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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Adolf Hitler - The Early Years

Adolf Hitler as an infant.
Adolf Hitler as an infant.

Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria, the fourth child of six.[2] His father, Alois Hitler, (1837–1903), was a customs official. His mother, Klara Pölzl, (1860–1907), was Alois' third wife. She was also his half-niece, so a papal dispensation had to be obtained for the marriage. Of Alois and Klara's six children, only Adolf and his sister Paula reached adulthood.[3] Hitler's father also had a son, Alois Jr, and a daughter, Angela, by his second wife.[3]

Alois Hitler was born illegitimate. For the first 39 years of his life he bore his mother's surname, Schicklgruber. In 1876, he took the surname of his stepfather, Johann Georg Hiedler. The name was spelled Hiedler, Huetler, Huettler and Hitler and probably changed to "Hitler" by a clerk. The origin of the name is either from the German word Hittler and similar, "one who lives in a hut", "shepherd", or from the Slavic word Hidlar and Hidlarcek.

Allied propaganda exploited Hitler's original family name during World War II. Pamphlets bearing the phrase "Heil Schicklgruber" were airdropped over German cities. But he was legally born a Hitler and was also related to Hiedler via his maternal grandmother, Johanna Hiedler.

The name "Adolf" comes from Old High German for "noble wolf" (Adel=nobility + wolf). Hence, one of Hitler's self-given nicknames was Wolf or Herr Wolf—he began using this nickname in the early 1920s and was addressed by it only by intimates (as "Uncle Wolf" by the Wagners) up until the fall of the Third Reich.[4] The names of his various headquarters scattered throughout continental Europe (Wolfsschanze in East Prussia, Wolfsschlucht in France, Werwolf in Ukraine, etc.) reflect this. By his closest family and relatives, Hitler was known as "Adi".

As a boy, Hitler said he was often whipped by his father. 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 the front of the door. As for me, I counted silently the blows of the stick which lashed my rear end."[5]

Hitler's paternal grandfather was most likely one of the brothers Johann Georg Hiedler or Johann Nepomuk Hiedler. There were rumours that Hitler was one-quarter Jewish and that his grandmother, Maria Schicklgruber, became pregnant while working as a servant in a Jewish household. The implications of these rumours were politically explosive for the proponent of a racist and anti-Semitic ideology. Opponents tried to prove that Hitler had Jewish or Czech ancestors. Although these rumours were never confirmed, for Hitler they were reason enough to conceal his origins. According to Robert G. L. Waite in The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler, Hitler made it illegal for German women to work in Jewish households, and after the "Anschluss" (annexation) of Austria, Hitler turned his father's hometown into an artillery practice area. Waite says that Hitler's insecurities in this regard may have been more important than whether Judaic ancestry could have been proven by his peers.

Hitler's family moved often, from Braunau am Inn to Passau, Lambach, Leonding, and Linz. The young Hitler was a good student in elementary school. But in the sixth grade, his first year of high school (Realschule) in Linz he failed and had to repeat the grade. His teachers said that he had "no desire to work." One of Hitler's fellow pupils in the Realschule was Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the great philosophers of the 20th century. A book by Kimberley Cornish suggests that conflict between Hitler and some Jewish students, including Wittgenstein, was a critical moment in Hitler's formation as an anti-Semite.[6]

Hitler claimed his educational slump was a rebellion against his father, who wanted the boy to follow him in a career as a customs official; Hitler wanted to become a painter instead. This explanation is further supported by Hitler's later description of himself as a misunderstood artist. However, after Alois died on 3 January 1903, Hitler's schoolwork did not improve. At age 16, Hitler dropped out of high school without a degree.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler attributed his conversion to German nationalism to a time during his early teenage years when he read a book of his father's about the Franco-Prussian War, which caused him to question why his father and other German Austrians failed to fight for the Germans during the war.[7]

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.[8] His memoirs reflect a fascination with the subject:
“ The purpose of my trip was to study the picture gallery in the Court Museum, but I had eyes for scarcely anything but the Museum itself. From morning until late at night, I ran from one object of interest to another, but it was always the buildings which held my primary interest."[9] ”

