Students will learn:
1. Facts about Hitler's life and the historical events which occurred during that time.
2. Hitler's view of history, his theory of race, and his political goals.
3. Hitler's use of anti-Semitism to advance his career and to consolidate power.
4. How a political leader was able to manipulate the political system in a democracy and obtain autocratic power.
When Adolf was three years old, the family moved to Passau, along the Inn River on the German side of the border. A brother, Edmond, was born two years later. The family moved once more in 1895 to the farm community of Hafeld, 30 miles southwest of Linz. Another sister, Paula, was born in 1896, the sixth of the union, supplemented by a half brother and half sister from one of his father's two previous marriages.
Following another family move, Adolf lived for six months across from a large Benedictine monastery. The monastery's coat of arms' most salient feature was a swastika. As a youngster, Adolf's dream was to enter the priesthood. While there is anecdotal evidence that Adolf's father regularly beat him during his childhood, it was not unusual for discipline to be enforced in that way during that period.
By 1900, Hitler's talents as an artist surfaced. He did well enough in school to be eligible for either the university preparatory "gymnasium" or the technical/scientific Realschule. Because the latter had a course in drawing, Adolf accepted his father's decision to enroll him in the Realschule. He did not do well there.
Adolf's father died in 1903 after suffering a pleural hemorrhage. Adolf himself suffered from lung infections, and he quit school at the age of 16, partially the result of ill health and partially the result of poor school work.
In 1906, Adolf was permitted to visit Vienna, but he was unable to gain admission to a prestigious art school. His mother developed terminal breast cancer and was treated by Dr. Edward Bloch, a Jewish doctor who served the poor. After an operation and excruciatingly painful and expensive treatments with a dangerous drug, she died on December 21, 1907.
Hitler spent six years in Vienna, living on a small legacy from his father and an orphan's pension. Virtually penniless by 1909, he wandered Vienna as a transient, sleeping in bars, flophouses, and shelters for the homeless, including, ironically, those financed by Jewish philanthropists. It was during this period that he developed his prejudices about Jews, his interest in politics, and debating skills. According to John Toland's biography, Adolf Hitler, two of his closest friends at this time were Jewish, and he admired Jewish art dealers and Jewish operatic performers and producers. However, Vienna was a center of anti-Semitism, and the media's portrayal of Jews as scapegoats with stereotyped attributes did not escape Hitler's fascination.
In May 1913, Hitler, seeking to avoid military service, left Vienna for Munich, the capital of Bavaria, following a windfall received from an aunt who was dying. In January, the police came to his door bearing a draft notice from the Austrian government. The document threatened a year in prison and a fine if he was found guilty of leaving his native land with the intent of evading conscription. Hitler was arrested on the spot and taken to the Austrian Consulate. Upon reporting to Salzburg for duty, he was found "unfit...too weak...and unable to bear arms."
After less than two months of training, Hitler's regiment saw its first combat near Ypres, against the British and Belgians. Hitler narrowly escaped death in battle several times, and was eventually awarded two Iron Crosses for bravery. He rose to the rank of lance corporal but no further. In October 1916, he was wounded by an enemy shell and evacuated to a Berlin area hospital. After recovering, and serving a total of four years in the trenches, he was temporarily blinded by a mustard gas attack in Belgium in October 1918.
Communist-inspired insurrections shook Germany while Hitler was recovering from his injuries. Some Jews were leaders of these abortive revolutions, and this inspired hatred of Jews as well as Communists. On November 9th, the Kaiser abdicated and the Socialists gained control of the government. Anarchy was more the rule in the cities.
With the assistance of party staff, Hitler drafted a party program consisting of twenty-five points. This platform was presented at a public meeting on February 24, 1920, with over 2,000 eager participants. After hecklers were forcibly removed by Hitler supporters armed with rubber truncheons and whips, Hitler electrified the audience with his masterful demagoguery. Jews were the principal target of his diatribe. Among the 25 points were revoking the Versailles Treaty, confiscating war profits, expropriating land without compensation for use by the state, revoking civil rights for Jews, and expelling those Jews who had emigrated into Germany after the war began.
The following day, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were published in the local anti-Semitic newspaper. The false, but alarming accusations reinforced Hitler's anti-Semitism. Soon after, treatment of the Jews was a major theme of Hitler's orations, and the increasing scapegoating of the Jews for inflation, political instability, unemployment, and the humiliation in the war, found a willing audience. Jews were tied to "internationalism" by Hitler. The name of the party was changed to the National Socialist German Worker's party, and the red flag with the swastika was adopted as the party symbol. A local newspaper which appealed to anti-Semites was on the verge of bankruptcy, and Hitler raised funds to purchase it for the party.
In January 1923, French and Belgian troops marched into Germany to settle a reparations dispute. Germans resented this occupation, which also had an adverse effect on the economy. Hitler's party benefited by the reaction to this development, and exploited it by holding mass protest rallies despite a ban on such rallies by the local police.
The Nazi party began drawing thousands of new members, many of whom were victims of hyper-inflation and found comfort in blaming the Jews for this trouble. The price of an egg, for example, had inflated to 30 million times its original price in just 10 years. Economic upheaval generally breeds political upheaval, and Germany in the 1920s was no exception.
