1889 to 1903

An Upper Austrian

I hate nobody except Hitler-- and that is professional.
Winston Churchill
to his private secretary John Colville

An Upper Austrian

Who was Hitler: Chapter #1, 1889 to 1903

Customs officer Alois Hitler’s family lives in a small flat on the top floor of the “Pommer Inn” in Braunau am Inn. Here, Adolf Hitler is born on 20 April 1889 - Easter Sunday - at around 6:30 pm.

Hitler's mother is 28 years old when she gives birth, his father is 51. Klara Pölzl is related to Alois Hitler; she is her first cousin once removed, meaning a marriage is not allowed. In 1885, Klara is already pregnant with her son Gustav (who will die in 1887), and the Bishop of Linz gives special permission for the couple to marry to avoid the birth of an illegitimate child. Adolf is the couple’s third of six children - only Adolf and his younger sister Paula survive childhood. Alois also has two children from his previous three marriages, meaning Adolf has two half-siblings: Alois Jr. and Angela.

However, neither the fact that Hitler's parents are from Lower Austria nor the 21 years he has lived in Upper Austria and Vienna make Adolf Hitler an Austrian. A real "Austrian nation" does not exist at the time of Hitler's birth. It will only emerge as a result of the collapse of the dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1918, and will only truly become Austria after Second World War - a war brought on by Hitler. Before the First World War, the imperial monarchy resembles a multi-ethnic state made up of various nationalities. The majority of German-speaking Austrians feel historically and culturally connected to the Germans in Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria and the small and medium-sized states, some of whom are already living in an industrialised and unified empire. Hitler's father is, therefore, an official of the Austrian-Hungarian "fatherland", but he and his family feel they are Upper Austrians and therefore German.

When Hitler is three years old, his father is transferred and decides to move into an apartment on the German side of the border, in Passau. Adolf Hitler lives for three years, until 1895, with his family in Bavaria. This is also where he acquires his distinct way of speaking. Adolf Hitler has a German Lower Bavarian accent for all of his life. He did not have an Austrian accent

After his early retirement in 1895, Alois Hitler leases a small plot of land in Hafeld in Hausruckviertel, Upper Austria. In an attempt to earn money, he farms the land and keeps bees. On 1 May 1895, Adolf Hitler is enrolled in the single-class elementary school in neighbouring Fischlham. During the first two years, he gets good marks for his attainment and behaviour.

In June 1897, Hitler's father sells the property in Hafeld. The family lives temporarily in the market town of Lambach. They move again at the beginning of 1898. Hitler attends the primary school in Lambach until 1898, where he repeats the second year because the village school in Fischlham had not taught him enough

In late-1898, the nine-year-old Adolf Hitler moves with his parents, his sister Paula, his half-brother Alois and his half-sister Angela (both from his father's first marriage) to the village of Leonding near Linz. It is here that Adolf Hitler spends around eight years of his life, completing the third year of school and attending years four and five at the local primary school. After five and a half years of primary school education, he starts the first year of the Imperial State High School in nearby Linz in September 1900 at the age of eleven.

Alois Hitler dies on 3 January 1903 at the age of 65 in Leonding, Austria.


1903 to 1913

A Sad Puppy

He’s really different from all the others.
Klara Hitler
about her son

A Sad Puppy

Who was Hitler: Chapter #2, 1903 to 1913

Adolf Hitler sees Linz as his hometown and always describes his youth there as the happiest years of his life. From the autumn of 1900, he attends the secondary school in Linz's Steingasse, where he has to repeat the first year due to poor performance. He goes to school on foot from the town of Leonding.

In 1904, after the death of her husband, the widow Klara Hitler must send her son Adolf, who is once again on the verge of repeating a year due to poor performance, to the state secondary school around 40 kilometres from Steyr. Adolf Hitler lives here part-time. He only goes back to his family on weekends.

In 1905, Klara Hitler moves to Linz from Leonding with her step daughter Angela, son Adolf and twelve-year-old daughter Paula, where they rent their home - initially on Humboldtstraße and later on Hauptstraße and Blütenstraße, in Unfahr.

Adolf Hitler leaves the Steyr school after a total of ten and a half years of schooling without graduating. He spends the next three years doing nothing of any consequence, financed by his mother’s pension. In 1907, Hitler persuades his mother to allow him to travel to Vienna. There, he intends to apply for a place in the "General Painting Class" at the Academy of Fine Arts. Hitler makes it through the first round of selections but is rejected after the second round of exams. After eight weeks and disappointed by the rejection, he returns to his family in Linz, where Klara Hitler is seriously ill. She is suffering from a "tumour"; today she would be diagnosed with cancer. With great devotion, Adolf Hitler takes over the domestic care of his mother for many months. Klara Hitler dies on the evening of 21 December 1907, surrounded by her family.

In the spring of 1908, the 19-year-old Adolf Hitler begins living independently in Vienna. He lives from day to day and has only a small orphan’s allowance – he will later go on to stylise this period as a "university of life" in the struggle to survive.