Following the school rector's recommendation, he too became convinced this was the path to pursue, yet he lacked the proper academic preparation for architecture school:
“ In a few days I myself knew that I should some day become an architect. To be sure, it was an incredibly hard road; for the studies I had neglected out of spite at the Realschule were sorely needed. One could not attend the Academy's architectural school without having attended the building school at the Technic, and the latter required a high-school degree. I had none of all this. The fulfillment of my artistic dream seemed physically impossible.[10] ”

On 21 December 1907, Hitler's mother died of breast cancer at age 47. Ordered by a court in Linz, Hitler gave his share of the orphans' benefits to his sister Paula. When he was 21, he inherited money from an aunt. He struggled as a painter in Vienna, copying scenes from postcards and selling his paintings to merchants and tourists.

After being rejected a second time by the Academy of Arts, Hitler ran out of money. In 1909, he sought refuge in a homeless shelter. By 1910, he had settled into a house for poor working men.

Hitler said he first became an anti-Semite in Vienna,[11] which had a large Jewish community, including Orthodox Jews who had fled from pogroms in Russia. But according to a childhood friend, August Kubizek, Hitler was a "confirmed anti-Semite" before he left Linz, Austria.[12] 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 anti-Semitism on religious grounds to supporting it on racial grounds came from having seen an Orthodox Jew, but actually it seems Hitler was not very anti-Semitic in these years. He often was a guest for dinner in a noble Jewish house, and Jewish merchants tried to sell his paintings.[13]

Hitler may also have been influenced by Martin Luther's On the Jews and their Lies. Kristallnacht took place on 10 November—Luther's birthday.
“ There were very few Jews in Linz. In the course of centuries the Jews who lived there had become Europeanized in external appearance and were so much like other human beings that I even looked upon them as Germans. The reason why I did not then perceive the absurdity of such an illusion was that the only external mark which I recognized as distinguishing them from us was the practice of their strange religion. As I thought that they were persecuted on account of their faith my aversion to hearing remarks against them grew almost into a feeling of abhorrence. I did not in the least suspect that there could be such a thing as a systematic anti-Semitism.

Once, when passing through the inner City, I suddenly encountered a phenomenon in a long caftan and wearing black side-locks. My first thought was: Is this a Jew? They certainly did not have this appearance in Linz. I carefully watched the man stealthily and cautiously but the longer I gazed at the strange countenance and examined it feature by feature, the more the question shaped itself in my brain: Is this a German?[14]

In Mein Kampf, Hitler refers to Martin Luther as a great warrior, a true statesmen, and a great reformer, alongside Wagner and Frederick the Great.[15] Wilhelm Röpke, writing after the Holocaust, concluded that "without any question, Lutheranism influenced the political, spiritual and social history of Germany in a way that, after careful consideration of everything, can be described only as fateful."[16]

Hitler claimed that Jews were enemies of the Aryan race. He held them responsible for Austria's crisis. He also identified certain forms of Socialism and Bolshevism, which had many Jewish leaders, as Jewish movements, merging his anti-Semitism with anti-Marxism. Blaming Germany's military defeat on the 1918 Revolutions, he considered Jews the culprit of Imperial Germany's downfall and subsequent economic problems as well.

Generalising from tumultuous scenes in the parliament of the multi-national Austrian monarchy, he decided that the democratic parliamentary system was unworkable. However, according to August Kubizek, his one-time roommate, he was more interested in Wagner's operas than in his politics.

Hitler received the final part of his father's estate in May 1913 and moved to Munich. He wrote in Mein Kampf that he had always longed to live in a "real" German city. In Munich, he became more interested in architecture and, he says, the writings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Moving to Munich also helped him escape military service in Austria for a time, but the Austrian army arrested him finally. After a physical exam and a contrite plea, he was deemed unfit for service and allowed to return to Munich. However, when Germany entered World War I in August 1914, he petitioned King Ludwig III of Bavaria for permission to serve in a Bavarian regiment. This request was granted, and Adolf Hitler enlisted in the Bavarian army.[17]

World War I

Hitler served in France and Belgium as a runner for the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment (called Regiment List after its first commander), which exposed him to enemy fire.[18] He drew cartoons and instructional drawings for the army newspaper.

