Hitler as a person was not a highly innovative or creative intellectual and neither his ideas nor the way he combined them was anything new. His ideology was a mix of nineteenth-century theories of race and history, Social Darwinism, post-Great War resentments,
antisemitism, antimodernism, and even Christianity. What made a difference in Hitler’s ascent to
power stemmed from the intensity with which he presented his political views and from his ability to captivate large crowds so that those who heard him speak were fascinated by his message. The evolution of Hitler as a political leader and dictator proved that he was able to mark important events in history and implement his own beliefs about race and space without having an impressive background and achievements regarding military, diplomacy, and bureaucracy (Bergen, pg. 40).
“The man who has no sense of history, is like a man who has no ears or eyes”
― Adolf Hitler
As a child, Hitler was an average student and left school at 16 years old in the following two and a half years, Hitler lived in Linz, Austria, where he drank, dreamed, drew, and wished to redesign the city. Hitler was able to live quite comfortably in Vienna when he was a
young adult without any work and at this time he observed much of Vienna’s currents and ideas.
Additionally, he was interested in ultranationalism and antisemitism in addition to his belief in pan-Germanism. Karl Lueger, the antisemitic Christian Socialist party leader and mayor of Vienna from 1895 to 1910, was one of his idols and his propaganda methods were particularly impressive to Hitler. Hitler became acquainted with many political extremists in Vienna as he combined ideas into a worldview (Bergen, pg. 32). As a result, he became intrigued by social Darwinist theories in which life was seen as a struggle between races. He read mostly mythology, biology, and even the occult, yet rather than read the original scientific and philosophical texts, Hitler read summaries and pamphlets about them. It was claimed that Hitler’s conversion to antisemitism occurred in 1918 when Germany lost World War I and the Jews were somehow to blame. After the First World War, Hitler joined the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Hitler became a full-time activist less than a year later and became a popular speaker for the group (Bergen, pg. 33). He led a group of conspirators, including the war hero Erich Ludendorff, to launch the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich on 9 November 1923. It was a failed
effort to overthrow the Bavarian government and establish leadership of national revival in Germany. A five-year prison sentence was imposed on Hitler for high treason, however, during his brief time in Landsberg Prison, he was treated like a celebrity, and to finish the book he had begun, he eventually stopped receiving visitors. Hitler published his book, Mein Kampf, a combination memoir, and propaganda tract, shortly after his release in 1925. Nevertheless, the book was not a best seller until Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933. Aside from Bavaria, Hitler was a little-known figure, and some people found Hitler’s humble background, his unremarkable military career, and his lack of formal education and experience almost amusing. Hitler’s greatest distinguishing characteristic from the many other demagogues and ideologues in Europe between wars was the enormous power he acquired after becoming Germany’s chancellor in 1933 (Bergen, pg. 33).
“The art of reading and studying consists in remembering the essentials and forgetting what is not essential.”
― Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Hitler in his evolution to political leadership and dictatorial was his beliefs about race and his ideas that it is influencing and destroying the purity of the Germanic race (Gilman, pg. 109). Still, there are no races in the biological sense of a distinct division of the human species and as a result, human genetic potential and biodiversity exist around the world (Sussman, pg.1). Nevertheless, it is important to remember that external attributes are irrelevant in defying biological reality. Even though race is not a fixed, natural attribute, it is still an institution of physical appearance that is historically, culturally, and socially constructed. It was created by those in power, constituted by a society with the capability of change, and, consequently, exists within the realm of science. Though the concept of race was given a legal definition, it is not innate, and we develop our identity over time. The power structures are responsible for perpetuating racial differences, which are made real by laws that did not exist before were created to maintain such systems. Thus, race discrimination was meant to create power hierarchies. The structures are re-emphasized constantly to retain them in people’s minds. Racism became associated with breeding after scientists began classifying animals and plants at the end of the 18th century. At the same time, the slave trade made a major contribution to this race’s development. Slave trade was carried out to maintain money and power, which can only be achieved