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Sein Name ist Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler
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Adolf Hitler
Hitler in 1937

Führer of Germany
In office
2 August 1934 – 30 April 1945
Chancellor Himself
Paul von Hindenburg
Preceded by
(as President)
Karl Dönitz
Succeeded by
(as President)
Chancellor of Germany
In office
30 January 1933 – 30 April 1945
Paul von Hindenburg
President
Himself (Führer)
Franz von Papen
Deputy
Vacant
Preceded by Kurt von Schleicher
Succeeded by Joseph Goebbels
20 April 1889
Born
Braunau am Inn, Austria–Hungary
30 April 1945 (aged 56) (suicide)
Died
Berlin, Germany
Austrian citizen until 7 April 1925[1]
Nationality
German citizen after 1932
National Socialist German Workers' Party
Political party
(1921–1945)
Other political
German Workers' Party (1920–1921)
affiliations
Eva Braun
Spouse(s)
(29–30 April 1945)
Occupation Politician, soldier, artist, writer
Religion See Adolf Hitler's religious views
Signature

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 Class
Awards
Wound Badge

Adolf Hitler (German pronunciation: [ˈadɔlf ˈhɪtlɐ]; 20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945)
was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist
German Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei,
abbreviated NSDAP), commonly known as the Nazi Party. He was Chancellor of
Germany from 1933 to 1945, and served as head of state as Führer und Reichskanzler
from 1934 to 1945. Hitler is most remembered for his central leadership role in the
rise of fascism in Europe, World War II and The Holocaust.

A decorated veteran of World War I, Hitler joined the precursor of the Nazi Party
(DAP) in 1919, and became leader of NSDAP in 1921. He attempted a failed coup
d'état known as the Beer Hall Putsch, which occurred at the Bürgerbräukeller beer
hall in Munich on November 8–9, 1923. Hitler was imprisoned for one year due to the
failed coup, and wrote his memoir, "My Struggle" (in German Mein Kampf), while
imprisoned. After his release on December 20, 1924, he gained support by promoting
Pan-Germanism, antisemitism, anti-capitalism, and anti-communism with charismatic
oratory and propaganda. He was appointed chancellor on January 30, 1933, and
transformed the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich, a single-party dictatorship
based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideology of Nazism.

Hitler ultimately wanted to establish a New Order of absolute Nazi German


hegemony in continental 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 World War II in Europe.[2]

Within three years, German forces and their European allies had occupied most of
Europe, and most of North Africa, and the Japanese forces had occupied parts of 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 1944, Allied armies had invaded German-held Europe from all sides. Nazi forces
engaged in numerous violent acts during the war, including the systematic murder of
as many as 17 million civilians,[3] including an estimated six million Jews targeted in
the Holocaust and between 500,000 and 1,500,000 Roma,[4] added to the Poles, Soviet
civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, people with disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah's
Witnesses, and other political and religious opponents.

In the final days of the war, during the Battle of Berlin in 1945, Hitler married his
long-time mistress Eva Braun and, to avoid capture by Soviet forces, the two
committed suicide less than two days later on 30 April 1945, and their corpses were
burned.[5]

Contents
[hide]

• 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 Appointment as Chancellor
o 3.3 Reichstag fire and the March elections
o 3.4 "Day of Potsdam" and the Enabling Act
o 3.5 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 World War II
o 5.3 Path to defeat
o 5.4 Attempted assassination
o 5.5 Defeat and death
• 6 Legacy
• 7 Religious views
• 8 Attitude to occultism
• 9 Health
o 9.1 Syphilis
o 9.2 Monorchism
o 9.3 Parkinson's disease
o 9.4 Other complaints
o 9.5 Addiction to amphetamine
o 9.6 Historians' views
• 10 Sexuality
• 11 Family
• 12 Hitler in media
o 12.1 Oratory and rallies
o 12.2 Recorded in private conversation
o 12.3 Patria picture disc
o 12.4 Documentaries during the Third Reich
o 12.5 Television
o 12.6 Documentaries post Third Reich
o 12.7 Films and series
o 12.8 Plays
• 13 See also
• 14 Footnotes
• 15 References
• 16 Further reading
o 16.1 Medical books

• 17 External links

Early years
Ancestry

Hitler's father, Alois Hitler, was an illegitimate child of Maria Anna Schicklgruber, so
his paternity was not listed on his birth certificate; he bore his mother's surname.[6][7]
In 1842, Johann Georg Hiedler married Maria and in 1876 Alois testified before a
notary and three witnesses that Johann was his father.[8] Despite this testimony, Alois'
paternity has been the subject of 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 revealing that Alois' mother
was employed as a housekeeper for a Jewish family in Graz and that the family's 19-
year-old son, Leopold Frankenberger, fathered Alois.[7] No evidence had, at that time,
ever been produced to support Frank's claim, and Frank himself said Hitler's full
Aryan blood was obvious.[9] Frank's claims were widely believed in the 1950s, but by
the 1990s, were generally doubted by historians.[10][11] Ian Kershaw dismissed 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 years after
Alois' birth.[11]

At age 39, Alois took the surname Hitler. This surname was variously 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.[12]

Childhood
Adolf Hitler was born at around 6:30 p.m. on 20 April 1889 at the Gasthof zum
Pommer, an inn in Braunau am Inn, Austria–Hungary, the fourth of six children to
Alois Hitler and Klara Pölzl.

Adolf Hitler as an infant

When he was three years old, his family relocated to Kapuzinerstrasse 5[13] in Passau,
Germany, where Hitler would acquire Lower Bavarian rather than Austrian as his
lifelong native dialect.[14] In 1894, the family relocated 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. As a child, he played "Cowboys and Indians" and, by his
own account, became fixated on war after finding a picture book about the Franco-
Prussian War among his father's belongings.[15]

His father's efforts at Hafeld ended in failure, and the family relocated to Lambach in
1897. Hitler attended a Catholic school located in an 11th-century Benedictine
cloister, where the walls were engraved in a number of places with crests containing
the symbol of the swastika.[16] It was in Lambach that the eight-year-old Hitler sang in
the church choir, took singing lessons, and even entertained the fantasy of one day
becoming a priest.[17] In 1898, the family returned permanently to Leonding.