By February 1910, Hitler has not made his mark on Vienna. When he registers his apartment on Felberstraße on 18 November 1908, he describes himself as a "student", even though his second application to the Academy of Arts was unsuccessful. When he registers at another new apartment on Sechshauserstraße on 22 August 1909, he is a "writer". Hitler often goes hungry and seeks shelter in public places where there is heating. From 16 September 1909 to 8 February 1910, he appears not to have a permanent residence.

To supplement his orphan’s allowance, Hitler starts drawing Vienna cityscapes copied from books, which he then sells as postcards. On 26 June 1910, he moves into the "small apartment complex for bachelors" on Meldemannstraße in the Brigittenau district, where he registers as a "painter". He lives there for three years. He also interacts with Jewish residents in the men’s home.

On 20 April 1913, his 24th birthday, Hitler receives the inheritance left to him by his father. He wants to move to "German" Munich with Rudolf Häusler, whom he met in the men’s home. One reason for wanting to leave his home in Austria is his failure to sign up for military service, as was required of him by law. He also wants to avoid serving for Austria-Hungary to which he feels no connection. On 25 May 1913, Adolf Hitler and Rudolf Häusler leave Vienna. They rent a room together on Schleißheimer Straße 34, near Schwabing, Munich from a tailor called Popp. From here on, Munich will be at the centre of Hitler’s life. His inheritance helps him to create an adequate life on the fringes of society, albeit isolated and precarious.


1914 to 1918

A Private

Hitler was courageous and could withstand pressure well; even then, he was a passionate supporter of the war.
Max Amann
Sergeant, regimental headquarters of the List Regiment

A Private

Who was Hitler: Chapter #3, 1914 to 1918

The First World War begins on 1 August 1914. On 2 August 1914, the day after the German declaration of war on Russia, there is a sizeable patriotic demonstration on the Munich Odeonplatz, a large square in central Munich in front of the Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshals’ Hall). Photographer Heinrich Hoffmann photographs the rally. Years later, Hoffmann, who would go on to become an official Reich photographer, discovers a face in the crowd in an enlarged copy of the image - the face is likely Hitler’s.

Three days after the rally, on 5 August 1914, Hitler volunteers for military service. On 16 August, he is assigned to the Second Reserve Battalion of the Second Infantry Regiment which belongs to the 16th Bavarian Reserve Division in which Hitler serves from 1914-1918. The reserve battalion is billeted in a school that has been converted into barracks. Here, Hitler is dressed and equipped for field duty and given a brief and basic military training. It is the first time in his life that he has put on a uniform. In the early hours of 21 October 1914, Hitler and his comrades head west from Munich railway station. On the morning of 23 October, their train crosses the Belgian border and, by the evening, reaches the northern French town of Lille. On 29 October, Hitler’s battalion fights for the first time on a road to Menen near Ypres.

Shortly after the List Regiment’s first combat mission, Hitler is promoted to corporal on 3 November 1914. He will refuse further promotions in the course of the war; they would have meant commanding other units, and Hitler would have lost the comradeship and security he felt in his regiment. In late-autumn 1914, for four years, the Western Front becomes a static war in the trenches from the English Channel to the Swiss border. Until late-1917, little changes on the front line. If Hitler had spent the remaining four years of war in the trenches, his probability of survival would have been low. On 9 November 1914, he is deployed for the first time as runner and assigned to the military staff, about three kilometres behind the trenches.

Hitler was wounded twice in the First World War. On 5 October 1916, during an artillery bombardment by British artillery in the Battle of the Somme, Hitler is hit by grenade shrapnel on the left thigh. He is initially treated in a field hospital. Four days later, he is admitted to the Red Cross hospital in Beelitz, south of Berlin. Recovered and walking again, Hitler is granted permission to visit Berlin on 4 November 1916. For the first time, Hitler is in the capital of the Reich.

On 1 March 1917, Hitler, fully recovered, is ordered to join his regular unit and returns to the military staff as a messenger. In the following months until he is injured in a gas attack, he takes part in most of his regiment's fighting in the Somme, Aisne and Marne.

On 4 August 1918, he receives the Iron Cross 1st class. Awarding the Iron Cross 1st class to a soldier of Hitler’s ranking is extremely rare in the armies of the German Empire. The only two military awards that Hitler wore during the Third Reich were the Iron Cross and his First World War badge for the wounded.

In mid-October 1918, Adolf Hitler returns to his regiment after a holiday in Berlin. The day after his return, a British attack forces the Regiment retreat. On 14 October, Hitler's part in the war comes to an end during a British gas attack. After initial treatment at the field hospital in Flanders, he is transported to the Prussian reserve hospital in Pasewalk near Stettin in Pomerania on 21 October 1918. Hitler stays in Pasewalk for 28 days – days in which the world will change.


1918 to 1922

A Mob Orator

He was one of those inexplicable historical natural phenomena that occur in humanity at great intervals.
Albert Speer
‚The Kransberg Protocols‘

A Mob Orator

Who was Hitler: Chapter #4, 1918 to 1922

Before the revolutionary unrest reaches Berlin, a revolution starts in Munich on 7 November 1918. The following day, under the leadership of journalist and writer Kurt Eisner, an "independent" social democrat workers', peasants' and soldiers' council is formed, which proclaims a republic in Munich. On 21 November 1918, Adolf Hitler returns to Munich from Pasewalk. Hitler tries to avoid being demobilised and remains a soldier.

