Adolf Hitler, the infamous dictator of Nazi Germany, is perhaps best known for his role in instigating World War II and his orchestrated genocide leading to the death of six million Jews during the Holocaust.
Born in Braunau am Inn, Austria, on April 20, 1889, Hitler pursued a career as an artist in his early life but was twice rejected by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. Following his father’s death, Hitler moved to Vienna and worked as a casual laborer and watercolor painter.
Hitler served in the German army during World War I and was awarded two Iron Crosses for his bravery. The Treaty of Versailles’s harsh stipulations and the economic depression that followed played a significant role in shaping his extreme ideologies. Hitler joined the German Workers’ Party in 1919, eventually becoming its leader, and in 1920, the party was renamed the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi Party).
Hitler’s autobiography, “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle), was written while he was imprisoned for his role in the Munich Putsch of 1923. In this work, he outlined his political ideology, future plans for Germany, and various anti-Semitic, anti-Marxist, and anti-democratic views.
Once he became Chancellor in 1933, Hitler swiftly dismantled Germany’s democratic structures, establishing a totalitarian regime characterized by aggressive expansionist policies, extreme anti-Semitism, and Aryan racial purity. His regime’s oppressive laws and horrific atrocities culminated in World War II and the Holocaust.
Hitler’s aggressive foreign policies and expansionist ideology are often seen as the causes of the start of World War II. He led his country into this destructive war, which would leave millions dead and devastate the entire European continent.
In the final days of the war, in his bunker in Berlin, Hitler married his long-time mistress, Eva Braun. On April 30, 1945, as Allied forces were closing in, Hitler and Braun committed suicide. Their bodies were later found and identified by Soviet forces.
While Hitler’s actions left a horrific mark on history, studying his life and the social and political context in which he operated can provide valuable insights into the devastating consequences of hate, prejudice, and unchecked power.