20 April 1889 - 30 April 1945
Hitler Dead in Chancellery, Nazis Say
By The New York Times, May 2, 1945
Hitler Fought Way to Power Unique in Modern History; Bent Most of Europe to His Will by Manipulating Chaos That Was Aftermath of the First World War
Adolf Hitler, one-time Austrian vagabond who rose to be the dictator of Germany, "augmenter of the Reich" and the scourge of Europe, was, like Lenin and Mussolini, a product of the First World War. The same general circumstances, born of the titanic conflict, that carried Lenin, a bookish professional revolutionist, to the pinnacle of power in the Empire of the Czars and cleared the road to mastery for Mussolini in the Rome of the Caesars also paved the way for Hitler's domination in the former mighty Germany of the Hohenzollerns.
Like Lenin and Mussolini, Hitler came out of the blood and chaos of 1914-18, but of the three he was the strangest phenomenon. Lenin, while not know to the general public, had for many years before the Russian Revolution occupied a prominent place as leader and theoretician, of the Bolshevist party. Mussolini was a widely known Socialist editor, orator and politician before making his bid for power. Hitler was nothing, and from nothing he became everything to most Germans.
Lenin dreamed of world revolution. Mussolini thundered of the coming world victory of fascism. Hitler actually challenged the earth to combat by unleashing another war of nations. Emerging from the field in 1918 as an obscure lance corporal, he led Germany twenty-one years later as supreme Fuehrer and War Lord.
Subdued Many Nations
Before the climax of a career unparalleled in history, he had subdued nine nations, defied successfully and humiliated the greatest powers of Europe, and created a social and economic system founded upon the complete subjection of scores of millions to his will in all basic features of social, political, economic and cultural life.
Sixty-five million Germans yielded to the blandishments and magnetism of this slender man of medium height, with little black mustache and shock of dark hair, whose fervor and demagogy swept everything before him with outstretched arms as the savior and regenerator of the Fatherland.
Austria, with 7,000,000 inhabitants, succumbed helplessly to his invasion. More than 2,000,000 Germans in the Sudeten country were added to his domain when he threatened to invade Czechoslovakia, and 10,000,000 Czechs and Slovaks were tied to his chariot wheel, their nation stripped of its defenses, their State destroyed, while all of Central Europe trembled before what appeared to be the irresistible advance of the goose- stepping Nazi hordes of his adopted country.
For more than six years after his advent to power in January, 1933, there seemed to be no one who would dare to challenge Hitler's progress from victory to victory until he met resistance from Poland, backed by the Anglo-French alliance.
Shortly after his dismemberment and subjugation of Czechoslovakia Hitler was reported to have said, "My time is short." His blow against Poland and challenge to France and England less than a year later were taken as indications that he had determined deliberately to stake all he had achieved and all that he still yearned for--domination of Europe--upon one card, war, sensing, perhaps, that time was against him, that he had unleashed forces of hatred and opposition throughout the world that might eventually destroy him.
Series of Broken Promises
Those who had hoped that success at home and extension of his power abroad would make him more circumspect and reluctant to pursue the program of conquest he had outlined for himself in "Mein Kampf" and in his speeches had abandoned that hope when, in violation of his promise to respect the integrity of Czechoslovakia after Munich, he marched on Prague and reduced that nation to a German protectorate.
It was not the first promise he had broken. His whole course at home and abroad had been marked by broken promises and he did not hesitate to massacre many of his own closest adherents, as he did in the purge of June, 1934, when he personally directed the killing of Capt. Ernst Roehm and a group of leading Nazis who had ventured to interfere in his plans for a closer association of the Reichswehr with the regime and insisted upon fulfillment of the original Nazi party promises in the economic field.
The world-wide condemnation of his methods was fed by the system of terrorism he had established at home and in the countries he had conquered, the jailing of scores of thousands in prisons and concentration camps, the secret murder of opponents and those suspected of opposition, the ruthless destruction of the Jews and the persecution of the Catholic and Protestant Churches in his drive for nazification of the nation.
Churches Persecuted Under Nazis' Paganism; Pastor Niemoeller Pre-Eminent in Opposition
It was not long after his coming to power that the churches found themselves at war with Hitler and his regime when they discovered that what he aimed at was no less than the substitution of a pagan German god for Christ.
Some brave representatives of the churches defied Hitler when all others had been broken. Of these Pastor Niemoeller was pre-eminent. In his prison cell Niemoeller became the symbol of Christianity struggling to maintain its truth and identity against the Nazi State.
Mass Unrest His Springboard
The social, political and economic conditions, as they developed in post-war Germany, smarting painfully under humiliation and defeat and struggling for nearly fifteen years with internal dissension and mass unemployment, supplied the springboard for Hitler's leap to power in 1933. Having become disappointed in all other parties, a sufficient number of Germans had accepted the Nazis when the latter, by means of force and propaganda ingeniously directed by Hitler, had maneuvered themselves into a position from which they could strike for seizure of the Government.
But an understanding of Hitler's conduct both before and after his advent to power has been sought by students of the man in study of his youth and family history.
One of the most striking contradictions was the discrepancy between the magnetism he exercised over millions and the unprepossessing appearance of this champion of Aryan race purity. Professor Max von Gruber, noted German authority on race hygiene, gave the following description of Hitler when he met him for the first time at a political trial in a German court in 1923.
"Face and head, bad--mongrel. Low, receding forehead, unhandsome nose, broad cheekbones, small eyes, dark hair. Expression of the face not that of one commanding full self-control, but of one instantly excited. At the end--the expression of happy complacency.
Many who watched Hitler from the time when he first made his appearance on the political scene noticed his megalomania, his gambler's readiness to take risks, his habit of wild exaggeration and inability to grasp the full implications of things he said and did. It was this failure to measure the significance of his words and deeds that was considered responsible for the coolness he displayed at critical moments after violent outbursts of thought and temper, although on occasions he was reported to fall into tears and hysterics.
Propaganda a Basic Weapon
At the same time, however, he possessed an uncanny shrewdness in his estimate of the conduct and psychology of masses and individuals, and developed to a fine degree the art of swaying their emotions. The success he achieved in this field enhanced his contempt for the people, whom he called a "flock of sheep and blockheads," a "mixture of stupidity and cowardice." He was convinced that well-directed propaganda by a determined minority backed by force at the strategic moment, constituted a sure road to victory.
"By shrewd and constant application of propaganda, heaven can be presented to the people as hell and, vice versa, the wretchedest existence as a paradise," he wrote in "Mein Kampf."
This contempt for the people and his unbounded capacity for hatred, which found expression in his merciless treatment of opponents and persecution of the Jews, according to psychologists who have studied the man's career closely, emanated in Hitler from the poverty, wretchedness and frustrations of his youth.
Birth and Youth
Hitler was born in an inn at Braynau, Austria, close to the German frontier, April 20, 1889. His father was Alois Schickelgruber, the illegitimate son of Alois Hitler. The future Fuehrer's parent was originally a peasant, but later entered the Austrian customs service. He was married three times, his third wife, who was also his niece and ward, being twenty years younger than her husband. She was the future dictator's mother.
Seven children were born of the three marriages contracted by Hitler's father, who died of pulmonary hemorrhage at the age of 66. His three wives died of weak chests. Two of Hitler's brothers and a sister died in childhood. A niece of the Fuehrer committed suicide. A half-brother had no progeny. The German dictator himself never married. At the age of 16 he suffered from lung trouble. On his mother's side there were several eccentrics in the family. In general, the family showed definite tendencies to illness and mental instability.
German Adherent From Youth
Unlike his father, who was a fervent supporter of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and wanted his son to follow him in the Government service, Adolf Hitler was from early youth a strong adherent of Germany. He was convinced that it was the historic mission of the Germans to rule the Austrians and the complex of races inhabiting Franz Josef's land.
Hitler had no love for his father and resented his insistence that he prepare himself for the Government service. Not venturing to defy his father openly, he adopted a policy of passive resistance by idling away his time at school. At the age of 14, after his father's death, Hitler went to live with his mother at Linz. There he stayed until he was 19, pampered by his mother, who catered to his habit of idling.