His younger brother Edmund died of measles on 2 February 1900, causing permanent
changes in Hitler. He went from a confident, outgoing boy who excelled in school, to
a morose, detached, sullen boy who constantly battled his father and his teachers.[18]

Hitler was attached to his mother, though he had a troubled relationship with his
father, who frequently beat him, especially in the years after Alois' retirement and
disappointing farming efforts.[19] Alois wanted his son to follow in his footsteps as an
Austrian customs official, and this became a huge source of conflict between them.[15]
Despite his son's pleas to go to classical high school and become an artist, his father
sent him to the Realschule in Linz, a technical high school of about 300 students, 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." Alois never
relented, however, and Hitler became even more bitter and rebellious.

German Nationalism quickly became an obsession for Hitler, and a way to rebel
against his father, who proudly served the Austrian government. Most people who
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.[15]

After Alois' sudden death on 3 January 1903, Hitler's behaviour 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."[20] Hitler was expelled, never to return to school
again.

At age 15, Hitler took part in his First Communion on Whitsunday, 22 May 1904, at
the Linz Cathedral.[21] His sponsor was Emanuel Lugert, a friend of his late father.[22]

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.[23] 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 fulfillment of my artistic
dream seemed physically impossible.[24]
The Courtyard of the Old Residency in Munich, by Adolf Hitler, 1914

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. Another resident of the house, Reinhold
Hanisch, sold Hitler's paintings until the two men had a bitter falling-out.[25]

Hitler said he first became an antisemite in Vienna,[24] 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 antisemite"
before he left Linz.[24] Vienna at that time was a hotbed of traditional religious
prejudice and 19th century racism. Hitler may have been influenced by the occult
writings of the antisemite Lanz von Liebenfels in his magazine Ostara; it is usually
taken for granted that he read the publication (he recounts in Mein Kampf his
conversion to antisemitism being after reading some pamphlets) and he most likely
did read it, although it is uncertain to what degree he was influenced by the
antisemitic occult work.[26]

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?
[24]

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.[27]

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 Richard Wagner and Frederick the Great.[28] 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."[29][30]

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.

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.[31]

World War I

Main article: Military career of Adolf Hitler

A young Hitler (left) posing with other German soldiers

Hitler served in France and Belgium in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment, on the
Western Front as a regimental runner. He was present at 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.[32]

Hitler in the German Army, 1914, sitting at right

Hitler was twice decorated for bravery. He received the relatively common Iron
Cross, Second Class, in 1914 and Iron Cross, First Class, in 1918, an honour rarely
given to a Gefreiter.[33] Yet because the regimental staff thought Hitler lacked
leadership skills, he was never promoted to Unteroffizier (equivalent to a British
corporal). According to Weber, Hitler's First Class Iron Cross was recommended by
Hugo Gutmann, a Jewish List adjutant, and this rarer award was commonly awarded
to those posted to regimental headquarters, such as Hitler, who had more contact with
more senior officers than combat soldiers.[34]

Hitler's duties at regimental headquarters gave him 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[35] or the left thigh[36] during the Battle of the Somme,
but returned to the front in March 1917. He received the Wound Badge later that year.
German historian and author, Sebastian Haffner, referring to Hitler's experience at the
front, suggests that he had 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").[37] In fact, 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,[38] 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.

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.[39] He was shocked by Germany's
capitulation in November 1918 even while the German army still held enemy
territory.[40] Like many other German nationalists, Hitler believed in the Stab-in-the-
back legend (Dolchstoßlegende) 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.

Portrait of Adolf Hitler taken during the war

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, especially
Article 231 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: Adolf Hitler's political views

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.[41] 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
antisemitic, 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[42] and became the
party's 55th member.[43] His actual membership number was 555 (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.[44] He was also made the
seventh member of the executive committee.[45] Years later, he claimed to be the
party's seventh overall member, but it has been established that this claim is false.[46]
A copy of Adolf Hitler's German Workers' Party (DAP) membership card.

Here Hitler met Dietrich Eckart, one of the early founders of the party and member of
the occult Thule Society.[47] Eckart became Hitler's mentor, exchanging ideas with
him, teaching him how to dress and speak, and introducing him to a wide range of
people. Hitler thanked Eckart by paying tribute to him in the second volume of Mein
Kampf. To increase the party's appeal, the party changed its name to the
Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or National Socialist German Workers
Party (abbreviated NSDAP).

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

The NSDAP[48] was centred in Munich, a hotbed of German nationalists who included
Army officers determined to crush Marxism and undermine the Weimar Republic.
Gradually they noticed Hitler and his growing movement as a suitable vehicle for
their goals. Hitler traveled to Berlin to visit nationalist groups during the summer of
1921, and in his absence there was a revolt among the DAP leadership in Munich.

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

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

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

Drawing of 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.[49] Kahr
withdrew his support and fled to join the opposition to Hitler at the first opportunity.
[50]
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.
[51]

Hitler fled to the home of Ernst Hanfstaengl and contemplated suicide; Hanfstaengl's
wife Helene talked him out of it. 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 thus 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.[52] Including time
on remand, he had served little more than one year of his sentence.[53]

On 28 June 1925, Hitler wrote a letter from Uffing to the editor of The Nation in New
York City complaining of the length of his sentence at "Sandberg a. S." [sic], where
he claimed his privileges had been extensively revoked.[54]

Mein Kampf

Dust jacket of Mein Kampf


Main article: 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.[53] The book, dedicated to Thule Society
member Dietrich Eckart, was an autobiography and an exposition of his ideology.
Mein Kampf was influenced by The Passing of the Great Race by Madison Grant,
which Hitler called "my Bible."[55] 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). 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.
Rebuilding of the party

Adolf Hitler (left), standing up behind Hermann Göring at a Nazi rally in Nuremberg,
1928

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

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,
[56]
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,
answering to them while demanding unquestioning obedience from their inferiors.
Consistent with Hitler's disdain for democracy, all power and authority devolved from
the top down.

