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Adolf Hitler

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Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler in 1933

Führer of Germany
In office
2 August 1934 – 30 April 1945
Paul von Hindenburg
Preceded by
(as President)
Karl Dönitz
Succeeded by
(as President)

Reichskanzler (Chancellor) of Germany

In office
30 January 1933 – 30 April 1945
Preceded by Kurt von Schleicher
Succeeded by Joseph Goebbels
20 April 1889
Braunau am Inn, Austria–Hungary
30 April 1945 (aged 56)
Berlin, Germany
Austrian citizen until 1925[1] German
citizen after 1932
National Socialist German Workers
Political party
Party (NSDAP)
Eva Braun
(married on 29 April 1945)
Occupation politician, artist


Military service

German Empire

Years of service 1914-1918
Rank Gefreiter
Unit 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment
Battles/wars World War I
Iron Cross First and Second Class
Wound Badge
The Holocaust
Early elements
Racial policy · Nazi eugenics · Nuremberg Laws · Euthanasia program · Concentration camps (list)
Jews in Nazi Germany (1933–1939)
Pogroms: Kristallnacht · Bucharest · Dorohoi · Iaşi · Kaunas · Jedwabne · Lviv
Ghettos: Budapest · Lublin · Lviv · Łachwa · Łódź · Kraków · Kovno · Minsk · Warsaw · Vilna (list)
Einsatzgruppen: Babi Yar · Rumbula · Ponary · Odessa · Erntefest · Ninth Fort
Final Solution: Wannsee · Operation Reinhard · Holocaust trains · The Holocaust in Poland
Concentration camps:
Auschwitz-Birkenau · Bełżec · Bergen-Belsen · Bogdanovka · Buchenwald · Chełmno · Dachau · Gross-
Rosen · Herzogenbusch · Janowska · Jasenovac · Kaiserwald · Majdanek · Maly Trostenets · Mauthausen-
Gusen · Neuengamme · Ravensbrück · Sachsenhausen · Sajmište · Salaspils · Sobibór · Stutthof ·
Theresienstadt · Treblinka · Uckermark
Resistance: Jewish partisans · Ghetto uprisings (Warsaw · Białystok)
End of World War II: Death marches · Berihah · Surviving Remnant
Other victims
Romani people · Homosexuals · People with disabilities · Slavs in Eastern Europe · Poles · Soviet POWs ·
Jehovah's Witnesses
Responsible parties
Nazi Germany: Adolf Hitler · Heinrich Himmler · Ernst Kaltenbrunner · Reinhard Heydrich · Adolf
Eichmann · Rudolf Höß · Nazi Party · Schutzstaffel · Gestapo · Sturmabteilung
Aftermath: Nuremberg Trials · Denazification · Reparations Agreement
between Israel and West Germany
Survivors · Victims · Rescuers
The Destruction of the European Jews Functionalism versus intentionalism

Adolf Hitler (German pronunciation: [ˈadɔlf ˈhɪtlɐ], 20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) was an
Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party
(German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, abbreviated NSDAP), popularly
known as the Nazi Party. He was the ruler of Germany from 1933 to 1945, serving as chancellor
from 1933 to 1945 and as head of state (Führer und Reichskanzler) from 1934 to 1945.
A decorated veteran of World War I, Hitler joined the Nazi Party in 1920 and became its leader
in 1921. Following his imprisonment after a failed coup in 1923, he gained support by promoting
German nationalism, anti-semitism, and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and
propaganda. He was appointed chancellor in 1933, and quickly established and made reality his
vision of a totalitarian, autocratic, single party, national socialist dictatorship. Hitler pursued a
foreign policy with the declared goal of seizing Lebensraum ("living space") for Germany,
directing the resources of the state toward this goal. His rebuilt Wehrmacht invaded Poland in
1939, leading to the outbreak of World War II in Europe.[2]
Within three years, Germany and the Axis powers occupied most of Europe and a part of
northern Africa, East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean. However, the Allies gained the
upper hand from 1942 onward and in 1945 Allied armies invaded Germany from all sides. His
forces committed numerous atrocities during the war, including the systematic killing of as many
as 17 million civilians[3] including the genocide of an estimated six million Jews, known as the
During the final days of the war in 1945, Hitler married his long-time mistress Eva Braun. Less
than two days later, the two committed suicide.[4]

• 1 Early years
○ 1.1 Childhood
○ 1.2 Heritage
○ 1.3 Early adulthood in Vienna and Munich
○ 1.4 World War I
• 2 Entry into politics
○ 2.1 Beer Hall Putsch
○ 2.2 Mein Kampf
○ 2.3 Rebuilding of the party
• 3 Rise to power
○ 3.1 Brüning Administration
○ 3.2 Cabinets of Papen and Schleicher
○ 3.3 Appointment as Chancellor
○ 3.4 Reichstag fire and the March elections
○ 3.5 "Day of Potsdam" and the Enabling Act
○ 3.6 Removal of remaining limits
• 4 Third Reich
○ 4.1 Economy and culture
○ 4.2 Rearmament and new alliances
○ 4.3 The Holocaust
• 5 World War II
○ 5.1 Early diplomatic triumphs
 5.1.1 Alliance with Japan
 5.1.2 Austria and Czechoslovakia
○ 5.2 Start of the Second World War
○ 5.3 Path to defeat
○ 5.4 Defeat and death
• 6 Legacy
• 7 Religious beliefs
• 8 Health and sexuality
○ 8.1 Health
○ 8.2 Sexuality
• 9 Family
• 10 Hitler in media
○ 10.1 Oratory and rallies
○ 10.2 Recorded in private conversation
○ 10.3 Patria picture disc
○ 10.4 Documentaries during the Third Reich
○ 10.5 Television
○ 10.6 Documentaries post Third Reich
○ 10.7 Dramatizations
• 11 See also
• 12 Notes
• 13 References
• 14 External links

Early years

Adolf Hitler as an infant.

Adolf Hitler was born at the Gasthof zum Pommer, an inn in Braunau am Inn, Austria–Hungary,
the fourth of Alois and Klara Hitler's six children. Hitler was close to his mother, but had a
troubled relationship with his father, an authoritarian who frequently beat him. Years later, he
told his secretary: "I then resolved never again to cry when my father whipped me. A few days
later I had the opportunity of putting my will to the test. My mother, frightened, took refuge in
front of the door. As for me, I counted silently the blows of the stick which lashed my rear end."
He was a poor student, which he later attributed to rebellion against his father, who wanted his
son to follow in his footsteps as a customs official.
Hitler's father, Alois Hitler, was an illegitimate child. For the first 39 years of his life he bore his
mother's surname, Schicklgruber. [5]In 1876, he took the surname of his stepfather, Johann Georg
Hiedler. The name was spelled Hiedler, Huetler, Huettler and Hitler, and was probably
regularized to Hitler by a clerk. The origin of the name is either "one who lives in a hut"
(Standard German Hütte), "shepherd" (Standard German hüten "to guard", English heed), or is
from the Slavic word Hidlar and Hidlarcek. (Regarding the first two theories: some German
dialects make little or no distinction between the ü-sound and the i-sound.)[6]
Early adulthood in Vienna and Munich
From 1905 on, Hitler lived a bohemian life in Vienna on an orphan's pension and support from
his mother. He was rejected twice by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (1907–1908), citing
"unfitness for painting", and was told his abilities lay instead in the field of architecture.[7] His
memoirs reflect a fascination with the subject.
Hitler said he first became an anti-Semite in Vienna,[8] which had a large Jewish community,
including Orthodox Jews who had fled the pogroms in Russia. According to childhood friend
August Kubizek, however, Hitler was a "confirmed anti-Semite" before he left Linz, Austria.[8]
Vienna at that time was a hotbed of traditional religious prejudice and 19th century racism. Hitler
may have been influenced by the writings of the ideologist and anti-Semite Lanz von Liebenfels
and polemics from politicians such as Karl Lueger, founder of the Christian Social Party and
Mayor of Vienna, the composer Richard Wagner, and Georg Ritter von Schönerer, leader of the
pan-Germanic Away from Rome! movement. Hitler claims in Mein Kampf that his transition from
opposing antisemitism on religious grounds to supporting it on racial grounds came from having
seen an Orthodox Jew.
World War I
Hitler served in France and Belgium in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment (called Regiment
List after its first commander), ending the war as a Gefreiter (equivalent at the time to a lance
corporal in the British and private first class in the American armies). He was a runner, one of the
most dangerous jobs on the Western Front, and was often exposed to enemy fire.[9] He
participated in a number of major battles on the Western Front, including the First Battle of
Ypres, the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras and the Battle of Passchendaele.[10] The Battle
of Ypres (October 1914), which became known in Germany as the Kindermord bei Ypern
(Massacre of the Innocents) saw approximately 40,000 men (between a third and a half) of the
nine infantry divisions present killed in 20 days, and Hitler's own company of 250 reduced to 42
by December. Biographer John Keegan has said that this experience drove Hitler to become
aloof and withdrawn for the remaining years of war.[11]
Hitler was twice decorated for bravery. He received the Iron Cross, Second Class, in 1914 and
Iron Cross, First Class, in 1918, an honour rarely given to a Gefreiter.[12] However, because the
regimental staff thought Hitler lacked leadership skills, he was never promoted to Unteroffizier
(equivalent to a British corporal). Other historians say that the reason he was not promoted is that
he was not a German citizen. His duties at regimental headquarters, while often dangerous, gave
Hitler time to pursue his artwork. He drew cartoons and instructional drawings for an army
newspaper. In 1916, he was wounded in either the groin area[13] or the left thigh[14] during the
Battle of the Somme, but returned to the front in March 1917. He received the Wound Badge
later that year. Sebastian Haffner, referring to Hitler's experience at the front, suggests he did
have at least some understanding of the military.
On 15 October 1918, Hitler was admitted to a field hospital, temporarily blinded by a mustard
gas attack. The English psychologist David Lewis and Bernhard Horstmann suggest the
blindness may have been the result of a conversion disorder (then known as hysteria).[15] Hitler
said it was during this experience that he became convinced the purpose of his life was to "save
Germany." Some scholars, notably Lucy Dawidowicz,[16] argue that an intention to exterminate
Europe's Jews was fully formed in Hitler's mind at this time, though he probably had not thought
through how it could be done. Most historians think the decision was made in 1941, and some
think it came as late as 1942.
Two passages in Mein Kampf mention the use of poison gas:
At the beginning of the Great War, or even during the War, if twelve or fifteen thousand of these Jews
who were corrupting the nation had been forced to submit to poison-gas . . . then the millions of sacrifices
made at the front would not have been in vain.[17]
These tactics are based on an accurate estimation of human weakness and must lead to success, with
almost mathematical certainty, unless the other side also learns how to fight poison gas with poison gas.
The weaker natures must be told that here it is a case of to be or not to be.[8]
Hitler had long admired Germany, and during the war he had become a passionate German
patriot, although he did not become a German citizen until 1932. Hitler found the war to be 'the
greatest of all experiences' and afterwards he was praised by a number of his commanding
officers for his bravery.[18] He was shocked by Germany's capitulation in November 1918 even
while the German army still held enemy territory.[19] Like many other German nationalists, Hitler
believed in the Dolchstoßlegende ("dagger-stab legend") which claimed that the army,
"undefeated in the field," had been "stabbed in the back" by civilian leaders and Marxists back
on the home front. These politicians were later dubbed the November Criminals.
The Treaty of Versailles deprived Germany of various territories, demilitarised the Rhineland and
imposed other economically damaging sanctions. The treaty re-created Poland, which even
moderate Germans regarded as an outrage. The treaty also blamed Germany for all the horrors of
the war, something which major historians like John Keegan now consider at least in part to be
victor's justice: most European nations in the run-up to World War I had become increasingly
militarised and were eager to fight. The culpability of Germany was used as a basis to impose
reparations on Germany (the amount was repeatedly revised under the Dawes Plan, the Young
Plan, and the Hoover Moratorium). Germany in turn perceived the treaty and especially, Article
231 the paragraph on the German responsibility for the war as a humiliation. For example, there
was a nearly total demilitarisation of the armed forces, allowing Germany only six battleships, no
submarines, no air force, an army of 100,000 without conscription and no armoured vehicles.
The treaty was an important factor in both the social and political conditions encountered by
Hitler and his Nazis as they sought power. Hitler and his party used the signing of the treaty by
the "November Criminals" as a reason to build up Germany so that it could never happen again.
He also used the "November Criminals" as scapegoats, although at the Paris peace conference,
these politicians had had very little choice in the matter.
Entry into politics
Main article: Hitler's political beliefs

