German dictator, born in Braunau, Upper Austria, the son of a minor customs official, originally called Schicklgruber. He studied at Linz and Steyr, and attended an art school in Munich, but failed to pass into the Vienna Academy. He lived on his wits in Vienna (190413), doing a variety of menial jobs. In 1913 he emigrated to Munich, where he found employment as a draughtsman. In 1914 he served in a Bavarian regiment, became a corporal, and was wounded in the last stages of the war. In 1919 he joined a small political party which in 1920 he renamed as the National Socialist German Workers' Party. In 1923, with other extreme right-wing factions, he attempted to overthrow the Bavarian government, but was imprisoned for nine months in Landsberg jail, during which time he dictated his political testament, Mein Kampf (1925, My Struggle), to Rudolf Hess. He expanded his party greatly in the late 1920s, and though he was unsuccessful in the presidential elections of 1932 against Hindenburg, he was made chancellor in 1933. He then suspended the constitution, silenced all opposition, exploited successfully the burning of the Reichstag building, and brought the Nazi Party to power, having several of his opponents within his own party murdered by his bodyguard, the SS, in the Night of the Long Knives (1934). He openly rearmed the country (1935), established the Rome--Berlin "axis' with Mussolini (1936), created "Greater Germany' by the Anschluss with Austria (1938), and absorbed the German-populated Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia, in which Britain and France acquiesced at Munich (1938). He then demanded from Poland the return of Danzig and free access to East Prussia, which, when Poland refused, precipitated World War 2 (3 Sep 1939). His domestic policy was one of total Nazification, enforced by the Secret State Police (Gestapo). He established concentration camps for political opponents and Jews, over 6 million of whom were murdered in the course of World War 2. With his early war successes, he increasingly ignored the advice of military experts, and the tide turned in 1942 after the defeats at El Alamein and Stalingrad. He miraculously survived the explosion of the bomb placed at his feet by Colonel Stauffenberg (Jul 1944), and purged the army of all suspects. When Germany was invaded, he retired to his Bunker, an airraid shelter under the Chancellory building in Berlin. With the Russians only a few hundred yards away, he went through a marriage ceremony with his mistress, Eva Braun, in the presence of the Goebbels family, who then poisoned themselves. All available evidence suggests that Hitler and his wife committed suicide and had their bodies cremated (30 Apr 1945).
Except where noted, data in the BIOGRAPHY® Online Database is from the AND Reference Database, which incorporates the Cambridge Encyclopedia Database. Copyright © 1997, AND Reference Data Ltd., Oxford, UK. and The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, edited by J S. Bowmen. Copyright © 1995 Cambridge University Press. Reproduced with permission.