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

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


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

Rise to power
Main article: Adolf Hitler's rise to power
Nazi Party Election Results
Percentage Seats in
Date Votes Background
of Votes Reichstag
May 1924 1,918,300 6.5 32 Hitler in prison
December
907,300 3.0 14 Hitler is released from prison
1924
May 1928 810,100 2.6 12
September
6,409,600 18.3 107 After the financial crisis
1930
After Hitler was candidate for
July 1932 13,745,800 37.4 230
presidency
November
11,737,000 33.1 196
1932
During Hitler's term as Chancellor
March 1933 17,277,000 43.9 288
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.[57]

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.[58]

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.[59] 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.[60] 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.[60] 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.[61]
Hitler's testimony of 25 September 1930 won him many admirers within the ranks of
the officer corps.[62]

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


economic improvement and were extremely unpopular.[63] 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.[64]

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.[65]

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.[66] Though Hitler had left Austria in 1913 and had formally
renounced his Austrian citizenship on 7 April 1925, he still had not acquired German
citizenship and hence could not run for public office. For almost seven years Hitler
was stateless and faced the risk of deportation from Germany.[67] On 25 February
1932, however, the Nazi interior minister of Brunswick (the Nazis were part of a
right-wing coalition governing the state) appointed Hitler as administrator for the
state's delegation to the Reichsrat in Berlin. This appointment made Hitler a citizen of
Brunswick.[68] In those days, the states conferred citizenship, so this automatically
made Hitler a citizen of Germany as well and thus eligible to run for president.[69]

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).[70] The
name had a double meaning; besides a reference to his dictatorial ambitions, it
referred to the fact that he campaigned by aircraft.[70] 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.[71]

Appointment as Chancellor

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 and international
bankers.[72] 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."[73]

Hitler from a window of the Reich Chancellery receiving an ovation at his


inauguration 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 or
Machtübernahme.

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.[74] 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, forced to
flee, 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.[75]

"Day of Potsdam" and the Enabling Act

Parade of SA troops past Hitler – Nuremberg, November 1935


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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

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[76]

With this combination of legislative and executive power, Hitler's government further
suppressed the remaining political opposition. After the rapid dissolution of the
Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) was banned, leading to a 10
May court order that all property and assets be seized. The Steel Helmets (World War
I veterans) on 26 April were placed under Hitler's leadership with a guarantee they
would exist as an autonomous organization to be called upon as an auxiliary police
force. On 2 May, stormtroopers ransacked and destroyed every trade union office in
the country, and 4 May the Christian Trade Unions and all other unions vowed
allegiance to Hitler. The State Party dissolved on June 28. The 60 year old People's
Party officially dissolved on 4 July. The Catholic Church was given no choice but to
support Hitler after dissolution of their Centre Party on 5 July. The right wing German
Nationalist Front was forced to incorporate its small paramilitaries into the Nazi SA
and dissolved per the "Friendship Agreement". Finally, on 14 July, the Nazi Party was
declared the only legal party in Germany as big business and the army stood on the
sidelines.[77]

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.[78]

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 call new elections
as required by the constitution, Hitler's cabinet passed a law proclaiming the
presidency vacant and transferred the role and powers of the head of state to Hitler as
Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor). This action effectively removed
the last legal remedy by which Hitler could be dismissed – and with it, nearly all
institutional checks and balances on his power.

On 19 August a plebiscite approved the merger of the presidency with the


chancellorship winning 84.6% of the electorate.[79][80] 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.

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. Normally, soldiers and sailors
swear loyalty to the holder of the office of supreme commander/commander-in-chief,
not a specific person.[81]

In 1938, two scandals resulted in Hitler bringing the Armed Forces under his control.
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 army commander Werner
von Fritsch on suspicion of homosexuality.[82] Hitler replaced the Ministry of War
with the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (High Command of the Armed Forces, or
OKW), headed by the pliant 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 saviour 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 (refinancing
long term debts into cheaper short term debt) 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 artefacts 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. 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.[83] 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
results.

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.[84] Production
was deferred because of the war.

On 20 April 1939, a lavish celebration was held in honour of Hitler's 50th birthday,
featuring military parades, visits from foreign dignitaries, thousands of flaming
torches and Nazi banners.[85]

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


"modernization" issue. 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.[86] Other groups of historians centred
around Rainer Zitelmann have contended that Hitler had a deliberate strategy of
pursuing a revolutionary modernization of German society.[87]

In his first four years of government the number of unemployed dropped from 6
million to 900 thousand people, the gross national product grew 102%, he doubled the
per capita income, augmented companies' profits from 175 million to 5 billion
reichsmarks and reduced hyperinflation to a maximum of 25% a year.[citation needed]

Rearmament and new alliances

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consider moving more of the content into sub-articles and using this article
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Main articles: Axis powers, Tripartite Pact, and German re-armament
Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during Hitler's visit to Venice from 14 to 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.[88] 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 Wilhelm 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.[89] 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 obstinate.[90]

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 an unacceptable extent, and advised to take immediate steps to
repair relations with the Soviets.[91] Much to Dirksen's intense disappointment, Hitler
informed him that he wished for an anti-Soviet understanding with Poland, which
Dirksen protested would imply recognition of the German-Polish border, leading
Hitler to state he was after much greater things than merely overturning the Treaty of
Versailles.[92]

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.[93] 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.[94] In his "peace speeches" of 17 May 1933, 21 May 1935, and 7 March
1936, Hitler stressed his supposed peaceful goals and a willingness to work within the
international system.[95] In private, Hitler's plans were something less than peaceful.
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.[96] 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.[97]

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."[98] 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.[99] 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.[100]

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.[101] In response, the British stated a 10-year waiting period
would be necessary before Britain would support an increase in the size of the
German Army.[101] A more successful initiative in foreign policy occurred in 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.[100]

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.[102] In the fall of 1934, Hitler was seriously
concerned over the dangers of inflation damaging his popularity.[103] 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."[103]

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.[104] 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.[105]

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 antisemitics 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.[106] 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."[107] As a result, Nazi Party activists and the
SA started a major wave of assaults, vandalism and boycotts against German Jews.[108]

On 18 June 1935, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement (AGNA) 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 AGNA "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.[109] This agreement was made without
consulting either France or Italy, directly undermining the League of Nations and put
the Treaty of Versailles on the path towards irrelevance.[110] 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.[111] 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.[112] 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.[113]

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.[114] In August 1935,
Dr. Hjalmar Schacht advised Hitler that the wave of antisemitic violence was
interfering with the workings of the economy, and hence rearmament.[115] Following
Dr. Schacht's complaints, plus reports that the German public did not approve of the
wave of antisemitic 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.[115] From Hitler's
perspective, it was imperative to bring in harsh new antisemitic 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 sympathies were with the Party radicals.[115] 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.[116] 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 imminent."[117]

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 Reichstag in Nuremberg, other than the Reich Flag Law.
[118]
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 antisemitic laws for Hitler to present to the Reichstag for 15 September.
[116]
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 women under the age of 45 in Jewish households, and deprived "non-Aryans"
of the benefits of German citizenship.[119] 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.[120] 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.[117] Given the
economic problems which were 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.[117]

