"Hitler" redirects here. For other uses with the name Hitler, see Hitler (disambiguation).
Adolf Hitler (German:[ˈadɔlf ˈhɪtlɐ] ( listen); 20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) was a German politician who was the leader of the Nazi Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei; NSDAP), Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and Führer ("Leader") of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945.[a] As dictator, Hitler initiated World War II in Europe with the invasion of Poland in September 1939, and was central to the Holocaust.
Hitler was born in Austria—then part of Austria-Hungary—and was raised near Linz. He moved to Germany in 1913 and was decorated during his service in the German Army in World War I. In 1919, he joined the German Workers' Party (DAP), the precursor of the NSDAP, and was appointed leader of the NSDAP in 1921. In 1923, he attempted to seize power in a failed coup in Munich and was imprisoned. While in jail he dictated the first volume of his autobiography and political manifesto Mein Kampf ("My Struggle"). After his release from prison in 1924, Hitler gained popular support by attacking the Treaty of Versailles and promoting Pan-Germanism, anti-semitism and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and Nazi propaganda. He frequently denounced international capitalism and communism as being part of a Jewish conspiracy.
By 1933, the Nazi Party was the largest elected party in the German Reichstag, but did not have a majority, and no party was able to form a majority parliamentary coalition in support of a candidate for chancellor. This led to former chancellor Franz von Papen and other conservative leaders persuading President Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor on 30 January 1933. Shortly after, the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act of 1933, which began the process of transforming the Weimar Republic into Nazi Germany, a one-party dictatorship based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideology of National Socialism. Hitler aimed to eliminate Jews from Germany and establish a New Order to counter what he saw as the injustice of the post-World War I international order dominated by Britain and France. His first six years in power resulted in rapid economic recovery from the Great Depression, the abrogation of restrictions imposed on Germany after World War I and the annexation of territories that were home to millions of ethnic Germans which gave him significant popular support.
Hitler sought Lebensraum ("living space") for the German people in Eastern Europe and his aggressive foreign policy is considered to be the primary cause of the outbreak of World War II in Europe. He directed large-scale rearmament and on 1 September 1939 invaded Poland, resulting in Britain and France declaring war on Germany. In June 1941, Hitler ordered an invasion of the Soviet Union. By the end of 1941, German forces and the European Axis powers occupied most of Europe and North Africa. In December 1941, he formally declared war on the United States, bringing them directly into the conflict. Failure to defeat the Soviets and the entry of the United States into the war forced Germany onto the defensive and it suffered a series of escalating defeats. In the final days of the war during the Battle of Berlin in 1945, he married his long-time lover Eva Braun. Less than two days later on 30 April 1945, the two committed suicide to avoid capture by the Soviet Red Army and their corpses were burned.
Under Hitler's leadership and racially motivated ideology, the Nazi regime was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews and millions of other victims whom he and his followers deemed Untermenschen (sub-humans) or socially undesirable. Hitler and the Nazi regime were also responsible for the killing of an estimated 19.3 million civilians and prisoners of war. In addition, 29 million soldiers and civilians died as a result of military action in the European theatre. The number of civilians killed during the Second World War was unprecedented in warfare and the casualties constituted the deadliest conflict in human history.
Main article: Hitler family
Hitler's father Alois Hitler Sr. (1837–1903) was the illegitimate child of Maria Anna Schicklgruber. The baptismal register did not show the name of his father, and Alois initially bore his mother's surname Schicklgruber. In 1842, Johann Georg Hiedler married Alois's mother Maria Anna. Alois was brought up in the family of Hiedler's brother, Johann Nepomuk Hiedler. In 1876, Alois was legitimated and the baptismal register changed by a priest to register Johann Georg Hiedler as Alois's father (recorded as "Georg Hitler"). Alois then assumed the surname "Hitler", also spelled Hiedler, Hüttler, or Huettler. The Hitler surname is probably based on "one who lives in a hut" (German Hütte for "hut").
Nazi official Hans Frank suggested that Alois's mother had been employed as a housekeeper by a Jewish family in Graz, and that the family's 19-year-old son Leopold Frankenberger had fathered Alois. No Frankenberger was registered in Graz during that period, and no record has been produced of Leopold Frankenberger's existence, so historians dismiss the claim that Alois's father was Jewish.
