Adolf Hitler was a German politician who served as the Chancellor of Germany from 1933-1945. He was the leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (the Nazi Party) and led the planning, development, and execution of the Jewish Holocaust.
Hitler was the fourth of six siblings in a working class Austro-Hungarian family. At an early age, he became interested in the arts, but became bitter and resentful when his father would not allow it. He was beaten often by his father, and It has been suggested that Hitler's interest in German nationalism began as a way of rebelling against his father, who had been an Austrian civil servant. When the elder Hitler died in 1903, Adolf's behavior became even more unwieldy. By the age of fourteen, he had been expelled from more than one high school, and would never return to complete his education.
Instead, he moved to Vienna to pursue his dream of being an artist, but could not gain admission to art school. As such, he pursued architecture, but soon learned that the basic education (which he had neglected) would be necessary to pursue that line as well. By 1910, a twenty-one year old Hitler was homeless and destitute. He earned a meager living selling a few of his paintings. Although he would later describe his time in Vienna as the period which codified his anti-semitism, his lifestyle at the time did not indicate the same: Hitler was a regular dinner guest of local Jewish noblemen, and often transacted with Jewish merchants who sold his paintings. Nonetheless, he did become more immersed in German nationalism.
After moving to Munich in 1913, Hitler enlisted as a soldier in WWI where he earned several decorations. Returning from the service, he was appointed as a police spy and soon came across a political action group known as the German Workers' Party. Impressed by the party's notion of strong government and also by its anti-semitic roots— Hitler became the party's 55th member in 1919. His effectiveness as a speaker and propagandist was evident from the start, and within two years he shrewdly positioned himself as the leader of the party.
Hitler's rise was temporarily interrupted when in 1923, he and the Nazi SA ('Storm Troopers') attempted to overthrow the Munich government. The group was disbanded and arrested, with Hitler himself sentenced to five years imprisonment. Unfortunately however, the publicity generated by his trial made Hitler something of a celebrity. He became a hero, and received many letters from admirers during his imprisonment. It was also during this time that he wrote Mein Kampf ("My Struggle") in which he expounded on his anti-semitic beliefs, stoking the resentments which Germans harbored in the wake of the Versailles Treaty (which ended WWI).
Released from prison in 1925 after just one year of incarceration, Hitler moved swiftly to rebuild his party. By 1930, the German government was in an extremely volatile state. The Great Depression had reached Germany, and things were hitting a fever pitch. The Nazis garnered the support of laborers and common citizens who had been hit hardest by the economic downturn, until eventually Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.
Hitler was a powerful, passionate speaker. “To be a leader,” he wrote, “means to be able to move the masses.” His new nationalistic movement was called the National Socialist German Worker Party, or Nazi Party, for short. As the Nazis grew in power, Hitler proved to be a master at appealing to the masses. The military trappings of parades, flags, banners, uniforms, and salutes were all part of the calculated excitement he offered to attract people.
Although they had achieved political legitimacy through a series of coalitions, the Nazis systematically removed any opposition within the government. By 1938, Hitler was the undisputed leader of Germany (Führer). From that point forward, his economic and cultural policies transformed both Germany and Europe— catalyzing a series of events which started WWII and resulted in the murder of more than six million European Jews.
Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945 in Berlin, as the advancing Soviet Red Army sieged the city.