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.[121] 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, Germany would
commit to sending twelve divisions to the Far East to protect British colonial
possessions there from a Japanese attack.[122] 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.[123] 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.[124] Hitler
hesitated for the first half of 1936 before siding with the more radical faction in his
"Four Year Plan" memo of August.[125] 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.[126] 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.[127] 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
people.[128]

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."[129][130] 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!"[131] 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."[124][clarification
needed]
Documents such as the Four Year Plan Memo have often been 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 an "agent" of and subordinate to
German business).[132]

In August 1936, the freelance Nazi diplomat Joachim von Ribbentrop was appointed
German Ambassador to the UK. 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".
[133]

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 relationships 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.[134] 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.[134]

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.[135][136] 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.[137]

On 5 November 1937, at the Reich Chancellery, 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.[138] 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.[139][140] 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.[139] 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.[141] 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."[113][142]
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.[143] 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.[143]

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."[144] 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, would not tolerate territorial changes
via war.[145] 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 title of
the Oberster Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht (supreme commander of the armed forces).
[146]
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.[147] 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 war.[148]

The Holocaust

Main article: The Holocaust


An American soldier stands in front of 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
pseudoscience 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.
[149]
After a public outcry, Hitler made a show of ending this program, but the killings
continued (see Nazi eugenics).

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,[150][151] 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 industrial extermination camp complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
As far as is known, Hitler never visited the concentration camps and did not speak
publicly about the killing in precise terms.[152]

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.[citation needed]

Göring gave a written authorisation to Heydrich to "make all necessary preparations"


for a "total solution of the Jewish question". To make for smoother cooperation in the
implementation of this "Final Solution", the Wannsee Conference was held on 20
January 1942, with fifteen senior officials participating (including Adolf Eichmann)
and led by Reinhard Heydrich. 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
Early diplomatic triumphs

Alliance with Japan

Main article: German–Japanese relations

Japanese Foreign Minister Yōsuke Matsuoka with Hitler in Berlin

In February 1938, Hitler finally ended the dilemma that had plagued German Far
Eastern policy: whether to continue the informal Sino-German alliance that had
existed with the Republic of China since the 1910s or to create a new alliance with
Japan. The military at the time strongly favoured 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.[153] 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 to gain 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.[154] Hitler ordered an end to arms
shipments to China, and ordered the recall of all the German officers attached to the
Chinese Army.[154] In retaliation for ending German support to China in its war against
Japan, Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek canceled all Sino-German economic
agreements, depriving 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


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consider moving more of the content into sub-articles and using this article
for a summary of the key points of the subject. (April 2010)

In March 1938, Hitler pressured Austria into unification with Germany (the
Anschluss) and made a triumphant entry into Vienna on 14 March.[155][156] Next, he
intensified a crisis over the German-speaking Sudetenland districts of
Czechoslovakia.[157]

On 3 March 1938, the British Ambassador Sir Nevile 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.[158]
Hitler, who was more interested in Lebensraum in Eastern Europe than 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.[159] Hitler ended the conversation by telling
Henderson he would rather wait 20 years for the return of the former colonies than
accept British conditions for avoiding war.[159][160]

On 28–29 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".[161] 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.[162] 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.[163] 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.[164]

In April 1938, Hitler ordered the OKW to start preparing plans for Fall Grün (Case
Green), the codename for an invasion of Czechoslovakia.[165] 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 rumours 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.
[166]
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.[167] 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 the warnings from
London and Paris, when he had, in fact, been planning nothing for that weekend.[168]
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.[169] 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 principal opponent of the
Kriegsmarine.[170]

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".[171] 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.[171] Hitler's determination to go through with Fall Grün in 1938 provoked a
major crisis in the German command structure.[172] 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.[172] Hitler called Beck's arguments against war "kindische Kräfteberechnungen"
("childish power play calculations").[173]

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
French Premier Édouard Daladier decided not to threaten a war over Czechoslovakia
and so the planned removal of Hitler could not be justified.[174] 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.[175] Finally,
as a result of intense French, and especially British diplomatic pressure,
Czechoslovakian 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.[176]
Henlein's Heimfront promptly responded to the offer of "Fourth Plan" by having a
series of violent clashes with the Czechoslovak police, culminating in major clashes
in mid-September that led to the declaration of martial law in certain Sudeten districts.
[177][178]
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.[179]
[180]
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.[181] 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.[182] 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 him a chance to fulfill his promise.[183] 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.[184] 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.[185]

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.[186] To put an end to
Chamberlain's peace-making efforts once and for all, Hitler demanded the
Sudetenland be ceded to Germany no later than 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.[187] 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.[188] On
25 September 1938 Britain rejected the Bad Godesberg ultimatum, and began
preparations for war.[189][190] 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 honour her commitments as demanded by the
Franco-Czechoslovak alliance of 1924, and "then England would feel honour bound,
to offer France assistance".[191]

Initially determined to continue with the attack planned for 1 October 1938, Hitler
changed his mind sometime between 27 and 28 September, 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 Daladier to discuss the Czechoslovak
situation.[192] 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.[193][194][195] 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.[196] 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.[197] The
Economics Ministry told Hitler that Germany had only 2.6 million tons of oil at hand,
and that war with Britain and France would require 7.6 million tons of oil.[198] 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.[199] 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 off Germany from oil
supplies, historians have argued that Hitler's decision to call off Fall Grün was due to
concerns about the oil problem.[196]

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.[200] 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.[201] 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.[202] Though Chamberlain was well-satisfied with the
Munich conference, leading to his infamous claim to have secured "peace for our
time", Hitler was privately furious about being "cheated" out of the war he was
desperate to have in 1938.[203][204] As a result of the summit, Hitler was TIME
magazine's Man of the Year for 1938.[205]

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.[200]


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.[206] In Hitler's view, a
British-brokered peace, though extremely favourable 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.[207][208] 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.[209][210][211][212] 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, Duff Cooper and Anthony Eden, whom Hitler described as a
warmongering anti-German faction, who would attack Germany at the first
opportunity, and were likely to come to power at any moment.[213]

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".[214] 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.[215] A particular highlight in the anti-British propaganda was
alleged British human rights abuses in dealing with the Arab uprising in the British
Mandate of Palestine and in British India, and the "hyprocrisy" of British criticism of
the November 1938 Kristallnacht event.[216] This marked a huge change from the
earlier years of the Third Reich, when the German media had portrayed the British
Empire in very favourable terms.[217] 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.[218] 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.[219] The importance of the Z Plan
can be seen in Hitler's orders that henceforward the Kriegsmarine was to go from
third to first in allotment of raw materials, money and skilled workers.[220] In the
spring of 1939, the Luftwaffe was ordered to start building a strategic bombing force
that was meant to level British cities.[221] 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.[222]

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".[94] 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.[223] 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."[223]
Later in November 1938, Hitler expressed frustration with the more cautious advice
he was receiving from some quarters.[224] Hitler called the economic expert Carl
Friedrich Goerdeler, General Ludwig Beck, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, the diplomat Ulrich
von Hassell, and the economist Rudolf Brinkmann "the overbred intellectual circles"
who were trying to block him from fulfilling 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".[225]

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.[226] 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
Bormann over control of access to Hitler.[227] 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.[228] In January 1939, Hitler ordered
Bouhler and Dr. Brandt to henceforward have all disabled infants born in Germany
killed.[228] 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 favour,
expanded the T4 program to killing, first, all physically or mentally disabled children
in Germany, and, second, all disabled adults.[229]

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 defence cuts with the Wehrmacht having its steel allocations cut by 30%,
aluminium 47%, cement 25%, rubber 14% and copper 20%.[230] 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 as high-grade iron needed for military materials.[230] The
"Export or die" speech of 30 January 1939 is also known as Hitler's "Prophecy
Speech", coming 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
have 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 that of the
whole nation, and 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!"[231]

A significant historical debate has swung around the "Prophecy Speech". Historians
who take an intentionist line, such as Eberhard Jäckel, have argued that, at least from
the time of the "Prophecy Speech" onwards, Hitler was committed to the genocide of
the Jews as his central goal.[232] 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 it as a cover for his already pre-existing plans for genocide.
[231]
Functionalist historians such as Christopher Browning have dismissed this
interpretation on the grounds that if Hitler were serious with the intentions expressed
in the "Prophecy Speech", then there would not have been a 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.[233] Browning has also pointed to the
existence of the Madagascar Plan of 1940–41 and various other schemes as proof that
there was no genocidal master plan.[233] In his opinion, the "Prophecy Speech" was
simply an expression of bravado on Hitler's part, and had little connection with the
actual unfolding of antisemitic policies.[233]

Hitler ordered Germany's army to enter Prague on 15 March 1939, and from Prague
Castle proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate. 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.[234]

Start of World War II

As part of the anti-British course, it was deemed necessary by Hitler to have Poland
either a satellite state or otherwise neutralized. Hitler believed this necessary both on
strategic grounds as a way of securing the Reich's eastern flank and on economic
grounds as a way of evading the effects of a British blockade.[235] Initially, the German
hope was to transform Poland into a satellite state, but by March 1939 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.[236] 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.[236] In August 1939,
Hitler spoke to his generals that his original plan for 1939 had to "... establish an
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 choice other than wiping Poland off the map.
[237]
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.[237] 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.[238] 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".[239] In a speech in Wilhelmshaven for the launch of the
battleship Tirpitz on 1 April 1939, Hitler threatened to denounce the Anglo-German
Naval Agreement if the British persisted with their "encirclement" policy as
represented by the "guarantee" of Polish independence.[239] 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.
Adolf Hitler's face on a German stamp 1944. The country's name was changed to
Greater German Reich (Grossdeutsches Reich) in 1943 and this name can be seen on
the stamp.

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.[240] 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 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.[241][242] Hitler's dilemma between his
short-term and long-term goals was resolved by Foreign Minister Joachim von
Ribbentrop, who told Hitler that neither Britain nor France would honour their
commitments to Poland, and any German–Polish war would accordingly be a limited
regional war.[243][244] 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.
[245]
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 honour her commitments to Poland carried much weight with
Hitler.[245] Ribbentrop only showed Hitler diplomatic cables that supported his
analysis.[246] 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 British Prime Minister 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.[244] 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.
[247]
Hitler chose late August as his date for Fall Weiss in order to limit disruption to
German agricultural production caused by mobilization.[248] 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.[248]

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,[249] 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.[250] Historians such as William Carr, Gerhard
Weinberg and Ian Kershaw have argued that a non-economic reason for Hitler's rush
to war was Hitler's morbid and obsessive fear of an early death, and hence his feeling
that he did not have long to accomplish his work.[136][251][252] 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.[253] 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 honour the Pact of Steel, caused Hitler to postpone the attack on Poland
from 25 August to 1 September.[254] Hitler chose to spend the last days of peace either
trying to manoeuvre 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.[255][256] 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?"[257] Ribbentrop had nothing to say other than
that Robert Coulondre, the French Ambassador, would probably be by later that day
to present the French declaration of war.[257] Not long after this, on 17 September,
Soviet forces invaded eastern Poland.[258]

Members of the Reichstag greet Hitler in October 1939 after the conclusion of the
Polish campaign
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.[259] ”
– 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," or
Sitzkrieg ("sitting 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.[260] 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 brutal ethnic cleansing
campaign of expelling the entire Polish population into the Government-General of
Poland.[261] 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.[262] 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 centring around Reichsfüherer SS Heinrich Himmler and Arthur
Greiser championing and carrying out ethnic cleansing schemes for Poland, and
another centring around Hermann Göring and Hans Frank calling for turning Poland
into the "granary" of the Reich.[263] At a conference held at Göring's Karinhall estate
on 12 February 1940, the dispute was settled in favour of the Göring-Frank view of
economic exploitation, and ending mass expulsions as economically disruptive.[263] 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 remainder of the Polish
population to a "leaderless labouring class".[263] Hitler called Himmler's memo "good
and correct".[263] 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 Luxembourg, the 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 Pact was
signed in Berlin by Saburō Kurusu of Imperial Japan, Hitler, and Ciano. The purpose
of the pact, 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 Sea Lion could not be assured, and Hitler ordered the bombing of
British cities, including London, Plymouth, and Coventry, mostly at night.

Adolf Hitler in his second visit to an occupied territory, in this case, Maribor,
Yugoslavia in 1941.

In the Spring of 1941, Hitler was distracted from his plans for the East by various
activities 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 Führer Directive No. 30.[264]

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. 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.

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.[265] 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.[266] 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.
[267]
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.[268]
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.)[268] A
third faction 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 tales"[269]

The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union reached its apex on 2 December 1941 as part
of the 258th Infantry Division advanced to within 15 miles (24 km) of Moscow, close
enough to see the spires of the Kremlin,[270] but they were not prepared for the harsh
conditions brought on by the first blizzards of winter and in the days that followed,
Soviet forces drove them back over 320 kilometres (200 miles).

