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Known worldwide for his evil, the policies enacted under Adolf Hitlers Third Reich led to the death and destruction of tens of millions of lives through genocide, an estimate which does

not consider the lives lost as a result of the war to end this brutality.1 While his evil is unarguable, the source of this evil can be debated. It is widely accepted that Hitler was a disturbed youth. However, was it the war-ravaged state of Germany that drove him past former limits of evil, into a classification shared by few others, or was this depravity an innate perversion, which reared its ugly head at the slightest taste of power. Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, in the small village of Braunau am Inn, Austria, outside of the city of Linz, which lies across the border of Bavaria, Germany. His father, Alois, a customs official by trade, was twice widowed and was twenty-four years older than Hitlers mother, his third wife.2 In his memoir and manifesto, Mein Kampf, Hitler said he had a terrible childhood; Alois beat his wife and the young Adolf.3 From this experience stemmed a deep hostility and fear for his father, though he was very close to his mother, for whom he felt great sympathy. His father died in 1903, and when his mother died in 1907, he dropped out of high school to pursue a career in art in Vienna and struggled to survive by painting postcards and advertisements, having been rejected twice from the Academy of Fine Arts.4 Hitlers antiSemitism arose after having seen an orthodox Jewish community in Vienna, a breeding ground for racial and religious prejudice at the time.5 When Hitler gained possession of the final part of his fathers estate in 1913, he moved to Munich. He enlisted into the German armys Bavarian Regiment when World War I broke out the following August. He served as a headquarters runner and was constantly in the front lines of battle. He was wounded in October 1916 and was gassed twice before the war ended.6 For his bravery, he was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class, in December 1914 and later, in 1918, the Iron Cross, First Class, a rare decoration for a corporal.7 While living in Munich and Vienna, a contempt for the developing cosmopolitanism and

multinationalism had festered within Hitler.8 War had become an escape from this lonely and secretive civilian life he resented. However, the war came to an end, and Hitler returned to civilian life in Munich and to the chaos that the end of the war meant. A significant thirteen percent of German land was partitioned and given to the Allies who had fought against Germany in World War I through the Treaty of Versailles. In addition, Germanys army was reduced to 100,000 men with no tanks, her navy was reduced to six ships, and her air force was dismantled. Also, Germany had to admit full responsibility for starting the war, which meant that the country, already suffering from losses from the war and treaty, had to pay the Allies reparations for the damage done to their infrastructure.9 Germany could not afford the amount that the Allies demanded, especially after having lost much of their industrial land. The nation was in a significant decline. Hitler took up work in Munich, surrounded by the consequences of losing the war. He joined the German Workers Party in September 1919, and, in 1920, after taking charge of the partys propaganda, he left his military position to advance his position within the party, which was renamed the National-sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, from which the term Nazi comes.10 The severity of the World War I peace terms and the loss of the war resulted in widespread discontent in Germany. Munich, a gathering place for servicemen who refused to return to civilian life after the war, functioned as a perfect center for the partys development. Ernst Rohm, an early party leader, recruited many of these men and formed the partys private army, which was organized into the Strumabteilung, or SA, in 1921, and impressed in the public a sense of strength in the Nazi party.11 Conditions were right for the growth of this small party. Hitler, astute as he was, took advantage of this growth and rose with the party. He accepted their anti-socialism and anti-

communism beliefs but disliked the lack of leadership that existed within the party in its early days.12 He saw an opportunity: a growing political movement in need of strong leadership. Hitler, with a thirst for power, took this opportunity and began his climb. Many of the partys top members resisted his rise; however, Hitler threatened to leave the party, and, knowing that his propaganda was necessary for the success of the party, they allowed Hitler to assume the role of leadership in July 1921.13 Soon, he gained almost unlimited powers within the party. In 1920, it had assumed control of the newspaper, the Vlkischer Beobachter.14 Hitler used this newspaper to implement a tactic of unrelenting propaganda. He moved the party meetings from small gatherings of handfuls of supporters to crowds of thousands. With the rise in civilian support, his charisma and leadership also built a strong and loyal Nazi administration, including infamous names like Alfred Rosenberg and Hermann Gring.15 In 1923, the party tried to take control of Munich in the Beer Hall Putsch. Hitler and General Erich Ludendorff used the significant opposition to the Weimar Republic, the government established by the Treaty of Versailles, in an attempt to push the Bavarian government to declare a national revolution.16 The disorganized and tumultuous march on Munich resulted in the citys police firing at the marching group, killing several people. Hitler was injured, and four policemen were killed. He was put on trial for treason and accused of the deaths of these men. He was sentenced to five years in prison, though he only served nine months.17 This experience, however, showed him his rise must be achieved through legal means. While imprisoned, Hitler put his ideas of inequality among races into writing. When he was released, he published the first volume of his memoir and manifesto, Mein Kampf, which became a written documentation of the Nazi partys mission. In it, he explained his belief in an unchangeable natural order, of which the Aryan race was superior.18 The Volk was Hitlers

