Study Guide

Adolf Hitler in Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat

By Winston Churchill

Adolf Hitler

Maybe you're thinking, "Do I really need to read about Hitler?" Well, we can't force you to do anything. But Churchill's speech to Parliament wouldn't have happened if it weren't for Hitler, since it would have been completely unnecessary.

So yeah, we need to talk about Hitler.

Little Orphan Adolf

Hitler was born and raised in Austria (Linz, mostly). "But," you may wonder, "he did all his nasty dictator stuff from Germany, right?" Yep. Germany clearly didn't have the "you-need-to-have-been-born-here" requirement for their political leaders like the U.S. does. According to William Shirer, author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Hitler always had a fascination for everything German, and by the time he was a teenager, he'd become a fanatic German nationalist (source).

Hitler lost a lot of family members growing up, including most of his siblings and his father. When his mother also died in 1907, the young Adolf moved to Vienna. He wanted to be a watercolor painter, but was rejected from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts (twice).

For a number of years, he lived a pretty penniless existence, selling postcards and sleeping in homeless shelters. Wandering the streets of Vienna, he became obsessed with the anti-Semitic literature that abounded in that city, and later wrote:

Wherever I went …I began to see Jews, and the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity … Later, I often grew sick to the stomach from the smell of these caftan-wearers (source).

Finally he moved to Munich, and petitioned to fight for Germany in World War I—a chance to serve the country he'd been obsessed with in his youth. At first he was rejected for not being physically fit enough, but was eventually able to enlist. He did some fighting, earned some medals, and was shocked at the outcome of the war and the unfairness of the Treaty of Versailles (source).

And guess who he blamed for Germany's defeat? You got it: the Jews.

It's My Partei and I'll Cry if I Want To

After World War I, Hitler discovered the German Workers' Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or DAP) during his work as an intelligence officer. He liked their ideas: they were anti-Communist, anti-Semitic, and very pro-Germany (except of course for German communists and Jews). He joined shortly before the group renamed itself the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP), which became shortened to (drumroll please) "Nazi."

Hitler put his failed art career to use designing a fancy new logo for his newfound posse. You may be familiar with what he came up with: black swastika, white circle, red background…yeah, that was an example of his creative side (source).

Hitler rose to power in the party very quickly, becoming the new chairman by 1921. In 1923, he led the group in the infamous "Beer Hall Putsch", where the party tried to overthrow the prime minister of Bavaria. The putsch was a colossal failure, and Hitler spent nine months in prison for treason. He used the time to write his lunatic manifesto, Mein Kampf, which means "My Struggle" in German.

We Did Nazi This Coming

In the 1920s, Hitler developed the political philosophies he'd later use to lead the world into war. The Russian Revolution of 1917 created a communist country to the east, and since the Nazis were anti-Communist, that was great material for a burgeoning fascist political party. As the party leader, Hitler was a demented genius is using propaganda and lies to manipulate the people; he saw how they could easily be swayed by a charismatic leader.

Hitler and his buddies were all about the Volk (people). He thought the best political system would be a single strong leader supported by a party that promised to represent the people. Let's call that fascism.

Hitler was also agitated about the terms of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which ended WWI and blamed Germany for it (not without reason). The treaty stated that Germany was to be demilitarized and pay extensive reparations "as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies" (source).

The German economy struggled under the weight of its reparations, which made enough people angry that the Nazis were able to gain power in the early 1920s by promising to reestablish the glorious German empire and getting back at the people who imposed the onerous terms of the treaty.

The Nazis succeeded in getting more and more representation into the Reichstag (German Parliament), and as leader of the party Hitler's political status kept rising, too. In 1932, he lost the presidential election to Paul von Hindenburg, the longtime president, who only ran (at age 84) to keep Hitler from winning (source). Still, Hindenburg made Hitler chancellor to appease the people, which meant Hitler was second in command.

Once he was chancellor, Hitler used his position to keep giving himself more power. After a suspicious fire in the Reichstag building, he convinced Hindenburg to issue the Reichstag Fire Decree, which stripped government officials of some of their rights and power (to help combat communism, obviously). There's lots of speculation that Hitler and his cronies burned down the Reichstag themselves as a pretext for expanding his dictatorial power.

One month later, Hitler got his Nazi lackeys in the Reichstag to pass the Enabling Act, which gave him and his party the ability to pass legislation without approval of the parliament—or President Hindenburg. It made Hitler a dictator in all but name.

From there, Hitler took step after step to consolidate his own power and make the Nazi Party the only political party in Germany. In fact, he passed a law making it the only legitimate political party. Just in case anyone had any doubt about his feelings towards democracy.

