German politician and dictator, b. 20 April 1889 (Braunau, Austria), d. 30 April 1945 (Berlin, Germany)
Hitler was the son of an Austrian-Hungarian customs officer. During his youth he aspired to become an artist, but attempts to enter an art college remained unsuccessful. Until the age of 24 he did not work, living off a small allowance left by his parents. (His father died in 1903, his mother in 1908.)
In 1913 Hitler moved to Munich. Having been found unfit to serve in the Austrian-Hungarian army he volunteered for the German troops in 1914. He received several decorations during World War I and was wounded and gassed.
After release from military hospital in 1918 Hitler decided to become a politician. He joined the small Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (German Workers' Party) and developed it into a mass movement under the name Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP (German National Socialist Workers' Party) known as the Nazi party.
The economic and political conditions of post-war Germany led to widespread frustration and anger that could easily explode in popular mass action. Hitler agitated against the unjust armistice conditions imposed on Germany and promised economical recovery and strong leadership. Industrialists saw him as a means to check the growing socialist and communist movement and supported his party financially as early as 1929.
An unsuccessful attempt to seize power in a coup in 1923 led to a brief period in prison. Hitler used the time to write the first chapters of Mein Kampf (My Struggle), his political program that lays out in detail his plans of eastward expansion and the elimination of all Jews.
In 1933 Hitler was given absolute power by the nationalist and liberal political parties and established his dictatorship. He began systematic preparations for a war of conquest, using relief measures to give work to the many unemployed of the Great Depression for the building of a strategic highway system. He started World War II in 1939. At the end of the war Germany and much of Europe lay in ruins and the old order was destroyed.
The driving force behind Germany's attempt at redistribution of territory has to be seen in the mismatch between the coutry's advanced industrial development and its missing out in the distribution of colonial possessions. Hitler subjugated all activity to the preparation of war. Germany's industrialists saw this as a fast way to build up competitive strength after the defeat of World War I. They employed large numbers of slave labour supplied by Hitler's policy on race, which declared the "Aryan race" - taken to be the true German race - superior to all others. Members of some "inferior races" were herded into concentration camps and used as free labour or murdered. Total extermination was planned particularly for Jews, although many other people - gypsies, Polish citizens and members of the communist and social democrat parties - suffered the same fate.
Unlike earlier genocides in history the Nazi holocaust was not a sudden surge of country-wide slaughter. It was a highly planned programme that took years to implement with specially built gas chambers, death camps and transport facilities and was pursued through the entire Nazi era. An estimated 4,500,000 - 5,500,000 men, women and children came to their death. The holocaust is and remains the worst atrocity any civilization ever created.
Hitler commited suicide in his command bunker as the Russian army entered Berlin, ending the war and with it the "Third Reich."
Photo: public domain (Wikipedia)