On 12 February 1919, Adolf Hitler is transferred to the so-called 2nd demobilisation company. On 15 February, he is elected to become a representative of the barracks - so is now a functionary at the lower end of the hierarchy of the Republic led by the extreme left. In May 1919, Adolf Hitler resigns from his post as representative of the barracks council. He takes a stand and denies his indifferent attitude of the previous months.

With the revolution, there is no longer a Bavarian army. The "Reichswehr" has emerged from the armies of the kingdoms of Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg. The remains of the Bavarian Reichswehr become a melting pot of reactionary, anti-Republican forces. Department IB/P is set up to teach the soldiers how to carry out intelligence work, but also to school them in anti-Bolshevik rhetoric and propaganda - it begins its work with Group Command 4 in Bayern in May 1919. Its leader is Captain Karl Mayr, whom Hitler met for the first time in May 1919. It is Mayr who kick-starts Hitler’s career. After some time spent observing Hitler, Karly Mayr sees in him a talented speaker. Adolf Hitler steps into politics in the summer and autumn of 1919 in Munich.

Captain Karl Mayr also finances "patriotic" publications, organisations and parties. One of these parties is the "German Workers 'Party". The DAP was founded on 5 January 1919 by a group of railway workers. On 12 September 1919, Hitler, who had meanwhile been discharged from the army, is sent by Mayr to spy on this nationalist faction. By late-September 1919, Hitler is a member of the "German Workers' Party" and regularly attends its meetings. Hitler initially concentrates exclusively on party propaganda. On 16 October 1919, he gives a stirring speech to a large audience, and the public hears how eloquent he is for the first time. On 24 February 1920, he makes his first appearance in the Hofbräuhaus in front of more than a thousand listeners. It is here that he announces the party's 25-point programme – a quarter of a century before the party will collapse. At the same time, the German Workers' Party was renamed the "National Socialist Workers' Party of Germany" (NSDAP).

With his talent for painting, Hitler designs a party flag in the old imperial colours of black, white and red at an early stage. In the centre of the flag is a swastika - a popular symbol in nationalist circles. During this time, a ring of loyal followers forms around Hitler. These people will be at his side every day for almost 25 years.

On 3 February 1921, the NSDAP holds its first demonstration in the Munich Circus Krone. More than 6,000 people come together to hear Hitler speak.

On 16 August 1922, Hitler speaks alongside other leaders of the nationalist groups at a large protest rally of the United Patriotic Associations of Germany (VVVD) on Königsplatz in Munich. During the demonstration, the SA makes its first public appearance as a paramilitary formation with its own flag.


1922 to 1923

A Revolutionary

Hitler: That’s the mob that's read Nietzsche. That is bargain basement Mussolenin.
Alfred Kerr
German-Jewish theater critic

A Revolutionary

Who was Hitler: Chapter #5, 1922 to 1923

Early on in his career, Hitler rejects participating in parliamentary elections because he fears doing so will lose the movement its revolutionary character, gradually integrating into the parliamentary system and sharing power. For a long time, Hitler thought of a "revolution" as a violent overthrowing of the government in which the old rulers would be removed by force. On 9 November 1923, he attempted such a coup. It was supposed to emulate the overthrow seen in Italy which brought the fascists to power in 1922 in Mussolini's "March on Rome".

In the autumn of 1923, the German Reich is in the grips of hyperinflation, and money is virtually worthless. In Saxony and Thuringia, "proletarian workers' governments" are formed in October. In Bavaria, where unrest is also rife, the conservative and anti-Republican Gustav Ritter von Kahr has been in power since 26 September as the General State Commissioner with dictatorial powers. Alongside the Reichswehr units stationed in Bavaria, he sets off on a right-wing collision course against the democratic government.

When Hitler realises that Kahr and his supporting powers plan to shun him and his party to the political sidelines, he declares a national revolution and claims the Bavarian and Reich government in Berlin as ousted. The plan is to put Munich and Bavaria under the control of the insurgents and then, following Italy’s example, tip the democratic system with a "March on Berlin". With their short-sighted Munich perspective, those involved in the coup massively overestimate their strength. They assume overrunning the Bavarian Reichswehr troops and police will be easy – this was not the case. They were, however, successful in occupying the War Ministry under the leadership of Ernst Röhm. Among his entourage is a young unemployed graduate of Agronomy wearing a pair of metal-rimmed glasses – a 23-year-old Heinrich Himmler.

Hitler's amateurish coup attempt is the only one of its kind. Although 2,000 partially heavily armed coup members from the Bürgerbräukeller march through the city centre to Ludwigstraße in front of Odeonplatz on the morning of 10 November, the march ends at the Field Marshal’s Hall under police fire. Lightly injured, Hitler flees to the surrounding area of Munich to the Hanfstaengl family home, where he is arrested on 11 November.


1923 to 1924

An Ideologue

The future Führer collects the cigarette butts of all political theories and smokes them down to the filter. Where the most poison accumulates.
Peter Sloterdijk
German philosopher

An Ideologue

Who was Hitler: Chapter #6, 1923 to 1924

On 12 November 1923, 39 guards hand Adolf Hitler over to the prison in Landsberg. He receives cell number seven. After the coup attempt, the NSDAP is banned throughout the Reich and is therefore dissolved.