A copy of Adolf Hitler's forged German Workers' Party (DAP) membership card. His actual
membership number was 555 (the 55th member of the party—the 500 was added to make the
group appear larger) but later the number was reduced to create the impression that Hitler was
one of the founding members.[20] Hitler had wanted to create his own party, but was ordered by
his superiors in the Reichswehr to infiltrate an existing one instead.
After World War I, Hitler remained in the army and returned to Munich, where he—in contrast to
his later declarations—attended the funeral march for the murdered Bavarian prime minister Kurt
Eisner.[21] After the suppression of the Bavarian Soviet Republic, he took part in "national
thinking" courses organized by the Education and Propaganda Department (Dept Ib/P) of the
Bavarian Reichswehr Group, Headquarters 4 under Captain Karl Mayr. Scapegoats were found
in "international Jewry", communists, and politicians across the party spectrum, especially the
parties of the Weimar Coalition.
In July 1919, Hitler was appointed a Verbindungsmann (police spy) of an Aufklärungskommando
(Intelligence Commando) of the Reichswehr, both to influence other soldiers and to infiltrate a
small party, the German Workers' Party (DAP). During his inspection of the party, Hitler was
impressed with founder Anton Drexler's anti-semitic, nationalist, anti-capitalist and anti-Marxist
ideas, which favoured a strong active government, a "non-Jewish" version of socialism and
mutual solidarity of all members of society. Drexler was impressed with Hitler's oratory skills
and invited him to join as the party's 55th member.[22] He was also made the seventh member of
the executive committee.[23] Years later, he claimed to be the party's seventh overall member, but
it has been established that this claim is false.[24]
Here Hitler met Dietrich Eckart, one of the early founders of the party and member of the occult
Thule Society.[25] Eckart became Hitler's mentor, exchanging ideas with him, teaching him how
to dress and speak, and introducing him to a wide range of people. Hitler thanked Eckart by
paying tribute to him in the second volume of Mein Kampf. To increase the party's appeal, the
party changed its name to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or National
Socialist German Workers Party.
Hitler was discharged from the army in March 1920 and with his former superiors' continued
encouragement began participating full time in the party's activities. By early 1921, Hitler was
becoming highly effective at speaking in front of large crowds. In February, Hitler spoke before a
crowd of nearly six thousand in Munich. To publicize the meeting, he sent out two truckloads of
party supporters to drive around with swastikas, cause a commotion and throw out leaflets, their
first use of this tactic. Hitler gained notoriety outside of the party for his rowdy, polemic
speeches against the Treaty of Versailles, rival politicians (including monarchists, nationalists
and other non-internationalist socialists) and especially against Marxists and Jews.
The NSDAP[26] was centered in Munich, a hotbed of German nationalists who included Army
officers determined to crush Marxism and undermine the Weimar republic. Gradually they
noticed Hitler and his growing movement as a suitable vehicle for their goals. Hitler traveled to
Berlin to visit nationalist groups during the summer of 1921, and in his absence there was a
revolt among the DAP leadership in Munich.
The party was run by an executive committee whose original members considered Hitler to be
overbearing. They formed an alliance with a group of socialists from Augsburg. Hitler rushed
back to Munich and countered them by tendering his resignation from the party on 11 July 1921.
When they realized the loss of Hitler would effectively mean the end of the party, he seized the
moment and announced he would return on the condition that he replace Drexler as party
chairman, with unlimited powers. Infuriated committee members (including Drexler) held out at
first. Meanwhile an anonymous pamphlet appeared entitled Adolf Hitler: Is he a traitor?,
attacking Hitler's lust for power and criticizing the violent men around him. Hitler responded to
its publication in a Munich newspaper by suing for libel and later won a small settlement.
The executive committee of the NSDAP eventually backed down and Hitler's demands were put
to a vote of party members. Hitler received 543 votes for and only one against. At the next
gathering on 29 July 1921, Adolf Hitler was introduced as Führer of the National Socialist
German Workers' Party, marking the first time this title was publicly used.
Hitler's beer hall oratory, attacking Jews, social democrats, liberals, reactionary monarchists,
capitalists and communists, began attracting adherents. Early followers included Rudolf Hess,
the former air force pilot Hermann Göring, and the army captain Ernst Röhm, who eventually
became head of the Nazis' paramilitary organization, the SA (Sturmabteilung, or "Storm
Division"), which protected meetings and attacked political opponents. As well, Hitler
assimilated independent groups, such as the Nuremberg-based Deutsche Werkgemeinschaft, led
by Julius Streicher, who became Gauleiter of Franconia. Hitler attracted the attention of local
business interests, was accepted into influential circles of Munich society, and became associated
with wartime General Erich Ludendorff during this time.

Drawing of Hitler, 1923

Beer Hall Putsch
Main article: Beer Hall Putsch
Encouraged by this early support, Hitler decided to use Ludendorff as a front in an attempted
coup later known as the Beer Hall Putsch (sometimes as the Hitler Putsch or Munich Putsch).
The Nazi Party had copied Italy's fascists in appearance and had adopted some of their policies,
and in 1923, Hitler wanted to emulate Benito Mussolini's "March on Rome" by staging his own
"Campaign in Berlin". Hitler and Ludendorff obtained the clandestine support of Gustav von
Kahr, Bavaria's de facto ruler, along with leading figures in the Reichswehr and the police. As
political posters show, Ludendorff, Hitler and the heads of the Bavarian police and military
planned on forming a new government.
On 8 November 1923, Hitler and the SA stormed a public meeting headed by Kahr in the
Bürgerbräukeller, a large beer hall in Munich. He declared that he had set up a new government
with Ludendorff and demanded, at gunpoint, the support of Kahr and the local military
establishment for the destruction of the Berlin government.[27] Kahr withdrew his support and
fled to join the opposition to Hitler at the first opportunity.[28] The next day, when Hitler and his
followers marched from the beer hall to the Bavarian War Ministry to overthrow the Bavarian
government as a start to their "March on Berlin", the police dispersed them. Sixteen NSDAP
members were killed.[29]
Hitler fled to the home of Ernst Hanfstaengl and contemplated suicide. He was soon arrested for
high treason. Alfred Rosenberg became temporary leader of the party. During Hitler's trial, he
was given almost unlimited time to speak, and his popularity soared as he voiced nationalistic
sentiments in his defence speech. A Munich personality became a nationally known figure. On 1
April 1924, Hitler was sentenced to five years' imprisonment at Landsberg Prison. Hitler
received favoured treatment from the guards and had much fan mail from admirers. He was
pardoned and released from jail on 20 December 1924, by order of the Bavarian Supreme Court
on 19 December, which issued its final rejection of the state prosecutor's objections to Hitler's
early release.[30] Including time on remand, he had served little more than one year of his
On 28 June 1925, Hitler wrote a letter from Uffing to the editor of The Nation in New York City
stating how long he had been in prison at "Sandberg a. S." [sic] and how much his privileges had
been revoked.[32]
Mein Kampf
Main article: Mein Kampf

Mein Kampf
While at Landsberg he 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.[31] The book, dedicated to Thule Society member Dietrich Eckart, was an
autobiography and an exposition of his ideology. It was published in two volumes in 1925 and
1926, selling about 240,000 copies between 1925 and 1934. By the end of the war, about
10 million copies had been sold or distributed (newlyweds and soldiers received free copies).
Hitler spent years dodging taxes on the royalties of his book and had accumulated a tax debt of
about 405,500 Reichsmarks (€6 million in today's money) by the time he became chancellor (at
which time his debt was waived).[33][34]
The copyright of Mein Kampf in Europe is claimed by the Free State of Bavaria and scheduled to
end on 31 December 2015. Reproductions in Germany are authorized only for scholarly purposes
and in heavily commented form. The situation is, however, unclear. Historian Werner Maser, in
an interview with Bild am Sonntag has stated that Peter Raubal, son of Hitler's nephew, Leo
Raubal, would have a strong legal case for winning the copyright from Bavaria if he pursued it.
Raubal has stated he wants no part of the rights to the book, which could be worth millions of
euros.[35] The uncertain status has led to contested trials in Poland and Sweden. Mein Kampf,
however, is published in the U.S., as well as in other countries such as Turkey and Israel, by
publishers with various political positions.
Rebuilding of the party

Adolf Hitler (left), standing up behind Hermann Göring at a Nazi rally in Nuremberg, 1928.
At the time of Hitler's release, the political situation in Germany had calmed and the economy
had improved, which hampered Hitler's opportunities for agitation. Though the Hitler Putsch had
given Hitler some national prominence, his party's mainstay was still Munich.
The NSDAP and its organs were banned in Bavaria after the collapse of the putsch. Hitler
convinced Heinrich Held, Prime Minister of Bavaria, to lift the ban, based on representations that
the party would now only seek political power through legal means. Even though the ban on the
NSDAP was removed effective 16 February 1925,[36] Hitler incurred a new ban on public
speaking as a result of an inflammatory speech. Since Hitler was banned from public speeches,
he appointed Gregor Strasser, who in 1924 had been elected to the Reichstag, as
Reichsorganisationsleiter, authorizing him to organize the party in northern Germany. Strasser,
joined by his younger brother Otto and Joseph Goebbels, steered an increasingly independent
course, emphasizing the socialist element in the party's programme. The Arbeitsgemeinschaft der
Gauleiter Nord-West became an internal opposition, threatening Hitler's authority, but this
faction was defeated at the Bamberg Conference in 1926, during which Goebbels joined Hitler.
After this encounter, Hitler centralized the party even more and asserted the Führerprinzip
("Leader principle") as the basic principle of party organization. Leaders were not elected by
their group but were rather appointed by their superior and were answerable to them while
demanding unquestioning obedience from their inferiors. Consistent with Hitler's disdain for
democracy, all power and authority devolved from the top down.
A key element of Hitler's appeal was his ability to evoke a sense of offended national pride
caused by the Treaty of Versailles imposed on the defeated German Empire by the Western
Allies. Germany had lost economically important territory in Europe along with its colonies and
in admitting to sole responsibility for the war had agreed to pay a huge reparations bill totaling
132 billion marks. Most Germans bitterly resented these terms, but early Nazi attempts to gain
support by blaming these humiliations on "international Jewry" were not particularly successful
with the electorate. The party learned quickly, and soon a more subtle propaganda emerged,
combining antisemitism with an attack on the failures of the "Weimar system" and the parties
supporting it.
Having failed in overthrowing the Republic by a coup, Hitler pursued a "strategy of legality":
this meant formally adhering to the rules of the Weimar Republic until he had legally gained
power. He would then use the institutions of the Weimar Republic to destroy it and establish
himself as dictator. Some party members, especially in the paramilitary SA, opposed this
strategy; Röhm and others ridiculed Hitler as "Adolphe Legalité".
Rise to power
Main article: Hitler's rise to power

Nazi Party Election Results

Date Votes Percentage Background
in Reichstag

May 1924 1,918,300 6.5 32 Hitler in prison

907,300 3.0 14 Hitler is released from prison

May 1928 810,100 2.6 12

6,409,600 18.3 107 After the financial crisis

13,745,80 After Hitler was candidate for

July 1932 37.4 230
0 presidency

11,737,000 33.1 196

17,277,00 During Hitler's term as Chancellor of

March 1933 43.9 288
0 Germany
Brüning Administration
An NSDAP meeting in December, 1930, with Hitler in the centre
The political turning point for Hitler came when the Great Depression hit Germany in 1930. The
Weimar Republic had never been firmly rooted and was openly opposed by right-wing
conservatives (including monarchists), communists and the Nazis. As the parties loyal to the
democratic, parliamentary republic found themselves unable to agree on counter-measures, their
Grand Coalition broke up and was replaced by a minority cabinet. The new Chancellor, Heinrich
Brüning of the Roman Catholic Centre Party, lacking a majority in parliament, had to implement
his measures through the president's emergency decrees. Tolerated by the majority of parties, this
rule by decree would become the norm over a series of unworkable parliaments and paved the
way for authoritarian forms of government.[37]
The Reichstag's initial opposition to Brüning's measures led to premature elections in September
1930. The republican parties lost their majority and their ability to resume the Grand Coalition,
while the Nazis suddenly rose from relative obscurity to win 18.3% of the vote along with 107
seats. In the process, they jumped from the ninth-smallest party in the chamber to the second
In September–October 1930, Hitler appeared as a major defence witness at the trial in Leipzig of
two junior Reichswehr officers charged with membership of the Nazi Party, which at that time
was forbidden to Reichswehr personnel.[39] The two officers, Leutnants Richard Scheringer and
Hans Ludin admitted quite openly to Nazi Party membership, and used as their defence that the
Nazi Party membership should not be forbidden to those serving in the Reichswehr.[40] When the
Prosecution argued that the Nazi Party was a dangerous revolutionary force, one of the defence
lawyers, Hans Frank had Hitler brought to the stand to prove that the Nazi Party was a law-
abiding party.[40] During his testimony, Hitler insisted that his party was determined to come to
power legally, that the phrase "National Revolution" was only to be interpreted "politically", and
that his Party was a friend, not an enemy of the Reichswehr.[41] Hitler's testimony of 25
September 1930 won him many admirers within the ranks of the officer corps.[42]
Brüning's measures of budget consolidation and financial austerity brought little economic
improvement and were extremely unpopular.[43] Under these circumstances, Hitler appealed to
the bulk of German farmers, war veterans and the middle class, who had been hard-hit by both
the inflation of the 1920s and the unemployment of the Depression.[44] In September 1931,
Hitler's niece Geli Raubal was found dead in her bedroom in his Munich apartment (his half-
sister Angela and her daughter Geli had been with him in Munich since 1929), an apparent
suicide. Geli, who was believed to be in some sort of romantic relationship with Hitler, was 19
years younger than he was and had used his gun. His niece's death is viewed as a source of deep,
lasting pain for him.[45]
In 1932, Hitler intended to run against the aging President Paul von Hindenburg in the scheduled
presidential elections. His January 27, 1932 speech to the Industry Club in Düsseldorf won him,
for the first time, support from a broad swath of Germany's most powerful industrialists.[46]
Though Hitler had left Austria in 1913, he still had not acquired German citizenship and hence
could not run for public office. In February, however, the state government of Brunswick, in
which the Nazi Party participated, appointed Hitler to a minor administrative post and therby
made him a citizen of Brunswick on 25 February 1932.[47] In those days, the states conferred
citizenship, so this automatically made Hitler a citizen of Germany and thus eligible to run for
The new German citizen ran against Hindenburg, who was supported by a broad range of
reactionary nationalist, monarchist, Catholic, republican and even social democratic parties.
Another candidate was a Communist and member of a fringe right-wing party. Hitler's campaign
was called "Hitler über Deutschland" (Hitler over Germany).[49] The name had a double
meaning; besides a reference to his dictatorial ambitions, it referred to the fact that he
campaigned by aircraft.[49] This was a brand new political tactic that allowed Hitler to speak in
two cities in one day, which was practically unheard of at the time.[citation needed] Hitler came in
second on both rounds, attaining more than 35% of the vote during the second one in April.
Although he lost to Hindenburg, the election established Hitler as a realistic alternative in
German politics.[50]
Cabinets of Papen and Schleicher
This section does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article
by adding citations to reliable sources. Unverifiable material may be challenged and
removed. (April 2009)
Hindenburg, influenced by the Camarilla, became increasingly estranged from Brüning and
pushed his Chancellor to move the government in a decidedly authoritarian and right-wing
direction. This culminated, in May 1932, with the resignation of the Brüning cabinet.
Hindenburg appointed the nobleman Franz von Papen as Chancellor, heading a "Cabinet of
Barons". Papen was bent on authoritarian rule and, since in the Reichstag only the conservative
German National People's Party (DNVP) supported his administration, he immediately called for
new elections in July. In these elections, the Nazis achieved their biggest success yet and won
230 seats, becoming the largest party in the Reichstag.
Knowing that it was not possible to form a stable government without Nazi support, Papen tried
to persuade Hitler to become Vice-Chancellor and enter a new government with a parliamentary
basis. Hitler, however, would settle for nothing less than the chancellorship. He put further
pressure on Papen by entertaining parallel negotiations with the Centre Party, Papen's former
party, which was bent on bringing down the renegade Papen. In both negotiations, Hitler
demanded that he, as leader of the strongest party, must be Chancellor, but Hindenburg
consistently refused to appoint the "Bohemian lance corporal" to the chancellorship.
After a vote of no-confidence in the Papen government, supported by 84% of the deputies, the
new Reichstag was dissolved, and new elections were called in November. This time, the Nazis
lost some seats but still remained the largest party in the Reichstag, with 33.1% of the vote.
After Papen failed to secure a majority, he proposed to dissolve the parliament again along with
an indefinite postponement of elections. Hindenburg at first accepted this, but after General Kurt
von Schleicher and the military withdrew their support, Hindenburg instead dismissed Papen and
appointed Schleicher, who promised he could secure a majority government by negotiations with
the Social Democrats, the trade unions, and dissidents from the Nazi Party under Gregor Strasser.
In January 1933, however, Schleicher had to admit failure in these efforts and asked Hindenburg
for emergency powers along with the same postponement of elections that he had opposed
earlier, to which the president reacted by dismissing Schleicher.
Appointment as Chancellor
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Meanwhile, Papen tried to get his revenge on Schleicher by working toward the General's
downfall, through forming an intrigue with the camarilla and Alfred Hugenberg, media mogul
and chairman of the DNVP. Also involved were Hjalmar Schacht, Fritz Thyssen and other
leading German businessmen. They financially supported the Nazi Party, which had been
brought to the brink of bankruptcy by the cost of heavy campaigning. The businessmen wrote
letters to Hindenburg, urging him to appoint Hitler as leader of a government "independent from
parliamentary parties" which could turn into a movement that would "enrapture millions of

