Adolf Hitler (April 20, 1889, Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary – April 30, 1945, Berlin, Germany) was Chancellor of Germany in 1933, and Führer from 1934 to 1945. He led the National Socialist German Workers Party.
He gained power during Germany's period of crisis after World War I. Supported by industrialists and conservative segments of German society, Hitler used his charismatic oratory skills emphasizing the dangers the nation faced from International Jewry and Communism. After restructuring the economy and rearming the military, he was given emergency powers to lead the nation. He pursued an aggressive foreign policy to expand German Lebensraum (living space), and moved his forces into Poland ostensibly to protect ethnic Germans. The invasion was used as a pretext by countries allied with Poland–principally France and Great Britain–to declare war on Germany, thus starting World War II.
For a brief period Europe was united under Hitler and the Soviet Union was held in check. However in the end, Hitler’s Germany was defeated by forces outside of Europe: namely the military might of the United States and Asiatic nationalities within the Soviet Union. In the final days of the war, Hitler and his new wife, Eva Braun, committed suicide in his underground bunker in Berlin, as the city was overrun by the Red Army of the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler remains one of the preeminent individuals of the Twentieth Century.
Childhood and Early Years
Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria, the fourth child of six. His father, Alois Hitler, (1837–1903), was a customs official. His mother, Klara Pölzl, (1860–1907), was Alois' third wife. Of Alois and Klara's six children, only Adolf and his sister Paula reached adulthood. Hitler's father also had a son, Alois Jr, and a daughter, Angela, by his second wife.
The name "Adolf" comes from Old High German for "noble wolf", hence, one of Hitler's self-given nicknames was Wolf or Herr Wolf — he began using this nickname in the early 1920s and was addressed by it only by intimates (as "Uncle Wolf" by the Wagners) up until the fall of the Third Reich. The names of his various headquarters scattered throughout continental Europe (Wolfsschanze in East Prussia, Wolfsschlucht in France, Werwolf in Ukraine, etc.) reflect this. By his closest family and relatives, Hitler was known as "Adi".
Hitler's family moved often, from Braunau am Inn to Passau, Lambach, Leonding, and Linz. The young Hitler was a good student in elementary school. But in the sixth grade, his first year of high school in Linz, he failed and had to repeat the grade. Hitler claimed his educational slump was a rebellion against his father, who wanted the boy to follow him in a career as a customs official; Hitler wanted to become a painter instead. This explanation is further supported by Hitler's later description of himself as a misunderstood artist. However, after Alois died on January 3, 1903, Hitler's schoolwork did not improve. At age 16, Hitler dropped out of high school without a diploma.
From 1905 on, Hitler lived a bohemian life in Vienna on an orphan's pension and support from his mother. He was rejected twice by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (1907 – 1908), citing "unfitness for painting," and was told his abilities lay instead in the field of architecture. His memoirs reflect a fascination with the subject:
"The purpose of my trip was to study the picture gallery in the Court Museum, but I had eyes for scarcely anything but the Museum itself. From morning until late at night, I ran from one object of interest to another, but it was always the buildings which held my primary interest."
Following the school rector's recommendation, he too became convinced this was the path to pursue, yet he lacked the proper academic preparation for architecture school:
"In a few days I myself knew that I should some day become an architect. To be sure, it was an incredibly hard road; for the studies I had neglected out of spite at the Realschule were sorely needed. One could not attend the Academy's architectural school without having attended the building school at the Technic, and the latter required a high-school degree. I had none of all this. The fulfillment of my artistic dream seemed physically impossible."(Mein Kampf, Chapter II, paragraph 5 & 6).
On December 21, 1907, Hitler's mother died of breast cancer at age 47. Ordered by a court in Linz, Hitler gave his share of the orphans' benefits to his sister Paula. When he was 21, he inherited money from an aunt. He struggled as a painter in Vienna, copying scenes from postcards and selling his paintings to merchants and tourists.
After the second refusal from the Academy of Arts, Hitler ran out of money. In 1909, he sought refuge in a homeless shelter. By 1910, he had settled into a house for poor working men.