by stating that humans are not equal, as if they are, then everyone would be able to gain access to power, including slaves, which was not their intention. According to Hitler and the Nazi system of thought, the Aryan race, and their blood have special meanings; but these terms are not meant to describe objective realities. However, such labels would have very real implications once Nazi ideology became protected by laws and regulations and put into practice. It was Hitler’s belief that humanity was engaged in a great struggle between races, or communities of blood, and that the Germans, the members of the so-called Aryan race, required more room to expand (Bergen, pg. 36). Hitler considered the ancient Greeks, along with the Germanic tribes that destroyed Roman society, as the best aspects of ancient Rome. (Bergen, pg. 37) There was only one constant that was accurate, and that was that Aryans were the opposite of Jews. To him, a Jew was everything he viewed as negative, the opposite of the supposedly perfect Aryan. (Bergen,pg. 37) According to Hitler, Jewishness was a race, a biological reality that could not be altered by religion, name, or practice. Additionally, he described Jewish men as weak and effeminate (Bergen, pg. 37). Although he regarded Jews as inferior idiots, he believed they possessed an intelligent cunning that threatened the allegedly superior Aryans. An important characteristic of Hitler’s ideology was his sense of determination to fix these issues (Bergen, pg. 38). Hitler often linked communism and bolshevism with Jews, and he suggested that Jews were behind the creation of Communism to destroy Germany (Bergen, pg. 37). Jewish people were seen by Christians, especially the Catholic Church, as a different race, however, it is impossible to consider religion to be a biological reality because it is subject to change, whereas Judaism was viewed as something bad, as well as an immutable biological reality, separating people permanently. Even from the 18th century, Jews in Europe suffered persecution and were permitted to live only in certain areas to force them to convert to Christianity. After centuries of segregation, Jews were prohibited from having regular jobs or owning property, so a sense of difference was inevitable. Despite being granted full participation in society and integration into the armed forces, Jews in France continued to face prejudice as they tried to rise into society. In his anti-semanticist beliefs, Rosenberg emphasized German superiority. According to his racist theory, the Germans did not intend to gain worldwide dominance, but to create a space where Nazi racial groups could flourish. Despite being members of European society, a significant number of Jews were killed. SA officials emphasized that Hitler’s accession to power had not achieved its objectives. Nazism’s enemies were subject to shouts of panic and violence, and they were not concerned with legality to cover their crimes. The local SA units that wanted blood and spoils launched boycott campaigns. Within the first two weeks of March, the SA launched a campaign targeting Jews. His plan for a Jewish policy was regrettably inadequate, given the hooligans and terror that marked his first months in power.
“The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it.”
― Adolf Hitler
The boycott was justified to pressure both German Jews and international media to stop
criticizing the Nazi regime. All Germans were ordered to boycott Jewish companies and professions due to anti-Nazi movements in the international press. Hitler wanted to resolve the Jewish question on his own terms. As a result of a boycott, the dictatorship instituted the first of a series of anti-Semitic policies (Schleunes, pg.71). First, there was persecution and harassment of Jews, as well as boycotts of Jewish shops. As a result of the Nuremberg laws of 1935, people were isolated and forced out of society. As there was no biological way to distinguish the Jews from the rest of the population, they focused on keeping records, which included their religious identity. Citizenship was removed for the ones who had Jewish roots and were no longer Germans. German Jews were considered foreigners and were restricted from working in German universities and government jobs, renting, and owning homes. Jewish prisoners were sent to concentration camps as the war began and Eastern European ghettos were built to house them. It was originally the goal to get them out of Germany, not to kill them all, but the overcrowded conditions in these ghettos caused many deaths. Stage four of the Final Solution for the Jews was triggered by events that occurred from 1942-to 1945 when Germany decided that Jews must be exterminated, and they built gas chambers, and the camps were liquidated. All the death camps were built in Poland, and prisoners were transported there by train. Only at Auschwitz, the daily selections were made for labor or the death camp’s gas chambers. Based on these tragic events, it has become evident that the principle that something is true or that something exists may lead a nation to be prosecuted and killed based on beliefs and unsupported ideologies.