The leading members of the coup are tried for treason on 26 February 1924 in the main reading room at Munich’s military academy. In addition to Adolf Hitler and Erich Ludendorff, the ten defendants include the National Socialists Ernst Röhm, Wilhelm Frick, Wilhelm Brückner and Friedrich Weber. Witness statements and interviews take 25 days. On 27 March 1924, the defendants give their final statements, and their sentences are passed on 1 April 1924. Except for Ludendorff, all of the defendants are found guilty. Adolf Hitler is only sentenced to the minimum penalty of five years imprisonment in addition to a fine of 200 Marks. His custodial sentence was a particular kind known as “honorary confinement”, which meant he did not have to work – this sort of punishment was usually reserved for the higher classes or political criminals.

In prison, Hitler has the peace needed to reflect on his political goals. During the approximately 13 months he spends in Landsberg prison, Adolf Hitler begins the transcript of his book "Mein Kampf", which tells the story of his life as he would like to have it told, his path to becoming a politician, and outlines his worldview.

Adolf Hitler is released from prison at 12:15 pm on 20 December 1924. The remaining sentence of "3 years, 333 days, 21 hours and 50 minutes," as the official notice says, is reduced to nothing for good behaviour.

Upon his release from prison, his book is past the early drafting stages, and parts of it are ready to be printed. After his release, Hitler completes Mein Kampf by writing the second volume. For this purpose, he retires to the Obersalzberg in the pension "Moritz" belonging to the Büchner couple, later Platterhof.

Among Hitler's followers, Mein Kampf quickly establishes itself as a significant political manifesto after its publication. Nazi officials and propagandists read it as though it is a sort of “Party Bible".


1925 to 1929

A Party Leader

I see my life as the biggest novel in world history!
Adolf Hitler
to Adelheid Klein

A Party Leader

Who was Hitler: Chapter #7, 1925 to 1929

On 23 November 1923, a ban on the NSDAP is imposed throughout the Reich. All party assets are confiscated, the office in Munich is closed, and the party newspaper, the "Völkische Beobachter" (Völkish Observer) is banned. By refraining from any political activity during his time in prison, Hitler deliberately lets the party crumble so that no rivals can take a leadership position. On 26 February 1925, the party newspaper is printed again for the first time. A day later, on 27 February 1925, Hitler relaunches the Nazi Party in the Bürgerbräukeller beer hall.

In the first round of the German elections on 29 March 1925, Erich Ludendorff, who had joined Hitler in the putsch of 9 November 1923, stands as a candidate for an alliance of the newly formed Nazi party with other nationalist groups. He only gains 1.1 percent of the votes. When Paul von Hindenburg stands for the parties on the right in the second round of voting, Adolf Hitler tells his party to support the candidacy of the 77-year-old field marshal. Paul von Hindenburg is elected by a majority ahead of the joint nomination of the Social Democrats, the Catholic Centre, and the left-liberal German Democratic Party. At the same time, Hitler cleverly dispensed with rival Ludendorff, who withdrew from party politics after his defeat.

The German economy recovers from 1924, followed by five "golden years" of the Weimar Republic. In the Reichstag elections of 20 May 1928, the SPD and KPD gain votes at the expense of the old parties and have more than 40 percent of the voters behind them. The NSDAP gains only 2.6% of the votes and holds twelve seats.

From the summer of 1925 onwards, Hitler is the undisputed leader of the nationalist camp. He completely reorganises the NSDAP with himself at its heart. The movement, which only grew slowly between 1925 and 1929, stands out for its external image, which is characterised by its activism, dynamism, vigour, youthfulness and strength. Almost 60 percent of the members that joined the new party at this time are under thirty years of age.

Although enjoying little political success, the party showcases itself at a party rally, a spectacle that from 1923 onwards took place initially in Munich and Weimar, and from 1927 onwards only in Nuremberg.

Hitler's opponents on the left play a significant part in his rise in the years following 1928. If the SPD had received almost 38 percent of the votes in the election to the National Assembly on 19 February 1919, it would never win more than 30 percent in the next eight elections.

Social Democratic politics, which has been strengthened since the return of the right-wing Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany in September 1922, appears to be stifled by bureaucracy and blinded by the alleged power of the organisation, even to younger members. On the outer-left, the Communists are establishing themselves as an up-and-coming force, but they have long been weakened by their uncertainty in which way to head and are furthermore committed to the Moscow party line. Misjudging both their own strength and the threat from the right, the Communists refuse to compromise with members of the SPD, with whom older KPD members had worked with a decade before. They prefer to pursue a plan of total refusal in the hope of preventing a functional government and thus revolution, like the revolution seen in Russian in 1918.

In the years between 1920 and 1932, the election results for the opposing SPD and KPD level off jointly between 37 and 39 percent at seven Reichstag, with the Communists getting stronger in 1928.

This gradual fragmentation of the other parties favours the rise of the NSDAP. During the elections, the Nazi Party is able to attract those no longer drawn to the other parties, meaning it grows significantly at the local and federal elections in spring and summer 1929.