On 7 December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and four days later,
Hitler's formal declaration of war against the United States officially engaged him in
war 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).
On 18 December 1941, the appointment book of the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich
Himmler shows he met with Hitler, and in response to Himmler's question "What to
do with the Jews of Russia?", Hitler's response was recorded as "als Partisanen
auszurotten" ("exterminate them as partisans").[271] The Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer
has commented that the remark is probably as close as historians will ever get to a
definitive order from Hitler for the genocide carried out during the Holocaust.[271]

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


December 1941.

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

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.[272]
Syphilis has also been suspected as a cause of at least some of his symptoms, although
the evidence is slight.[273]

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.

Attempted assassination
There were numerous attempts or ideas by private individuals, organisations or states
wishing to assassinate Hitler. Some of the plans proceeded to significant degrees.
While some attempts occurred before World War II, the most famous attempt came
from within Germany. The plan was at least partly driven by the prospect of the
increasingly imminent defeat of Germany in the war.

In July 1944, as part of Operation Valkyrie in what became known as the 20 July plot,
Claus von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in Hitler's headquarters, the Wolfsschanze
(Wolf's Lair) at Rastenburg. Hitler narrowly escaped death due to random chance, as
someone unknowingly moved the briefcase that contained a bomb by pushing it
behind a leg of the heavy conference table. When the bomb exploded, the table
subsequently deflected much of the blast away from Hitler. Later, Hitler ordered
savage reprisals, resulting in the executions of more than 4,900 people,[274] 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.
[275][276][277][278]
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.[279] 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.[279]

On 20 April, Hitler celebrated his 56th birthday in the Führerbunker ("Führer's


shelter") below the Reichskanzlei (Reich Chancellery). Elsewhere, the garrison
commander of the besieged Festung Breslau ("fortress Breslau"), General Hermann
Niehoff, had chocolates distributed to his troops in honour of Hitler's birthday.[280]

By 21 April, Georgi Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front had broken through the last
defences of German General Gotthard Heinrici's Army Group Vistula during the
Battle of the Seelow Heights. Facing little resistance, the Soviets advanced headlong
into the outskirts of Berlin.[281] 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 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 Command of the Army 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 the military conference, Hitler interrupted the report to ask what
had happened to Steiner's offensive. There was a long silence. Then Hitler was told
that the attack had never been launched and 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,[282] and launched into a
tirade against the treachery and incompetence of his commanders. This culminated
with Hitler openly declaring for the first time the war was lost.[283] Hitler announced
he would stay in Berlin, head up the defence of the city and then shoot himself.[284]

Before the day ended, Hitler again found salvation in a new plan that included
General Walther Wenck's Twelfth Army.[285] This new plan had Wenck turn his army
– currently facing the Americans to the west – and attack towards the east to relieve
Berlin.[285] Twelfth Army was to link up with Ninth Army and break through to the
city. Wenck did attack and, in the confusion, made temporary contact with the
Potsdam garrison. But the link with the Ninth Army, like the plan in general, was
ultimately unsuccessful.[286]

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 defence of the capital. The Battle for Berlin must become the
signal for the whole nation to rise up in battle ...[282]

The same day, 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.[287] 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.[287][288][289] 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 Brigadeführer
Wilhelm Mohnke the (Kommandant) Battle Commander for the defence of the
government district (Zitadelle sector) that included the Reich Chancellery and
Führerbunker.[290]

By the end of the day on 27 April, Berlin was completely cut off from the rest of
Germany. As the Soviet forces closed in, Hitler's followers urged him to flee to the
mountains of Bavaria to make a last stand in the National Redoubt. However, Hitler
was determined to either live or die in the capital.

On 28 April, Hitler discovered that Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler was trying to


discuss surrender terms with the Western Allies (through the Swedish diplomat Count
Folke Bernadotte).[291] Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest and had Hermann Fegelein
(Himmler's SS representative at Hitler's HQ in Berlin) shot.[288][292]

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

During the night of 28 April, Wenck reported that his Twelfth Army had been forced
back along the entire front. He 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.

After midnight on 29 April, Hitler married Eva Braun in a small civil ceremony in a
map room within the Führerbunker. Antony Beevor stated that after Hitler hosted a
modest wedding breakfast with his new wife, he then took secretary Traudl Junge to
another room and dictated his last will and testament.[293][294] Hitler signed these
documents at 4:00 AM. The event was witnessed and documents signed by Hans
Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Joseph Goebbels, and Martin Bormann.[288] Hitler then
retired to bed.[295] That afternoon, Hitler was informed of the assassination of Italian
dictator Benito Mussolini, which is presumed to have increased his determination to
avoid capture.[296]

On 30 April 1945, after intense street-to-street combat, when Soviet troops were
within a block or two of the Reich Chancellery, Hitler and Braun committed suicide;
Eva by biting into a cyanide capsule[297] and Hitler by shooting himself with his
Walther PPK 7.65 mm pistol.[298][299][300][301] Hitler had at various times in the past
contemplated suicide, and the Walther was the same pistol that his niece, Geli Raubal
had used in her suicide.[302] The lifeless bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were carried
up the stairs and through the bunker's emergency exit to the bombed-out garden
behind the Reich Chancellery where they were placed in a bomb crater[303][304] and
doused with petrol. The corpses were set on fire[305] as the Red Army advanced and
the shelling continued.[306]

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, records
found in the Soviet archives revealed that the remains of Hitler, Eva Braun, Joseph
and Magda Goebbels, the six Goebbels children, General Hans Krebs and Hitler's
dogs, were collected, moved and secretly buried in graves near Rathenow in
Brandenburg.[307] In 1970, the remains were disinterred, cremated and scattered in the
Elbe River by the Soviets.[308][309] 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. The authenticity of the skull has
been challenged by historians and researchers.[310] DNA analysis conducted in 2009
showed the skull fragment to be that of a woman, and analysis of the sutures between
the skull plates indicated an age between 20 and 40 years old at the time of death.[311]

Legacy
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

The actions of Hitler, the Nazi Party and the results of Nazism are typically regarded
as gravely immoral.[312] Historians, philosophers, and politicians have often applied
the word evil.[313] Historical and cultural portrayals of Hitler in the west are
overwhelmingly condemnatory. Holocaust denial, along with the display of Nazi
symbols such as swastikas, is prohibited in Germany and Austria.