“The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”
― Adolf Hitler
Another distinguishing characteristic of Hitler in his evolution to political leadership and
dictatorial was his beliefs about space, and the idea that the Germanic people must be together in the same territory, to achieve GrossDeutschland. These were not Hitler’s ideology and originated from 1871 when Bismarck was appointed Chancellor of Germany. He managed to create a Prussian empire without conquering because he didn’t want any wars. The creation of the new
Germany, the nationalism that was growing realized that the place was too small as a unit and wanted it to be expanded. They wanted a larger area called GrossDeutschland as a beginning concept. These concepts feed the Germanic idea of imperialism and the idea that the Germanic people must be together, to achieve GrossDeutschland. As Nazis came to power, they were looking for geographical expansion based on these ideas of territories. There was support for Ebert’s stab-in-the-back theory at the end of the war, emphasizing socialism, thus the Nazi movement was going to be anti-socialism and anti-communist. (Bergen, pg.47). As a result of reducing unemployment after Nazis came to power, Hitler becomes a dictator, and the brown shirts were in control sending a clear message demonstrating his power by assassinating Ernst Rohm. Germans were one of the first ones to rebuild the economy after WW1 and gained support from Austrians. Hitler wanted to occupy other lands as well, and Britain and France gave up some of their lands to avoid a war. Jewish people leaving Germany were forced to move to Poland and France, ultimately territories that became under German control. Jews still living in Germany in 1938 were attacked, their shops and houses were destroyed, just to force them to leave. When Germany crossed the line in their attempt of conquering more territories, the British declared war. World War 2 began with Poland being invaded on September 1, 1939, and Hitler was concerned that once he crossed the Polish border, he would have to fight Russian troops. Therefore, he signs a pact with Russia where Germany would take the part of Poland that used to belong to Prussia, and Russia would take the rest, with both countries remaining neutral to each other if they don’t cross the demarcation line.
“Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.”
― Adolf Hitler
However, Hitler was always anticipating he would break the agreement and cross the border, but he focused on conquering other territories that were easier to get. Belgium, Holland, and France were not ready to defeat the Germans and were easy targets. By 1940, Germany had occupied Denmark and Norway, leaving Britain as the only enemy, and the pressure on Hungary and Romania made the Germans take these territories as well. When Germany looks like an absolute winner in the middle of 1941, they decide to break the Soviet Union pact and start Operation Barbarossa. As soon as the Germans thought Britain was about to give up, they advance close to Moscow but were stuck due to a lack of fuel. Germany was still dealing with the Jews occupying some of the territories and on Stages 3 of Germany’s racial policy from 1939-1941 was included deportations to concentration camps. Jews inside Germany had difficulty moving out after the war, and the Germans also occupied new territories that contained Jews that were not welcomed. Therefore, the Jews were sent to gas chambers and death camps to eliminate them from the German territory. Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Totalitarian Japan constituted the Axis powers in 1942 and fought for the same goals and though
they were invincible. However, the battle of Stalingrad changed everything from August 23, 1942, to February 2, 1943, when Germans tried to reach the oil fields, and they were killed and held as prisoners of war by Russia and sent to Siberia camps. Hitler committed suicide in Berlin on April 30 and that allowed his generals to surrender, ending the war in the west by May 8, 1945. Despite these tragic events, believing something to be true or existing may result in wars and the death of innocent people based on irrational beliefs and great ambitions of those who become powerful.
“Struggle is the father of all things. It is not by the principles of humanity that man lives or is able to preserve himself above the animal world, but solely by means of the most brutal struggle.”
― Adolf Hitler
In conclusion, a person such as Hitler without a highly creative or original mind, and neither novel ideas nor the way he incorporated them and influenced his views was able to become a dictator and a political leader in Germany. Hitler did not overthrow the government by
an unlawful coup d’état nor was he elected by a stampede of German voters inspired by his oratory skills. It is important to note that the Great Depression was not the inevitable result of Germany’s defeat in World War I. Hitler’s path to becoming chancellor in 1933 was less direct and less straightforward than these standard interpretations suggest. A combination of circumstances, political maneuvering, luck, treachery, and miscalculation on the part of many individuals led to the rise of Hitler (Bergen, pg.44). In terms of Hitler’s rise to power, the difference made was the intensity with which he expressed his political views as well as his ability to captivate large audiences when he shared his ideas with them. In his beliefs and evolution as a politician and dictator, Hitler managed with the lack of tact and skill to trigger important historical events; yet the death toll paid by innocent people did not cause him to cease but gave him new motivation and blinded him to his goals.