National Archives of Canada (PA-164746, photo by Heinrich Hoffmann).

Adolf Hitler Reading in an Aircraft, Germany, ca. 1934-1939.

 

The Austrian-born Adolf Hitler [Schicklgruber] (1889-1945) served as a corporal in the Bavarian Army in the First World War and became leader, or Führer, of the National Socialist German Workers', or Nazi party, in 1921. As dictator of that party, he led an unsuccessful uprising against the Weimar, or German, Republic in 1923. After that failure, he temporarily advocated legal means to achieve power.

In his rise to power, the charismatic Hitler benefited from German resentment of both the Allied victory in the Great War and the reparation payments that Germany had to pay to the Allies. He preached the superiority of the Aryan race, anti-Semitism, and anti-communism. Each of these had considerable appeal among the German population.

The Great Depression was the decisive event for Hitler's assumption of power. It caused social dislocation, misery, and fear. Members of the lower middle class, who became Hitler's greatest supporters, were particularly hard hit by the Depression. And, as in other countries, the Depression discredited moderate politicians. Millions of Germans accepted Hitler's teaching that the Great Depression -- like Germany's loss in the Great War -- could be traced directly to Jewish-communist intrigue.

Hitler became Chancellor in 1933 and immediately used his position to establish a ruthless, centralized dictatorship.

 

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