The Rise and Fall of Hitler's Reich

Feeling that all was lost, Hitler shot himself on April 30, 1945. By orders formally given by him before his death, SS officers immersed Hitler's body in gasoline and burned it in the garden of the Chancellery. Soon after the suicide of Hitler, the German forces surrendered. The war was officially over; however, the world was only beginning to realize the extent of its horror. The rise and sudden fall of Hitler had a sensational effect on people and nations around the world.

On Easter Sunday April 20, 1889, at an inn called the Gasth of Zum Pommer, the wife of an Austrian Customs official gave birth to a son, Adolf Hitler. He was the fourth child to the parents of Alois and Klara Hitler of Austria. Hitler was a good student. He took singing lessons and sang in the church choir. When he hit an adolescent age, he began to rebel. When Hitler's dad acquired a top ranking job in the military, he wanted his son to work hard so that he might become a civil servant. Hitler wanted nothing of it. He wanted to become an artist like he always dreamed.

One of the teachers in his high school classified young Hitler as "notorious, cantankerous, willful, arrogant, and irascible. He has an obvious difficulty in fitting in at school." He did well enough to get by in some of his courses but had no time for subjects that did not interest him. Years later, his former school mates would remember how Adolf would taunt his teachers and draw sketches of them in his school notebooks. Forty years later, in the sessions at his headquarters which produced the record of his table talk, Hitler recalled several times the teachers of his school days with contempt. "They had no sympathy with youth. Their one object was to stuff our brains and turn us into erudite apes themselves. If any pupil showed the slightest trace of originality, they persecuted him relentlessly".

Adolf saw no real reason to stay in high school. He left school at age sixteen without a leaving certificate. In September 1907, Hitler left home taking with him all the money left to him by his father, who had died a few years earlier. The money would be enough for tuition and board at the art school in Vienna. The Vienna School of Fine Arts had strict entrance requirements. After taking the

preliminary examination, the applicant was asked to submit drawings. Biblical drawings were most preferred. Hitler's drawings were returned saying they were "too wooden and too lifeless." He was rejected. He tried three months later and did not get past the preliminary exam. His artist career was over. His mother died two months later on December 21st 1907.

Hitler moved into an apartment with his friend in Vienna. He pretended to be a student living off his relatives money. He read many books and sat in on the Austrian government sessions . Hitler speaks of his life in Vienna as "five years in which I had to earn my daily bread, first as a casual laborer, then as a painter of little trifles." He loitered about the streets and was hungry. He painted water postcards and peddled them on the streets. He drew several advertising posters for such things as soap, cigarettes, and deodorant.

In 1913, Hitler moved to Munich. Life was not much better there until the First World War started in 1914. While many people were frightened and sad at the thought of a world war, Hitler was delighted. He held the rank of corporal, and in forty-seven battles he served on the Western Front as a dispatch runner, delivering messages back and forth between the front lines and the officers in the rear. His courage during one of these missions earned him the Iron Cross, a highly prized medal for bravery that was rarely awarded to a mere corporal .

On October 13th 1918, a month before Germany surrendered to the Allies, his good luck ran out. When Hitler and his fellow dispatch runners were waiting in line for their food rations, British troops began lobbing high explosive shells nearby. Some of these shells contained chlorine gas, a deadly poison. Hitler and the others quickly put on their gas masks, but not before they had been exposed to the fumes. By the next morning some of the men were dead, and others, like Hitler, were suffering from breathing and vision problems. "My eyes," wrote Hitler, "had turned to glowing coals; it had grown dark around me".

Hitler soon regained use of his eyes, but as he was about to rejoin his regiment, he got the terrible news of Germany's surrender. "Once again, everything went black before my eyes, and I tottered and groped my way back to the place where we slept and buried my burning head in the blankets and pillows". After the war Hitler was given a job guarding a post. It was very boring work, but provided shelter. He was then given an undercover agent job. As a special bonus, he was allowed to attend the University of Munich. He took many philosophical political classes.

As part of Hitler's job, he investigated a party called "the German Workers' Party." He was disgusted how the group had no organization, although he was in favor of many of the party's ideas. To follow up with his job, he joined the group to make sure they were no threat to the government. He was member number fifty-five of the German Workers' Party. Hitler was made director of propaganda. The group was severely hurting by their lack of attendance. This was mainly due to the lack of communication with the group. Hitler took hold, and made a drastic change in the publicity the group got.

Hitler finally found his talent as a great orator. He first became aware of his talent while teaching at the University of Munich. When he talked, he held his audiences spellbound. He would sometimes lose five pounds a night by getting so active in his speeches. The attendance of the German Workers' Party went from under one hundred to almost 1000. Hitler changed the name of the party to National Socialist German Workers' Party. It could be shortened to Nazi. He also designed the party's flag, a white background with a broken cross in the middle. Hitler took full leadership of the party. Violence was now the party's trademark.

