Friday, August 31, 2007
Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)
Anyone who sees and paints a sky green and fields blue ought to be sterilized.
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Adolf Hitler (April 20, 1889 - April 30, 1945) was the leader of the Nazi Party (from 1919) and dictator of Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 in Braunau am Inn a small town in upper Austria on the Austro-German border.
A compelling orator, he was appointed Reichskanzler (Reich Chancellor) on January 30, 1933 and assumed the twin titles of Fuhrer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Reich Chancellor) after President Paul von Hindenburg's death on August 2, 1934. Under his leadership, Germany started World War II and committed the Holocaust.
Hitler was born in a family of a customs officer. Hitler's father, Alois (born 1837), was illegitimate and for a time bore his mother's name, Schicklgruber, but by 1876 he had established his claim to the surname Hitler. Adolf never used any other name, and the name Schicklgruber was revived only by his political opponents in Germany and Austria in the 1930s.
Unsuccessfully, he tried to become a fine arts student at the Vienna Arts Academy. He developed a special interest in architecture. He had several odd jobs, but never long enough to escape poverty. He often lived on the streets as a street painter. He spent some time in the public gallery of the Austrian Parliament. Through his observances there, he later wrote he developed his contempt of democracy and what he saw as the contaminating dominance of Jews in parliament and society. He also cultivated his love of Germanism, and observed how political activists influenced the masses. Spring 1912 he moved to Munich where he hoped to start his artistic career anew.
Hitler's introduction to war and politics
In 1914, he volunteered to the 16th Bavarian Infantry Regiment, he fought in World War I on the Western front and was gassed during one of the battles. Afterwards he was awarded a medal for bravery. He was a corporal by the end of the war. After the return from the front to Munich, he joined a small party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, German Workers' Party). In April 1919 he became the leader of the party. Due to Hitler's organizing and speaking talents the party gained increasing popularity. In the course of time he changed the name of the party to Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (better known in English-speaking countries as the Nazi Party). On November 8 and November 9, 1923, Hitler was involved in an abortive coup known as the Munich Beer Hall Putsch. He was accused of state treason and received a five-year prison sentence. He was jailed in Landsberg. During his imprisonment he wrote his political manifesto: Mein Kampf. After nine months he received amnesty and was released from prison. He soon rebuilt his party and again gained tremendous popularity.
Rise to power
Hitler became Chancellor of the Weimar Republic in 1933 through a coalition with conservative and right wing parties, who had hoped to use Hitler's popularity to gain power. Once in power he initiated what was called the "legal seizure of power." In the course of a few years he managed to consolidate dictatorial powers through parliamentary legislation. Later he turned out to be an erratic and unpredictable leader of the armed forces, often disregarding opinions of experienced generals and marshals. Under Hitler's leadership, driven by a vision of a Nordic master race, Germany invaded several of its smaller neighbors, beginning World War II. This vision also drove an attempt to systematically exterminate other peoples--notably the Jews--called the Holocaust in which 5-10 million people were killed. Other hated peoples included the Romani or Tzigane (Gypsies) of which between 600,000 and 2 million were killed (about 70% of the population in German controlled areas). World War II itself brought the death of tens of millions more, including 20 million casualties in the Soviet Union alone. After the SovietRed Army reached Berlin, Adolf Hitler committed suicide together with Eva Braun (whom he had married just two days before) on April 30, 1945, in the Fuhrerbunker (Leader's bunker). He was aged 56. In the testament he left, he circumvented other Nazi leaders and appointed Admiral Karl Donitz as his successor.
In her 1980 book Am Anfang war Erziehung (translated as For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence), Alice Miller attempts an explanation of Hitler's violent urges from childhood trauma. His mother had married a man 23 years her elder whom she called "uncle Alois"; her three small children died in the course of a few years surrounding Adolf's birth, leading to extreme pampering of Adolf by his mother. He was regularly beaten and ridiculed by his father; once when Adolf tried to escape from home he was almost beaten to death. Adolf hated his father throughout his life and there are reports of him having nightmares about his father in late life. When Nazi Germany had occupied Austria, Hitler had the village where his father grew up destroyed. Throughout Hitler's life, there were speculations that the father of his father was a Jew (his grandmother was a maid in a Jewish household which later paid alimony for her son). This insecurity correlates with Hitler's later command that every German prove their non-Jewish ancestry up to the third generation. [This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Adolf Hitler.]
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