7 minutes read.
To understand Adolf Hitler and his rise to power it's important to know the historic background.
World War 1 was primarily the result of the German militarism. In many ways it was the most militarized nation and until the end of that war it was dominated by its military. When it was defeated in 1918, the German military leadership, which stopped the war before the military collapsed, convinced the German people that they were betrayed, "Stabbed in the back by civilians". It was an irrational excuse, given the military's domination, but it became a popular myth. The defeat in World War 1 was therefore a traumatic shock to most Germans, especially to the German soldiers, and almost no one in Western Europe understood it then.
This resulted in a very weak post-war democratic regime in Germany. In addition to that, Germany was divided between a "western" and "eastern" political and social orientations. Today, when Germany is a modern liberal "western" country it's hard to figure it out, but before World War 2, Germany was mostly dominated by the "eastern" orientation that rejected western liberalism and democracy, and had a militarist aggressive orientation facing East, and the "western" orientation which represented peaceful liberalism was a minority. However, this minority orientation governed Germany's weak post-WWI democracy.
In Germany and in its sister ethnic-German Austria there was strong anti-semitism that since the 19th century developed to a strong political force that blamed jews for all problems and trouble. This internal hate was intensified after the defeat of World War 1. This was the background for Adolf Hitler's rise to total power as the dictator of Germany, for his aggressive quest for world domination, and the horrible crimes against humanity committed in his command.
Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 in a small Austrian village close to the German border, the son of a border customs clerk and a housemaid. As a teenager, he began to develop an artistic talent. At age 16 he quit high-school. At age 17 he applied for the Vienna academy of fine arts, but was rejected. When he was 14 his father died, and when he was 18 his loving mother had cancer. She was treated by a Jewish Doctor, but despite costly and painful treatment she died. He was then 18, and alone in the world.
He returned to Vienna, and quickly became penniless. He wandered in Vienna, slept in bars and in shelters for the homeless. His attempts to make a living as a painter were futile. He had two Jewish friends there, but Vienna was then an active center of strong anti-semitism, and Hitler also read "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion", a FAKE document that was written by the pre-WWI Russian Royal secret police in a cynical attempt to divert public blame of Russia's trouble from the monarchy to the jews. The "protocols" describe an imaginary conspiracy of rich jews to dominate the world by dominating countries like puppets and turning them against each other. Hitler, already a typical anti-semitic, believed every word.
In his poor six years in Vienna, Adolf Hitler developed his extreme hate of jews, was exposed to the idea of anti-Jewish legislation, discovered his remarkable talent of speech, that used grand romantic metaphors from German culture and from his imaginative artistic soul, and developed his view of how a totalitarian state should be managed, following the example of Vienna's very successful Mayor, who was also an anti-semitic.
At age 24, still penniless, Adolf Hitler left Vienna and crossed the border to Germany in order to avoid military service in the Austrian army. He was arrested and brought back to Austria, but was then found "Unfit, too weak, unable to bear arms". Given his later military service and bravery in combat, it's obvious that he successfully played a false figure in order to escape a peacetime military service he wanted to avoid.
When the fragile European balance of power exploded a year later into World War 1, Hitler's German patriotism was ignited, and he decided to join the military. Because of his previous incident with the Austrian military, he returned to Germany, the ally sister country, and volunteered to the German army.
After a short training, his unit was sent to the bloody static battlefield in the trenches of the western front, and fought mainly against British forces. He fought bravely, narrowly escaped death several times, and was decorated twice with the Iron Cross medal, but not promoted. He was wounded twice in combat. In his 2nd injury he was temporarily blinded. During his recovery from his 2nd injury, still blind, in a military hospital, he was surprised and shocked with the news that the war ended with a German defeat.
It's important to note that during his years in the military, Hitler received political indoctrination that completed his political education, and made him a strong supporter of the "eastern" militarist orientation. His cruel war experience, he later said, also developed in him an uncompromising iron will.
Post-war Germany was in chaos. Communism rose, and Communist movements rioted in the cities, some of them led by jews. Eventually Germany turned from a militarist monarchy to a democracy, with an executive prime minister and a president that kept powerful authorities, the replacement of the king. The socialists gained control of the government. The situation in the streets got worse. The new government finally signed the peace treaty that included loss of territory, a severe economical burden of compensations, and severe limitations on the German military's size and equipment, which were supposed to reduce its threat. It was perceived by most Germans as a great national humiliation.
Hitler, finally recovered from his injury, and still officially a soldier, joined a para-military militia of war veterans who clashed with the communists in the streets of German cities. He was then given the task of closely monitoring a tiny right-wing political group called "German Worker's Party".
Hitler quickly realized that their ideas match his, and that they can be his vehicle for political power, that he decided that he wants as a result of the affair of the war's defeat and the humiliating peace treaty. In April of 1920, at age 31, still with no occupation, he resigned from the military to enter career politics as the new leader of this tiny political group that he initially spied on. It had a militarist "eastern" oriented, anti-semitic, nationalist foreign policy, with a domestic policy of state-controlled "Socialism". It was basically the policy of the previous totalitarian militarist regime, with a big dose of added anti-semitism, and like the communists, it addressed the wide public of workers and ex-soldiers.
In 1923 the German economy collapsed into wild hyper-inflation. The peace treaty compensation was blamed for it, but the real reason was that Germany's long time costly militarism that was previously paid for by the fruits of victories, had no victory now to pay its huge national debt, and the government ignored good economical advice that came from top foreign experts. The inflation was such that a visiting US Congressman exchanged $7 for 4,000,000,000 DM, the German currency. Most Germans lost everything they had. They blamed the peace treaty compensations and "Jewish traders".
The political crisis that followed resulted in an emergency wide coalition, but also in new violent Communist riots. Eager for power, Hitler thought it's the right time for a revolution of his own. His supporters captured the members of the local government of the state of Bavaria, and he appointed himself the new political master of Bavaria. He marched 3000 of his supporters in the city, but then the police fired at them, and the "revolution" failed.
Hitler received a sentence of 5 years in prison, but thanks to the dominance of the "eastern" politicians, which included himself, his imprisonment was like a VIP hotel stay. Instead of a prison cell and prisoner's uniform, he was busy receiving guest politicians and fans six hours a day, wearing traditional Bavarian clothes, and in his 35th birthday, the flowers candies and presents he received filled several rooms.
Instead of 5 years, his imprisonment lasted just 9 months. During those months three things happened:
Part 2 of 2: Adolf Hitler - Dictator of Germany (8 minutes read)