1929 to 1932

A Campaigner

You cannot deny a certain affinity between Hitler and the German people.
Robert Coulondre
‚Memoirs of the French Ambassador‘

A Campaigner

Who was Hitler: Chapter #8, 1929 to 1932

In February 1930, the Nazi party officially has 200,000 members (although the figure is slightly lower in reality). The Social Democrats, at this point, still have over a million. The average age of NSDAP members is lower than 30 - only the KPD has a younger following. Before it comes to power, the Nazi party financed itself mainly through membership fees. An admission fee is charged for party events. Already at this time, Hitler predicts that the Nazi movement will rise to power within two and a half to three years. In March 1930, Hitler pushes the left-wing faction out of the party. This part of the party, led by Otto Strasser and particularly strong in North Germany, demands among other things the nationalisation of industry and banks.

The SPD had still won the Reichstag elections in 1928, and it led a coalition government with the old parties. A year later in March 1930, after the death of the liberal Foreign Minister Gustav, it collapses due to irreconcilable social differences between worker-friendly SPD and the industry-friendly DVP, Stresemann's party. The fall of the SPD Chancellor, Hermann Müller, and the appointment of Centre politician Heinrich Brüning are the first steps by the founding members on the path to failure for the Weimar Republic.

The difficulties in forming a democratic majority after the resignation of the Müller government prompt Reich President Hindenburg to set up a right-wing conservative presidential cabinet, which is independent of parliament and has the sole confidence of the head of state.

At the end of March 1930, financial expert and centrist leader, Heinrich Brüning is appointed chancellor by Reich President Hindenburg. Brüning persuaded the Reich President to dissolve the Reichstag and arrange new elections more than two years before the scheduled election date. The climate in which the Nazi Party can win votes has never been better. Unemployment, economic depression and political dissatisfaction replaced the brief era of confidence seen in the late-1920s.

In late summer and early autumn of 1930, Hitler's party conducts a three-month propaganda-filled election campaign battle, the like of which had never been seen before in Europe. In the parliamentary elections on 14 September 1930, in which 82 percent of the electorate takes part, the NSDAP increases its number of seats from twelve to 107. The NSDAP achieves 18.3 percent of the votes. This is the party's breakthrough. The day after the elections, the political make-up and climate in Germany have changed fundamentally. The NSDAP has risen from a Bavarian political sect to the second-largest party. It fundamentally opposes Weimar democracy.

Adolf Hitler, on 2 February 1932, after an internal meeting in Munich at "Brown House", the party headquarters, decides to run for the first round of the German presidential elections in March 1932. On 22 February, Joseph Goebbels announces his candidacy at a rally at the Sportpalast in Berlin.

Even during the 1932 German elections, which were due to take place at the end of Hindenburg’s seven-year term on 13 March 1932, the Social Democrats adhere to their policy of tolerance, which originated in Brüning’s cabinet. In February, the SPD calls on its members to vote for Paul von Hindenburg in the election to prevent Hitler from winning the election. None of the candidates manages to gain the required absolute majority of votes in the first ballot on 13 March 1933. The incumbent Reich President Hindenburg receives 49.6 percent, Hitler 30.1 percent and KPD chairman Ernst Thälmann 4.98 percent of the votes. Since Hindenburg just falls short of an absolute majority, another round of elections is necessary. In the second round of voting on 10 April, Hindenburg receives 53 percent of the votes and remains President of the Reich. Hitler comes in at 36.8 percent and Thälmann at 10.2 percent of the votes.

In June 1932, after Brüning is fired by Hindenburg and passes the chancellorship on Franz von Papen, the SPD brings an end to their policy of toleration in the Reichstag. To secure backing and longer-term tolerance of his government, von Papen wants to integrate the NSDAP into the presidential dictatorship. To negotiate with Hitler, von Papen submits to Hitler's demand after a Reichstag election by dissolving Parliament. Reich Chancellor von Papen is only in office for four days when new elections are scheduled to take place upon advice from Hindenburg.

With 37.4 percent, the NSDAP is the strongest faction ahead of the SPD with its 21.6 percent. The NSDAP's later alliance partner, the German National People's Party (DNVP), receives 5.9 percent of the votes. The proportion of votes cast by the Communists, which account for 14.3 percent, has also increased. Most importantly, the election is a defeat for parliamentary democracy. Almost 60 percent of voters opt for undemocratic parties.

Hitler demands the office of Reich Chancellor for himself. As an outstanding winner of the elections, he demands full political power and is unwilling to compromise. Hindenburg still refuses in the summer of 1932.

The von Papen cabinet, supported by von Hindenburg, has no political backing in the Reichstag. On the day Parliament is opened, the majority of the Reichstag deputies express their distrust. With an order from von Hindenburg, the newly elected Reichstag is dissolved, and von Hindenburg schedules new elections for 6 November 1932. The NSDAP loses more than two million voters in the election on 6 November. In the state elections in Thuringia a month later, the NSDAP goes on to lose 40 percent of its votes.