Hitler was twice decorated for bravery. He received the Iron Cross, Second Class, in 1914 and the Iron Cross, First Class, in 1918, an honour rarely given to a Gefreiter.[19] However, because the regimental staff thought Hitler lacked leadership skills, he was never promoted to Unteroffizier. 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. In 1916, Hitler was wounded in the leg 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[20] and Bernhard Horstmann indicate the blindness may have been the result of a conversion disorder (then known as hysteria). 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,[21] 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.[22] ”
“ 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.[23] ”

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. He was shocked by Germany's capitulation in November 1918 even while the German army still held enemy territory.[24] 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, demilitarized 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 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

After World War I, Hitler remained in the army and returned to Munich, where he - in contrast to his later declarations - participated in the funeral march for the murdered Bavarian prime minister Kurt Eisner.[25] 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.

Here Hitler also met Dietrich Eckart, one of the early founders of the party and member of the occult Thule Society.[26] 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.

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 DAP 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 vehicle to hitch themselves to. 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 would be given dictatorial 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 DAP 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 Party, marking the first time this title was publicly used. Hitler changed the name of the party to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or National Socialist German Workers Party.

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 became head of the Nazis' paramilitary organization, the SA (Sturmabteilung, or "Storm Division"), which protected meetings and attacked political opponents. Hitler also assimilated independent groups, such as the Nuremberg-based Deutsche Werkgemeinschaft, led by Julius Streicher, who became Gauleiter of Franconia. Hitler also 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.

