Adolf Hitler was born as an Austrian citizen in Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary, in 1889, the fourth child of Klara and Alois Hitler. Hitler’s father worked his way up in the Austrian customs service to a position of considerable status, and as a result Hitler had a comfortable childhood. Hitler began school in 1900, and his grades were above average. It was decided that he would attend Realschule, a secondary school that prepared students for further study and emphasized modern languages and technical subjects. However, Hitler and his father strongly differed about career plans. His father wanted him to enter the civil service; Hitler insisted on becoming an artist. As a result, Hitler did poorly in Realschule, having to repeat the first year and improving little thereafter.
During this time, Hitler began to form his political views: a strong sense of German nationalism, the beginnings of anti-Semitism, and distaste for the ruling family and political structure of Austria-Hungary. Like many German-speaking citizens of Austria-Hungary, Hitler considered himself first and foremost a German.
The death of Hitler’s father in January 1903 changed the family. The survivors’ income was adequate to support Hitler, his mother, and his sister, but the absence of a dominant father figure altered Hitler’s position in the family. He spent much time playing and dreaming, did poorly in his studies, and left school entirely in 1905 after the equivalent of the ninth grade.
Hitler had hoped to become an artist but was rejected as unqualified by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts in October 1907. His mother died in December 1907, and Hitler pretended to continue his studies in Vienna in order to receive an orphan’s pension. In reality, he mostly wandered about the city admiring its public buildings and frequently attending operas, especially those of Richard Wagner, whom Hitler adored for his heroic portrayals of German mythology.
When he had exhausted his inherited funds, Hitler, unwilling to take a job, ended up in a homeless shelter. It was there that he was first exposed to extreme political ideas, particularly the racial concepts of Lanz von Liebenfels. LiebenfelS published a periodical about tHe supposed superiority of Aryans, an ill-defined race which included Germans, and the inferiority of other raceS, especially Jews. At the same time Hitler Acquireda hatred for socialism and came to equate it with the Jews.
Between 1910 and 193 Hitler’s life improved when he began to paint and sell postcards and pictures for a living, copying famous paintings and drawing public buildings. He debated ideas with others in the hostel in which he lived, developing the beginnings of his public speaking style. Failure to register for the draft in Austria led him to flee for Munich, Germany, in 1913 to escape Austrian authorities. He was extradited to Austria but was found physically unfit to serve in the military. He then returned to Munich.
The outbreak of World War I in 1914 came as an opportunity for Hitler, as his money was running out. He volunteered for a Bavarian unit in the German army and served the whole war. Though repeatedly decorated for bravery, he was never promoted beyond private first class. In a war of very high casualties, this is difficult to explain. Perhaps officers considered him a loner who could carry messages and perform other dangerous duties but who was unsuited to command men.
Hitler saw trench warfare as a form of the struggle for survival among races, a struggle that he was coming to see as the essence of existence. At the same time, his anti-Semitic feelings were growing extreme. When Germany was defeated in 1918, Hitler was lying in a military hospital, temporarily blinded by mustard gas. He decided Jews had caused Germany’s defeat and that he would enter politics to save the country.
Hitler returned to Munich after the war. He was selected to be a political speaker by the local army headquarters, given special training, and provided with opportunities to practice his public speaking before returning prisoners of war. His speaking successes led to his selection as an observer of political groups in the Munich area. In this capacity, he investigated the German Workers’ Party—one of the many nationalist, racist groups that developed in Munich in the postwar years.
The German Workers’ Party, later renamed the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (abbreviated NSDAP or Nazi Party), became Hitler’s political focus. Here he found an outlet for his talents in political agitation and party organization. The party espoused essentially the same ideas Hitler had picked up in Vienna: violent racial nationalism and anti-Semitism. He also shared the Nazis’ opposition to the liberal democracy of the German Weimar Republic, which had been established after the war.
Though still in the army, Hitler quickly became the new spokesman for the party. His talent for public speaking and the use of the local army’s resources to generate publicity drew large audiences to events sponsored by an organization that had only 100 to 200 members. When he presented the party’s official program to a gathering on February 24, 1920, there were almost 2000 present.
Hitler was discharged from the army the following month, and he soon attained dominance in the Nazi party. He was the party’s most effective recruiter and, thanks to paid attendance at his speeches, its most successful fundraiser. When opposed within the party, he found ways to push out rivals and dissenters. Several times he did so by threatening to leave the party himself. Hitler obtained enough support to have himself chosen as Führer (absolute leader) of the party on July 29, 1921.
Hitler appealed to a wide variety of people by combining an effective and carefully rehearsed speaking style with what looked like absolute sincerity and determination. He found a large audience for his program of national revival, racial pride in Germanic values, hatred for France and of Jews and other non-German races, and disdain for the Weimar Republic. Hitler asserted only a dictatorship could rescue Germany from the depths to which it had fallen. His views changed only minimally in subsequent years and attracted increasingly larger audiences.
Nazism, pronounced NAHT sihz uhm or NAT sihz uhm, was a political movement–and later a form of government–that developed in Germany during the 1920’s. The Nazis, led by the dictator Adolf Hitler, controlled Germany from 1933 to 1945. Nazism also describes any governmental system or political beliefs similar to those of Hitler’s Germany. The word is also spelled Naziism.