Outside of Hitler's birthplace in Braunau am Inn, Austria, the Memorial Stone Against
War and Fascism is engraved with the following message:

FÜR FRIEDEN FREIHEIT


UND DEMOKRATIE
NIE WIEDER FASCHISMUS
MILLIONEN TOTE MAHNEN

Loosely translated it reads: "For peace, freedom // and democracy // never again
fascism // millions of dead warn [us]"
107-year old singer Johannes Heesters, a personal friend of Hitler still alive

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.[314] Louis Farrakhan has referred to him as a
"very great man".[315] 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.[316] 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".[317]

Religious views
Main article: Adolf Hitler's religious views

Hitler was raised by Roman Catholic parents, but after he left home, he never attended
Mass or received the sacraments.[318] Hitler favoured aspects of Protestantism if they
were more suitable 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.[319][320] 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 never "actually left his church or refused to pay church taxes. In a nominal
sense therefore," the historian Richard Steigmann-Gall (whose views on Christianity
and Nazism are admittedly outside the consensus) states, Hitler "can be classified as
Catholic."[321] Yet, 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."[322]

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.[323] 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."[324]
[325]
His private statements, as reported by his intimates, show Hitler as critical of
traditional Christianity, considering it a religion fit only for slaves; he admired the
power of Rome but had severe hostility towards its teaching.[326] Here Hitler's attack
on Catholicism "resonated Streicher's contention that the Catholic establishment was
allying itself with the Jews."[327] 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.[328] 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.[329][330]

In the political relations with the churches in Germany however, Hitler readily
adopted a strategy "that suited his immediate political purposes".[328] Hitler had a
general plan, even before the rise of the Nazis to power, to destroy Christianity within
the Reich.[331][332][333] 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 position.[331] His intention was to wait until the war
was over to destroy the influence of Christianity.[326]

Hitler for a time advocated for Germans a form of the Christian faith he called
"Positive Christianity",[334][335] 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 Christianity.[336] 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."[337]

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."[338]

Attitude to occultism
Some writers believe that, in contrast to some Nazi ideologues, Hitler did not adhere
to esoteric ideas, occultism, or Ariosophy.[326] Hitler ridiculed such beliefs in Mein
Kampf.[334][339] Nevertheless, other writers 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, such as the occult and antisemitic magazine
Ostara, and give credence to the claim of its publisher Lanz von Liebenfels that Hitler
visited Liebenfels in 1909 and praised his work.[340] The historians are still divided on
the question of the reliability of von Liebenfels' claim of a contact with Hitler.[341]
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke considers his account reliable, Brigitte Hamann leaves the
question open[342] and Ian Kershaw, although questioning to what degree he was
influenced by it, notes that, "Most likely, Hitler did read Ostara, along with other
racist pulp which was prominent on Vienna newspaper stands."[26] Kershaw notes that
it is usually taken for granted that Hitler did so, and was to some extent influenced by
the occult publication, pointing to Hitler's account of conversion to antisemitism after
reading some unnamed antisemitic pamphlets.[343]

Health
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,[273]
syphilis,[273] and Asperger syndrome.[344][345] 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 left rear section of the bridge that was causing an infection of his gums. He was
also suffering from a sinus infection.[346]

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.[347]
A fear of cancer (from which his mother died) is the most widely cited reason, though
it is also asserted that Hitler, an antivivisectionist, had a profound concern for
animals.[348] 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.

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


throughout Germany. (See Anti-tobacco movement in Nazi Germany.)[349] Hitler
"despised" alcohol.[350]

Syphilis

Hitler's tremors and irregular heartbeat during the last years of his life could have
been symptoms of tertiary (late stage) syphilis,[351] which would mean he had a
syphilis infection for many years. Along with another doctor, Theodor Morell
diagnosed the symptoms as such by early 1945 in a joint report to SS head Heinrich
Himmler.[351] Some historians have cited Hitler's preoccupation with syphilis across 14
pages of Mein Kampf, where he called it a "Jewish disease", leading to speculation he
may have had the disease himself. His possible discovery in 1908 that he had the
disease may have been responsible for his demeanor; while his life course may have
been influenced by his anger at being a syphilitic, as well as his belief that he had
acquired the disease from undesirable societal elements which he intended to
eliminate. In several chapters of Mein Kampf, he wrote about the temptation of
prostitution and the spreading of syphilis, specifically volume 1, chapter 10 "Causes
of the Collapse".[352] Historians have speculated he may have caught the affliction
from a German prostitute at a time when the disease was not yet treatable by modern
antibiotics, which would also explain his avoidance of normal sexual relations with
women. However, syphilis had become curable in 1910 with Dr. Paul Ehrlich's
introduction of the drug Salvarsan.

Since the 1870s, however, it was a common rhetorical practice on the völkisch right to
associate Jews with diseases such as syphilis. Historian Robert Waite claims Hitler
tested negative on a Wassermann test as late as 1939, which does not prove that he
did not have the disease, because the Wassermann test was prone to false-negative
results. Regardless of whether he actually had syphilis or not, Hitler lived in constant
fear of the disease, and took treatment for it no matter what his doctors told him.[351]

In his biography of Doctor Felix Kersten called The Man with the Miraculous Hands,
[353]
journalist and Académie française member Joseph Kessel wrote that in the winter
of 1942, Kersten heard of Hitler's medical condition. Consulted by his patient,
Himmler, as to whether he could "assist a man who suffers from severe headaches,
dizziness and insomnia," Kersten was shown a top-secret 26-page report. It detailed
how Hitler had contracted syphilis in his youth and was treated for it at a hospital in
Pasewalk, Germany. However, in 1937, symptoms re-appeared, showing that the
disease was still active, and by the start of 1942, signs were evident that progressive
syphilitic paralysis (Tabes dorsalis) was occurring. Himmler advised Kersten that
Morell (who in the 1930s claimed to be a specialist venereologist) was in charge of
Hitler's treatment, and that it was a state secret. The book also relates how Kersten
learned from Himmler's secretary, Rudolf Brandt, that at that time, probably the only
other people privy to the report's information were Nazi Party chairman Martin
Bormann and Hermann Göring, the head of the Luftwaffe.

