Adolf Hitler was the Austrian-born anti-Semitic head of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party), dictator of Germany in the year preceding and throughout the Second World War, and the main instigator of the Holocaust.
A decorated veteran of World War I, the Hitler joined German Workers’ Party in 1919, becoming its leader in 1921, by which time it had been renamed the NSDAP - Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers’ Party).
In 1923 Hitler staged a failed coup in Germany for which he was sentenced to five years imprisonment, of which he served nine months. During his time in prison Hitler wrote most of his manifesto – Mein Kampf (My Struggle) – in which he detailed his fascist and racist ideas, his plans for Germany’s future, and his hatred of Jews, blaming them for Germany’s economic problems and World War I defeat.
Following his release, Hitler rapidly gained political support by championing German nationalism, anti-Semitism, and a unique hybrid of anti-capitalism and anti-communism. In 1933, following the Nazi Party’s success in the German national elections, Hitler was appointed Chancellor. Hitler quickly used his position to consolidate the Nazis’ hold on Germany by dissolving the Reichstag and transforming the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich. It was during this period that Hitler began rounding up German Jews in concentration camps. In 1934 Hitler became Fuhrer and sole dictator of Germany.
As Fuhrer, Hitler rapidly industrialized and militarized Germany, channeling the state’s resources towards the goal of global domination. In 1938, after he was named Time Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year,’ Hitler pressured Austria into unification with Germany and swiftly invaded Czechoslovakia. In 1939, after signing Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact with Russia, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, sparking World War II.
Allying with Italy and Japan in 1940, Hitler’s war machine rapidly conquered most of Europe, East Asia and Northern Africa, systematically murdering Jews and other perceived enemies of Germany in the territories the Nazis occupied. But the tide of war shifted in favor of the British-lead anti-Nazi alliance shortly after Hitler violated the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact 1941 by invading the Soviet Union, forcing Russia to join the Allies. Though Hitler initially achieved a series of victories on the Eastern front, the Soviet Union was eventually able to push back Hitler’s forces, and the Allies gained the upper hand from 1942 onwards. By 1945, the Allied armies had invaded German-held Europe from all sides. By then the Hitler had massacred 17 million non-combatants, six million of them Jews.
As the allies closed in on Berlin, Hitler took his own life by swallowing a cyanide pill and shooting himself in the brain with his Walther PKK pistol. The only living witness to Hitler’s suicide is his former bodyguard Rochus Misch.