Hitler subsequently requests the chancellorship not following an election victory, but after significant losses in votes during the Reichstag election in November. For that, he needs the help of conservative allies in high places who believe that they will be able to finally get rid of the Communists and Social Democrats with the help of Hitler. Within a few weeks, in December 1932 and January 1933, these forces succeed in persuading the President to appoint Adolf Hitler as Chancellor.


1933 to 1934

A Murderer

Germany was ruled for 12 years by lunatics who had locked up their wardens.
Hans Habe
austrian-american writer, Experiences‘

A Murderer

Who was Hitler: Chapter #9, 1933 to 1934

Immediately after his appointment to Reich Chancellor on 30 January 1933, Adolf Hitler begins to establish a government free of any Reichstag control. As had already been the case before in the regional state governments that the Nazis were included in, his followers take possession of the police apparatus. In Hitler's cabinet of "national concentration", Wilhelm Frick, who had already been involved in the Hitler coup, takes up his post as Reich Minister of the Interior and Hermann Göring as Minister without portfolio. Göring also gains control of the Prussian police with the "Reichskommissariat für das Prußische Innenministerium". He dismisses 22 of the 32 police commissioners and replaces them with National Socialists. He strengthens the police by sending in 50,000 members of the SA, the SS and the Steel Helmet soldiers as "special constables".

After the election in March, Heinrich Himmler becomes police commissioner in Munich and begins work on Dachau concentration camp. On 1 April, after the Bavarian government has been deposed by the Reich Government, Himmler takes over the office of the political police commander in Bavaria. The process of merging the SS and police forces begins two months after the start of Hitler's chancellorship.

The Reichstag burns on 27 February 1933. Dutch anarchist Marinus van der Lubbe is arrested inside the burning parliament. The NSDAP, however, claims the fire was a communist attempt to overthrow the government. With the Reichstag fire, the political conditions in the German Reich change abruptly. The National Socialist leadership uses it to exacerbate the persecution of opponents of the regime, especially communists.

This "legalisation" results in persecution by a "regulation designed by Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick for the protection of people and State", which is unanimously adopted by the Cabinet and signed on the afternoon of 28 February by the President. It overrides the basic fundamental rights of the constitution and subsequently goes far beyond its stated purpose of "defending against acts of violence which endanger the state". From now on, the country is in a - legally correct - state of emergency. This gives the repressive measures against opponents the appearance of legality. Within the next few weeks, tens of thousands of opposition members are dragged off to concentration camps improvised by the SA.

On the streets, the SA is terrorising dissenters, but the Reichstag election on 5 March is still relatively free. Being the last free elections in the German Reich, the results are of particular significance. The Nazi party benefited in the election from the high turnout of 88.8 percent and won 43.9 percent of the vote. Considering the high level of intimidation and propaganda they used, 43.9 percent is a disappointment for the NSDAP. It has to form a coalition with the German nationalists, who step up as the black-white-red battlefront and win 8 percent of the votes. Despite all the reprisals, 12.3 percent of voters vote for the Communists.

Two days after the "Day of Potsdam", the ceremonial opening of the Reichstag staged by Goebbels, on 23 March 1933, the Reichstag votes on a "Law for the Eradication of the Plight of the People and the Reich" which had been presented by Hitler. With this "empowerment law", Hitler demands that the members of parliament give their legal consent to their deprivation of power. The adoption of the law requires the presence of two-thirds of the statutory members and two-thirds of the votes. He has assured these majorities through the consent of the two Catholic parties, Centre and Bavarian People's Party.

Article 1 of the Act regards the transfer of legislative powers from the Parliament to the Government; Article 2 extends the authorization of the Cabinet to constitutional changes, and Article 3 transfers the copyright for the laws from the President to the Chancellor. Legislative and executive power become one.

From March 1933, "Government concentration camps" are built by the SA and the SS modelled on Dachau, where, like in Oranienburg, North of Berlin, prisoners are mistreated and often murdered. All of Hitler’s political opponents can reckon with being taken into "protective custody". After Himmler's "Schutzstaffel" (protection squadron) took over the concentration camps from the first improvised "wilderness" camps operated by the SA, the "SS state" was created.

In January 1931, Ernst Röhm accepted Hitler's offer to become top SA leader again. Röhm builds the SA into a strong mass organisation. At the time, the SS is still part of the SA. During the economic crisis, the SA had seen a wave of former frontline fighters and unemployed people who engaged in fights with political opponents. Parts of the SA became revolutionary before 1933 and continued to express criticism of Hitler's legality policy.

In March 1933, Röhm becomes Bavarian State Commissioner and State Secretary. In December 1933, he is appointed to the Reich Cabinet as Reich Minister without portfolio. His efforts to turn the SA, which, since the beginning of the year had grown from 400,000 to four and a half million members in a "second revolution", into the core of a new national army make him a rival of the Reichswehr.

Hitler has to take action on the smouldering conflict between the SA and Reichswehr. Although Röhm is loyal to Hitler, his revolutionary ideas scare the middle classes and the elite. Röhm's inner-party rivals - Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels in particular - encourage Hitler in his decision to expand the Reichswehr into a modern army capable of war as quickly as possible, rather than the SA standards. Himmler's SS stirs up rumours about an upcoming coup to be carried out by the SA.