Childhood and education
Adolf Hitler was born on 20 April 1889 in Braunau am Inn, a town in Austria-Hungary (in present-day Austria), close to the border with the German Empire. He was christened as "Adolphus Hitler". He was the fourth of six children born to Alois Hitler and his third wife, Klara Pölzl. Three of Hitler's siblings—Gustav, Ida, and Otto—died in infancy. Also living in the household were Alois's children from his second marriage: Alois Jr. (born 1882) and Angela (born 1883). When Hitler was three, the family moved to Passau, Germany. There he acquired the distinctive lower Bavarian dialect, rather than Austrian German, which marked his speech throughout his life. The family returned to Austria and settled in Leonding in 1894, and in June 1895 Alois retired to Hafeld, near Lambach, where he farmed and kept bees. Hitler attended Volksschule (a state-owned school) in nearby Fischlham.
The move to Hafeld coincided with the onset of intense father-son conflicts caused by Hitler's refusal to conform to the strict discipline of his school. Alois Hitler's farming efforts at Hafeld ended in failure, and in 1897 the family moved to Lambach. The eight-year-old Hitler took singing lessons, sang in the church choir, and even considered becoming a priest. In 1898 the family returned permanently to Leonding. Hitler was deeply affected by the death of his younger brother Edmund, who died in 1900 from measles. Hitler changed from a confident, outgoing, conscientious student to a morose, detached boy who constantly fought with his father and teachers.
Alois had made a successful career in the customs bureau, and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. Hitler later dramatised an episode from this period when his father took him to visit a customs office, depicting it as an event that gave rise to an unforgiving antagonism between father and son, who were both strong-willed. Ignoring his son's desire to attend a classical high school and become an artist, Alois sent Hitler to the Realschule in Linz in September 1900.[b] Hitler rebelled against this decision, and in Mein Kampf states that he intentionally did poorly in school, hoping that once his father saw "what little progress I was making at the technical school he would let me devote myself to my dream".
Like many Austrian Germans, Hitler began to develop German nationalist ideas from a young age. He expressed loyalty only to Germany, despising the declining Habsburg Monarchy and its rule over an ethnically variegated empire. Hitler and his friends used the greeting "Heil", and sang the "Deutschlandlied" instead of the Austrian Imperial anthem.
After Alois's sudden death on 3 January 1903, Hitler's performance at school deteriorated and his mother allowed him to leave. He enrolled at the Realschule in Steyr in September 1904, where his behaviour and performance improved. In 1905, after passing a repeat of the final exam, Hitler left the school without any ambitions for further education or clear plans for a career.
Early adulthood in Vienna and Munich
In 1907 Hitler left Linz to live and study fine art in Vienna, financed by orphan's benefits and support from his mother. He applied for admission to the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna but was rejected twice. The director explained his drawings showed "unfitness for painting" and suggested Hitler was better suited to studying architecture. Though this was an interest of his, he lacked the academic credentials as he had not finished secondary school. On 21 December 1907, his mother died of breast cancer at the age of 47. In 1909 Hitler ran out of money and was forced to live a bohemian life in homeless shelters and a men's hostel. He earned money as a casual labourer and by painting and selling watercolours of Vienna's sights.
During his time in Vienna he pursued a growing passion for two interests, architecture and music, attending ten performances of Lohengrin, his favorite Wagner opera.
It was here that Hitler first became exposed to racist rhetoric.Populists such as mayor Karl Lueger exploited the climate of virulent anti-Semitism and occasionally espoused German nationalist notions for political effect. German nationalism had a particularly widespread following in the Mariahilf district, where Hitler lived.Georg Ritter von Schönerer became a major influence on Hitler. He also developed an admiration for Martin Luther. Hitler read local newspapers such as Deutsches Volksblatt that fanned prejudice and played on Christian fears of being swamped by an influx of Eastern European Jews. He read newspapers and pamphlets that published the thoughts of philosophers and theoreticians such as Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Gustave Le Bon and Arthur Schopenhauer.
The origin and development of Hitler's anti-Semitism remains a matter of debate. His friend, August Kubizek, claimed that Hitler was a "confirmed anti-Semite" before he left Linz. However, historian Brigitte Hamann describes Kubizek's claim as "problematical". While Hitler states in Mein Kampf that he first became an anti-Semite in Vienna,Reinhold Hanisch, who helped him sell his paintings, disagrees. Hitler had dealings with Jews while living in Vienna. Historian Richard J. Evans states that "historians now generally agree that his notorious, murderous anti-Semitism emerged well after Germany's defeat [in World War I], as a product of the paranoid "stab-in-the-back" explanation for the catastrophe".
