Adolf Hitler was born on 20th April, 1889, in the small Austrian town of Braunau near the German border. Both Hitler's parents had come from poor peasant families. His father Alois Hitler, the illegitimate son of a housemaid, was an intelligent and ambitious man and later became a senior customs official.
Family and childhood
Klara Hitler was Alois' third wife. Alois was twenty-three years older than Klara and already had two children from his previous marriages. Klara and Alois had five children but only Adolf and a younger sister, Paula, survived to become adults.
Alois, who was fifty-one when Adolf was born, was extremely keen for his son to do well in life. Alois did have another son by an earlier marriage but he had been a big disappointment to him and eventually ended up in prison for theft. Alois was a strict father and savagely beat his son if he did not do as he was told.
Hitler did extremely well at primary school and it appeared he had a bright academic future in front of him. He was also popular with other pupils and was much admired for his leadership qualities. He was also a deeply religious child and for a while considered the possibility of becoming a monk.
Competition was much tougher in the larger secondary school and his reaction to not being top of the class was to stop trying. His father was furious as he had high hopes that Hitler would follow his example and join the Austrian civil service when he left school. However, Hitler was a stubborn child and attempts by his parents and teachers to change his attitude towards his studies were unsuccessful.
Hitler also lost his popularity with his fellow pupils. They were no longer willing to accept him as one of their leaders. As Hitler liked giving orders he spent his time with younger pupils. He enjoyed games that involved fighting and he loved re-enacting battles from the Boer War. His favourite game was playing the role of a commando rescuing Boers from English concentration camps.
The only teacher Hitler appeared to like at secondary school was Leopold Potsch, his history master. Potsch, like many people living in Upper Austria, was a German Nationalist. Potsch told Hitler and his fellow pupils of the German victories over France in 1870 and 1871 and attacked the Austrians for not becoming involved in these triumphs. Otto von Bismarck, the first chancellor of the German Empire, was one of Hitler's early historical heroes.
The outbreak of the First World War provided him with an opportunity for a fresh start. It was a chance for him to become involved in "proving" that Germany was superior to other European countries. Hitler claimed that when he heard the news of war: "I was overcome with impetuous enthusiasm, and falling on my knees, wholeheartedly thanked Heaven that I had been granted the happiness to live live at this time. Rejecting the idea of fighting for Austria, Hitler volunteered for the German Army. In times of war medical examinations are not so rigorous.
Hitler liked being in the army. For the first time he was part of a group that was fighting for a common goal. Hitler also liked the excitement of fighting in a war. Although fairly cautious in his actions, he did not mind risking his life and impressed his commanding officers for volunteering for dangerous missions.
His fellow soldiers described him as "odd" and "peculiar". One soldier from his regiment, Hans Mend, claimed that Hitler was an isolated figure who spent long periods of time sitting in the corner holding his head in silence. Then all of a sudden, Mend claimed, he would jump up and make a speech. These outbursts were usually attacks on Jews and Marxists who Hitler claimed were undermining the war effort.
Hitler was given the job of despatch-runner. It was a dangerous job as it involved carrying messages from regimental headquarters to the front-line. On one day alone, three out of eight of the regiment's despatch-runners were killed. For the first time since he was at primary school Hitler was a success.
Hitler won five medals including the prestigious Iron Cross during the First World War. His commanding officer wrote: "As a dispatch-runner, he has shown cold-blooded courage and exemplary boldness. Under conditions of great peril, when all the communication lines were cut, the untiring and fearless activity of Hitler made it possible for important messages to go through".
Failed art career and political activism
After service in the war, Hitler pursued art as way of living in place of the army. However, his work was met with lukewarm criticism. Hitler blamed the predominantly Jewish art community for his failure in becoming a successful artist. It was these invents that inspired him to pursue politics to rally his people against the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles and the punishing effects that the economic depression was having in Germany.
It would be during the mid to late 1920's that Hitler would find himself as the prospective statesman. He was arrested and jailed for one month following the 'Munich Putsch' which caused the deaths of 4 policeman. It would be during the time he spent in prison that he wrote and completed 'Mein Kampf', considered by many observists and Historians to be his political Magnus Opus.
Rise to Power and leadership during World War 2
In 1928, the German National Socialist Workers Party was elected to a significant proportion of the Reichstag and Hitler became the new chancellor after a long drawn out battle with President Hindenburg and the chancellor of the time. He set about moving the jewish community into ghettos away from communities in Germany that were percieved by the ruling authorities to represent the indigenous German race. They would later be transported to concentration camps like Belsin for extermination in what was coined by his protege Heinrich Himmler 'the final solution'.
In 1938 Nazi Germany invaded Poland and engaged in a campaign across Eastern Europe. This action marked the outbreak of World War II. Hitler in many respects, proved himself to be a poor military mind and made various blunders that ensured the allied victory. For example, he miscalulated the strength of the Soviet Union when he invaded the eastern front. It is arguable, that had he decided to mantain the German-Soviet pact in place until victory on the western front was assured then history may have panned out differently.
The war ended in 1945 following the Soviet, American and British assault on Berlin. Determined to escape justice, and having to answer to the allied courts for his role in allowing the holocaust he shot himself and his newly wed wife, Eva Braun in the head and ordered to have their corpses burnt.
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