Adolf Hitler, at a window of the Reich's Chancellory, receives an ovation from supporters in his
first day in office as Chancellor. (January 30, 1933)
Finally, the president reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler Chancellor of a coalition government
formed by the NSDAP and DNVP. However, the Nazis were to be contained by a framework of
conservative cabinet ministers, most notably by Papen as Vice-Chancellor and by Hugenberg as
Minister of the Economy. The only other Nazi besides Hitler to get a portfolio was Wilhelm
Frick, who was given the relatively powerless interior ministry (in Germany at the time, most
powers wielded by the interior minister in other countries were held by the interior ministers of
the states). As a concession to the Nazis, Göring was named minister without portfolio. While
Papen intended to use Hitler as a figurehead, the Nazis gained key positions. For instance, as part
of the deal in which Hitler became Chancellor, Göring was named interior minister of Prussia—
giving him command of the largest police force in Germany.[citation needed]
On the morning of 30 January 1933, in Hindenburg's office, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as
Chancellor during what some observers later described as a brief and simple ceremony. His first
speech as Chancellor took place on February 10. The Nazis' seizure of power subsequently
became known as the Machtergreifung. Hitler established the Reichssicherheitsdienst as his
personal bodyguards.[citation needed]
Reichstag fire and the March elections
Having become Chancellor, Hitler foiled all attempts by his opponents to gain a majority in
parliament. Because no single party could gain a majority, Hitler persuaded President
Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag again. Elections were scheduled for early March, but on 27
February 1933, the Reichstag building was set on fire.[52] Since a Dutch independent communist
was found in the building, the fire was blamed on a communist plot. The government reacted
with the Reichstag Fire Decree of 28 February which suspended basic rights, including habeas
corpus. Under the provisions of this decree, the German Communist Party (KPD) and other
groups were suppressed, and Communist functionaries and deputies were arrested, put to flight,
or murdered.
Campaigning continued, with the Nazis making use of paramilitary violence, anti-communist
hysteria, and the government's resources for propaganda. On election day, 6 March, the NSDAP
increased its result to 43.9% of the vote, remaining the largest party, but its victory was marred
by its failure to secure an absolute majority, necessitating maintaining a coalition with the

Parade of SA troops past Hitler - Nuremberg, November 1935

"Day of Potsdam" and the Enabling Act
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On 21 March, the new Reichstag was constituted with an opening ceremony held at Potsdam's
garrison church. This "Day of Potsdam" was staged to demonstrate reconciliation and unity
between the revolutionary Nazi movement and "Old Prussia" with its elites and virtues. Hitler
appeared in a tail coat and humbly greeted the aged President Hindenburg.
Because of the Nazis' failure to obtain a majority on their own, Hitler's government confronted
the newly elected Reichstag with the Enabling Act that would have vested the cabinet with
legislative powers for a period of four years. Though such a bill was not unprecedented, this act
was different since it allowed for deviations from the constitution. Since the bill required a ⅔
majority in order to pass, the government needed the support of other parties. The position of the
Centre Party, the third largest party in the Reichstag, turned out to be decisive: under the
leadership of Ludwig Kaas, the party decided to vote for the Enabling Act. It did so in return for
the government's oral guarantees regarding the Church's liberty, the concordats signed by
German states and the continued existence of the Centre Party.
On 23 March, the Reichstag assembled in a replacement building under extremely turbulent
circumstances. Some SA men served as guards within while large groups outside the building
shouted slogans and threats toward the arriving deputies. Kaas announced that the Centre Party
would support the bill with "concerns put aside," while Social Democrat Otto Wels denounced
the act in his speech. At the end of the day, all parties except the Social Democrats voted in
favour of the bill. The Communists, as well as some Social Democrats, were barred from
attending. The Enabling Act, combined with the Reichstag Fire Decree, transformed Hitler's
government into a legal dictatorship.
Removal of remaining limits
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With this combination of legislative and executive power, Hitler's government further suppressed
the remaining political opposition. The Communist Party of Germany and the Social Democratic
Party (SPD) were banned, while all other political parties were forced to dissolve themselves.
Finally, on 14 July, the Nazi Party was declared the only legal party in Germany. Labour unions
were merged with employers' federations into an organisation under Nazi control, and the
traditional autonomy of German state governments was abolished.[citation needed]
Hitler used the SA paramilitary to push Hugenberg into resigning, and proceeded to politically
isolate Vice-Chancellor Papen. Because the SA's demands for political and military power
caused much anxiety among military leaders, Hitler used allegations of a plot by the SA leader
Ernst Röhm to purge the SA's leadership during the Night of the Long Knives. As well,
opponents unconnected with the SA were murdered, notably Gregor Strasser and former
Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher.[54]
President Paul von Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934. Rather than holding new presidential
elections, Hitler's cabinet passed a law proclaiming the presidency dormant and transferred the
role and powers of the head of state to Hitler as Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and
chancellor). As head of state, Hitler now became supreme commander of the armed forces. When
it came time for the soldiers and sailors to swear the traditional loyalty oath, it had been altered
into an oath of personal loyalty to Hitler.[55] In a mid-August plebiscite, these acts found the
approval of 84.6% of the electorate.[56] This action technically violated both the constitution and
the Enabling Act. The constitution had been amended in 1932 to make the president of the High
Court of Justice, not the chancellor, acting president until new elections could be held. The
Enabling Act specifically barred Hitler from taking any action that tampered with the presidency.
However, no one dared object. With this action, Hitler effectively eliminated the last remedy by
which he could be legally dismissed—and with it, all checks and balances on his power.[citation

In 1938, Hitler forced the resignation of his War Minister (formerly Defense Minister), Werner
von Blomberg, after evidence surfaced that Blomberg's new wife had a criminal past. Prior to
removing Blomberg, Hitler and his clique removed Fritsch whom they denounced as a
homosexual (John Toland: Adolf Hitler). Hitler replaced the Ministry of War with the
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (High Command of the Armed Forces, or OKW), headed by
General Wilhelm Keitel. More importantly, Hitler announced he was assuming personal
command of the armed forces. He took over Blomberg's other old post, that of Commander-in-
chief of the Armed Forces, for himself. He was already Supreme Commander by virtue of
holding the powers of the president. The next day, the newspapers announced, "Strongest
concentration of powers in Führer's hands!" In effect, Hitler had neutered the last group that was
still strong enough to overthrow him.[citation needed]
Third Reich
Main article: Nazi Germany
Having secured supreme political power, Hitler went on to gain public support by convincing
most Germans he was their savior from the economic Depression, the Versailles treaty,
communism, the "Judeo-Bolsheviks", and other "undesirable" minorities. The Nazis eliminated
opposition through a process known as Gleichschaltung ("bringing into line").
Economy and culture
Hitler oversaw one of the greatest expansions of industrial production and civil improvement
Germany had ever seen, mostly based on debt flotation and expansion of the military. Nazi
policies toward women strongly encouraged them to stay at home to bear children and keep
house. In a September 1934 speech to the National Socialist Women's Organization, Adolf Hitler
argued that for the German woman her "world is her husband, her family, her children, and her
home." This policy was reinforced by bestowing the Cross of Honor of the German Mother on
women bearing four or more babies. The unemployment rate was cut substantially, mostly
through arms production and sending women home so that men could take their jobs. Given this,
claims that the German economy achieved near full employment are at least partly artifacts of
propaganda from the era. Much of the financing for Hitler's reconstruction and rearmament came
from currency manipulation by Hjalmar Schacht, including the clouded credits through the Mefo

1934 Nuremberg rally

Hitler oversaw one of the largest infrastructure-improvement campaigns in German history, with
the construction of dozens of dams, autobahns, railroads, and other civil works. Hitler's policies
emphasised the importance of family life: men were the "breadwinners", while women's
priorities were to lie in bringing up children and in household work. This revitalising of industry
and infrastructure came at the expense of the overall standard of living, at least for those not
affected by the chronic unemployment of the later Weimar Republic, since wages were slightly
reduced in pre-World War II years, despite a 25% increase in the cost of living.[57] Laborers and
farmers, the traditional voters of the NSDAP, however, saw an increase in their standard of
Hitler's government sponsored architecture on an immense scale, with Albert Speer becoming
famous as the first architect of the Reich. While important as an architect in implementing
Hitler's classicist reinterpretation of German culture, Speer proved much more effective as
armaments minister during the last years of World War II. In 1936, Berlin hosted the summer
Olympic games, which were opened by Hitler and choreographed to demonstrate Aryan
superiority over all other races, achieving mixed results.
Although Hitler made plans for a Breitspurbahn (broad gauge railroad network), they were
preempted by World War II. Had the railroad been built, its gauge would have been three metres,
even wider than the old Great Western Railway of Britain.
Hitler contributed slightly to the design of the car that later became the Volkswagen Beetle and
charged Ferdinand Porsche with its design and construction.[58] Production was deferred because
of the war.
Hitler considered Sparta to be the first National Socialist state, and praised its early eugenics
treatment of deformed children.[59]
An important historical debate about Hitler’s economic policies concerns the “modernization”
debate. Historians such as David Schoenbaum and Henry Ashby Turner have argued that social
and economic polices under Hitler were modernization carried out in pursuit of anti-modern
goals.[60] Other group of historians centered around Rainer Zitelmann have contended that Hitler
had a delibrate strategy of pursuing a revolutionary modernization of German society.[61]
Rearmament and new alliances
Main articles: Axis Powers, Tripartite Treaty, and German re-armament

