's dogs, were secretly
buried in graves near Rathenow in Brandenburg.[287] In 1970, the remains were
disinterred, cremated and scattered in the Elbe River by the Soviets.[288] According to the
Russian Federal Security Service, a fragment of human skull stored in its archives and
displayed 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 historians
and researchers.[289] DNA analysis conducted in 2009 showed the skull fragment to be
that of a woman under the age of 40.[290]

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 II
"What manner of man is this grim figure who has performed these superb
“ toils and loosed these frightful evils?"—Winston Churchill in Great

Contemporaries (1935)

Hitler, the Nazi Party and the results of Nazism are typically regarded as gravely
immoral. Historians, philosophers, and politicians have often applied 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 engraved with
the following message:



Loosely translated it reads: "For peace, freedom // and democracy // never again
fascism // millions of dead remind [us]"

However, some people have referred to Hitler's legacy in neutral or favourable terms.
Former Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat spoke of his 'admiration' of Hitler in 1953,
when he was a young man, though it is possible he was speaking in the context of a
rebellion against the British Empire.[291] Louis Farrakhan has referred to him as a "very
great man".[292] Bal Thackeray, leader of the right-wing Hindu Shiv Sena party in the
Indian state of the Maharashtra, declared in 1995 that he was an admirer of Hitler.[293]
Friedrich Meinecke, the German historian, said of Hitler's life that "it is one of the great
examples of the singular and incalculable power of personality in historical life".[294]

Religious beliefs
Main article: Adolf Hitler's religious beliefs

Hitler was raised by Roman Catholic parents, but after he left home, he never attended
Mass or received the sacraments.[295] However, after he had moved to Germany, where
the Catholic and the Protestant church are largely financed through a church tax collected
by the state, Hitler (like Goebbels) never "actually left his church or refused to pay
church taxes. In a nominal sense therefore," the historian Steigmann-Gall states, Hitler
"can be classified as Catholic."[296] But, as Steigmann-Gall has also pointed out in the
debate about religion in Nazi Germany: "Nominal church membership is a very
unreliable gauge of actual piety in this context."[297]

In public, Hitler often praised Christian heritage, German Christian culture, and professed
a belief in an Aryan Jesus Christ, a Jesus who fought against the Jews.[298] In his speeches
and publications Hitler spoke of his interpretation of Christianity as a central motivation
for his antisemitism, stating that "As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be
cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice."[299][300] His private
statements, as reported by his intimates, are more mixed, showing Hitler as a religious
man but critical of traditional Christianity.[301] Here Hitler made at least one attack against
Catholicism that "resonated Streicher's contention that the Catholic establishment was
allying itself with the Jews."[302] In light of these private statements, for John S. Conway
and many other historians it is beyond doubt that Hitler held a "fundamental antagonism"
towards the Christian churches.[303] The various accounts of Hitler's private statements
vary strongly in their reliability; Most importantly, Hermann Rauschning's Hitler speaks
is considered by most historians to be an invention.[304][305] An overview about Hitler's
religious beliefs, based on his apparent private statements, can be found in the acclaimed
book by Michael Rißmann or in Richard Steigmann-Gall's controversial book on Nazism
and Christianity, pp. 252–259.

In the political relations with the churches in Germany however, Hitler readily adopted a
strategy "that suited his immediate political purposes".[303] Hitler had a general plan, even
before the rise of the Nazis to power, to destroy Christianity within the Reich.[306][307][308]
The leader of the Hitler Youth stated "the destruction of Christianity was explicitly
recognized as a purpose of the National Socialist movement" from the start, but
"considerations of expedience made it impossible" publicly to express this extreme

Most historians[citation needed] believe that, in contrast to some Nazi ideologues, Hitler did not
adhere to esoteric ideas, occultism, or Ariosophy,[301] and he ridiculed such beliefs in
Mein Kampf.[309][310] Others believe the young Hitler was strongly influenced, particularly
in his racial views, by an abundance of occult works on the mystical superiority of the
Germans, like the occult and anti-semitic magazine Ostara, and give credence to the
claim of its publisher Lanz von Liebenfels that Hitler visited Liebenfels in 1909 and
praised his work.[311] The historians are still divided on the question of the reliability of
Lanz' claim of a contact with Hitler.[312] Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke considers his account
reliable, Brigitte Hamann leaves the question open and Ian Kershaw is extremely

