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Adolf Hitler


In office
2 August 1934 – 30 April 1945
Preceded by Paul von Hindenburg
(as President)
Succeeded by Karl Dönitz
(as President)

In office
30 January 1933 – 30 April 1945
Preceded by Kurt von Schleicher
Succeeded by Joseph Goebbels

Born 20 April 1889
Braunau am Inn, Austria–Hungary
Died 30 April 1945 (aged 56)
Berlin, Germany
Citizenship Austrian (1889–1932)
German (1932–1945)
Nationality Austrian citizen until 1925[1] German citizen after 1932
Political party National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP)
Spouse(s) Eva Braun
(married on 29 April 1945)
Occupation politician, soldier, artist, writer
Religion See Adolf Hitler's religious beliefs
Signature
Military service
Allegiance German Empire German Empire
Service/branch War Ensign of Germany 1903-1918.svg Reichsheer
Years of service 1914–1918
Rank Gefreiter
Unit 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Iron Cross First and Second Class
Wound Badge

Adolf Hitler (German pronunciation: [ˈadɔlf ˈhɪtlɐ]; 20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, abbreviated NSDAP), commonly known as the Nazi Party. He was the dictator of Germany from 1933 to 1945, serving as chancellor from 1933 to 1945 and as head of state (Führer und Reichskanzler) from 1934 to 1945.

A decorated veteran of World War I, Hitler joined the Nazi Party (DAP) in 1919 and became leader of NSDAP in 1921. Following his imprisonment after a failed coup in Bavaria in 1923, he gained support by promoting German nationalism, anti-semitism, anti-capitalism, and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and propaganda. He was appointed chancellor in 1933, and quickly transformed the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich, a single-party dictatorship based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideals of national socialism.

Hitler ultimately wanted to establish a New Order of absolute Nazi German hegemony in Europe. To achieve this, he pursued a foreign policy with the declared goal of seizing Lebensraum ("living space") for the Aryan people; directing the resources of the state towards this goal. This included the rearmament of Germany, which culminated in 1939 when the Wehrmacht invaded Poland. In response, the United Kingdom and France declared war against Germany, leading to the outbreak of World War II in Europe.[2]

Within three years, Germany and the Axis powers had occupied most of Europe, and most of Northern Africa, East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean. However, with the reversal of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, the Allies gained the upper hand from 1942 onwards. By 1945, Allied armies had invaded German-held Europe from all sides. Nazi forces engaged in numerous violent acts during the war, including the systematic murder of as many as 17 million civilians,[3] an estimated six million of whom were Jews targeted in the Holocaust.

In the final days of the war, at the fall of Berlin in 1945, Hitler married his long-time mistress Eva Braun and, to avoid capture by Soviet forces less than two days later, the two committed suicide.[4]

Contents

Early years

Ancestry

Hitler's father, Alois Hitler, was an illegitimate child and, for the first 39 years of his life, bore his mother's surname, Schicklgruber.[5] Alois' paternity was not listed on his birth certificate, and has been the subject of much controversy. After receiving a "blackmail letter" from Hitler's nephew William Patrick Hitler threatening to reveal embarrassing information about Hitler's family tree, Nazi Party lawyer Hans Frank investigated, and, in his memoirs, claimed to have uncovered letters revealing that Alois' mother, Maria Schicklgruber, was employed as a housekeeper for a Jewish family in Graz and that the family's 19-year-old son, Leopold Frankenberger, fathered Alois.[5] No evidence has ever been produced to support Frank's claim, and Frank himself said Hitler's full Aryan blood was obvious.[6] Frank's claims were widely believed in the 1950s, but by the 1990s, were generally doubted by historians.[7][8] Ian Kershaw dismisses the Frankenberger story as a "smear" by Hitler's enemies, noting that all Jews had been expelled from Graz in the 15th century and were not allowed to return until well after Alois was born.[8]

In 1876, Alois took the surname of his stepfather, Johann Georg Hiedler. The name was spelled Hiedler, Hüttler, Huettler and Hitler, and was probably regularized to Hitler by a clerk. The origin of the name is either "one who lives in a hut" (Standard German Hütte), "shepherd" (Standard German hüten "to guard", English heed), or is from the Slavic word Hidlar and Hidlarcek. (Regarding the first two theories: some German dialects make little or no distinction between the ü-sound and the i-sound.)[5]

Childhood

Adolf Hitler was born at the Gasthof zum Pommer, an inn in Braunau am Inn, Austria–Hungary, the fourth of Alois and Klara Hitler's six children.

Adolf Hitler as an infant

At the age of three, his family moved to Kapuzinerstrasse 5[9] in Passau, Germany where the young Hitler would acquire Lower Bavarian rather than Austrian as his lifelong native dialect.[10] In 1894, the family moved to Leonding near Linz, then in June 1895, Alois retired to a small landholding at Hafeld near Lambach, where he tried his hand at farming and beekeeping. During this time, the young Hitler attended school in nearby Fischlham. As a child, he tirelessly played "Cowboys and Indians" and, by his own account, became fixated on war after finding a picture book about the Franco-Prussian War in his father's things.[11] He wrote in Mein Kampf: "It was not long before the great historic struggle had become my greatest spiritual experience. From then on, I became more and more enthusiastic about everything that was in any way connected with war or, for that matter, with soldiering."

His father's efforts at Hafeld ended in failure and the family moved to Lambach in 1897. There, Hitler attended a Catholic school located in an 11th-century Benedictine cloister whose walls were engraved in a number of places with crests containing the symbol of the swastika.[12] In 1898, the family returned permanently to Leonding.

His younger brother Edmund died of measles on 2 February 1900, causing permanent changes in Hitler. He went from a confident, outgoing boy who found school easy, to a morose, detached, sullen boy who constantly battled his father and his teachers.[13]

Hitler was close to his mother, but had a troubled relationship with his authoritarian father, who frequently beat him, especially in the years after Alois' retirement and disappointed farming efforts. Alois wanted his son to follow in his footsteps as an Austrian customs official, and this became a huge source of conflict between them.[11] Despite his son's pleas to go to classical high school and become an artist, his father sent him to the technical high school in Linz in September 1900. Hitler rebelled, and, in Mein Kampf confessed to failing his first year in hopes that once his father saw "what little progress I was making at the technical school he would let me devote myself to the happiness I dreamed of." But Alois never relented and Hitler became even more bitter and rebellious.

For young Hitler, German Nationalism quickly became an obsession, and a way to rebel against his father, who proudly served the Austrian government. Most people who lived along the German-Austrian border considered themselves German-Austrians, but Hitler expressed loyalty only to Germany. In defiance of the Austrian Monarchy, and his father who continually expressed loyalty to it, Hitler and his young friends liked to use the German greeting, "Heil," and sing the German anthem "Deutschland Über Alles", instead of the Austrian Imperial anthem.[11]

After Alois' sudden death on 3 January 1903, Hitler's behavior at the technical school became even more disruptive, and he was asked to leave. He enrolled at the Realschule in Steyr in 1904, but upon completing his second year, he and his friends went out for a night of celebration and drinking, and an intoxicated Hitler tore his school certificate into four pieces and used it as toilet paper. When someone turned the stained certificate in to the school's director, he "... gave him such a dressing-down that the boy was reduced to shivering jelly. It was probably the most painful and humiliating experience of his life."[14] Hitler was expelled, never to return to school again.

At age 15, Hitler took part in his First Holy Communion on Whitsunday, 22 May 1904, at the Linz Cathedral.[15] His sponsor was Emanuel Lugert, a friend of his late father.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

Following the school rector's recommendation, he too became convinced this was his 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 fulfilment of my artistic dream seemed physically impossible.[18]

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 lived in a shelter for the homeless. By 1910, he had settled into a house for poor working men on Meldemannstraße. Another resident of the house, Reinhold Hanisch, sold Hitler's paintings until the two men had a bitter falling-out.[19]

Hitler said he first became an anti-Semite in Vienna,[18] which had a large Jewish community, including Orthodox Jews who had fled the pogroms in Russia. According to childhood friend August Kubizek, however, Hitler was a "confirmed anti-Semite" before he left Linz.[18] 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 antisemitism on religious grounds to supporting it on racial grounds came from having seen an Orthodox Jew.

There were very few Jews in Linz. In the course of centuries the Jews who lived there had become Europeanised 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 antisemitism. 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?[18]

If this account is true, Hitler apparently did not act on his new belief. He often was a guest for dinner in a noble Jewish house, and he interacted well with Jewish merchants who tried to sell his paintings.[20]

Hitler may also have been influenced by Martin Luther's On the Jews and their Lies. In Mein Kampf, Hitler refers to Martin Luther as a great warrior, a true statesman, and a great reformer, alongside Richard Wagner and Frederick the Great.[21] 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."[22][23]

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 antisemitism with anti-Marxism. Later, blaming Germany's military defeat in World War I on the 1918 revolutions, he considered Jews the culprits 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 Munich police (acting in cooperation with the Austrian authorities) eventually arrested him. 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.[24]

A young Hitler (left) posing with other German soldiers

World War I

Hitler served in France and Belgium in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment (called Regiment List after its first commander), ending the war as a Gefreiter (equivalent at the time to a lance corporal in the British and private first class in the American armies). He was a runner, "a dangerous enough job"[25] on the Western Front, and was often exposed to enemy fire. He participated in a number of major battles on the Western Front, including the First Battle of Ypres, the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras and the Battle of Passchendaele.[26] The Battle of Ypres (October 1914), which became known in Germany as the Kindermord bei Ypern (Massacre of the Innocents) saw approximately 40,000 men (between a third and a half) of the nine infantry divisions present killed in 20 days, and Hitler's own company of 250 reduced to 42 by December. Biographer John Keegan has said that this experience drove Hitler to become aloof and withdrawn for the remaining years of war.[27]

Hitler in the German Army, 1914, sitting at right

Hitler was twice decorated for bravery. He received the Iron Cross, Second Class, in 1914 and Iron Cross, First Class, in 1918, an honour rarely given to a Gefreiter.[28] However, because the regimental staff thought Hitler lacked leadership skills, he was never promoted to Unteroffizier (equivalent to a British corporal). 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. He drew cartoons and instructional drawings for an army newspaper. In 1916, he was wounded in either the groin area[29] or the left thigh[30] during the Battle of the Somme, but returned to the front in March 1917. He received the Wound Badge later that year. A noted German historian and author, 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 and Bernhard Horstmann suggest the blindness may have been the result of a conversion disorder (then known as "hysteria").[31] 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,[32] 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.[33]
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.[18]

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. Hitler found the war to be 'the greatest of all experiences' and afterwards he was praised by a number of his commanding officers for his bravery.[34] He was shocked by Germany's capitulation in November 1918 even while the German army still held enemy territory.[35] 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, demilitarised 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 such as 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, Article 231 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

A copy of Adolf Hitler's forged German Workers' Party (DAP) membership card. His actual membership number was 555 (the 55th member of the party – the 500 was added to make the group appear larger) but later the number was reduced to create the impression that Hitler was one of the founding members.[36] Hitler had wanted to create his own party, but was ordered by his superiors in the Reichswehr to infiltrate an existing one instead.

After World War I, Hitler remained in the army and returned to Munich, where he – in contrast to his later declarations – attended the funeral march for the murdered Bavarian prime minister Kurt Eisner.[37] 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. Drexler was impressed with Hitler's oratory skills and invited him to join the party. Hitler joined DAP on 12 September 1919[38] and became the party's 55th member.[39] He was also made the seventh member of the executive committee.[40] Years later, he claimed to be the party's seventh overall member, but it has been established that this claim is false.[41]

Here Hitler met Dietrich Eckart, one of the early founders of the party and member of the occult Thule Society.[42] 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. To increase the party's appeal, the party changed its name to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or National Socialist German Workers Party (abbreviated NSDAP).

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 NSDAP[43] 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 suitable vehicle for their goals. 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 replace Drexler as party chairman, with unlimited 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 NSDAP 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 German Workers' Party, marking the first time this title was publicly used.

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

Drawing of Hitler, 1923

Beer Hall Putsch

Encouraged by this early support, Hitler decided to use Ludendorff as a front in an attempted coup later known as the "Beer Hall Putsch" (sometimes as the "Hitler Putsch" or "Munich Putsch"). The Nazi Party had copied Italy's fascists in appearance and had adopted some of their policies, and in 1923, Hitler wanted to emulate Benito Mussolini's "March on Rome" by staging his own "Campaign in Berlin". Hitler and Ludendorff obtained the clandestine support of Gustav von Kahr, Bavaria's de facto ruler, along with leading figures in the Reichswehr and the police. As political posters show, Ludendorff, Hitler and the heads of the Bavarian police and military planned on forming a new government.

On 8 November 1923, Hitler and the SA stormed a public meeting headed by Kahr in the Bürgerbräukeller, a large beer hall in Munich. He declared that he had set up a new government with Ludendorff and demanded, at gunpoint, the support of Kahr and the local military establishment for the destruction of the Berlin government.[44] Kahr withdrew his support and fled to join the opposition to Hitler at the first opportunity.[45] The next day, when Hitler and his followers marched from the beer hall to the Bavarian War Ministry to overthrow the Bavarian government as a start to their "March on Berlin", the police dispersed them. Sixteen NSDAP members were killed.[46]

Hitler fled to the home of Ernst Hanfstaengl and contemplated suicide. He was soon arrested for high treason. Alfred Rosenberg became temporary leader of the party. During Hitler's trial, he was given almost unlimited time to speak, and his popularity soared as he voiced nationalistic sentiments in his defence speech. A Munich personality became a nationally known figure. On 1 April 1924, Hitler was sentenced to five years' imprisonment at Landsberg Prison. Hitler received favoured treatment from the guards and had much fan mail from admirers. He was pardoned and released from jail on 20 December 1924, by order of the Bavarian Supreme Court on 19 December, which issued its final rejection of the state prosecutor's objections to Hitler's early release.[47] Including time on remand, he had served little more than one year of his sentence.[48]

On 28 June 1925, Hitler wrote a letter from Uffing to the editor of The Nation in New York City stating how long he had been in prison at "Sandberg a. S." [sic] and how much his privileges had been revoked.[49]

Mein Kampf

While at Landsberg he dictated most of the first volume of Mein Kampf (My Struggle, originally entitled Four and a Half Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice) to his deputy Rudolf Hess.[48] The book, dedicated to Thule Society member Dietrich Eckart, was an autobiography and an exposition of his ideology. Mein Kampf was influenced by The Passing of the Great Race by Madison Grant which Hitler called "my Bible."[50] It was published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926, selling about 240,000 copies between 1925 and 1934. By the end of the war, about 10 million copies had been sold or distributed (newlyweds and soldiers received free copies).

Hitler spent years dodging taxes on the royalties of his book and had accumulated a tax debt of about 405,500 Reichsmarks (€6 million in today's money) by the time he became chancellor (at which time his debt was waived).[51][52]

The copyright of Mein Kampf in Europe is claimed by the Free State of Bavaria and scheduled to end on 31 December 2015. Reproductions in Germany are authorized only for scholarly purposes and in heavily commented form. The situation is, however, unclear. Historian Werner Maser, in an interview with Bild am Sonntag has stated that Peter Raubal, son of Hitler's nephew, Leo Raubal, would have a strong legal case for winning the copyright from Bavaria if he pursued it. Raubal has stated he wants no part of the rights to the book, which could be worth millions of euros.[53] The uncertain status has led to contested trials in Poland and Sweden. Mein Kampf, however, is published in the U.S., as well as in other countries such as Turkey and Israel, by publishers with various political positions.

Rebuilding of the party

Adolf Hitler (left), standing up behind Hermann Göring at a Nazi rally in Nuremberg, 1928

At the time of Hitler's release, the political situation in Germany had calmed and the economy had improved, which hampered Hitler's opportunities for agitation. Though the "Hitler Putsch" had given Hitler some national prominence, his party's mainstay was still Munich.

The NSDAP and its organs were banned in Bavaria after the collapse of the putsch. Hitler convinced Heinrich Held, Prime Minister of Bavaria, to lift the ban, based on representations that the party would now only seek political power through legal means. Even though the ban on the NSDAP was removed effective 16 February 1925,[54] Hitler incurred a new ban on public speaking as a result of an inflammatory speech. Since Hitler was banned from public speeches, he appointed Gregor Strasser, who in 1924 had been elected to the Reichstag, as Reichsorganisationsleiter, authorizing him to organize the party in northern Germany. Strasser, joined by his younger brother Otto and Joseph Goebbels, steered an increasingly independent course, emphasizing the socialist element in the party's programme. The Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Gauleiter Nord-West became an internal opposition, threatening Hitler's authority, but this faction was defeated at the Bamberg Conference in 1926, during which Goebbels joined Hitler.

After this encounter, Hitler centralized the party even more and asserted the Führerprinzip ("Leader principle") as the basic principle of party organization. Leaders were not elected by their group but were rather appointed by their superior and were answerable to them while demanding unquestioning obedience from their inferiors. Consistent with Hitler's disdain for democracy, all power and authority devolved from the top down.

A key element of Hitler's appeal was his ability to evoke a sense of offended national pride caused by the Treaty of Versailles imposed on the defeated German Empire by the Western Allies. Germany had lost economically important territory in Europe along with its colonies and in admitting to sole responsibility for the war had agreed to pay a huge reparations bill totaling 132 billion marks. Most Germans bitterly resented these terms, but early Nazi attempts to gain support by blaming these humiliations on "international Jewry" were not particularly successful with the electorate. The party learned quickly, and soon a more subtle propaganda emerged, combining antisemitism with an attack on the failures of the "Weimar system" and the parties supporting it.

Having failed in overthrowing the Republic by a coup, Hitler pursued a "strategy of legality": this meant formally adhering to the rules of the Weimar Republic until he had legally gained power. He would then use the institutions of the Weimar Republic to destroy it and establish himself as dictator. Some party members, especially in the paramilitary SA, opposed this strategy; Röhm and others ridiculed Hitler as "Adolphe Legalité".

Rise to power

Nazi Party Election Results
Date Votes Percentage Seats in Reichstag Background
May 1924 1,918,300 6.5 32 Hitler in prison
December 1924 907,300 3.0 14 Hitler is released from prison
May 1928 810,100 2.6 12  
September 1930 6,409,600 18.3 107 After the financial crisis
July 1932 13,745,800 37.4 230 After Hitler was candidate for presidency
November 1932 11,737,000 33.1 196  
March 1933 17,277,000 43.9 288 During Hitler's term as Chancellor of Germany

Brüning Administration

An NSDAP meeting in December 1930, with Hitler in the centre

The political turning point for Hitler came when the Great Depression hit Germany in 1930. The Weimar Republic had never been firmly rooted and was openly opposed by right-wing conservatives (including monarchists), communists and the Nazis. As the parties loyal to the democratic, parliamentary republic found themselves unable to agree on counter-measures, their grand coalition broke up and was replaced by a minority cabinet. The new Chancellor, Heinrich Brüning of the Roman Catholic Centre Party, lacking a majority in parliament, had to implement his measures through the president's emergency decrees. Tolerated by the majority of parties, this rule by decree would become the norm over a series of unworkable parliaments and paved the way for authoritarian forms of government.[55]

The Reichstag's initial opposition to Brüning's measures led to premature elections in September 1930. The republican parties lost their majority and their ability to resume the grand coalition, while the Nazis suddenly rose from relative obscurity to win 18.3% of the vote along with 107 seats. In the process, they jumped from the ninth-smallest party in the chamber to the second largest.[56]

In September–October 1930, Hitler appeared as a major defence witness at the trial in Leipzig of two junior Reichswehr officers charged with membership of the Nazi Party, which at that time was forbidden to Reichswehr personnel.[57] The two officers, Leutnants Richard Scheringer and Hans Ludin admitted quite openly to Nazi Party membership, and used as their defence that the Nazi Party membership should not be forbidden to those serving in the Reichswehr.[58] When the Prosecution argued that the Nazi Party was a dangerous revolutionary force, one of the defence lawyers, Hans Frank had Hitler brought to the stand to prove that the Nazi Party was a law-abiding party.[58] During his testimony, Hitler insisted that his party was determined to come to power legally, that the phrase "National Revolution" was only to be interpreted "politically", and that his Party was a friend, not an enemy of the Reichswehr.[59] Hitler's testimony of 25 September 1930 won him many admirers within the ranks of the officer corps.[60]

Brüning's measures of budget consolidation and financial austerity brought little economic improvement and were extremely unpopular.[61] Under these circumstances, Hitler appealed to the bulk of German farmers, war veterans and the middle class, who had been hard-hit by both the inflation of the 1920s and the unemployment of the Depression.[62] In September 1931, Hitler's niece Geli Raubal was found dead in her bedroom in his Munich apartment (his half-sister Angela and her daughter Geli had been with him in Munich since 1929), an apparent suicide. Geli, who was believed to be in some sort of romantic relationship with Hitler, was 19 years younger than he was and had used his gun. His niece's death is viewed as a source of deep, lasting pain for him.[63]

In 1932, Hitler intended to run against the aging President Paul von Hindenburg in the scheduled presidential elections. His 27 January 1932 speech to the Industry Club in Düsseldorf won him, for the first time, support from a broad swath of Germany's most powerful industrialists.[64] Though Hitler had left Austria in 1913, he still had not acquired German citizenship and hence could not run for public office. In February, however, the state government of Brunswick, in which the Nazi Party participated, appointed Hitler to a minor administrative post and therby made him a citizen of Brunswick on 25 February 1932.[65] In those days, the states conferred citizenship, so this automatically made Hitler a citizen of Germany and thus eligible to run for president.[66]

The new German citizen ran against Hindenburg, who was supported by a broad range of nationalist, monarchist, Catholic, republican and even social democratic parties. Another candidate was a Communist and member of a fringe right-wing party. Hitler's campaign was called "Hitler über Deutschland" (Hitler over Germany).[67] The name had a double meaning; besides a reference to his dictatorial ambitions, it referred to the fact that he campaigned by aircraft.[67] Hitler came in second on both rounds, attaining more than 35% of the vote during the second one in April. Although he lost to Hindenburg, the election established Hitler as a realistic alternative in German politics.[68]

Appointment as Chancellor

Meanwhile, Papen tried to get his revenge on Schleicher by working toward the General's downfall, through forming an intrigue with the camarilla and Alfred Hugenberg, media mogul and chairman of the DNVP. Also involved were Hjalmar Schacht, Fritz Thyssen and other leading German businessmen. They financially supported the Nazi Party, which had been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by the cost of heavy campaigning. The businessmen wrote letters to Hindenburg, urging him to appoint Hitler as leader of a government "independent from parliamentary parties" which could turn into a movement that would "enrapture millions of people."[69]

Adolf Hitler, at a window of the Reich's Chancellory, receives an ovation from supporters in his first day in office as Chancellor. (30 January 1933)

Finally, the president reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler Chancellor of a coalition government formed by the NSDAP and DNVP. However, the Nazis were to be contained by a framework of conservative cabinet ministers, most notably by Papen as Vice-Chancellor and by Hugenberg as Minister of the Economy. The only other Nazi besides Hitler to get a portfolio was Wilhelm Frick, who was given the relatively powerless interior ministry (in Germany at the time, most powers wielded by the interior minister in other countries were held by the interior ministers of the states). As a concession to the Nazis, Göring was named minister without portfolio. While Papen intended to use Hitler as a figurehead, the Nazis gained key positions.