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during Hitler's visit to Venice from 14–16 June 1934.
In a meeting with his leading generals and admirals on 3 February 1933 Hitler spoke of
"conquest of Lebensraum in the East and its ruthless Germanisation" as his ultimate foreign
policy objectives.[62] In March 1933, the first major statement of German foreign policy aims
appeared with the memo submitted to the German Cabinet by the State Secretary at the
Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office), Prince Bernhard von Bülow (not to be confused with his more
famous uncle, the former Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow), which advocated Anschluss with
Austria, the restoration of the frontiers of 1914, the rejection of the Part V of Versailles, the
return of the former German colonies in Africa, and a German zone of influence in Eastern
Europe as goals for the future. Hitler found the goals in Bülow's memo to be too modest.[63] In
March 1933, to resolve the deadlock between the French demand for sécurité (“security”) and
the German demand for gleichberechtigung (“equality of armaments”) at the World
Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, the British Prime Minister Ramsay
MacDonald presented the compromise “MacDonald Plan”. Hitler endorsed the “MacDonald
Plan”, correctly guessing that nothing would come of it, and that in the interval he could win
some goodwill in London by making his government appear moderate, and the French
In May 1933, Hitler met with Herbert von Dirksen, the German Ambassador in Moscow. Dirksen
advised the Führer that he was allowing relations with the Soviet Union to deteriorate to a
unacceptable extent, and advised to take immediate steps to repair relations with the Soviets.[65]
Much to Dirksen's intense disappointment, Hitler informed that he wished for an anti-Soviet
understanding with Poland, which Dirksen protested implied recognition of the German-Polish
border, leading Hitler to state he was after much greater things than merely overturning the
Treaty of Versailles.[66]
In June 1933, Hitler was forced to disavow Alfred Hugenberg of the German National People's
Party, who while attending the London World Economic Conference put forth a programme of
colonial expansion in both Africa and Eastern Europe, which created a major storm abroad.[67]
Speaking to the Burgermeister of Hamburg in 1933, Hitler commented that Germany required
several years of peace before she could be sufficiently rearmed enough to risk a war, and until
then a policy of caution was called for.[68] In his "peace speeches" of 17 May 1933; 21 May 1935
and 7 March 1936 Hitler stressed his supposed pacific goals and a willingness to work within the
international system.[69] In private, Hitler's plans were something less than pacific. At the first
meeting of his Cabinet in 1933, Hitler placed military spending ahead of unemployment relief,
and indeed was only prepared to spend money on the latter if the former was satisfied first.[70]
When the president of the Reichsbank, the former Chancellor Dr. Hans Luther, offered the new
government the legal limit of 100 million Reichmarks to finance rearmament, Hitler found the
sum too low, and sacked Luther in March 1933 to replace him with Hjalmar Schacht, who during
the next five years was to advance 12 billion Reichmarks worth of "Mefo-bills" to pay for
A major initiative in Hitler's foreign policy in his early years was to create an alliance with
Britain. In the 1920s, Hitler wrote that a future National Socialist foreign policy goal was "the
destruction of Russia with the help of England."[72] In May 1933, Alfred Rosenberg in his
capacity as head of the Nazi Party's Aussenpolitisches Amt (Foreign Political Office) visited
London as part of a disastrous effort to win an alliance with Britain.[73] In October 1933, Hitler
pulled Germany out of both the League of Nations and World Disarmament Conference after his
Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath made it appear to world public opinion that the
French demand for sécurité was the principal stumbling block.[74]
In line with the views he advocated in Mein Kampf and Zweites Buch about the necessity of
building an Anglo-German alliance, Hitler, in a meeting in November 1933 with the British
Ambassador, Sir Eric Phipps, offered a scheme in which Britain would support a 300,000-strong
German Army in exchange for a German “guarantee” of the British Empire.[75] In response, the
British stated a ten-year waiting period would be necessary before Britain would support an
increase in the size of the German Army.[75] A more successful initiative in foreign policy
occurred with relations with Poland. In spite of intense opposition from the military and the
Auswärtiges Amt who preferred closer ties with the Soviet Union, Hitler, in the fall of 1933
opened secret talks with Poland that were to lead to the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact of
January 1934.[74]
In February 1934, Hitler met with the British Lord Privy Seal, Sir Anthony Eden, and hinted
strongly that Germany already possessed an Air Force, which had been forbidden by the Treaty
of Versailles.[76] In the fall of 1934, Hitler was seriously concerned over the dangers of inflation
damaging his popularity.[77] In a secret speech given before his Cabinet on 5 November 1934,
Hitler stated he had "given the working class his word that he would allow no price increases.
Wage-earners would accuse him of breaking his word if he did not act against the rising prices.
Revolutionary conditions among the people would be the further consequence."[77]
Although a secret German armaments programme had been on-going since 1919, in March 1935,
Hitler rejected Part V of the Versailles treaty by publicly announcing that the German army
would be expanded to 600,000 men (six times the number stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles),
introducing an Air Force (Luftwaffe) and increasing the size of the Navy (Kriegsmarine). Britain,
France, Italy and the League of Nations quickly condemned these actions. However, after re-
assurances from Hitler that Germany was only interested in peace, no country took any action to
stop this development and German re-armament continued. Later in March 1935, Hitler held a
series of meetings in Berlin with the British Foreign Secretary Sir John Simon and Eden, during
which he successfully evaded British offers for German participation in a regional security pact
meant to serve as an Eastern European equivalent of the Locarno pact while the two British
ministers avoided taking up Hitler's offers of alliance.[78] During his talks with Simon and Eden,
Hitler first used what he regarded as the brilliant colonial negotiating tactic, when Hitler parlayed
an offer from Simon to return to the League of Nations by demanding the return of the former
German colonies in Africa.[79]
Starting in April 1935, disenchantment with how the Third Reich had developed in practice as
opposed to what been promised led many in the Nazi Party, especially the Alte Kämpfer (Old
Fighters; i.e., those who joined the Party before 1930, and who tended to be the most ardent anti-
Semitics in the Party), and the SA into lashing out against Germany's Jewish minority as a way
of expressing their frustrations against a group that the authorities would not generally protect.[80]
The rank and file of the Party were most unhappy that two years into the Third Reich, and
despite countless promises by Hitler prior to 1933, no law had been passed banning marriage or
sex between those Germans belonging to the “Aryan” and Jewish “races”. A Gestapo report from
the spring of 1935 stated that the rank and file of the Nazi Party would "set in motion by us from
below," a solution to the "Jewish problem," "that the government would then have to follow."[81]
As a result, Nazi Party activists and the SA started a major wave of assaults, vandalism and
boycotts against German Jews.[82]
On 18 June 1935, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement (A.G.N.A.) was signed in London which
allowed for increasing the allowed German tonnage up to 35% of that of the British navy. Hitler
called the signing of the A.G.N.A. "the happiest day of his life" as he believed the agreement
marked the beginning of the Anglo-German alliance he had predicted in Mein Kampf.[83] This
agreement was made without consulting either France or Italy, directly undermined the League
of Nations and put the Treaty of Versailles on the path towards irrelevance.[84] After the signing of
the A.G.N.A., in June 1935 Hitler ordered the next step in the creation of an Anglo-German
alliance: taking all the societies demanding the restoration of the former German African
colonies and coordinating (Gleichschaltung) them into a new Reich Colonial League
(Reichskolonialbund) which over the next few years waged an extremely aggressive propaganda
campaign for colonial restoration.[85] Hitler had no real interest in the former German African
colonies. In Mein Kampf, Hitler had excoriated the Imperial German government for pursuing
colonial expansion in Africa prior to 1914 on the grounds that the natural area for Lebensraum
was Eastern Europe, not Africa.[86] It was Hitler’s intention to use colonial demands as a
negotiating tactic that would see a German “renunciation” of colonial claims in exchange for
Britain making an alliance with the Reich on German terms.[87]
In the summer of 1935, Hitler was informed that, between inflation and the need to use foreign
exchange to buy raw materials Germany lacked for rearmament, there were only 5 million
Reichmarks available for military expenditure, and a pressing need for some 300,000
Reichmarks/day to prevent food shortages.[88] In August 1935, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht advised
Hitler that the wave of anti-Semitic violence was interfering with the workings of the economy,
and hence rearmament.[89] Following Dr. Schacht’s complaints, plus reports that the German
public did not approve of the wave of anti-Semitic violence, and that continuing police toleration
of the violence was hurting the regime's popularity with the wider public, Hitler ordered a stop to
"individual actions" against German Jews on 8 August 1935.[89] From Hitler's perspective, it was
imperative to bring in harsh new anti-Semitic laws as a consolation prize for those Party
members who were disappointed with Hitler's halt order of 8 August, especially because Hitler
had only reluctantly given the halt order for pragmatic reasons, and his symapthies were with the
Party radicals.[89] The annual Nazi Party Rally held at Nuremberg in September 1935 was to
feature the first session of the Reichstag held at that city since 1543. Hitler had planned to have
the Reichstag pass a law making the Nazi Swastika flag the flag of the German Reich, and a
major speech in support of the impending Italian aggression against Ethiopia.[90] Hitler felt that
the Italian aggression opened great opportunities for Germany. In August 1935, Hitler told
Goebbels his foreign policy vision as: "With England eternal alliance. Good relationship with
Poland . . . Expansion to the East. The Baltic belongs to us . . . Conflicts Italy-Abyssinia-
England, then Japan-Russia imminent."[91]
At the last minute before the Nuremberg Party Rally was due to begin, the German Foreign
Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath persuaded Hitler to cancel his speech praising Italy for
her willingness to commit aggression. Neurath convinced Hitler that his speech was too
provocative to public opinion abroad as it contradicted the message of Hitler’s “peace speeches”,
thus leaving Hitler with the sudden need to have something else to address the first meeting of
the Reichstag in Nuremberg since 1543, other than the Reich Flag Law.[92] On 13 September
1935, Hitler hurriedly ordered two civil servants, Dr. Bernhard Lösener and Franz Albrecht
Medicus of the Interior Ministry to fly to Nuremberg to start drafting anti-Semitic laws for Hitler
to present to the Reichstag for 15 September.[90] On the evening of 15 September, Hitler
presented two laws before the Reichstag banning sex and marriage between “Aryan” and Jewish
Germans, the employment of “Aryan” woman under the age of 45 in Jewish households, and
deprived “non-Aryans” of the benefits of German citizenship.[93] The laws of September 1935 are
generally known as the Nuremberg Laws.
In October 1935, in order to prevent further food shortages and the introduction of rationing,
Hitler reluctantly ordered cuts in military spending[94] In the spring of 1936 in response to
requests from Richard Walther Darré, Hitler ordered 60 million Reichmarks of foreign exchange
to be used to buy seed oil for German farmers, a decision that led to bitter complaints from Dr.
Schacht and the War Minister Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg that it would be impossible to
achieve rearmament as long as foreign exchange was diverted to preventing food shortages[91]
Given the economic problems which was affecting his popularity by early 1936, Hitler felt the
pressing need for a foreign policy triumph as a way of distracting public attention from the
In an interview with the French journalist Bertrand de Jouvenel in February 1936, Hitler
appeared to disavow Mein Kampf by saying that parts of his book were now out of date and he
was not guided by them, though precisely which parts were out of date was left unclear.[95] In
March 1936, Hitler again violated the Versailles treaty by reoccupying the demilitarized zone in
the Rhineland. When Britain and France did nothing, he grew bolder. In July 1936, the Spanish
Civil War began when the military, led by General Francisco Franco, rebelled against the elected
Popular Front government. After receiving an appeal for help from General Franco in July 1936,
Hitler sent troops to support Franco, and Spain served as a testing ground for Germany's new
forces and their methods. At the same time, Hitler continued with his efforts to create an Anglo-
German alliance. In July 1936, he offered to Phipps a promise that if Britain were to sign an
alliance with the Reich, then Germany would commit to sending twelve divisions to the Far East
to protect British colonial possessions there from a Japanese attack.[96] Hitler's offer was refused.
In August 1936, in response to a growing crisis in the German economy caused by the strains of
rearmament, Hitler issued the "Four-Year Plan Memorandum" ordering Hermann Göring to carry
out the Four Year Plan to have the German economy ready for war within the next four years.[97]
During the 1936 economic crisis, the German government was divided into two factions, with
one (the so-called "free market" faction) centering around the Reichsbank President Hjalmar
Schacht and the former Price Commissioner Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler calling for decreased
military spending and a turn away from autarkic policies, and another faction around Göring
calling for the opposite. Supporting the "free-market" faction were some of Germany's leading
business executives, most notably Hermann Duecher of AEG, Robert Bosch of Robert Bosch
GmbH, and Albert Voegeler of Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG.[98] Hitler hesitated for the first half of
1936 before siding with the more radical faction in his "Four Year Plan" memo of August.[99]
Historians such as Richard Overy have argued that the importance of the memo, which was
written personally by Hitler, can be gauged by the fact that Hitler, who had something of a
phobia about writing, hardly ever wrote anything down, which indicates that Hitler had
something especially important to say.[100] The "Four-Year Plan Memorandum" predicated an
imminent all-out, apocalyptic struggle between "Judo-Bolshevism" and German National
Socialism, which necessitated a total effort at rearmament regardless of the economic costs.[101] In
the memo, Hitler wrote:
Since the outbreak of the French Revolution, the world has been moving with ever increasing speed
toward a new conflict, the most extreme solution of which is called Bolshevism, whose essence and aim,
however, are solely the elimination of those strata of mankind which have hitherto provided the
leadership and their replacement by worldwide Jewry. No state will be able to withdraw or even remain at
a distance from this historical conflict . . . It is not the aim of this memorandum to prophesy the time
when the untenable situation in Europe will become an open crisis. I only want, in these lines, to set down
my conviction that this crisis cannot and will not fail to arrive and that it is Germany's duty to secure her
own existence by every means in face of this catastrophe, and to protect herself against it, and that from
this compulsion there arises a series of conclusions relating to the most important tasks that our people
have ever been set. For a victory of Bolshevism over Germany would not lead to a Versailles treaty, but to
the final destruction, indeed the annihilation of the German people . . . I consider it necessary for the
Reichstag to pass the following two laws: 1) A law providing the death penalty for economic sabotage and
2) A law making the whole of Jewry liable for all damage inflicted by individual specimens of this
community of criminals upon the German economy, and thus upon the German people.[102]
Hitler called for Germany to have the world's "first army" in terms of fighting power within the
next four years and that "the extent of the military development of our resources cannot be too
large, nor its pace too swift" (italics in the original) and the role of the economy was simply to
support "Germany's self-assertion and the extension of her Lebensraum."[103][104] Hitler went on to
write that given the magnitude of the coming struggle that the concerns expressed by members of
the "free market" faction like Schacht and Goerdeler that the current level of military spending
was bankrupting Germany were irrelevant. Hitler wrote that: "However well balanced the
general pattern of a nation's life ought to be, there must at particular times be certain disturbances
of the balance at the expense of other less vital tasks. If we do not succeed in bringing the
German army as rapidly as possible to the rank of premier army in the world . . . then Germany
will be lost!"[105] and "The nation does not live for the economy, for economic leaders, or for
economic or financial theories; on the contrary, it is finance and the economy, economic leaders
and theories, which all owe unqualified service in this struggle for the self-assertion of our
nation."[98][clarification needed] Documents such as the Four Year Plan Memo have often used by right
historians such as Henry Ashby Turner and Karl Dietrich Bracher who argue for a “primacy of
politics” approach (that Hitler was not subordinate to German business, but rather the contrary
was the case) against the “primacy of economics” approach championed by Marxist historians
(that Hitler was a “agent” of and subordinate to German business).[106]
In August 1936, the freelance Nazi diplomat Joachim von Ribbentrop was appointed German
Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Before Ribbentrop left to take up his post in October
1936, Hitler told him: “Ribbentrop . . . get Britain to join the Anti-Comintern Pact, that is what I
want most of all. I have sent you as the best man I’ve got. Do what you can . . . But if in future
all our efforts are still in vain, fair enough, then I’m ready for war as well. I would regret it very
much, but if it has to be, there it is. But I think it would be a short war and the moment it is over,
I will then be ready at any time to offer the British an honourable peace acceptable to both sides.
However, I would then demand that Britain join the Anti-Comintern Pact or perhaps some other
pact. But get on with it, Ribbentrop, you have the trumps in your hand, play them well. I’m ready
at any time for an air pact as well. Do your best. I will follow your efforts with interest”.[107]
An Axis was declared between Germany and Italy by Count Galeazzo Ciano, foreign minister of
Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini on 25 October 1936. On 25 November of the same year,
Germany concluded the Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan. At the time of the signing of the Anti-
Comintern Pact invitations were sent out for Britain, China, Italy and Poland to adhere; of the
invited powers only the Italians were to sign the pact, in November 1937. To strengthen
relationship with Japan, Hitler met in 1937 in Nuremberg Prince Chichibu, a brother of emperor
Hirohito. However, the meeting with Prince Chichibu had little consequence, as Hitler refused
the Japanese request to halt German arms shipments to China or withdraw the German officers
serving with the Chinese in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Both the military and the
Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office) were strongly opposed to ending the informal German alliance
with China that existed since the 1910s, and pressured Hitler to avoid offending the Chinese. The
Auswärtiges Amt and the military both argued to Hitler that given the foreign exchange problems
which afflicted German rearmament, and the fact that various Sino-German economic
agreements provided Germany with raw materials that would otherwise use up precious foreign
exchange, it was folly to seek an alliance with Japan that would have the inevitable result of
ending the Sino-German alignment.
By the latter half of 1937, Hitler had abandoned his dream of an Anglo-German alliance,
blaming "inadequate" British leadership for turning down his offers of an alliance.[108] In a talk
with the League of Nations High Commissioner for the Free City of Danzig, the Swiss diplomat
Carl Jacob Burckhardt in September 1937, Hitler protested what he regarded as British
interference in the "German sphere" in Europe, though in the same talk, Hitler made clear his
view of Britain as an ideal ally, which for pure selfishness was blocking German plans.[108]
Hitler had suffered severely from stomach pains and eczema in 1936–37, leading to his remark to
the Nazi Party's propaganda leadership in October 1937 that because both parents died early in
their lives, he would probably follow suit, leaving him with only a few years to obtain the
necessary Lebensraum.[109][110] About the same time, Dr. Goebbels noted in his diary Hitler now
wished to see the "Great Germanic Reich" he envisioned in his own lifetime rather than leaving
the work of building the "Great Germanic Reich" to his successors.[111]
On 5 November 1937, at the Reich Chancellory, Adolf Hitler held a secret meeting with the War
and Foreign Ministers and the three service chiefs, recorded in the Hossbach Memorandum, and
stated his intentions for acquiring "living space" Lebensraum for the German people. He ordered
the attendees to make plans for war in the east no later than 1943 in order to acquire
Lebensraum. Hitler stated the conference minutes were to be regarded as his "political testament"
in the event of his death.[112] In the memo, Hitler was recorded as saying that such a state of crisis
had been reached in the German economy that the only way of stopping a severe decline in
living standards in Germany was to embark sometime in the near-future on a policy of
aggression by seizing Austria and Czechoslovakia.[113][114] Moreover, Hitler stated that the arms
race meant that time for action had to occur before Britain and France obtained a permanent lead
in the arms race.[113] A striking change in the Hossbach Memo was Hitler’s changed view of
Britain from the prospective ally of 1928 in the Zweites Buch to the "hate-inspired antagonist" of
1937 in the Hossbach memo.[115] The historian Klaus Hildebrand described the memo as the start
of an "ambivalent course" towards Britain while the late historian Andreas Hillgruber argued that
Hitler was embarking on expansion "without Britain," preferably "with Britain," but if necessary
"against Britain."[87][116]
Hitler's intentions outlined in the Hossbach memorandum led to strong protests from the Foreign
Minister, Baron Konstantin von Neurath, the War Minister Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg
and the Army Commander General Werner von Fritsch that any German aggression in Eastern
Europe was bound to trigger a war with France because of the French alliance system in Eastern
Europe, the so-called cordon sanitaire and if a Franco-German war broke out, then Britain was
almost certain to intervene rather than risk the chance of a French defeat.[117] The aggression
against Austria and Czechoslovakia were intended to be the first of a series of localized wars in
Eastern Europe that would secure Germany’s position in Europe before the final showdown with
Britain and France. Fritsch, Blomberg and Neurath all argue that Hitler was pursuing an
extremely high risk strategy of localized wars in Eastern Europe that was most likely to cause a
general war before Germany was ready for such a conflict, and advised Hitler to wait until
Germany had more time to rearm. Neurath, Blomberg and Fritsch had no moral objections to
German aggression, but rather based their opposition on the question of timing—determining the
best time for aggression.[117]
Late in November 1937, Hitler received as his guest the British Lord Privy Seal, Lord Halifax
who was visiting Germany ostensibly as part of a hunting trip. Speaking of changes to
Germany's frontiers, Halifax told Hitler that: "All other questions fall into the category of
possible alterations in the European order which might be destined to come about with the
passage of time. Amongst these questions were Danzig, Austria and Czechoslovakia. England
was interested to see that any alterations should come through the course of peaceful evolution
and that the methods should be avoided which might cause far-reaching disturbances."[118]
Significantly, Halifax made clear in his statements to Hitler, though whether Hitler appreciated
the significance of this or not is unclear, that any possible territorial changes had to be
accomplished peacefully, and that though Britain had no security commitments in Eastern
Europe beyond the Covenant of the League of Nations, that Britain would not tolerate territorial
changes via war.[119] Hitler seems to have misunderstood Halifax's remarks as confirming his
conviction that Britain would just stand aside while he pursued his strategy of limited wars in
Eastern Europe.
Hitler was most unhappy with the criticism of his intentions expressed by Neurath, Blomberg,
and Fritsch in the Hossbach Memo, and in early 1938 asserted his control of the military-foreign
policy apparatus through the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair, the abolition of the War Ministry and its
replacement by the OKW, and by sacking Neurath as Foreign Minister on 4 February 1938,
assuming the rank, role and tile of the Oberster Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht.[120] The British
economic historian Richard Overy commented that the establishment of the OKW in February
1938 was a clear sign of what Hitler's intentions were since supreme headquarters organizations
such as the OKW are normally set up during wartime, not peacetime.[121] The Official German
history of World War II has argued that from early 1938 onwards, Hitler was not carrying out a
foreign policy that had carried a high risk of war, but was carrying out a foreign policy aiming at
The Holocaust
Main article: The Holocaust