A Biography of Adolf Hitler
Early Days - 1889-1908
Adolf Hitler was born on April 20th 1889 in Braunau-am-Inn, Austria. The town is near to the Austro-German border, and his father, Alois, worked as a customs officer on the border crossing. His mother, Klara, had previously given birth to two other children by Alois, (Gustav and Ida) but they both died in their infancy. Young Hitler Adolf attended school from the age of six and the family lived in various villages around the town of Linz, east of Braunau. By this time Adolf had a younger brother, Edmund, but he only lived until the age of six. In 1896, Klara gave birth to Adolf 's sister, Paula, who survived to outlive him.
Adolf Hitler grew up with a poor record at school and left, before completing his tuition, with an ambition to become an artist. Alois Hitler had died when Adolf was thirteen and Klara brought up Adolf and Paula on her own. Between the ages of sixteen and nineteen, young Adolf neither worked to earn his keep, nor formally studied, but had gained an interest in politics and history. During this time he unsuccessfully applied for admission to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.
The Vagabond - 1909-1913
Klara Hitler died from cancer when Adolf was nineteen and from then onwards he had no relatives willing or able to support him. So, in 1909, he moved to Vienna in the hope of somehow earning a living. Within a year he was living in homeless shelters and eating at charity soup-kitchens. He had declined to take regular employment and took occasional menial jobs and sold some of his paintings or advertising posters whenever he could to provide sustenance.
Munich and The Great War - 1913-1918
In 1913 Adolf Hitler, still a penniless vagrant, moved to Munich in southern Germany. Hitler during WW1At the outbreak of the First World War, in 1914, he volunteered for service in the German army and was accepted into the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment . Hitler fought bravely in the war and was promoted to corporal and decorated with both the Iron Cross Second Class and First Class, the latter of which he wore until his dying day [ironically the regimental captain who recommended him for the award was Jewish]. The day of the announcement of the armistice in 1918, Hitler was in hospital recovering from temporary blindness caused by a British gas attack in the Ypres Salient. In December 1918 he returned to his regiment back in Munich.
Early Politics - 1918-1919
Between December 1918 and March 1919 Hitler worked at a prisoner-of-war camp at Traunstein before returning again to Munich. Shortly after his return he witnessed a takeover bid by local Communists who seized power before being ousted by the army. After he gave evidence at an investigation into the takeover he was asked to become part of a local army organization which was responsible for persuading returning soldiers not to turn to communism or pacifism. During his training for this tasks and during his subsequent duties he was able to hone his oratory skills. As part of his duties he was also asked to spy on certain local political groups, and during a meeting of the German Workers' Party he became so incensed by one of the speeches that he delivered a fierce harangue to the speaker. The founder of the party, Anion Drexler, was so impressed by Hitler's tirade that he asked him to join their organization. Hitler, after some thought, finally agreed to join the committee and became their seventh official in September 1919.
The First Hofbrauhaus Speech - 1919-1920
Given responsibility for publicity and propaganda, Hitler first succeeded in attracting over a hundred people to a meeting in held October at which he delivered his first speech to a large audience. The meeting and his oratory were a great success, and subsequently in February 1920 he organized a much larger event for a crowd of nearly two thousand in the Munich Hofbrauhaus. Hitler himself was not the main speaker, but when his turn came he succeeded in calming a rowdy audience and presented a twenty-five point programme of ideas which were to be the basis of the party. The name of the party was itself changed to the National Socialist German Workers Party (or Nazi for short) on April 1st 1920.
Not long after the February speech he was discharged from the army. Hitler continued to expand his influence in the party and began to form a private group of thugs which he used to quash disorder at party meetings and later to break up rival party's meetings. This group subsequently became the Sturmabteilung or S.A. - Hitler's brown shirted storm troopers. He also became the regular main speaker at party events from then onwards, attracting large crowds for each meeting. During the summer of 1920 Hitler chose the swastika as the Nazi party emblem.
Leader of the Nazi Party - 1921
By 1921 Adolf Hitler had virtually secured total control of the Nazi party, however this was not to the liking of all Nazis. In July of that year, whilst Hitler was away in Berlin, the discontent members of the party proposed a merger with a like-minded political party in Nuremburg in the hope that this would dilute Hitler's influence. On hearing the news of the proposed merger, Hitler rushed back to Munich to confront the party and threatened to resign. The other members were aware that Hitler was bringing in the lion's share of funds into the organization, from the collections following his speeches at meetings and from other sympathetic sources. Thus they knew they couldn't afford his resignation. Hitler then proceeded to turn the tables on the committee members and forced them to accept him as formal leader of the party with dictatorial powers.
The Beer Hall Putsch - 1923
Up to November 1923 Hitler continued to build up the strength of the Nazi Party. During this time he also plotted to overthrow the German Weimar Republic by force. On November 8th 1923 Hitler led an attempt to take over the local Bavarian Government in Munich in an action that became known as the "Beer Hall Putsch." Despite initially kidnapping the Bavarian officials in the Buergerbraukeller beer hall in Munich and proclaiming a new regime using their names, the coup was not successful. The officials were allowed to escape and re-gain control of the police and the armed forces. The coup was ended on the morning of November 9th, when a column of three thousand SA men headed by Hitler and General Ludendorff (one of the most senior generals of the First World War) were halted on their way to the centre of Munich by armed police. After a brief gunfight, only General Ludendorff and his aide had made it through to the central Plaza, where they were arrested. Hitler had fled the scene and was later arrested and charged with treason. After his trial for treason he was sentenced to five years in Landsberg prison, however he had successfully used the trial itself to gain publicity for himself and his ideas. During his term in prison Hitler began dictating his thoughts and philosophies to Rudolf Hess which became the book "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle).
Re-Building the Nazi Party - 1924-1932
Hitler was released from Landsberg prison in December 1924 after serving only six months of his sentence. At that time, the Nazi Party and its associated newspapers were banned by the government and Hitler himself was forbidden from making public speeches. The support for National Socialism was waning throughout Germany, their voting figures in elections fell from almost two million in 1924 to 810,000 by 1928 (this gave them only 12 out of a total of 491 representatives in Parliament). However at the same time, Hitler succeeded in increasing the party membership and developed the organization of the party throughout Germany with the help of Gregor Strasser who was responsible for the organization of the Nazi Party in northern Germany. During this period Hitler also created the infamous SS (Schutzstaffel) which was initially intended to be Hitler's bodyguard under the leadership of Heinrich Himmler. tea room meeting