Hitler says he first became an anti-Semite in Vienna, which had a large Jewish community, including Orthodox Jews who had fled from pogroms in Russia. However, according to a childhood friend, August Kubizek, Hitler was a "confirmed anti-Semite" before he left Linz, Austria. Vienna at that time was a hotbed of traditional religious prejudice and 19th century racism. Hitler may have been influenced by the writings of the ideologist and anti-Semite Lanz von Liebenfels and polemics from politicians such as Karl Lueger, founder of the Christian Social Party and mayor of Vienna, the composer Richard Wagner, and Georg Ritter von Schönerer, leader of the pan-Germanic Away from Rome! movement. Hitler claims in Mein Kampf that his transition from opposing anti-Semitism on religious grounds to supporting it on racial grounds came from coming in contact with Orthodox Jews.
Hitler saw the Jews as enemies of the Aryan race. He held them responsible for Austria's crisis. He also identified certain forms of Socialism and Bolshevism, which had many Jewish leaders, as Jewish movements, merging his anti-Semitism with anti-Marxism. Blaming Germany's military defeat on the 1918 Revolutions, he considered Jews the culprit of Imperial Germany's downfall and subsequent economic problems as well.
Generalising from tumultuous scenes in the parliament of the multi-national Austria monarchy, he decided that the democratic parliamentary system was unworkable. However, according to August Kubizek, his one-time roommate, he was more interested in Wagner's operas than in his politics.
Hitler received the final part of his father's estate in May 1913 and moved to Munich. He wrote in Mein Kampf that he had always longed to live in a "real" German city. In Munich, he became more interested in architecture and, he says, the writings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain.
When Germany entered World War I in August 1914, he petitioned King Ludwig III of Bavaria for permission to serve in a Bavarian regiment. This request was granted, and Adolf Hitler enlisted in the Bavarian army.
Action in World War I
Hitler served in France and Belgium as a runner for the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment, which exposed him to enemy fire. Hitler was twice decorated for bravery, once in 1914 receiving the Iron Cross Second Class and in 1918, the Iron Cross First Class. Additionally, in 1917 he received the Wound Badge for injuries he suffered on his leg. On October 15, 1918, Hitler was admitted to a field hospital, temporarily blinded by a mustard gas attack.
His duties at regimental headquarters, while often dangerous, gave Hitler time to pursue his artwork. When he had the time he drew cartoons and instructional drawings for the army newspaper.
Hitler had long admired Germany, and during the war he had become a passionate German patriot. He was shocked by Germany's capitulation in November 1918 even while the German army still held enemy territory. Like many other nationalists, Hitler believed Germany was "stabbed in the back" by civilian leaders and Marxists back on the home front. These politicians were later dubbed the November Criminals.
After World War I, Hitler remained in the army and returned to Munich. In July 1919, Hitler was appointed a Verbindungsmann (police spy) of an Aufklärungskommando (Intelligence Commando) of the Reichswehr, both to influence other soldiers and to infiltrate political parties.
One small parties he approached was the German Workers Party (DAP). At one of their meetings a member of the audience stood up and suggested that Bavaria should break away from Prussia and form a separate nation with Austria. Hitler sprang up from the audience to rebut the argument. Anton Drexler, one of the founders of the fledgling party, was impressed with Hitler’s oratorical skills and approached him thrusting a booklet into his hand. It was entitled My Political Awakening and, according to Hitler's writing in Mein Kampf, it reflected much of what he had himself decided upon. Later the same day he received a postcard telling him that he had been accepted for membership. After some internal debate, he says, he decided to join.
Here Hitler also met Dietrich Eckart, one of the early founders of the party and member of the esoteric Thule Society. Eckart was a major influence on Hitler, who he later payed tribute to him in the second volume of Mein Kampf.