Upon her death he found himself alone and friendless, without any means of earning a living and quite unprepared for the battle of life. He had been a failure at school and was unable to pass examinations. While his parents were still alive Hitler had gone for a short time to Munich, where he had taken some courses in drawing. With his mother's passing he betook himself to Vienna, where he applied for admission to the Academy of Arts. He thought of becoming an architect. The few drawings he presented to the director were so mediocre, however, that his application was denied for lack of qualification.
From 1909 to the outbreak of the First World War, Hitler led a wretched existence. For a while he lived in a Vienna "flophouse," among beggars and vagabonds. He spent nights on park benches, harassed by the police. He was an outcast among outcasts, eating at a monastery soup kitchen. This existence continued for three years, during which he managed to earn a precarious living by painting picture postcards for tradesmen and doing minor carpenter work.
Nevertheless, he considered himself to be an artist of talent and hated the world for not according him recognition. He spent his leisure hours day-dreaming and brooding over his frustration. He himself admitted in his autobiography that up to his twenty-fifth year he was what is known as a good-for-nothing, a spoiled idler. Moved by a sensitive ego, a restless spirit and a quick mind, he yearned passionately to make an impression, to gain recognition, to attain to great achievements, to know everything, to attract attention, to master the world.
Politics His Ruling Passion
His greatest passion was for politics. A shy and beaten youth, Hitler would become transformed as soon as conversation turned on matters political. His tongue would loosen and a torrent of words would rush from his lips. In those days before the First World War Hitler never formed friendships, male or female. He never communicated with his family, who thought him dead. Jeered at by acquaintances, he wept.
The one thing that gave him hope and courage was the disintegration of the Austro- Hungarian Empire, which he foresaw, and evidences of which had become apparent to many long before the war. Considering himself a German, he felt superior to those around him. For the Slavs of the empire he felt contempt. For the Jews he felt hatred. As for the workers, he believed them to be not much better. This feeling he expressed to Otto Strasser, one of his early collaborators in the Nazi movement, in 1930, when he said:
"The workers, they want nothing but bread and games. In the great mass they are not worth consideration. We must build a master class from elements of a better race."
And it was he who would build that master class and lead it! In addition to dividing mankind into inferior and superior races, he divided it also into inferior and superior human beings. He stood out in his classification as the superman.
Long before he had dreamed of achieving power he had developed the principles that nations were destined to hate, oppose and destroy one another; that the law of history was the struggle for survival between peoples; that the Germans were chosen by destiny to rule over others, and that the great mass of the people were mediocrities immersed in a low materialism and destined to be dominated by a higher social type. The Jews he regarded as particularly inferior and a danger to all other peoples.
Violated His Party's Own Basic Principles Governing Society, Economics and 'Race'
These, it may be said, were the only principles to which Hitler remained true, for he violated the basic principles of the Nazi economic and social program, threw overboard the principle, so often proclaimed by him as Nazi party leader and Fuehrer, that what he desired was the union of all Germans and not the incorporation of other races in the Reich, and abandoned, temporarily, as a tactical maneuver his repeatedly proclaimed unalterable opposition to bolshevism, with which he consummated a treaty of non- aggression in the midst of the Polish crisis of August, 1939.
Hitler left Vienna in 1913 for Munich, where he supported himself by doing odd jobs as a painter and barely managed to earn his keep. He shared a room with a Viennese engineer, but had no real friends and no contacts with women. Those who came in contact with him were struck by his passion for politics and political wrangles. He drifted, unable to find regular employment of the kind his father had wanted him to have. Hitler himself disclosed later his father's prediction that no good would ever come of his son. He was poor, miserable and hopeless.
World War I. War Came as a Deliverance
Then came the war. It lifted Hitler from obscurity into a state of exaltation.
"To me those hours were like a deliverance," Hitler wrote of the outbreak of the war in "Mein Kampf." "I am not ashamed to say that, overcome by a storm of enthusiasm, I fell on my knees and thanked Heaven from an overflowing heart."
A year before, in Salzburg, the Austrian doctors had rejected him for military service because of physical weakness. He now volunteered for the German Army, and, when accepted, felt a sense of power and of great things to come. At the front, where he served as a dispatch carrier, he was friendless. No one wrote to him. No one sent him parcels. His services were recognized by his superiors, however, and he was rewarded with the Iron Cross.
Regarded as an eccentric by his comrades, he replied once, "You will hear much of me some day." Because his superiors did not take him seriously he was not advanced beyond the rank of lance corporal. He was gassed, and the end of the war found him in a hospital in Passewalk, Pomerania. He viewed with pain the collapse of the German Empire. His hour had not yet struck, but, enraged at the revolution and the revolutionists, bitter at the Kaiser and Field Marshal von Hindenburg because of their failure to suppress the revolution, he felt that his day would come. His confidence in himself was as great as his sense of frustration.
After the war Hitler did not return to civilian life. Though officially demobilized, he remained in the service of the Reichswehr. His work was in the political intelligence division. In those days the Reichswehr had already begun to dream of revenge. In addition to the illegal groups maintained inside the Reichswehr conspiring for the overthrow of the German Republic and planning for a military resurgence of the country, many officers and former officers attached themselves to various conspiratory "free corps" organizations formed for political purposes and the spreading of terrorism.
Some of these organizations helped stage revolts or "Putsches" against the Government, the most notable of which was the monarchist Kapp "Putsch" of August, 1920, when the insurgents captured Berlin, but were compelled to yield by a general strike proclaimed by the Ebert Government. These "free corps" organizations were financed by some industrialists, who likewise sought to undermine the Government and thwart the work of the Interallied Military Commission established in Germany to keep her disarmed, in accordance with the provisions of the Versailles treaty.
1919. A Spy for Conspirators Against Republic; Joined 'German Labor Party' Band in 1919
Hitler acted as an intelligence officer or spy for these "free corps" bands. He established relations with influential military circles both inside and outside the Reichswehr. When the latter suppressed the Communist regime in Bavaria in 1919, Hitler furnished information that led to the execution of many Communists and Socialists. The activities of the militarist insurgents led, among other things, to assassination of republican leaders, notably the killings of Erzberger and Rathenau.
In 1919 Hitler was assigned to the task of keeping an eye on a little band calling itself the German Labor party. Hitler joined this group and was followed soon thereafter by several hundred officers and former officers whom Ernst Roehm, at that time a captain on the staff of the Military governor of Bavaria, had instructed to become members of the organization. This little party developed ultimately into the German National Socialist party, the organization forged by Hitler as the instrument for the achievement of power.
Among the men Hitler met when he joined the German Labor party was Dietrich Eckhart, a journalist, from whom he obtained the basic principles of the ideology later adopted by the Nazis. Eckhart died in 1923. Others whom Hitler met as members of the German Labor party were Rudolph Hess, who later became Deputy Fuehrer, and who was named second by Hitler in the line of succession to supreme power upon the outbreak of hostilities with Poland in 1939, and Alfred Rosenberg, another of those who subsequently played a leading role in the Nazi regime as ideologist and theoretician. Hess flew to England in 1941, presumable on a "peace mission," and remained there a prisoner.
Roehm also was a member of the organization. Altogether, there were only six men in the German Labor party before Hitler joined it. These half dozen men, with Hitler in the lead, were the group that prepared the second world catastrophe of our time.
By force of eloquence, ruthless methods and daring of ideas, Hitler forged ahead in the movement founded by the little band. He went about making speeches bewailing the wrongs done to Germany, appealing to audiences and stirring them with the promise of new power and greatness to come.
The extremism of his utterances and promises made little impression at first. The poor lance corporal was treated as a circus performer. People laughed at him and his dreams. Germany lay crushed and prostrate after her defeat in a four-year war. Poverty and misery were abroad in the land. It seemed as if many decades would have to pass before the nation could pull itself together on the basis of a new order. But Hitler persevered.
Strategy Formula Simple
His strategy was based on a simple principle: to obtain the support of powerful and influential elements in the army, industry and finance and to buttress that with support among the masses. He addressed himself first to the middle classes, ruined by inflation, and managed to obtain some assistance from elements among the workers disappointed in the revolution.
To the middle classes he promised relief from what he called the tyranny of big business, particularly the department stores, with which small tradesmen found it difficult to compete. He promised them that when in power he would dissolve the department stores and abolish all interest. To the workers he promised dissolution of the trusts. Neither of these promises was kept.
