Adolph Hitler was a highly powerful, political and charismatic man who rose to power in Germany during the late 1920’s at a time of social, political and economic upheaval. In fact, Hitler is said to be one of the rare individuals who, without him, history would have been very different. His rule over Germany from 1934 to his death in 1945, resulted in a fascist regime, the outbreak of World War II, the destruction of the German nation-state and its society and the extermination of approximately six million Jews. So, who was Adolph Hitler, what was his background, how was he able to come to power and what did his actions result in?

Adolph Hitler was born on April 20th 1889 in Braunau-am-Inn, Austria to Alois Hitler, who worked as a customs officer and Klara Hitler, a former servant girl who became Alois’ third wife. He was born into a middle class family who lived comfortably and was able to provide Adolph with schooling from the age of 6. He was a bright and talented student at his local village school but poor school marks in secondary school prevented him from obtaining his customary graduation certificate and in 1905 he left school, 2 years after the death of his father (1903). In 1907 he left his home to seek a better life in Vienna but within a year he found himself homeless and in total poverty after he had failed twice (1907 and 1908) to gain admittance into the Academy of Fine Arts and by the death of his mother in 1907, to whom he was very close. However, he continued to read many texts eagerly and as a result encountered the writings of an author whose racist and anti-Semitism ideas impressed him and from this experience, Hitler’s violent anti-Semitism views were derived.

In 1913 Hitler left Vienna and moved across the border to Munich in the hope of both evading the Austrian military service and finding a better life in Munich. Opportunities for making a living however, were even fewer in Munich, which explains Hitler’s relief and enthusiasm at the outbreak of World War I. He got caught up in the patriotism of the time, volunteered for service in the German Army and got accepted into the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment, where he served in the front line as a headquarters runner. Hitler fought bravely in the war and was awarded the Iron Cross (2nd Class). However, he was sent home in 1916 as a result of a leg wound but returned to fighting in 1917. He was then promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal and in the last months of the War, was awarded the Iron Cross (1st Class) for bravery and general merit. Hitler’s involvement in the War ended however, when he was partly blinded in a gas attack and it was in hospital, recovering from this wound, when he heard the news that Germany had surrendered. Driven by the rage and shock Hitler felt about the military defeat, he was convinced that “fate had chosen him to rescue a humiliated nation from the shackles of the Treaty of Versailles and the Jews”.

After the end of World War I, Hitler was made a political officer for the Army where one of his main duties was to spy on certain local political groups. It was at this time that Hitler encountered the German Worker’s Party, a small group of approximately 40 members who were interested in extending the message of nationalism to the workers in Germany. The founder of the party, Anion Drexter, was so impressed by a fierce speech given by Hitler that he asked him to join their organisation and Hitler quickly agreed as he recognised the opportunities this party offered for a better chance of achieving his new goal; political power. In April 1920 Hitler left the Army to devote his time to his position as chief propagandist and quickly became the leader of the Party in July 1921 with dictatorial powers, where his brilliant talent as a public speaker attracted large audiences and aroused the emotions of the audience. The Party changed its name to become the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (NAZI for short). The Party developed their own symbols (the