On the morning of 30 January 1933, in Hindenburg's office, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor during what some observers later described as a brief and simple ceremony. His first speech as Chancellor took place on 10 February. The Nazis' seizure of power subsequently became known as the Machtergreifung.

Reichstag fire and the March elections

Having become Chancellor, Hitler foiled all attempts by his opponents to gain a majority in parliament. Because no single party could gain a majority, Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag again. Elections were scheduled for early March, but on 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building was set on fire.[70] Since a Dutch independent communist was found in the building, the fire was blamed on a communist plot. The government reacted with the Reichstag Fire Decree of 28 February which suspended basic rights, including habeas corpus. Under the provisions of this decree, the German Communist Party (KPD) and other groups were suppressed, and Communist functionaries and deputies were arrested, forced to flee, or murdered.

Campaigning continued, with the Nazis making use of paramilitary violence, anti-communist hysteria, and the government's resources for propaganda. On election day, 6 March, the NSDAP increased its result to 43.9% of the vote, remaining the largest party, but its victory was marred by its failure to secure an absolute majority, necessitating maintaining a coalition with the DNVP.[71]

Parade of SA troops past Hitler – Nuremberg, November 1935

"Day of Potsdam" and the Enabling Act

On 21 March, the new Reichstag was constituted with an opening ceremony held at Potsdam's garrison church. This "Day of Potsdam" was staged to demonstrate reconciliation and unity between the revolutionary Nazi movement and "Old Prussia" with its elites and virtues. Hitler appeared in a tail coat and humbly greeted the aged President Hindenburg.

Because of the Nazis' failure to obtain a majority on their own, Hitler's government confronted the newly elected Reichstag with the Enabling Act that would have vested the cabinet with legislative powers for a period of four years. Though such a bill was not unprecedented, this act was different since it allowed for deviations from the constitution. Since the bill required a ⅔ majority in order to pass, the government needed the support of other parties. The position of the Centre Party, the third largest party in the Reichstag, turned out to be decisive: under the leadership of Ludwig Kaas, the party decided to vote for the Enabling Act. It did so in return for the government's oral guarantees regarding the Church's liberty, the concordats signed by German states and the continued existence of the Centre Party.

On 23 March, the Reichstag assembled in a replacement building under extremely turbulent circumstances. Some SA men served as guards within while large groups outside the building shouted slogans and threats toward the arriving deputies. Kaas announced that the Centre Party would support the bill with "concerns put aside," while Social Democrat Otto Wels denounced the act in his speech. At the end of the day, all parties except the Social Democrats voted in favour of the bill. The Communists, as well as some Social Democrats, were barred from attending. The Enabling Act, combined with the Reichstag Fire Decree, transformed Hitler's government into a legal dictatorship.

Removal of remaining limits

At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense I tell you that the Nazi movement will go on for 1,000 years! ... Don't forget how people laughed at me 15 years ago when I declared that one day I would govern Germany. They laugh now, just as foolishly, when I declare that I shall remain in power!

—Adolf Hitler to a British correspondent in Berlin, June 1934[72]

With this combination of legislative and executive power, Hitler's government further suppressed the remaining political opposition. The Communist Party of Germany and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) were banned, while all other political parties were forced to dissolve themselves. Finally, on 14 July, the Nazi Party was declared the only legal party in Germany.

Hitler used the SA paramilitary to push Hugenberg into resigning, and proceeded to politically isolate Vice-Chancellor Papen. Because the SA's demands for political and military power caused much anxiety among military and political leaders, Hitler used allegations of a plot by the SA leader Ernst Röhm to purge the SA's leadership during the Night of the Long Knives. As well, opponents unconnected with the SA were murdered, notably Gregor Strasser and former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher.[73]

In 1934, Hitler became Germany's president under the title Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Chancellor of the Reich).

President Paul von Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934. Rather than call new elections as required by the constitution, Hitler's cabinet passed a law proclaiming the presidency vacant and transferred the role and powers of the head of state to Hitler as Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor). This action effectively removed the last legal remedy by which Hitler could be dismissed – and with it, nearly all institutional checks and balances on his power.

On 19 August a plebiscite approved the merger of the presidency with the chancellorship winning 84.6% of the electorate.[74][75] This action technically violated both the constitution and the Enabling Act. The constitution had been amended in 1932 to make the president of the High Court of Justice, not the chancellor, acting president until new elections could be held. The Enabling Act specifically barred Hitler from taking any action that tampered with the presidency. However, no one dared object.

As head of state, Hitler now became Supreme Commander of the armed forces. When it came time for the soldiers and sailors to swear the traditional loyalty oath, it had been altered into an oath of personal loyalty to Hitler. Normally, soldiers and sailors swear loyalty to the holder of the office of supreme commander/commander-in-chief, not a specific person.[76]

In 1938, Hitler forced the resignation of his War Minister (formerly Defense Minister), Werner von Blomberg, after evidence surfaced that Blomberg's new wife had a criminal past. Prior to removing Blomberg, Hitler and his clique removed army commander Werner von Fritsch on suspicion of homosexuality.[77] Hitler replaced the Ministry of War with the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (High Command of the Armed Forces, or OKW), headed by the pliant General Wilhelm Keitel. More importantly, Hitler announced he was assuming personal command of the armed forces. He took over Blomberg's other old post, that of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, for himself. He was already Supreme Commander by virtue of holding the powers of the president. The next day, the newspapers announced, "Strongest concentration of powers in Führer's hands!"

Third Reich

Having secured supreme political power, Hitler went on to gain public support by convincing most Germans he was their savior from the economic Depression, the Versailles treaty, communism, the "Judeo-Bolsheviks", and other "undesirable" minorities. The Nazis eliminated opposition through a process known as Gleichschaltung ("bringing into line").

Economy and culture

Hitler oversaw one of the greatest expansions of industrial production and civil improvement Germany had ever seen, mostly based on debt flotation and expansion of the military. Nazi policies toward women strongly encouraged them to stay at home to bear children and keep house. In a September 1934 speech to the National Socialist Women's Organization, Adolf Hitler argued that for the German woman her "world is her husband, her family, her children, and her home." This policy was reinforced by bestowing the Cross of Honor of the German Mother on women bearing four or more babies. The unemployment rate was cut substantially, mostly through arms production and sending women home so that men could take their jobs. Given this, claims that the German economy achieved near full employment are at least partly artifacts of propaganda from the era. Much of the financing for Hitler's reconstruction and rearmament came from currency manipulation by Hjalmar Schacht, including the clouded credits through the Mefo bills.

1934 Nuremberg rally

Hitler oversaw one of the largest infrastructure-improvement campaigns in German history, with the construction of dozens of dams, autobahns, railroads, and other civil works. Hitler's policies emphasised the importance of family life: men were the "breadwinners", while women's priorities were to lie in bringing up children and in household work. This revitalising of industry and infrastructure came at the expense of the overall standard of living, at least for those not affected by the chronic unemployment of the later Weimar Republic, since wages were slightly reduced in pre-World War II years, despite a 25% increase in the cost of living.[78] Laborers and farmers, the traditional voters of the NSDAP, however, saw an increase in their standard of living.

Hitler's government sponsored architecture on an immense scale, with Albert Speer becoming famous as the first architect of the Reich. While important as an architect in implementing Hitler's classicist reinterpretation of German culture, Speer proved much more effective as armaments minister during the last years of World War II. In 1936, Berlin hosted the summer Olympic games, which were opened by Hitler and choreographed to demonstrate Aryan superiority over all other races, achieving mixed results.

Although Hitler made plans for a Breitspurbahn ("broad gauge railroad network"), they were preempted by World War II. Had the railroad been built, its gauge would have been three metres, even wider than the old Great Western Railway of Britain.

Hitler contributed slightly to the design of the car that later became the Volkswagen Beetle and charged Ferdinand Porsche with its design and construction.[79] Production was deferred because of the war.

Hitler considered Sparta to be the first National Socialist state, and praised its early eugenics treatment of deformed children.[80]

On April 20, 1939, a lavish celebration was held in honor of Hitler's 50th birthday, featuring military parades, visits from foreign dignitaries, thousands of flaming torches and Nazi banners.[81]

An important historical debate about Hitler's economic policies concerns the "modernization" debate. Historians such as David Schoenbaum and Henry Ashby Turner have argued that social and economic polices under Hitler were modernization carried out in pursuit of anti-modern goals.[82] Other groups of historians centered around Rainer Zitelmann have contended that Hitler had a deliberate strategy of pursuing a revolutionary modernization of German society.[83]

Rearmament and new alliances

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during Hitler's visit to Venice from 14 to 16 June 1934

In a meeting with his leading generals and admirals on 3 February 1933, Hitler spoke of "conquest of Lebensraum in the East and its ruthless Germanisation" as his ultimate foreign policy objectives.[84] In March 1933, the first major statement of German foreign policy aims appeared with the memo submitted to the German Cabinet by the State Secretary at the Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office), Prince Bernhard von Bülow (not to be confused with his more famous uncle, the former Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow), which advocated Anschluss with Austria, the restoration of the frontiers of 1914, the rejection of the Part V of Versailles, the return of the former German colonies in Africa, and a German zone of influence in Eastern Europe as goals for the future. Hitler found the goals in Bülow's memo to be too modest.[85] In March 1933, to resolve the deadlock between the French demand for sécurité ("security") and the German demand for gleichberechtigung ("equality of armaments") at the World Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald presented the compromise "MacDonald Plan". Hitler endorsed the "MacDonald Plan", correctly guessing that nothing would come of it, and that in the interval he could win some goodwill in London by making his government appear moderate, and the French obstinate.[86]

In May 1933, Hitler met with Herbert von Dirksen, the German Ambassador in Moscow. Dirksen advised the Führer that he was allowing relations with the Soviet Union to deteriorate to a unacceptable extent, and advised to take immediate steps to repair relations with the Soviets.[87] Much to Dirksen's intense disappointment, Hitler informed that he wished for an anti-Soviet understanding with Poland, which Dirksen protested implied recognition of the German-Polish border, leading Hitler to state he was after much greater things than merely overturning the Treaty of Versailles.[88]

In June 1933, Hitler was forced to disavow Alfred Hugenberg of the German National People's Party, who while attending the London World Economic Conference put forth a programme of colonial expansion in both Africa and Eastern Europe, which created a major storm abroad.[89] Speaking to the Burgermeister of Hamburg in 1933, Hitler commented that Germany required several years of peace before it could be sufficiently rearmed enough to risk a war, and until then a policy of caution was called for.[90] In his "peace speeches" of 17 May 1933, 21 May 1935, and 7 March 1936, Hitler stressed his supposed pacific goals and a willingness to work within the international system.[91] In private, Hitler's plans were something less than pacific. At the first meeting of his Cabinet in 1933, Hitler placed military spending ahead of unemployment relief, and indeed was only prepared to spend money on the latter if the former was satisfied first.[92] When the president of the Reichsbank, the former Chancellor Dr. Hans Luther, offered the new government the legal limit of 100 million Reichmarks to finance rearmament, Hitler found the sum too low, and sacked Luther in March 1933 to replace him with Hjalmar Schacht, who during the next five years was to advance 12 billion Reichmarks worth of "Mefo-bills" to pay for rearmament.[93]

A major initiative in Hitler's foreign policy in his early years was to create an alliance with Britain. In the 1920s, Hitler wrote that a future National Socialist foreign policy goal was "the destruction of Russia with the help of England."[94] In May 1933, Alfred Rosenberg in his capacity as head of the Nazi Party's Aussenpolitisches Amt (Foreign Political Office) visited London as part of a disastrous effort to win an alliance with Britain.[95] In October 1933, Hitler pulled Germany out of both the League of Nations and World Disarmament Conference after his Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath made it appear to world public opinion that the French demand for sécurité was the principal stumbling block.[96]

In line with the views he advocated in Mein Kampf and Zweites Buch about the necessity of building an Anglo-German alliance, Hitler, in a meeting in November 1933 with the British Ambassador, Sir Eric Phipps, offered a scheme in which Britain would support a 300,000-strong German Army in exchange for a German "guarantee" of the British Empire.[97] In response, the British stated a 10-year waiting period would be necessary before Britain would support an increase in the size of the German Army.[97] A more successful initiative in foreign policy occurred with relations with Poland. In spite of intense opposition from the military and the Auswärtiges Amt who preferred closer ties with the Soviet Union, Hitler, in the fall of 1933 opened secret talks with Poland that were to lead to the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact of January 1934.[96]

In February 1934, Hitler met with the British Lord Privy Seal, Sir Anthony Eden, and hinted strongly that Germany already possessed an Air Force, which had been forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles.[98] In the fall of 1934, Hitler was seriously concerned over the dangers of inflation damaging his popularity.[99] In a secret speech given before his Cabinet on 5 November 1934, Hitler stated he had "given the working class his word that he would allow no price increases. Wage-earners would accuse him of breaking his word if he did not act against the rising prices. Revolutionary conditions among the people would be the further consequence."[99]

Although a secret German armaments programme had been on-going since 1919, in March 1935, Hitler rejected Part V of the Versailles treaty by publicly announcing that the German army would be expanded to 600,000 men (six times the number stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles), introducing an Air Force (Luftwaffe) and increasing the size of the Navy (Kriegsmarine). Britain, France, Italy and the League of Nations quickly condemned these actions. However, after re-assurances from Hitler that Germany was only interested in peace, no country took any action to stop this development and German re-armament continued. Later in March 1935, Hitler held a series of meetings in Berlin with the British Foreign Secretary Sir John Simon and Eden, during which he successfully evaded British offers for German participation in a regional security pact meant to serve as an Eastern European equivalent of the Locarno pact while the two British ministers avoided taking up Hitler's offers of alliance.[100] During his talks with Simon and Eden, Hitler first used what he regarded as the brilliant colonial negotiating tactic, when Hitler parlayed an offer from Simon to return to the League of Nations by demanding the return of the former German colonies in Africa.[101]

Starting in April 1935, disenchantment with how the Third Reich had developed in practice as opposed to what been promised led many in the Nazi Party, especially the Alte Kämpfer (Old Fighters; i.e., those who joined the Party before 1930, and who tended to be the most ardent anti-Semitics in the Party), and the SA into lashing out against Germany's Jewish minority as a way of expressing their frustrations against a group that the authorities would not generally protect.[102] The rank and file of the Party were most unhappy that two years into the Third Reich, and despite countless promises by Hitler prior to 1933, no law had been passed banning marriage or sex between those Germans belonging to the "Aryan" and Jewish "races". A Gestapo report from the spring of 1935 stated that the rank and file of the Nazi Party would "set in motion by us from below," a solution to the "Jewish problem," "that the government would then have to follow."[103] As a result, Nazi Party activists and the SA started a major wave of assaults, vandalism and boycotts against German Jews.[104]

On 18 June 1935, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement (A.G.N.A.) was signed in London which allowed for increasing the allowed German tonnage up to 35% of that of the British navy. Hitler called the signing of the A.G.N.A. "the happiest day of his life" as he believed the agreement marked the beginning of the Anglo-German alliance he had predicted in Mein Kampf.[105] This agreement was made without consulting either France or Italy, directly undermined the League of Nations and put the Treaty of Versailles on the path towards irrelevance.[106] After the signing of the A.G.N.A., in June 1935 Hitler ordered the next step in the creation of an Anglo-German alliance: taking all the societies demanding the restoration of the former German African colonies and coordinating (Gleichschaltung) them into a new Reich Colonial League (Reichskolonialbund) which over the next few years waged an extremely aggressive propaganda campaign for colonial restoration.[107] Hitler had no real interest in the former German African colonies. In Mein Kampf, Hitler had excoriated the Imperial German government for pursuing colonial expansion in Africa prior to 1914 on the grounds that the natural area for Lebensraum was Eastern Europe, not Africa.[108] It was Hitler's intention to use colonial demands as a negotiating tactic that would see a German "renunciation" of colonial claims in exchange for Britain making an alliance with the Reich on German terms.[109]

In the summer of 1935, Hitler was informed that, between inflation and the need to use foreign exchange to buy raw materials Germany lacked for rearmament, there were only 5 million Reichmarks available for military expenditure, and a pressing need for some 300,000 Reichmarks/day to prevent food shortages.[110] In August 1935, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht advised Hitler that the wave of anti-Semitic violence was interfering with the workings of the economy, and hence rearmament.[111] Following Dr. Schacht's complaints, plus reports that the German public did not approve of the wave of anti-Semitic violence, and that continuing police toleration of the violence was hurting the regime's popularity with the wider public, Hitler ordered a stop to "individual actions" against German Jews on 8 August 1935.[111] From Hitler's perspective, it was imperative to bring in harsh new anti-Semitic laws as a consolation prize for those Party members who were disappointed with Hitler's halt order of 8 August, especially because Hitler had only reluctantly given the halt order for pragmatic reasons, and his sympathies were with the Party radicals.[111] The annual Nazi Party Rally held at Nuremberg in September 1935 was to feature the first session of the Reichstag held at that city since 1543. Hitler had planned to have the Reichstag pass a law making the Nazi Swastika flag the flag of the German Reich, and a major speech in support of the impending Italian aggression against Ethiopia.[112] Hitler felt that the Italian aggression opened great opportunities for Germany. In August 1935, Hitler told Goebbels his foreign policy vision as: "With England eternal alliance. Good relationship with Poland . . . Expansion to the East. The Baltic belongs to us . . . Conflicts Italy-Abyssinia-England, then Japan-Russia imminent."[113]

At the last minute before the Nuremberg Party Rally was due to begin, the German Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath persuaded Hitler to cancel his speech praising Italy for her willingness to commit aggression. Neurath convinced Hitler that his speech was too provocative to public opinion abroad as it contradicted the message of Hitler's "peace speeches", thus leaving Hitler with the sudden need to have something else to address the first meeting of the Reichstag in Nuremberg since 1543, other than the Reich Flag Law.[114] On 13 September 1935, Hitler hurriedly ordered two civil servants, Dr. Bernhard Lösener and Franz Albrecht Medicus of the Interior Ministry to fly to Nuremberg to start drafting anti-Semitic laws for Hitler to present to the Reichstag for 15 September.[112] On the evening of 15 September, Hitler presented two laws before the Reichstag banning sex and marriage between Aryan and Jewish Germans, the employment of Aryan woman under the age of 45 in Jewish households, and deprived "non-Aryans" of the benefits of German citizenship.[115] The laws of September 1935 are generally known as the Nuremberg Laws.

In October 1935, in order to prevent further food shortages and the introduction of rationing, Hitler reluctantly ordered cuts in military spending[116] In the spring of 1936 in response to requests from Richard Walther Darré, Hitler ordered 60 million Reichmarks of foreign exchange to be used to buy seed oil for German farmers, a decision that led to bitter complaints from Dr. Schacht and the War Minister Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg that it would be impossible to achieve rearmament as long as foreign exchange was diverted to preventing food shortages[113] Given the economic problems which was affecting his popularity by early 1936, Hitler felt the pressing need for a foreign policy triumph as a way of distracting public attention from the economy.[113]

In an interview with the French journalist Bertrand de Jouvenel in February 1936, Hitler appeared to disavow Mein Kampf by saying that parts of his book were now out of date and he was not guided by them, though precisely which parts were out of date was left unclear.[117] In March 1936, Hitler again violated the Versailles treaty by reoccupying the demilitarized zone in the Rhineland. When Britain and France did nothing, he grew bolder. In July 1936, the Spanish Civil War began when the military, led by General Francisco Franco, rebelled against the elected Popular Front government. After receiving an appeal for help from General Franco in July 1936, Hitler sent troops to support Franco, and Spain served as a testing ground for Germany's new forces and their methods. At the same time, Hitler continued with his efforts to create an Anglo-German alliance. In July 1936, he offered to Phipps a promise that if Britain were to sign an alliance with the Reich, then Germany would commit to sending twelve divisions to the Far East to protect British colonial possessions there from a Japanese attack.[118] Hitler's offer was refused.

In August 1936, in response to a growing crisis in the German economy caused by the strains of rearmament, Hitler issued the "Four-Year Plan Memorandum" ordering Hermann Göring to carry out the Four Year Plan to have the German economy ready for war within the next four years.[119] During the 1936 economic crisis, the German government was divided into two factions, with one (the so-called "free market" faction) centering around the Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schacht and the former Price Commissioner Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler calling for decreased military spending and a turn away from autarkic policies, and another faction around Göring calling for the opposite. Supporting the "free-market" faction were some of Germany's leading business executives, most notably Hermann Duecher of AEG, Robert Bosch of Robert Bosch GmbH, and Albert Voegeler of Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG.[120] Hitler hesitated for the first half of 1936 before siding with the more radical faction in his "Four Year Plan" memo of August.[121] Historians such as Richard Overy have argued that the importance of the memo, which was written personally by Hitler, can be gauged by the fact that Hitler, who had something of a phobia about writing, hardly ever wrote anything down, which indicates that Hitler had something especially important to say.[122] The "Four-Year Plan Memorandum" predicated an imminent all-out, apocalyptic struggle between "Judo-Bolshevism" and German National Socialism, which necessitated a total effort at rearmament regardless of the economic costs.[123] In the memo, Hitler wrote:

Since the outbreak of the French Revolution, the world has been moving with ever increasing speed toward a new conflict, the most extreme solution of which is called Bolshevism, whose essence and aim, however, are solely the elimination of those strata of mankind which have hitherto provided the leadership and their replacement by worldwide Jewry. No state will be able to withdraw or even remain at a distance from this historical conflict . . . It is not the aim of this memorandum to prophesy the time when the untenable situation in Europe will become an open crisis. I only want, in these lines, to set down my conviction that this crisis cannot and will not fail to arrive and that it is Germany's duty to secure her own existence by every means in face of this catastrophe, and to protect herself against it, and that from this compulsion there arises a series of conclusions relating to the most important tasks that our people have ever been set. For a victory of Bolshevism over Germany would not lead to a Versailles treaty, but to the final destruction, indeed the annihilation of the German people . . . I consider it necessary for the Reichstag to pass the following two laws: 1) A law providing the death penalty for economic sabotage and 2) A law making the whole of Jewry liable for all damage inflicted by individual specimens of this community of criminals upon the German economy, and thus upon the German people.[124]

Hitler called for Germany to have the world's "first army" in terms of fighting power within the next four years and that "the extent of the military development of our resources cannot be too large, nor its pace too swift" (italics in the original) and the role of the economy was simply to support "Germany's self-assertion and the extension of her Lebensraum."[125][126] Hitler went on to write that given the magnitude of the coming struggle that the concerns expressed by members of the "free market" faction like Schacht and Goerdeler that the current level of military spending was bankrupting Germany were irrelevant. Hitler wrote that: "However well balanced the general pattern of a nation's life ought to be, there must at particular times be certain disturbances of the balance at the expense of other less vital tasks. If we do not succeed in bringing the German army as rapidly as possible to the rank of premier army in the world . . . then Germany will be lost!"[127] and "The nation does not live for the economy, for economic leaders, or for economic or financial theories; on the contrary, it is finance and the economy, economic leaders and theories, which all owe unqualified service in this struggle for the self-assertion of our nation."[120] Documents such as the Four Year Plan Memo have often used by right historians such as Henry Ashby Turner and Karl Dietrich Bracher who argue for a "primacy of politics" approach (that Hitler was not subordinate to German business, but rather the contrary was the case) against the "primacy of economics" approach championed by Marxist historians (that Hitler was a "agent" of and subordinate to German business).[128]

In August 1936, the freelance Nazi diplomat Joachim von Ribbentrop was appointed German Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Before Ribbentrop left to take up his post in October 1936, Hitler told him: "Ribbentrop . . . get Britain to join the Anti-Comintern Pact, that is what I want most of all. I have sent you as the best man I've got. Do what you can . . . But if in future all our efforts are still in vain, fair enough, then I'm ready for war as well. I would regret it very much, but if it has to be, there it is. But I think it would be a short war and the moment it is over, I will then be ready at any time to offer the British an honourable peace acceptable to both sides. However, I would then demand that Britain join the Anti-Comintern Pact or perhaps some other pact. But get on with it, Ribbentrop, you have the trumps in your hand, play them well. I'm ready at any time for an air pact as well. Do your best. I will follow your efforts with interest".[129]

On 25 October 1936, an Axis was declared between Italy and Germany

An Axis was declared between Germany and Italy by Count Galeazzo Ciano, foreign minister of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini on 25 October 1936. On 25 November of the same year, Germany concluded the Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan. At the time of the signing of the Anti-Comintern Pact, invitations were sent out for Britain, China, Italy and Poland to adhere; of the invited powers only the Italians were to sign the pact, in November 1937. To strengthen relationship with Japan, Hitler met in 1937 in Nuremberg Prince Chichibu, a brother of emperor Hirohito. However, the meeting with Prince Chichibu had little consequence, as Hitler refused the Japanese request to halt German arms shipments to China or withdraw the German officers serving with the Chinese in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Both the military and the Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office) were strongly opposed to ending the informal German alliance with China that existed since the 1910s, and pressured Hitler to avoid offending the Chinese. The Auswärtiges Amt and the military both argued to Hitler that given the foreign exchange problems which afflicted German rearmament, and the fact that various Sino-German economic agreements provided Germany with raw materials that would otherwise use up precious foreign exchange, it was folly to seek an alliance with Japan that would have the inevitable result of ending the Sino-German alignment.

