Adolf Hitler was a dictator and the leader of Germany between 1933 and 1945. Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 in Braunau, a village in Austria.His father was a violent man, and Adolf developed a rebellious and surly personality. In 1907 he traveled to Vienna seeking admission to the Vienna Art Academy, but was rejected. He could only find occasional employment as bricklayer and decorator. In 1914 World War I broke out. The Austrian army rejected Hitler because of his slight build, but he managed to join the German army instead. The war ended in 1918. Germany was defeated and plunged into a deep economic crisis. An increasing number of Germans were poor and unemployed. Hitler became involved in politics. In 1920 he was among the founders of a far right movement: the National Socialist Workers’ Party, better known as the Nazi Party.

In 1923, in Munich, the Nazi Party attempted to overturn the German government. The coup failed: Hitler was arrested and spent nearly a year in jail.During his imprisonment he wrote Mein Kampf, German for “My Struggle”: a book outlining the Nazi Party’s ideology. In “Mein Kampf,” Hitler theorized the superiority of the Aryan race, an ethnic group that included all Europeans. He also claimed that Germany’s crisis was due to a Jewish, communist conspiracy. Finally, he invoked the birth of a new, grand Germany led by a Fuhrer, a supreme commander. Nazi ideas appealed to the Germans’ wounded pride and were helped even further by Hitler’s charisma. Within 10 years the Nazi Party became hugely popular. In 1933 Hitler succeeded in being elected Chancellor, the German Prime Minister. He began to govern the country alongside its President, Paul von Hindenburg. The night of June 29 and 30 1934, Hitler had all his political rivals killed, in what would go down in history as the Night of the Long Knives.

On August 2, President Hindenburg died. Hitler took all power into his own hands. He had become the Fuhrer. Hitler persecuted Jews and communists, but also gypsies, homosexuals, and the physically and mentally handicapped: any human category that Nazi ideology held as polluting the Aryan race. At least 13 million people died in Nazi concentration camps. The massacre is known as the Holocaust. In 1939 Hitler invaded Poland. World war II had begun. In 1940 Hitler conquered a large part of Italy. But his dream of world domination was cut short by opposition from the Soviet Union and Great Britain. In 1941 the United states also took sides against Hitler.Germany was defeated in 1945. But the Fuhrer preferred death over surrender: he committed suicide in his Berlin bunker on April 30. He was 56. Hitler left behind a Europe devastated by war and in need of a long reconstruction effort.
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