Hitler received the final part of his father's estate in May 1913 and moved to Munich, Germany. Hitler was called up for conscription into the Austro-Hungarian Army, so he journeyed to Salzburg on 5 February 1914 for medical assessment. After he was deemed by the medical examiners as unfit for service, he returned to Munich. Hitler later claimed that he did not wish to serve the Habsburg Empire because of the mixture of races in its army and his belief that the collapse of Austria-Hungary was imminent.
World War I
Main article: Military career of Adolf Hitler
In August 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, Hitler was living in Munich and voluntarily enlisted in the Bavarian Army. According to a 1924 report by the Bavarian authorities, allowing Hitler to serve was almost certainly an administrative error, since as an Austrian citizen, he should have been returned to Austria. Posted to the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 16 (1st Company of the List Regiment), he served as a dispatch runner on the Western Front in France and Belgium, spending nearly half his time at the regimental headquarters in Fournes-en-Weppes, well behind the front lines. He was present at the First Battle of Ypres, the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras, and the Battle of Passchendaele, and was wounded at the Somme. He was decorated for bravery, receiving the Iron Cross, Second Class, in 1914. On a recommendation by Lieutenant Hugo Gutmann, Hitler's Jewish superior, he received the Iron Cross, First Class on 4 August 1918, a decoration rarely awarded to one of Hitler's Gefreiter rank. He received the Black Wound Badge on 18 May 1918.
During his service at headquarters, Hitler pursued his artwork, drawing cartoons and instructions for an army newspaper. During the Battle of the Somme in October 1916, he was wounded in the left thigh when a shell exploded in the dispatch runners' dugout. Hitler spent almost two months in hospital at Beelitz, returning to his regiment on 5 March 1917. On 15 October 1918, he was temporarily blinded in a mustard gas attack and was hospitalised in Pasewalk. While there, Hitler learned of Germany's defeat, and—by his own account—upon receiving this news, he suffered a second bout of blindness.
Hitler described the war as "the greatest of all experiences", and was praised by his commanding officers for his bravery. His wartime experience reinforced his German patriotism and he was shocked by Germany's capitulation in November 1918. His bitterness over the collapse of the war effort began to shape his ideology. Like other German nationalists, he believed the Dolchstoßlegende (stab-in-the-back myth), which claimed that the German army, "undefeated in the field", had been "stabbed in the back" on the home front by civilian leaders, Jews, and Marxists, later dubbed the "November criminals".
The Treaty of Versailles stipulated that Germany must relinquish several of its territories and demilitarise the Rhineland. The treaty imposed economic sanctions and levied heavy reparations on the country. Many Germans saw the treaty as an unjust humiliation—they especially objected to Article 231, which they interpreted as declaring Germany responsible for the war. The Versailles Treaty and the economic, social, and political conditions in Germany after the war were later exploited by Hitler for political gain.
Entry into politics
Main article: Political views of Adolf Hitler
After World War I, Hitler returned to Munich. Without formal education or career prospects, he remained in the army. In July 1919 he was appointed Verbindungsmann (intelligence agent) of an Aufklärungskommando (reconnaissance unit) of the Reichswehr, assigned to influence other soldiers and to infiltrate the German Workers' Party (DAP). At a DAP meeting on 12 September 1919, Party Chairman Anton Drexler was impressed with Hitler's oratorical skills. He gave him a copy of his pamphlet My Political Awakening, which contained anti-Semitic, nationalist, anti-capitalist, and anti-Marxist ideas. On the orders of his army superiors, Hitler applied to join the party, and within a week was accepted as party member 555 (the party began counting membership at 500 to give the impression they were a much larger party).
Around this time, Hitler made his earliest known recorded statement about the Jews in a letter (now known as the Gemlich letter) dated 16 September 1919 to Adolf Gemlich about the Jewish question. In the letter, Hitler argues that the aim of the government "must unshakably be the removal of the Jews altogether".
At the DAP, Hitler met Dietrich Eckart, one of the party's founders and a member of the occult Thule Society. Eckart became Hitler's mentor, exchanging ideas with him and introducing him to a wide range of Munich society. To increase its appeal, the DAP changed its name to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party; NSDAP). Hitler designed the party's banner of a swastika in a white circle on a red background.
Hitler was discharged from the army on 31 March 1920 and began working full-time for the NSDAP. The party headquarters was in Munich, a hotbed of anti-government German nationalists determined to crush Marxism and undermine the Weimar Republic. In February 1921—already highly effective at crowd manipulation—he spoke to a crowd of over 6,000. To publicise the meeting, two truckloads of party supporters drove around Munich waving swastika flags and distributing leaflets. Hitler soon gained notoriety for his rowdy polemic speeches against the Treaty of Versailles, rival politicians, and especially against Marxists and Jews.