By the latter half of 1937, Hitler had abandoned his dream of an Anglo-German alliance, blaming "inadequate" British leadership for turning down his offers of an alliance.[130] In a talk with the League of Nations High Commissioner for the Free City of Danzig, the Swiss diplomat Carl Jacob Burckhardt in September 1937, Hitler protested what he regarded as British interference in the "German sphere" in Europe, though in the same talk, Hitler made clear his view of Britain as an ideal ally, which for pure selfishness was blocking German plans.[130]

Hitler had suffered severely from stomach pains and eczema in 1936–37, leading to his remark to the Nazi Party's propaganda leadership in October 1937 that because both parents died early in their lives, he would probably follow suit, leaving him with only a few years to obtain the necessary Lebensraum.[131][132] About the same time, Dr. Goebbels noted in his diary Hitler now wished to see the "Great Germanic Reich" he envisioned in his own lifetime rather than leaving the work of building the "Great Germanic Reich" to his successors.[133]

On 5 November 1937, at the Reich Chancellory, Adolf Hitler held a secret meeting with the War and Foreign Ministers and the three service chiefs, recorded in the Hossbach Memorandum, and stated his intentions for acquiring "living space" Lebensraum for the German people. He ordered the attendees to make plans for war in the east no later than 1943 in order to acquire Lebensraum. Hitler stated the conference minutes were to be regarded as his "political testament" in the event of his death.[134] In the memo, Hitler was recorded as saying that such a state of crisis had been reached in the German economy that the only way of stopping a severe decline in living standards in Germany was to embark sometime in the near-future on a policy of aggression by seizing Austria and Czechoslovakia.[135][136] Moreover, Hitler stated that the arms race meant that time for action had to occur before Britain and France obtained a permanent lead in the arms race.[135] A striking change in the Hossbach Memo was Hitler's changed view of Britain from the prospective ally of 1928 in the Zweites Buch to the "hate-inspired antagonist" of 1937 in the Hossbach memo.[137] The historian Klaus Hildebrand described the memo as the start of an "ambivalent course" towards Britain while the late historian Andreas Hillgruber argued that Hitler was embarking on expansion "without Britain," preferably "with Britain," but if necessary "against Britain."[109][138]

Hitler's intentions outlined in the Hossbach memorandum led to strong protests from the Foreign Minister, Baron Konstantin von Neurath, the War Minister Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg, and the Army Commander General Werner von Fritsch, that any German aggression in Eastern Europe was bound to trigger a war with France because of the French alliance system in Eastern Europe (the so-called cordon sanitaire), and if a Franco-German war broke out, then Britain was almost certain to intervene rather than risk the chance of a French defeat.[139] The aggression against Austria and Czechoslovakia were intended to be the first of a series of localized wars in Eastern Europe that would secure Germany's position in Europe before the final showdown with Britain and France. Fritsch, Blomberg and Neurath all argue that Hitler was pursuing an extremely high-risk strategy of localized wars in Eastern Europe that was most likely to cause a general war before Germany was ready for such a conflict, and advised Hitler to wait until Germany had more time to rearm. Neurath, Blomberg and Fritsch had no moral objections to German aggression, but rather based their opposition on the question of timing – determining the best time for aggression.[139]

Late in November 1937, Hitler received as his guest the British Lord Privy Seal, Lord Halifax who was visiting Germany ostensibly as part of a hunting trip. Speaking of changes to Germany's frontiers, Halifax told Hitler that: "All other questions fall into the category of possible alterations in the European order which might be destined to come about with the passage of time. Amongst these questions were Danzig, Austria and Czechoslovakia. England was interested to see that any alterations should come through the course of peaceful evolution and that the methods should be avoided which might cause far-reaching disturbances."[140] Significantly, Halifax made clear in his statements to Hitler—though whether Hitler appreciated the significance of this or not is unclear—that any possible territorial changes had to be accomplished peacefully, and that though Britain had no security commitments in Eastern Europe beyond the Covenant of the League of Nations, would not tolerate territorial changes via war.[141] Hitler seems to have misunderstood Halifax's remarks as confirming his conviction that Britain would just stand aside while he pursued his strategy of limited wars in Eastern Europe.

Hitler was most unhappy with the criticism of his intentions expressed by Neurath, Blomberg, and Fritsch in the Hossbach Memo, and in early 1938 asserted his control of the military-foreign policy apparatus through the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair, the abolition of the War Ministry and its replacement by the OKW, and by sacking Neurath as Foreign Minister on 4 February 1938, assuming the rank, role and tile of the Oberster Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht (supreme commander of the armed forces).[142] The British economic historian Richard Overy commented that the establishment of the OKW in February 1938 was a clear sign of what Hitler's intentions were since supreme headquarters organizations such as the OKW are normally set up during wartime, not peacetime.[143] The Official German history of World War II has argued that from early 1938 onwards, Hitler was not carrying out a foreign policy that had carried a high risk of war, but was carrying out a foreign policy aiming at war.[144]

The Holocaust

An American soldier stands near a wagon piled high with corpses outside the crematorium in the newly liberated Buchenwald concentration camp

One of the foundations of Hitler's social policies was the concept of racial hygiene. It was based on the ideas of Arthur de Gobineau, a French count; eugenics, a pseudo-science that advocated racial purity; and social Darwinism. Applied to human beings, "survival of the fittest" was interpreted as requiring racial purity and killing off "life unworthy of life." The first victims were children with physical and developmental disabilities; those killings occurred in a programme dubbed Action T4.[145] After a public outcry, Hitler made a show of ending this program, but the killings in fact continued (see Nazi eugenics).

Between 1939 and 1945, the SS, assisted by collaborationist governments and recruits from occupied countries, systematically killed somewhere between 11 and 14 million people, including about six million Jews,[146][147] in concentration camps, ghettos and mass executions, or through less systematic methods elsewhere. In addition to those gassed to death, many died as a result of starvation and disease while working as slave labourers (sometimes benefiting private German companies). Along with Jews, non-Jewish Poles, Communists and political opponents, members of resistance groups, homosexuals, Roma, the physically handicapped and mentally retarded, Soviet prisoners of war (possibly as many as three million), Jehovah's Witnesses, Adventists, trade unionists, and psychiatric patients were killed. One of the biggest centres of mass-killing was the industrial extermination camp complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau. As far as is known, Hitler never visited the concentration camps and did not speak publicly about the killing in precise terms.[148]

The Holocaust (the Endlösung der jüdischen Frage or "Final Solution of the Jewish Question") was planned and ordered by leading Nazis, with Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich playing key roles. While no specific order from Hitler authorizing the mass killing has surfaced, there is documentation showing that he approved the Einsatzgruppen killing squads that followed the German army through Poland and Russia, and that he was kept well informed about their activities. The evidence also suggests that in the fall of 1941 Himmler and Hitler decided upon mass extermination by gassing. During interrogations by Soviet intelligence officers declassified over fifty years later, Hitler's valet Heinz Linge and his military aide Otto Gunsche said Hitler had "pored over the first blueprints of gas chambers." His private secretary, Traudl Junge, testified that Hitler knew all about the death camps.

To make for smoother cooperation in the implementation of this "Final Solution", the Wannsee conference was held near Berlin on 20 January 1942, with fifteen senior officials participating, led by Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann. The records of this meeting provide the clearest evidence of planning for the Holocaust. On 22 February, Hitler was recorded saying to his associates, "we shall regain our health only by eliminating the Jews".

World War II

Early diplomatic triumphs

Alliance with Japan

Japanese Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka with Hitler in Berlin

In February 1938, Hitler finally ended the dilemma that had plagued German Far Eastern policy, namely whether to continue the informal Sino-German alliance that existed with Republic of China since the 1910s or to create a new alliance with Japan. The military at the time strongly favored continuing Germany's alliance with China. China had the support of Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath and War Minister Werner von Blomberg, the so-called "China Lobby" who tried to steer German foreign policy away from war in Europe.[149] Both men, however, were sacked by Hitler in early 1938. Upon the advice of Hitler's newly appointed Foreign Minister, the strongly pro-Japanese Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler chose to end the alliance with China as the price of gaining an alignment with the more modern and powerful Japan. In an address to the Reichstag, Hitler announced German recognition of Manchukuo, the Japanese-occupied puppet state in Manchuria, and renounced the German claims to the former colonies in the Pacific held by Japan.[150] Hitler ordered an end to arms shipments to China, and ordered the recall of all the German officers attached to the Chinese Army.[150] In retaliation for ending German support to China in the war against Japan, Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek canceled all of the Sino-German economic agreements, which deprived the Germans of raw materials such as tungsten that the Chinese had previously provided. The ending of the Sino-German alignment increased the problems of German rearmament, as the Germans were now forced to use their limited supply of foreign exchange to buy raw materials on the open market.

Austria and Czechoslovakia

In March 1938, Hitler pressured Austria into unification with Germany (the Anschluss) and made a triumphant entry into Vienna on 14 March.[151][152] Next, he intensified a crisis over the German-speaking Sudetenland districts of Czechoslovakia.[153]

On 3 March 1938, the British Ambassador Sir Neville Henderson met with Hitler and presented on behalf of his government a proposal for an international consortium to rule much of Africa (in which Germany would be assigned a leading role) in exchange for a German promise never to resort to war to change the frontiers.[154] Hitler, who was more interested in Lebensraum in Eastern Europe than in participating in international consortiums, rejected the British offer, using as his excuse that he wanted the former German African colonies returned to the Reich, not an international consortium running Central Africa. Moreover, Hitler argued that it was totally outrageous on Britain's part to impose conditions on German conduct in Europe as the price for territory in Africa.[155] Hitler ended the conversation by telling Henderson he would rather wait 20 years for the return of the former colonies than accept British conditions for avoiding war.[155][156]

On 28–29 March 1938, Hitler held a series of secret meetings in Berlin with Konrad Henlein of the Sudeten Heimfront (Home Front), the largest of the ethnic German parties of the Sudetenland. During the Hitler-Henlein meetings, it was agreed that Henlein would provide the pretext for German aggression against Czechoslovakia by making demands on Prague for increased autonomy for Sudeten Germans that Prague could never be reasonably expected to fulfill. In April 1938, Henlein told the foreign minister of Hungary that "whatever the Czech government might offer, he would always raise still higher demands ... he wanted to sabotage an understanding by all means because this was the only method to blow up Czechoslovakia quickly".[157] In private, Hitler considered the Sudeten issue unimportant; his real intentions being to use the Sudeten question as the justification both at home and abroad for a war of aggression to destroy Czechoslovakia, under the grounds of self-determination, and Prague's refusal to meet Henlein's demands.[158] Hitler's plans called for a massive military build-up along the Czechoslovak border, relentless propaganda attacks about the supposed ill treatment of the Sudetenlanders, and finally, "incidents" between Heimfront activists and the Czechoslovak authorities to justify an invasion that would swiftly destroy Czechoslovakia in a few days campaign before other powers could act.[159] Since Hitler wished to have the fall harvest brought in as much as possible, and to complete the so-called "West Wall" to guard the Rhineland, the date for the invasion was chosen for late September or early October 1938.[160]

In April 1938, Hitler ordered the OKW to start preparing plans for Fall Grün (Case Green), the codename for an invasion of Czechoslovakia.[161] Further increasing the tension in Europe was the May Crisis of 19–22 May 1938. The May Crisis of 1938 was a false alarm caused by rumors that Czechoslovakia would be invaded the weekend of the municipal elections in that country, erroneous reports of major German troop movements along the Czechoslovak border just prior to the elections, the killing of two ethnic Germans by the Czechoslovak police, and Ribbentrop's highly bellicose remarks to Henderson when the latter asked the former if an invasion was indeed scheduled for the weekend, which led to a partial Czechoslovak mobilization and firm warnings from London against a German move against Czechoslovakia before it was realized that no invasion was intended for that weekend.[162] Though no invasion had been planned for May 1938, it was believed in London that such a course of action was indeed being considered in Berlin, leading to two warnings on 21 May and 22 May that the United Kingdom would go to war with Germany if France became involved in a war with Germany.[163] Hitler, for his part, was, to use the words of an aide, highly "furious" with the perception that he had been forced to back down by the Czechoslovak mobilization and the warnings from London and Paris, when he had, in fact, been planning nothing for that weekend.[164] Though plans had already been drafted in April 1938 for an invasion of Czechoslovakia in the near future, the May Crisis and the perception of a diplomatic defeat further reinforced Hitler in his chosen course. The May Crisis seemed to have had the effect of convincing Hitler that expansion "without Britain" was not possible, and expansion "against Britain" was the only viable course.[165] In the immediate aftermath of the May crisis, Hitler ordered an acceleration of German naval building beyond the limits of the A.G.N.A., and in the "Heye memorandum", drawn at Hitler's orders, envisaged the Royal Navy for the first time as the principal opponent of the Kriegsmarine.[166]

At the conference of 28 May 1938, Hitler declared that it was his "unalterable" decision to "smash Czechoslovakia" by 1 October of the same year, which was explained as securing the eastern flank "for advancing against the West, England and France".[167] At the same conference, Hitler expressed his belief that Britain would not risk a war until British rearmament was complete, which Hitler felt would be around 1941–42, and Germany should in a series of wars eliminate France and her allies in Europe in the interval in the years 1938–41 while German rearmament was still ahead.[167] Hitler's determination to go through with Fall Grün in 1938 provoked a major crisis in the German command structure.[168] The Chief of the General Staff, General Ludwig Beck protested in a lengthy series of memos that Fall Grün would start a world war that Germany would lose, and urged Hitler to put off the projected war.[168] Hitler called Beck's arguments against war "kindische Kräfteberechnugen" ("childish calculations").[169]

On 4 August 1938, a secret Army meeting was held at which Beck read his report. They agreed something had to be done to prevent certain disaster. Beck hoped they would all resign together but no one resigned except Beck. However his replacement, General Franz Halder, sympathised with Beck and together they conspired with several top generals, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (Chief of German Intelligence), and Graf von Helldorf (Berlin's Police Chief) to arrest Hitler the moment he gave the invasion order. However, the plan would only work if both Britain and France made it known to the world that they would fight to preserve Czechoslovakia. This would help to convince the German people that certain defeat awaited Germany. Agents were therefore sent to England to tell Chamberlain that an attack on Czechoslovakia was planned and their intentions to overthrow Hitler if this occurred. However the messengers were not taken seriously by the British. In September, Chamberlain and Daladier decided not to threaten a war over Czechoslovakia and so the planned removal of Hitler could not be justified.[170] The Munich Agreement therefore preserved Hitler in power.

Starting in August 1938, information reached London that Germany was beginning to mobilize reservists, together with information leaked by anti-war elements in the German military that the war was scheduled for sometime in September.[171] Finally, as a result of intense French, and especially British diplomatic pressure, President Edvard Beneš unveiled on 5 September 1938, the "Fourth Plan" for constitutional reorganization of his country, which granted most of the demands for Sudeten autonomy made by Henlein in his Karlsbad speech of April 1938, and threatened to deprive the Germans of their pretext for aggression.[172] Henlein's Heimfront promptly responded to the offer of "Fourth Plan" by having a series of violent crashes with the Czechoslovak police, culminating in major clashes in mid-September that led to the declaration of martial law in certain Sudeten districts.[173][174] In a response to the threatening situation, in late August 1938, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had conceived of Plan Z, namely to fly to Germany, meet Hitler, and then work out an agreement that could end the crisis.[175][176] On 13 September 1938, Chamberlain offered to fly to Germany to discuss a solution to the crisis. Chamberlain had decided to execute Plan Z in response to erroneous information supplied by the German opposition that the invasion was due to start any time after 18 September.[177] Though Hitler was not happy with Chamberlain's offer, he agreed to see the British Prime Minister because to refuse Chamberlain's offer would confirm the lie to his repeated claims that he was a man of peace driven reluctantly to war because of Beneš's intractability.[178] In a summit at Berchtesgaden, Chamberlain promised to pressure Beneš into agreeing to Hitler's publicly stated demands about allowing the Sudetenland to join Germany, in return for a reluctant promise by Hitler to postpone any military action until Chamberlain had given a chance to fulfill his promise.[179] Hitler had agreed to the postponement out of the expectation that Chamberlain would fail to secure Prague's consent to transferring the Sudetenland, and was, by all accounts, most disappointed when Franco-British pressure secured just that.[180] The talks between Chamberlain and Hitler in September 1938 were made difficult by their innately differing concepts of what Europe should look like, with Hitler aiming to use the Sudeten issue as a pretext for war and Chamberlain genuinely striving for a peaceful solution.[181]

When Chamberlain returned to Germany on 22 September to present his peace plan for the transfer of the Sudetenland at a summit with Hitler at Bad Godesberg, the British delegation was most unpleasantly surprised to have Hitler reject his own terms he had presented at Berchtesgaden as now unacceptable.[182] To put an end to Chamberlain's peace-making efforts once and for all, Hitler demanded the Sudetenland be ceded to Germany no later then 28 September 1938 with no negotiations between Prague and Berlin and no international commission to oversee the transfer; no plebiscites to be held in the transferred districts until after the transfer; and for good measure, that Germany would not forsake war as an option until all the claims against Czechoslovakia by Poland and Hungary had been satisfied.[183] The differing views between the two leaders were best symbolized when Chamberlain was presented with Hitler's new demands and protested at being presented with an ultimatum, leading Hitler in turn to retort that because his document stating his new demands was entitled "Memorandum", it could not possibly be an ultimatum.[184] On 25 September 1938 Britain rejected the Bad Godesberg ultimatum, and began preparations for war.[185][186] To further underline the point, Sir Horace Wilson, the British government's Chief Industrial Advisor, and a close associate of Chamberlain, was dispatched to Berlin to inform Hitler that if the Germans attacked Czechoslovakia, then France would honor her commitments as demanded by the Franco-Czechoslovak alliance of 1924, and "then England would feel honor bound, to offer France assistance".[187] Initially, determined to continue with attack planned for 1 October 1938, sometime between 27 and 28 September, Hitler changed his mind, and asked to take up a suggestion, of and through the intercession of Mussolini, for a conference to be held in Munich with Chamberlain, Mussolini, and the French Premier Édouard Daladier to discuss the Czechoslovak situation.[188] Just what had caused Hitler to change his attitude is not entirely clear, but it is likely that the combination of Franco-British warnings, and especially the mobilization of the British fleet, had finally convinced him of what the most likely result of Fall Grün would be; the minor nature of the alleged casus belli being the timetables for the transfer made Hitler appear too much like the aggressor; the view from his advisors that Germany was not prepared either militarily or economically for a world war; warnings from the states that Hitler saw as his would-be allies in the form of Italy, Japan, Poland and Hungary that they would not fight on behalf of Germany; and very visible signs that the majority of Germans were not enthusiastic about the prospect of war.[189][190][191] Moreover, Germany lacked sufficient supplies of oil and other crucial raw materials (the plants that would produce the synthetic oil for the German war effort were not in operation yet), and was highly dependent upon imports from abroad.[192] The Kriegsmarine reported that should war come with Britain, it could not break a British blockade, and since Germany had hardly any oil stocks, Germany would be defeated for no other reason than a shortage of oil.[193] The Economics Ministry told Hitler that Germany had only 2.6 million tons of oil at hand, and should war with Britain and France, would require 7.6 million tons of oil.[194] Starting on 18 September 1938, the British refused to supply metals to Germany, and on 24 September the Admiralty forbade British ships to sail to Germany. The British detained the tanker Invershannon carrying 8,600 tons of oil to Hamburg, which caused immediate economic pain in Germany.[195] Given Germany's dependence on imported oil (80% of German oil in the 1930s came from the New World), and the likelihood that a war with Britain would see a blockade cutting Germany off from oil supplies, historians have argued that Hitler's decision to see a peaceful end to call off Fall Grün was due to concerns about the oil problem.[192]

Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler and Mussolini at the Munich Conference

On 30 September 1938, a one-day conference was held in Munich attended by Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini that led to the Munich Agreement, which gave in to Hitler's ostensible demands by handing over the Sudetenland districts to Germany.[196] Since London and Paris had already agreed to the idea of a transfer of the disputed territory in mid-September, the Munich Conference mostly comprised discussions in one day of talks on technical questions about how the transfer of the Sudetenland would take place, and featured the relatively minor concessions from Hitler that the transfer would take place over a ten day period in October, overseen by an international commission, and Germany would wait until Hungarian and Polish claims were settled.[197] At the end of the conference, Chamberlain had Hitler sign a declaration of Anglo-German friendship, to which Chamberlain attached great importance and Hitler none at all.[198] Though Chamberlain was well-satisfied with the Munich conference, leading to his infamous claim to have secured "peace in our time", Hitler was privately furious about being "cheated" out of the war he was desperate to have in 1938.[199][200] As a result of the summit, Hitler was TIME magazine's Man of the Year for 1938.[201]

Hitler enters the German populated Sudetenland region of Czechoslavakia in October 1938 which was annexed to Germany proper due to the Munich agreement

By appeasing Hitler, Britain and France left Czechoslovakia to Hitler's mercy.[196] Though Hitler professed happiness in public over the achievement of his ostensible demands, in private he was determined to have a war the next time around by ensuring that Germany's future demands would not be met.[202] In Hitler's view, a British-brokered peace, though extremely favorable to the ostensible German demands, was a diplomatic defeat which proved that Britain needed to be ended as a power to allow him to pursue his dreams of eastern expansion.[203][204] In the aftermath of Munich, Hitler felt since Britain would not ally herself nor stand aside to facilitate Germany's continental ambitions, it had become a major threat, and accordingly, Britain replaced the Soviet Union in Hitler's mind as the main enemy of the Reich, with German policies being accordingly reoriented.[205][206][207][208] Hitler expressed his disappointment over the Munich Agreement in a speech on 9 October 1938 in Saarbrücken when he lashed out against the Conservative anti-appeasers Winston Churchill, Alfred Duff Cooper and Anthony Eden, whom Hitler described as a warmongering anti-German fraction, who would attack Germany at the first opportunity, and were likely to come to power at any moment.[209]

