Adolf Hitler

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Hitler, Adolf

(ä`dôlf hĭt`lər), 1889–1945, founder and leader of National SocialismNational Socialism
or Nazism,
doctrines and policies of the National Socialist German Workers' party, which ruled Germany under Adolf Hitler from 1933 to 1945.
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 (Nazism), and German dictator, b. Braunau in Upper Austria.

Early Life

The son of Alois Hitler (1837–1903), an Austrian customs official, Adolf Hitler dropped out of high school, and after his mother's death in 1907 moved to Vienna. He twice failed the admission examination for the academy of arts. His vicious anti-Semitism (perhaps influenced by that of Karl LuegerLueger, Karl
, 1844–1910, Austrian politician. He was the leader of the Christian Social party. Lueger appealed to the lower middle classes of Vienna through his anti-Semitism, which was partly religious but mostly opportunist.
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) and political harangues drove many acquaintances away. In 1913 he settled in Munich, and on the outbreak of World War I he joined the Bavarian army. During the war he was gassed and wounded; a mediocre soldier who lacked leadership skills and never progressed beyond the rank of corporal, he nonetheless received the Iron Cross for bravery. The war hardened his extreme nationalism, and he blamed the German defeat on betrayal by Jews and Marxists. Upon his return to Munich he joined a handful of other nationalistic veterans in the German Workers' party.

The Nazi Party

In 1920 the German Workers' party was renamed the National Socialist German Workers, or Nazi, party; in 1921 it was reorganized with Hitler as chairman. He achieved leadership in the party (and later in Germany) largely due to his extraordinary skill as a speaker, holding large crowds spellbound by his oratory. Hitler made the party a paramilitary organization and won the support of such prominent nationalists as Field Marshal LudendorffLudendorff, Erich
, 1865–1937, German general. A disciple of Schlieffen, he served in World War I as chief of staff to Field Marshal Hindenburg and was largely responsible for German military decisions.
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. On Nov. 8, 1923, Hitler attempted the "beer-hall putsch," intended to overthrow the republican government. Leading Bavarian officials (themselves discontented nationalists) were surrounded at a meeting in a Munich beer hall by the Nazi militia, or storm troopers, and made to swear loyalty to this "revolution." On regaining their freedom they used the Reichswehr [army] to defeat the coup. Hitler fled, but was soon arrested and sentenced to five years in the Landsberg fortress. He served nine months.

The putsch made Hitler known throughout Germany. In prison he dictated to Rudolf HessHess, Rudolf,
1894–1987, German National Socialist leader, b. Alexandria, Egypt; son of a German merchant. In 1920 he became an ardent follower of Adolf Hitler and after the Munich "beer-hall putsch" (1923) shared Hitler's imprisonment.
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 the turgid Mein Kampf [my struggle], filled with anti-Semitic outpourings, worship of power, disdain for civil morality, and strategy for world domination. It became the bible of National Socialism. Under the tutelage of Hitler and Gregor StrasserStrasser, Gregor
, 1892–1934, German political leader. A pharmacist, he joined the National Socialist (Nazi) party in its infancy and participated in Adolf Hitler's abortive coup in 1923. After Hitler's imprisonment, he briefly led the party.
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, aided by Josef GoebbelsGoebbels, Joseph
(Paul Joseph Goebbels) , 1897–1945, German National Socialist propagandist. He was kept out of the service in World War I by a clubfoot. After graduating from the Univ. of Heidelberg (Ph.D.
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 and from 1928 by Hermann GoeringGoering or Göring, Hermann Wilhelm
, 1893–1946, German National Socialist leader. In World War I he was a hero of the German air force.
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, the party grew slowly until the economic depression, beginning in 1929, brought it mass support.

Hitler's Rise to Power

To Germans burdened by reparations payments to the victors of World War I, and threatened by hyperinflation, political chaos, and a possible Communist takeover, Hitler, frenzied yet magnetic, offered scapegoats and solutions. To the economically depressed he promised to despoil "Jew financiers," to workers he promised security. He gained the financial support of bankers and industrialists with his virulent anti-Communism and promises to control trade unionism.

Hitler had a keen and sinister insight into mass psychology, and he was a master of intrigue and maneuver. After acquiring German citizenship through the state of Brunswick, he ran in the presidential elections of 1932, losing to the popular war hero Paul von HindenburgHindenburg, Paul von
, 1847–1934, German field marshal and president (1925–34), b. Poznan (then in Prussia). His full name was Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Hindenburg und Beneckendorff.
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 but strengthening his position by falsely promising to support Chancellor Franz von PapenPapen, Franz von
, 1879–1969, German politician. Appointed (1913) military attaché to the German embassy in Washington, he was implicated in espionage activities that led (1915) the U.S. government to request his recall.
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, who lifted the ban on the storm troops (June, 1932).

