Political Leader / World War II Figure
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Adolf Hitler's 12 years as ruler of Germany, which led to the deaths of millions in World War II, have made him one of history's most hated villains. A decorated veteran of World War I, Hitler joined the German Workers' Party in 1919, later renaming it the National Socialist German Workers Party (which was shortened to the Nazi Party). By 1921 he was the leader of the group, and in 1923 led an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the ruling German Weimar Republic. Hitler was sent to prison, where he wrote his manifesto, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), and he emerged from jail less than a year later as a populist spokesman for poor and nationalistic Germans. Made chancellor in 1933, he suspended the constitution, forcibly suppressed all political opposition and brought the Nazis to power. He enforced his new rules with a brutal secret police (the Gestapo) and formed concentration camps for the organized murder of Jews, Gypsies and political opponents. Hitler's bullying, aggressive foreign policy led to the start of World War II in 1939. Although Hitler had remarkable early success in the war, by 1942 the tide had turned, and by 1945 Allied troops had crossed into Germany and were headed for Berlin. Hitler committed suicide in his command bunker in Berlin in 1945, ending both Nazi rule and the war.
Extra credit: Hitler survived a 1944 assassination attempt led by Claus von Stauffenberg... One of Hitler's concentration camp victims was Anne Frank... One day before his death, Hitler finally married his longtime girlfriend Eva Braun; she committed suicide with him by swallowing cyanide on 30 April 1945. Hitler apparently swallowed cyanide and then shot himself.