In the same speech, Hitler claimed "We Germans will no longer endure such governessy interference. Britain should mind her own business and worry about her own troubles".[210] In November 1938, Hitler ordered a major anti-British propaganda campaign to be launched with the British being loudly abused for their "hypocrisy" in maintaining world-wide empire while seeking to block the Germans from acquiring an empire of their own.[211] A particular highlight in the anti-British propaganda was alleged British humans rights abuses in dealing with the Arab uprising in the Palestine Mandate and in India, and the "hyprocrisy" of British criticism of the November 1938 Kristallnacht event.[212] This marked a huge change from the earlier years of the Third Reich, when the German media had portrayed the British Empire in very favorable terms.[213] In November 1938, the Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was ordered to convert the Anti-Comintern Pact into an open anti-British military alliance, as a prelude for a war against Britain and France.[214] On 27 January 1939, Hitler approved the Z Plan, a five-year naval expansion program which called for a Kriegsmarine of 10 battleships, four aircraft carriers, three battlecruisers, eight heavy cruisers, 44 light cruisers, 68 destroyers and 249 U-boats by 1944 that was intended to crush the Royal Navy.[215] The importance of the Z Plan can be seen in Hitler's orders that henceforward the Kriegsmarine was to go from third to one in allotment of raw materials, money and skilled workers.[216] In the spring of 1939, the Luftwaffe was ordered to start building a strategic bombing force that was meant to level British cities.[217] Hitler's war plans against Britain called for a joint Kriegsmarine-Luftwaffe offensive that was to stage "rapid annihilating blows" against British cities and shipping with the expectation that "The moment England is cut off from her supplies she is forced to capitulate" as Hitler expected that the experience of living in a blockaded, famine-stricken, bombed out island to be too much for the British public.[218]

Destroyed Jewish businesses in Magdeburg following Kristallnacht

In November 1938, in a secret speech to a group of German journalists, Hitler noted that he had been forced to speak of peace as the goal in order to attain the degree of rearmament "which were an essential prerequisite ... for the next step".[90] In the same speech, Hitler complained that his peace propaganda of the last five years had been too successful, and it was time for the German people to be subjected to war propaganda.[219] Hitler stated: "It is self-evident that such peace propaganda conducted for a decade has its risky aspect; because it can too easily induce people to come to the conclusion that the present government is identical with the decision and with the intention to keep peace under all circumstances", and instead called for new journalism that "had to present certain foreign policy events in such a fashion that the inner voice of the people itself slowly begins to shout out for the use of force."[219] In later November 1938, Hitler expressed his frustration with his more cautious advice he was receiving from some quarters[220] Hitler called the economic expert Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, General Ludwig Beck, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, the diplomat Ulrich von Hassell, and the economist Rudolf Brinkmann as "the overbred intellectual circles" whom were trying to block him from fulifilling his mission by their appeals to caution, and but for the fact that he needed their skills "otherwise, perhaps we could someday exterminate them or do something of this kind to them"[221]

In December 1938, the Chancellery of the Führer headed by Philipp Bouhler received a letter concerning a severely physically and mentally disabled baby girl named Sofia Knauer living in Leipzig.[222] At that time, there was a furious rivalry existing between Bouhler's office, the office of the Reich Chancellery led by Hans-Heinrich Lammers, the Presidential Chancellery of Otto Meissner, the office of Hitler's adjutant Wilhelm Brückner and the Deputy Führer's office which was effectively headed by Martin Borman over control over access to Hitler.[223] As part of a power play against his rivals, Bouhler presented the letter concerning the disabled girl to Hitler, who thanked Bouhler for bringing the matter to his attention and responded by ordering his personal physician Dr. Karl Brandt to kill Knauer.[224] In January 1939, Hitler ordered Bouhler and Dr. Brandt to henceforward have all disabled infants born in Germany killed.[224] This was the origin of the Action T4 program. Subsequently Dr. Brandt and Bouhler acting on their own initiative, in the expectation of winning Hitler's favor, expanded the T4 program to killing, first, all physically or mentally disabled children in Germany, and, second, all disabled adults.[225]

In late 1938 and early 1939, the continuing economic crisis caused by problems of rearmament, especially the shortage of foreign hard currencies needed to pay for raw materials Germany lacked together with reports from Göring that the Four Year Plan was hopelessly behind schedule forced Hitler in January 1939 to reluctantly order major defense cuts with the Wehrmacht having its steel allocations cut by 30%, aluminum 47%, cement 25%, rubber 14% and copper 20%.[226] On 30 January 1939, Hitler made his "Export or die" speech calling for a German economic offensive ("export battle", to use Hitler's term), to increase German foreign exchange holdings to pay for raw materials such high-grade iron needed for military materials.[226] The "Export or die" speech of 30 January 1939 is also known as Hitler's "Prophecy Speech". The name which that speech is known comes from Hitler's "prophecy" issued towards the end of the speech:

"One thing I should like to say on this day which may be memorable for others as well for us Germans: In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet, and I usually been ridiculed for it. During the time of my struggle for power it was in the first instance the Jewish race which only received my prophecies with laughter when I said I would one day take over the leadership of the State, and it that of the whole nation, and I that I would then among many other things settle the Jewish problem. Their laughter was uproarious, but I think that for some time now they have been laughing on the other side of the face. Today I will be once more the prophet. If the international Jewish financiers outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the bolsheviszation of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"[227]

A significant historical debate has swung around the "Prophecy Speech". Historians who take an intentionist line such as Eberhard Jäckel have argued that at minimum from the time of the "Prophecy Speech" onwards, Hitler was committed to genocide of the Jews as his central goal.[228] Lucy Dawidowicz and Gerald Fleming have argued that the "Prophecy Speech" was simply Hitler's way of saying that once he started a world war, he would use that war as a cover for his already pre-existing plans for genocide.[227] Functionalist historianssuch as Christopher Browning have dismissed this interpretation under the grounds that if Hitler were serious with the intentions expressed in the "Prophecy Speech", then why the 30-month "stay of execution" between the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, and the opening of the first Vernichtungslager in late 1941.[229] In addition, Browning has pointed to the existence of the Madagascar Plan of 1940–41 and various other schemes as proof that there was no genocidal master plan.[229] In Browning's opinion, the "Prophecy Speech" was merely an manifestation of bravado on Hitler's part, and had little connection with actual unfolding of anti-Semitic policies.[229]

At least part of the reason why Hitler violated the Munich Agreement by seizing the Czech half of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 was to obtain Czechoslovak assets to help with the economic crisis.[230] Hitler ordered Germany's army to enter Prague on 15 March 1939, and from Prague Castle proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate.

Start of World War II

Adolf Hitler's face on a German stamp 1944. The country's name has changed to the Greater German Reich since 1943 and this name can be seen on the stamp.

As part of the anti-British course, it was deemed necessary by Hitler to have Poland either a satellite state or otherwise neutralized. Hitler believed this necessary both on strategic grounds as a way of securing the Reich's eastern flank and on economic grounds as a way of evading the effects of a British blockade.[231] Initially, the German hope was to transform Poland into a satellite state, but by March 1939 the German demands had been rejected by the Poles three times, which led Hitler to decide upon the destruction of Poland as the main German foreign policy goal of 1939.[232] On 3 April 1939, Hitler ordered the military to start preparing for Fall Weiss (Case White), the plan for a German invasion to be executed on 25 August 1939.[232] In August 1939, Hitler spoke to his generals that his original plan for 1939 had to "... establish an acceptable relationship with Poland in order to fight against the West" but since the Poles would not co-operate in setting up an "acceptable relationship" (i.e. becoming a German satellite), he believed he had no choice other than wiping Poland off the map.[233] The historian Gerhard Weinberg has argued since Hitler's audience comprised men who were all for the destruction of Poland (anti-Polish feelings were traditionally very strong in the German Army), but rather less happy about the prospect of war with Britain and France, if that was the price Germany had to pay for the destruction of Poland, it is quite likely that Hitler was speaking the truth on this occasion.[233] In his private discussions with his officials in 1939, Hitler always described Britain as the main enemy that had to be defeated, and in his view, Poland's obliteration was the necessary prelude to that goal by securing the eastern flank and helpfully adding to Germany's Lebensraum.[234] Hitler was much offended by the British "guarantee" of Polish independence issued on 31 March 1939, and told his associates that "I shall brew them a devil's drink".[235] In a speech in Wilhelmshaven for the launch of the Admiral Tirpitz battleship on 1 April 1939, Hitler threatened to denounce the A.G.N.A. if the British persisted with their "encirclement" policy as represented by the "guarantee" of Polish independence.[235] As part of the new course, in a speech before the Reichstag on 28 April 1939, Adolf Hitler, complaining of British "encirclement" of Germany, renounced both the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact.

As a pretext for aggression against Poland, Hitler claimed the Free City of Danzig and the right for "extra-territorial" roads across the Polish Corridor which Germany had unwillingly ceded under the Versailles treaty. For Hitler, Danzig was just a pretext for aggression as the Sudetenland had been intended to be in 1938, and throughout 1939, while highlighting the Danzig issue as a grievance, the Germans always refused to engage in talks about the matter.[236] A notable contradiction existed in Hitler's plans between the long-term anti-British course, whose major instruments such as a vastly expanded Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe would take several years to complete, and Hitler's immediate foreign policy in 1939, which was likely to provoke a general war by engaging in such actions as attacking Poland.[237][238] Hitler's dilemma between his short-term and long-term goals was resolved by Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, who told Hitler that neither Britain nor France would honor their commitments to Poland, and any German–Polish war would accordingly be a limited regional war.[239][240] Ribbentrop based his appraisal partly on an alleged statement made to him by the French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet in December 1938 that France now recognized Eastern Europe as Germany's exclusive sphere of influence.[241] In addition, Ribbentrop's status as the former Ambassador to London made him in Hitler's eyes the leading Nazi British expert, and as a result, Ribbentrop's advice that Britain would not honor her commitments to Poland carried much weight with Hitler.[241] Ribbentrop only showed Hitler diplomatic cables that supported his analysis.[242] In addition, the German Ambassador in London, Herbert von Dirksen, tended to send reports that supported Ribbentrop's analysis such as a dispatch in August 1939 that reported British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain knew "the social structure of Britain, even the conception of the British Empire, would not survive the chaos of even a victorious war", and so would back down.[240] The extent that Hitler was influenced by Ribbentrop's advice can be seen in Hitler's orders to the German military on 21 August 1939 for a limited mobilization against Poland alone.[243] Hitler chose late August as his date for Fall Weiss in order to limit disruption to German agricultural production caused by mobilization.[244] The problems caused by the need to begin a campaign in Poland in late August or early September in order to have the campaign finished before the October rains arrived, and the need to have sufficient time to concentrate German troops on the Polish border left Hitler in a self-imposed situation in August 1939 where Soviet co-operation was absolutely crucial if he were to have a war that year.[244]

The Munich agreement appeared to be sufficient to dispel most of the remaining hold which the "collective security" idea may have had in Soviet circles,[245] and, on 23 August 1939, Joseph Stalin accepted Hitler's proposal to conclude a non-aggression pact (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact), whose secret protocols contained an agreement to partition Poland. A major historical debate about the reasons for Hitler's foreign policy choices in 1939 concerns whether a structural economic crisis drove Hitler into a "flight into war" as claimed by the Marxist historian Timothy Mason or whether Hitler's actions were more influenced by non-economic factors as claimed by the economic historian Richard Overy.[246] Historians such as William Carr, Gerhard Weinberg and Ian Kershaw have argued that a non-economic reason for Hitler's rush to war was Hitler's morbid and obsessive fear of an early death, and hence his feeling that he did not have long to accomplish his work.[132][247][248] In the last days of peace, Hitler oscillated between the determination to fight the Western powers if he had to, and various schemes intended to keep Britain out of the war, but in any case, Hitler was not to be deterred from his aim of invading Poland.[249] Only very briefly, when news of the Anglo-Polish alliance being signed on 25 August 1939 in response to the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (instead of the severing of ties between London and Warsaw predicted by Ribbentrop) together with news from Italy that Mussolini would not honor the Pact of Steel, caused Hitler to postpone the attack on Poland from 25 August to 1 September.[250] Hitler chose to spend the last days of peace either trying to maneuver the British into neutrality through his offer of 25 August 1939 to "guarantee" the British Empire, or having Ribbentrop present a last-minute peace plan to Henderson with an impossibly short time limit for its acceptance as part of an effort to blame the war on the British and Poles.[251][252] On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded western Poland. Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September but did not immediately act. Hitler was most unpleasantly surprised at receiving the British declaration of war on 3 September 1939, and turning to Ribbentrop angrily asked "Now what?"[253] Ribbentrop had nothing to say other than that Robert Coulondre, the French Ambassador, would probably be by later that day to present the French declaration of war.[253] Not long after this, on 17 September, Soviet forces invaded eastern Poland.[254]

Members of the Reichstag greet Hitler in October 1939 after the conclusion of the Polish campaign
Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, 1940
Adolf Hitler in Paris, 1940, with Albert Speer (left) and Arno Breker (right)
Poland never will rise again in the form of the Versailles treaty. That is guaranteed not only by Germany, but also ... Russia.[255]
– Adolf Hitler in a public speech in Danzig at the end of September 1939.

After the fall of Poland came a period journalists called the "Phoney War," or Sitzkrieg ("sitting war"). In part of north-western Poland annexed to Germany, Hitler instructed the two Gauleiters in charge of the area, namely Albert Forster and Arthur Greiser, to "Germanize" the area, and promised them "There would be no questions asked" about how this "Germanization" was to be accomplished.[256] Hitler's orders were interpreted in very different ways by Forster and Greiser. Forster followed a policy of simply having the local Poles sign forms stating they had German blood with no documentation required, whereas Greiser carried out a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign of expelling the entire Polish population into the Government-General of Poland.[257] When Greiser, seconded by Himmler, complained to Hitler that Forster was allowing thousands of Poles to be accepted as "racial" Germans and thus "contaminating" German "racial purity", and asked Hitler to order Forster to stop, Hitler merely told Himmler and Greiser to take up their difficulties with Forster, and not to involve him.[258] Hitler's handling of the Forster–Greiser dispute has often been advanced as an example of Ian Kershaw's theory of "Working Towards the Führer", namely that Hitler issued vague instructions, and allowed his subordinates to work out policy on their own.

After the conquest of Poland, another major dispute broke out between different factions with one centering around Reichsfüherer SS Heinrich Himmler and Arthur Greiser championing and carrying out ethnic cleansing schemes for Poland, and another centering around Hermann Göring and Hans Frank calling for turning Poland into the "granary" of the Reich.[259] At a conference held at Göring's Karinhall estate on 12 February 1940, the dispute was settled in favor of the Göring-Frank view of economic exploitation, and ending mass expulsions as economically disruptive.[259] On 15 May 1940, Himmler showed Hitler a memo entitled "Some Thoughts on the Treatment of Alien Population in the East", which called for expelling the entire Jewish population of Europe into Africa and reducing the remainder of the Polish population to a "leaderless laboring class".[259] Hitler called Himmler's memo "good and correct".[259] Hitler's remark had the effect of scuttling the so-called Karinhall argreement, and led to the Himmler–Greiser viewpoint triumphing as German policy for Poland.

During this period, Hitler built up his forces on Germany's western frontier. In April 1940, German forces invaded Denmark and Norway. In May 1940, Hitler's forces attacked France, conquering Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium in the process. These victories persuaded Benito Mussolini of Italy to join the war on Hitler's side on 10 June 1940. France surrendered on 22 June 1940.

Britain, whose forces evacuated France by sea from Dunkirk, continued to fight alongside other British dominions in the Battle of the Atlantic. After having his overtures for peace rejected by the British, now led by Winston Churchill, Hitler ordered bombing raids on the United Kingdom. The Battle of Britain was Hitler's prelude to a planned invasion. The attacks began by pounding Royal Air Force airbases and radar stations protecting South-East England. However, the Luftwaffe failed to defeat the Royal Air Force. On 27 September 1940, the Tripartite Treaty was signed in Berlin by Saburo Kurusu of Imperial Japan, Hitler, and Ciano. The purpose of the Tripartite Treaty, which was directed against an unnamed power that was clearly meant to be the United States, was to deter the Americans from supporting the British. It was later expanded to include Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. They were collectively known as the Axis Powers. By the end of October 1940, air superiority for the invasion Operation Sealion could not be assured, and Hitler ordered the bombing of British cities, including London, Plymouth, and Coventry, mostly at night.

In the Spring of 1941, Hitler was distracted from his plans for the East by various activites in North Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East. In February, German forces arrived in Libya to bolster the Italian forces there. In April, he launched the invasion of Yugoslavia which was followed quickly by the invasion of Greece. In May, German forces were sent to support Iraqi rebel forces fighting against the British and to invade Crete. On 23 May, Hitler released Fuhrer Directive No. 30.[260]

Path to defeat

On 22 June 1941, three million German troops attacked the Soviet Union, breaking the non-aggression pact Hitler had concluded with Stalin two years earlier. This invasion seized huge amounts of territory, including the Baltic states, Belarus, and Ukraine. It also encircled and destroyed many Soviet forces, which Stalin had ordered not to retreat. However, the Germans were stopped barely short of Moscow in December 1941 by the Russian winter and fierce Soviet resistance. The invasion failed to achieve the quick triumph Hitler wanted.

A major historical dispute concerns Hitler's reasons for Operation Barbarossa. Some historians such as Andreas Hillgruber have argued that Barbarossa was merely one "stage" of Hitler's Stufenplan (stage by stage plan) for world conquest, which Hillgruber believed that Hitler had formulated in the 1920s.[261] Other historians such as John Lukacs have contended that Hitler never had a stufenplan, and that the invasion of the Soviet Union was an ad hoc move on the part of Hitler due to Britain's refusal to surrender.[262] Lukacs has argued that the reason Hitler gave in private for Barbarossa, namely that Winston Churchill held out the hope that the Soviet Union might enter the war on the Allied side, and that the only way of forcing a British surrender was to eliminate that hope, was indeed Hitler's real reason for Barbarossa.[263] In Lukacs's perspective, Barbarossa was thus primarily an anti-British move on the part of Hitler intended to force Britain to sue for peace by destroying her only hope of victory rather than an anti-Soviet move. Klaus Hildebrand has maintained that Stalin and Hitler were independently planning to attack each other in 1941.[264] Hildebrand has claimed that the news in the spring of 1941 of Soviet troop concentrations on the border led to Hitler engaging in a flucht nach vorn ("flight forward" – i.e. responding to a danger by charging on rather than retreating.)[264] A third fraction comprising a diverse group such as Viktor Suvorov, Ernst Topitsch, Joachim Hoffmann, Ernst Nolte, and David Irving have argued that the official reason given by the Germans for Barbarossa in 1941 was the real reason, namely that Barbarossa was a "preventive war" forced on Hitler to avert an impeding Soviet attack scheduled for July 1941. This theory has been widely attacked as erroneous; the American historian Gerhard Weinberg once compared the advocates of the preventive war theory to believers in "fairy tales"[265]

The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union reached it's apex on 2 December 1941 as part of the 258th Infantry Division advanced to within 15 miles (24 km) of Moscow, close enough to see the spires of the Kremlin.[266] But they were not prepared for the harsh conditions brought on by the first blizzards of winter and in the days that followed, Soviet forces drove them back over 320 kilometers (200 miles).

On 7 December 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and four days later, Hitler's formal declaration of war against the United States officially engaged him in war against a coalition that included the world's largest empire (the British Empire), the world's greatest industrial and financial power (the United States), and the world's largest army (the Soviet Union).

On 18 December 1941, the appointment book of the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler shows he met with Hitler, and in response to Himmler's question "What to do with the Jews of Russia?", Hitler's response was recorded as "als Partisanen auszurotten" ("exterminate them as partisans").[267] The Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer has commented that the remark is probably as close as historians will ever get to a definitive order from Hitler for the genocide carried out during the Holocaust.[267]

Adolf Hitler in Reichstag during his speech against Franklin D. Roosevelt. 11 December 1941.
The destroyed 'Wolf's Lair' barracks after the 20 July 1944 plot

In late 1942, German forces were defeated in the second battle of El Alamein, thwarting Hitler's plans to seize the Suez Canal and the Middle East. In February 1943, the Battle of Stalingrad ended with the destruction of the German 6th Army. Thereafter came the Battle of Kursk. Hitler's military judgment became increasingly erratic, and Germany's military and economic position deteriorated along with Hitler's health, as indicated by his left hand's severe trembling. Hitler's biographer Ian Kershaw and others believe that he may have suffered from Parkinson's disease.[268] Syphilis has also been suspected as a cause of at least some of his symptoms, although the evidence is slight.[269]

Following the allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) in 1943, Mussolini was deposed by Pietro Badoglio, who surrendered to the Allies. Throughout 1943 and 1944, the Soviet Union steadily forced Hitler's armies into retreat along the Eastern Front. On 6 June 1944, the Western Allied armies landed in northern France in what was one of the largest amphibious operations in history, Operation Overlord. Realists in the German army knew defeat was inevitable, and some plotted to remove Hitler from power.

Attempted assassination

In July 1944, as part of Operation Valkyrie in what became known as the 20 July plot, Claus von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in Hitler's headquarters, the Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair) at Rastenburg, but Hitler narrowly escaped death. He ordered savage reprisals, resulting in the executions of more than 4,900 people,[270] sometimes by starvation in solitary confinement followed by slow strangulation. The main resistance movement was destroyed, although smaller isolated groups continued to operate.

Defeat and death

By late 1944, the Red Army had driven the Germans back into Central Europe and the Western Allies were advancing into Germany. Hitler realized that Germany had lost the war, but allowed no retreats. He hoped to negotiate a separate peace with America and Britain, a hope buoyed by the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on 12 April 1945.[271][272][273][274] Hitler's stubbornness and defiance of military realities allowed the Holocaust to continue. He ordered the complete destruction of all German industrial infrastructure before it could fall into Allied hands, saying that Germany's failure to win the war forfeited its right to survive.[275] Rather, Hitler decided that the entire nation should go down with him. Execution of this scorched earth plan was entrusted to arms minister Albert Speer, who disobeyed the order.[275]

In April 1945, Soviet forces attacked the outskirts of Berlin. Hitler's followers urged him to flee to the mountains of Bavaria to make a last stand in the National Redoubt. But Hitler was determined to either live or die in the capital.

On 20 April, Hitler celebrated his 56th birthday in the Führerbunker ("Führer's shelter") below the Reichskanzlei (Reich Chancellery). The garrison commander of the besieged Festung Breslau ("fortress Breslau"), General Hermann Niehoff, had chocolates distributed to his troops in honor of Hitler's birthday.[276]

By 21 April, Georgi Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front had broken through the defenses of German General Gotthard Heinrici's Army Group Vistula during the Battle of the Seelow Heights. The Soviets were now advancing towards Hitler's bunker with little to stop them. Ignoring the facts, Hitler saw salvation in the ragtag units commanded by Waffen SS General Felix Steiner. Steiner's command became known as Armeeabteilung Steiner ("Army Detachment Steiner"). But "Army Detachment Steiner" existed primarily on paper. It was something more than a corps but less than an army. Hitler ordered Steiner to attack the northern flank of the huge salient created by the breakthrough of Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front. Meanwhile, the German Ninth Army, which had been pushed south of the salient, was ordered to attack north in a pincer attack.