In June 1921, while Hitler and Eckart were on a fundraising trip to Berlin, a mutiny broke out within the NSDAP in Munich. Members of its executive committee wanted to merge with the rival German Socialist Party (DSP). Hitler returned to Munich on 11 July and angrily tendered his resignation. The committee members realised that the resignation of their leading public figure and speaker would mean the end of the party. Hitler announced he would rejoin on the condition that he would replace Drexler as party chairman, and that the party headquarters would remain in Munich. The committee agreed, and he rejoined the party on 26 July as member 3,680. Hitler continued to face some opposition within the NSDAP: Opponents of Hitler in the leadership had Hermann Esser expelled from the party, and they printed 3,000 copies of a pamphlet attacking Hitler as a traitor to the party.[c] In the following days, Hitler spoke to several packed houses and defended himself and Esser, to thunderous applause. His strategy proved successful, and at a special party congress on 29 July, he was granted absolute powers as party chairman, replacing Drexler, by a vote of 533 to 1.
Hitler's vitriolic beer hall speeches began attracting regular audiences. He became adept at using populist themes, including the use of scapegoats, who were blamed for his listeners' economic hardships. Hitler used personal magnetism and an understanding of crowd psychology to his advantage while engaged in public speaking. Historians have noted the hypnotic effect of his rhetoric on large audiences, and of his eyes in small groups.Algis Budrys recalled the crowd noise and behavior when Hitler appeared in a 1936 parade; some in the audience writhed and rolled on the ground or experienced fecal incontinence.Alfons Heck, a former member of the Hitler Youth, recalled a similar experience:
We erupted into a frenzy of nationalistic pride that bordered on hysteria. For minutes on end, we shouted at the top of our lungs, with tears streaming down our faces: Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil! From that moment on, I belonged to Adolf Hitler body and soul.
Early followers included Rudolf Hess, former air force ace Hermann Göring, and army captain Ernst Röhm. Röhm became head of the Nazis' paramilitary organisation, the Sturmabteilung (SA, "Stormtroopers"), which protected meetings and attacked political opponents. A critical influence on Hitler's thinking during this period was the Aufbau Vereinigung, a conspiratorial group of White Russian exiles and early National Socialists. The group, financed with funds channelled from wealthy industrialists, introduced Hitler to the idea of a Jewish conspiracy, linking international finance with Bolshevism.
Beer Hall Putsch and Landsberg Prison
Main article: Beer Hall Putsch
In 1923 Hitler enlisted the help of World War I General Erich Ludendorff for an attempted coup known as the "Beer Hall Putsch". The NSDAP used Italian Fascism as a model for their appearance and policies. Hitler wanted to emulate Benito Mussolini's "March on Rome" of 1922 by staging his own coup in Bavaria, to be followed by a challenge to the government in Berlin. Hitler and Ludendorff sought the support of Staatskommissar (state commissioner) Gustav Ritter von Kahr, Bavaria's de facto ruler. However, Kahr, along with Police Chief Hans Ritter von Seisser and Reichswehr General Otto von Lossow, wanted to install a nationalist dictatorship without Hitler.
On 8 November 1923 Hitler and the SA stormed a public meeting of 3,000 people organised by Kahr in the Bürgerbräukeller, a beer hall in Munich. Interrupting Kahr's speech, he announced that the national revolution had begun and declared the formation of a new government with Ludendorff. Retiring to a back room, Hitler, with handgun drawn, demanded and got the support of Kahr, Seisser, and Lossow. Hitler's forces initially succeeded in occupying the local Reichswehr and police headquarters, but Kahr and his cohorts quickly withdrew their support. Neither the army, nor the state police, joined forces with Hitler. The next day, Hitler and his followers marched from the beer hall to the Bavarian War Ministry to overthrow the Bavarian government, but police dispersed them.Sixteen NSDAP members and four police officers were killed in the failed coup.
Hitler fled to the home of Ernst Hanfstaengl and by some accounts contemplated suicide. He was depressed but calm when arrested on 11 November 1923 for high treason. His trial before the special People's Court in Munich began in February 1924, and Alfred Rosenberg became temporary leader of the NSDAP. On 1 April, Hitler was sentenced to five years' imprisonment at Landsberg Prison. There, he received friendly treatment from the guards, and was allowed mail from supporters and regular visits by party comrades. Pardoned by the Bavarian Supreme Court, he was released from jail on 20 December 1924, against the state prosecutor's objections. Including time on remand, Hitler served just over one year in prison.