Added to his economic program, designed to appeal to the ruined middle-class elements, he put forward his slogans of extreme nationalism and racism--the union of all Germans on the basis of self-determination in a greater Germany. It was not until 1928 that he came forward with a program for the farmers, who had become rich during the war on high prices resulting from the blockade. In 1932, when mass unemployment assumed unprecedented proportions in Germany, he promised work for all the unemployed.
Stubbornly, persistently, Hitler toiled at the task of building his movement. Believing the mission of national and social regeneration was to be realized by what he called a vigorous minority, a desperate elite, he gathered around him a group of intellectuals, officers, former officers, penurious students and ambitious youths without prospects in the Germany of that time.
All these were in the main men of humble origin who had gone through the war and found themselves socially shipwrecked when it was over. Like Hitler, they were ready for anything. They had nothing to lose and felt they had everything to gain if only they could grasp the instruments of power. Like Hitler, they were impelled in their thoughts and actions by a superiority complex, the satisfaction of which became the propelling ambition of their being. Like Hitler, they identified the regeneration of Germany with the realization of their dream.
They declared war on the republic, on the Versailles Treaty, on the Communists, whose methods of professional revolutionists, of propaganda and of force, they made their own. As Goebbels, who was to become Hitler's Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment, explained it in later years, "Propaganda should not be decent--it should be effective," and "We fight with Marxist methods, but we shall do things better than the Marxists."
Munich Beer-Cellar Putsch of 1923 Failed; Imprisoned for Treason, He Was Soon Freed
In line with this conception, there was a distinct class element in the organization Hitler set up in those early years of his activity. All the officers and leaders were below the rank of major and captain. Army generals, active and retired, regarded him with suspicion because of his lowly origin and demagogic appeals to the middle classes. They joined him openly after he had made an impression and showed that his chances of success were not to be minimized.
It was this distinction that was primarily responsible for the failure of Hitler's first "Putsch" on Nov. 8 and 9, 1923, in Munich, known as "the beer-cellar Putsch." Believing his "Tag" had arrived, Hitler forced his way into an assembly of high-ranking Bavarian generals, Ministers, Government officials and politicians in the rathskeller of the Munich City Hall on the evening of Nov. 8 and, brandishing a revolver, fired a shot into the air, announcing that his revolution had begun. He called for a march on Berlin and pleaded with those present to give him their blessing. They were taken aback by this sudden move, for while they had pretended to encourage Hitler they knew that the time for action was not ripe and had made him promise that he would do nothing reckless, and would not use violence that might endanger their own positions.
His action was a violation of his promise. But his men were outside, and, yielding to the importunities of General Ludendorff, who was among those present and with whom Hitler had made a working agreement, the Bavarian militarists and reactionaries, headed by von Kahr, Minister-President, and General von Lossow, Chief of the Bavarian Army, pretended to give their assent. The army and State officials returned to their offices and promptly proclaimed Hitler a traitor to the State.
There followed a skirmish next day in the center of the city between several thousand of Hitler's followers and the police, backed by Lossow's troops. Hitler was leading his men, waving his revolver, with Ludendorff beside him. Confident that the police would not fire upon seeing Ludendorff, Hitler marched on. But the police fired nevertheless. The thousands of Nazis scattered in all directions, with Ludendorff alone marching forward defiantly. He was arrested. Goering, who was also in the van, was wounded, but escaped and later fled the country. Hitler fell to the ground.
Testimony at the trial that followed the affair was almost unanimous that Hitler was the first man to get up and run for cover. He dashed toward his automobile and fled. He was caught, however, and tried for treason. The sentence was five years' imprisonment in a fortress. He served only a few months and was paroled, returning to political activity.
Rebuilt Power After Defeat
After the fiasco of the Munich "Putsch" it seemed as if Hitler's cause was irretrievably lost. Throughout the country he was the butt of ridicule. The Government and its supporters felt he could no longer be a danger and that there was no use making a martyr of him by keeping him in prison or taking special measures. For some time Hitler appeared to go into retirement. He was at work on "Mein Kampf," begun in prison, but at the same time continued quietly at the task of rebuilding his shattered group and developing the foundations for his mass movement.
Within the next seven years he obtained a huge following, which came to number 3,000,000. It was built along military lines, with army corps, regiments and companies. The men wore uniforms and were subject to strict military discipline. This army consisted of the Storm Troops, who wore brown shirts, and the Black Guards, representing more carefully picked formations, wearing black shirts. These troops acted as the Hitler police at public meetings and demonstrations, attacked Jews in the streets of Munich, broke up meetings of the opposition, staged street brawls with Communists and republicans, beat up leaders of other parties and, in general, conducted a reign of terror with which the authorities found it increasingly difficult to cope, in proportion as the political aspect of the Nazi movement gathered strength.
The nation was thrown into a state of veritable civil war. The Socialists and Democrats took counter-measures by forming their semi-military Reichsbanner, while the Communists, fighting the Socialists and the republicans, organized their Red-Front Fighters League. The authorities in Bavaria, Thuringia and other German States openly sided with the Hitlerites and facilitated their work. Soon the authorities in Prussia began to find it more and more difficult to cope with them. Thus the movement gathered force as the final showdown was approaching.
Powerful Elements Allied
The same methods that Hitler subsequently used against other nations--intimidation, violent and abusive propaganda, coercion and terror--were applied by the Nazis to their political opponents in Germany. With increased support from the army and industrialists, a gigantic propaganda machine was set up, which, backed by millions of throats, blared wild accusations in an unending stream against the Government and leaders of other parties.
Men like Gustav Stresemann, to say nothing of Socialists and Democrats, were denounced as traitors and held up to public ignominy. Their lives were in constant danger. An atmosphere of disorder was created with the intent of feeding popular demand for a "strong hand." All this was staged with tremendous dramatic effect by the able propaganda organization directed by Dr. Joseph Goebbels.
In the meantime, through Captain Roehm, Hitler strengthened his ties with the Reichswehr, which came to realize more and more that he could not be resisted without offending those millions of the population upon whom the Reichswehr itself, seeking the rearmament of Germany, had to depend. With a positive genius for political strategy of the kind necessary for his triumph, Hitler cemented the structure of his movement by amalgamating the support of the most powerful elements, the army and industrialists, with the enthusiasm and blind approval of his masses.
Reich Army Generals Became His Captives; His Political Power Increased After 1930
Already in those days, five years before his advent to power, the army generals had become his prisoners. Those who, like General von Schleicher, later attempted to withdraw to an independent policy, paid for it with their lives or with oblivion. But great as were his successes in the years after the Munich putsch, it was not until 1930 that Hitler emerged definitely as a mighty political power in Germany. As late as 1928, in the Reichstag elections of that year, Hitler was able to obtain only twelve seats. But in the elections held in the fall of 1930 he received 6,000,000 votes and captured 107 seats.
It was one of the greatest upsets in the turbulent history of the struggling German Republic. By this time Hitler had become the veritable idol not only of the active Nazi party members but of the masses who cast their ballots for him.
The factor that gave his movement this great impetus was the economic crisis that broke over the world in 1929 and struck Germany with particular severity. Nearly 7,000,000 unemployed, added to the millions of impoverished middle-class people and the hundreds of thousands of professionals and jobless intellectuals, provided a setting made to order for Hitler.
Crisis Spurred Extremism
The crisis fed with unprecedented force the extremist elements on the right and on the left. The armies of Hitlerism and communism grew to proportions that made it increasingly difficult for the democratic republic to function. While professing uncompromising hostility to each other, the extreme Red and Brown elements cooperated in the Reichstag, the Prussian Diet and other provincial Legislatures in undermining the power and stability of republican institutions. In 1932 the Hitlerites and Communists worked together in staging a great transportation strike in Berlin.
Electoral Victory Followed by Careful Steps To Consolidate His Position With Military
After his electoral victory of 1930 Hitler moved to consolidate his position with the Reichswehr. Appearing as a witness at a trial of three Reichswehr officers for furthering a fascist plot in the army, Hitler made his famous declaration in which he flattered the army and promised that when his party attained power the "November criminals," those who made the German revolution and set up the Weimar Republic, would be exterminated, and that "heads would roll." In his testimony Hitler paid tribute to monarchist Germany, thus lulling the monarchists and their army generals into the belief that he planned to restore the old imperial order.
Meanwhile, the government of Chancellor Heinrich Bruening, a Centrist leader, was fighting desperately to stem the tide of economic and political dissolution. For many months Bruening was ruling by decree based upon emergency laws hastily passed by the Reichstag. Social services were radically curtailed, taxes were raised to a degree never known before, and popular discontent continued to mount in ever more threatening degree.