Late on 21 April, Heinrici called Hans Krebs, chief of the Oberkommando des Heeres (Supreme Army Command or OKH), and told him that Hitler's plan could not be implemented. Heinrici asked to speak to Hitler but was told by Krebs that Hitler was too busy to take his call.

On 22 April, during one of his last military conferences, Hitler interrupted the report to ask what had happened to Steiner's offensive. There was a long silence. Then Hitler was told that the attack had never been launched, and that the withdrawal from Berlin of several units for Steiner's army, on Hitler's orders, had so weakened the front that the Russians had broken through into Berlin. Hitler asked everyone except Wilhelm Keitel, Hans Krebs, Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Burgdorf, and Martin Bormann to leave the room,[277] and launched a tirade against the perceived treachery and incompetence of his commanders. This culminated in an oath to stay in Berlin, head up the defense of the city, and shoot himself at the end.[278]

Before the day ended, Hitler again found salvation in a new plan that included General Walther Wenck's Twelfth Army.[279] This new plan had Wenck turn his army – currently facing the Americans to the west – and attack towards the east to relieve Berlin.[279] Twelfth Army was to link up with Ninth Army and break through to the city. Wenck did attack and, in the confusion, made temporary contact with the Potsdam garrison. But the link with the Ninth Army, like the plan in general, was ultimately unsuccessful.[280]

On 23 April, Joseph Goebbels made the following proclamation to the people of Berlin:

I call on you to fight for your city. Fight with everything you have got, for the sake of your wives and your children, your mothers and your parents. Your arms are defending everything we have ever held dear, and all the generations that will come after us. Be proud and courageous! Be inventive and cunning! Your Gauleiter is amongst you. He and his colleagues will remain in your midst. His wife and children are here as well. He, who once captured the city with 200 men, will now use every means to galvanize the defense of the capital. The Battle for Berlin must become the signal for the whole nation to rise up in battle ...[277]

The same day, Göring sent a telegram from Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. Göring argued that, since Hitler was cut off in Berlin, he should assume leadership of Germany as Hitler's designated successor. Göring mentioned a time limit after which he would consider Hitler incapacitated.[281] Hitler responded, in anger, by having Göring arrested. Later when Hitler wrote his will on 29 April, Göring was removed from all his positions in the government.[281][282][283] Further on the 23 April, Hitler appointed General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling as the commander of the Berlin Defense Area. Weidling replaced Lieutenant General (Generalleutnant) Helmuth Reymann and Colonel (Oberst) Ernst Kaether. Hitler also appointed Waffen SS General (SS Brigadeführer) Wilhelm Mohnke the (Kommandant) Battle Commander for the defense of the government sector (Zitadelle sector) that included the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker.

By the end of the day on 27 April, Berlin was completely cut off from the rest of Germany.

On 28 April, Hitler discovered that SS leader Heinrich Himmler was trying to discuss surrender terms with the Western Allies (through the Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte).[284] Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest and had Himmler's representative in Berlin Hermann Fegelein shot.[282][285]

Cover of US military newspaper The Stars and Stripes, May 1945

During the night of 28 April, Wenck reported that his Twelfth Army had been forced back along the entire front. He noted that no further attacks towards Berlin were possible. General Alfred Jodl (Supreme Army Command) did not provide this information to Hans Krebs in Berlin until early in the morning of 30 April.

On 29 April, Hitler dictated his will and political statement to his private secretary, Traudl Junge.[286] Hans Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Joseph Goebbels, and Martin Bormann witnessed and signed this last will and testament of Adolf Hitler.[282] On the same day, Hitler was informed of the assassination of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on 28 April, which is presumed to have increased his determination to avoid capture.[287]

On 30 April 1945, after intense street-to-street combat, when Soviet troops were within a block or two of the Reich Chancellery, Hitler committed suicide, shooting himself in the temple with a Walther PPK while simultaneously biting into a cyanide capsule.[288][289][290] Hitler's body and that of Eva Braun were put in a bomb crater,[291][292] doused in gasoline by SS Sturmbannführer Otto Günsche and other Führerbunker aides, and cremated as the Red Army advanced and shelling continued.[288]

On 2 May, Berlin surrendered. In the postwar years there were conflicting reports about what happened to Hitler's remains. After the fall of the Soviet Union it was revealed from records in the Soviet archives that the bodies of Hitler, Eva Braun, Joseph and Magda Goebbels, the six Goebbels children, General Hans Krebs and Hitler's dogs, were secretly buried in graves near Rathenow in Brandenburg.[293] In 1970, the remains were disinterred, cremated and scattered in the Elbe River by the Soviets.[294][295] According to the Russian Federal Security Service, a fragment of human skull stored in its archives and displayed to the public in a 2000 exhibition came from the remains of Hitler's body and is all that remains of Hitler. The authenticity of the skull has been challenged by historians and researchers.[296] DNA analysis conducted in 2009 showed the skull fragment to be that of a woman under the age of 40.[297]

Legacy

Outside the building in Braunau am Inn, Austria where Adolf Hitler was born is a memorial stone warning of the horrors of World War II
"What manner of man is this grim figure who has performed these superb toils and loosed these frightful evils?" – Winston Churchill in Great Contemporaries (1935)

Hitler, the Nazi Party and the results of Nazism are typically regarded as gravely immoral. Historians, philosophers, and politicians have often applied the word evil in both a secular sense of the word and in a religious sense. Historical and cultural portrayals of Hitler in the west are overwhelmingly condemnatory. The display of swastikas or other Nazi symbols is prohibited in Germany and Austria. Holocaust denial is prohibited in both countries.

Outside of Hitler's birthplace in Braunau am Inn, Austria is a stone marker engraved with the following message:

FÜR FRIEDEN FREIHEIT
UND DEMOKRATIE
NIE WIEDER FASCHISMUS
MILLIONEN TOTE MAHNEN

Loosely translated it reads: "For peace, freedom // and democracy // never again fascism // millions of dead remind [us]"

However, some people have referred to Hitler's legacy in neutral or favourable terms. Former Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat spoke of his 'admiration' of Hitler in 1953, when he was a young man, though it is possible he was speaking in the context of a rebellion against the British Empire.[298] Louis Farrakhan has referred to him as a "very great man".[299] Bal Thackeray, leader of the right-wing Hindu Shiv Sena party in the Indian state of the Maharashtra, declared in 1995 that he was an admirer of Hitler.[300] Friedrich Meinecke, the German historian, said of Hitler's life that "it is one of the great examples of the singular and incalculable power of personality in historical life".[301]

Religious views

Hitler was raised by Roman Catholic parents, but after he left home, he never attended Mass or received the sacraments.[302] However, after he had moved to Germany, where the Catholic and the Protestant church are largely financed through a church tax collected by the state, Hitler (like Goebbels) never "actually left his church or refused to pay church taxes. In a nominal sense therefore," the historian Steigmann-Gall states, Hitler "can be classified as Catholic."[303] But, as Steigmann-Gall has also pointed out in the debate about religion in Nazi Germany: "Nominal church membership is a very unreliable gauge of actual piety in this context."[304]

In public, Hitler often praised Christian heritage, German Christian culture, and professed a belief in an Aryan Jesus Christ, a Jesus who fought against the Jews.[305] In his speeches and publications Hitler spoke of his interpretation of Christianity as a central motivation for his antisemitism, stating that "As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice."[306][307] His private statements, as reported by his intimates, are more mixed, showing Hitler as a religious man but critical of traditional Christianity.[308] Here Hitler made at least one attack against Catholicism that "resonated Streicher's contention that the Catholic establishment was allying itself with the Jews."[309] In light of these private statements, for John S. Conway and many other historians it is beyond doubt that Hitler held a "fundamental antagonism" towards the Christian churches.[310] The various accounts of Hitler's private statements vary strongly in their reliability; Most importantly, Hermann Rauschning's Hitler speaks is considered by most historians to be an invention.[311][312] An overview about Hitler's religious beliefs, based on his apparent private statements, can be found in the acclaimed book by Michael Rißmann or in Richard Steigmann-Gall's controversial book on Nazism and Christianity, pp. 252–259.

In the political relations with the churches in Germany however, Hitler readily adopted a strategy "that suited his immediate political purposes".[310] Hitler had a general plan, even before the rise of the Nazis to power, to destroy Christianity within the Reich.[313][314][315] The leader of the Hitler Youth stated "the destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the National Socialist movement" from the start, but "considerations of expedience made it impossible" publicly to express this extreme position.[313]

Some writers believe that, in contrast to some Nazi ideologues, Hitler did not adhere to esoteric ideas, occultism, or Ariosophy,[308] and he ridiculed such beliefs in Mein Kampf.[316][317] Others believe the young Hitler was strongly influenced, particularly in his racial views, by an abundance of occult works on the mystical superiority of the Germans, like the occult and anti-semitic magazine Ostara, and give credence to the claim of its publisher Lanz von Liebenfels that Hitler visited Liebenfels in 1909 and praised his work.[318] The historians are still divided on the question of the reliability of Lanz' claim of a contact with Hitler.[319] Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke considers his account reliable, Brigitte Hamann leaves the question open and Ian Kershaw is extremely sceptical.[320]

Hitler for a time advocated for Germans a form of the Christian faith he called "Positive Christianity",[316][321] a belief system purged of what he objected to in orthodox Christianity, and featuring added racist elements. By 1940 however, it was public knowledge that Hitler had abandoned advocating for Germans even the syncretist idea of a positive Christianty.[322] Hitler maintained that the "terrorism in religion is, to put it briefly, of a Jewish dogma, which Christianity has universalized and whose effect is to sow trouble and confusion in men's minds."[323]

In addition to not attending Mass or receiving the sacraments, Hitler favored aspects of Protestantism if they were more amenable to his own objectives. At the same time, he adopted some elements of the Catholic Church's hierarchical organization, liturgy and phraseology in his politics.[324][325]

Hitler expressed admiration for the Muslim military tradition and directed Himmler to initiate Muslim SS Divisions as a matter of policy.[326] According to one confidant, Hitler stated in private, "The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness ..."[327]

Hitler once stated, "We do not want any other god than Germany itself. It is essential to have fanatical faith and hope and love in and for Germany."[328]

Health

Hitler's health has long been the subject of debate. He has variously been said to have had irritable bowel syndrome, skin lesions, irregular heartbeat, Parkinson's disease,[269] syphilis,[269] Asperger syndrome[329][330] and a strongly suggested addiction to methamphetamine. He had problems with his teeth and his personal dentist Hugo Blaschke stated that he fitted a large dental bridge to his upper jaw in 1933 and that on 10 November 1944 he carried out surgery to cut off part of the bridge due to a gum infection that was causing him severe toothache. He reported that he was also suffering from a sinus infection[331]

After the early 1930s, Hitler generally followed a vegetarian diet, although he ate meat on occasion. There are reports of him disgusting his guests by giving them graphic accounts of the slaughter of animals in an effort to make them shun meat.[332] A fear of cancer (from which his mother died) is the most widely cited reason, though many authors also assert Hitler had a profound and deep love of animals.[citation needed] Martin Bormann had a greenhouse constructed for him near the Berghof (near Berchtesgaden) to ensure a steady supply of fresh fruit and vegetables for Hitler throughout the war. Photographs of Bormann's children tending the greenhouse survive and, by 2005, its foundations were among the only ruins visible in the area that was associated with Nazi leaders.

Hitler was a non-smoker and promoted aggressive anti-smoking campaigns throughout Germany. He reportedly promised a gold watch to any of his close associates who quit (and gave a few away). Several witness accounts relate that, immediately after his suicide was confirmed, many officers, aides, and secretaries in the Führerbunker lit cigarettes.[333]

Sexuality

Hitler presented himself publicly as a man without a domestic life, dedicated entirely to his political mission.

He had a fiancée in the 1920s, Mimi Reiter, and later had a mistress, Eva Braun. He had a close bond with his half-niece Geli Raubal, which some commentators have claimed was sexual, though there is no evidence that proves this.[334] According to John Toland (in his book A.H.: a Definitive Biography), Hitler would often visit Geli in the manner of a suitor, and restricted his niece's movement unless she was chaperoned by him. All three women attempted suicide (two succeeded), a fact that has led to speculation that Hitler may have had sexual fetishes, such as urolagnia, as was claimed by Otto Strasser, a political opponent of Hitler. Reiter, the only one to survive the Nazi regime, denied this.[335] During the war and afterwards psychoanalysts offered numerous inconsistent psychosexual explanations of his pathology.[336] Some theorists have claimed that Hitler had a relationship with British fascist Unity Mitford.[337] More recently, Lothar Machtan has argued in his book, The Hidden Hitler, that Hitler was homosexual.

Family

Paula Hitler, the last living member of Adolf Hitler's immediate family, died in 1960.

The most prominent and longest-living direct descendants of Adolf Hitler's father, Alois, was Adolf's nephew William Patrick Hitler. With his wife Phyllis, he eventually moved to Long Island, New York, changed his last name, and had four sons. None of William Hitler's children have had any children of their own.

Over the years, various investigative reporters have attempted to track down other distant relatives of the Führer. Many are now alleged to be living inconspicuous lives and have long since changed their last name.

Adolf Hitler's genealogy

Hitler in media

Adolf Hitler at Berchtesgaden.ogg
Video of Adolf Hitler at Berchtesgaden

Oratory and rallies

Hitler was a gifted orator who captivated many with his beating of the lectern and growling, emotional speech. He honed his skills by giving speeches to soldiers during 1919 and 1920. He became adept at telling people what they wanted to hear (the stab-in-the-back, the Jewish-Marxist plot to conquer the world, and the betrayal of Germany in the Versailles treaty) and identifying a scapegoat for their plight. Over time, Hitler perfected his delivery by rehearsing in front of mirrors and carefully choreographing his display of emotions. He was allegedly coached by Erik-Jan Hanussen, a self-styled clairvoyant who focused on hand and arm gestures and who, ironically, had Jewish heritage. Munitions minister and architect Albert Speer, who may have known Hitler as well as anyone, said that Hitler was above all else an actor.[338][339]

Massive Nazi rallies staged by Speer were designed to spark a process of self-persuasion for the participants. By participating in the rallies, by marching, by shouting heil, and by making the stiff armed salute, the participants strengthened their commitment to the Nazi movement. This process can be appreciated by watching Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, which presents the 1934 Nuremberg Rally. The camera shoots Hitler from on high and from below, but only twice head-on. These camera angles give Hitler a Christ-like aura. Some of the people in the film are paid actors, but most of the participants are not. Whether the film itself recruited new Nazis out of theater audiences is unknown. The process of self-persuasion may have affected Hitler. He gave the same speech (though it got smoother and smoother with repetition) hundreds of times first to soldiers and then to audiences in beer halls. These performances may have made his hatreds more intense, especially his all-consuming hatred of the Jews.

Hitler and Baron Mannerheim (June 1942)

Recorded in private conversation

Hitler visited Finnish Field Marshal Mannerheim on 4 June 1942. During the visit an engineer of the Finnish broadcasting company YLE, Thor Damen, recorded Hitler and Mannerheim in conversation, something which had to be done secretly since Hitler never allowed recordings of him off-guard.[340] Today the recording is the only known recording of Hitler not speaking in an official tone. The recording captures 11½ minutes of the two leaders in private conversation.[341] Hitler speaks in a slightly excited, but still intellectually detached manner during this talk (the speech has been compared to that of the working class). The majority of the recording is a monologue by Hitler. In the recording, Hitler admits to underestimating the Soviet Union's ability to conduct war.

Patria picture disc

Adolf Hitler even released a 7-inch picture disc with one of his speeches. Known as the Patria (Fatherland) picture disc, the obverse bears an image of Hitler giving a speech and has a recording of both a speech by Hitler and also Party Member Hans Hinkel. The reverse bears a hand holding a swastika flag and the Carl Woitschach recording (1933 – Telefunken A 1431) "In Dem Kampf um die Heimat – Faschistenmarsch".

Documentaries during the Third Reich

Hitler appeared in and was involved to varying degrees with a series of films by the pioneering filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl via Universum Film AG (UFA):

Hitler was the central figure of the first three films; they focused on the party rallies of the respective years and are considered propaganda films. Hitler also featured prominently in the Olympia film. Whether the latter is a propaganda film or a true documentary is still a subject of controversy, but it nonetheless perpetuated and spread the propagandistic message of the 1936 Olympic Games depicting Nazi Germany as a prosperous and peaceful country.[342] As a prominent politician, Hitler was featured in many newsreels.

Television

Hitler's attendance at various public functions, including the 1936 Olympic Games and Nuremberg Rallies, appeared on television broadcasts made between 1935 and 1939. These events, along with other programming highlighting activity by public officials, were often repeated in public viewing rooms. Samples from a number of surviving television films from Nazi Germany were included in the 1999 documentary Das Fernsehen unter dem Hakenkreuz (Television Under the Swastika).

Documentaries post Third Reich

  • The World at War (1974): a Thames Television series which contains much information about Hitler and Nazi Germany, including an interview with his secretary, Traudl Junge.
  • Adolf Hitler's Last Days: from the BBC series "Secrets of World War II" tells the story about Hitler's last days during World War II.
  • The Nazis: A Warning From History (1997): six-part BBC TV series on how the cultured and educated Germans accepted Hitler and the Nazis up to its downfall. Historical consultant is Ian Kershaw.
  • Cold War (1998): a CNN series about the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The series begins with World War II footage, including Hitler, and how the Cold War began in earnest after Germany surrendered.
  • Im toten Winkel – Hitlers Sekretärin (Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary) (2002): an exclusive 90 minute interview with Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary. Made by Austrian Jewish director André Heller shortly before Junge's death from lung cancer, Junge recalls the last days in the Berlin bunker. Clips of the interview were used in Downfall.
  • Undergångens arkitektur (The Architecture of Doom) (1989): documentary about the National Socialist aesthetic as envisioned by Hitler.
  • Das Fernsehen unter dem Hakenkreuz (Television Under the Swastika) (1999): documentary by Michael Kloft about the domestic use of television in Nazi Germany for propaganda purposes from 1935 to 1944.
  • Ruins of the Reich (2007): four-part series of the Rise and Fall of Hitler's Reich and its effects, created by Third Reich historian R.J. Adams

Films

  • The Death of Adolf Hitler, a British (7 January 1973) made-for-television production, starring Frank Finlay. The movie depicts the last days of Hitler.
  • Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973): movie depicting the days leading up to Adolf Hitler's death, starring Sir Alec Guinness.
  • Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's Hitler – Ein Film aus Deutschland (Hitler: A Film from Germany) (1977): a seven-hour work in four parts. The director uses documentary clips, photographic backgrounds, puppets, theatrical stages, and other elements.[343]
  • The Bunker (1981): a U.S. made-for-television movie describing the last days in the Führerbunker from 17 January 1945 to 2 March 1945. The film stars Sir Anthony Hopkins.
  • Europa, Europa (1990): based on the true story of a German Jew who joined the Hitler Youth in order to avoid capture. Hitler is portrayed by Ryszard Pietruski.
  • Fatherland (1994): a hypothetical view of Germany in 1964, had Hitler won World War 2, adapted from the novel by former journalist Robert Harris.
  • The Empty Mirror (1996): a psychodrama which speculates on the events following Hitler (portrayed by Norman Rodway) surviving the fall of Nazi Germany.
  • Moloch (1999): Hitler portrayed by Leonid Mozgovoy in a fictional drama set at his Berghof Retreat in the Bavarian Alps.
  • Max (2002): fictional drama depicting a friendship between Jewish art dealer Max Rothman (John Cusack) and a young Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor) as a failed painter in Vienna.
  • Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003): two-part TV series about the early years of Adolf Hitler and his rise to power (up to 1933), starring Robert Carlyle.
  • Der Untergang (Downfall) (2004): German movie about the last days of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, starring Bruno Ganz. This film is partly based on the autobiography of Traudl Junge, a favorite secretary of Hitler's. In 2002, Junge said she felt great guilt for "... liking the greatest criminal ever to have lived."
  • Valkyrie (2008): Hitler, played by David Bamber, is portrayed as a target of the famous assassination plot by Stauffenberg.
  • Dr Freud Will See You Now Mr Hitler (2008): radio drama by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran presenting an imagined scenario in which Sigmund Freud treats the young Hitler. Toby Jones played Hitler.
  • Cradle of Darkness: A second-revival Twilight Zone episode starring Katherine Heigl that poses the question of what would have happened, had someone been able to go back in time and kill Adolf while an infant—with a typical "twist" ...