The collapse of the Wall St. stock exchange in 1929 led to a world wide recession which hit Germany especially hard. All loans to Germany from foreign countries dried up, German industrial production slumped and millions were made unemployed. These conditions were beneficial to Hitler and his Nazi campaigning. By July of the following year Chancellor Bruening, without a parliamentary majority in the Reichstag, was unable to pass a new finance bill and was forced to ask President Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag and call for new elections for the coming September. Hitler campaigned hard for the Nazi candidates, promising the public a way out of their current hardship. When the results of the election were announced, the Nazi Party had won 6.4 million votes which made them the second largest party in the Reichstag. At this time Hitler also began to win over the support of both the army and the big industrialists, the latter contributing substantially to the finances of the Nazi Party.
Hitler Versus Hindenburg - 1932
In February 1932 Hitler decided to stand against Hindenburg in the forthcoming Presidential election. In order to do this he became a German citizen on 25th February 1932. The result of the election on 13th March 1932 gave Hindenburg 49.6 percent of the vote and Hitler 30.1 percent (two other candidates stood). As Hindenburg failed to win a majority a second election was called. The result of the second election gave Hindenburg 53 percent and Hitler 36.8 percent (one other candidate stood). Thus Hindenburg was re-elected to office and Hitler was forced to wait for another opportunity to win power.
Chancellor Bruening lasted in office until June 1932, unable to maintain popular support his government resigned due to pressure from the President, who had been advised by an influential General called Schleicher. General Schleicher had plotted the overthrow of the cabinet in conspiracy with the Nazis. Power then passed to a Presidential cabinet headed by a new Chancellor, Franz von Papen. New Reichstag elections were also set for the end of July.
Nazis Become the Largest Party - 1932
In the July elections, the Nazi Party won 13,745,000 votes which gave them 230 out of the 608 seats in the Reichstag. Although the Nazis were the largest party, they were still short of a majority. Hitler, however, demanded that he be made Chancellor but was offered only the position of Vice-Chancellor in a coalition government, which he refused.
Hitler Becomes Chancellor - 1932-1933
In September 1932, the Nazi members of the Reichstag, together with support form the Center Party elected the prominent Nazi Herman Goering as President of the Reichstag (equivalent to House Speaker). Using his new position, Goering managed to prevent the Chancellor from presenting an order to dissolve the Reichstag, whilst a vote of no confidence in the Chancellor and his government was passed. Thus having forced the resignation of the new government, the Reichstag allowed its own dissolution. Although losing 34 of their seats in the following election, the Nazis retained enough influence to assure that Papen would be unable to form a new Government and the Chancellor resigned on 17th of November 1932. After Papen's resignation, Hindenburg still refused to appoint Hitler as chancellor fearing that a Hitler Government would become a dictatorship. The President then tried to re-install Papen as Chancellor, but Papen was unable to gain the support of his own cabinet, including Schleicher who was Minister of Defence. President Hindenburg then appointed Schleicher as Chancellor, the latter having assured the President that he could get the support of the Nazis in the Reichstag. However, Hitler and his Nazi party had other ideas, and Schleicher found that he was unable to win the support of any of the parties in the Reichstag and was forced to resign as Chancellor on January 28th 1933. Finally on January 30th, 1933 President Hindenburg decided to appoint Hitler Chancellor in a coalition government with Papen as Vice-Chancellor.
The Burning of the Reichstag - February 1933
The penultimate step towards Adolf Hitler gaining complete control over the destiny of Germany were taken on the night of 27th February 1933 when the Reichstag was destroyed by fire. The fire was almost certainly planned by the Nazis, Goebbels and Goering in particular. A Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe, was made scapegoat for the fire, but the main outcome was that Hitler was given an excuse to have all the Communist deputies of the Reichstag arrested, and managed to obtain a decree from President Hindenburg giving the Nazi goverment powers to inter anyone they thought was a threat to the nation. Furthermore the Presidential decree allowed the Nazi government to suppress the free speech of its political opponents. Despite all these advantages, in the elections of March 5th 1933, the Nazis only managed to acheive 44 percent of the votes. Even with the suppression of the Communist deputies, Hitler was still short of an overall majority and nowhere near the two-thirds majority needed for any change in the German constitution.
The Enabling Act - March 1933
The Enabling Act, placed before the Reichstag on 23rd of March 1933 was to allow the powers of legislation to be taken away from the Reichstag and transferred to Hitler's cabinet for a period of four years. The act required a two-thirds majority, but passed easily with the support of the Center and Nationalist parties and the suppression of all Communist deputies and several Social Democrats. Thus dictatorial powers were finally conferred, legally, on Adolf Hitler. By July 14th Hitler had proclaimed a law stating that the Nazi Party was to be the only political party allowed in Germany. The Nazification of Germany was underway. All non-Nazi organizations were disbanded, including political parties and trade unions. The individual German states were stripped of any autonomous powers they might have had and Nazi officials were installed as state governors.
The Night of the Long Knives - 1934
After the initial rise to power of the Nazis, many of them, including the head of the SA Ernst Roehm, wanted to see a further change in the power structure of Germany by taking over control of big businesses and installing the SA as the main army of Germany with the existing army subordinate to it. Hitler however thought differently and wanted to keep the German economy in good shape, reduce unemployment and enable him to quickly re-arm the Wehrmacht. To Hitler, the SA was purely a political force not a military one. Also the ageing President Hindenburg would not survive much longer and Hitler needed the support of the Army if he was to be named as Hindenburg's successor. In May of 1934 Hitler proposed to the chiefs of the Army and the Navy that he would suppress the SA and at the same time expand the Army and Navy if they would support him as the successor to Hindenburg. The chiefs of the forces readily agreed to Hitler's endorsement. In June Hitler ordered the SA to go on leave for the entire month. However, by that time the rowdiness and lawlessness perpetrated by Nazi thugs had grown to a point where President Hindenburg and his senior generals were considering declaring a state of marshal law and Hitler was threatened with this recourse if he didn't do something to curb these excesses. These threats, coupled with rumours generated by Himmler and Goering concerning Roehm's loyalty to the Fuehrer and an impending coup against Hitler, finally prompted Hitler to order Himmler and Goering to take action against the leaders of the SA. On June 30th 1934 Himmler's SS and Goering's special police arrested and executed the leaders of the SA, including Ernst Roehm, and many others not connected with the SA, but against whom the Nazi leaders had a score to settle. These others included General von Schleicher, the former Chancellor.
The Death of Hindenburg August 1934
President Hindenburg died on August 2nd 1934. Hitler had already agreed with the Cabinet that upon Hindenburg's death the offices of President and Chancellor would be combined. The last wishes of Hindenburg were that upon his death the monarchy should be restored. Hitler managed to suppress these wishes and did not publish the President's will. Having already ensured the support of the Army, Hitler went a step further by making the whole of the armed forces swear an oath of loyalty to him personally. A plebiscite was then held for the public to decide on whether they approved of the changes already made - 90% of voters gave their approval. Thus Hitler had become "Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor" and the title of President was then abolished.
"Nazification" - 1934-1937