There was talk of Hitler's being taken into the Government, but he persistently refused, saying he would not rule unless he was able to command all authority. At the same time, however, he declared that he would attain that power by "legal" means only, that he had no intention of carrying out a coup d'etat.
In 1931 Hitler was received by President von Hindenburg for the first time. Until that moment the aged President had steadfastly refused to meet the man whom he regarded as an "upstart." Hitler took good advantage of that interview. He appeared to have won the President's confidence by speaking enthusiastically of the army and expressing his profound interest in its welfare, while pledging fealty to the aged executive. The "old man" was moved and subsequently tried to bring about some basis of unity between Hitler and Bruening, against whom the Nazis had been waging a vitriolic campaign.
Hitler Against Hindenburg
The situation became more acute when Hitler, despite his flattering of Hindenburg, who, he had hoped in vain, would call him to the Chancellorship, announced his own candidacy for the Presidency in the spring of 1932. In that campaign he intensified his agitation against the republic, the Versailles Treaty and the Government's fulfillment policy.
The whole world saw in the campaign a life-and-death struggle between the Nazis and the republic, as, indeed, it was. Hindenburg, running for a third term, emerged victorious, with 19,000,000 votes against 13,000,000 for Hitler. At the same time, however, Hitler registered his greatest electoral triumph from the point of view of votes received. From then on he was, indeed, a power not to be ignored.
The Bruening Cabinet fell shortly after the Presidential election and in the consequent Reichstag elections of July 31, 1932, the Nazis increased the number of their seats to 229, becoming the largest single political party. Twice before the end of the year Hitler demanded the Chancellorship, and each time Hindenburg refused. Hindenburg offered him a Cabinet post in a reconstituted Government but that was not enough for him. He was biding his time for the final blow at the republic. "The Chancellorship or nothing!" he demanded.
With the Reichstag unable to form a new Government because of the multiplicity of warring parties and the impossibility of agreeing on a coalition, it was again dissolved and new elections were called for Nov. 6, 1932. In that election the Hitlerites lost 2,000,000 votes, and it appeared as if the Nazi tide were receding.
What followed was a series of intrigues behind the scenes that ultimately landed Hitler in the Chancellorship. Bruening resigned and Franz von Papen, a Catholic and a diplomat remembered in the United States for his espionage and sabotage work during the First World War, was appointed in his place. Von Papen's Ministry was known as "the Cabinet of monocles." It had no basis of support in the Reichstag or in the population and was obviously a stop-gap.
General von Schleicher, army chief, fearing a union of the Hitlerites and Communists, against whom the army would be unable to stand, forced von Papen's resignation and himself assumed the Chancellorship. Von Schleicher's was "the second Cabinet of monocles." Powerful elements in the army and around von Papen, bent on helping Hitler to the Chancellorship, refused to support von Schleicher, however, who thereupon demanded another dissolution of the Reichstag and a general election. Hindenburg refused, and on the advice of his son, Oskar, and General von Blomberg, who subsequently became Minister of War in Hitler's government, called Hitler to Schleicher's place. This was on Jan. 30, 1933.
Hitler's goal was attained
Upon calling Hitler to the Chancellorship, Hindenburg instructed him to form a coalition Government with other parties of the right. He was to observe the Constitution and rule only with the consent of the Reichstag. Hitler accepted these terms, with the proviso that new Reichstag elections were to be called so he might once more seek the approval of the electorate. Hindenburg was pleased by this ostensible desire of Hitler to seek the support of the majority. In fact, he was delighted.
The Reichstag was dissolved and in the campaign that ensued the Nazis unleashed a flood of propaganda eclipsing anything that had gone before. With the machinery of Government in their hands and in command of the National Treasury, with the prestige of authority behind them, the Nazis were able to terrorize the electorate and so cripple the campaign activities of other parties as to command the advantage.
In vain did the Nationalists, headed by Hugenberg, who suspected what was coming, object to the dissolution of the Reichstag and the calling of a new election. Having helped Hitler to power, they now saw themselves completely outmaneuvered by the Nazi chieftain.
The Burning of the Reichstag
One of the most shocking events in the history of the Nazi regime came on the evening of Feb. 27, 1933, a week before the elections. On that evening the Reichstag building suddenly went up in flames. Part of the building collapsed. The fire, it was determined, was of incendiary origin, for a great deal of inflammable material was used to start the conflagration. Hitler announced that Communists were the incendiaries, while Goering proclaimed that documentary material to prove this charge would soon be made public.
The burning of the Reichstag produced a profound impression. Masses of people believed the Communists were actually responsible. More than ever they looked to Hitler as the savior of the nation, and, indeed, in the elections a week later he won his greatest victory, but with only 43 percent of the votes cast.
Later, at a trial conducted by the Nazi Government itself, a group of Communists accused of starting the fire were acquitted. Among them were the German Communist leader, Torgler, and the Bulgarian Communist, Dimitroff. The latter subsequently became the general secretary of the Communist International. The only man convicted was Marinus van der Lubbe, a former Dutch Communist of distinctly queer mind, who was supposed to have been found in the Reichstag Building at the time of the fire.
Widespread belief in Germany and abroad, on the basis of extensive investigation, was that the Hitlerites themselves set fire to the Reichstag, with van der Lubbe as their tool, to enhance their chances in the election.
After the election Hitler proceeded at full steam toward establishment of his dictatorship. Decrees issued by him and Goering, who was Minister-President for Prussia, vested the Government with dictatorial power. All Communist members of the Reichstag were ordered arrested, as were many Social Democrats. They were thus prevented from attending the Reichstag session called for March 23. Bills were introduced affirming and extending the Government's absolute authority.
Storm Troopers, displaying pistols, were stationed in the Reichstag, meeting now in the Kroll Opera House, filling the aisles between the members' benches. "Choose between peace and war!" shouted Hitler to the terrorized representatives of the people as he demanded passage of the bills.
The Social Democrats alone voted in the negative, but Hitler had his majority. He was now the "legal" dictator of Germany. On June 27 he threw Hugenberg, leader of the Conservatives, out of the Government and the Nazis ruled supreme. Ostensibly, the dictatorial power wrested by Hitler from the Reichstag was for four years, until April 1, 1937, but actually it meant the end of democracy in Germany.
On March 12, 1933, President von Hindenburg decreed that the Nazi swastika, Hitler's party emblem, should be incorporated in the black-white-red ensign as part of the official flag of Germany.
With supreme power in his hands and millions of Storm Troopers ruling the country like an army of occupation, Hitler then proceeded to destroy the last vestiges of opposition. He abolished the Socialist, Communist and Democratic parties, smashed the trade unions, suppressed the entire opposition press, drove all Republicans from Government and civil service positions, filling all available posts with his party friends and supporters.
Even the Nationalist party, the party of the conservative Junkers and industrialists, was dissolved, while the Centrist party, the great party of German Catholics, announced its own "voluntary dissolution."
Arrests and Terror Established Control; Unity of Nazi Party and State Was Decreed
There were mass arrests of Socialists, Communists, liberals, Catholics and others, many of whom were taken to concentration camps, where they were severely beaten and maltreated in brutal fashion. Some of the leading statesmen and labor chieftains of Germany were among the prisoners. Many were murdered by prison guards and Storm Troopers.
At the same time a wave of anti-Semitic outrages spread all over the country. Decrees depriving Jews of civil rights, of property and the right to work in various professions were issued. These found expression later in even severer form in the Nuremberg laws.
On April 1, 1933, the Nazis carried out a one-day boycott on Jewish shops and stores, placing guards in front of the establishments and keeping customers from entering. Jews were degraded to an inferior position in German society and virtually deprived of opportunity for existence. Throughout the world, Jews, supported by Gentiles, countered with an economic boycott against Germany. This failed, however, to abate Hitler's merciless campaign.
One of the most shocking episodes of the early period of the Hitler regime was the burning of the books of outstanding German and foreign authors. The books consigned to funeral pyres in the streets and public squares of Berlin and other leading cities represented the scientific, artistic and liberal heritage of the ages. Their burning was supposed to symbolize the break between the new Nazi Germany and what the Nazis characterized as the "shameful" past. The spectacle served to emphasize the divorce of Nazi Germany from Western culture and civilization.