See also

Footnotes

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References

  • Bloch, Michael (1992), Ribbentrop, New York: Crown Publishing 
  • Bullock, A. (1962), Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Penguin Books, ISBN 0140135642 
  • Butler, Ewan; Young, Gordon (1989), The Life and Death of Hermann Goering, David & Charles, ISBN 071539455X 
  • Carr, William (1972), Arms, Autarky and Aggression, London: Edward Arnold, ISBN 9780713156683 
  • Conway, John S. (1968), The Nazi Persecution of the Churches 1933–45 
  • Cornish, Kimberley (1999), The Jew of Linz: Hitler, Wittgenstein and their secret battle for the mind 
  • Crozier, Andrew (1988), Appeasement and Germany's Last Bid for Colonies, London: Macmillan Press, ISBN 0312015461 
  • Dawidowicz, Lucy (1976), A Holocaust Reader, New York: Behrman House 
  • Dawidowicz, Lucy (1986), The War Against the Jews, Bantam Books 
  • Doerr, Paul (1998), British Foreign Policy, Manchester: Manchester University Press 
  • Dollinger, Hans (1995-03-28), The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Gramercy, ISBN 0517123991 
  • Fest, Joachim C. (1970), The Face Of The Third Reich, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 
  • Fest, Joachim C. (1974), Hitler, New York: Harcourt Trade Publishers 
  • Haffner, Sebastian (1979), The Meaning of Hitler, Harvard University Press 
  • Hakim, Joy (1995), A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-509514-6 
  • Halperin, S. William (1965) [1946], Germany Tried Democracy: A Political History of the Reich from 1918 to 1933, The Norton Library, ISBN 0-393-00280-2 
  • Hamann, Brigitte; Thornton, Thomas (1999), Hitler's Vienna. A dictator's apprenticeship, Oxford University Press 
  • Hildebrand, Klaus (1973), The Foreign Policy of the Third Reich, London: Batsford 
  • Hitler, Adolf; Norman Hepburn Baynes (1942), The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922 – August 1939, London: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-598-75893-3 
  • Hitler, Adolf; Raoul Jean Jacques Francois De Roussy De Sales, ed (1973), My New Order, Octagon Books, ISBN 0-374-93918-7 
  • Hitler, Adolf (15 September), Mein Kampf, Mariner Books, ISBN 0395925037 
  • Joachimsthaler, Anton (1999), The Last Days of Hitler – The Legends – The Evidence – The Truth, Brockhampton Press, ISBN 1-86019-902-X
  • Kee, Robert (1988), Munich, London: Hamish Hamilton 
  • Keegan, John (1987), The Mask of Command: A Study of Generalship, Pimlico (Random House) 
  • Keegan, John (1989), The Second World War, Glenfield, New Zealand: Hutchinson 
  • Kershaw, Ian (1999), Hitler: 1889–1936: Hubris, New York: W. W. Norton & Company 
  • Kershaw, Ian (2000a), The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation (4th ed.), London: Arnold 
  • Kershaw, Ian (2000b), Hitler, 1936–1945: Nemesis, New York; London: W. W. Norton & Company 
  • Kurowski, Franz (2005), The Brandenburger Commandos: Germany's Elite Warrior Spies in World War II, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Book, ISBN 13: 978-08117-3250-5, 10: 0-8117-3250-9 
  • Langer, Walter C. (1972), The Mind of Adolf Hitler, New York: Basic Books 
  • Lewis, David (2003), The Man who invented Hitler, Hodder Headline, ISBN 0-7553-1148-5 
  • Marrus, Michael (2000), The Holocaust in History, Toronto: Key Porter 
  • Murray, Williamson (1984), The Change in the European Balance of Power, Princeton: Princeton University Press 
  • Overy, Richard; Wheatcroft, Andrew (1989), The Road To War, London: Macmillan, ISBN 0-14-028530-X 
  • Overy, Richard (2005), The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Penguin Books, ISBN 0393020304 
  • Payne, Robert (1990), The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, New York, New York: Hippocrene Books, ISBN 0880294027 
  • Rees, Laurence (1997), The Nazis: A Warning From History, New York: New Press 
  • Rißmann, Michael (2001) (in (German)), Hitlers Gott. Vorsehungsglaube und Sendungsbewußtsein des deutschen Diktators, Zürich München: Pendo, ISBN 3-85842-421-8 
  • Roberts, Andrew (1991), The Holy Fox, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 
  • Robertson, E.M. (1963), Hitler's Pre-War Policy and Military Plans, London: Longmans 
  • Röpke, Wilhelm (1946), The Solution to the German Problem, G. P. Putnam's Sons 
  • Rosenbaum, R. (1998), Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of his Evil, Macmillan Publishers, ISBN 006095339X 
  • Shirer, William L. (1990 reprint), The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-671-72868-7 
  • Speer, Albert (2003), Inside the Third Reich, Weidenfeld & Nicolson History, ISBN 1-842-127357 
  • Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003), The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945, Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, doi:10.2277/0521823714, ISBN 0521823714 
  • Strobl, Gerwin (2000), The Germanic Isle, Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press 
  • Toland, John (1991 reprint), Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, Doubleday, ISBN 0385420536 
  • Tooze, Adam (2006), The Wages of Destruction, New York: Viking Press 
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  • Weinberg, Gerhard (1970), The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Diplomatic Revolution in Europe 1933–1936, Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0226885097 
  • Weinberg, Gerhard (1980), The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Starting World War II, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0226885119 
  • Wheeler-Bennett, John (1967), The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan 

External links

Images and videos
Speeches and publications
Political offices
Preceded by
Anton Drexler
Leader of the NSDAP
1921–1945
Succeeded by
None
Preceded by
Franz Pfeffer von Salomon
Leader of the SA
1930–1945
Preceded by
Kurt von Schleicher
Chancellor of Germany(1)
1933–1945
Succeeded by
Joseph Goebbels
Preceded by
Paul von Hindenburg (as President)
Führer of Germany(1)
1934–1945
Succeeded by
Karl Dönitz (as President)
Military offices
Preceded by
Walther von Brauchitsch
Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (Army Commander)
1941–1945
Succeeded by
Ferdinand Schörner
Notes and references
1. The positions of Head of State and Government were combined 1934–1945 in the office of Führer and Chancellor of Germany


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Adolf Hitler article)

From Wikiquote

I want war. To me all means will be right. My motto is not "Don't, whatever you do, annoy the enemy." My motto is "Destroy him by all and any means." I am the one who will wage the war!

Adolf Hitler (20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) Austrian-born Nazi Party leader and Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945.

Contents

Sourced

Writing

Undated

  • When your mother has grown older,
    When her dear, faithful eyes
    No longer see life as they once did,
    When her feet, grown tired,
    No longer want to carry her as she walks,
    Then lend her your arm in support, escort her with happy pleasure—
    the hour will come when, weeping, you must accompany her on her final walk.

    And if she asks you something, then give her an answer.
    And if she asks again, then speak!
    And if she asks yet again, respond to her, not impatiently, but with gentle calm.

    And if she cannot understand you properly, explain all to her happily.
    The hour will come, the bitter hour, when her mouth asks for nothing more.

  • I begin with the young. We older ones are used up but my magnificent youngsters! Are there finer ones anywhere in the world? Look at all these men and boys! What material! With you and I, we can make a new world.
    • undated letter encouraging children to join the Hitler Youth.
  • The German Church and the People are practically the same body. Therefore there could be no issue between Church and State. The Church, as such, has nothing to do with political affairs. On the other hand, the State has nothing to do with the faith or inner organization of the Church. The election of November 12th would be an expression of church constituency, but not as a Church.
    • answering C. F. Macfarland's The New Church and the New Germany
  • The church is certainly necessary for the people. It is a strong and conservative element.

Dated

  • It will at any rate be my supreme task to see to it that in the newly awakened NSDAP, the adherents of both Confessions can live peacefully together side by side in order that they may take their stand in the common fight against the power which is the mortal foe of any true Christianity.
    • "A New Beginning", 26 February 1925
  • The fact that the Vatican is concluding a treaty with the new Germany means the acknowledgement of the National Socialist state by the Catholic Church. This treaty shows the whole world clearly and unequivocally that the assertion that National Socialism is hostile to religion is a lie.
    • 22 July 1933, writing to the Nazi Party (quoted from John Cornwell's Hitler's Pope)

Speeches

Undated

  • Today Christians ... stand at the head of [this country] ... I pledge that I never will tie myself to parties who want to destroy Christianity ... We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit ... We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press—in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past ... [few] years.
    • The Speeches of Adolph Hitler, 1922–1939, Vol. 1 (London, Oxford University Press, 1942), pp. 871–872.

1922

  • I say: my feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to the fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as sufferer but as fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and of adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before—the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. And as a man I have the duty to see to it that human society does not suffer the same catastrophic collapse as did the civilization of the ancient world some two thousand years ago—a civilization which was driven to its ruin through this same Jewish people.
  • Just as the Jew could once incite the mob of Jerusalem against Christ, so today he must succeed in inciting folk who have been duped into madness to attack those who, God's truth! seek to deal with this people in utter honesty and sincerity.
    • speech in Munich, 28 July 1922

1923

  • In the life of nations, what in the last resort decides questions is a kind of Judgment Court of God... Always before god and the world the stronger has the right to carry through what he wills.
    • speech in Munich, 13 April 1923

1925

  • If freedom is short of weapons, we must compensate with willpower.
    • speech in Landsberg, 5 November 1925

1927

  • A few days ago I was in Eisenach and stood on top of the Wartburg, where a great German [Martin Luther] once translated the Bible.
    • speech in Schleiz, Thuringia, 18 January 1927

1928

  • We are a people of different faiths, but we are one. Which faith conquers the other is not the question; rather, the question is whether Christianity stands or falls... We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity ... in fact our movement is Christian. We are filled with a desire for Catholics and Protestants to discover one another in the deep distress of our own people.
    • speech in Passau, 27 October 1928, Bundesarchiv Berlin-Zehlendorf, [cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]

1930

  • Then will come a National Socialist State tribunal; then will November, 1918, be expiated; then the heads will roll.
    • testimony at a trial of German officers, Leipzig, in 1930.
  • Let us pray in this hour that nothing can divide us, and that God will help us against the Devil! Almighty Lord, bless our fight!
    • address to the SA in 1930

1933

  • The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life.
    • proclamation to the German nation at Berlin, 1 February 1933
  • May God Almighty give our work His blessing, strengthen our purpose, and endow us with wisdom and the trust of our people, for we are fighting not for ourselves but for Germany.
    • speech delivered at Berlin, February 1, 1933
  • And now Staatspräsident Bolz says that Christianity and the Catholic faith are threatened by us. And to that charge I can answer: In the first place it is Christians and not international atheists who now stand at the head of Germany. I do not merely talk of Christianity, no, I also profess that I will never ally myself with the parties which destroy Christianity. If many wish today to take threatened Christianity under their protection, where, I would ask, was Christianity for them in these fourteen years when they went arm in arm with atheism? No, never and at no time was greater internal damage done to Christianity than in these 14 years when a party, theoretically Christian, sat with those who denied God in one and the same Government.
    • speech delivered at Stuttgart, February 15, 1933
  • The Government of the Reich, which regards Christianity as the unshakable foundation of the morals and moral code of the nation, attaches the greatest value to friendly relations with the Holy See, and is endeavouring to develop them.
    • speech to the Reichstag, 23 March 1933[1]
  • The Government, being resolved to undertake the political and moral purification of our public life, are creating and securing the conditions necessary for a really profound revival of religious life.
    • speech to the Reichstag, 23 March 1933
  • Except the Lord built the house they labour in vain... The truth of that text was proved if one looks at the house of which the foundations were laid in 1918 and which since then has been in building... The world will not help, the people must help itself. Its own strength is the source of life. That strength the Almighty has given us to use; that in it and through it we may wage the battle of our life... The others in the past years have not had the blessing of the Almighty—of Him Who in the last resort, whatever man may do, holds in His hands the final decision. Lord God, let us never hesitate or play the coward, let us never forget the duty which we have taken upon us... We are all proud that through God's powerful aid we have become once more true Germans.
    • speech, March 1933. [Note, "Except the Lord built the house, they labour in vain" comes from Psalms 127:1 ]
  • The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them in ghettos, etc, because it recognized the Jews for what they were... I recognize the representatives of this race as pestilent for the state and for the church and perhaps I am thereby doing Christianity a great service by pushing them out of schools and public functions.
    • 26 April 1933, [cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]
  • Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith.
    • speech made during negotiations leading to the Nazi-Vatican Concordant of 1933, 26 April 1933
  • We want honestly to earn the resurrection of our people through our industry, our perseverance, our will. We ask not of the Almighty "Lord, make us free"!—we want to be active, to work, to agree together as brothers, to strive in rivalry with one another to bring about the hour when we can come before Him and when we may ask of Him: "Lord, Thou seest that we have transformed ourselves, the German people is not longer the people of dishonour, of shame, of war within itself, of faintheartedness and little faith: no, Lord, the German people has become strong again in spirit, strong in will, strong in endurance, strong to bear all sacrifices." "Lord, we will not let Thee go: bless now our fight for our freedom; the fight we wage for our German people and Fatherland."
    • speech, May Day 1933
  • This is for us a ground for satisfaction, since we desire that the fight in the religious camps should come to an end ... all political action in the parties will be forbidden to priests for all time, happy because we know what is wanted by millions who long to see in the priest only the comforter of their souls and not the representative of their political convictions.
    • speech to the men of the SA. at Dormund, 9 July 1933, on the day after the signing of the Nazi-Vatican Concordant of 1933
  • National Socialism has always affirmed that it is determined to take the Christian Churches under the protection of the State... The decisive factor which can justify the existence alike of Church and State is the maintenance of men's spiritual and bodily health, for it that health were destroyed it would mean the end of the State and also the end of the Church... It is my sincere hope that thereby for Germany, too, through free agreement there has been produced a final clarification of spheres in the functions of the State and of one Church.
    • radio address, July 1933, the evening before the Evangelical Church Election
  • Among the congregations of the Protestant confessions there has arisen in the "German Christians" a movement that is filled with the determination to do justice to the great tasks of the day and has aimed at a union of the Protestant state churches and confessions. If this question is not really on the way towards a solution, in the judgement of history no false or stupid objections will be able to dispute the fact that this service was rendered by the volkisch movement at a time when, unfortunately, just as in the Roman Church, many pastors and superintendents without reason have opposed the national uprising in the most violent, indeed, often fanatical, way.
    • radio address, 22 July 1933 [from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]
  • We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.
    • speech in Berlin, 24 October 1933
  • I believe that Providence would never have allowed us to see the victory of the Movement if it had the intention after all to destroy us at the end.
    • speech to old members of the Party at Munich, 8 November 1933

1934

  • While we destroyed the Centre Party, we have not only brought thousands of priests back into the Church, but to millions of respectable people we have restored their faith in their religion and in their priests. The union of the Evangelical Church in a single Church for the whole Reich, the Concordat with the Catholic Church, these are but milestones on the road which leads to the establishment of a useful relation and a useful co operation between the Reich and the two Confessions.
    • New Year Message, 1 January 1934
  • Imbued with the desire to secure for the German people the great religious, moral, and cultural values rooted in the two Christian Confessions, we have abolished the political organizations but strengthened the religious institutions.
    • speech in the Reichstag, 30 January 1934
  • It would have been more to the point, more honest and more Christian, in past decades not to support those who intentionally destroyed healthy life than to rebel against those who have no other wish than to avoid disease. Moreover, a policy of laissez faire in this sphere is not only cruelty to the individual guiltless victims but also to the nation as a whole... If the Churches were to declare themselves ready to take over the treatment and care of those suffering from hereditary diseases, we should be quite ready to refrain from sterilizing them.
    • speech, 30 January 1934
  • We have experienced a miracle, something unique, something the like of which there has hardly been in the history of the world. God first allowed our people to be victorious for four and a half years, then He abased us, laid upon us a period of shamelessness, but now after a struggle of fourteen years he has permitted us to bring that period to a close. It is a miracle which has been wrought upon the German people.... It shows us that the Almighty has not deserted our people, that He received it into favour at the moment when it rediscovered itself. And that our people shall never again lose itself, that must be our vow so long as we shall live and so long as the Lord gives us the strength to carry on the fight.
    • speech to the "Old Guard" of the Party at Munich, 19 March 1934
  • The National Socialist State professes its allegiance to positive Christianity. It will be its honest endeavour to protect both the great Christian Confessions in their rights, to secure them from interference with their doctrines (Lehren), and in their duties to constitute a harmony with the views and the exigencies of the State of to-day.
    • speech, 26 June 1934, to Catholic bishops to assure them that he would take action against the new pagan propaganda
  • I know that here and there the objection has been raised: Yes, but you have deserted Christianity. No, it is not that we have deserted Christianity; it is those who came before us who deserted Christianity. We have only carried through a clear division between politics, which have to do with terrestrial things, and religion, which must concern itself with the celestial sphere. There has been no interference with the doctrine of the Confessions or with their religious freedom, nor will there be any such interference. On the contrary the State protects religion, though always on the one condition that religion will not be used as a cover for political ends.

    There may have been a time when even parties founded on the ecclesiastical basis were a necessity. At that time Liberalism was opposed to the Church, while Marxism was anti-religious. But that time is past. National Socialism neither opposes the Church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary, it stands on the ground of a real Christianity.

    The Church's interests cannot fail to coincide with ours alike in our fight against the symptoms of degeneracy in the world of to-day, in our fight against the Bolshevist culture, against an atheistic movement, against criminality, and in our struggle for the consciousness of a community in our national life, for the conquest of hatred and disunion between the classes, for the conquest of civil war and unrest, of strife and discord. These are not anti-Christian, these are Christian principles.

    • speech at Koblenz, 26 August 1934
  • So far as the Evangelical Confessions are concerned we are determined to put an end to existing divisions, which are concerned only with the forms of organization, and to create a single Evangelical Church for the whole Reich... And we know that were the great German reformer [Martin Luther] with us to-day he would rejoice to be freed from the necessity of his own time and, like Ulrich von Hutten, his last prayer would be not for the Churches of the separate States: it would be of Germany that he would think and of the Evangelical Church of Germany.
    • proclamation at the Parteitag at Nuremberg, 5 September 1934

1935

  • We are determined, as leaders of the nation, to fulfill as a national government the task which has been given to us, swearing fidelity only to God, our conscience, and our Volk... This the national government will regard its first and foremost duty to restore the unity of spirit and purpose of our Volk. It will preserve and defend the foundations upon which the power of our nation rests. It will take Christianity, as the basis of our collective morality, and the family as the nucleus of our Volk and state, under its firm protection... May God Almighty take our work into his grace, give true form to our will, bless our insight, and endow us with the trust of our Volk.
    • addressing the German nation as Chancellor for the first time, 1 February 1933
  • So we have come together on this day to prove symbolically that we are more than a collection of individuals striving one against another, that none of us is too proud, none of us too high, none is too rich, and none too poor, to stand together before the face of the Lord and of the world in this indissoluble, sworn community. And this united nation, we have need of it.
    • speech in Berlin, 1 May 1935
  • What we are we have become not against, but with, the will of Providence. And so long as we are true and honourable and of good courage in fight, so long as we believe in our great work and do not capitulate, we shall continue to enjoy in the future the blessing of Providence.
    • speech at Rosenheim in Bavaria, 11 August 1935

1936

  • I go the way that Providence dictates with the assurance of a sleepwalker.
    • speech in Munich, 15 March 1936
  • Only so you can appeal to your God and pray Him to support and bless your courage, your work, your perseverance, your strength, your resolution, and with all these your claim on life.
    • speech at Frankfurt, 16 March 1936
  • In this world him who does not abandon himself the Almighty will not desert. Him who helps himself will the Almighty always also help; He will show him the way by which he can gain his rights, his freedom, and therefore his future.
    • speech at Hamburg, 20 March 1936
  • Sporting chivalrous contest helps knit the bonds of peace between nations. Therefore may the Olympic flame never expire.
    • at the first Olympic torchlighting ceremony, Berlin, 1936
  • I believe in Providence and I believe Providence to be just. Therefore I believe that Providence always rewards the strong, the industrious, and the upright.
    • speech to National Socialist women at the Nuremberg Parteitag of 1936, 11 September 1936
  • I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord's work.
    • speech before the Reichstag, 1936
  • I say that they can be solved; there is no problem that cannot be, but faith is necessary. Think of the faith I had to have eighteen years ago, a single man on a lonely path. Yet I have come to leadership of the German people... Life is hard for many, but it is hardest if you are unhappy and have no faith. Have faith. Nothing can make me change my own belief.
    • speech in Nuremberg, 12 September 1936

1937

  • This is probably the first time and this is the first country in which people are being taught to realize that, of all the tasks which we have to face, the noblest and most sacred for mankind is that each racial species must preserve the purity of the blood which God has given it... The greatest revolution which National Socialism has brought about is that it has rent asunder the veil which hid from us the knowledge that all human failures and mistakes are due to the conditions of the time and therefore can be remedied, but that there is one error which cannot be remedied once men have made it, namely the failure to recognize the importance of conserving the blood and the race free from intermixture and thereby the racial aspect and character which are God's gift and God's handiwork. It is not for men to discuss the question of why Providence created different races, but rather to recognize the fact that it punishes those who disregard its work of creation... As I look back on the great work that has been done during the past four years you will understand quite well that my first feeling is simply one of thankfulness to our Almighty God for having allowed me to bring this work to success. He has blessed our labors and has enabled our people to come through all the obstacles which encompassed them on their way... Today I must humbly thank Providence, whose grace has enabled me, who was once an unknown soldier in the War, to bring to a successful issue the struggle for the restoration of our honor and rights as a nation.
    • speech before the Reichstag, 30 January 1937
  • So long as they concern themselves with their religious problems the State does not concern itself with them. But so soon as they attempt by any means whatsoever—by letters, Encyclica, or otherwise—to arrogate to themselves rights which belong to the State alone we shall force them back into their proper spiritual, pastoral activity.
    • speech in Berlin on the May Day festival, 1937
  • We National Socialists, too, have deep in our hearts our own faith. We cannot do otherwise. No man can mould the history of peoples or of the world unless he has upon his will and his capacities the blessing of Providence.
    • speech to Nazi leaders on 2 June 1937, as reported by a correspondent of the Daily Telegraph
  • I will never allow anyone to divide this people once more into religious camps, each fighting the other... You, my Brown Guard, will regard it as a matter of course that this German people should go only by the way which Providence ordained for it when it gave to Germans the common language. So we go forward with the profoundest faith in God into the future. Would that which we have achieved have been possible if Providence had not helped us?
    • speech at Regensburg on 6 June 1937
  • In this hour I would ask of the Lord God only this: that, as in the past, so in the years to come He would give His blessing to our work and our action, to our judgement and our resolution, that He will safeguard us from all false pride and from all cowardly servility, that He may grant us to find the straight path which His Providence has ordained for the German people, and that He may ever give us the courage to do the right, never to falter, never to yield before any violence, before any danger... I am convinced that men who are created by God should live in accordance with the will of the Almighty... If Providence had not guided us I could often never have found these dizzy paths... Thus it is that we National Socialists, too, have in the depths of our hearts our faith. We cannot do otherwise: no man can fashion world-history or the history of peoples unless upon his purpose and his powers there rests the blessings of this Providence.
    • speech at Wurzburg, 27 June 1937
  • If we pursue this way, if we are decent, industrious, and honest, if we so loyally and truly fulfill our duty, then it is my conviction that in the future as in the past the Lord God will always help us. In the long run He never leaves decent folk in the lurch. Often He may test them, He may send trials upon them, but in the long run He always lets His sun shine upon them once more and at the end He gives them His blessing.
    • speech at Harvest Thanksgiving Festival on the Buckeburg, 3 October 1937
  • This Winter Help Work is also in the deepest sense a Christian work. When I see, as I so often do, poorly clad girls collecting with such infinite patience in order to care for those who are suffering from the cold while they themselves are shivering with cold, then I have the feeling that they are all apostles of a Christianity—and in truth of a Christianity which can say with greater right than any other: This is the Christianity of an honest confession, for behind it stand not words but deeds.
    • speaking of the Winter Help Campaign, 5 October 1937
  • Remain strong in your faith, as you were in former years. In this faith, in its close-knit unity our people to-day goes straight forward on its way and no power on earth will avail to stop it.
    • speech at Coburg, 15 October 1937

1938

  • National Socialism is not a cult-movement—a movement for worship; it is exclusively a 'volkic' political doctrine based upon racial principles. In its purpose there is no mystic cult, only the care and leadership of a people defined by a common blood-relationship... We will not allow mystically-minded occult folk with a passion for exploring the secrets of the world beyond to steal into our Movement. Such folk are not National Socialists, but something else—in any case something which has nothing to do with us. At the head of our programme there stand no secret surmisings but clear-cut perception and straightforward profession of belief. But since we set as the central point of this perception and of this profession of belief the maintenance and hence the security for the future of a being formed by God, we thus serve the maintenance of a divine work and fulfill a divine will—not in the secret twilight of a new house of worship, but openly before the face of the Lord... Our worship is exclusively the cultivation of the natural, and for that reason, because natural, therefore God-willed. Our humility is the unconditional submission before the divine laws of existence so far as they are known to us men.
    • speech in Nuremberg on 6 September 1938
  • Thus one of Europe's most serious crises will be ended, and all of us, not only in Germany but those far beyond our frontiers, will then in this year for the first time really rejoice at the Christmas festival. It should for us all be a true Festival of Peace.
    • speech in Berlin, 5 October 1938
  • God helps only those who are prepared and determined to help themselves.
    • speech in Weimar, 6 November 1938

1939

  • The National Socialist Movement has wrought this miracle. If Almighty God granted success to this work, then the Party was His instrument.
    • proclamation to the German People, 1 January 1939
  • We are indeed perhaps better able than other generations to realize the full meaning of those pious words "What a change by the grace of God".

    Amongst the accusations which are directed against Germany in the so called democracies is the charge that the National Socialist State is hostile to religion. In answer to that charge I should like to make before the German people the following solemn declaration:

    1. No one in Germany has in the past been persecuted because of his religious views (Einstellung), nor will anyone in the future be so persecuted... The Churches are the greatest landed proprietors after the State... Further, the Church in the National Socialist State is in many ways favoured in regard to taxation, and for gifts, legacies, &c., it enjoys immunity from taxation.