An American soldier stands near a wagon piled high with corpses outside the crematorium in the
newly liberated Buchenwald concentration camp
One of the foundations of Hitler's social policies was the concept of racial hygiene. It was based
on the ideas of Arthur de Gobineau, a French count, eugenics, a pseudo-science that advocated
racial purity, and social Darwinism. Applied to human beings, "survival of the fittest" was
interpreted as requiring racial purity and killing off "life unworthy of life." The first victims were
children with physical and developmental disabilities; those killings occurred in a programme
dubbed Action T4.[123] After a public outcry, Hitler made a show of ending this program, but the
killings in fact continued (see Nazi eugenics).
Between 1939 and 1945, the SS, assisted by collaborationist governments and recruits from
occupied countries, systematically killed somewhere between 11 and 14 million people,
including about six million Jews,[124][125] in concentration camps, ghettos and mass executions, or
through less systematic methods elsewhere. In addition to those gassed to death, many died as a
result of starvation and disease while working as slave labourers (sometimes benefiting private
German companies). Along with Jews, non-Jewish Poles (over three million[citation needed]),
Communists and political opponents, members of resistance groups, homosexuals, Roma, the
physically handicapped and mentally retarded, Soviet prisoners of war (possibly as many as three
million), Jehovah's Witnesses, Adventists and Neopagans, trade unionists, and psychiatric
patients were killed. One of the biggest centres of mass-killing was the extermination camp
complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Hitler never visited the concentration camps and did not speak
publicly about the killing in precise terms.
The Holocaust (the Endlösung der jüdischen Frage or "Final Solution of the Jewish Question")
was planned and ordered by leading Nazis, with Heinrich Himmler playing a key role. While no
specific order from Hitler authorizing the mass killing has surfaced, there is documentation
showing that he approved the Einsatzgruppen killing squads that followed the German army
through Poland and Russia, and that he was kept well informed about their activities. The
evidence also suggests that in the fall of 1941 Himmler and Hitler decided upon mass
extermination by gassing. During interrogations by Soviet intelligence officers declassified over
fifty years later, Hitler's valet Heinz Linge and his military aide Otto Gunsche said Hitler had
"pored over the first blueprints of gas chambers." His private secretary, Traudl Junge, testified
that Hitler knew all about the death camps.
To make for smoother cooperation in the implementation of this "Final Solution", the Wannsee
conference was held near Berlin on 20 January 1942, with fifteen senior officials participating,
led by Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann. The records of this meeting provide the clearest
evidence of planning for the Holocaust. On 22 February, Hitler was recorded saying to his
associates, "we shall regain our health only by eliminating the Jews".
World War II
Main article: World War II

Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, 1940

Early diplomatic triumphs
Alliance with Japan
In February 1938, Hitler finally ended the dilemma that had plagued German Far Eastern policy,
namely whether to continue the informal Sino-German alliance that existed with China since the
1910s or to create a new alliance with Japan. The military at the time strongly favored continuing
Germany's alliance with China. China had the support of Foreign Minister Konstantin von
Neurath and War Minister Werner von Blomberg, the so called "China Lobby" who tried to steer
German foreign policy away from war in Europe.[126] Both men, however, were sacked by Hitler
in early 1938. Upon the advice of Hitler's newly appointed Foreign Minister, the strongly pro-
Japanese Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler chose to end the alliance with China as the price of
gaining an alignment with the more modern and powerful Japan. In an address to the Reichstag,
Hitler announced German recognition of Manchukuo, the Japanese-occupied puppet state in
Manchuria, and renounced the German claims to the former colonies in the Pacific held by
Japan.[127] Hitler ordered an end to arm shipments to China, and ordered the recall of all the
German officers attached to the Chinese Army.[127] In retaliation for ending German support to
China in the war against Japan, Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek canceled all of the Sino-
German economic agreements, which deprived the Germans of raw materials such as tungsten
that the Chinese had previously provided. The ending of the Sino-German alignment increased
the problems of German rearmament as the Germans were now forced to use their limited supply
of foreign exchange to buy raw materials on the open market.
Austria and Czechoslovakia
In March 1938, Hitler pressured Austria into unification with Germany (the Anschluss) and made
a triumphant entry into Vienna on 14 March.[128][129] Next, he intensified a crisis over the German-
speaking Sudetenland districts of Czechoslovakia.[130]
On 3 March 1938, the British Ambassador Sir Neville Henderson met with Hitler and presented
on behalf of his government a proposal for an international consortium to rule much of Africa (in
which Germany would be assigned a leading role) in exchange for a German promise never to
resort to war to change the frontiers.[131] Hitler, who was more interested in Lebensraum in
Eastern Europe then in participating in international consortiums, rejected the British offer, using
as his excuse that he wanted the former German African colonies returned to the Reich, not an
international consortium running Central Africa. Moreover, Hitler argued that it was totally
outrageous on Britain’s part to impose conditions on German conduct in Europe as the price for
territory in Africa.[132] Hitler ended the conversation by telling Henderson he would rather wait
twenty years for the return of the former colonies than accept British conditions for avoiding
On 28 to 29 March 1938, Hitler held a series of secret meetings in Berlin with Konrad Henlein of
the Sudeten Heimfront (Home Front), the largest of the ethnic German parties of the
Sudetenland. During the Hitler-Henlein meetings, it was agreed that Henlein would provide the
pretext for German aggression against Czechoslovakia by making demands on Prague for
increased autonomy for Sudeten Germans that Prague could never be reasonably expected to
fulfill. In April 1938, Henlein told the foreign minister of Hungary that “whatever the Czech
government might offer, he would always raise still higher demands...he wanted to sabotage an
understanding by all means because this was the only method to blow up Czechoslovakia
quickly”.[134] In private, Hitler considered the Sudeten issue unimportant; his real intentions being
to use the Sudeten question as the justification both at home and abroad for a war of aggression
to destroy Czechoslovakia, under the grounds of self-determination, and Prague’s refusal to meet
Henlein’s demands.[135] Hitler’s plans called for a massive military build-up along the
Czechoslovak border, relentless propaganda attacks about the supposed ill treatment of the
Sudetenlanders, and finally, “incidents” between Heimfront activists and the Czechoslovak
authorities to justify an invasion that would swiftly destroy Czechoslovakia in a few days
campaign before other powers could act.[136] Since Hitler wished to have the fall harvest brought
in as much as possible, and to complete the so-called “West Wall” to guard the Rhineland, the
date for the invasion was chosen for late September or early October 1938.[137]
In April 1938, Hitler ordered the OKW to start preparing plans for Fall Grün (Case Green), the
codename for an invasion of Czechoslovakia.[138] Further increasing the tension in Europe was
the May Crisis of 19–22 May 1938. The May Crisis of 1938 was a false alarm caused by rumors
that Czechoslovakia would be invaded the weekend of the municipal elections in that country,
erroneous reports of major German troop movements along the Czechoslovak border just prior to
the elections, the killing of two ethnic Germans by the Czechoslovak police, and Ribbentrop's
highly bellicose remarks to Henderson when the latter asked the former if an invasion was
indeed scheduled for the weekend, which led to a partial Czechoslovak mobilization and firm
warnings from London against a German move against Czechoslovakia before it was realized
that no invasion was intended for that weekend.[139] Through no invasion had been planned for
May 1938, it was believed in London that such a course of action was indeed being considered in
Berlin, leading to two warnings on 21 May and 22 May that the United Kingdom would go to
war with Germany if France became involved in a war with Germany.[140] Hitler, for his part, was
to use the words of an aide, highly “furious” with the perception that he had been forced to back
down by the Czechoslovak mobilization, and warnings from London and Paris, when he had in
fact had been planning nothing for that weekend.[141] Though plans had already been drafted in
April 1938 for an invasion of Czechoslovakia in the near future, the May Crisis and the
perception of a diplomatic defeat further reinforced Hitler in his chosen course. The May Crisis
seemed to have had the effect of convincing Hitler that expansion "without Britain" was not
possible, and expansion "against Britain" was the only viable course.[142] In the immediate
aftermath of the May crisis, Hitler ordered an acceleration of German naval building beyond the
limits of the A.G.N.A., and in the "Heye memorandum", drawn at Hitler's orders, envisaged the
Royal Navy for the first time as the principle opponent of the Kriegsmarine.[143]
At the conference of 28 May 1938, Hitler declared that it was his "unalterable" decision to
"smash Czechoslovakia" by 1 October of the same year, which was explained as securing the
eastern flank "for advancing against the West, England and France.[144] At the same conference,
Hitler expressed his belief that Britain would not risk a war until British rearmament was
complete, which Hitler felt would be around 1941–42, and Germany should in a series of wars
eliminate France and her allies in Europe in the interval in the years 1938–41 while German
rearmament was still ahead.[144] Hitler's determination to go through with Fall Grün in 1938
provoked a major crisis in the German command structure.[145] The Chief of the General Staff,
General Ludwig Beck protested in a lengthy series of memos that Fall Grün would start a world
war that Germany would lose, and urged Hitler to put off the projected war.[145] Hitler called
Beck's arguments against war "kindische Kräfteberechnugen" ("childish calculations").[146]
Starting in August 1938, information reached London that Germany was beginning to mobilize
reservists, together with information leaked by anti-war elements in the German military that the
war was scheduled for sometime in September.[147] Finally, as a result of intense French, and
especially British diplomatic pressure, President Edvard Beneš unveiled on 5 September 1938,
the “Fourth Plan” for constitutional reorganization of his country, which granted most of the
demands for Sudeten autonomy made by Henlein in his Karlsbad speech of April 1938, and
threatened to deprive the Germans of their pretext for aggression.[148] Henlein’s Heimfront
promptly responded to the offer of “Fourth Plan” by having a series of violent crashes with the
Czechoslovak police, culminating in major clashes in mid-September that led to the declaration
of martial law in certain Sudeten districts.[149][150] In a response to the threatening situation, in late
August 1938, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had conceived of Plan Z, namely
to fly to Germany, meet Hitler, and then work out an agreement that could end the crisis.[151][152]
On 13 September 1938, Chamberlain offered to fly to Germany to discuss a solution to the crisis.
Chamberlain had decided to execute Plan Z in response to erroneous information supplied by the
German opposition that the invasion was due to start any time after 18 September.[153] Though
Hitler was not happy with Chamberlain’s offer, he agreed to see the British Prime Minister
because to refuse Chamberlain’s offer would put the lie to his repeated claims that he was a man
of peace driven reluctantly to war because of Beneš’s intractability.[154] In a summit at
Berchtesgaden, Chamberlain promised to pressure Beneš into agreeing to Hitler's publicly stated
demands about allowing the Sudetenland to join Germany, in return for a reluctant promise by
Hitler to postpone any military action until Chamberlain had given a chance to fulfill his
promise.[155] Hitler had agreed to the postponement out of the expectation that Chamberlain
would fail to secure Prague’s consent to transferring the Sudetenland, and was, by all accounts,
most disappointed when Franco-British pressure secured just that.[156] The talks between
Chamberlain and Hitler in September 1938 were made difficult by their innately differing
concepts of what Europe should look like, with Hitler aiming to use the Sudeten issue as a
pretext for war and Chamberlain genuinely striving for a peaceful solution.[157]
When Chamberlain returned to Germany on 22 September to present his peace plan for the
transfer of the Sudetenland at a summit with Hitler at Bad Godesberg, the British delegation was
most unpleasantly surprised to have Hitler reject his own terms he had presented at
Berchtesgaden as now unacceptable.[158] To put an end to Chamberlain’s peace-making efforts
once and for all, Hitler demanded the Sudetenland be ceded to Germany no later then 28
September 1938 with no negotiations between Prague and Berlin and no international
commission to oversee the transfer; no plebiscites to held in the transferred districts until after
the transfer; and for good measure, that Germany would not forsake war as an option until all the
claims against Czechoslovakia by Poland and Hungary had been satisfied.[159] The differing
views between the two leaders were best symbolized when Chamberlain was presented with
Hitler’s new demands and protested at being presented with an ultimatum, leading Hitler in turn
to retort that because his document stating his new demands was entitled “Memorandum”, it
could not possibly be an ultimatum.[160] On 25 September 1938 Britain rejected the Bad
Godesberg ultimatum, and began preparations for war.[161][162] To further underline the point, Sir
Horace Wilson, the British government’s Chief Industrial Advisor, and a close associate of
Chamberlain was dispatched to Berlin to inform Hitler that if the Germans attacked
Czechoslovakia, then France would honor her commitments as demanded by the Franco-
Czechoslovak alliance of 1924, and “then England would feel honor bound, to offer France
assistance”.[163] Initially, determined to continue with attack planned for 1 October 1938,
sometime between 27 and 28 September, Hitler changed his mind, and asked to take up a
suggestion, of and through the intercession of Mussolini, for a conference to be held in Munich
with Chamberlain, Mussolini, and the French Premier Édouard Daladier to discuss the
Czechoslovak situation.[164] Just what had caused Hitler to change his attitude is not entirely clear,
but it is likely that the combination of Franco-British warnings, and especially the mobilization
of the British fleet, had finally convinced him of what the most likely result of Fall Grün would
be; the minor nature of the alleged casus belli being the timetables for the transfer made Hitler
appear too much like the aggressor; the view from his advisors that Germany was not prepared
either militarily or economically for a world war; warnings from the states that Hitler saw as his
would-be allies in the form of Italy, Japan, Poland and Hungary that they would not fight on
behalf of Germany; and very visible signs that the majority of Germans were not enthusiastic
about the prospect of war.[165][166][167] Moreover, Germany lacked sufficient supplies of oil and
other crucial raw materials (the plants that would produce the synthetic oil for the German war
effort were not in operation yet), and was highly dependent upon imports from abroad.[168] The
Kriegsmarine reported that should war come with Britain, it could not break a British blockade,
and since Germany had hardly any oil stocks, Germany would be defeated for no other reason
than a shortage of oil.[169] The Economics Ministry told Hitler that Germany had only 2.6 million
tons of oil at hand, and should war with Britain and France, would require 7.6 million tons of
oil.[170] Starting on 18 September 1938, the British refused to supply metals to Germany, and on
24 September the Admiralty forbade British ships to sail to Germany. The British detained the
tanker Invershannon carrying 8,600 tons of oil to Hamburg, which caused immediate economic
pain in Germany.[171] Given Germany's dependence on imported oil (80% of German oil in the
1930s came from the New World), and the likelihood that a war with Britain would see a
blockade cutting Germany off from oil supplies, historians have argued that Hitler's decision to
see a peaceful end to call off Fall Grün was due to concerns about the oil problem.[168]

Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler and Mussolini at the Munich Conference

On 30 September 1938, a one-day conference was held in Munich attended by Hitler,
Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini that led to the Munich Agreement, which gave to Hitler's
ostensible demands by handing over the Sudetenland districts to Germany.[172] Since London and
Paris had already agreed to the idea of a transfer of the disputed territory in mid-September, the
Munich Conference mostly comprised discussions in one day of talks on technical questions
about how the transfer of the Sudetenland would take place, and featured the relatively minor
concessions from Hitler that the transfer would take place over a ten day period in October,
overseen by an international commission, and Germany would wait until Hungarian and Polish
claims were settled.[173] At the end of the conference, Chamberlain had Hitler sign a declaration
of Anglo-German friendship, to which Chamberlain attached great importance and Hitler none at
all.[174] Though Chamberlain was well-satisfied with the Munich conference, leading to his
infamous claim to have secured “peace in our time”, Hitler was privately furious about being
“cheated” out of the war he was desperate to have in 1938.[175][176] As a result of the summit,
Hitler was TIME magazine's Man of the Year for 1938.[177]

Hitler enters the German populated Sudetenland region of Czechoslavakia in October 1938
which was annexed to Germany proper due to the Munich agreement
By appeasing Hitler, Britain and France left Czechoslovakia to Hitler's mercy.[172] Though Hitler
professed happiness in public over the achievement of his ostensible demands, in private he was
determined to have a war the next time around by ensuring that Germany's future demands
would not be met.[178] In Hitler’s view, a British-brokered peace, though extremely favorable to
the ostensible German demands, was a diplomatic defeat which proved that Britain needed to be
ended as a power to allow him to pursue his dreams of eastern expansion.[179][180] In the aftermath
of Munich, Hitler felt since Britain would not ally herself nor stand aside to facilitate Germany’s
continental ambitions, it had become a major threat, and accordingly, Britain replaced the Soviet
Union in Hitler’s mind as the main enemy of the Reich, with German policies being accordingly
reoriented.[181][182][183][184] Hitler expressed his disappointment over the Munich Agreement in a
speech on 9 October 1938 in Saarbrücken when he lashed out against the Conservative anti-
appeasers Winston Churchill, Alfred Duff Cooper and Anthony Eden, whom Hitler described as
a warmongering anti-German fraction, who would attack Germany at the first opportunity, and
were likely to come to power at any moment.[185] In the same speech, Hitler claimed “We
Germans will no longer endure such governessy interference. Britain should mind her own
business and worry about her own troubles”.[186] In November 1938, Hitler ordered a major anti-
British propaganda campaign to be launched with the British being loudly abused for their
"hypocrisy" in maintaining world-wide empire while seeking to block the Germans from
acquiring an empire of their own.[187] A particular highlight in the anti-British propaganda was
alleged British humans rights abuses in dealing with the Arab uprising in the Palestine Mandate
and in India, and the "hyprocrisy" of British criticism of the November 1938 Kristallnacht
event.[188] This marked a huge change from the earlier years of the Third Reich, when the German
media had portrayed the British Empire in very favorable terms.[189] In November 1938, the
Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was ordered to convert the Anti-Comintern Pact into
an open anti-British military alliance, as a prelude for a war against Britain and France.[190] On
27 January 1939, Hitler approved the Z Plan, a five-year naval expansion program which called
for a Kriegsmarine of 10 battleships, four aircraft carriers, three battlecruisers, eight heavy
cruisers, 44 light cruisers, 68 destroyers and 249 U-boats by 1944 that was intended to crush the
Royal Navy.[191] The importance of the Z Plan can be seen in Hitler's orders that henceforward
the Kriegsmarine was to go from third to one in allotment of raw materials, money and skilled
workers.[192] In the spring of 1939, the Luftwaffe was ordered to start building a strategic bombing
force that was meant to level British cities.[193] Hitler’s war plans against Britain called for a joint
Kriegsmarine-Luftwaffe offensive that was to stage "rapid annihilating blows" against British
cities and shipping with the expectation that "The moment England is cut off from her supplies
she is forced to capitulate" as Hitler expected that the experience of living in a blockaded,
famine-stricken, bombed out island to be too much for the British public.[194]

