Hitler was born in 1889 in Austria and spent his youth in poverty. He served in the army during the First World War where he rose through the ranks. He was furious at various sanctions imposed on Germany through the Versailles Treaty. In 1919, he joined a small group called the German Workers' Party. Subsequently, Hitler took over the organization and renamed it the Nationalist Socialist German Workers’ Party. This came to be known as the Nazi Party.
In 1923, Hitler made an unsuccessful bid to capture power at Berlin. He was arrested, tried for treason and later released. Till early 1930, the Nazis could not mobilize popular support. The Nazi Party got about 2.6% votes in 1928 but emerged as the largest party; with 37% votes; in 1932.
Hitler was a powerful orator. He could sway the masses with his powerful words. He promised to build a strong nation and restore the dignity of German people. He promised all around development and employment to youth.
Hitler understood the significance of rituals and spectacle in mass mobilization. He used the Swastika symbol, red banners, pamphlets and ritualized rounds of applause to great effect during his massive rallies. Hitler was projected as a messiah, who could free people from their distress. For people who were shattered by acute economic and political crises; Hitler provided a ray of hope.
On 30 January 1933, Hitler was offered the Chancellorship by President Hindenburg. It was the highest position in the cabinet of ministers. After acquiring power, Hitler began to dismantle the structures of democratic rule.
A mysterious fire broke out in the German Parliament in February and it gave an excuse to Hitler to assume all the powers. A Fire Decree was announced on 28 February 1933. Under the Decree, various civic rights were suspended.
After that, Hitler turned on to his archenemies, the Communists. Most of the Communists were packed off to the newly established concentration camps.
The famous Enabling Act was passed on 3 March 1933. This Act gave all powers to Hitler and established dictatorship in Germany. All political parties and trade unions were banned; leaving the monopoly to the Nazi Party. The state acquired complete control over the economy, media, army and judiciary.
Special surveillance and security forces were created to control and order the society. The regular police in green uniform and the SA or the Storm Troopers were the existing police forces. Additional police forces were also raised; viz., the Gestapo (secret state police), the SS (the protection squad), criminal police and the Security Service (SD).
These police forces enjoyed extra-constitutional powers. People could be detained in Gestapo torture chambers, rounded up and sent to concentration camps, deported at will or arrested without any legal procedures.
The responsibility of economic recovery was given to the economist Hjalmar Schacht. He initiated a state-funded work-creation programme to ensure full production and full employment. The famous Autobahn and Volkswagen were the results of this period. The economy was on the road to prosperity.
Hitler got quick successes in foreign policy as well. In 1933, he pulled out of the League of Nations. He reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936 and integrated Austria and Germany in 1938. After that, he went on to wrest German-speaking Sudentenland from Czechoslovakia and usurped the entire country. England gave unspoken support to Hitler in these endeavours.
Hitler was convinced that expansion of territory was a surefire way to acquire resources and more resources would help tide over the economic crisis. Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 and this event started a war with France and England. A Tripartite Pact was signed between Germany, Italy and Japan in 1940. This fact strengthened Hitler’s claim to international power. In a large part of Europe, puppet regimes (which were supportive of Nazi Germany) were installed. By the end of 1940, Hitler was at the zenith of his power.
Soviet Hegemony over Eastern Europe: Now Hitler moved to achieve his long-term aim, i.e. of conquering the Eastern Europe. Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941 which proved to be a historic blunder. With this step, the western front of Germany was exposed to British aerial bombing and the eastern front was exposed to the powerful Soviet armies. The German Army was handed a crushing defeat by the Soviet Army and the Soviet forces finally reached the heart of Berlin. This established the Soviet hegemony over the entire Eastern Europe for half a century thereafter.
The USA did not want to face all the economic problems which were caused by the First World War. Hence, the USA was unwilling to get involved in the Second World War. But Japan’s advances in the east, its support to Hitler and bombing at the US base at Pearl Harbor, forced the US to enter the Second World War. The US dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima in Japan and the war ended in May 1945 with Hitler’s defeat.
Copyright © excellup 2014