"[The Jews'] ultimate goal is the denaturalization, the promiscuous bastardization of other peoples, the lowering of the racial level of the highest peoples as well as the domination of his racial mishmash through the extirpation of the folkish intelligentsia and its replacement by the members of his own people," he wrote. On the contrary, the German people were of the highest racial purity and those destined to be the master race according to Hitler. To maintain that purity, it was necessary to avoid intermarriage with subhuman races such as Jews and Slavs.
Germany could stop the Jews from conquering the world only by eliminating them. By doing so, Germany could also find Lebensraum, living space, without which the superior German culture would decay. This living space, Hitler continued, would come from conquering Russia (which was under the control of Jewish Marxists, he believed) and the Slavic countries. This empire would be launched after democracy was eliminated and a "FÅhrer" called upon to rebuild the German Reich.
A second volume of Mein Kampf was published in 1927. It included a history of the Nazi party to that time and its program, as well as a primer on how to obtain and retain political power, how to use propaganda and terrorism, and how to build a political organization.
While Mein Kampf was crudely written and filled with embarrassing tangents and ramblings, it struck a responsive chord among its target those Germans who believed it was their destiny to dominate the world. The book sold over five million copies by the start of World War II.
Hitler's Nazi party captured 18% of the popular vote in the 1930 elections. In 1932, Hitler ran for President and won 30% of the vote, forcing the eventual victor, Paul von Hindenburg, into a runoff election. A political deal was made to make Hitler chancellor in exchange for his political support. He was appointed to that office in January 1933.
Upon the death of Hindenburg in August 1934, Hitler was the consensus successor. With an improving economy, Hitler claimed credit and consolidated his position as a dictator, having succeeded in eliminating challenges from other political parties and government institutions. The German industrial machine was built up in preparation for war. By 1937, he was comfortable enough to put his master plan, as outlined in Mein Kampf, into effect. Calling his top military aides together at the "FÅhrer Conference" in November 1937, he outlined his plans for world domination. Those who objected to the plan were dismissed.
In 1941, Hitler ignored a non-aggression pact he had signed with the Soviet Union in August 1939. Several early victories after the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, were reversed with crushing defeats at Moscow (December 1941) and Stalingrad (winter, 1942-43). The United States entered the war in December 1941. By 1944, the Allies invaded occupied Europe at Normandy Beach on the French coast, German cities were being destroyed by bombing, and Italy, Germany's major ally under the leadership of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, had fallen.
Anarchy- The absence of government or law in a society.
Demagogue- A person who gains power through impassioned public appeals to the emotions and prejudices of a group by speaking or writing. Free Corps - A paramilitary organization of German World War I veterans who organized to oppose Communist insurgency.
Fuhrer- A leader, especially one exercising the absolute power of a tyrant. Hitler's title as leader of the Nazi party, and Chief of the German state.
Imperialism- A foreign policy which includes the taking of territory by force or coercion.
Lebensraum (Living Space) - A German term indicating the Germans' imperialistic designs on Europe. It also refers to the additional territory deemed necessary to the nation for its economic well-being. Mein Kampf Nazism Paramilitary Reparations S.A. Swastika
Mein Kampf- "My Struggle" in German. A book written by Hitler while in prison which became the standard work of Nazi political doctrine.
Nazism- The abbreviation for National Socialist German Worker's Party. The fascist dictatorship under Adolf Hitler in Germany from 1933-1945.
Paramilitary- Describing an organization which operates in the style of an army, but in an unofficial capacity, and often in secret, such as the S.A. Putsch - A revolt or uprising.
Reparations- Payments made by a defeated country to the victors to make amends for losses suffered.
S.A.- The Sturmabteilung (Stormtroopers), also known as the "brown-shirts." It was the Nazi paramilitary arm under the command of Ernst Rîhm. It was active in the Nazi battle for the streets against members of other German political parties and was notorious for its violent and terroristic methods.
Swastika- An ancient symbol in the form of a twisted cross which was adopted by the Nazi party as its logo in the 1920s.
Third Reich - The Third Empire. It refers to Hitler's name for his German Empire as a successor to the 1st Empire of the Roman Emperors (First Reich) and the Empire of Bismarck in 19th century Germany (Second Reich).
Weimar Republic - The German democratic government from 1919-1934 formed after Germany's defeat in World War I. Its capital was located in Berlin.
1. Define the following:
2. What was the Third Reich, and what were the first two "Reichs"?
3. What was the Weimar Republic, and how did its type of government differ from what succeeded it under Adolf Hitler?
4 What was the "Free Corps" and what role did it play during the political upheavals in post-World War I Germany?
5. What were the economic conditions in Germany during Hitler's rise to power?
6. Name three of Hitler's foreign policy goals, as outlined in Mein Kampf.
7. What did Hitler discuss at the "FÅhrer Conference" in November 1937?
8. What were Hitler's first three territorial objectives? Describe whether they were taken politically or militarily.
9. How and when did Hitler die, and what was the status of the Third Reich at the time?
10. Describe Hitler's views about the Jews and how he came to hold these views.