    It is therefore, to put mildly—effrontery when especially foreign politicians make bold to speak of hostility to religion in the Third Reich... I would allow myself only one question: what contributions during the same period have France, England, or the United States made through the State from the public funds?

    3. The National Socialist State has not closed a church, nor has it prevented the holding of a religious service, nor has it ever exercised any influence upon the form of a religious service. It has not exercised any pressure upon the doctrine nor on the profession of faith of any of the Confessions. In the National Socialist State anyone is free to seek his blessedness after his own fashion... There are ten thousands and ten thousands of priests of all the Christian Confessions who perform their ecclesiastical duties just as well as or probably better than the political agitators without ever coming into conflict with the laws of the State... This State has only once intervened in the internal regulation of the Churches, that is when I myself in 1933 endeavoured to unite the weak and divided Protestant Churches of the different States into one great and powerful Evangelical Church of the Reich. That attempt failed through the opposition of the bishops of some States; it was therefore abandoned. For it is in the last resort not our task to defend or even to strengthen the Evangelical Church through violence against its own representatives... But on one point it is well that there should be no uncertainty: the German priest as servant of God we shall protect, the priest as political enemy of the German State we shall destroy.

    • speech in the Reichstag, 30 January 1939
I have not come into this world to make men better, but to make use of their weaknesses.
  • In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet, and have usually been ridiculed for it. During the time of my struggle for power it was in the first instance only the Jewish race that received my prophecies with laughter when I said that I would one day take over the leadership of the State, and with it that of the whole nation, and that I would then among other things settle the Jewish problem. Their laughter was uproarious, but I think that for some time now they have been laughing on the other side of their face. Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!
  • If positive Christianity means love of one's neighbour, i.e. the tending of the sick, the clothing of the poor, the feeding of the hungry, the giving of drink to those who are thirsty, then it is we who are the more positive Christians. For in these spheres the community of the people of National Socialist Germany has accomplished a prodigious work.
    • speech to the "Old Guard" at Munich, 24 February 1939
  • Help yourself, then God will also help you! The German people was created by Providence, not in order to obey a law which suits Englishmen or Frenchmen, but to stand up for its vital right. That is what we are there for!
    • speech at Wilhemshaven, 1 April 1939
  • The judgment whether a people is virtuous or not virtuous can hardly be passed by a human being. That should be left to God.
    • speech at Wilhelmshaven, 1 April 1939
  • I can give vent to my inmost feelings only in the form of humble thanks to Providence which called upon me and vouchsafed it to me, once an unknown soldier of the Great War, to rise to be the Leader of my people, so dear to me. Providence showed me the way to free our people from the depths of its misery without bloodshed and to lead it upward once again. Providence granted that I might fulfill my life's task-to raise my German people out of the depths of defeat and to liberate it from the bonds of the most outrageous dictate of all times... I have regarded myself as called upon by Providence to serve my own people alone and to deliver them from their frightful misery.
    • speech before the Reichstag, 28 April 1939
  • As Fuehrer of the German people and Chancellor of the Reich, I can thank God at this moment that he has so wonderfully blessed us in our hard struggle for what is our right, and beg Him that we and all other nations may find the right way, so that not only the German people but all Europe may once more be granted the blessing of peace.
    • speech before the Reichstag, 6 October 1939
  • [I] never lost my belief, in the midst of setbacks which were not spared me during my period of struggle. Providence has had the last word and brought me success.
    • speech, 23 November 1939
Life never forgives weaknesses.

1940

  • It would be easier for the Devil to go to church and cross himself with holy water than for these people to comprehend the ideas which are accepted facts to us today.
    • speech in Berlin, 10 December 1940

1941

  • The conception of the new Movement, whose fundamentals can be expressed in a single sentence: "The Lord helps those who help themselves," opposed this. That is not only a very pious phrase, but a very just one. For one cannot assume that God exists to help people who are too cowardly and too lazy to help themselves and think that God exists only to make up for the weakness of mankind. He does not exist for that purpose. He has always, at all times, blessed only those who were prepared to fight their own battles...

    Providence has not led us along these amazing paths in vain. On the day that the party was founded I recalled that our nation once gained immense victories. Then it became ungrateful, disunited, sinned against itself. Thereupon it was punished by Providence. We deserved our defeat. If a nation forgets itself as completely as the German nation did at that time, if it thinks that it can shake off all honor and all good faith, Providence can do nothing but teach it a hard and bitter lesson. But even at that time we were convinced that once our nation found itself again, once it again became industrious and honorable, once each individual German stood up for his nation first and not for himself, once he placed the interests of the community above his own personal interests, once the whole nation again pursued a great ideal, once it was prepared to stake everything for this ideal, the hour would come when the Lord would declare our trials at an end.

    If fate should once more call us to the battlefield, the blessing of Providence will be with those who have merited it by years of hard work. When I compare myself and my opponents in other countries in the light of history, I do not fear the verdict on our respective mentalities. Who are these egoists? Each one of them merely defends the interests of his class. Behind them all stands either the Jew or their own moneybags. They are all nothing but money-grubbers, living on the profits of this war. No blessing can come of that. I oppose these people merely as the 0 champion of my country. I am convinced that our struggle will in the future be blessed by Providence, as it has been blessed up to now.

    • speech in Munich, 24 February 1941
  • But he who dares to use the word "God" for such devilish activity blasphemes against Providence and, according to our belief, he cannot end except in destruction.
    • speech before the Reichstag about Jews and international "warmongers," 4 May 1941
  • For over five years this man has been chasing around Europe like a madman in search of something he could set on fire. Unfortunately he again and again finds hirelings who open the gates of their country to this international incendiary.
  • For the sake of historical truth I must verify that only the Greeks, of all the adversaries who confronted us, fought with bold courage and highest disregard of death.
    • speech before the Reichstag, 4 May 1941
  • I did not want this struggle. Since January, 1933, when Providence entrusted me with the leadership of the German Reich, I had an aim before my eyes which was essentially incorporated in the program of our National Socialist party. I have never been disloyal to this aim and have never abandoned my program...

    Only when the entire German people become a single community of sacrifice can we expect and hope that Almighty God will help us. The Almighty has never helped a lazy man. He does not help the coward. He does not help a people that cannot help itself.

    The principle applies here, help yourselves and Almighty God will not deny you his assistance.

    • radio broadcast from Berlin, 3 October 1941
  • If the Providence has so willed that the German people cannot be spared this fight, then I can only be grateful that it entrusted me with the leadership in this historic struggle which, for the next 500 or 1,000 years, will be described as decisive, not only for the history of Germany, but for the whole of Europe and indeed the whole world. The German people and their soldiers are working and fighting today, not only for the present, but for the coming, nay the most distant, generations. A historical revision on a unique scale has been imposed on us by the Creator...

    The next incursion against this homestead of European culture was carried out from the distant East. A terrible stream of barbarous, uncultured hordes sallied forth from the interior of Asia deep into the hearts of the European Continent, burning, looting, murdering—a true scourge of the Lord...

    From the time when the Movement I consisted of seven men, until we took over power in January 1933, the path was so miraculous that only Providence itself with its blessing could have made this possible...

    Our enemies must not deceive themselves—in the 2,000 years of German history known to us, our people have never been more united than today. The Lord of the Universe has treated us so well in the past years that we bow in gratitude to a providence which has allowed us to be members of such a great nation. We thank Him that we also can be entered with honor into the ever-lasting book of German history!

    • speech before the Reichstag, 11 December 1941

1942

  • My fame, if Providence preserves my life, will consist in ... works of peace, which I still intend to create. But I think that if Providence has already disposed that I can do what must be done according to the inscrutable will of the Providence, then I can at least just ask Providence to entrust to me the burden of this war, to load it on me. I will beat it! I will shrink from no responsibility; in every hour which ... I will take this burden upon me. I will bear every responsibility, just as I have always borne them...

    Thus the home-front need not be warned, and the prayer of this priest of the devil, the wish that Europe may be punished with Bolshevism, will not be fulfilled, but rather that the prayer may be fulfilled: "Lord God, give us the strength that we may retain our liberty for our children and our children's children, not only for ourselves but also for the other peoples of Europe, for this is a war which we all wage, this time, not for our German people alone, it is a war for all of Europe and with it, in the long run, for all of mankind."

    • speech in Berlin, 30 January 1942
  • May therefore God give us the strength to continue to do our duty and with this prayer we bow in homage before our dead heroes, before those whom they have left behind in bereavement, and before all the other victims of this war.
    • radio address, 15 March 1942
  • I, for my part, acknowledge another precept which says that man must deal the final blow to those whose downfall is destined by God.
    • address to the Reichstag, 6 April 1942
  • In my eyes, the year 1942 already has behind it the most fateful trial of our people. That was the winter of '41 to '42. I may be permitted to say that in that winter the German people, and in particular its Wehrmacht, were weighed in the balance by Providence. Nothing worse can or will happen. That we conquered that winter, that "General Winter," that at last the German fronts stood, and that this spring, that is, early this summer, we were able to proceed again, that, I believe, is the proof that Providence was content with the German people...

    You do not realize what is hidden beneath these words in the way of human heroism, and also of human pain, and suffering, and we may say, often anxiety too, naturally, deathly anxiety on the part of all those who, especially for the first time, are placed before the trial of God in this highest court.

    • speech in Berlin, 30 September 1942
  • And today I stand by this same view. Fate, or Providence, will give the victory to those who most deserve it...

    And when now, after 10 years, I again survey this period, I can say that upon no people has Providence ever bestowed more successes than upon us. The miracles we have achieved in the last three years in the face of a whole world of enemies are unique in history, especially the crises we very naturally often had in these years.

    • speech in Munich, 8 November 1942

1944

  • I may not be a light of the church, a pulpiteer, but deep down I am a pious man, and believe that whoever fights bravely in defense of the natural laws framed by God and never capitulates will never be deserted by the Lawgiver, but will, in the end, receive the blessings of Providence.
    • speech, July 5, 1944
  • The bomb which was planted by Colonel von Stauffenberg exploded two meters to my right. It seriously injured a number of my colleagues who are very dear to me; one has died. I myself am completely unhurt apart from a few minor skin abrasions, bruises and burns. I interpret this as confirmation that Providence wishes me to continue my life's mission as I have in the past.

    Few people can begin to imagine the fate which would have overtaken Germany had the assassination attempt succeeded. I myself thank Providence and my Creator not for preserving me—my life consists only of worry and work for my People—I thank him only for allowing me to continue to bear this burden of worry, and to carry on my work to the best of my ability.

    Once again I take this opportunity, my old comrades in arms, to greet you, joyful that I have once again been spared a fate which, while it held no terror for me personally, would have had terrible consequences for the German People. I interpret this as a sign from Providence that I must continue my work, and therefore I shall continue it.

    • speaking about the attempt to kill him, in a radio broadcast, 20 July 1944
The god of war has gone over to the other side.

1945

  • God the Almighty has made our nation. By defending its existence we are defending His work...

    Only He can relieve me of this duty Who called me to it. It was in the hand of Providence to snuff me out by the bomb that exploded only one and a half meters from me on July 20, and thus to terminate my life's work. That the Almighty protected me on that day I consider a renewed affirmation of the task entrusted to me...

    Therefore, it is all the more necessary on this twelfth anniversary of the rise to power to strengthen the heart more than ever before and to steel ourselves in the holy determination to wield the sword, no-matter where and under what circumstances, until final victory crowns our efforts...

    In the years to come I shall continue on this road, uncompromisingly safeguarding my people's interests, oblivious to all misery and danger, and filled with the holy conviction that God the Almighty will not abandon him who, during all his life, had no desire but to save his people from a fate it had never deserved, neither by virtue of its number nor by way of its importance...

    In vowing ourselves to one another, we are entitled to stand before the Almighty and ask Him for His grace and His blessing. No people can do more than that everybody who can fight, fights, and that everybody who can work, works, and that they all sacrifice in common, filled with but one thought: to safeguard freedom and national honor and thus the future of life.

    • radio address, 30 January 1945
  • Providence shows no mercy to weak nations, but recognizes the right of existence-only of sound and strong nations...

    This Jewish bolshevist annihilation of nations and its western European and American procurers can be met only in one way: by using every ounce of strength with the extreme fanaticism and stubborn steadfastness that merciful God gives to men in hard times for the defense of their own lives...

    We have suffered so much that it only steels us to fanatical resolve to hate Our enemies a thousand times more and to regard them for what they are destroyers of an eternal culture and annihilators of humanity. Out of this bate a holy will is born to oppose these destroyers of our existence with all the strength that God has given us and to crush them in the end. During its 2,000-year history our people has survived so many terrible times that we have no doubt that we will also master our present plight.

    • recorded radio address, 24 February 1945

Other remarks

  • I want war. To me all means will be right. My motto is not "Don't, whatever you do, annoy the enemy." My motto is "Destroy him by all and any means." I am the one who will wage the war!
  • I have not come into this world to make men better, but to make use of their weaknesses.
  • We have to put a stop to the idea that it is a part of everybody's civil rights to say whatever he pleases.
    • transcript of a conversation (22 February 1942)
    • this was not a public speech, and might be from Hitler's Table Talks (see below)
  • Genius is a will-o'-the-wisp if it lacks a solid foundation of perseverence and fanatical tenacity. This is the most important thing in all of human life...
    • quoted by Richard Overy in How the Allies Won (1995)
    • citing P.E. Schramm, Hitler: The Man and the Military Leader (1972)
  • I don't see much future for the Americans ... it's a decayed country. And they have their racial problem, and the problem of social inequalities ... my feelings against Americanism are feelings of hatred and deep repugnance ... everything about the behaviour of American society reveals that it's half Judaised, and the other half negrified. How can one expect a State like that to hold together?
    • Statement in conversation, 7 January 1942, as quoted in Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer p. 895, from transcripts published as Hitler's Secret Conversations, 1941–1944 (1953). These should not be confused with later publications such as "Hitler's Secret Book" (1961) from transcripts of 1928, nor the widely known hoax of the Hitler Diaries.
  • You know my opinion of Franco... We ought to keep these Red Spaniards on the back burner... They're lost to democracy, and to that reactionary crew round Franco too... I believe you to the letter, Speer, that they were impressive people. I must say, in general, that during the civil war the idealism was not on Franco's side; it was to be found among the Reds ... one of these days we'll be able to make use of them... The whole thing will start all over again. But with us on the opposite side.
    • Quoted in Albert Speer's diary entry for 26 December 1950 recalling a conversation with Hitler in January 1943 (Albert Speer, Spandau: The Secret Diary (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2000), p. 167.)
  • "I have sympathy for Mr. Roosevelt, because he marches straight toward his objectives over Congress, lobbies and bureaucracy." Hitler went on to note that he was the sole leader in Europe who expressed "understanding of the methods and motives of President Roosevelt."
    • [3] New York Times 1934, quoted from John Toland: Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography.

My Struggle (1925)

Zweites Buch (1928)

Online

  • Politics is history in the making.
  • At one time the Spartans were capable of such a wise measure, but not our present, mendaciously sentimental, bourgeois patriotic nonsense. The rule of six thousand Spartans over three hundred and fifty thousand Helots was only thinkable in consequence of the high racial value of the Spartans. But this was the result of a systematic race preservation; thus Sparta must be regarded as the first Völkisch State. The exposure of sick, weak, deformed children, in short their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more humane than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject, and indeed at any price, and yet takes the life of a hundred thousand healthy children in consequence of birth control or through abortions, in order subsequently to breed a race of degenerates burdened with illnesses.

From the film Triumph of the Will (1935)

  • It is our will that this state shall endure for a thousand years. We are happy to know that the future is ours entirely!
  • We want this people to be hard, not soft, and you must steel yourselves for it in your youth!
  • Our party remains as firm as this rock and will not be divided by any force in Germany.
  • When our party had only seven men, it already had two principles. First, it wanted to be a party with a true ideology. And second, it wanted to be the one and only power in Germany.
  • All upright Germans will be National Socialists, but only the best National Socialists will be party members!
  • It is not the State that orders us; but it is we who order the State!

Hitler's Table Talks (1941–1944) (1953)

Die Bormann Vermerke: Transcripts of Hitler's conversations (5 July 1941 - 30 November 1944), made under the supervision of Martin Bormann, published in the UK as Hitler's Table Talks (1953).

  • Man has discovered in nature the wonderful notion of that all-mighty being whose law he worships. Fundamentally in everyone there is the feeling for this all-mighty, which we call God (that is to say, the dominion of natural laws throughout the whole universe). The priests, who have always succeeded in exploiting this feeling, threaten punishments for the man who refuses to accept the creed they impose. When one provokes in a child a fear of the dark, one awakens in him a feeling of atavistic dread. Thus this child will be ruled all his life by this dread, whereas another child, who has been intelligently brought up, will be free of it. It's said that every man needs a refuge where he can find consolation and help in unhappiness. I don't believe it! If humanity follows that path, it's solely a matter of tradition and habit. That's a lesson, by the way, that can be drawn from the Bolshevik front. The Russians have no God, and that doesn't prevent them from being able to face death. We don't want to educate anyone in atheism.
    • night of 11-12 July 1941
  • When National Socialism has ruled long enough, it will no longer be possible to conceive of a form of life different from ours. In the long run, National Socialism and religion will no longer be able to exist together... No, it does not mean a war. The ideal solution would be to leave the religions to devour themselves, without persecutions. But in that case we must not replace the Church with something equivalent.
    • night of 11-12 July 1941
  • The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianty's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity. Bolshevism practices a lie of the same nature, when it claims to bring liberty to men, whereas in reality it seeks only to enslave them. In the ancient world the relations between men and gods were founded on instinctive respect. It was a world enlightened by the idea of tolerance. Christianity was the first creed in the world to exterminate its adversaries in the name of love. Its key note is intolerance. Without Christianity, we should not have had Islam. The Roman Empire, under Germanic influence would have developed in the direction of world domination and humanity would not have extinguished fifteen centuries of civilization at a single stroke. Let it not be said that Christianity brought man the life of the soul, for that was in the natural order of things.
    • night 11-12 July 1941
  • Stalin is one of the most extraordinary figures in world history. He began as a small clerk, and he has never stopped being a clerk. Stalin owes nothing to rhetoric. He governs from his office, thanks to a bureaucracy that obeys his every nod and gesture. It's striking that Russian propaganda, in the criticisms it makes of us, always holds itself within certain limits. Stalin, that cunning Caucasian, is apparently quite ready to abandon European Russia, if he thinks that a failure to solve her problems would cause him to lose everything. Let nobody think Stalin might reconquer Europe from the Urals! It is as if I were installed in Slovakia, and could set out from there to reconquer the Reich. This is the catastrophe that will cause the loss of the Soviet Empire.
    • night of 18-19 July 1941
  • Originally war was nothing but a struggle for pasture grounds. To-day war is nothing but a struggle for the riches of nature. By virtue of an inherent law, these riches belong to him who conquers them. The great migrations set out from the East. With us begins the ebb, from West to East. That's in accordance with the laws of nature. By means of the struggle, the elites are continually renewed. The law of natural selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest. Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.
    • 10 October 1941
  • If, in the course of a thousand or two thousand years, science arrives at the necessity of renewing its points of view, that will not mean that science is a liar. Science cannot lie, for it's always striving, according to the momentary state of knowledge, to deduce what is true. When it makes a mistake, it does so in good faith. It is Christianity that is the liar. It's in perpetual conflict with itself.
    • 14 October 1941
  • It is not opportune to hurl ourselves now into a struggle with the churches. The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death. A slow death has something comforting about it. The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science. Religion will have to make more and more concessions. Gradually the myths crumble. All that is left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity.
    • 14 October 1941
  • The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity. Christianity is a prototype of Bolshevism: the mobilisation by the Jew of the masses of slaves with the object of undermining society.
    • 19 October 1941
  • Didn't the world see, carried on right into the Middle Ages, the same old system of martyrs, tortures, faggots? Of old, it was in the name of Christianity. To-day, it's in the name of Bolshevism. Yesterday, the instigator was Saul: the instigator to-day, Mardochai. Saul has changed into St. Paul, and Mardochai into Karl Marx. By exterminating this pest, we shall do humanity a service of which our soldiers can have no idea.
    • 21 October 1941
  • I'm sure that Nero didn't set fire to Rome. It was the Christian-Bolsheviks who did that, just as the Commune set fire to Paris in 1871 and the Communists set fire to the Reichstag in 1932.
    • 25 October 1941
  • The Jew can take the credit for having corrupted the Graeco-Roman world. Previously words were used to express thoughts; he used words to invent the art of disguising thoughts. Lies are his strength, his weapon in the struggle. The Jew is said to be gifted. His only gift is that of juggling with other people's property and swindling each and everyone. Suppose I find by chance a picture that I believe to be a Titian. I tell the owner what I think of it, and I offer him a price. In a similar case, the Jew begins by declaring that the picture is valueless, he buys it for a song and sells it at a profit of 5000 per cent. To persuade people that a thing which has value, has none, and vice versa—that's not a sign of intelligence. They can't even overcome the smallest economic crisis!
    • 5 November 1941
  • I can imagine people being enthusiastic about the paradise of Mahomet, but as for the insipid paradise of the Christians! In your lifetime, you used to hear the music of Richard Wagner. After your death, it will be nothing but hallelujahs, the waving of palms, children of an age for the feeding-bottle, and hoary old men. The man of the isles pays homage to the forces of nature. But Christianity is an invention of sick brains: one could imagine nothing more senseless—A negro with his taboos is crushingly superior to the human being who seriously believes in transubstantiation.
    • 13 December 1941
  • Pure Christianity—the Christianity of the catacombs—is concerned with translating the Christian doctrine into facts. It leads quite simply to the annihilation of mankind. It is merely whole-hearted Bolshevism, under a tinsel of metaphysics.
    • 14 December 1941
  • It goes without saying that we have no affinities with the Japanese. They're too foreign to us, by their way of living, by their culture. But my feelings against Americanism are feelings of hatred and deep repugnance. I feel myself more akin to any European country, no matter which. Everything about the behaviour of American society reveals that it's half Judaised, and the other half negrified. How can one expect a State like that to hold together—a State where 80 per cent of the revenue is drained away for the public purse—a country where everything is built on the dollar? From this point of view, I consider the British State very much superiour.
    • 7 January 1942
  • But for the coming of Christianity, who knows how the history of Europe would have developed? Rome would have conquered all Europe, and the onrush of the Huns would have been broken on the legions. It was Christianity that brought about the fall of Rome—not the Germans or the Huns. What Bolshevism is achieving to-day on the materialist and technical level, Christianity had achieved on the metaphysical level. When the Crown sees the throne totter, it needs the support of the masses.
    • 27 January 1942
  • As soon as the idea was introduced that all men were equal before God, that world was bound to collapse.
    • 26 February 1942
  • The fact that the Japanese have retained their political philosophy, which is one of the essential reasons for their success, is due to their having been saved in time from the views of Christianity. Just as in Islam, there is no terrorism in the Japanese State religion, but, on the contrary, a promise of happiness. This terrorism in religion is, to put it briefly, of a Jewish dogma, which Christianity has universalized and whose effect is to sow trouble and confusion in men's minds.
    • 4 April 1942
  • It is deplorable that the Bible should have been translated into German, and that the whole of the German Folk should have thus become exposed to the whole of this Jewish mumbo jumbo... As a sane German, one is flabbergasted to think that German human beings could have let themselves be brought to such a pass by Jewish filth and priestly twaddle, that they were little different from the howling dervish of the Turks and the negroes, at whom we laugh so scornfully. It angers one to think that, while in other parts of the globe religious teaching like that of Confucius, Buddha and Mohammed offers an undeniably broad basis for the religious-minded, Germans should have been duped by a theological exposition devoid of all honest depth.
    • 5 June 1942
  • The American statesmen, by subjecting the Church to the same regulations governing all other associations and institutions, have limited its field of activity to reasonable proportions; and, as the State does not contribute from State Funds one single cent to the church, the whole clergy cringes and sings hymns in praise of Government. This is not to be wondered at! The parson, like everyone else, has got to live; what he makes out of the public offertory doesn't amount to much, and so he is more or less dependent on State charity. As he has no legal claim whatever on the State, he therefore takes very good care that his demeanour is always pleasing in the eyes of the State and therefore deserving of the crumbs it cares to toss to him.
    • 4 July 1942
  • The development of relations between State and Church affords a very instructive example of how the carelessness of a single statesman can have after-effects which last for centuries. When Charlemagne was kneeling at prayer in St. Peter's, Rome, at Christmas in the year 800, the Pope, giving him no time to work out the possible effects of so symbolic an action, suddenly bent down and presto! popped a golden crown on his head! By permitting it, the Emperor delivered himself and his successors into the hands of a power which subjected the German Government and the German people to five hundred years of martyrdom.
    • 4 July 1942
  • One of our most important tasks will be to save future generations from a similar political fate and to maintain for ever watchful in them a knowledge of the menace of Jewry. For this reason alone it is vital that the Passion play be continued at Oberammergau; for never has the menace of Jewry been so convincingly portrayed as in this presentation of what happened in the times of the Romans. There one sees in Pontius Pilate a Roman racially and intellectually so superior, that he stands like a firm, clean rock in the middle of the whole muck and mire of Jewry.
  • In the Spanish people there is a mixture of Gothic, Frankish and Moorish blood. One can speak of the Spaniard as one would speak of a brave anarchist. The Arabian epoch—the Arabs look down on the Turks as they do on dogs—was the most cultured, the most intellectual and in every way best and happiest epoch in Spanish history. It was followed by the period of the persecutions with its unceasing atrocities.
    • 1 August 1942
  • Only in the Roman Empire and in Spain under Arab domination has culture been a potent factor. Under the Arab, the standard attained was wholly admirable; to Spain flocked the greatest scientists, thinkers, astronomers, and mathematicians of the world, and side by side there flourished a spirit of sweet human tolerance and a sense of purist chivalry. Then with the advent of Christianity, came the barbarians. Had Charles Martel not been victorious at Poitiers—already you see the world had already fallen into the hands of the Jews, so gutless a thing Christianity!—then we should in all probability have been converted to Mohammedanism, that cult which glorifies the heroism and which opens up the seventh Heaven to the bold warrior alone. Then the Germanic races would have conquered the world. Christianity alone prevented them from doing so.
    • 28 August 1942
  • Originally, Christianity was merely an incarnation of Bolshevism the destroyer. Nevertheless, the Galilean, who later was called the Christ, intended something quite different. He must be regarded as a popular leader who took up His position against Jewry. Galilee was a colony where the Romans had probably installed Gallic legionaries, and items certain that Jesus was not a Jew. The Jews, by the way, regarded Him as the son of a whore and a Roman soldier, which in christianity is not a belief. The decisive falsification of Jesus's doctrine was the work of St. Paul. He gave himself to this work with subtlety and for purposes of personal exploitation. For the Galilean's object was to liberate His country from Jewish oppression. He set Himself against Jewish capitalism, and that's why the Jews liquidated Him. Paul of Tarsus (his name was Saul, before the road to Damascus) was one of those who persecuted Jesus most savagely. When he learnt that Jesus's supporters let their throats be cut for His ideas, he realised that, by making intelligent use of the Galilean's teaching, it would be possible to overthrow this Roman State which the Jews hated. It's in this context that we must understand the famous "illumination". Think of it, the Romans were daring to confiscate the most sacred thing the Jews possessed, the gold piled up in their temples! At that time, as now, money was their god. On the road to Damascus, St. Paul discovered that he could succeed in ruining the Roman State by causing the principle to triumph of the equality of all men before a single God and by putting beyond the reach of the laws his private notions, which he alleged to be divinely inspired. If, into the bargain, one succeeded in imposing one man as the representative on earth of the only God, that man would possess boundless power.
    • 21 October 1942
  • Jesus was most certainly not a Jew. The Jews would never have handed one of their own people to the Roman courts; they would have condemned Him themselves. It is quite probable that a large number of the descendants of the Roman legionaries, mostly Gauls, were living in Galilee, and Jesus was probably one of them. His mother may well have been a Jewess. Jesus fought against the materialism of His age, and, therefore, against the Jews. Paul of Tarsus, who was originally one of the most stubborn enemies of the Christians, suddenly realised the immense possibilities of using, intelligently and for other ends, an idea which was exercising such great powers of fascination. He realised that the judicious exploitation of this idea among non-Jews would give him far greater power in the world than would the promise of material profit to the Jews themselves. It was then that the future St. Paul distorted with diabolical cunning the Christian idea. Out of this idea, which was a declaration of war on the golden calf, on the egotism and the materialism of the Jews, he created a rallying point for slaves of all kinds against the elite, the masters and those in dominant authority. The religion fabricated by Paul of Tarsus, which was later called Christianity, is nothing but the Communism of to-day.
    • night of 29-30 November 1944