During the years following Hitler's consolidation of power he set about the "Nazification" of Germany and its release from the armament restrictions of the Versailles Treaty. Censorship was extreme and covered all aspects of life including the press, films, radio, books and even art. Trade unions were suppressed and replaced with the centralised "Labour Front", which didn't actually function as a trade union. The churches were persecuted and ministers who preached non-Nazi doctrine were frequently arrested by the Gestapo and carted off to concentration camps. All youth associations were abolished and re-formed as a single entity as the Hitler Youth organisation. The Jewish population was increasingly persecuted and ostracised from society and under the Nuremburg Laws of September 1935 Jews were no longer considered to be German citizens and therefore no longer had any legal rights. Jews were no longer allowed to hold public office, not allowed to work in the civil-service, the media, farming, teaching, the stock exchange and eventually barred from practising law or medicine. Hostility towards Jews from other Germans was encouraged and even shops began to deny entry to Jews. From a very early stage, Hitler geared the German economy towards war. He appointed Dr. Hjalmar Schacht minister of economics with instructions to secretly increase armaments production. This was financed in various ways, including using confiscated funds, printing bank notes and mostly by producing government bonds and credit notes.

In September 1936, Goering took over most of Schacht's duties in preparing the war economy and instituted the Four-Year Plan, which was intended to make Germany self-sufficient in four years. This put Germany on a total war economy and entailed strict control of imports, materials prices and wages as well as the creation of factories and industrial plants to produce essential war materials (e.g. synthetic rubber, fuels and steel). Workers were low paid and their freedom to move between jobs was increasingly restricted. Even the workers' recreation time was strictly controlled through the "Strength Through Joy" organisation. Hitler was the law when it came to the judicial system and had the ultimate say over legal actions of any kind. Any judge who was not favourable to the Nazi regime was dismissed, and a "Special Court" for political crimes and a "Peoples Court" for accusations of treason were introduced. Both of these courts were controlled by the Nazi Party and an unfortunate defendant was extremely unlikely to get a fair trial.