When the Nazis were elected the largest party in the Reichstag (July, 1932), Hindenburg offered Hitler a subordinate position in the cabinet. Hitler held out for the chief post and for sweeping powers. The chancellorship went instead to Kurt von SchleicherSchleicher, Kurt von,
1882–1934, German general. A leading Reichswehr (army) figure after World War I, Schleicher wielded great power in the years before Adolf Hitler came to power (1933).
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, who resigned on Jan. 28, 1933. Amid collapsing parliamentary government and pitched battles between Nazis and Communists, Hindenburg, on the urging of von Papen, called Hitler to be chancellor of a coalition cabinet, refusing him extraordinary powers. Supported by Alfred HugenbergHugenberg, Alfred
, 1865–1951, German financier and politician. He was president of the directorate of the Krupp firm (1909–18), entered the Reichstag in 1919, and was chairman (1928–33) of the conservative German Nationalist party.
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, Hitler took office on Jan. 30.

Hitler in Power

Germany's new ruler was a master of Machiavellian politics. Hitler feared plots, and firmly believed in his mission to achieve the supremacy of the so-called Aryan race, which he termed the "master race." Having legally come to power, he used brutality and subversion to carry out a "creeping coup" to transform the state into his dictatorship. He blamed the Communists for a fire in the ReichstagReichstag
[Ger.,=imperial parliament], name for the diet of the Holy Roman Empire, for the lower chamber of the federal parliament of the North German Confederation, and for the lower chamber of the federal parliament of Germany from 1871 to 1945.
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 on Feb. 27, and by fanning anti-Communist hysteria the Nazis and Nationalists won a bare majority of Reichstag seats in the elections of Mar. 5. After the Communists had been barred, and amid a display of storm trooper strength, the Reichstag voted to give Hitler dictatorial powers.

From the first days of Hitler's "Third Reich" (for its history, see GermanyGermany
, Ger. Deutschland, officially Federal Republic of Germany, republic (2015 est. pop. 81,708,000), 137,699 sq mi (356,733 sq km). Located in the center of Europe, it borders the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France on the west; Switzerland and Austria on
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; National SocialismNational Socialism
or Nazism,
doctrines and policies of the National Socialist German Workers' party, which ruled Germany under Adolf Hitler from 1933 to 1945.
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; World War IIWorld War II,
1939–45, worldwide conflict involving every major power in the world. The two sides were generally known as the Allies and the Axis. Causes and Outbreak
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) political opponents such as von Schleicher and Gregor Strasser (who had resigned from the Nazis) were murdered or incarcerated, and some Nazis, among them Ernst RoehmRoehm or Röhm, Ernst
, 1887–1934, German National Socialist leader. An army officer in World War I, he met (1919) Adolf Hitler, whose political career he helped to launch.
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, were themselves purged. Jews, Socialists, Communists, and others were hounded, arrested, or assassinated. Government, law, and education became appendages of National Socialism. After Hindenburg's death in 1934 the chancellorship and presidency were united in the person of the Führer [leader]. Heil Hitler! became the obligatory form of greeting, and a cult of Führer worship was propagated.

In 1938, amid carefully nurtured scandal, Hitler dismissed top army commanders and divided their power between himself and faithful subordinates such as Wilhelm KeitelKeitel, Wilhelm
, 1882–1946, German general. A supporter of Hitler, he became (1938) chief of staff of the supreme command of the armed forces, a new post that marked the German army's subjection to Hitler.
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. As Hitler prepared for war he replaced professional diplomats with Nazis such as Joachim von RibbentropRibbentrop, Joachim von
, 1893–1946, German foreign minister (1938–45). After World War I he became a wealthy champagne merchant. He joined the National Socialist party in 1932 and impressed Adolf Hitler with his knowledge of foreign languages and countries; he soon
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. Many former doubters had been converted by Hitler's bold diplomatic coups, beginning with German rearmament. Hitler bullied smaller nations into making territorial concessions and played on the desire for peace and the fear of Communism among the larger European states to achieve his expansionist goals. To forestall retaliation he claimed to be merely rectifying the onerous Treaty of Versailles.