Hitler for a time advocated for Germans a form of the Christian faith he called "Positive
Christianity",[309][314] a belief system purged of what he objected to in orthodox
Christianity, and featuring added racist elements. By 1940 however, it was public
knowledge that Hitler had abandoned advocating for Germans even the syncretist idea of
a positive Christianty.[315] Hitler maintained that the "terrorism in religion is, to put it
briefly, of a Jewish dogma, which Christianity has universalized and whose effect is to
sow trouble and confusion in men's minds."[316]

In addition to not attending Mass or receiving the sacraments, Hitler favored aspects of
Protestantism if they were more amenable to his own objectives. At the same time, he
adopted some elements of the Catholic Church's hierarchical organization, liturgy and
phraseology in his politics.[317][318]

Hitler expressed admiration for the Muslim military tradition and directed Himmler to
initiate Muslim SS Divisions as a matter of policy.[319] According to one confidant, Hitler
stated in private, "The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more
compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness
and flabbiness ..."[320]

Hitler once stated, "We do not want any other god than Germany itself. It is essential to
have fanatical faith and hope and love in and for Germany."[321]

Main articles: Adolf Hitler's medical health and Adolf Hitler's vegetarianism

Hitler's health has long been the subject of debate. He has variously been said to have had
irritable bowel syndrome, skin lesions, irregular heartbeat, Parkinson's disease,[263]
syphilis,[263] Asperger syndrome[322][323] and a strongly suggested addiction to
methamphetamine. He had problems with his teeth and his personal dentist Hugo
Blaschke stated that he fitted a large dental bridge to his upper jaw in 1933 and that on 10
November 1944 he carried out surgery to cut off part of the bridge due to a gum infection
that was causing him severe toothache. He reported that he was also suffering from a
sinus infection[324]

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 them graphic accounts
of the slaughter of animals in an effort to make them shun meat.[325] A fear of cancer
(from which his mother died) is the most widely cited reason, though many authors[who?]
also assert Hitler had a profound and deep love of animals[citation needed]. 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 greenhouse survive and, by 2005, its foundations were
among the only ruins visible in the area that was associated with Nazi leaders.

Hitler was a non-smoker and promoted aggressive anti-smoking campaigns throughout

Germany. He reportedly promised a gold watch to any of his close associates who quit
(and gave a few away). Several witness accounts relate that, immediately after his suicide
was confirmed, many officers, aides, and secretaries in the Führerbunker lit cigarettes.[326]

Main article: Sexuality of Adolf Hitler

Hitler presented himself publicly as a man without a domestic life, dedicated entirely to
his political mission.

He had a fiancée in the 1920s, Mimi Reiter, and later had a mistress, Eva Braun. He had a
close bond with his half-niece Geli Raubal, which some commentators have claimed was
sexual, though there is no evidence that proves this.[327] According to John Toland (in his
book A.H.: a Definitive Biography), Hitler would often visit Geli in the manner of a
suitor, and restricted his niece's movement unless she was chaperoned by him. All three
women attempted suicide (two succeeded), a fact that has led to speculation that Hitler
may have had sexual fetishes, such as urolagnia, as was claimed by Otto Strasser, a
political opponent of Hitler. Reiter, the only one to survive the Nazi regime, denied this.
During the war and afterwards psychoanalysts offered numerous inconsistent psycho-
sexual explanations of his pathology.[329] Some theorists have claimed that Hitler had a
relationship with British fascist Unity Mitford.[330] More recently, Lothar Machtan has
argued in his book, The Hidden Hitler, that Hitler was homosexual.

Main article: Hitler (disambiguation)

Paula Hitler, the last living member of Adolf Hitler's immediate family, died in 1960.

The most prominent and longest-living direct descendants of Adolf Hitler's father, Alois,
was Adolf's nephew William Patrick Hitler. With his wife Phyllis, he eventually moved
to Long Island, New York, changed his last name, and had four sons. None of William
Hitler's children have had any children of their own.

