Hitler was keen to prove his loyalty to Germany. In August the world plunged into a war unlike any seen before. Hitler quickly enlisted. In the army he finally found purpose; a cause with which he could wholly identify. Serving in both France and Belgium, he was twice decorated for bravery. In , Hitler was wounded at the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
Convalescing in Germany, he affected a distinctive toothbrush moustache. Hitler was wounded for a second time following a British gas attack. While recovering in Pasewalk, the unthinkable happened — Germany surrendered.
Before the surrender, facing serious discontent at home and the prospect of defeat at the front, Germany's High Command sought to shift the blame. The majority parties in the Reichstag were handed a poisoned chalice. They were given more power but implicated in the impending defeat. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated days before Armistice.
Like others, Hitler was enraged by what he saw as the betrayal of an undefeated German Army by Jews and socialists at home. He resolved to go into politics. I brought back home with me my experiences at the front; out of them I built my National Socialist community. To the victors the spoils: when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in summer , Germany was forced to accept sole responsibility for the war. Just as damaging, the peace obliged Germany to pay large amounts in reparations.
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The huge loss of territory it also dictated came as a devastating blow. Hitler bitterly resented it. Defeat and then humiliation at Versailles challenged his whole sense of worth.
Still in the army, Hitler was sent to report on an emerging far-right group, the German Workers' Party later renamed the Nazi Party. Finding he agreed with their nationalist, anti-Semitic beliefs, he joined. In February he spoke before a crowd of nearly 6, in Munich. To publicise the meeting, he engaged in propaganda tactics — sending out party supporters in trucks with swastikas to leaflet the area. But the party executive, including founder Anton Drexler, were uneasy at Hitler's growing popularity. In an effort to weaken his position, they formed an alliance with a socialist group while Hitler was in Berlin visiting other nationalist parties.
It backfired spectacularly.
Hitler promptly resigned and rejoined only when he was handed sole control. Hyperinflation saw the price of a loaf of bread rise from marks to billion by November.
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Hitler sought to start a revolution. Hitler burst in with his storm troopers the SA — a motley crew of far-right paramilitaries. At gunpoint, Kahr was forced to pledge support. The next day, Hitler led 3, men onto the streets. But the police were waiting. In the ensuing violence, 16 Nazis and 3 policemen died.
Hitler was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for treason. Hitler served just nine months of his sentence in the Bavarian fortress of Landsberg am Lech. Here he wrote Mein Kampf, defining his political vision. For him, the state was not an economic entity but racial. He declared the superiority of a white Aryan race, with particular vitriol reserved for the Jews he viewed as "parasites". Their elimination, he said, "must necessarily be a bloody process". Mein Kampf outlined the central tenets of a Germany under Nazi control — military expansion, elimination of "impure" races and dictatorial authoritarianism.
After the failure of his revolution Hitler looked to the ballot box. But despite his own rising profile, in the Nazis won just 2. A resurgent German economy had seen public opinion move to the political centre. Events on the other side of the world would change all that. When the American stock exchange collapsed, the foreign loans on which Germany's economic recovery relied were called in. Unemployment rose to six million and parties on both the extreme left and right saw support skyrocket.
German President von Hindenburg's concern at growing Communist support persuaded him to give Hitler the post of Chancellor in January. Hitler quickly consolidated his position. By March he had dictatorial powers courtesy of the Enabling Act, which allowed him to pass laws without Reichstag approval. Political parties, organisations and unions unassociated with the Nazis were soon disbanded. But Hitler still needed the support of the army to fulfil the vision he had outlined in Mein Kampf. Army leaders were wary of the paramilitaries who had helped Hitler to power.
Hitler the Progressive
He allayed those concerns ruthlessly, tightening his own grip on power. He could not tolerate opposition to his plans to suppress workers' rights and make Germany ready for war. Hitler was now in total control. Adolf Hitler delivers a speech during the Party Congress at Nuremberg in Since the Nazis had tried to exclude Jews and other 'undesirables' from public life. In a new phase began — enforced biological segregation. At the annual Nuremberg rally Hitler announced laws denying Jewish people citizenship and prohibiting marriage or sexual relations with people of "German or related blood".
Anyone with three or more Jewish grandparents was affected, irrespective of their own religious identity.
Hitler characterised the laws as an effort to "achieve the legislative regulation of a problem which, if it breaks down again, will then have to be transferred by law to the National Socialist Party for final solution". A Reich citizen is a subject of the state who is of German or related blood. With his vision under way domestically, Hitler set his sights beyond Germany's borders. Lebensraum — territorial expansion — was next on his agenda. In March Hitler triumphantly led Nazi troops into Austria, achieving his goal of unifying the country of his birth and the country he ruled.
His next target was the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. Convinced that neither Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, nor his French counterpart Edouard Daladier wanted war, Hitler pressed his demands. At a conference in Munich organised by Chamberlain, those demands were met. Nazi troops marched into Czechoslovakia and took the Sudetenland. Spurred by his success at Munich, Hitler looked east to Poland. Hitler was willing to set aside his hatred of Communism for strategic gain. The two powers agreed the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact in late August.
Hitler believed his path was clear and on 1 September the invasion of Poland began. It was a gamble — the German Army was not yet at full strength. But Hitler was confident Britain and France would not go Poland's aid any more than they had for Austria or Czechoslovakia. He was wrong. Britain and France declared war on 3 September. Armistice agreement in the forest of Compiegne. Though he'd lost the gamble, Hitler was winning the war. Poland fell quickly. The Blitzkrieg tactics of the German Army destroyed all before them.
When France surrendered on 17 June, Hitler took revenge for the German defeat more than two decades before. Hitler ensured the French submission should take place at Compiegne, in the same train carriage Germany had been forced to sign the Armistice ending the First World War. At the scene of Germany's greatest humiliation, Hitler now stood in triumph.
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Extension of Lebensraum in the east was always his ultimate aim. Hitler was extremely suspicious of Stalin. He'd initially planned to complete the subjugation of Western Europe before turning to the Soviet Union.