Benito MussoliniMussolini, Benito
, 1883–1945, Italian dictator and leader of the Fascist movement. Early Career

His father, an ardent Socialist, was a blacksmith; his mother was a teacher.
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 became his ally and Italy gradually became Germany's satellite. Hitler helped Franco to establish a dictatorship in Spain. On Hitler's order the Austrian chancellor Engelbert DollfussDollfuss, Engelbert
, 1892–1934, Austrian chancellor. A Christian Socialist, he rose to prominence as leader of the Lower Austrian Farmers' League and became minister of agriculture in 1931.
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 was assassinated, and the AnschlussAnschluss
, German term designating the incorporation of Austria into Germany in the 1930s. Anschluss was first advocated by Austrian Social Democrats. The 1919 peace treaty of St. Germain prohibited Anschluss, to prevent a resurgence of a strong Germany.
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 amalgamated Austria with the Reich. Hitler used the issue of "persecuted" Germans in Czechoslovakia to push through the Munich PactMunich Pact,
1938. In the summer of 1938, Chancellor Hitler of Germany began openly to support the demands of Germans living in the Sudetenland (see Sudetes) of Czechoslovakia for an improved status. In September, Hitler demanded self-determination for the Sudetenland.
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, in which England, France, and Italy agreed to German annexation of the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia (1938).

World War II

Hitler's nonaggression pact (Aug., 1939) with Stalin allowed him to invade Poland (Sept. 1), beginning World War II, while Stalin annexed Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia to the USSR and attacked eastern Poland; but Hitler honored the pact only until he found it convenient to attack the USSR (June, 1941). In Dec., 1941, he assumed personal command of war strategy, leading to disaster. In early 1943 he refused to admit defeat at the battle of Stalingrad (now VolgogradVolgograd
, formerly Stalingrad,
city (1989 pop. 999,000), capital of Volgograd region, SE European Russia, a port on the Volga River and the eastern terminus of the Volga-Don Canal. As a transshipment point, the port handles oil, coal, ore, lumber, and fish.
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), bringing death to vast numbers of German troops. As the tide of war turned against Hitler, his mass extermination of the Jews, overseen by Adolf EichmannEichmann, Adolf
, 1906–62, German National Socialist official. A member of the Austrian Nazi party, he headed the Austrian office for Jewish emigration (1938). His zeal in deporting Jews brought him promotion (1939) to chief of the Gestapo's Jewish section.
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, was accelerated, and he gave increasing power to Heinrich HimmlerHimmler, Heinrich
, 1900–1945, German Nazi leader. An early member of the National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) party, Himmler took part in Adolf Hitler's "beer-hall putsch" of 1923, and in 1929 Hitler appointed him head of the SS, or Schutzstaffel,
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 and the dread secret policesecret police,
policing organization operating in secrecy for the political purposes of its government, often with terroristic procedures. The Nature of a Secret Police
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, the Gestapo and SS (Schutzstaffel).

Fall of Hitler and the Third Reich

By July, 1944, the German military situation was desperate, and a group of high military and civil officials (including Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben and Karl GoerdelerGoerdeler, Carl Friedrich
, 1884–1945, German civil servant, leader of resistance to Hitler. Lord mayor of Leipzig (1930–37) and price commissioner (1931–32, 1934–35), he resigned after continuously protesting measures taken by the Nazi regime.
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) attempted an assassination. Hitler escaped a bomb explosion with slight injuries; most of the plotters were executed. Although the war was hopelessly lost by early 1945, Hitler insisted that Germans fight on to the death. During the final German collapse in Apr., 1945, Hitler denounced Nazi leaders who wished to negotiate, and remained in Berlin when it was stormed by the Russians.

On Apr. 29 Hitler married his long-time mistress, Eva BraunBraun, Eva
, 1912–45, mistress and later wife of the German dictator Adolf Hitler. She was a shop assistant to a Nazi photographer, through whom she met Hitler. She entered his household in 1936, although their relationship was kept secret.
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, and on Apr. 30 they committed suicide together in an underground bunker of the chancellery building, having ordered that their bodies be burned. Hitler left Germany devastated; his legacy is the memory of one of the most dreadful tyrannies of modern times.


See his Mein Kampf (complete tr. 1940), Hitler's Secret Conversations, 1941–1944 (tr. 1953), and Hitler's Secret Book (tr. 1962). See also biographies by A. Bullock (rev. ed. 1964), B. F. Smith (1968), J. C. Fest (tr. 1974), I. Kershaw (2 vol., 1999–2000), A. N. Wilson (2012), V. Ullrich (2 vol., 2013–18, tr. 2016–20), P. Lonegrich (2019), and B. Simms (2019); H. R. Trevor-Roper, The Last Days of Hitler (1947); W. A. Jenks, Vienna and the Young Hitler (1960); W. Maser, Hitler (tr. 1973); R. E. Hertzstein, Adolf Hitler and the German Trauma, 1913–1945 (1974); R. and C. Winston, Hitler (1974); R. Hamilton, Who Voted for Hitler? (1982); J. Lukacs, The Hitler of History (1997); R. Rosenbaum, Explaining Hitler (1998); F. Redlich, Hitler: Diagnosis of a Destructive Prophet (1998); R. J. Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia (2004).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hitler, Adolf


(real surname, Schickelgruber). Born Apr. 20, 1889, in Braunau, Austria; died Apr. 30, 1945, in Berlin. Leader of the German fascist (National Socialist) party and head of the German fascist state (1933-45); major war criminal.

