Who was Adolf Hitler?
Photo: Portrait of Adolf Hitler.
One of a collection of portraits included in a 1939 calendar of Nazi officials.
Photo credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Geoffrey Giles.
Adolf Hitler was a German nationalist who wanted to restore Germany’s honor after its loss in The Great War, the international conflict we now refer to as World War I. The Treaty of Versailles simultaneously ended WWI and made Germany accept responsibility for the war. Germany had to give up land to other countries, disarm their military, and pay reparations. This humiliation infuriated the people of Germany and the economic impact made life a daily struggle.
In 1919, Hitler joined the Nazi party. In 1923, Hitler and the Nazi party tried to forcibly take over the existing German government and failed. After being arrested, he wrote, “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle) in jail. In this book, Hitler proclaimed racist ideals and said that subpar races, especially Jews, should be eliminated. He supported absolute authoritarian rule and wrote that fixing Germany’s problems would require drastic measures.
After failing to take over the government by force, the Nazis focused on winning elections. It took ten years for the Nazis to win more seats than other parties in the German Parliament. Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.
From 1933 until his death in 1945, Hitler was Germany’s dictator. As dictator, he initiated World War II, in which he conquered and controlled many European nations and he murdered millions of Jews and others, who were to his mind, inferior, in Germany and Germany’s newly conquered lands.