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Hitler’s Beginnings Adolf Hitler was born in a small town in Austria in 1889. He dropped out of high school, and attempted to be an artist, but failed at that. Hitler didn’t know what he wanted to do with life, and seemed like a failure when World War I broke out. He volunteered for the German army and served. He won the Iron Cross twice for his bravery in battle.
Political Beginnings After World War I Hitler settled in Munich, Germany. Like many people Hitler was very unhappy with the outcome of the Treaty of Versailles. He felt that Germany was being unfairly punished. In 1920 he joined a small right – wing political group that shared these beliefs. This political group was known as the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nationalsozialismus) also known as the Nazi party.
Nazism The Nazis adopted the swastika as their symbol. They set up a private militia called the Storm troopers, also known as the Brownshirts. When Hitler joined the party he was a very successful organizer, and a good public speaker, so this led him to be chosen as durFührer, or the leader.
First Failure With Hitler as the leader the party began to gain more supporters. The party was inspired by Mussolini in Italy, and began plotting to seize the government in Munich. In 1923 the Nazis attempted to takeover (this was known as the Beer Hall Putsch). They failed and Hitler was sentenced to five years in prison (he only served 9 months).
Mein Kampf While Hitler was in jail he wrote a book called Mein Kampfmeaning My Struggle. In this book he outlines his main ideas and beliefs. One of Hitler’s key beliefs was that the blue – eyed, blonde haired Germans were the “Aryans” or master race. Hitler claimed that people who were non – Aryans (Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, amongst others) were inferior/subhuman. He felt these people were part of the cause of the problems for the Aryan race. He also expressed his outrage at the Treaty of Versailles, and said Germans must try to get that land back. He felt Germans needed more lebensraum or living space, and they would get it by conquered Europe and Russia.
After Prison After Hitler was released in 1924 he began working to make the Nazi party strong again. Most Germans ignored his message until the depression hit. By 1932 about six million people (30% of Germany’s population) were unemployed. Germans didn’t feel confident in the leadership of the Weimar Republic and began turning to Hitler for strong leadership and security.
Hitler Becomes Chancellor By 1932 the Nazis were the largest political party. In January 1933 the President named Hitler Chancellor of Germany. He said he appointed Hitler because he was strong enough to stand up to the communist party. He hoped by appointing Hitler to this position he would gain support of Hitler’s followers, and he’d be able to control them as well as Hitler.
Hitler Seizes Power Once Hitler was in office he immediately began strengthening his position. He called for new elections and burned down the parliament building the day before, but blamed it on the communists. Hitler and his allies won the majority in parliament. Once Hitler had parliament under his control he passed a bill that essentially made him a dictator. He banned political opponents and had them arrested. In 1934 Hitler created an elite black uniformed unit called the Schutzstaffel or the SS. They were loyal only to Hitler and arrested anyone who opposed him.
Nazis Command the Economy The Nazis first act of controlling the economy was creating laws that banned strikes, dissolved independent labor unions, and gave the government control over business and labor. Hitler created jobs that put millions of Germans to work doing things such as constructing factories, building highway, manufacturing weapons, and serving in the military. Unemployment dropped from 6 million to 1.5 million.
Complete Control Hitler wanted more than just economic and political control, so he began expanding his power. Hitler censored the press, radio, literature, paintings, and films and used them as propaganda. Books that went against the Nazi beliefs were burned. The church was not allowed to openly criticize Nazis. Children were forced to join the Hitler Youth. Hitler strongly believed in Social Darwinism and promoted it.
1936 Olympics Hitler was a strong believer in Social Darwinism, and felt that anyone who was not Aryan was inferior. The 1936 summer Olympics were held in Berlin. Hitler was very excited, because he thought it would prove how superior the Aryan race was. African – American runner Jesse Owens won four gold medals, defeating the Germans. Hitler refused to watch Owens be presented with medals and left the stadium.
Attacks on the Jews Although the Jewish people made up less than 1% of Germany’s population the Nazis used them as scapegoats for all of Germany’s problems since the war. Beginning in 1933 the Nazis passed laws that deprived Jews of their rights. This led to more violence and anti – Semitism amongst the German people. On November 9, 1938 Nazi mobs began attacking Jewish homes and businesses known as Kristallnacht. This began the process of eliminating Jews from Germany.