During a leaders' meeting on 30 June 1934, the entire SA leadership is liquidated. The acts of violence during the so-called "Röhm-Putsch" are carried out by the SS on Hitler's and Göring's orders. In suppressing the allegedly planned "Röhm-Putsch", Hitler will also settle old scores, to which "old fighters" of the party, as well as opponents of the Nazi regime, fall victim. On 2 July, Hitler officially announces the end of the "purge operation". It is estimated that the total number of people killed was between 150 and 200.

On 2 July 1934, the Reich's government subsequently justifies the murder spree by law as a "state emergency". The SS, formally a part of the SA, is rewarded for its bloody service. It becomes an independent organisation within the framework of the NSDAP. Subsequently, Hitler forges the decisive weapon of his state.


1934 to 1938

The Führer

When I left him, I had to think of Joan of Arc. He is clearly a mystic. He is reserved in all his habits and methods.
William Lyon Mackenzie King
Prime minister of Canada - Diary, June 29, 1937

The Führer

Who was Hitler: Chapter #10, 1934 to 1938

With a "referendum on the head of State of the German Empire" on 19 August 1934 after the death of President Hindenburg, what had begun as a "subreption of power" becomes an absolute "seizure of power". Hitler is now "Führer and Chancellor of the Reich". In just 20 months, he managed to outmanoeuvre his civil allies, eliminate all opposing political forces and neutralise the Reichswehr. Step by step, he turned Germany into a dictatorship. After the Gleichschaltung of parties and associations, the union of the Office of the Reich President with that of the Chancellor, and the swearing-in of the Reichswehr on their new Commander in Chief, Hitler makes himself the centre of power in a way that no German ruler had been able to do since Charlemagne.

Alongside the annual traditional marches to the Feldherrnhalle on 9 November and the Reich harvest festivals on the Bückeberg near Hameln, the Reich Party Congresses are the highlights of the National Socialist events calendar. Over the years, the course of these events is "canonised". Hitler tells Albert Speer in a debriefing of the Party Congress in 1938 that as long as he lived, the rallies must become an "unalterable ritual". The canonisation of the ritual is supposed to endow its potential successors with a charisma borrowed from Hitler and to become a liturgy of the "Third Reich".

Hitler's name stands for the achievements and successes of the regime in the mid-1930s. Propaganda claims that within three years the majority of the population believes that his genius has achieved economic growth, the elimination of unemployment and the restoration of peace and order. Hitler had overruled the Treaty of Versailles and made Germany a military force again.

After the defeat of the First World War and Treaty of Versailles, more and more Germans in many parties tended to lean towards patriotism and also increasingly recognised Hitler's alleged 'achievements' without questioning what he was doing. For this reason, Hitler rapidly gains popularity among the majority of the population that was previously opposed to or at least critical of National Socialism. Those who were completely or partly impressed by the impression of Hitler's apparent successes in politics with a certain amount of scepticism tend not to be National Socialists. On the whole, however, a widespread belief in the Führer emerges among around 90 percent or even more of all Germans, who ignore the negative aspects such as the persecution of political minorities and the Jews. There is practically no more resistance to Hitler or Nazism and where it is found it is nipped in the bud with brutal violence – fighting the system is futile.

Adolf Hitler achieved his first foreign policy success in 1935. After the First World War, the Saarland, a highly industrialised part of the Prussian Rhine province with its 800,000 inhabitants, was a League of Nations' mandate territory under the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. As stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles, a referendum takes place on 13 January 1935 under the supervision of the League of Nations. It is for the Saarlanders to decide whether the area belongs to the German Reich or France or if the status quo should be maintained. Out of approximately 540,000 voters, 90.5 percent vote for Germany. Only 0.4 percent are in favour of joining France. At least two-thirds of former supporters of both left-wing parties are in favour of returning to the German Reich, to "Nazi Germany".

On Hitler's order on 7 March 1936, 30,000 soldiers of the Wehrmacht, as the Reichswehr was called since 1935, cross the bridges over the Rhine and occupy the Rhineland, which had been demilitarised since the defeat in the First World War. With the occupation of the 50-kilometre-wide zone west of the Rhine, Hitler violated both the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact of 1925. One French Division would have been enough to stop the invasion of the German army into the demilitarised Rhineland. But as Hitler correctly predicted, neither the French nor the British are prepared to go to war for the post-war order of Versailles. By the evening of 16 March, it is clear that the coup is a complete success.

In the Republic of Austria, which was prohibited by the victors of World War I from joining the German Reich, there is a strong national socialist movement. Since its coup attempt on 25 July 1934, the NSDAP is banned in Austria. Nevertheless, it continues to agitate underground for joining Germany. On 12 February 1938, Adolf Hitler cites the Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg at Obersalzberg and dictates an agreement to him that lifts the ban on the Austrian National Socialists, allows them to participate in the Government and grants the NSDAP police violence with the Ministry of the Interior. This creates the conditions for a National Socialist takeover of power in Austria.

