Adolf Hitler was born at six-thirty on the evening of April 20th 1889 (Shirer 6). “It seems rather providential that fate should have chosen Braunau am Inn as my [Hitler’s] birthplace. For that town lies on the border of two German-states which the younger generation have made it their goal to reunite” (Hitler 1). Born into a family of relatively low rank in society, Hitler was to rise in defiance of his father’s plans for his future, the Treaty of Versailles, and the world itself to become perhaps the single greatest threat to world peace in history.
Hitler had a natural talent for art and so it was that at the young age of eleven he made up his mind to become an artist. His father on the other hand had decided that Hitler would be a civil servant. It was on that topic that Hitler and his father often disagreed, “Artist! No! Never as long as I live!” . . . My father didnot depart his “Never!” And I intensified my “Oh, yes!” (Hitler 10). This conflict would never be resolved; Hitler’s father died in 1903 and the young widow whom he left behind indulged Hitler’s aspiration to become an artist. In 1907 Hitler traveled to Vienna and took the entrance exam for the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts; however his drawings were so poor that he was denied entrance to the school. The following year he tried yet once again and this time his drawings were so poor that he did not even qualify to take the entrance exam (Shirer 9).
Hitler served as a runner in the First World War. He was awarded the Iron cross for his bravery. In October 1918 Hitler was temporarily blinded during a British gas attack near Ypres. Hitler never went back into the war. Shortly after the liberation of Munich came the event that would change his life and the course of world history forever (Toland 82). On June 28, 1919 The Allied forces signed the Treaty of Versailles which dictated to Germany its terms of surrender (Shirer 29). The terms of the treaty were harsh: Germany was to accept full responsibility for the war and would have to pay for all civilian damages caused by the conflict. The Allies carved large pieces of territory out of the German landscape; the Alsace-Larraine became part of France; the area of Malmedy went to Belgium; West Prussia and Posen were to become part of Poland. The terms of the treaty also dictated that Germany was to have no offensive weapons. In addition, Allied forces would occupy the Rhineland for a minimum of fifteen years. “A thirty mile wide belt on the right bank of the Rhine was to be demilitarized” (Toland 82). The humiliation was made complete by a regulation that forbade the Germans to have submarines, military aircraft, and an army greater than 100,000 men. Hitler was stewing over the terms of the Versailles Treaty which he saw as harsh and extreme. It was only a matter of time before his adopted country would be torn to pieces by the epidemic of revolution.
The Reichswehr had been formed after World War I to keep the ranks free from Bolshevik influence. The job of Reichswehr recruits was to infiltrate the workers organizations and observe subversive political activities. “Among the recruits selected by Captain Karl Mayr, the officer in charge of this unit was Hitler. Following one of his lectures, Professor von Muller, who would become a catalyst in Hitler?s rise to power, noticed Hitler speaking to a group of peers, including Capt. Mayr, who had come there to investigate Muller and see if he was a threat to the stability of the country. Muller noted that Hitler had a talent for oratory and on that basis Muller hired Hitler and sent him to Munich where he would lecture for Muller’s party. “With each speech Hitler grew more confident and his voice developed to such an extent that his words could be understood in every corner of the squad rooms” (Toland 84). In the autumn of 1919 Hitler attended a gathering of a small political group that called itself the German Worker?s Party. Ironically “the evening made so little impression on him that he did not mention it in Mein Kampf” (Toland 84). It was into this party that Hitler would be assumed and in this party he would rise to lead it and Germany to near world domination.
Hitler worked on increasing membership, often writing invitations for the meetings by hand. Anton Drexler, the founder of the German Worker’s Party supported the reforms that Hitler was making because the party was growing at a steady rate. One reason for Hitler’s popularity was that he told the people what they wanted to hear: there was a group which was to blame for Germany’s defeat and that group was the Jews. His hate for the Jewish race increased as his power grew. “His appeal to German manhood was like a call to arms, the gospel he preached a sacred truth” (Toland 117). In defiance of Drexler, Hitler established his own private army, the SA. By the end of October 1923 the party had grown to more than 35,000 members (Toland 149). In November of that year Hitler planned to kidnap Prince Rupprecht and Kuhr. Several hundred storm troopers sealed off the alley to Feldherrnhalle where the Dignitaries had assembled, however the attempt failed and Hitler was imprisoned (Toland 150). After about one year in prison Hitler was released. When the time came for elections, Goebbels, who would become the party leader in Berlin and Hitler’s propagandist, persuaded Hitler to run for the presidency against Hindenburg. Hindenburg did little to assure himself votes and his supporters began to argue. At the end of the election Hindenburg was in the lead; however, he did not have enough votes to win. Another election had to be held and this time Hindenburg won. Hitler then set his sights on the chancellorship, a position that could be appointed. Hindenburg was in no mood to give Hitler that kind of control. Hitler saw his chance for power when the Junkers, an East German people known primarily for their tenacity in warfare, became dissatisfied with the government. Hitler went from one Junker town to the next winning votes. His campaign paid off when he won 39.6 per cent of the popular vote. However, Hitler was not chancellor yet, Hindenburg still stood in his way (Toland 290).
After an influential meeting with the current Chancellor Papen, Hitler gained the Chancellor’s support. Hindenburg was at a loss; he had been out-maneuvered and out-matched by “a man who had failed to graduate from high school, who had been refused admission to the Academy of Fine Arts, and who had lived as a tramp on the streets of Vienna was now the Chancellor of Germany on the thirtieth of January 1933 (Toland 341).
Soon after he became Chancellor, Hitler began to purge the country and the government of all that were opposed to him. This cleansing however, did not reach great proportions until the beginning of 1934. The country was in a revolution and Adolf
Hitler was at the helm. On the first of August 1934 Hitler received word that Hindenburg was dying. The next morning Hitler and his cabinet passed a law that combined the offices of President and Chancellor. Hindenburg died moments after the unanimous vote had ended. And so, on the 19th of August 1934, approximately 90 per cent of the German people freely voted for Adolf Hitler as Hindenburg’s successor (Toland 358).
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