On Dec. 1, 1933, a decree proclaimed the "unity of the Nazi party and the State." By this decree Hitler meant that all labor organizations, youth organizations, universities, schools, parties and individuals had lost their identity and were merged, so far as the Nazis were concerned, in the State.
But despite the great power already wielded by him, his position was not yet entirely secure, not even in his own party, where the so-called left wing, led by Captain Roehm, was manifesting dissatisfaction over Hitler's inclination to seek coordination of the State with the army as against the Storm Troopers, who regarded themselves as the real force that carried the Nazi party to victory. Around Captain Roehm, who at one time aspired to supreme leadership of the party, had gathered also Nazi elements disappointed in Hitler's failure to make good on his economic policies, policies akin to bolshevism, and his inclination to play politics with the big trusts and industrialists, against whom he had raged in the days when he was denouncing "capitalism" in efforts to gain the ear of the workers.
Fearing a revolt of the Storm Troopers, or rather of that group under Roehm that threatened a breach between the Reichswehr and the Government, Hitler announced in June, 1934, that the Storm Troop organizations would take a vacation for a month beginning July 1. During that period it was intended to disband those formations considered unreliable and reorganize the entire Brownshirt army. This met resistance and Roehm demanded a showdown.
On June 30 and the following day Roehm received it. Under Hitler's personal direction Roehm and his associates were murdered. Among the victims of the "purge" was also General von Schleicher.
In a Reichstag speech on July 13, Hitler sought to justify the purge as punishment for revolt against his authority and declared that the welfare of the German people required drastic action. He said the number killed was seventy-seven, but other sources declared it exceeded 1,000.
Scarcely had the consternation caused by these executions died down when the nation was treated to another surprise. On Aug. 2, 1934, President von Hindenburg died on his estate at Neudeck, Prussia. He had been ill for some time. Within a space of a few hours, Hitler announced that he had taken over the powers of President in addition to those of Chancellor, thereby vesting himself autocratic authority never wielded by any German ruler. He proclaimed himself Fuehrer and ordered a plebiscite for approval of the consolidation of the powers of the President and Chancellor under that title. The plebiscite was held on Aug. 19. The approval vote was overwhelming.
From that moment Hitler embarked upon his bold program in the domain of internal and foreign affairs, a program that led to the mass rearmament of Germany, making her once more a great military power, reoccupation and militarization of the Rhineland, the annexation of Austria, the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the seizure of Memel, Danzig and the Polish Corridor, the destruction of Poland, seizure of Denmark and Norway, the conquest of Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and the Balkans, the invasion of Russia, and the long domination of the European Continent by Nazi Germany.
It all ended, however, in the confirmation of Napoleon's dictum: "Empires die of indigestion."
With the fall of Hitler's empire under the blows of Allied arms Germany fell to the lowest estate experienced by any nation in modern times. That was Hitler's contribution to the history of the "master race."
Broken Promises Fill Hitler Record. Pledges Repeatedly Flouted as Fuehrer Pursued His Career of Conquest
Hitler's record of broken promises stands out as one of the conspicuous features of his career.
When he first came into power the question of most immediate concern to Europe was that of the Saar Basin, the part of Germany held by France and administered by the League of Nations in accordance with the Versailles Treaty for fifteen years. After that period the people of the Saar were to vote on whether they desired to return to Germany, become part of France or remain under the League.
Speaking in the Reichstag on Jan. 30, 1934, on the Saar issue, which was becoming acute because of the approaching plebiscite, Hitler said:
"After the solution of this question, the German Government is willing and determined to accept in its innermost soul, as well as external formulation, the Pact of Locarno."
March Into Rhineland
On March 1, 1935, after the plebiscite, in which Germany received more than 90 per cent of the votes, sovereignty over the region was returned to Germany. One year later German troops marched into the Rhineland zone created by the Treaty of Versailles and guaranteed against remilitarization by the Locarno pact entered into voluntarily by Germany in 1925.
To reassure Europe as to his purpose in marching into the Rhineland, Hitler declared:
"I have removed the question of the everlasting European revision of frontiers from the atmosphere of public discussion in Germany."
He gave this assurance in a speech in the Reichstag: "After three years I believe I can today regard the struggle for German equality as over. We have no territorial demands to make in Europe."
Speaking again in the Reichstag, this time on the Austrian question, on May 21, 1935, Hitler said:
"Germany has neither the wish nor the intention to mix in internal Austrian affairs or to annex or unite with Austria."
On Jan. 30, 1937, he buttressed this promise by saying: "With this declaration I wish to announce that the era of so-called surprises has been concluded."
Within a little more than a year after these declarations Hitler marched into Austria and incorporated the country in the German Reich.
A week after German troops had driven into Austria Hitler declared: "The eternal dream of the German people has been fulfilled. Germany wants only peace. She does not want to add to the sorrows of other nations."
Conquest After Conquest
The conquest of Austria was barely two months old when Hitler raised the question of Czechoslovakia by mobilizing and threatening to invade her. On that occasion the Czechs countered with their own mobilization, and Hitler appeared to hold back his blow. But in September, 1938, he raised the question of the annexation of the Sudeten country to Germany, after instigating, as he had in Austria, a state of civil war in that region as an excuse for intervention.
This crisis ended in the Munich pact of Sept. 30, 1938, by which Germany obtained the Sudeten and other German regions of Czechoslovakia.
Referring to a speech made by Hitler in Berlin after he had gone to see him at Berchtesgaden, the visit that led to the Munich pact, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said:
"He told me privately, and last night he repeated publicly, that after the Sudeten German question is settled, that is the end of Germany's territorial claims in Europe."
Less than six months after these words were spoken, Hitler marched his troops into Czechoslovakia and reduced the entire country to a German protectorate.
On Jan. 26, 1934, Hitler concluded a ten-year non-aggression treaty with Poland. Under that pact war was absolutely excluded as a means of solving any questions that might arise between the two countries and both nations pledged themselves to maintain the status quo as between the two.
On April 28, 1939, following an address foreshadowing the action, Hitler sent a note to Poland abrogating the treaty and making demands that led on Sept. 1, 1939, to the march of German troops into Poland and the unleashing of the Second World War. At the time of the abrogation of the treaty with Poland Hitler also informed Great Britain that the naval treaty he had concluded with her on June 13, 1935, limiting the German navy to 35 per cent of the British, was null and void. The treaty provided for no such unilateral action. Hitler's sudden invasion of Russia in June, 1941, in violation of his pact with Stalin, was another breach of faith, one that cost him dearly.
Hitler Heartened by Deal in Munich. Sudeten Grab Strengthened Illusion He Could Act With Entire Impunity
The fortnight ending with the cession of the Sudeten region to Germany, at the end of September, 1938, and marking the prelude to the destruction of the Czechoslovak State, gave Europe the most acute crisis it has experienced up to that time since the end of the First World War. Encouraged by his triumph over France and England in the Sudeten dispute, Hitler occupied the whole of Czechoslovakia less than six months later and began almost immediately to prepare for the showdown with Poland. The latter development brought him into armed conflict with the Western democracies and, ultimately, with the United States.
The Sudeten crisis was preceded by months of violent agitation by the Sudeten Nazis, under the leadership of Konrad Henlein. Originally the Henleinists demanded only autonomy with the Czechoslovak State. Gradually, however, under incitement from Berlin, they expanded their demands to a scope which made agreement with Prague extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Moved by the desire to facilitate a settlement in the hope of preventing a European war, for which the great democracies were unprepared, Great Britain dispatched Lord Runciman to Czechoslovakia with instructions to bring about an adjustment that would avert German armed intervention. He labored in vain for many weeks. Finally, it appeared that the Henleinists were determined to reject any plan of settlement except direct annexation of the Sudeten country to Germany. After fanning their agitation and disorders to the point of civil war, Henleinists informed Lord Runciman that the Sudeten question was no longer an internal one for Czechoslovakia.
Hitler Talks Self-Determination
At the same time, in an address at Nuremberg, Hitler frankly raised the question of "self- determination" for the Sudetens. It became clear that the conflict was one between Czechoslovakia and Germany. The situation reached a climax on Sept. 14, when the concentration of German troops on the Czech frontier made Hitler's invasion appear a matter of hours.