While at Landsberg, Hitler 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. The book, dedicated to Thule Society member Dietrich Eckart, was an autobiography and exposition of his ideology. The book laid out Hitler's plans for transforming German society into one based on race. Some passages imply genocide. Published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926, it sold 228,000 copies between 1925 and 1932. One million copies were sold in 1933, Hitler's first year in office.
Shortly before Hitler was eligible for parole, the Bavarian government attempted to have him deported back to Austria. The Austrian federal chancellor rejected the request on the specious grounds that his service in the German Army made his Austrian citizenship void. In response, Hitler formally renounced his Austrian citizenship on 7 April 1925.
Rebuilding the NSDAP
At the time of Hitler's release from prison, politics in Germany had become less combative and the economy had improved, limiting Hitler's opportunities for political agitation. As a result of the failed Beer Hall Putsch, the NSDAP and its affiliated organisations were banned in Bavaria. In a meeting with the Prime Minister of Bavaria Heinrich Held on 4 January 1925, Hitler agreed to respect the state's authority and promised that he would seek political power only through the democratic process. The meeting paved the way for the ban on the NSDAP to be lifted on 16 February. However, after an inflammatory speech he gave on 27 February, Hitler was barred from public speaking by the Bavarian authorities, a ban that remained in place until 1927. To advance his political ambitions in spite of the ban, Hitler appointed Gregor Strasser, Otto Strasser and Joseph Goebbels to organise and grow the NSDAP in northern Germany. Gregor Strasser steered a more independent political course, emphasising the socialist elements of the party's programme.
The stock market in the United States crashed on 24 October 1929. The impact in Germany was dire: millions were thrown out of work and several major banks collapsed. Hitler and the NSDAP prepared to take advantage of the emergency to gain support for their party. They promised to repudiate the Versailles Treaty, strengthen the economy and provide jobs.
Rise to power
Main article: Adolf Hitler's rise to power
The Great Depression provided a political opportunity for Hitler. Germans were ambivalent about the parliamentary republic, which faced challenges from right- and left-wing extremists. The moderate political parties were increasingly unable to stem the tide of extremism, and the German referendum of 1929 helped to elevate Nazi ideology. The elections of September 1930 resulted in the break-up of a grand coalition and its replacement with a minority cabinet. Its leader, chancellor Heinrich Brüning of the Centre Party, governed through emergency decrees from President Paul von Hindenburg. Governance by decree became the new norm and paved the way for authoritarian forms of government. The NSDAP rose from obscurity to win 18.3 per cent of the vote and 107 parliamentary seats in the 1930 election, becoming the second-largest party in parliament.
Hitler made a prominent appearance at the trial of two Reichswehr officers, Lieutenants Richard Scheringer and Hans Ludin, in late 1930. Both were charged with membership in the NSDAP, at that time illegal for Reichswehr personnel. The prosecution argued that the NSDAP was an extremist party, prompting defence lawyer Hans Frank to call on Hitler to testify. On 25 September 1930, Hitler testified that his party would pursue political power solely through democratic elections, which won him many supporters in the officer corps.
Brüning's austerity measures brought little economic improvement and were extremely unpopular. Hitler exploited this by targeting his political messages specifically at people who had been affected by the inflation of the 1920s and the Depression, such as farmers, war veterans, and the middle class.
Although Hitler had terminated his Austrian citizenship in 1925, he did not acquire German citizenship for almost seven years. This meant that he was stateless, legally unable to run for public office, and still faced the risk of deportation. On 25 February 1932, the interior minister of Brunswick, Dietrich Klagges, who was a member of the NSDAP, appointed Hitler as administrator for the state's delegation to the Reichsrat in Berlin, making Hitler a citizen of Brunswick, and thus of Germany.
Hitler ran against Hindenburg in the 1932 presidential elections. A 27 January 1932 speech to the Industry Club in Düsseldorf won him support from many of Germany's most powerful industrialists. Hindenburg had support from various nationalist, monarchist, Catholic, and republican parties, and some Social Democrats. Hitler used the campaign slogan "Hitler über Deutschland" ("Hitler over Germany"), a reference to his political ambitions and his campaigning by aircraft. He was one of the first politicians to use aircraft travel for political purposes, and used it effectively. Hitler came in second in both rounds of the election, garnering more than 35 per cent of the vote in the final election. Although he lost to Hindenburg, this election established Hitler as a strong force in German politics.