He persuaded the other party members to rent one of the largest halls in Munich-one that seated at least 2,000 people. There Hitler made of list of demands to the German government. Point twenty-five said, "For modern society, a colossus with feet of clay, we shall create an unprecedented centralization, through which we will unite all powers in the head of the government." The audience roared its approval.

Ernst Rohm, a friend of Hitler's, organized a group of storm troopers for Hitler. The German name for storm troopers was Storm Abtcilung, or SA for short. They first beat and killed hecklers at Nazi speakings. When there were no hecklers, they found Jews to beat up. Synagogues were destroyed and Jews were beaten in the streets.

By the summer of 1923, the Nazi party had grown to 150,000 members. With the Nazi movement growing so rapidly, Hitler knew it was time to make a move on Germany. November 11, 1923 seemed like a perfect time for Hitler to make the grab for power. It was the fifth anniversary of Germany's surrender to the allies. At the last minute he changed the date to November 8th. A large gathering was to be held on the outskirts of Munich. Three important government leaders would be there. On that evening, 600 storm troopers moved in.

Hitler captured the government leaders and forced them to join him. His 3,000 men then marched to Berlin in an attempt to take it over. The German police were waiting. Shots were fired and sixteen nazis and two policemen lay dead. Hundreds more were wounded. Hitler was arrested and charged with High Treason.

The trial was a "political circus". Hitler was allowed to speak for hours at a time. During one of his speeches he said, "It is the External Court of History ... That court will judge us ... as Germans who wanted the best for their people and their fatherland, who wished us to fight and die. You may pronounce us guilty ... but the Goddess who presides over the External Court of History ... acquits us".

Hitler served only nine months of his five-year sentence. The guards gave him a suite of several adjoining rooms where guests could come or go as they pleased. He was sent many gifts and grew visibly fatter. He wrote a book called Mein Kampf, or My Struggle. It was a blueprint of what he would do in the next two decades.

The government banned the Nazi party after the revolt. There were also many reasons for lack of Nazi activity. The Allies had loosened their grip on the German economy. The French had left the Ruhr leaving Germany's industries intact, and the United States pumped in millions of dollars to stabilize Germany's economy. Most Germans were happy. In 1925, the Nazis picked up where they left off. Ernst Rohn was given the order to reinstate his troops. Germany held elections, but the Nazis got only three percent of the voters support.

The depression in America caused the economic system in Germany to plummet. Because of the harsh times, Nazis got two million more votes then the Communist party. The election put them just

under the Democratic party and gave them 107 more seats in the House. Hitler was planning on running for President of Germany against Paul Von Hinderburg, a social democrat. Hitler campaigned frequently, going to every major city and town. He was the first to use the airplane in order to get from one campaign to the next.

By 1932 the SA troops numbered 400,000. The SA's goal was to make people afraid, and they accomplished that with ease. One of the most popular chants of the SA troops is as follows: "Sharpen the knives on the sidewalk so that they can cut the enemy's body better. When the hour of revenge strikes, we shall be ready for mass murder". The SA troops were getting out of hand, and Hitler wanted an orderly group. He created the SS soldiers. They were dressed in black from head to foot with a little skull pin on their helmets. They had to swear total loyalty to Hitler.

In the election of 1932, Hitler could not beat out the eighty-five year old President Hindenburg. However, 230 Nazi candidates held seats, and Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany. It was the second highest position in the German government. With only a week left till the new election, Hitler needed an incident that might put him ahead in the polls. Two nights later, the old courthouse, the Reichstag, began burning. The Nazis immediately began blaming it on the Communists. This was just what the Nazis needed to put them ahead in the race.

Hitler still was not elected to the Presidency. Using force, Hitler got Hinderburg to pass a law that abolished freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly. Hitler then brought before the court the Enabling Act. This law gave Hitler the power of a dictator for the next four years. With violent persuasion, he got the bill passed. Germany had become a dictatorship.

After the bills were passed, the German military feared that when Hitler took full leadership of the country, they would lose control, and the SA would take over. Hitler assured the military that this was not true. To gain their trust, he gave them a list of 500 to 1000 SA leaders which they could dispose of. In a period of two days, all the men were brought before a firing range in a school basement and shot .

In August of 1934 President Hindenburg died. Hitler's last obstacle in his quest for complete power was removed. Using his unlimited powers, he combined the offices of president and chancellor. To everyone in Germany he was now Der Fuhrer, the leader. The Reich had begun.

Avoiding capture by the approaching forces, Hitler shot himself on April 30, 1945. The world was never the same again. Hitler's Reich was over, and millions of jews were dead. Quite rightly, the world asked questions: How could this have happened? Truthful answers cannot put the responsibility on Hitler alone. He led the Reich, but millions of people followed him eagerly-and many others chose to stand and watch him alone in frightened silence.