reference to the unit of people; governments existed to serve, protect, and preserve the Volk. However, the Weimer Republic had betrayed this ideal. Aside from German superiority, Hitler also established his anti-Semitic beliefs within Mein Kampf. He believed the removal of Jews altogether was necessary for the advancement of the German people, as they were a parasite within the nation. 19 Hitlers skill as an orator and propagandist allowed him to manipulate his compatriots and form a truly national party with members from all classes; few other nations could boast such a united party.20 In addition, the Nazi party had gained access to nationwide audiences through newspapers and access to industrial benefactors. Then, in 1929, the Great Depression hit. Hitler used his propaganda to take advantage of the suffering in Germany. He blamed the government for failing to improve the conditions.21 With a new financial security and increased support, Hitler decided to run for president. He lost, but with a strong backing of 36.8 percent of the vote.22 He insisted on being appointed Chancellor, and, because of this strong backing, President von Hindenburg conceded, though few Nazis were in his cabinet.23 He moved quickly into the chain of command. He received presidential approval for reelections; Nazis received 43.9 percent of the votes during this reelection.24 Within two days, the Enabling Bill was passed, giving full power to Hitler, and all non-Nazi parties and organizations were dissolved within three months.25 However, Hitler initially avoided a radical revolution. Without support from the conservatives, he could never succeed to the presidency; he also needed the support of the army, a group that radicalism would alienate.26 Meanwhile, the worlds economy was recovering from the Depression. Hitler, as a natural demagogue, took credit for the increased economic strength and employment opportunities.27 As a result, a plebiscite soon after the recovery saw ninety percent of the vote in Hitlers favor, and he became joint Chancellor and president, under a new

title called Der Fhrer, German for The Leader. 28 Reclaiming the German people as the highest of the Volk in his natural order was Hitlers ultimate goal as Der Fhrer. Hitler directed his attention to foreign policy, while he delegated day-to-day dealings to inferiors. However, by overlapping the duties of these men, he was able to maintain control of all his subordinates.29 Hitler knew the leaders of the European nations around him would be watching him warily. He posed as a man of peace, a defender of Europe against Bolshevism, who was trying to end the inequalities forced upon Germany after the Great War.30 He began to rebuild his army and navy, beginning a draft within the nation in March 1935. Although this caused protest in Europe, Hitler successfully and diplomatically avoided punishment or extreme pressure to end the conscription. He also found an ally in Italys Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, in 1936, and, in 1937, the two countries signed a pact with Japan.31 Germany was now militarized and prepared to begin its Third Reich, which would return the German peoples to their former glory, that of the Holy Roman Empire and the Hohenzollerns German Empire. His first goal was to reunite the Germanic people; he invaded Austria in 1938 in an attempt to annex the country. Czechoslovakia, Lituania, and Poland were Hitlers next targets.32 Hitler was extremely opportunistic in foreign policy. Though he had only ever travelled within Austria and Germany, he presented skill in understanding the moods of the leaders of Europe, and exploiting their weaknesses. Though Hitler denied any qualm with Britain, when Germany did invade Poland on September 1, 1939, Britain and France declared war within two days.33 Meanwhile, Hitlers goal of removing the Jews from the Reich was taking a turn tactically. From 1933 to 1941, the goal was to expel the Jewish population; however, in 1941, the policy moved away from expulsion to annihilation of the race in general.34 Concentration