Monorchism

See also: Hitler's possible monorchism

It has been alleged that Hitler had monorchism, the medical condition of having only
one testicle. Hitler's personal doctor, Johan Jambor, supposedly described the
dictator's condition to a priest who later wrote down what he had been told in a
document which was uncovered in 2008, 23 years after the doctor's death.[354]

Soviet doctor Lev Bezymensky, allegedly involved in the Soviet autopsy, stated in a
1967 book that Hitler's left testicle was missing. Bezymensky later admitted that the
claim was falsified.[355] Hitler was routinely examined by many doctors throughout his
childhood, military service and later political career, and no clinical mention of any
such condition has ever been discovered. Records do show he was wounded in 1916
during the Battle of the Somme, and some sources do describe his injury as a wound
to the groin.

Parkinson's disease

It has also been speculated Hitler had Parkinson's disease.[356] Newsreels of Hitler
show he had tremors in his hand and a shuffling walk (also a symptom of tertiary
syphilis, see above) which began before the war and continued to worsen until the end
of his life. Morell treated Hitler with a drug agent that was commonly used in 1945,
although Morell is viewed as an unreliable doctor by most historians and any
diagnoses he may have made are subject to doubt.

A more reliable doctor, Ernst-Günther Schenck, who worked at an emergency


casualty station in the Reich Chancellery during April 1945, also claimed Hitler might
have Parkinson's disease. However, Schenck only saw Hitler briefly on two occasions
and, by his own admission, was extremely exhausted and dazed during these meetings
(at the time, he had been in surgery for numerous days without much sleep). Also,
some of Schenck's opinions were based on hearsay from Dr. Haase.

Other complaints

From the 1930s he suffered from stomach pains, in 1936 a non-cancerous polyp was
removed from his throat and he developed eczema on his legs.[357] He suffered
ruptured eardrums as a result of the July 20 plot bomb blast in 1944 and 200 wood
splinters had to be removed from his legs.[358]
Addiction to amphetamine

Hitler began using amphetamine occasionally after 1937 and became addicted to
amphetamine after the late summer of 1942.[359] Albert Speer stated he thought this
was the most likely cause of the later rigidity of Hitler’s decision making (never
allowing military retreats).[360]

Historians' views

In a 1980 article, the German historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler dismissed theories that
sought to explain Nazi Germany as due to some defect, medical or otherwise in Hitler.
In his opinion, besides the problem that such theories about Hitler's medical condition
were extremely difficult to prove, they had the effect of personalizing the phenomena
of Nazi Germany by attributing everything that happened in the Third Reich to one
flawed individual.[361] The British historian Sir Ian Kershaw agreed that it was better
to take a broader view of German history by seeking to examine what social forces
led to the Third Reich and its policies, as opposed to the "personalized" explanations
for the Holocaust and World War II.[268]

Sexuality

Hitler with his long-time mistress Eva Braun, whom he married 29 April 1945
Main article: Sexuality of Adolf Hitler

Hitler presented himself publicly as a man without a domestic life, dedicated entirely
to his political mission. However, 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.[362] All three women attempted suicide (two succeeded), a fact that has led
to speculation that Hitler may have had sexual fetishes,[clarification needed] such as urolagnia
(aroused by urine or urination), as was claimed by Otto Strasser, a political opponent
of Hitler. Reiter, the only one to survive the Nazi regime, denied this.[363] Some
theorists have claimed that Hitler had a relationship with British fascist Unity Mitford.
[364]
Lothar Machtan argues in The Hidden Hitler that Hitler was homosexual.[365]

Family
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 descendant 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: Adolf Hitler in popular culture

Oratory and rallies

Main article: List of speeches given by Adolf Hitler

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[citation needed]. He was allegedly coached by Erik-
Jan Hanussen, a self-styled clairvoyant who focused on hand and arm gestures and
who, ironically, had Jewish heritage. Munitions minister and architect Albert Speer,
who may have known Hitler as well as anyone, said that Hitler was above all else an
actor.[366][367]

Hitler and Baron Mannerheim (June 1942)

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 theatre 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.

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.[368] 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.[369] 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-inch 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,
1935).
• 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.[370] As a prominent politician, Hitler
was featured in many newsreels.
Television

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 (film).
• 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

Films and series

• Fritz Diez depicted Hitler in Ernst Thälmann - Führer seiner Klasse (East
Germany, 1955), Die gefrorene Blitze (East Germany, 1967), Já, spravedlnost
(Czechoslovakia, 1967), Osvobozhdenie (1970-1, Soviet Union), 17 Moments
of Spring (1973, TV production, Soviet Union), Vibor Tzeli (1974, Soviet
Union) and Soldaty Svobodee (1977, Soviet Union).
• 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.[371]
• The Bunker (1981): a U.S. made-for-television movie describing the last days
in the Führerbunker covering 17 January 1945 to 2 May 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 II, 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
Germany.
• 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 favourite 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 famous assassination plot by Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg.

Plays

• 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
Fascism portal
Austria portal
Germany portal
World War II portal

• Adolf Hitler's directives


• Führermuseum
• Glossary of Nazi Germany
• Glossary of German military terms
• List of books by or about Adolf Hitler
• List of former Nazi Party members
• List of Nazi Party leaders and officials
• Poison Kitchen
Footnotes
1. ^ "Hitler ersucht um Entlassung aus der österreichischen
Staatsangehörigkeit", 7 April 1925 (German). Translation: "Hitler's official
application to end his Austrian citizenship". NS-Archiv. Retrieved on 2008-08-19.
2. ^ Keegan 1989
3. ^ Niewyk, Donald L.; Francis R. Nicosia (2000), The Columbia Guide to the
Holocaust, Columbia University Press, p. 45, ISBN 0231112009
4. ^ Hanock, Ian. "Romanies and the Holocaust: A Reevaluation and an
Overview"[dead link], published in Stone, D. (ed.) (2004) The Historiography of the
Holocaust. Palgrave, Basingstoke and New York.
5. ^ Linge (2009), With Hitler to the End: The Memoir of Hitler's Valet, pp.
199, 200
6. ^ Shirer, W. L. (1960), The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, New York:
Simon and Schuster
7. ^ a b Rosenbaum, R. (1999). Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of
His Evil. Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-06-095339-X
8. ^ Shirer (1990-11-15), The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p. 7,
ISBN 9780671728687, http://books.google.com/?id=sY8svb-
MNUwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+rise+and+fall+of+the+third+reich&q=alois
%20hitler%20%20johann
9. ^ Dieter Schenk, Frank: Hitlers Kronjurist und General-Gouverneur, 2006,
p.65. ISBN 978-3-10-073562-1: "Dass Adolf Hitler bestimmt kein Judenblut in den
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