Over the years various investigative reporters have attempted to track down other distant
relatives of the Führer. Many are now alleged to be living inconspicuous lives and have
long since changed their last name.
Adolf Hitler's genealogy

• Klara Hitler, mother

• Alois Hitler, father
• Alois Hitler, Jr., half-brother
• Angela Hitler Raubal, half-sister
• Bridget Dowling, sister-in-law
• Eva Braun, mistress and then wife
• Geli Raubal, niece
• Gretl Braun, sister-in-law through Hitler's marriage to Eva Braun
• Heinz Hitler, nephew
• Hermann Fegelein, brother-in-law through Hitler's marriage to Eva Braun
• Ilse Braun, sister-in-law through Hitler's marriage to Eva Braun
• Johann Georg Hiedler, presumed grandfather
• Johann Nepomuk Hiedler, maternal great-grandfather, presumed great uncle and
possibly Hitler's true paternal grandfather
• Leo Raubal Jr, nephew
• Maria Schicklgruber, grandmother
• Paula Hitler, sister
• William Patrick Hitler, nephew

Hitler in media

Video of Adolf Hitler at Berchtesgaden

See also: Hitler in popular culture

Oratory and rallies

Main article: List of Adolf Hitler speeches

Hitler was a gifted orator who captivated many with his beating of the lectern and
growling, emotional speech. He honed his skills by giving speeches to soldiers during
1919 and 1920. He became adept at telling people what they wanted to hear (the stab-in-
the-back, the Jewish-Marxist plot to conquer the world, and the betrayal of Germany in
the Versailles treaty) and identifying a scapegoat for their plight. Over time, Hitler
perfected his delivery by rehearsing in front of mirrors and carefully choreographing his
display of emotions. He was coached by a self-styled clairvoyant who focused on hand
and arm gestures. Munitions minister and architect Albert Speer, who may have known
Hitler as well as anyone, said that Hitler was above all else an actor.[331][332]

Massive Nazi rallies staged by Speer were designed to spark a process of self-persuasion
for the participants. By participating in the rallies, by marching, by shouting heil, and by
making the stiff armed salute, the participants strengthened their commitment to the Nazi
movement. This process can be appreciated by watching Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of
the Will, which presents the 1934 Nuremberg Rally. The camera shoots Hitler from on
high and from below, but only twice head-on. These camera angles give Hitler a Christ-
like aura. Some of the people in the film are paid actors, but most of the participants are
not. Whether the film itself recruited new Nazis out of theater audiences is unknown. The
process of self-persuasion may have affected Hitler. He gave the same speech (though it
got smoother and smoother with repetition) hundreds of times first to soldiers and then to
audiences in beer halls. These performances may have made his hatreds more intense,
especially his all-consuming hatred of the Jews.

Hitler and Baron Mannerheim (June 1942)

Recorded in private conversation

Hitler visited Finnish Field Marshal Mannerheim on 4 June 1942. During the visit an
engineer of the Finnish broadcasting company YLE, Thor Damen, recorded Hitler and
Mannerheim in conversation, something which had to be done secretly since Hitler never
allowed recordings of him off-guard.[333] Today the recording is the only known recording
of Hitler not speaking in an official tone. The recording captures 11½ minutes of the two
leaders in private conversation.[334] Hitler speaks in a slightly excited, but still
intellectually detached manner during this talk (the speech has been compared to that of
the working class). The majority of the recording is a monologue by Hitler. In the
recording, Hitler admits to underestimating the Soviet Union's ability to conduct war.

Patria picture disc

Adolf Hitler even released a 7" picture disc with one of his speeches. Known as the
Patria (Fatherland) picture disc, the obverse bears an image of Hitler giving a speech
and has a recording of both a speech by Hitler and also Party Member Hans Hinkel. The
reverse bears a hand holding a swastika flag and the Carl Woitschach recording (1933—
Telefunken A 1431) "In Dem Kampf um die Heimat—Faschistenmarsch".

Documentaries during the Third Reich

Hitler appeared in and was involved to varying degrees with a series of films by the
pioneering filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl via Universum Film AG (UFA):

• Der Sieg des Glaubens (Victory of Faith, 1933).

• Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will, 1934), co-produced by Hitler.
• Tag der Freiheit: Unsere Wehrmacht (Day of Freedom: Our Armed Forces,
• Olympia (1938).

Hitler was the central figure of the first three films; they focused on the party rallies of
the respective years and are considered propaganda films. Hitler also featured
prominently in the Olympia film. Whether the latter is a propaganda film or a true
documentary is still a subject of controversy, but it nonetheless perpetuated and spread
the propagandistic message of the 1936 Olympic Games depicting Nazi Germany as a
prosperous and peaceful country.[335] As a prominent politician, Hitler was featured in
many newsreels.