Appointment as chancellor
The absence of an effective government prompted two influential politicians, Franz von Papen and Alfred Hugenberg, along with several other industrialists and businessmen, to write a letter to Hindenburg. The signers urged Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as leader of a government "independent from parliamentary parties", which could turn into a movement that would "enrapture millions of people".
Hindenburg reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler as chancellor after two further parliamentary elections—in July and November 1932—had not resulted in the formation of a majority government. Hitler headed a short-lived coalition government formed by the NSDAP and Hugenberg's party, the German National People's Party (DNVP). On 30 January 1933, the new cabinet was sworn in during a brief ceremony in Hindenburg's office. The NSDAP gained three posts: Hitler was named chancellor, Wilhelm Frick Minister of the Interior, and Hermann Göring Minister of the Interior for Prussia. Hitler had insisted on the ministerial positions as a way to gain control over the police in much of Germany.
Reichstag fire and March elections
As chancellor, Hitler worked against attempts by the NSDAP's opponents to build a majority government. Because of the political stalemate, he asked Hindenburg to again dissolve the Reichstag, and elections were scheduled for early March. On 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building was set on fire. Göring blamed a communist plot, because Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe was found in incriminating circumstances inside the burning building. According to Kershaw, the consensus of nearly all historians is that van der Lubbe actually set the fire. Others, including William L. Shirer and Alan Bullock, are of the opinion that the NSDAP itself was responsible. At Hitler's urging, Hindenburg responded with the Reichstag Fire Decree of 28 February, which suspended basic rights and allowed detention without trial. The decree was permitted under Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which gave the president the power to take emergency measures to protect public safety and order. Activities of the German Communist Party (KPD) were suppressed, and some 4,000 KPD members were arrested.
In addition to political campaigning, the NSDAP engaged in paramilitary violence and the spread of anti-communist propaganda in the days preceding the election. On election day, 6 March 1933, the NSDAP's share of the vote increased to 43.9 per
Adolf Hitler, byname Der Führer (German: “The Leader”), (born April 20, 1889, Braunau am Inn, Austria—died April 30, 1945, Berlin, Germany), leader of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party (from 1920/21) and chancellor (Kanzler) and Führer of Germany (1933–45). He was chancellor from January 30, 1933, and, after President Paul von Hindenburg’s death, assumed the twin titles of Führer and chancellor (August 2, 1934).
Hitler’s father, Alois (born 1837), was illegitimate. For a time he bore his mother’s name, Schicklgruber, but by 1876 he had established his family claim to the surname Hitler. Adolf never used any other surname.
After his father’s retirement from the state customs service, Adolf Hitler spent most of his childhood in Linz, the capital of Upper Austria. It remained his favourite city throughout his life, and he expressed his wish to be buried there. Alois Hitler died in 1903 but left an adequate pension and savings to support his wife and children. Although Hitler feared and disliked his father, he was a devoted son to his mother, who died after much suffering in 1907. With a mixed record as a student, Hitler never advanced beyond a secondary education. After leaving school, he visited Vienna, then returned to Linz, where he dreamed of becoming an artist. Later, he used the small allowance he continued to draw to maintain himself in Vienna. He wished to study art, for which he had some faculties, but he twice failed to secure entry to the Academy of Fine Arts. For some years he lived a lonely and isolated life, earning a precarious livelihood by painting postcards and advertisements and drifting from one municipal hostel to another. Hitler already showed traits that characterized his later life: loneliness and secretiveness, a bohemian mode of everyday existence, and hatred of cosmopolitanism and of the multinational character of Vienna.
In 1913 Hitler moved to Munich. Screened for Austrian military service in February 1914, he was classified as unfit because of inadequate physical vigour; but when World War I broke out, he petitioned Bavarian King Louis III to be allowed to serve, and one day after submitting that request, he was notified that he would be permitted to join the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment. After some eight weeks of training, Hitler was deployed in October 1914 to Belgium, where he participated in the First Battle of Ypres. He served throughout the war, was wounded in October 1916, and was gassed two years later near Ypres. He was hospitalized when the conflict ended. During the war, he was continuously in the front line as a headquarters runner; his bravery in action was rewarded with the Iron Cross, Second Class, in December 1914, and the Iron Cross, First Class (a rare decoration for a corporal), in August 1918. He greeted the war with enthusiasm, as a great relief from the frustration and aimlessness of civilian life. He found discipline and comradeship satisfying and was confirmed in his belief in the heroic virtues of war.