Hitler was discharged from the army in March 1920 and began participating full time in the party's activities. About this time Hitler asked Drexler to change the name of the Party to the National Socialist German Workers Party. (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP)
By early 1921, Hitler was becoming highly effective at speaking in front of large crowds and was rapidly becoming the undisputed leader of the Party. In February, Hitler spoke before a crowd of nearly six thousand in Munich. To publicize the meeting, he sent out two truckloads of party supporters to drive around the city throwing out leaflets.
In the summer of that year Hitler travelled to Berlin to address a meeting of German Nationalists from northern Germany. While he was away the other members of the party committee, led by Drexler, circulated as a pamphlet an indictment of Hitler, which accused him of seeking personal power without regard to other considerations. Hitler rushed back to Munich and countered them by tendering his resignation from the party on July 11, 1921.
When they realized the loss of Hitler would effectively mean the end of the party, he seized the moment and announced he would return on the condition that he would be given total control of the party. Infuriated committee members (including Drexler) held out at first, but eventually the committee backed down and Hitler's demands were put to a vote. Hitler received 543 votes for and only one against. At the next gathering on July 29, 1921, Adolf Hitler was introduced as Führer (leader) of the National Socialist Party, marking the first time this title was publicly used.
Hitler's speeches began attracting adherents. Early followers included Rudolf Hess, the former air force pilot Hermann Göring, and the army captain Ernst Röhm, who became head of the party's paramilitary organization, the SA (Sturmabteilung, or "Storm Division"), which protected meetings and attacked political opponents. Hitler also assimilated independent groups, such as the Nuremberg-based Deutsche Werkgemeinschaft, led by Julius Streicher, who became Gauleiter of Franconia. Hitler also attracted the attention of local business interests, was accepted into influential circles of Munich society, and became associated with wartime General Erich Ludendorff during this time.
Encouraged by this early support, Hitler decided to use Ludendorff as a front in an attempted coup later known as the Munich Putsch. The Nazi Party had copied Italy's fascists in appearance and also had adopted some programmatical points, and in 1923, Hitler wanted to emulate Mussolini's "March on Rome" by staging his own "Campaign in Berlin". Hitler and Ludendorff obtained the clandestine support of Gustav von Kahr, Bavaria's de facto ruler, along with leading figures in the Reichswehr and the police. As political posters show, Ludendorff, Hitler and the heads of the Bavarian police and military planned on forming a new government.
On November 8, 1923, Hitler and the SA stormed a public meeting headed by Kahr in the Bürgerbräukeller, a large beer hall outside of Munich, declaring he had set up a new government with Ludendorff and demanding, at gunpoint, the support of Kahr and the local military establishment for the destruction of the Berlin government. Kahr withdrew his support and fled to join the opposition to Hitler at the first opportunity. The next day, when Hitler and his followers marched from the beer hall to the Bavarian War Ministry to overthrow the Bavarian government as a start to their "March on Berlin", the police dispersed them. Sixteen NSDAP members were killed.
Hitler fled to the home of Ernst Hanfstaengl and was soon arrested for high treason. Alfred Rosenberg became temporary leader of the party. During Hitler's trial, he was given almost unlimited time to speak, and his popularity soared as he voiced nationalistic sentiments. A Munich personality became a nationally known figure. On April 1, 1924, Hitler was sentenced to five years' imprisonment at Landsberg Prison. Hitler received favoured treatment from the guards and had much fan mail from admirers. He was pardoned and released from jail in December 1924, as part of a general amnesty for political prisoners. He served nine months of his sentence, or just over a year if time on remand is included.
While at Landsberg he dictated Mein Kampf (My Struggle, originally entitled "Four Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice") to his deputy Rudolf Hess. The book, dedicated to Thule Society member Dietrich Eckart, was an autobiography and an exposition of his ideology. It was published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926, selling about 240,000 copies between 1925 and 1934. By the end of the war, about 10 million copies had been sold or distributed (newly-weds and soldiers received free copies).
Rebuilding the NSDAP
At the time of Hitler's release, the political situation in Germany had calmed and the economy had improved, which hampered Hitler's opportunities for agitation. Though the Hitler Putsch had given Hitler some national prominence, his party's mainstay was still Munich.
Since Hitler was still banned from public speeches, he appointed Gregor Strasser, who in 1924 had been elected to the Reichstag, as Reichsorganisationsleiter, authorizing him to organize the party in northern Germany. Strasser, joined by his younger brother Otto and Joseph Goebbels, steered an increasingly independent course, emphasizing the socialist element in the party's programme. The Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Gauleiter Nord-West became an internal opposition, threatening Hitler's authority, but this faction was defeated at the Bamberg Conference in 1926, during which Goebbels joined Hitler.
After this encounter, Hitler centralized the party even more and asserted the Führerprinzip ("Leader principle") as the basic principle of party organization. Leaders were not elected by their group but were rather appointed by their superior and were answerable to them while demanding unquestioning obedience from their inferiors. Consistent with Hitler's disdain for democracy, all power and authority devolved from the top down.
A key element of Hitler's appeal was his ability to evoke a sense of offended national pride caused by the Treaty of Versailles imposed on the defeated German Empire by the Western Allies. Germany had lost economically important territory in Europe along with its colonies and in admitting to sole responsibility for the war had agreed to pay a huge reparations bill totaling 132 billion marks. Most Germans bitterly resented these terms.
Having failed in overthrowing the Republic by a coup, Hitler pursued the "strategy of legality": this meant formally adhering to the rules of the Weimar Republic until he had legally gained power.
Rise to Power
The political turning point for Hitler came when the Great Depression hit Germany in 1930. The Weimar Republic had never been firmly rooted and was openly opposed by right-wing conservatives (including monarchists), Communists and National Socialists. As the parties loyal to the democratic, parliamentary republic found themselves unable to agree on counter-measures, their Grand Coalition broke up and was replaced by a minority cabinet. The new Chancellor, Heinrich Brüning of the Roman Catholic Centre Party, lacking a majority in parliament, had to implement his measures through the president's emergency decrees. Tolerated by the majority of parties, the exception soon became the rule and paved the way for authoritarian forms of government.
The Reichstag's initial opposition to Brüning's measures led to premature elections in September 1930. The republican parties lost their majority and their ability to resume the Grand Coalition, while the National Socialists suddenly rose from relative obscurity to win 18.3% of the vote along with 107 seats in the Reichstag, becoming the second largest party in Germany.
Brüning's measure of budget consolidation and financial austerity brought little economic improvement and was extremely unpopular. Under these circumstances, Hitler appealed to the bulk of German farmers, war veterans and the middle class, who had been hard-hit by both the inflation of the 1920s and the unemployment of the Depression.
In 1932, Hitler intended to run against the aging President Paul von Hindenburg in the scheduled presidential elections. His campaign was called "Hitler über Deutschland" (Hitler over Germany). The name had a double meaning; besides an obvious reference to Hitler's dictatorial intentions, it also referred to the fact that Hitler was campaigning by aircraft. This was a brand new political tactic that allowed Hitler to speak in two cities in one day, which was practically unheard of at the time. Hitler came in second on both rounds, attaining more than 35% of the vote during the second one in April. Although he lost to Hindenburg, the election established Hitler as a realistic alternative in German politics.
Cabinets of Papen and Schleicher
Hindenburg, influenced by the Camarilla, became increasingly estranged from Brüning and pushed his Chancellor to move the government in a decidedly authoritarian and right-wing direction. This culminated, in May 1932, with the resignation of the Brüning cabinet.
Hindenburg appointed the nobleman Franz von Papen as chancellor, heading a "Cabinet of Barons". Papen was bent on authoritarian rule and, since in the Reichstag only the conservative DNVP supported his administration, he immediately called for new elections in July. In these elections, the National Socialists achieved their biggest success yet and won 230 seats.
The NSDAP had become the largest party in the Reichstag without which no stable government could be formed. Papen tried to convince Hitler to become Vice-Chancellor and enter a new government with a parliamentary basis. Hitler, however, rejected this offer and put further pressure on Papen by entertaining parallel negotiations with the Centre Party, Papen's former party, which was bent on bringing down the renegade Papen. In both negotiations, Hitler demanded that he, as leader of the strongest party, must be Chancellor, but Hindenburg refused.
After a vote of no-confidence in the Papen government, supported by 84% of the deputies, the new Reichstag was dissolved, and new elections were called in November. This time, the NSDAP lost some seats but still remained the largest party in the Reichstag.
After Papen failed to secure a majority, he proposed to dissolve the parliament again along with an indefinite postponement of elections. Hindenburg at first accepted this, but after General Kurt von Schleicher and the military withdrew their support, Hindenburg instead dismissed Papen and appointed Schleicher, who promised he could secure a majority government by negotiations with both the Social Democrats, the trade unions, and dissidents from the Nazi Party under Gregor Strasser. In January 1933, however, Schleicher had to admit failure in these efforts and asked Hindenburg for emergency powers along with the same postponement of elections that he had opposed earlier, to which the president reacted by dismissing Schleicher.
Appointment as Chancellor
Meanwhile, Papen tried to get his revenge on Schleicher by working toward the General's downfall, through forming an intrigue with the camarilla and Alfred Hugenberg, media mogul and chairman of the DNVP. Also involved were Hjalmar Schacht, Fritz Thyssen and other leading German businessmen. They financially supported the NSDAP, which had been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by the cost of heavy campaigning. The businessmen also wrote letters to Hindenburg, urging him to appoint Hitler as leader of a government "independent from parliamentary parties" which could turn into a movement that would "enrapture millions of people."
Finally, the president reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler Chancellor of a coalition government formed by the NSDAP and DNVP. Hitler and two other Party ministers (Frick, Göring) were to be contained by a framework of conservative cabinet ministers, most notably by Papen as Vice-Chancellor and by Hugenberg as Minister of the Economy. Papen wanted to use Hitler as a figure-head, but the Party had gained key positions, most notably the Ministry of the Interior. On the morning of 30 January 1933, in Hindenburg's office, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor during what some observers later described as a brief and simple ceremony.
Reichstag Fire and the March Elections
Having become Chancellor, Hitler foiled all attempts to gain a majority in parliament and on that basis persuaded President Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag again. Elections were scheduled for early March, but on 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building burned. The fire was blamed on a Communist plot to which the government reacted with the Reichstag Fire Decree of 28 February which gave the new government emergency powers. Under the provisions of this decree, the German Communist Party and other groups were suppressed, and communist functionaries and deputies were arrested.
On election day, 6 March, the NSDAP increased its result to 43.9% of the vote, remaining the largest party, but its victory was marred by its failure to secure an absolute majority, necessitating maintaining a coalition with the DNVP.
Day of Potsdam and the Enabling Act
On 21 March the new Reichstag was constituted with an opening ceremony held at Potsdam's garrison church. This "Day of Potsdam" was staged to demonstrate reconciliation and union between the revolutionary Nationalist movement and "Old Prussia" with its elites and virtues. Hitler appeared in a tail coat and greeted the aged President Hindenburg.
Because of the Nazis' failure to obtain a majority on their own, Hitler's government confronted the newly elected Reichstag with the Enabling Act that would have vested the cabinet with legislative powers for a period of four years. Though such a bill was not unprecedented, this act was different since it allowed for deviations from the constitution. Since the bill required a two-thirds majority in order to pass, the government needed the support of other parties. The position of the Catholic Centre Party, the third largest party in the Reichstag, turned out to be decisive: under the leadership of Ludwig Kaas, the party decided to vote for the Enabling Act. It did so in return for the government's oral guarantees regarding the Church's liberty, the concordats signed by German states and the continued existence of the Centre Party.
On 23 March the Reichstag assembled in a replacement building under extremely turbulent circumstances. Some SA men served as guards within while large groups outside the building shouted slogans and threats toward the arriving deputies. Kaas announced that the Centre would support the bill amid "concerns put aside.", while Social Democrat Otto Wels denounced the act in his speech. At the end of the day, all parties except the Social Democrats voted in favour of the bill. The Enabling Act was dutifully renewed by the Reichstag every four years, even through World War II.
Having the support of the nation, Hitler began one of the greatest expansions of industrial production and civil improvement Germany had ever seen. With the construction of dozens of dams, autobahns, railroads, and other civil works the unemployment rate was cut substantially. Labourers and farmers, the traditional voters of the NSDAP, saw an increase in their standard of living.
Hitler's policies emphasized the importance of family life which allowed women to stay at home to raise children. In a September 1934 speech to the National Socialist Womens Organization, Adolf Hitler argued that for the German woman her “world is her husband, her family, her children, and her home.” This policy was reinforced by bestowing the Cross of Honor of the German Mother on women bearing four or more babies.
Rearming and Alliances
In March 1935, Hitler introduced conscription and began building a massive military force which included a new Navy (Kriegsmarine) and an Air Force (Luftwaffe). For the first time in 20 years, Germany's armed forces were as strong as France's.
In March 1936, Hitler reoccupied the demilitarized zone in the Rhineland. In July 1936, the Spanish Civil War began when the military, led by General Francisco Franco, rebelled against the elected Popular Front government. After receiving an appeal for help from General Franco in July 1936, Hitler sent troops to support Franco.
An alliance was formed between Germany and Italy by Count Galeazzo Ciano, foreign minister of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini on 25 October 1936. The Tripartite Treaty was then signed by Saburo Kurusu of Imperial Japan, Hitler, and Ciano on 27 September 1940. It was later expanded to include Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. They were collectively known as the Axis Powers.
World War II
On March 12, 1938, Austria was united with Germany. Two days later Hitler made a triumphal return to Vienna. Next, the question over the German-speaking Sudetenland districts of Czechoslovakia was resolved by the Munich Agreement of September 1938. The agrement allowed military control of the ethnic Germans. As a result of the summit, Hitler was TIME magazine's Man of the Year for 1938. British prime minister Neville Chamberlain hailed this agreement as "Peace in our time." Hitler ordered Germany's army to enter Prague on 15 March 1939, and from Prague Castle proclaimed the new republics of Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate.
After that, Hitler claimed German grievances relating to the Free City of Danzig and the Polish Corridor, that Germany had ceded under the Versailles Treaty. Britain had not been able to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union for an alliance against Germany, and, on 23 August 1939, Hitler concluded a secret non-aggression pact (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) with Joseph Stalin on which it was agreed that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany would partition Poland. On 1 September, Germany invaded the western portion of Poland. Having guaranteed assistance to Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September, but did not immediately act. Not long after this, on 17 September, Soviet forces invaded eastern Poland.
During this period, later called the phoney War, Hitler built up his forces. In April 1940, he ordered German forces into Denmark and Norway preempting a British invasion of those countries. In May 1940, Hitler ordered his forces to attack France, conquering the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium in the process. France surrendered on 22 June 1940. This series of victories convinced his main ally, Benito Mussolini of Italy, to join the war on Hitler's side in May 1940.
Britain, whose defeated forces had evacuated France from the coastal town of Dunkirk, continued to fight alongside Canadian forces in the Battle of the Atlantic. Hitler tried to make peace with Great Britain but the new British Prime Minister Winston Churchill rejected the offer. Hitler ordered bombing raids on the British Isles in retaliation to British attacks on German cities. The attacks began by pounding the Royal Air Force airbases and the radar stations protecting South-East England. However, the Luftwaffe failed to defeat the Royal Air Force by the end of October 1940.
On 22 June 1941, three million German troops attacked the Soviet Union with the intent of finally destroying the "Jewish Bolshevik" regime. This invasion, Operation Barbarossa, seized huge amounts of territory, including the Baltic states, Belarus, and Ukraine. It also encircled and destroyed many Soviet forces. However in December 1941 the Germans failed to capture Moscow.