Breaking the Versailles Treaty - 1934-1937
Hitler ordered the army to be trebled in size, from the 100,000 man Versailles Treaty limit, to 300,000 men by October of 1934. This was initially ordered to be carried out under the utmost secrecy. Admiral Raeder, the chief of the navy, was given orders to begin the construction of large warships, way above the maximum size decreed by the Versailles Treaty. The construction of submarines, also forbidden by the Treaty, had already begun secretly by building parts in foreign dockyards ready for assembly. In addition, Goering had also been tasked by Hitler with the training of air force pilots and the design of military aircraft. In March 1935 Hitler decided to take a gamble and test the resolve of Britain and France by authorising Goering to reveal to a British official the existence of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force). Even though this was a direct challenge to the Versailles Treaty, there was little reaction (its existence was already known anyway). Thus Hitler was given encouragement to take further steps. A few days later, Hitler took a further gamble and declared openly the introduction of military service and the creation of an army with 36 divisions (approx. 1/2 million men). Again, a weak reaction from Britain and France allowed Hitler the comfort of knowing that his gamble had paid off. At the same time that Hitler was increasing the strength of the armed forces, he was also following a policy of making speeches proclaiming a desire for peace and the folly of war. He also announced that he had no intention of annexing Austria or re-militarising the Rhineland and would respect all the territorial clauses of the Versailles Treaty. Hitler also announced that he was prepared to mutually disarm the heaviest of weapons and limit the strength of the German Navy. A quote from Hitler at that time: "Whoever lights the torch of war in Europe can wish for nothing but chaos."
The Re-militarisation of the Rhineland - 1936
On March 7th 1936 a small force of German troops marched across the Rhine bridges into the demilitarised areas of Germany towards Aachen, Trier and Saarbruecken. Once again neither the French nor British made any move to counter the flagrant breach of the Locarno Pact of 1925, which had been signed willingly by Germany and was supposed to keep these areas west of the Rhine free from German military units. The lack of French reaction was in spite of the fact that the small German force was vastly outnumbered by the French army near the border. Immediately following the re-militarisation of the Rhineland areas, Hitler once again preached in public his desire for peace throughout Europe and offered to negotiate new non-aggression pacts with several countries including France and Belgium. At the same time rapid construction of German defensive fortifications began along the French and Belgian frontiers. Meanwhile Hitler's popularity within Germany was boosted, his position as leader was strengthened and his control over the army generals was secured.
Weakening of Austrian Security and the Birth of the Axis - 1936
The security that Hitler had gained for Germany from the military stronghold in the Rhineland meant less security for those countries in Central Europe (e.g. Austria and Czechoslovakia) who were reliant on a swift response from France in the event of German aggression. This led the Austrian Government, headed by Dr. Schuschnigg, during the summer of 1936, to begin a course of appeasement of Hitler by, for example, giving Austrian Nazis influential positions within the government in return for a pledge from Hitler to confirm his recognition of Austrian sovereignty. The position of Austria was further undermined in October 1936 when the Italian dictator, Mussolini, who had previously pledged to maintain Austrian independence, formed an alliance with Hitler. This alliance, which became known as the Rome-Berlin Axis had been formed following the German and Italian support of fellow fascist, General Franco, in the Spanish Civil War. The Axis partnership included an agreement on a common foreign policy between the two countries.

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