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Adolf Hitler

Biography >> World War II


Adolf Hitler was the leader of Germany from 1933 to 1945. He was leader of the Nazi party and became a powerful dictator. Hitler started World War II by invading Poland and then invading many other European countries. He is also known for wanting to exterminate the Jewish people in the Holocaust.

Portrait of Hitler
Adolf Hitler
from the US Holocaust Museum

Where did Hitler grow up?

Adolf was born on April 20, 1889 in a city named Braunau am Inn in the country of Austria. His family moved around some, living a short while in Germany and then back to Austria. Hitler did not have a happy childhood. Both his parents died fairly young and many of his brothers and sisters died as well.

Adolf did not do well in school. He was expelled from a couple of schools before he moved to Vienna, Austria to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. While living in Vienna, Hitler found that he did not have much artistic talent and he soon became very poor. He would later move to Munich, Germany in hopes of becoming an architect.

Soldier in World War I

When World War I began, Hitler joined the German army. Adolf was awarded twice with the Iron Cross for bravery. It was during World War I that Hitler became a strong German patriot and also came to love war.

Rise in Power

After the war, Hitler entered politics. Many Germans were upset that they had lost the war. They were also not happy with the Treaty of Versailles, which not only blamed the war on Germany, but took land from Germany. At the same time, Germany was in an economic depression. Many people were poor. Between the depression and the Treaty of Versailles, the time was ripe for Hitler to rise to power.

Hitler and Mussolini
Mussolini (left) and Hitler
from the National Archives

Once entering politics, Hitler discovered that he was gifted in giving speeches. His speeches were powerful and people believed what he said. Hitler joined the Nazi party and soon became its leader. He promised Germany that if he became leader he would restore Germany to greatness in Europe. In 1933 he was elected Chancellor of Germany.

After becoming Chancellor, there was no stopping Hitler. He had studied his idol, Benito Mussolini of Italy, about how to install a fascist government and become a dictator. Soon Hitler was dictator of Germany.

World War II

In order for Germany to grow, Hitler thought the country needed more land or "living space". He first annexed Austria as part of Germany and then took over part of Czechoslovakia. This wasn't enough, however. On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. Hitler formed an alliance with the Axis Powers of Japan and Italy. They were fighting the Allied Powers of Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States.

Adolf Hitler in Paris
Hitler in Paris
from the National Archives

Hitler's army began to take over much of Europe. They attacked quickly in what was called Blitzkrieg or "lightning war". Soon Germany had captured much of Europe including France, Denmark, and Belgium.

However, the Allies fought back. On June 6, 1944 they invaded the beaches of Normandy and soon liberated France. By March of 1945 the Allies had defeated much of the German army. On April 30, 1945 Hitler committed suicide.

The Holocaust and Ethnic Cleansing

Hitler was responsible for some of the most horrible crimes committed in human history. He hated Jewish people and wanted to exterminate them from Germany. He forced Jewish people to go to concentration camps where 6 million Jews were killed during World War II. He also had other people and races he didn't like killed including handicapped people.

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