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Overview - Adolph Hitler
Born at Braunau, Upper Austria, the son of a customs official, he was originally named Schicklgruber. Orphaned early in life, he lived a life of hardship in Vienna. He held various jobs and read extensively in economics, history, etc. Becoming a draftsman, he migrated to Munich in 1912. He served honorably in the First World War, in which he was promoted to lance-corporal and decorated. In the post-war period, he attained, largely through persuasive oratory, leadership of the German National Socialist Party. Raising a semi-military organisation, he attempted to seize control of the government through a coup (the "Beer-Hall Putsch", 1923), but failed and was imprisoned for nine months, during which time he wrote Mein Kamp. After winning support of the large industrialists, he reorganised his party, now emphasising anti-Semitism, anti-Marxism, and extreme nationalism. His party now attracted wide membership. Although Hitler unsuccessfully opposed Hindenburg for the presidency in 1932, he was appointed chancellor early in 1933. By exploiting the Reichstag fire in Feb 1933, he gained absolute control of the state.

In June 1934 he "purged" the most notorious opposition within his party (Blood Purge). Upon the death of Hindenburg in August of 1934, he assumed the title of Reichsfuhrer. He re-armed Germany and sent troops into the Rhineland. He formed the Rome-Berlin Axis with Mussolini and annexed Austria. He secured the Sudetenlands of Czechoslavakia and Bohemia and Moravia. In 1939 he seized Meml from Lithuania. Upon Poland's refusal to surrender Danzig, he attacked Poland, thus beginning the Second World War. His armies rolled over Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, France, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Greece. His armies penetrated deep into European Russia and across north Africa. Then the tide of victory turned at El Alamein and Stalingrad. As the invading armies closed in on Berlin, Hitler is alleged to have taken his own life (1 May, 1945).

Contributed by Gifford, Katya
15 January 2003

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