Destroyed Jewish businesses in Magdeburg due to Kristallnacht

In November 1938, in a secret speech to a group of German journalists, Hitler noted that he had
been forced to speak of peace as the goal in order to attain the degree of rearmament "which
were an essential prerequisite...for the next step".[68] In the same speech, Hitler complained that
his peace propaganda of the last five years had been too successful, and it was time for the
German people to be subjected to war propaganda.[195] Hitler stated: "It is self-evident that such
peace propaganda conducted for a decade has its risky aspect; because it can too easily induce
people to come to the conclusion that the present government is identical with the decision and
with the intention to keep peace under all circumstances", and instead called for new journalism
that "had to present certain foreign policy events in such a fashion that the inner voice of the
people itself slowly begins to shout out for the use of force."[195] In later November 1938, Hitler
expressed his frustration with his more cautious advice he was receiving from some quarters[196]
Hitler called the economic expert Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, General Ludwig Beck, Dr. Hjalmar
Schacht, the diplomat Ulrich von Hassell, and the economist Rudolf Brinkmann as “the overbred
intellectual circles" whom were trying to block him from fulifilling his mission by their appeals
to caution, and but for the fact that he needed their skills "otherwise, perhaps we could someday
exterminate them or do something of this kind to them"[197]
In December 1938, the Chancellery of the Führer headed by Philipp Bouhler received a letter
concerning a severely physically and mentally disabled baby girl named Sofia Knauer living in
Leipzig.[198] At that time, there was a furious rivalry existing between Bouhler’s office, the office
of the Reich Chancellery led by Hans-Heinrich Lammers, the Presidential Chancellery of Otto
Meissner, the office of Hitler’s adjutant Wilhelm Brückner and the Deputy Führer's office which
was effectively headed by Martin Borman over control over access to Hitler.[199] As part of a
power play against his rivals, Bouhler presented the letter concerning the disabled girl to Hitler,
who thanked Bouhler for bringing the matter to his attention and responded by ordering his
personal physician Dr. Karl Brandt to kill Knauer.[200] In January 1939, Hitler ordered Bouhler
and Dr. Brandt to henceforward have all disabled infants born in Germany killed.[200] This was
the origin of the Action T4 program. Subsequently Dr. Brandt and Bouhler acting on their own
initiative, in the expectation of winning Hitler’s favor, expanded the T4 program to killing, first,
all physically or mentally disabled children in Germany, and, second, all disabled adults.[201]
In late 1938 and early 1939, the continuing economic crisis caused by problems of rearmament,
especially the shortage of foreign hard currencies needed to pay for raw materials Germany
lacked together with reports from Göring that the Four Year Plan was hopelessly behind schedule
forced Hitler in January 1939 to reluctantly order major defense cuts with the Wehrmacht having
its steel allocations cut by 30%, aluminum 47%, cement 25%, rubber 14% and copper 20%.[202]
On 30 January 1939, Hitler made his "Export or die" speech calling for a German economic
offensive ("export battle", to use Hitler's term), to increase German foreign exchange holdings to
pay for raw materials such high-grade iron needed for military materials.[202] The "Export or die"
speech of 30 January 1939 is also known as Hitler’s "Prophecy Speech". The name which that
speech is known comes from Hitler’s "prophecy" issued towards the end of the speech:
"One thing I should like to say on this day which may be memorable for others as well for us Germans: In
the course of my life I have very often been a prophet, and I usually been ridiculed for it. During the time
of my struggle for power it was in the first instance the Jewish race which only received my prophecies
with laughter when I said I would one day take over the leadership of the State, and it that of the whole
nation, and I that I would then among many other things settle the Jewish problem. Their laughter was
uproarious, but I think that for some time now they have been laughing on the other side of the face.
Today I will be once more the prophet. If the international Jewish financiers outside Europe should
succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the bolsheviszation
of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"[203]
A significant historical debate has swung around the “Prophecy Speech”. Historians who take an
intentionist line such as Eberhard Jäckel have argued that at minimum from the time of the
“Prophecy Speech” onwards, Hitler was committed to genocide of the Jews as his central
goal.[204] Lucy Dawidowicz and Gerald Fleming have argued that the "Prophecy Speech" was
simply Hitler's way of saying that once he started a world war, he would use that war as a cover
for his already pre-existing plans for genocide.[203] Functionalist historians as Christopher
Browning have dismissed this interpretation under the grounds that if Hitler were serious with
the intentions expressed in the “Prophecy Speech”, then why the 30-month “stay of execution”
between the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, and the opening of the first
Vernichtungslager in late 1941.[205] In addition, Browning has pointed to the existence of the
Madagascar Plan of 1940–41 and various other schemes as proof that there was no genocidal
master plan.[205] In Browning’s opinion, the "Prophecy Speech" was merely an manifestation of
bravado on Hitler’s part, and had little connection with actual unfolding of anti-Semitic
At least part of the reason why Hitler violated the Munich Agreement by seizing the Czech half
of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 was to obtain Czechoslovak assets to help with the economic
crisis.[206] Hitler ordered Germany's army to enter Prague on 15 March 1939, and from Prague
Castle proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate.
Start of the Second World War
As part of the anti-British course, it was deemed necessary by Hitler to have either Poland a
satellite state or otherwise neutralized. Hitler believed this necessary on both strategic grounds as
way of securing the Reich's eastern flank and on economic grounds as a way of evading the
effects of a British blockade.[207] Initially, the German hope was transform Poland into a satellite
state, but by March 1939 when the German demands had been rejected by the Poles three times,
which led Hitler to decide upon the destruction of Poland as the main German foreign policy
goal of 1939.[208] On April 3, 1939 Hitler ordered the military to start preparing for Fall Weiss
(Case White), the plan for a German invasion to be executed on 25 August 1939[208] In August
1939, Hitler spoke to his generals that his original plan for 1939 had to “...establish a acceptable
relationship with Poland in order to fight against the West” but since the Poles would not co-
operate in setting up an “acceptable relationship” (i.e. becoming a German satellite), he believed
he had no other choice other than wiping Poland off the map.[209] The historian Gerhard Weinberg
has argued since Hitler’s audience comprised men who were all for the destruction of Poland
(anti-Polish feelings were traditionally very strong in the German Army), but rather less happy
about the prospect of war with Britain and France, if that was the price Germany had to pay for
the destruction of Poland, it is quite likely that Hitler was speaking the truth on this occasion.[209]
In his private discussions with his officials in 1939, Hitler always described Britain as the main
enemy that had to be defeated, and in his view, Poland’s obliteration was the necessary prelude to
that goal by securing the eastern flank and helpfully adding to Germany’s Lebensraum.[210] Hitler
was much offended by the British “guarantee” of Polish independence issued on March 31, 1939,
and told his associates that "I shall brew them a devil's drink"[211] In a speech in Wilhelmshaven
for the launch of the Admiral Tirpitz battleship on April 1, 1939, Hitler threatened to denounce
the A.G.N.A if the British persisted with their "encirclement" policy as represented by the
"guarantee" of Polish independence.[211] As part of the new course, in a speech before the
Reichstag on April 28, 1939, Adolf Hitler complaining of British “encirclement" of Germany,
renounced both the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and the German–Polish Non-Aggression
As a pretext for aggression against Poland, Hitler claimed the Free City of Danzig and the right
for “extra-territorial” roads across the Polish Corridor which Germany had unwillingly ceded
under the Versailles treaty. For Hitler, Danzig was just a pretext for aggression as the
Sudetenland had been intended to be in 1938, and throughout 1939, while highlighting the
Danzig issue as a grievance, the Germans always refused to engage in talks about the matter.[212]
A notable contradiction existed in Hitler's plans between the long-term anti-British course, whose
major instruments such as a vastly expanded Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe that would take several
years to complete, and Hitler's immediate foreign policy in 1939, which was likely to provoke a
general war by engaging in such actions as attacking Poland.[213][214] Hitler's dilemma between his
short-term and long-term goals was resolved by Foreign Minister Ribbentrop who told Hitler that
neither Britain nor France would honor their commitments to Poland, and any German-Polish
war would accordingly be a limited regional war.[215][216] Ribbentrop based his appraisal partly on
an alleged statement made to him by the French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet in December
1938 that France now recognized Eastern Europe as Germany’s exclusive sphere of influence.[217]
In addition, Ribbentrop's status as the former Ambassador to London made him in Hitler's eyes
the leading Nazi British expert, and as a result, Ribbentrop's advice that Britain would not honor
her commitments to Poland carried much weight with Hitler.[217] Ribbentrop only showed Hitler
diplomatic cables that supported his analysis.[218] In addition, the German Ambassador in London,
Herbert von Dirksen tended to send reports that supported Ribbentrop's analysis such as a
dispatch in August 1939 that reported Neville Chamberlain knew “the social structure of Britain,
even the conception of the British Empire, would not survive the chaos of even a victorious
war”, and so would back down.[216] The extent that Hitler was influenced by Ribbentrop’s advice
can be seen in Hitler's orders to the German military on 21 August 1939 for a limited
mobilization against Poland alone.[219] Hitler chose late August as his date for Fall Weiss in order
to limit disruption to German agricultural production caused by mobilization.[220] The problems
caused by the need to begin a campaign in Poland in late August or early September in order to
have the campaign finished before the October rains arrived, and the need to have sufficient time
to concentrate German troops on the Polish border left Hitler in a self-imposed situation in
August 1939 where Soviet co-operation was absolutely crucial if he were to have a war that
The Munich agreement appeared to be sufficient to dispel most of the remaining hold which the
"collective security" idea may have had in Soviet circles,[221] and, on 23 August 1939, Joseph
Stalin accepted Hitler's proposal to conclude a non-aggression pact (the Molotov-Ribbentrop
Pact), whose secret protocols contained an agreement to partition Poland. A major historical
debate about the reasons for Hitler’s foreign policy choices in 1939 concerns whether a structural
economic crisis drove Hitler into a “flight into war” as claimed by the Marxist historian Timothy
Mason or whether Hitler’s actions were more influenced by non-economic factors as claimed by
the economic historian Richard Overy.[222] Historians such as William Carr, Gerhard Weinberg
and Ian Kershaw have argued that a non-economic reason for Hitler’s rush to war was due to
Hitler’s morbid and obsessive fear of an early death, and hence his feeling that he did not have
long to accomplish his work.[110][223][224] In the last days of peace, Hitler oscillated between the
determination to fight the Western powers if he had to, and various schemes intended to keep
Britain out of the war, but in any case, Hitler was not to be deterred from his aim of invading
Poland.[225] Only very briefly, when news of the Anglo-Polish alliance being signed on 25 August
1939 in response to the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (instead of the severing of ties
between London and Warsaw predicted by Ribbentrop) together with news from Italy that
Mussolini would not honor the Pact of Steel, caused Hitler to postpone the attack on Poland from
25 August to 1 September.[226] Hitler chose to spend the last days of peace either trying to
maneuver the British into neutrality through his offer of 25 August 1939 to “guarantee” the
British Empire, or having Ribbentrop present a last-minute peace plan to Henderson with an
impossibly short time limit for its acceptance as part of an effort to blame the war on the British
and Poles.[227][228] On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded western Poland. Britain and France
declared war on Germany on 3 September but did not immediately act. Hitler was most
unpleasantly surprised at receiving the British declaration of war on 3 September 1939, and
turning to Ribbentrop angrily asked “Now what?”[229] Ribbentrop had nothing to say other then
that Robert Coulondre, the French Ambassador would probably be by later that day to present the
French declaration of war.[229] Not long after this, on 17 September, Soviet forces invaded eastern

Members of the Reichstag greet Hitler in October 1939 after the conclusion of the Polish
“ Poland never will rise again in the form of the Versailles treaty. That is guaranteed
not only by Germany, but also... Russia.[231] ”
—Adolf Hitler in a public speech in Danzig at the end of September 1939.
After the fall of Poland came a period journalists called the "Phoney War". In part of north-
western Poland annexed to Germany, Hitler instructed the two Gauleiters in charge of the area,
namely Albert Forster and Arthur Greiser to “Germanize” the area, and promised them "There
would be no questions asked" about how this "Germanization" was to be accomplished.[232]
Hitler’s orders were interpreted in very different ways by Forster and Greiser. Forster followed a
policy of simply having the local Poles sign forms stating they had German blood with no
documention required, whereas Greiser carried out a brutual ethnic cleansing campaign of
expelling the entire Polish population into the Government-General of Poland.[233] When Greiser,
seconded by Himmler complained to Hitler that Forster was allowing thousands of Poles to be
accepted as “racial” Germans and thus "contaminating" German “racial purity”, and asked Hitler
to order Forster to stop. Hitler merely told Himmler and Greiser to take up their difficulties with
Forster, and not to involve him.[234] Hitler’s handling of the Forster-Greiser dispute has often been
advanced as an example of Ian Kershaw's theory of “Working Towards the Führer”, namely that
Hitler issued vague instructions, and allowed his subordinates to work out policy on their own.
After the conquest of Poland, another major dispute broke out between different fractions with
one centering Reichsfüherer SS Heinrich Himmler and Arthur Greiser championing and carrying
out ethnic cleansing schemes for Poland, and another centering around Hermann Göring and
Hans Frank calling for turning Poland into the "granary" of the Reich.[235] At a conference held at
Göring's Karinhall estate on 12 February, 1940, the dispute was settled in favor of the Göring-
Frank view of economic exploitation, and ending mass expulsions as economically disruptive.[235]
On 15 May, 1940 Himmler showed Hitler a memo entitled "Some Thoughts on the Treatment of
Alien Population in the East", which called for expelling the entire Jewish population of Europe
into Africa and reducing the remainer of the Polish population to a “"leaderless laboring
class"[235] Hitler called Himmler's memo "good and correct".[235] Hitler’s remark had the effect of
scuttling the so-called Karinhall argreement, and led to the Himmler-Greiser viewpoint
triumphing as German policy for Poland.
Adolf Hitler in Paris, 1940, with Albert Speer (left) and Arno Breker (right)
During this period, Hitler built up his forces on Germany's western frontier. In April 1940,
German forces invaded Denmark and Norway. In May 1940, Hitler's forces attacked France,
conquering the Luxembourg, Netherlands and Belgium in the process. France surrendered on 22
June 1940. These victories persuaded Benito Mussolini of Italy to join the war on Hitler's side on
10 June 1940.
Britain, whose forces evacuated France by sea from Dunkirk, continued to fight alongside other
British dominions in the Battle of the Atlantic. After having his overtures for peace rejected by
the British, now led by Winston Churchill, Hitler ordered bombing raids on the United Kingdom.
The Battle of Britain was Hitler's prelude to a planned invasion. The attacks began by pounding
Royal Air Force airbases and radar stations protecting South-East England. However, the
Luftwaffe failed to defeat the Royal Air Force. On 27 September 1940, the Tripartite Treaty was
signed in Berlin by Saburo Kurusu of Imperial Japan, Hitler, and Ciano. The purpose of the
Tripartite treaty, which was directed against an unnamed power that was clearly meant to be the
United States was to deter the Americans from supporting the British. It was later expanded to
include Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. They were collectively known as the Axis Powers. By
the end of October 1940, air superiority for the invasion Operation Sealion could not be assured,
and Hitler ordered the bombing of British cities, including London, Plymouth, and Coventry,
mostly at night.
Path to defeat
On 22 June 1941, three million German troops attacked the Soviet Union, breaking the non-
aggression pact Hitler had concluded with Stalin two years earlier. A major historical dispute
concerns Hitler's reasons for Operation Barbarossa. Some historians such as Andreas Hillgruber
have argued that Barbarossa was merely one "stage" of Hitler's Stufenplan (stage by stage plan)
for world conquest, which Hillgruber believed that Hitler had formulated in the 1920s.[236] Other
historians such as John Lukacs have contended that Hitler never had a stufenplan, and that the
invasion of the Soviet Union was an ad hoc move on the part of Hitler due to Britain's refusal to
surrender.[237] Lukacs has argued that the reason Hitler gave in private for Barbarossa, namely
that Winston Churchill held out the hope that the Soviet Union might enter the war on the Allied
side, and that the only way of forcing a British surrender was to eliminate that hope, was indeed
Hitler's real reason for Barbarossa.[238] In Lukacs's perspective, Barbarossa was thus primarily an
anti-British move on the part of Hitler intended to force Britain to sue for peace by destroying
her only hope of victory rather than an anti-Soviet move. Klaus Hildebrand has maintained that
Stalin and Hitler were independently planning to attack each other in 1941.[239] Hildebrand has
claimed that the news in the spring of 1941 of Soviet troop concentrations on the border led to
Hitler engaging in a flucht nach vorn ("flight forward"—i.e. responding to a danger by charging
on rather than retreating.)[239] A third fraction comprising a diverse group such as Viktor Suvorov,
Ernst Topitsch, Joachim Hoffmann, Ernst Nolte, and David Irving have argued that the official
reason given by the Germans for Barbarossa in 1941 was the real reason, namely that Barbarossa
was a "preventive war" forced on Hitler to avert an impeding Soviet attack scheduled for July
1941. This theory has been widely attacked as erroneous; the American historian Gerhard
Weinberg once compared the advocates of the preventive war theory to believers in "fairy
This invasion seized huge amounts of territory, including the Baltic states, Belarus, and Ukraine.
It also encircled and destroyed many Soviet forces, which Stalin had ordered not to retreat.
However, the Germans were stopped barely short of Moscow in December 1941 by the Russian
winter and fierce Soviet resistance. The invasion failed to achieve the quick triumph Hitler
wanted. On 18 December, 1941, the appointment book of the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler
shows he met with Hitler, where to in answer to Himmler's question "What to do with the Jews
of Russia?", Hitler's response is recorded as "als Partisanen auszurotten" ("exterminate them as
partisans").[241] The Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer has commented that the remark recorded in
Himmler’s book is probably as close historians will ever get to a definitive order from Hitler for
the Holocaust.[241]

Adolf Hitler in Reichstag during his speech against Franklin D. Roosevelt. 11 December 1941.