In a move unprecedented in British diplomacy, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain rushed by airplane to Berchtesgaden for a conversation with Hitler in an effort to avert a military invasion of Czechoslovakia and the embroilment of England and France in war with Germany. Upon his return to London Mr. Chamberlain reported to the House of Commons that he had no doubt that "my visit alone prevented an invasion for which everything had been prepared." It appeared that the sole hope of averting a conflict that threatened to engulf Europe consisted in giving Hitler what he demanded, the incorporation of the Sudeten country into Germany.
A plan for effecting this transfer was then worked out by French and British experts, delimiting the new frontier. With this plan, to which Czechoslovakia was compelled to assent, Mr. Chamberlain returned to Germany. He again met Hitler, this time at Godesberg. To Mr. Chamberlain's surprise, Hitler was not satisfied with the plan of settlement. He simply handed to the Prime Minister a map indicating the territory he proposed to occupy beyond the confines embodied in the plan agreed to by the French and the British, together with a memorandum, which Mr. Chamberlain characterized as an ultimatum, announcing Hitler's intention to march into Czechoslovakia on Oct. 1. Nor was Hitler willing to agree to a guarantee of the integrity of the remaining parts of Czechoslovakia.
The last phase of the crisis followed quickly. It ended in Munich. Hitler got what he wanted, and in some sections of the territory in dispute even more. On Sept. 29 an agreement was signed ending the crisis. Within the next few days, marching in accordance with the conditions agreed upon at Munich, German armies occupied the Sudeten country and such other strips of territory as had been ceded by the Czechs. Shocked by these developments, the world sat back to see whether peace actually had been saved. One immediate consequence of Munich was the resignation of the Czechoslovak Government, including President Eduard Benes. A new Government took over. The rest of the world hoped that within its narrower territorial confines Czechoslovakia would find it possible to live in peace.
A New Crisis Follows
But a new crisis soon made itself manifest. It came from Slovakia, where the Hlinka party and Hlinka Guards, similar to Nazi Storm Troopers, agitated continually for autonomy, a demand which soon was extended to independence. German agents, active among the Slovaks, did their best to fan these sentiments, until finally, early in March, 1939, the Prague Government took steps to crush the Slovak movement. Slovak Premier Tiso, a tool of Germany, appealed to Hitler. Events then followed rapidly.
On March 12 anti-Czech demonstrations, provoked by German agents, broke out at Bratislava, Slovak capital. Simultaneously the German press and radio unleashed the usual blares of denunciation against the Czechs. Then Dr. Tiso, who meanwhile had been driven from office by the Czechs, took a plane for Berlin. He was received with full military honors. He conferred with Hitler. German troops were ordered to the Czech border.
On March 13, after a demand served upon him by Hitler, President Hacha of Czechoslovakia summoned a meeting of the Slovak diet, assembled at Bratislava. The diet proclaimed the independence of Slovakia. Tiso became President. The Slovaks learned in astonishment that they were no longer part of Czechoslovakia. Hungary moved up into the Carpatho-Ukraine.
On March 14, on command from Berlin, President Hacha and Dr. Frantisek Chvalkovsky, Foreign Minister, arrived in Hitler's capital. They met with Hitler for three hours. There followed a communique declaring that President Hacha had "trustfully laid the fate of the Czech people and country into the hands of the Fuehrer of the German Reich."
Already German troops were across the border, marching into Bohemia on the excuse of restoring "order." The Czechs submitted under threat of aerial bombardment of Prague. Hitler proclaimed that Czechoslovakia "has ceased to exist." On the morning of the same day the German troops arrived in Prague, greeted with jeers from the populace. With them came the Gestapo. German clerks took over the National Bank. In the late afternoon Hitler himself arrived in the Czech capital to sleep in the Hradschin Castle, seat of the Bohemian kings, the Habsburgs and of the Czech democracy.
On March 15 Moravia and Bohemia were annexed to the Reich. They were made German protectorates. The Hitler swastika was raised over public buildings. Persecutions of Jews were unleashed. Mass arrests of prominent liberals began. From the Hradschin, Hitler issued a proclamation setting forth the new status of the country.
Bohemia and Moravia were proclaimed to be German protectorates on the ground that they were once, many centuries ago, part of the Holy Roman Empire. Germany now needed them for her "lebensraum." Meanwhile, Slovakia requested that she, too, be taken under Germany's rule as a protectorate. Hitler granted the "request."
Only one portion of Czechoslovakia thus remained outside the German Reich. This was the Carpatho-Ukraine, which Hungary now annexed, thus obtaining a common frontier with Poland. Hitler permitted the annexation because of the growing influence of the Nazis in Budapest. He was planning to do to Hungary what he did to Czechoslovakia.
On March 16, after a hurried tour of Bohemia and Moravia, Hitler rode into swastika- bedecked Vienna. Behind him, at Prague and in other Czechoslovak cities, stayed the Gestapo. Another wave of arrests, estimated at several thousand, followed. Many suicides of Jews and liberals were reported. The occurrences were a repetition of what happened with the annexation of Austria and the occupation of the Sudeten country. On March 18 Hitler named the "Reich Protector" for Bohemia and Moravia. He was Baron Konstantin von Neurath, former Nazi Foreign Minister, president of the Nazi secret Cabinet Council.
Polish Invasion Climax of 6 Months Of German Bullying and Threats. Browbeating Over Corridor and Danzig Began in March, 1939, Followed by Charges of 'Oppression' of Reich Nationals
The Polish crisis, which served as the immediate prelude to the second World War, began to manifest itself not long after Hitler's seizure of Czechoslovakia, following the annexation of the Sudeten territory in September, 1938.
The Poles had a non-aggression treaty with Hitler, concluded by the Fuehrer with Marshal Pilsudski, the Polish dictator, on Jan. 26, 1934, under which both nations were obligated not to go to war over any dispute that might arise between them. The treaty was for ten years.
The signing of this treaty brought a cooling in the relations between Poland and her old ally, France. Polish policy thereupon sought to balance itself between Germany and France, with Poland governed by the obvious desire to keep out of any embroilments between the two.
On Sept. 23, 1938, Hitler declared in a speech in Berlin that "Germany had no further territorial ambitions in Europe."
With the ostensible aim of reassuring Poland, he added that his 1934 nonaggression pact with Warsaw would "bring about lasting and continuous pacification." In November he again stressed this idea, and in January, 1939, he praised the Pact of Warsaw in an address before the Reichstag. In that month Foreign Minister Joseph Beck of Poland visited the Fuehrer at Berchtesgaden. It was reported that they had reached an agreement on various questions then under discussion between the two countries. Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop returned Beck's visit by going to Warsaw. But the end of the idyll was approaching.
In March Hitler seized Bohemia and Moravia after reducing Slovakia to the role of a vassal of Berlin, and the campaign against Poland began.
Abuse of Germans Alleged
The "heat" was first turned on the Danzig issue. In accordance with the practice the Nazis had used so effectively in Austria and in the Sudeten region, they launched a campaign of propaganda charging mistreatment of Germans by Poles in territory held by Germany before 1918. At the same time a drive was inaugurated for the annexation of Danzig, the municipal administration of which had in the meantime come under Nazi rule, with Poland, however, still retaining the rights she held there under the Danzig statute. It became clear that Hitler was about to embark upon a new adventure, in violation of the statement he had made as late as Sept. 12, 1938, when he declared, referring to his treaty with Pilsudski:
"When in Poland a great statesman and patriot was ready to conclude a pact with us we immediately accepted the treaty recognizing our respective frontiers as inviolable. This treaty has done more for peace than all the chattering in Geneva put together."
Frontiers Became 'Unbearable'
In 1939 the frontiers, which Hitler had declared "inviolable" less than a year before, became "unbearable."
From March, 1939, the relations between Germany and Poland began to deteriorate rapidly. The situation in Danzig grew tense. The controlled German press set up a hue and cry about Polish "oppression." On April 28, 1939, Hitler addressed a memorandum to Warsaw announcing the abrupt abrogation of the 1934 nonaggression treaty. There was no provision in the pact for such unilateral action. Soon Nazi armed bands began to seep into Danzig as preparations were begun by both sides for armed action. For five months Poland lived in a state of semi-mobilization, and by the time the crisis reached an acute stage in August millions of men had been mobilized on both sides. The German press intensified its campaign against Polish "atrocities," demanding the unconditional surrender of Danzig and of the Polish Corridor, where the inhabitants had for centuries been 90 per cent Polish.