When the School Bully Becomes Student Body President

At this point, you might be wondering, how did Hitler manage to get all that power without the German people trying to stop him? That's a question historians have struggled with for decades.

Well, partly it was pure intimidation and violence. Partly it was because the German economy recovered significantly, which was largely based on the international economy—but Hitler took credit for it (source). He painted himself as the defender of Germany against communism and Jews and the rest of the world, who'd tried to destroy the nation through the Versailles Treaty. His racial philosophies, which he'd been developing since he was a young man, promoted the idea that the Germans were a master race with a special destiny—to restore Germany to its former glory and subjugate the obviously inferior races and nations.

This turned out to be an extremely dangerous philosophy for the rest of the world, but it convinced lots of Germans. The Nazis were master propagandists.

Hitler made a number of agreements and treaties with other countries throughout the 1930s, many of which he completely reneged on later. People were too scared of the new and improved German army to use force when he broke his agreements.

Haters Gonna Hate

In 1933, the Nazis passed a series of laws starting with prohibitions against Jews holding civil service jobs and practicing certain professions. Restrictions were placed on how many Jewish students could study public schools and universities, and some cities and states prohibited Jewish doctors from treating non-Jewish patients. Even Jewish actors were forbidden from appearing on stage or in movies.

In 1935, Hitler went all-in on his eugenics program for Germany Nuremburg Laws, which prohibited Jews from holding most jobs, made it illegal for them to marry or have sex with anyone with German blood, and stripped them of German citizenship. "No Jews Allowed" signs started to appear in public areas, although they were taken down temporarily during the 1936 Munich Olympics.

The pre-war persecution of Jews reached its zenith with Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass (November 9-10, 1938), when the Nazis organized a nationwide pogrom against Jews. Storm Troopers and ordinary citizens went on a violent rampage, burning hundreds of synagogues, destroying and looting 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses, and killing over 100 Jewish people. Nearly 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and shipped off to early versions of concentration camps (source).

The Holocaust had begun.

War of the Worlds

By September 1939, Hitler started to flat-out invade countries. He wanted to create the Third Reich (Reich = Empire) and establish German dominance over Europe. A Thousand-Year Reich, he said. Take that, Treaty of Versailles. One by one, countries fell to Germany: Poland, Austria, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, France… looked like the Reich was on a roll.

Then Hitler made the reckless decision to invade Russia in June 1941—code name Operation Barbarossa. Hitler hated Slavs almost as much as he hated Jews, and he planned to replace the Russian population with Aryans and use the Russians as slave laborers. Not only did the invasion violate the non-aggression pact he'd signed with the U.S.S.R. in 1939 and push Josef Stalin to join the Allied powers, but the operation was also poorly planned and resulted in the German army getting stuck around Moscow in December.

If you've ever been to Russia in the winter, you'll know it's not a place you want to go camping for weeks on end. Especially when you're unprepared and don't really have your winter supplies with you.

And L.L. Bean hadn't even been founded yet.

After that disastrous invasion and the U.S. entry into the war in December 1941, the tide of the war started to turn against Hitler and the Nazis. As the Reich started to crumble, Hitler's military decisions became more illogical and erratic. Even his generals knew the game was over, but Hitler continued to push on long after the outcome was clear.

On April 29, 1945, he married longtime girlfriend Eva Braun. On April 30, the newlyweds committed suicide in his Berlin bunker as the Red Army surrounded Berlin.

The Man, The Myth, The Megalomaniac

Hitler's reign of tyranny in Germany resulted in the death of six million Jews in the death camps he sanctioned as the "final solution" to the problem of, well, Jews existing in Europe. This "solution" referred to the death camps that existed solely to use Jews for hard labor and eventually exterminate them.

That's not even counting the millions of other "unacceptable" people—homosexuals, priests, gypsies, POWs, political opponents, etc.—who died in concentration camps, and the at least 60 million people who died during World War II.

There's a reason the name "Hitler" has become a euphemism for "evil." He deliberately destroyed Germany's democratic system, and used his power to try and create a continent filled only with what he called Aryans: white, straight, non-Jewish people of European descent. By any means necessary.

The one country whose position in the world he admired before the war was Great Britain. He saw the British Empire as a great example of white Europeans taking their rightful place as overlords of the lesser people of the world (source).

Still, Britain was the big prize he never won. Carried along by the blood, toil, tears, and sweat of Winston Churchill, Britain denied Hitler victory and turned the Thousand Year Reich into the Eleven-Year Reich.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...