Hitler was born into the family of a customs official. Even prior to World War I, he was already an ardent proponent of antisocialist, nationalistic, and anti-Semitic “theories.” In 1913 he moved to Munich; during World War I, he was a corporal in the German Army. From 1919 he was one of the leading members of the so-called National Socialist German Workers’ Party, becoming its head in 1921. On Nov. 8 and 9, 1923, together with General E. von Ludendorff, Hitler attempted a fascist coup d’état in Munich; it failed. In the struggle for power, Hitler made use of unrestrained demagogy, provocation, blackmail, and murder. Hitler and his henchmen, financed by the German monopolies, conducted revanchist propaganda under the banner of a struggle against the Versailles Treaty of 1919 and succeeded in kindling chauvinism in the country and engendering massive support for themselves among the population. On Jan. 30, 1933, President P. von Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor. After Hindenburg’s death, Hitler concentrated all legislative and executive power in his own hands, merging the posts of president and chancellor (August 1934).

Hitler and his henchmen established a bloody terrorist regime in the country and turned Germany into an armed camp. Fascist Germany, with Hitler at its head, carried out an armed intervention into the Spanish Republic (1936-39), seized Austria (1938), occupied Czechoslovakia (1938-39), and, having put together a bloc of aggressor countries, unleashed World War II. On June 22, 1941, fascist Germany attacked the USSR. In December 1941, Hitler became commander in chief of the German armed forces.

Hitler was the inspirer and one of the principal organizers of the massive extermination of innocent civilians and prisoners of war and of the monstrous atrocities committed by the fascists in German-occupied countries and especially in the temporarily seized territories of the USSR. In 1945, amid the defeat of fascist Germany, the disintegration of the fascist state, and the entry of Soviet troops into Berlin, Hitler committed suicide in the bunker of the Berlin imperial chancellery.


Rozanov, G. L. “Krushenie fashistskoi Germanii.” Addendum to the book Poslednie dni Gitlera. Moscow, 1963.
Koval’, V. S. Pravda o zagovore protiv Gitlera 20 iiulia 1944. Kiev, 1960.
Mel’nikov, D. Zagovor 20 iiulia 1944 g. v Germanii. Moscow, 1962.
Heiden, K. Adolf Hitler, vols. 1-2. Zurich, 1936-37.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Hitler, Adolf


While sleeping in a bunker during World War I, Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) had a nightmare in which an avalanche of earth and molten lava buried him alive. Awakened from his sleep by this bad dream, Hitler left the dugout seeking fresh air to clear his head. He proceeded to wander into the open area that was the battlefield; this was extremely dangerous, but Hitler later insisted that he was being led by a will that was not his own. He remained in a semiconscious state until a sudden burst of enemy fire brought him to his senses. Immediately recognizing the danger, he turned around and sought the relative safety of his bunker only to find that there had been a direct hit on the dugout and all of his comrades were dead. Hitler interpreted this event to be an affirmation of his destiny to be a great leader to his people; he attributed his survival to a force that would protect him so he could carry out that role. He felt himself to be invincible.

Modern day analysts who review this dream do not conclude that it was an unequivocal sign of divine election. Some maintain, though, that it could have been prophetic in nature, predicting his destiny when he died in an underground bunker at the end of World War II. The psychoanalyst Carl Jung cited it as an example of “synchronicity.”

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.

Hitler, Adolf

(1889–1945) Nazi dictator of Germany; eclipsed all predecessors’ hatred for Jews. [World Hist.: Hitler]

Hitler, Adolf

(1889–1945) German dictator; his New Order excluded non-Aryans, e.g., Jews, Slavs. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler]
See: Bigotry

Hitler, Adolf

(1889–1945) Nazi dictator; architect of “Final Solution” to exterminate Jews. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler]

Hitler, Adolf

(1889–1945) led Germany to conquer or destroy most of Europe. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler]

Hitler, Adolf (1889–1945) German

dictator tried to conquer the world. [Ger. Hist.: Hitler]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.