Adolf Hitler

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Official portrait, 1938

Adolf Hitler (20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party[note 1] who held the role of dictator of Germany under fascism. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. He initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland on 1 September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust. His "right hand man" is commonly credited as being Joseph Goebbels,[citation needed] who was head of Nazi Germany for hours after Hitler's death until he, Goebbels, committed suicide.

Before the war Hitler was a poor artist in Munich, and already a fervent German nationalist. He served in World War I, after which he was given a mission by the German government to spy on a political party which was suspected of wanting to overthrow the government — the NSDAP. Hitler ended up attending a few meetings and agreed with numerous points brought up. On one occasion he got into a heated argument with a visitor on the topic of Bavarian separatism and capitalism, with his oratory skills impressing founder Anton Drexler and other party members. Drexler encouraged him to join the party which Hitler did after orders from army superiors to do so, becoming its 55th member.[1] Hitler actually wanted to form his own party but went with the DAP as he saw its small size would let him easily become its leader.

Influence of foreign atrocities

Although Hitler is portrayed as a wholly unique evil in modern times, the methods he employed had precedents and even directly inspired him. Concentration camps for one were designed by the governor-general of Cuba, who wrote to the Spanish prime minister in 1895 of the need to inflict cruelties on both combatants as well as civilians, who often fed and sheltered rebels, thus calling for the relocation of hundreds of thousands of rural inhabitants into Spanish-held cities behind barbed wire in a strategy called reconcentración. The mercy of rebels to wounded Spanish soldiers however made the governor-general reconsider this idea and he was replaced, with his successor on the other hand pushing ahead with reconcentración and ultimately resulted in the deaths of 150,000 Cubans through horrific living conditions and lack of food. Although the practice of relocating people into concentrated camps existed for a long time, modern advancements in barbed wire and automatic weapons enabled a small guard to enforce mass detention by the late 19th century. Just a few years later in 1900 the British had their own concentration camps in South Africa during the Boer War, where 200,000 civilians, mostly women and children, were put behind barbed wire into tents or huts, whose conditions triggered outcry even in the British Parliament. In 1904 Germany herded the Herero and Nama people in the colony of Namibia into concentration camps of their own, where just like in other such camps, people were herded into forced labor, inadequate rations, and lethal diseases, resulting in the near extermination of the Herero. In World War I concentration camps flourished around the world as nations imprisoned foreign nationals en masse. Over 800,000 civilians were held in these camps during the war, resulting in many deaths, widespread mental illness, and the shattering of minority communities. Infamously, the Ottoman Empire used concentration camps with inadequate food and shelter in the Armenian Genocide. Hitler's concentration camps took the idea of such and added on with more modern industry and thorough planning.[2]

In 1928, Hitler approvingly remarked that white settlers in America had "gunned down the millions of redskins to a few hundred thousand". He often had America in mind when speaking of the need for German "living space" in Eastern Europe, stating for example that the Volga would be “our Mississippi”, and that “Europe—and not America—will be the land of unlimited possibilities.” In the United States, Thomas Jefferson spoke of the need to “eliminate” or “extirpate” Native Americans, whereas General Philip Sheridan spoke of “annihilation, obliteration, and complete destruction — the result was untold millions of Native Americans being deliberately slaughtered and otherwise dying through neglect, although holding a difference from Hitler's motivations for genocide in that the destruction of Native Americans did not have as much of a systematic racial aspect. Besides this Hitler also took specific admiration with Jim Crow laws, using it to justify his own racist policies, further seeing the eugenics movement in the West favorably — California's sterilization program even directly inspired the Nazi sterilization law of 1934. Hitler also praised American laws on naturalization, such as the Immigration Act of 1924, which imposed national quotas and barred most Asian people altogether — during World War II, this same law prevented many people fleeing Nazi Germany from entering America.[3]


Hitler had several affluent admirers and other connections, including Kurt Lüdecke, Ernst Hanfstaengl, Fritz Thyssen, Ernst von Borsig, as well as many right-wing admirers in Switzerland, France, and other countries. They helped keep the Nazi Party afloat during periods of financial struggle during Hitler's rise to power, especially as party growth slowed in the post-war period as the country recovered and experienced its own Golden Twenties like many other industrialized countries — though this recovery was noticeably asymmetric across the country. Publicly, Hitler liked to present himself as having humble taste for things like food and clothing, priding himself on not receiving any salary from the NSDAP or pay for speeches, but through his connections actually accumulated quite a fortune. In 1928 he rents the Haus Wachenfeld in the Bavarian Alps, which he later renovates into the Berghof. In 1929 he rents the upscale Prinzregentplatz complete with a housekeeper, manservant, and cook. In 1930 he got his second Mercedes, all the while attending soirees, private dinners, and mingling with high society. Besides his gifts there is also evidence he received plenty of personal donations, though there are a lack of details because Hitler tended to keep his finances a secret. Interestingly, as he preached about an international capitalist conspiracy, he was actually taking part in a real one himself.[4]

Further reading

  • 1924: The Year That Made Hitler, Peter Ross Range
  • The Young Hitler I Knew: The Memoirs of Hitler's Childhood Friend, August Kubizek (originally published as Adolf Hitler, mein Jugendfreund)



  1. Evans, R., Petty, J., & Sophie. (2021, January 19). Behind the Insurrections - Hitler's Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Part 1 [Podcast]. iHeartRadio. Retrieved May 9, 2021, from
  2. Concentration Camps Existed Long Before Auschwitz. Smithsonian Magazine.
  3. How American Racism Influenced Hitler. The New Yorker.
  4. Hitler's Money and How He Stole It - WW2 Special. YouTube.


  1. Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP)