Adolf Hitler, a charismatic, Austrian-born demagogue, rose to power in Germany during the 1920s and early 1930s at a time of social, political, and economic upheaval. Failing to take power by force in 1923, he eventually won power by democratic means. Once in power, he eliminated all opposition and launched an ambitious program of world domination and elimination of the Jews, paralleling ideas he advanced in his book, Mein Kampf. His "1,000 Year Reich" barely lasted 12 years and he died a broken and defeated man. INSTRUCTIONAL OBJECTIVES
Students will learn:
1. Facts about Hitler's life and the historical events which occurred during that time.
2. Hitler's view of history, his theory of race, and his political goals.
3. Hitler's use of anti-Semitism to advance his career and to consolidate power.
4. How a political leader was able to manipulate the political system in a democracy and obtain autocratic power.
Hitler's Early Life
Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, the fourth child of Alois Schickelgruber and Klara Hitler in the Austrian town of Braunau. Two of his siblings died from diphtheria when they were children, and one died shortly after birth. Alois was a customs official, illegitimate by birth, who was described by his housemaid as a "very strict but comfortable" man. Young Adolf was showered with love and affection by his mother. When Adolf was three years old, the family moved to Passau, along the Inn River on the German side of the border. A brother, Edmond, was born two years later. The family moved once more in 1895 to the farm community of Hafeld, 30 miles southwest of Linz. Another sister, Paula, was born in 1896, the sixth of the union, supplemented by a half brother and half sister from one of his father's two previous marriages.
Following another family move, Adolf lived for six months across from a large Benedictine monastery. The monastery's coat of arms' most salient feature was a swastika. As a youngster, Adolf's dream was to enter the priesthood. While there is anecdotal evidence that Adolf's father regularly beat him during his childhood, it was not unusual for discipline to be enforced in that way during that period.
By 1900, Hitler's talents as an artist surfaced. He did well enough in school to be eligible for either the university preparatory "gymnasium" or the technical/scientific Realschule. Because the latter had a course in drawing, Adolf accepted his father's decision to enroll him in the Realschule. He did not do well there.
Adolf's father died in 1903 after suffering a pleural hemorrhage. Adolf himself suffered from lung infections, and he quit school at the age of 16, partially the result of ill health and partially the result of poor school work.
In 1906, Adolf was permitted to visit Vienna, but he was unable to gain admission to a prestigious art school. His mother developed terminal breast cancer and was treated by Dr. Edward Bloch, a Jewish doctor who served the poor. After an operation and excruciatingly painful and expensive treatments with a dangerous drug, she died on December 21, 1907.
Hitler spent six years in Vienna, living on a small legacy from his father and an orphan's pension. Virtually penniless by 1909, he wandered Vienna as a transient, sleeping in bars, flophouses, and shelters for the homeless, including, ironically, those financed by Jewish philanthropists. It was during this period that he developed his prejudices about Jews, his interest in politics, and debating skills. According to John Toland's biography, Adolf Hitler, two of his closest friends at this time were Jewish, and he admired Jewish art dealers and Jewish operatic performers and producers. However, Vienna was a center of anti-Semitism, and the media's portrayal of Jews as scapegoats with stereotyped attributes did not escape Hitler's fascination.
In May 1913, Hitler, seeking to avoid military service, left...