Nazism was a fascist movement–that is, it tightly restricted personal freedom but permitted private ownership of property. The Nazis called for aggressive nationalism, militarism, and the expansion of Germany’s borders. They overvalued the Germans and other northern European peoples, whom they called Aryans. They claimed that Jews, Slavs, and other minority groups were inferior. Nazism opposed democracy, Communism, socialism, feminism, and other political systems and movements that claimed to favor equality. It promised to build a harmonious, orderly, and prosperous society for Germans. Instead, it brought terrorism, war, and mass murder.
Nazism refers to the totalitarian Fascist ideology and policies adopt and practiced by Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Worker’s Party from 1920-1945. Nazism stressed the superiority of the Aryan, its destiny as the Master Race to rule the world over other races, and a violent hatred of Jews, which it blamed for all of the problems of Germany. Nazism also provided for extreme nationalism which called for the unification of all German-speaking peoples into a single empire. The economy picture for the state was a form of corporative state socialism; although members of the party who were leftists (and would generally support such an economic system over private enterprise) were wash out from the party in 1934.
The birth of Nazism:
Germany experienced political and economic crises after its defeat in World War I (1914-1918). A democratic government had replaced the monarchy that ruled the country. But the nation suffered from severe inflation and unemployment after the war ended. Many Germans lacked faith in the new government and began to turn to political groups that called for extreme changes. One of these organizations was the German Workers’ Party, a small discussion group in Munich. Hitler joined this group in 1919 and quickly gained control. He changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party in 1920. Nazi stands for the first word in the German name of the party.
Nazism responded to deep problems in German history. Germany had not become a united nation until 1871, and many Germans felt that Germany was inferior to other countries. This feeling of inferiority encouraged aggressive nationalism and a desire for expansion. Industry grew rapidly during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and brought great wealth to the industrialists. But workers resented what they considered an unequal distribution of profits. In addition, many middle-class and upper-class Germans had lived comfortably under the monarchy, and they feared and disliked the newly formed democratic government. Finally, many Germans blamed their problems on Jews.
Hitler’s aims were primarily nationalistic, but he also promised social revolution to win support from the masses. The Nazi Party grew rapidly in the postwar crisis. The military supported Hitler’s ideas of discipline, order, and military conquest. The middle classes and farmers were attracted by the promise of social reform. Wealthy industrialists joined to fight Communism. Powerless people responded to ideas of racial superiority, anti-Semitism (prejudice against Jews), and German strength. By 1923, the Nazi Party had 17,000 members.
The rise to power Nazism did not gain wide support until the Great Depression, a worldwide business slump, began in 1929. Discontented Germans then turned to Nazism in increasing numbers. Nazism promised economic help, political power, and national glory. Hitler’s fiery personality and talents as an speaker also had a strong influence. The Nazi Party grew into a huge political organization with special divisions for children, youth, women, and professional people. It even had soldiers called storm troopers, who terrorized opponents.
In the elections of 1932, the Nazis emerged as the strongest party in Germany. On Jan. 30, 1933, Hitler became chancellor (prime minister). He quickly moved toward dictatorship, outlawing civil liberties and all political parties except the Nazi Party. The Nazis took over the press, the radio, and the school system. In time, they established a totalitarian state (a government that permits no opposition). They organized a powerful secret police force called the Gestapo and set up concentration camps for anyone suspected of opposing Nazism. Jews and members of other minority groups were also imprisoned in these camps, where the Germans either killed them or used them for forced labor.
Cause of Success of the Nazism:
- The Versailles Treaty
- Growth of Communism
- Economic Crisis
- Lack of unity among political Parties
- Personal qualities of Hitler
- Other Causes
Expansion, war, and collapse:
Hitler and his followers hoped to make the Nazi state a world empire. In 1938, they began to carry out their plans. Germany annexed Austria in 1938, and German forces occupied Czechoslovakia the following year. The Nazis attacked Poland later in 1939, and World War II began. The Nazis started a campaign to murder all European Jews. Hitler called this plan the “final solution.” About 6 million Jews died by firing squad, in gas chambers, or by other methods. About 5 million others, including Gypsies, political opponents of the Nazis, Polis and other Slavs were also killed. These mass murders later became known as the Holocaust. The United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and other nations defeated Germany in 1945, and the Nazi government collapsed.
Paramilitary Organizations under Nazism
Nazism made use of paramilitary organizations to maintain control within the party, and to compress opposition to the party. Violence and terror promote compliance. Among these organizations were the:
S.A. (Sturmabteilung): Storm troopers (also known as “brown-shirts”) were the Nazi paramilitary arm under Ernst Rîhm. It was active in the battle for the streets against other German political parties.
S.D. (Sicherheitsdiest): the Security Service under Reinhard Heydrich.
S.S. (Schutzstaffel): Defense Corps was an elite guard unit formed out of the S.A. It was under the command of Heinrich Himmler.
Gestapo (Geheime Staatpolizeil): the Secret State Police, which was formed in 1933.
Nazism also placed an emphasis on sports and paramilitary activities for youth, the massive use of propaganda (controlled by Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels) to glorify the state, and the submission of all decisions to the supreme leader (FÅhrer) Adolf Hitler.