Hitler's attendance at various public functions, including the 1936 Olympic Games and
Nuremberg Rallies, appeared on television broadcasts made between 1935 and 1939.
These events, along with other programming highlighting activity by public officials,
were often repeated in public viewing rooms. Samples from a number of surviving
television films from Nazi Germany were included in the 1999 documentary Das
Fernsehen unter dem Hakenkreuz (Television Under the Swastika).
Documentaries post Third Reich

• The World at War (1974): a Thames Television series which contains much
information about Hitler and Nazi Germany, including an interview with his
secretary, Traudl Junge.
• Adolf Hitler's Last Days: from the BBC series "Secrets of World War II" tells the
story about Hitler's last days during World War II.
• The Nazis: A Warning From History (1997): six-part BBC TV series on how the
cultured and educated Germans accepted Hitler and the Nazis up to its downfall.
Historical consultant is Ian Kershaw.
• Cold War (1998): a CNN series about the Cold War between the United States
and the Soviet Union. The series begins with World War II footage, including
Hitler, and how the Cold War began in earnest after Germany surrendered.
• Im toten Winkel—Hitlers Sekretärin (Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary) (2002): an
exclusive 90 minute interview with Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary. Made by
Austrian Jewish director André Heller shortly before Junge's death from lung
cancer, Junge recalls the last days in the Berlin bunker. Clips of the interview
were used in Downfall.
• Undergångens arkitektur (The Architecture of Doom) (1989): documentary about
the National Socialist aesthetic as envisioned by Hitler.
• Das Fernsehen unter dem Hakenkreuz (Television Under the Swastika) (1999):
documentary by Michael Kloft about the domestic use of television in Nazi
Germany for propaganda purposes from 1935 to 1944.
• Ruins of the Reich (2007): four-part series of the Rise and Fall of Hitler's Reich
and its effects, created by Third Reich historian R.J. Adams


• The Death of Adolf Hitler, a British (7 January 1973) made-for-television

production, starring Frank Finlay. The movie depicts the last days of Hitler.
• Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973): movie depicting the days leading up to Adolf
Hitler's death, starring Sir Alec Guinness.
• Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's Hitler—Ein Film aus Deutschland (Hitler: A Film from
Germany) (1977): a seven-hour work in four parts. The director uses documentary
clips, photographic backgrounds, puppets, theatrical stages, and other elements.

• The Bunker (1981): a U.S. made-for-television movie describing the last days in
the Führerbunker from 17 January 1945 to 2 March 1945. The film stars Sir
Anthony Hopkins.
• Europa, Europa (1990): based on the true story of a German Jew who joined the
Hitler Youth in order to avoid capture. Hitler is portrayed by Ryszard Pietruski.
• Fatherland (1994): a hypothetical view of Germany in 1964, had Hitler won
World War 2, adapted from the novel by former journalist Robert Harris.
• The Empty Mirror (1996): a psychodrama which speculates on the events
following Hitler (portrayed by Norman Rodway) surviving the fall of Nazi
• Moloch (1999): Hitler portrayed by Leonid Mozgovoy in a fictional drama set at
his Berghof Retreat in the Bavarian Alps.
• Max (2002): fictional drama depicting a friendship between Jewish art dealer Max
Rothman (John Cusack) and a young Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor) as a failed
painter in Vienna.
• Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003): two-part TV series about the early years of Adolf
Hitler and his rise to power (up to 1933), starring Robert Carlyle.
• Der Untergang (Downfall) (2004): German movie about the last days of Adolf
Hitler and the Third Reich, starring Bruno Ganz. This film is partly based on the
autobiography of Traudl Junge, a favorite secretary of Hitler's. In 2002, Junge
said she felt great guilt for "... liking the greatest criminal ever to have lived."
• Valkyrie (2008): Hitler, played by David Bamber, is portrayed as a target of the
infamous assassination plot by Stauffenberg.
• Dr Freud Will See You Now Mr Hitler (2008): radio drama by Laurence Marks
and Maurice Gran presenting an imagined scenario in which Sigmund Freud
treats the young Hitler. Toby Jones played Hitler.

See also

Adolf Hitler test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator

• Adolf Hitler's directives

• Ex-Nazi Party members
• Führermuseum
• List of books by or about Adolf Hitler
• List of Nazi Party leaders and officials
• Poison Kitchen

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