The destroyed 'Wolf's Lair' barracks after the 20 July 1944 plot

20 March 1945 (often incorrectly dated 20 April). Hitler awards the Iron Cross to Hitler Youth
outside his bunker.
Hitler's declaration of war against the United States on 11 December 1941, four days after the
Empire of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and six days after Nazi Germany's closest
approach to Moscow, set him against a coalition that included the world's largest empire (the
British Empire), the world's greatest industrial and financial power (the United States), and the
world's largest army (the Soviet Union).
In late 1942, German forces were defeated in the second battle of El Alamein, thwarting Hitler's
plans to seize the Suez Canal and the Middle East. In February 1943, the titanic Battle of
Stalingrad ended with the destruction of the German 6th Army. Thereafter came the gigantic
Battle of Kursk. Hitler's military judgment became increasingly erratic, and Germany's military
and economic position deteriorated. Hitler's health was deteriorating. His left hand trembled.
Hitler's biographer Ian Kershaw and others believe that he may have suffered from Parkinson's
disease.[242] Syphilis has also been suspected as a cause of at least some of his symptoms,
although the evidence is slight.[243]
Following the allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) in 1943, Mussolini was deposed by
Pietro Badoglio, who surrendered to the Allies. Throughout 1943 and 1944, the Soviet Union
steadily forced Hitler's armies into retreat along the Eastern Front. On 6 June 1944, the Western
Allied armies landed in northern France in what was one of the largest amphibious operations in
history, Operation Overlord. Realists in the German army knew defeat was inevitable, and some
plotted to remove Hitler from power. In July 1944, Claus von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in
Hitler's Führer Headquarters, the Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair) at Rastenburg, but Hitler narrowly
escaped death. He ordered savage reprisals, resulting in the executions of more than
4,900 people,[244] sometimes by starvation in solitary confinement followed by slow
strangulation. The main resistance movement was destroyed, although smaller isolated groups
continued to operate.
Defeat and death
Main article: Death of Adolf Hitler
By late 1944, the Red Army had driven the Germans back into Central Europe and the Western
Allies were advancing into Germany. Hitler realized that Germany had lost the war, but allowed
no retreats. He hoped to negotiate a separate peace with America and Britain, a hope buoyed by
the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on 12 April 1945.[245][246][247][248] Hitler's stubbornness and
defiance of military realities allowed the Holocaust to continue. He ordered the complete
destruction of all German industrial infrastructure before it could fall into Allied hands, saying
that Germany's failure to win the war forfeited its right to survive.[249] Rather, Hitler decided that
the entire nation should go down with him. Execution of this scorched earth plan was entrusted
to arms minister Albert Speer, who disobeyed the order.[249]
In April 1945, Soviet forces attacked the outskirts of Berlin. Hitler's followers urged him to flee
to the mountains of Bavaria to make a last stand in the National Redoubt. But Hitler was
determined to either live or die in the capital.
On 20 April, Hitler celebrated his 56th birthday in the Führerbunker ("Führer's shelter") below
the Reichskanzlei (Reich Chancellery). The garrison commander of the besieged Festung
Breslau ("fortress Breslau"), General Hermann Niehoff, had chocolates distributed to his troops
in honor of Hitler's birthday.[250]
By 21 April, Georgi Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front had broken through the defenses of German
General Gotthard Heinrici's Army Group Vistula during the Battle of the Seelow Heights. The
Soviets were now advancing towards Hitler's bunker with little to stop them. Ignoring the facts,
Hitler saw salvation in the ragtag units commanded by General Felix Steiner. Steiner's command
became known as Armeeabteilung Steiner ("Army Detachment Steiner"). But "Army
Detachment Steiner" existed primarily on paper. It was something more than a corps but less
than an army. Hitler ordered Steiner to attack the northern flank of the huge salient created by the
breakthrough of Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front. Meanwhile, the German Ninth Army, which
had been pushed south of the salient, was ordered to attack north in a pincer attack.
Late on 21 April, Heinrici called Hans Krebs chief of the Oberkommando des Heeres (Supreme
Army Command or OKH) and told him that Hitler's plan could not be implemented. Heinrici
asked to speak to Hitler but was told by Krebs that Hitler was too busy to take his call.
On 22 April, during one of his last military conferences, Hitler interrupted the report to ask what
had happened to General Steiner's offensive. There was a long silence. Then Hitler was told that
the attack had never been launched, and that the withdrawal from Berlin of several units for
Steiner's army, on Hitler's orders, had so weakened the front that the Russians had broken
through into Berlin. Hitler asked everyone except Wilhelm Keitel, Hans Krebs, Alfred Jodl,
Wilhelm Burgdorf, and Martin Bormann to leave the room,[251] and launched a tirade against the
perceived treachery and incompetence of his commanders. This culminated in an oath to stay in
Berlin, head up the defense of the city, and shoot himself at the end.[252]
Before the day ended, Hitler again found salvation in a new plan that included General Walther
Wenck's Twelfth Army.[253] This new plan had Wenck turn his army—currently facing the
Americans to the west—and attack towards the east to relieve Berlin.[253] Twelfth Army was to
link up with Ninth Army and break through to the city. Wenck did attack and, in the confusion,
managed to make temporary contact with the Potsdam garrison. But the link with the Ninth
Army, like the plan in general, was ultimately unsuccessful.[254]
On 23 April, Joseph Goebbels made the following proclamation to the people of Berlin:
I call on you to fight for your city. Fight with everything you have got, for the sake of your wives and
your children, your mothers and your parents. Your arms are defending everything we have ever held
dear, and all the generations that will come after us. Be proud and courageous! Be inventive and cunning!
Your Gauleiter is amongst you. He and his colleagues will remain in your midst. His wife and children
are here as well. He, who once captured the city with 200 men, will now use every means to galvanize the
defense of the capital. The Battle for Berlin must become the signal for the whole nation to rise up in
Also on 23 April, second in command of the Third Reich and commander of the Luftwaffe
Hermann Göring sent a telegram from Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. Göring argued that, since
Hitler was cut off in Berlin, he should assume leadership of Germany as Hitler's designated
successor. Göring mentioned a time limit after which he would consider Hitler incapacitated.[255]
Hitler responded, in anger, by having Göring arrested, and when he wrote his will on 29 April,
Göring was removed from all his positions in the government.[255][256][257]
By the end of the day on 27 April, Berlin was completely cut off from the rest of Germany.
On 28 April, Hitler discovered that SS leader Heinrich Himmler was trying to discuss surrender
terms with the Allies (through the Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte).[258] Hitler ordered
Himmler's arrest and had Himmler's representative in Berlin Hermann Fegelein shot.[256][259]
Cover of US military newspaper The Stars and Stripes, May 1945
During the night of 28 April, General Wenck reported that his Twelfth Army had been forced
back along the entire front. Wenck noted that no further attacks towards Berlin were possible.
General Alfred Jodl (Supreme Army Command) did not provide this information to Hans Krebs
in Berlin until early in the morning of 30 April.
On 29 April, Hans Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Joseph Goebbels, and Martin Bormann witnessed
and signed the last will and testament of Adolf Hitler.[256] Hitler dictated the document to his
private secretary, Traudl Junge.[260] On the same day, Hitler was informed of the violent death of
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on 28 April, which is presumed to have increased his
determination to avoid capture.[261]
On 30 April 1945, after intense street-to-street combat, when Soviet troops were within a block
or two of the Reich Chancellery, Hitler committed suicide, shooting himself in the mouth while
simultaneously biting into a cyanide capsule.[262][263] Hitler's body and that of Eva Braun (his
mistress whom he had married the day before) were put in a bomb crater,[264][265] doused in
gasoline by Otto Günsche and other Führerbunker aides, and set alight as the Red Army
advanced and shelling continued.[262]
On 2 May, Berlin surrendered. In the postwar years there were conflicting reports about what
happened to Hitler's remains. After the fall of the Soviet Union, however, it was revealed from
records in the Soviet archives that the bodies of Hitler, Eva Braun, Joseph and Magda Goebbels,
the six Goebbels children, General Hans Krebs and Hitler's dogs, were secretly buried in graves
near Rathenow in Brandenburg.[266] In 1970, the remains were disinterred, cremated and scattered
in the Elbe River by the Soviets.[267] According to the Russian Federal Security Service, a
fragment of human skull stored in its archives and displayed to the public in a 2000 exhibition
came from the remains of Hitler's body and is all that remains of Hitler. The authenticity of the
skull has been challenged by many historians and researchers.[268]
Further information: Consequences of German Nazism and Neo-Nazism
Outside the building in Braunau am Inn, Austria where Adolf Hitler was born is a memorial
stone warning of the horrors of World War II

“ "What manner of man is this grim figure who has performed these superb toils and
loosed these frightful evils?"—Winston Churchill in Great Contemporaries (1935) ”
Hitler, the Nazi Party and the results of Nazism are typically regarded as gravely immoral.
Historians, philosophers, and politicians have often applied the word evil in both a secular sense
of the word and in a religious sense. Historical and cultural portrayals of Hitler in the west are
overwhelmingly condemnatory. The display of swastikas or other Nazi symbols is prohibited in
Germany and Austria. Holocaust denial is prohibited in both countries.
Outside of Hitler's birthplace in Braunau am Inn, Austria is a stone marker engraved with the
following message:
Loosely translated it reads: "For peace, freedom // and democracy // never again fascism //
millions of dead remind [us]"
However, some people have referred to Hitler's legacy in neutral or favourable terms. Former
Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat spoke of his 'admiration' of Hitler in 1953, when he was a
young man, though it is possible he was speaking in the context of a rebellion against the British
Empire.[269] Louis Farrakhan has referred to him as a "very great man".[270] Bal Thackeray, leader
of the right-wing Hindu Shiv Sena party in the Indian state of the Maharashtra, declared in 1995
that he was an admirer of Hitler.[271] Friedrich Meinecke, the German historian quotes of Hitler,
"It is one of the great examples of the singular and incalculable power of personality in historical
Religious beliefs
Main article: Adolf Hitler's religious beliefs
Hitler was raised by Roman Catholic parents, but after he left home, he never attended Mass or
received the sacraments.[273] However, after he had moved to Germany, where the Catholic and
the Protestant church are largely financed through a church tax collected by the state, Hitler (like
Goebbels) never "actually left his church or refused to pay church taxes. In a nominal sense
therefore," the historian Steigmann-Gall states, Hitler "can be classified as Catholic."[274]
Steigman-Gall, however, holds views contrary to the consensus on the subject of Nazism and
Christianity. [275] Steigmann-Gall pointed out in the debate about religion in Nazi Germany:
"Nominal church membership is a very unreliable gauge of actual piety in this context."[276]
In public, Hitler often praised Christian heritage, German Christian culture, and professed a
belief in an Aryan Jesus Christ, a Jesus who fought against the Jews.[277] In his speeches and
publications Hitler spoke of his interpretation of Christianity as a central motivation for his
antisemitism, stating that "As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have
the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice."[278][279] His private statements, as reported by his
intimates, are more mixed, showing Hitler as a religious man but critical of traditional
Christianity.[280] Here Hitler made at least one attack against Catholicism that "resonated
Streicher's contention that the Catholic establishment was allying itself with the Jews."[281] In
light of these private statements, for John S. Conway and many other historians it is beyond
doubt that Hitler held a "fundamental antagonism" towards the Christian churches.[282] The
various accounts of Hitler's private statements vary strongly in their reliability; Most importantly,
Hermann Rauschning's Hitler speaks is considered by most historians to be an invention.[283][284]
An overview about Hitler's religious beliefs, based on his apparent private statements, can be
found in the acclaimed book by Michael Rißmann or in Richard Steigmann-Gall's controversial
book on Nazism and Christianity, pp. 252–259.
In the political relations with the churches in Germany however, Hitler readily adopted a strategy
"that suited his immediate political purposes".[282] Hitler had a general plan, even before the rise
of the Nazis to power, to destroy Christianity within the Reich.[285][286][287] The leader of the Hitler
Youth stated "the destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the
National Socialist movement" from the start, but "considerations of expedience made it
impossible" publicly to express this extreme position.[285]
Most historians[citation needed] believe that, in contrast to some Nazi ideologues, Hitler did not adhere
to esoteric ideas, occultism, or Ariosophy,[280] and he ridiculed such beliefs in Mein Kampf.[288][289]
Others believe the young Hitler was strongly influenced, particularly in his racial views, by an
abundence of occult works on the mystical superiority of the Germans, like the occult and anti-
semitic magazine Ostara, and give credence to the claim of its publisher Lanz von Liebenfels that
Hitler visited Liebenfels in 1909 and praised his work.[290] The historians are still divided on the
question of the reliability of Lanz' claim of a contact with Hitler.[291] Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke
considers his account reliable, Brigitte Hamann leaves the question open and Ian Kershaw is
extremely sceptical.[292]
Hitler for a time advocated for Germans a form of the Christian faith he called "Positive
Christianity",[288][293] a belief system purged of what he objected to in orthodox Christianity, and
featuring added racist elements. By 1940 however, it was public knowledge that Hitler had
abandoned advocating for Germans even the syncretist idea of a positive Christianty.[294] Hitler
maintained that the "terrorism in religion is, to put it briefly, of a Jewish dogma, which
Christianity has universalized and whose effect is to sow trouble and confusion in men's
In addition to not attending Mass or receiving the sacraments, Hitler favored aspects of
Protestantism if they were more amenable to his own objectives. At the same time, he adopted
some elements of the Catholic Church's hierarchical organization, liturgy and phraseology in his
Hitler expressed admiration for the Muslim military tradition and directed Himmler to initiate
Muslim SS Divisions as a matter of policy.[298] According to one confidant, Hitler stated in
private, "The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than
Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness ..."[299]
Hitler once stated, "We do not want any other god than Germany itself. It is essential to have
fanatical faith and hope and love in and for Germany."[300]
Health and sexuality
Main articles: Adolf Hitler's medical health and Adolf Hitler's vegetarianism
Hitler's health has long been the subject of debate. He has variously been said to have suffered
from irritable bowel syndrome, skin lesions, irregular heartbeat, Parkinson's disease,[243]
syphilis,[243] and a strongly suggested addiction to methamphetamine. One film exists that shows
his left hand trembling, which might suggest Parkinson's.[301] Another film, to which words have
been added using lip-reading technology, shows him complaining of his arm shaking.[302] Beyond
these accounts, however, the evidence is sparse.
After the early 1930s, Hitler generally followed a vegetarian diet, although he ate meat on
occasion. There are reports of him disgusting his guests by giving them graphic accounts of the
slaughter of animals in an effort to make them shun meat.[303] A fear of cancer (from which his
mother died) is the most widely cited reason, though many authors also assert Hitler had a
profound and deep love of animals. Martin Bormann had a greenhouse constructed for him near
the Berghof (near Berchtesgaden) to ensure a steady supply of fresh fruit and vegetables for
Hitler throughout the war. Photographs of Bormann's children tending the greenhouse survive
and, by 2005, its foundations were among the only ruins visible in the area that was associated
with Nazi leaders.
Hitler was a non-smoker and promoted aggressive anti-smoking campaigns throughout Germany.
He reportedly promised a gold watch to any of his close associates who quit (and gave a few
away). Several witness accounts relate that, immediately after his suicide was confirmed, many
officers, aides, and secretaries in the Führerbunker lit cigarettes.[304]
Main article: Sexuality of Adolf Hitler
Hitler presented himself publicly as a man without a domestic life, dedicated entirely to his
political mission.
He had a fiancée in the 1920s, Mimi Reiter, and later had a mistress, Eva Braun. He had a close
bond with his half-niece Geli Raubal, which some commentators have claimed was sexual,
though there is no evidence that proves this.[305] According to John Toland (in his book A.H.: a
Definitive Biography), Hitler would often visit Geli in the manner of a suitor, and restricted his
niece's movement unless she was chaperoned by himself. All three women attempted suicide
(two succeeded), a fact that has led to speculation that Hitler may have had sexual fetishes, such
as urolagnia, as was claimed by Otto Strasser, a political opponent of Hitler. Reiter, the only one
to survive the Nazi regime, denied this.[306] During the war and afterwards psychoanalysts offered
numerous inconsistent psycho-sexual explanations of his pathology.[307] Some theorists have
claimed that Hitler had a relationship with British fascis