camps established under the Nazi regime became extermination camps. Within these camps, six million Jews were killed and countless others persecuted.35 Catholics, Poles, homosexuals, gypsies, and the disabled were all subject to Hitlers tactics to purify the human race, and the total death count of these extermination camps is estimated to be over eleven million lives.36 The wars turning point occurred after Germanys defeat at El-Alamein and Stalingrad and when American forces landed in French North Africa.37 Hitlers character quickly began to change. In 1943 and 1944, several assassination attempts were made. His own officers even made attempts at his life. He was injured in one such attempt, when Colonel von Stauffenberg planted a bomb at Hitlers headquarters.38 Though his injuries were superficial, he became increasingly ill. However, he maintained control of his subordinates, even as the signs of an Allied victory began to appear with the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.39 Hitler never left his bunker in Berlin after January of 1945.40 He had declined to extreme exhaustion mentally and finally accepted inevitable defeat. In his two final acts, on April 29 at midnight, he married his longtime mistress, Eva Braun; he then made his final legislative movement, in which he defended his own political career and appointed his successors. Though Hitler created a joint Chancellorship-presidency position, Der Fhrer, during his own administration, he split the position, naming Admiral Karl Dnitz as head of state and Josef Goebbels as chancellor.41 On April 30, as the Soviets Red Army entered Berlin, Braun poisoned herself and Hitler shot himself.42 Hitlers talents as a speaker at a time when Germany needed a strong leader allowed his rise to power. He was unequal in his ability to shape events in his favor in order to gain support. The power that he wielded was unprecedented in Germany. He destroyed Old Europe and, after his death, Germany fell into a state of confusion and depression, which they called Year

Zero. Adolf Hitler began a movement founded on evil. Though the source is widely theorized but ultimately unknown, his perverted belief in Aryan superiority and his desire to remove Jews from his Reich reached an unimaginable level. When he implemented policies to advance these beliefs, he took advantage of a weakened German public. His demagoguery used the Jews as a scapegoat for all of Germanys problems. Hitler was an opportunist; he saw a weaker party in the Jews, saw his ultimate goal of leadership, and saw a path to reach that goal. The source of evil behind this monstrous man was not, however, entirely his own soul. It was also from Germanys search for revenge after the Treaty of Versailles, and Hitlers deep desire to see his beloved Germany rise again, with himself in the vanguard as its leader. Yet, while he was influenced by the state of Germany, molded into a leader during a time of economic suffering, ultimately, he exploited the weakened nation for personal benefit and for the advancement of his perverted and evil ideals.

1 Donald L. Niewyk and Francis R. Nicosia, The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 45. 2 Robert Payne, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (New York: Popular Library, Inc., 1973), 28. 3 Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. James Murphy (New York: Fredonia Books (NL), 2003), 17. 4 Payne, 35. 5 Biography, Adolf Hitler Biography, Der Fuhrer, (accessed January 18, 2010). 6 Ibid.

7 Payne, 53. 8 Biography. 9 History Channel, World War II, (accessed January 20, 2010). 10 Biography. 11 Ibid. 12 Payne, 73. 13 Ron Rosenbaum, Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil (London: Harper Perennial, 1999), 54. 14 Payne, 79. 15 Robert S. Wistrich, Whos Who in Nazi Germany? (London: Routledge, 1995), 29, 58. 16 Charles Bracelen Flood, Hitler, the Path to Power. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989), 38. 17 Payne, 83. 18 Hitler, 36. 19 Biography. 20 Ibid. 21 Payne, 103. 22 Biography. 23 Ibid. 24 Wistrich, 4. 25 Niewyk and Nicosia, 18. 26 Rosenbaum, 9. 27 Ibid, 57.


28 Payne, 118. 29 Rosenbaum, 73. 30 Flood, 69. 31 History Channel. 32 Ibid. 33 Payne, 120. 34 Niewyk and Nicosia, 11. 35 Ibid, 11. 36 Ibid, 12. 37 History Channel. 38 Payne, 167. 39 Biography. 40 Payne, 169. 41 Ibid, 169. 42 Ibid, 171. Bibliography Biography, Adolf Hitler Biography. Der Fuhrer. Flood, Charles Bracelen. Hitler, the Path to Power. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989. History Channel, World War II. Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Translated by James Murphy. New York: Fredonia Books (NL), 2003. Niewyk, Donald L., and Francis R. Nicosia. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.


Payne, Robert. The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler. New York: Popular Library, Inc., 1973. Rosenbaum, Ron. Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil. London: Harper Perennial, 1999. Wistrich, Robert S. Whos Who in Nazi Germany? London: Routledge, 1995.