The subsequent events that led to the advance of the German troops into Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, and the ensuing declarations of war by England and France against Germany in defense of Poland and, as later events showed, also in defense of Russia, developed as follows:
On Aug. 8 Hitler summoned to Berchtesgaden Albert Foerster, Danzig Nazi leader, for final instructions.
On Aug. 11 Italian Foreign Minister Ciano met Hitler at Berchtesgaden, where, it is believed, the Fuehrer informed him of his determination to march on Poland if she remained unyielding.
On Aug. 15 officials in Berlin let it be known that "any attempt to minimize the significance of the Italo-German conversations will be a fatal illusion."
On Aug. 16 Hitler received the Hungarian Foreign Minister, and German sources declared that Berlin would insist upon unconditional surrender of Danzig and a corridor through the Corridor to connect Germany with East Prussia.
On Aug. 18 German troops occupied Slovakia, a move interpreted as part of the military plan for the encirclement of Poland.
On Aug. 19 mobilization of the Slovak Army was announced to be incorporated in the German forces.
On Aug. 20 came the announcement of the conclusion of a commercial pact between Germany and Soviet Russia.
On Aug. 21 Berlin sprang its great coup with the announcement that Germany and Soviet Russia had concluded a nonaggression treaty.
Poland Left Alone in East
On Aug. 23 Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop arrived in Moscow to sign the treaty. It was signed within twelve hours. Poland was left alone to fight her battle in the east. By the treaty Soviet Russia obligated herself not to come to the assistance of Poland in the event of war with Germany. Hitler intensified his pressure on Warsaw.
On Aug. 24 Hitler conferred in Berlin with Sir Nevile Henderson and "left no doubt in the mind of the British Ambassador that the obligations assumed by the British Government (to come to the defense of Poland) could not induce Germany to renounce the defense of her vital interests." Hitler let it be known that his army was ready for action. It was also reported, two days later, that Hitler had told Henderson that Britain must abandon her alliance with Poland.
On Aug. 25 Hitler took another step toward the annexation of Danzig by proclaiming Foerster his Staathalter. War seemed imminent.
On Aug. 27 Hitler addressed a "man-to-man" letter to Premier Edouard Daladier of France in which he assured the Premier of his love for peace but insisted upon his "minimum demands," Danzig and the Corridor. The same day Berlin announced the cancellation of the Nuremberg Nazi party "peace congress," set for early in September, and rushed completion of German mobilization.
On Aug. 28 Great Britain informed Hitler through Sir Nevile Henderson that she was determined to stand by her obligations to defend Poland, but at the same time urged direct negotiations between Warsaw and Berlin. France likewise reiterated her determination to defend Poland.
On Aug. 29 Hitler replied to London, insisting upon the satisfaction of Germany's "minimum demands" before any negotiations could take place.
Great Britain Stands Pat
On Aug. 30 Great Britain reiterated her position, and again appealed for negotiations. Hitler's answer was an order setting up a council for the "defense of the realm."
On Aug. 31 Danzig announced its rejoining of the Reich. Ribbentrop summoned Henderson and read to him a sixteen-point program for settlement of the Polish dispute. The same day Warsaw disclosed that the program had never been submitted to the Polish Government.
On Sept. 1 German troops moved into Poland.
Hitler's 'Intuition' Strategy Helped Hasten. Defeat of Germany on East and West Fronts
History will determine Hitler's exact degree of responsibility for the conduct of military operations during the war. It was known that he was frequently in disagreement with his generals, who had been inclined to urge greater caution than he had exhibited on many critical occasions. He was encouraged in his daring at crucial moments before the war by what appeared to him the unwillingness or unreadiness of France and England to enter into collision with Germany.
Thus it was at the time of the German invasion of the Rhineland, of the occupation of Austria and during the Czechoslovak crisis of 1938. It is probable that at the time of the diplomatic conflict with Poland, immediately preceding the outbreak of hostilities, Hitler felt that Britain and France would accept another Munich and yield to his demands on Poland. This may be regarded by the future historian as his first great mistake.
The long series of sweeping victories won by the German armies in the early years of the war buttressed his self-confidence, fanned by the adulation heaped upon him by his press, which pictured him as a great military genius. After the fall of France in June, 1940, he gave vent to his exultation by dancing an impromptu jig on the sidewalks of Paris, an act that the newsreels recorded for the entire world to see. His personal responsibility for the invasion of Russia in June, 1940, was never denied. The great initial victories of the Germans in Russia were also attributed to his alleged uncanny military talents. Less than two years later, however, it had become clear that his invasion of Russia, which cost Germany millions of lives, was another and perhaps the greatest of his errors. For a few months it had seemed that his plans in Russia would be crowned with success, but after the reverses that compelled the German retreat from Moscow he sought to cover up the setback by placing the responsibility on the German generals, removing Field Marshal Gen. Walther von Brauchitsch as Commander in Chief and announcing that he would take personal charge of military operations.
The development of the campaigns in Russia led subsequently to one disaster after another. The loss of a German army of 300,000 at Stalingrad in February, 1943, was attributed directly to Hitler's bad strategy in ordering the German forces to hold on to the end when a timely retreat might have saved that army.
His declaration of war on the United States, in support of Japan and in agreement with Italy, on Dec. 11, 1941, marked another fateful day in his career. It was at least as grave a mistake as his invasion of Russia. He was apparently convinced that he would be able to bring Russia to her knees before the United States could make its power felt in Europe. Moreover, he believed that the United States would be too busy in the Pacific to take any decisive part in the European struggle. He was also reported to believe that Japan would strike at Russia immediately after Germany's declaration of war on this country and thus help drive Russia out of the war within a few weeks or months. Later he was reported to have accused Japan of treachery in not doing so.
As the military situation grew more ominous for Germany, Hitler swept aside the authority of his generals and announced that he would exercise complete direction of the war, guided by his "intuition." He minimized the importance of the Allies' landings in French North Africa in November, 1942, and tried to make his people believe that the invasion of Italy and the overthrow of Mussolini in July, 1943, would likewise fail to prevent German victory.
To buttress the tottering structure of the Italian front and repair the political blow dealt to the Axis in Italy he sent a squad of parachutists in September of that year to rescue Mussolini from his confinement behind the Allies' lines. The rescue enabled Hitler to establish a puppet Mussolini government in northern Italy, which functioned until the entire Italian front collapsed under Anglo-American blows. On April 28, 1945, Mussolini was captured by Italian Partisans and executed. At that very time Hitler was reported dead or dying or in Berlin.
While Hitler's public appearances declined in frequency with the progress of the war toward the climax of Germany's defeat, his utterances against her opponents grew in violence and vituperation. He ridiculed the Allies' leaders as "military idiots" and boasted that their armies would never be able to land on the Continent.
Proof of the fatal effects of Hitler's interference with his generals in the conduct of military operations was obtained in documents captured by the Allies shortly after their invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. By the middle of 1944 it had become clear to German military and civilian leaders that their country had lost the war and that the elimination of Hitler was essential to salvage what was possible from the wreck. A group of conspirators resolved to remove him from the scene. On July 20, 1944, he was painfully burned by a bomb.
The assassination attempt was attributed to a band of generals and other officers. Hundreds of persons, including some distinguished military men involved in the conspiracy, were executed and the Government's terror against "defeatists" was intensified. Hitler gradually disappeared from view, although orders and proclamations continued to be issued in his name. In the last few weeks of the war it had become apparent that he had lost control of the situation.
Fuehrer Ascetic in Personal Life - Celibate and a Vegetarian, He Neither Smoked Tobacco Nor Drank Liquor
Adolf Hitler was an ascetic, a celibate and a vegetarian and he neither smoked nor drank. From his early youth he was an eccentric. At the age of 16 he suffered from lung trouble and his passionate ambition to become a great historical figure impelled him to take good care of himself. Careful diet was his deliberately chosen method.
He led a simple life even after he had attained to the dizzy heights of Fuehrer and Chancellor. He had three residences: the official residence in the Chancellor's Palace in Berlin, a modest apartment in Munich and his chalet near Berchtesgaden. In Berlin he maintained only five servants, carefully chosen from among old party comrades. One of these, Brigadier Schreck, was his chauffeur. The others included his chef, picked for the post because he knew how to cook Hitler's favorite vegetarian dishes and could be relied upon to guard against poisoning; his major-domo and aide-de-camp.