The Political Testament of Adolf Hitler (1945)

in German

  • Under the guidance of the Reich, Europe would speedily have become unified. Once the Jewish poison had been eradicated, unification would have been an easy matter. France and Italy, each defeated in turn at an interval of a few months by the two Germanic Powers, would have been well out of it. Both would have had to renounce their inappropriate aspirations to greatness. At the same time they would have had to renounce their pretensions in North Africa and the Near East; and that would have allowed Europe to pursue a bold policy of friendship towards Islam. (4th February 1945)
  • We can safely make one prophecy: whatever the outcome of this war, the British Empire is at an end. It has been mortally wounded. The future of the British people is to die of hunger and tuberculosis in their cursed island. (4th February 1945)
  • It is eastwards, only and always eastwards, that the veins of our race must expand. It is the direction which Nature herself has decreed for the expansion of the German peoples. (7th February 1945)
  • The Whites have carried to these (colonial) people the worst that they could carry: the plagues of the world: materialism, fanaticism, alcoholism, and syphilis. Moreover, since what these people possessed on their own was superior to anything we could give them, they have remained themselves... The sole result of the activity of the colonizers is: they have everywhere aroused hatred. (7th February 1945)
  • I am quite sure that very few of the so-called Reds in Spain were really Communists. We were badly deceived, for, had I known the real state of affairs, I would never have allowed our aircraft to bombard and destroy a starving population and at the same time re-establish the Spanish clergy in all their horrible privileges. (10th February 1945)
  • There is, then, no danger in the circumstances that anti-semitism will disappear, for it is the Jews themselves who add fuel to its flames and see that it is kept well stoked. Before the opposition to it can disappear, the malady itself must disappear. And from that point of view, you can rely on the Jews: as long as they survive, anti-semitism will never fade. (13th February 1945)
  • In saying this, I promise you I am quite free of all racial hatred. It is, in any case, undesirable that one race should mix with other races. Except for a few gratuitous successes, which I am prepared to admit, systematic cross-breeding has never produced good results. Its desire to remain racially pure is a proof of the vitality and good health of a race. Pride in one's own race—and that does not imply contempt for other races—is also a normal and healthy sentiment. I have never regarded the Chinese or the Japanese as being inferior to ourselves. They belong to ancient civilisations, and I admit freely that their past history is superior to our own. They have the right to be proud of their past, just as we have the right to be proud of the civilisation to which we belong. Indeed, I believe the more steadfast the Chinese and the Japanese remain in their pride of race, the easier I shall find it to get on with them. (13th February 1945)
  • This pride of race is a quality which the German, fundamentally, does not possess. The reason for this is that for these last three centuries the country has been torn by internal dissension and religious wars and has been subjected to a variety of foreign influences, to the influence, for example, of Christianity—for Christianity is not a natural religion for the Germans, but a religion that has been imported and which strikes no responsive chord in their hearts and is foreign to the inherent genius of the race. (13th February 1945)
  • Our racial pride is not aggressive except in so far as the Jewish race is concerned. We use the term Jewish race as a matter of convenience, for in reality and from the genetic point of view there is no such thing as the Jewish race. There does, however, exist a community, to which, in fact, the term can be applied and the existence of which is admitted by the Jews themselves. It is the spiritually homogeneous group, to membership of which all Jews throughout the world deliberately adhere, regardless of their whereabouts and of their country of domicile; and it to this group of human beings to which we give the title Jewish race. (13th February 1945)
  • I ought to have seized the initiative in 1938 instead of allowing myself to be forced into war in 1939; for war was, in any case, unavoidable. However, you can hardly blame me if the British and the French accepted at Munich every demand I made of them! (14th February 1945)
  • Never, at any price, should we have put our money on France and against the peoples subjected to her yoke. On the contrary, we should have helped them to achieve their liberty and, if necessary, should have goaded them into doing so. There was nothing to stop us in 1940 from making a gesture of this sort in the Near East and in North Africa. In actual fact our diplomats instead set about the task of consolidating French power, not only in Syria, but in Tunis, in Algeria and Morocco as well. Our 'gentlemen' obviously preferred to maintain cordial relations with distinguished Frenchmen, rather than with a lot of hirsute revolutionaries, with a chorus of musical comedy officers, whose one idea was to cheat us, rather than with the Arabs, who would have been loyal partners for us. (14th February 1945)
  • In order to persuade Britain to pack up, to compel her to make peace, it was essential to rob her of her hope of being able still to confront us, on the continent itself, with an adversary of a stature equal to our own.
    • 15th February 1945 — discussing the reasons for the invasion of the Soviet Union
  • I have never liked France or the French, and I have never stopped saying so. (15th February 1945)
  • Our Italian ally has been a source of embarrassment to us everywhere. It was this alliance, for instance, which prevented us from pursuing a revolutionary policy in North Africa. In the nature of things, this territory was becoming an Italian preserve and it was as such that the Duce laid claim to it. Had we been on our own, we could have emancipated the Moslem countries dominated by France; and that would have had enormous repercussions in the Near East, dominated by Britain, and in Egypt. But with our fortunes linked to those of the Italians, the pursuit of such a policy was not possible. All Islam vibrated at the news of our victories. The Egyptians, the Irakis and the whole of the Near East were all ready to rise in revolt. Just think what we could have done to help them, even to incite them, as would have been both our duty and in our own interest! But the presence of the Italians at our side paralysed us; it created a feeling of malaise among our Islamic friends, who inevitably saw in us accomplices, willing or unwilling, of their oppressors. For the Italians in these parts of the world are more bitterly hated, of course, than either the British or the French. The memories of the barbarous, reprisals taken against the Senussi are still vivid. Then again the ridiculous pretensions of the Duce to be regarded as The Sword of Islam evokes the same sneering chuckle now as it did before the war. This title, which is fitting for Mahomed and a great conqueror like Omar, Mussolini caused to be conferred on himself by a few wretched brutes whom he had either bribed or terrorized into doing so. We had a great chance of pursuing a splendid policy with regard to Islam. But we missed the bus, as we missed it on several other occasions, thanks to our loyalty to the Italian alliance! In this theatre of operations, then, the Italians prevented us from playing our best card, the emancipation of the French subjects and the raising of the standard of revolt in the countries oppressed by the British. Such a policy would have aroused the enthusiasm of the whole of Islam. It is a characteristic of the Moslem world, from the shores of the Atlantic to those of the Pacific, that what affects one, for good or for evil, affects all. (17th February 1945)
  • Life does not forgive weakness. (17th February 1945)
  • The universalists, the idealists, the Utopians all aim too high. They give promises of an unattainable paradise, and by doing so they deceive mankind. Whatever label they wear, whether they call themselves Christians, Communists, humanitarians, whether they are merely sincere but stupid or wire-pullers and cynics, they are all makers of slaves. I myself have always kept my eye fixed on a paradise which, in the nature of things, lies well within our reach. I mean an improvement in the lot of the German people. (21st February 1945)
  • Furthermore, thanks to the Marxist religion, they (the Russians) have everything required to make them patient. They have been promised happiness on earth (a feature which distinguishes Marxism from the Christian religion)—but in the future. The Jew, Mardochee Marx, like the good Jew that he was, was awaiting the coming of the Messiah. He has placed the Messiah conception in a setting of historic materialism by asserting that terrestrial happiness is a factor in an almost endless process of evolution. "Happiness is within your reach," he says, "that I promise you. But you must let evolution take its course and not try to hurry matters." Mankind always falls for a specious trick of that sort... Lenin did not have the time, but Stalin will carry on the good work, and son and so on... Marxism is a very powerful force. But how shall we assess Christianity, that other child of Judaism, which will not commit itself further than to promise the faithful happiness in another world? Believe me, it is incomparably stronger! (25th February 1945)
  • I have been Europe's last hope. She proved incapable of refashioning herself by means of voluntary reform. She showed herself impervious to charm and persuasion. To take her I had to use violence. (26th February)
  • The peoples of Islam will always be closer to us than, for example, France. (2nd April 1945)
  • For a people, as for an individual, it is tragic to have ambitions and to lack both the means essential to their fulfillment and any hope of acquiring those means.
    • 2nd April 1945, talking about Italians
  • With the defeat of the Reich and pending the emergence of the Asiatic, the African and, perhaps, the South American nationalisms, there will remain in the world only two Great Powers capable of confronting each other—the United States and Soviet Russia. The laws of both history and geography will compel these two Powers to a trial of strength, either military or in the fields of economics and ideology. (2nd April 1945)

Disputed

  • Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter, with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It's a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me. I have issued the command, and I'll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad, that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death's-head formation in readiness, for the present only in the East, with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?

Misattributed

  • The great masses of people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one. Especially if it is repeated again and again.

Variant:

  • The bigger/more blatant a lie, the more people will believe it.

Quotes about Hitler

The test of greatness as applied to a political leader is the success of his plans and his enterprises, which means his ability to reach the goal for which he sets out.

I. Quotes before the end of World War II (Note: many of the worst atrocities of Hitler's regime did not start to become widely known until the final months of this war)

  • I have never met a happier people than the Germans and Hitler is one of the greatest men. The old trust him; the young idolise him. It is the worship of a national hero who has saved his country.
  • You have delivered up our holy German Fatherland to one of the greatest demagogues of all time. I solemnly prophesy that this accursed man will cast our Reich into the abyss and bring inconceivable misery upon our nation. Future generations will curse you in your grave for your action.
  • One may dislike Hitler's system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.
  • We cannot tell whether Hitler will be the man who will once again let loose upon the world another war in which civilisation will irretrievably succumb, or whether he will go down in history as the man who restored honour and peace of mind to the Great Germanic nation.
  • I have always said that if Great Britain were defeated in war I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among the nations. I am sorry, however, that he has not been mellowed by the great success that has attended him. The whole world would rejoice to see the Hitler of peace and tolerance, and nothing would adorn his name in world history so much as acts of magnanimity and of mercy and of pity to the forlorn and friendless, to the weak and poor... Let this great man search his own heart and conscience before he accuses anyone of being a warmonger.
    • Winston Churchill, "Mr. Churchill's Reply" in The Times (7 November 1938) This was in response to Hitler denouncing Churchill as a "warmonger".
We cannot tell whether Hitler will be the man who will once again let loose upon the world another war in which civilisation will irretrievably succumb, or whether he will go down in history as the man who restored honour and peace of mind to the Great Germanic nation.
  • Hitler belongs in the category of the truly mystic medicine man. His body does not suggest strength. The outstanding characteristic of his physiognomy is its dreamy look. I was especially struck by that when I saw pictures taken of him [Hitler] in the Czechoslovakian crisis; there was in his eyes the look of a seer.
    • Carl Jung, interview with Ernst Hanfstaengl
  • We do not know whether Hitler is going to found a new Islam. He is already on the way; he is like Mohammad. The emotion in Germany is Islamic; warlike and Islamic. They are all drunk with wild god. That can be the historic future.
  • Every word that comes from Hitler's mouth is a lie. When he says peace, he means war, and when he blasphemously uses the name of the Almighty, he means the power of evil, the fallen angel, Satan. His mouth is the foul-smelling maw of Hell, and his might is at bottom accursed. True, we must conduct a struggle against the National Socialist terrorist state with rational means; but whoever today still doubts the reality, the existence of demonic powers, has failed by a wide margin to understand the metaphysical background of this war.
  • Freedom and honour! For ten long years Hitler and his coadjutor have manhandled, squeezed, twisted, and debased these two splendid German words to the point of nausea, as only dilettantes can, casting the highest values of a nation before swine. They have sufficiently demonstrated in the ten years of destruction of all material and intellectual freedom, of all moral substance among the German people, what they understand by freedom and honour. The frightful bloodbath has opened the eyes of even the stupidest German—it is a slaughter which they arranged in the name of "freedom and honour of the German nation" throughout Europe, and which they daily start anew.
  • Shaken and broken, our people behold the loss of the men of Stalingrad. Three hundred and thirty thousand German men have been senselessly and irresponsibly driven to death and destruction by the inspired strategy of our World War I Private First Class. Führer, we thank you!
  • He was a warrior, a warrior for mankind, and a prophet of the gospel of justice for all nations.
  • Adolf Hitler was a Jeanne d'Arc, a saint. He was a martyr. Like many martyrs, he held extreme views.
    • Ezra Pound, in an interview with Edd Johnson, published in The Chicago Sun (9 May 1945)[6]
  • I have in this War a burning private grudge—which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler (for the odd thing about demonic inspiration and impetus is that it in no way enhances the purely intellectual stature: it chiefly affects the mere will). Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light.

II. Quotes after the end of World War II

  • I would have preferred it if he'd followed his original ambition and become an architect.
    • Paula Hitler his much younger sister, during an interview with a US intelligence operative in late 1945.
  • I admit, I was fascinated by Adolf Hitler. He was a pleasant boss and a fatherly friend.
  • Of course, the terrible things I heard from the Nuremberg Trials, about the six million Jews and the people from other races who were killed, were facts that shocked me deeply. But I wasn't able to see the connection with my own past. I was satisfied that I wasn't personally to blame and that I hadn't known about those things. I wasn't aware of the extent. But one day I went past the memorial plaque which had been put up for Sophie Scholl in Franz Josef Strasse, and I saw that she was born the same year as me, and she was executed the same year I started working for Hitler. And at that moment I actually sensed that it was no excuse to be young, and that it would have been possible to find things out.
  • After visiting these two places you can easily see how that within a few years Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived. He had boundless ambition for his country, which rendered him a menace to the peace of the world, but he had a mystery about him in the way that he lived and in the manner of his death that will live and grow after him. He had in him the stuff of which legends are made.
    • The Post-War diary of John F. Kennedy, as quoted in Prelude to Leadership (pages 73–74, last two paragraphs).
  • Nazism and Fascism are thoroughly beaten, but I must admit that their defeat does not mean that barbarism and brutality have been defeated. On the contrary, it is no use closing our eyes to the fact that these hateful ideas achieved something like a victory in defeat. I have to admit that Hitler succeeded in degrading the moral standards of our Western world, and that in the world of today there is more violence and brutal force than would have been tolerated even in the decade after the first World war. And we must face the possibility that our civilization may ultimately be destroyed by those new weapons which Hitlerism wished upon us, perhaps even within the first decade after the second World war; for no doubt the spirit of Hitlerism won its greatest victory over us when, after its defeat, we used the weapons which the threat of Nazism had induced us to develop.
  • As far as Hitler is concerned, we regarded him as a true man. He was only a corporal when he earned the Iron Cross First Class in World War I. In those days that was quite an achievement. When he spoke at meetings or rallies he managed to captivate his audience. He was able to get us in a mood where we believed everything he said and we left fired with enthusiasms. Everyone I met respected and trusted Hitler and I myself shared these feelings and opinions.
  • Unlike Mussolini [Hitler] spurned the 'proletariat' and its Marxism, which was as bad as Christianity in his eyes, for it, too, was the faith of the downtrodden and the weak. In Vienna perhaps, certainly later in Munich, Hitler picked up, with a smattering of Nietzsche, the opposite religion of the strong.
  • People ask me who my heroes are. I admire Hitler because he pulled his country together when it was in a terrible state in the early thirties. But the situation here [Vietnam] is so desperate now that one man would not be enough. We need four or five Hitlers in Vietnam.
  • Though Hitler was indeed racist and anti-Semitic to the core, a man who without compunction could commit murder and genocide, he was also an individual of great courage, a soldier's soldier in the Great War, a political organizer of the first rank, a leader steeped in the history of Europe, who possessed oratorical powers that could awe even those who despised him... Hitler's success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.
    • Pat Buchanan, in a 1977 column discussing John Toland's biography of Hitler.[7]
  • Was there no resistance to his disastrous projects? There was. But it was too feeble, too weak and too late to succeed... The fact is that Hitler was beloved by his people—not the military, at least not in the beginning, but by the average Germans who pledged to him an affection, a tenderness and a fidelity that bordered on the irrational... Winston Churchill was the only man of state who unmasked Hitler immediately and refused to let himself be duped by Hitler's repeated promises that this time he was making his "last territorial demand." ... In his own "logic," Hitler was persuaded for a fairly long time that the German and British people had every reason to get along and divide up spheres of influence throughout the world. He did not understand British obstinacy in its resistance to his racial philosophy and to the practical ends it engendered... After Rommel's defeat in North Africa, after the debacle at Stalingrad and even when the landings in Normandy were imminent, Hitler and his entourage still had the mind to come up with the Final Solution. In his testament, drafted in a underground bunker just hours before his suicide in Berlin, Hitler returns again to this hatred of the Jewish people that had never left him. But in the same testament, he settles his score with the German people. He wants them to be sacked, destroyed, reduced to misery and shame for having failed him by denying him his glory. The former corporal become commander in chief of all his armies and convinced of his strategic and political genius was not prepared to recognize his own responsibility for the defeat of his Reich.
He set out to kill people not for what they did but for who they were. Even Mao and Stalin were killing their "class enemies." Hitler killed a million Jewish babies just for existing.
  • Five hundred years from now, it won't be Hitler we remember. Hitler may have set the century's agenda; he was a sort of vortex of negative energy that sucked everything else in. But I think God takes fallible human beings like Roosevelt or Churchill and carves them for his purposes. In five centuries, we'll look back and say the story of the century was not Hitler or Stalin; it was the survival of the human spirit in the face of genocide.
  • If all Hitler had done was kill people in vast numbers more efficiently than anyone else ever did, the debate over his lasting importance might end there. But Hitler's impact went beyond his willingness to kill without mercy. He did something civilization had not seen before. Genghis Khan operated in the context of the nomadic steppe, where pillaging villages was the norm. Hitler came out of the most civilized society on Earth, the land of Beethoven and Goethe and Schiller. He set out to kill people not for what they did but for who they were. Even Mao and Stalin were killing their "class enemies." Hitler killed a million Jewish babies just for existing.
  • Before Hitler, we thought we had sounded the depths of human nature. He showed how much lower we could go, and that's what was so horrifying. It gets us wondering not just at the depths he showed us but whether there is worse to come.
  • Try explaining Hitler to a kid.

Sources

  • Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922–August 1939, Vols. 1 and 2, Oxford University Press, 1942.
  • John Cornwell, Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII, Viking, 1999.
  • Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich: Nazi conception of Christianity, 1919–1945, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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