On 11 December 1941, four days after the Empire of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Hitler declared war on the United States. The declaration of war was a formality since the US over the past few months had been waging war with Germany via her proxies: providing military aid to Great Britain and the Soviet Union.
In late 1942, German forces were defeated in the second battle of El Alamein, thwarting Hitler's plans to seize the Suez Canal and the Middle East. In February 1943, the Battle of Stalingrad ended with the encirclement and destruction of the German 6th Army. From Stalingrad on Germany's military and economic position deteriorated. Throughout 1943 and 1944, the Soviet Union steadily forced Hitler's armies into retreat along the Eastern Front.
On 6 June 1944, the Western Allied armies landed in northern France in what was the largest amphibious operation ever conducted, Operation Overlord. After the Allied invasion, some officers in the German Army plotted to remove Hitler from power and negotiate an end to the war. In July 1944, one of them, Claus von Stauffenberg, planted a bomb at Hitler's military headquarters in Rastenburg, but Hitler narrowly escaped death. The failed coup resulted in a purging of the military of disloyal individuals.
Fall of the Third Reich
By late 1944, the Red Army had driven the Germans from Soviet territory and entered Central Europe. The Western Allies were also advancing into Germany. In April 1945, Soviet forces were attacking the outskirts of Berlin. Hitler's followers urged him to flee to the mountains of Bavaria to make a last stand, but Hitler was determined to either live or die in the capital. By April 21, Georgi Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front had broken through German defenses. By the end of the day on 27 April, Berlin was completely cut off from the rest of Germany.
On 29 April, Hans Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Joseph Goebbels, and Martin Bormann witnessed and signed the last will and testament of Adolf Hitler. Hitler dictated the document to his private secretary, Traudl Junge. Hitler was also informed of the murder of his allies Benito Mussolini.
On May 2, General Weidling surrendered Berlin unconditionally to the Russians. When Russian forces reached the Chancellory, they found Hitler's body and an autopsy was performed using dental records to confirm the identification. The remains of Hitler and Braun were secretly buried by SMERSH at their headquarters in Magdeburg. In 1970, when the facility was about to be turned over to the East German government, the remains were reportedly exhumed and thoroughly cremated. According to the Russian Federal Security Service, a fragment of human skull was stored in its archives. However, the authenticity of the skull has been challenged by many historians and researchers.
Hitler continues to be a controversial figure, hated by many. However some have referred to Hitler's legacy in neutral or favourable terms. Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat wrote favourably of Hitler in 1953. Louis Farrakhan has referred to him as a "very great man". Bal Thackeray, leader of the right-wing Hindu Shiv Sena party in the Indian state of the Maharashtra, declared in 1995 that he was an admirer of Hitler.
Paula Hitler, the last living member of Adolf Hitler's immediate family, died in 1960.
The most prominent and longest-living direct descendants of Adolf Hitler's father, Alois, was Adolf's nephew William Patrick Hitler. With his wife Phyllis, he eventually moved to Long Island, New York, and had four sons. None of William Hitler's children have yet had any children of their own.
Over the years various investigative reporters have attempted to track down other distant relatives of the Führer; many are now alleged to be living inconspicuous lives and have long since changed their last name.
- Eva Braun, mistress and then wife
- Alois Hitler, father
- Klara Hitler, mother
- Paula Hitler, sister
- Alois Hitler, Jr., half-brother
- Bridget Dowling, sister-in-law
- William Patrick Hitler, nephew
- Heinz Hitler, nephew
- Angela Hitler Raubal, half-sister
- Maria Schicklgruber, grandmother
- Johann Georg Hiedler, presumed grandfather
- Johann Nepomuk Hiedler, maternal great-grandfather, presumed great uncle and possibly Hitler's true paternal grandfather
- Geli Raubal, niece
- Adolf Hitler – The Measure of Greatness
- Documents of the Life and Time of Adolf Hitler on David Irving's website.
- Adolf Hitler Research Society - dedicated to Hitler's concept of Christianity
- Life and times of Adolf the Great
- The Enigma of Hitler