The Fuehrer liked to drive fast in an open automobile and was an aviation enthusiast. When driving he preferred to sit in front with the chauffeur.
Had a Passion for Neatness
His favorite costume consisted of black trousers, khaki coat and neat tie. His only decoration was the Iron Cross he won in the First World War. He disliked jewelry but had a passion for being neat.
Hitler never went shopping and had all the things he wanted to purchase sent to him at the Chancellery.
He suffered from insomnia, and for this reason had no regular hours for going to bed or rising. Luncheon was always promptly at 2 P. M., however. He entertained modestly, the guests usually being party officials and leaders from the provinces. He did not expect his guests to eat his vegetarian food, however, and served their favorite meat and fish dishes. Hitler disliked festive banquets but enjoyed eating out frequently, particularly when in Munich, where he had several haunts. He loved onion soup, prepared according to his own recipe.
When in Nuremberg, attending the spectacular Nazi party congresses, he stayed in a modest apartment at the Deutscher Hof, a second-rate hostelry. He shrewdly eschewed personal extravagance as politically unwise.
He was fond of films and liked to give private showings of favorite screen productions before guests at the Chancellery after dinner. He enjoyed looking at newsreels of himself and entertained his guests also with some foreign films. On such occasion he would seat himself on the floor in the dark and appeared to be having a good time.
Although he became the idol of many millions he had no talent for real friendship or intimacy. He had few women friends. His feminine associates, too, were chosen for political purposes. His only passion was politics.
Women of the people did not rally to him until after he had achieved a large degree of prominence. He never became a hero to his valet because he did not have any. Long before housemaids flocked to his support, his feminine supporters were women of the upper class. But he could be very charming to women when he chose and, after achieving power, even learned the art of kissing their hands in the salon manner. He was not without humor but of a rather heavy sort.
Although he had acquired considerable poise, he was violent in argument.
Hitler made what may be called his social debut in the earlier days of his career in the drawing room of Frau Katherine Hanfstaengl in Munich, but his greatest woman friend was Frau Victoria von Dirksen, widow of a millionaire who built the Berlin subway. She spent a large portion of her husband's fortune in helping to finance Hitler's propaganda. Although in later years she fell out with the party, he continued to regard her as a favorite and for a long time regularly took tea with her at her Berlin home every fortnight.
As a youth Hitler developed a passion for Wagnerian music. In Munich, where he laid the foundations of his movement, he met Frau Winifred Wagner, widow of Siegfried Wagner, the composer's son. Frau Wagner became an enthusiastic Hitlerite and this, together with Hitler's devotion to Wagner, made them fast friends. At one time there were reports that they would marry, but these were denied. Perhaps because of these reports Hitler drew away from her. To Frau Wagner, however, he owed much of his early financial aid. She was not wealthy, but because of her social position she was able to raise considerable sums for the Nazi movement when Hitler most needed money.
Another woman who had his favor was Leni Riefenstahl, a former movie actress, whom he entrusted with the task of editing the propaganda film "The Triumph of Will," the photographing of the 1935 Olympic Games in Berlin and various Nazi meetings and spectacles.
English Women His Friends
There were also two English women who were his friends, the daughters of Lord Redesdale--the Hon. Diana Freeman-Mitford, a supporter of Sir Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts in England, and the Hon. Unity Freeman-Mitford. The latter was Hitler's favorite and they often lunched together in Munich.
Frau Victoria Ursuleac, a member of the Berlin Opera, also enjoyed Hitler's friendship.
Hitler liked well-dressed women and admired French styles. On one occasion he scotched a movement launched by Frau Joseph Goebbels, wife of the Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment, for a boycott on French dress models.
Hitler detested evening clothes and wore full dress only on rare visits to the opera. Though merciless to political opponents, he was kind to animals. A militarist, he was sickened by the sight of blood. A Wagnerian mystic, he loved spectacles of heroics and death. He was simple, Spartan and vain to the point of megalomania. While he took good care of his loyal lieutenants he had no real loyalty to anyone, and in his party he knew how to thwart opposition by setting friends against one another. His enemies he suppressed ruthlessly.
While endowed with vast energy, he was a procrastinator in minor matters and was given to hasty decisions on important things. He talked with great rapidity. An interviewer usually found that it was himself who was being interviewed. While pretending to listen to advice, Hitler always made his own decisions.
He read little, although he possessed a library of 6,000 volumes. His outbursts of furious energy would be preceded by long periods of indolence. When roused to anger he became dangerous, even for his close associates. He brooked no contradiction. His neurasthenia frequently drove him to tears and hysterics.
Hitler was truly devoted to music not only as an art but as a tonic for his nerves. His favorites were Schubert, Beethoven and Wagner.
One of the many disappointments of his youth was his rejection by the Vienna Academy when he applied for admittance to study art and architecture. He found satisfaction for this rebuff as leader of the Nazi party when he supervised the plans for the Brown House in Munich, party headquarters. He also interfered much in the designing of new museums and Government buildings. To show his appreciation of things beautiful he liked to make gifts of expensively bound books and objects of art.
When the Chancellor's Palace in Berlin was being redecorated for him he superintended the work in several modernistic rooms and paid special attention to the installation of Nordic mythological tapestries depicting Wotan creating the world.
Munich His Favorite City
His Munich flat, which he redecorated in 1935 in his favorite baroque blue, white and gold, was in an unfashionable section of the Prinzregentenstrasse. To this flat he would retire when he wanted privacy. Munich was his favorite city, not only because of its architectural beauty but because it was there that his career was launched. The apartment was run by a half-sister, Frau Angella Raubal, who, until her marriage to a Professor Martin Hammisch, also supervised Haus Wachenfeld, Hitler's mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden overlooking a magnificent vista in the Bavarian Alps, at a point from which the Fuehrer could look across into his native Austria.
HITLER DEAD IN CHANCELLERY, NAZIS SAY ADMIRAL IN CHARGE
Britain to Insist Germans Show Hitler's Body When War Ends
BY SYDNEY GRUSON by Cable to The New York Times
LONDON, May 1 - Adolf Hitler died this afternoon, the Hamburg radio announced tonight, and Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz proclaiming himself the new Fuehrer by Hitler's appointment, said that the war would continue.
Crowning days of rumors about Hitler's death and whereabouts, the Hamburg radio said that he had fallen in the battle of Berlin at his command post in the Chancellery just three days after Benito Mussolini, the first of the dictators, had been killed by Italian Partisans. Doenitz, a 53-year-old U-boat specialist, broadcast an address to the German people and the surviving armed forces immediately after the announcer had given the news of Hitler's death.
[The British Foreign Office said that it would demand the production of Hitler's body after the end of hostilities, The Associated Press reported.] Appealing to the German people for help, order and discipline, Doenitz eulogized Hitler as the hero of a lifetime of service to the nation whose "fight against the Bolshevik storm flood concerned not only Europe but the entire civilized world." News tickers in the House of Commons lobby carried the news of Hitler's death just before the House rose tonight. The reaction of members and of the general public was much the same. Some doubted the truth of the announcement altogether, while others argued that there would have been no sense of making it if it were not true, since Hitler was perhaps the last person around whom the Germans still in unconquered territory would rally.
But there was an almost complete lack of excitement here. Those who believed the report seemed to accept it as a matter or course that Hitler would die. There was no official reaction.
The last reference to Hitler before tonight's announcement came in this afternoon's German communique, which said that the Berlin garrison had "gathered around the Fuehrer and, herded together in a very narrow space, is defending itself heroically." When Himmler offered his surrender to the Americans and British, it is reported he told his Swedish emissary that Hitler was dying of a cerebral hemorrhage. During the past week, Hitler was variously reported dead, dying or insane in Berlin, Salzburg or the Bavarian mountains.
"Ghost" Interrupts Doenitz
LONDON, May 1 - When Doenitz declared on the radio that Hitler had died "a hero's death." a ghost voice immediately interrupted, shouting "This is a lie!"
[The British Broadcasting Corporation subsequently reported that Hitler had actually died of a stroke, rather than in battle against the Russians, the National Broadcasting Company said.]
Hitler, who was 56 years old on April 20, was lauded by Doenitz as "one of the greatest heroes in German history." Here the ghost voice broke in "The greatest of all fascists!"
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3 March 2007