An ultimatum, which threatens the invasion of German troops in Austria and calls for the transfer of sovereignty to the Nazi Government, forces Schuschnigg to resign on 11 March 1938. As Austrian President Wilhelm Miklas refuses to appoint National Socialist, Arthur Seyß-Inquart as Schuschnigg's successor on the same day, Hitler gives the order to invade. The Wehrmacht occupies all of Austria. The country is divided into NSDAP Gaus and joined to the German Reich, which is now called the "Greater German Reich".


1934 to 1938

A Petit-Bourgeois

No one, who has not experienced it, can imagine the deadly boredom that prevailed during these tea times.
Baldur von Schirach
Leader of the Hitler Youth, ‚I believed in Hitler ‘

A Petit-Bourgeois

Who was Hitler: Chapter #11, 1934 to 1938

Adolf Hitler does actually have a family. However, his relationships with his relatives are characterised by deliberate distance. On the one hand, this must have served to hide his background from the people of Germany, but it must also have been part of the stylisation of a leader who worked tirelessly for his people without any ties. An exception to this rule is the relationship with his half-sister Angela and her daughters Angela Maria ("Geli") and Elfriede Raubal between 1928 and 1935. Angela Raubal had contacted the imprisoned Hitler from Linz in 1924 and was allowed to visit him on 17 June at the prison in Landsberg. In 1928, the Raubals move into Hitler's home in Obersalzberg, where Angela manages her brother's household for almost seven years. His niece Geli, to whom Hitler had been a guardian since 1923, lives at times with Hitler in his apartment in Munich, where she ultimately takes her life using Hitler's pistol on 18 September.

Hitler has no contact with his older half-brother Alois Hitler, who runs the restaurant "Alois" on Wittenbergplatz in Berlin from 1934 onwards.

After leaving Linz in 1908, his younger sister Paula meets Hitler for the first time in Vienna in 1921, and he meets her again several times over the next three years. Hitler gives financial support to Paula from this time on. However, he forces her to give up the surname Hitler; she calls herself Paula Wolf.

In his first surviving testament from May 1938, Hitler awards his sisters as well as his girlfriend Eva Braun with a pension and his half-brother Alois with a one-off larger amount.

Hitler's fixed circle of men is established between 1925 and 1932. They are no substitute for family, but are something like constant companions. With occasional changes to its members, this groups is called "Chauffeureska" and includes Adjutant Wilhelm Brückner and Julius Schaub, later SS General Sepp Dietrich as a bodyguard, the "spokesman", Otto Dietrich, the photographer Heinrich Hoffmann, and the publisher's son Ernst Hanfstaengl, who is later in charge of the foreign press for the Nazi party. If Hitler talks about himself at all, it is with the members of this closest circle of adjutants, bodyguards, drivers and long-time companions, who also have the added duty of keeping him entertained.

From 1935 onwards, whether or not Hitler accepts someone into his career-promoting circle of men depends on whether or not Eva Braun likes him and his family. Hitler met the then 18-year-old saleswoman in 1929 at Heinrich Hoffmann's photoshop in Munich. From 1930 onwards, his contact with this woman grows more intense and frequent. It seems she suffers greatly from her relationship with him. In November 1932, Eva Braun tried to commit suicide by shooting herself. In 1935, she attempted suicide again, this time by overdosing on sleeping pills. After Hitler's half-sister Angela Raubal moved out of the Berghof in 1935, Eva Braun began to settle down at Obersalzberg. Her family and friends are now constantly around Hitler. Those around him know of couple's relationship, but they remain silent. Nevertheless, the existence of the "Führer's" girlfriend is not entirely unknown to the public.

While Hitler maintains his public image of leading a humble lifestyle, he actually lives in luxury. In addition to his Alpine residence at Obersalzberg near Berchtesgaden, he maintains his private apartment in Munich and his official residence in the Berlin Chancellery. In 1934, pending tax evasion proceedings due to inaccurate figures declared from book sales of "Mein Kampf" are stopped. The Reich Ministry of Finance declares to the Chief Financial Officer of Munich that Hitler is no longer liable to tax due to "his constitutional status". From 1934, the chancellor no longer pays any taxes.

From 1935 onwards, the entire Obersalzberg mountain is sealed off. On the site of the declared "Führer Protection Area”, confidant to Hitler and NSDAP Reichsleiter Martin Bormann forces the other residents and bed and breakfast owners to sell their properties to the Nazi party.


1938 to 1939

An Arsonist

What now?
Adolf Hitler
to Joachim Ribbentrop after receiving the British declaration of war

An Arsonist

Who was Hitler: Chapter #12, 1938 to 1939

With his foreign policy, Adolf Hitler is seeking German supremacy in Europe and wants to establish the German Reich as a world power. While Hitler publicly propagates peace, Germany is working towards economic self-sufficiency and arming itself for a war that is already in the planning. Early foreign policy successes strengthen the national self-confidence among the German people and increase Hitler's popularity. On 3 February 1933, in a secret speech to the highest-ranking officers of the Reichswehr, the newly appointed Reich chancellor had already called for the German Reich to conquer new "living space in the east" and to "ruthlessly Germanise" it. From this moment, the leaders of the Reichswehr are aware of Hitler's goals. In order to implement them, a swift rearmament and the regaining of Germany's military strength are of top priority to Hitler. To reach his goals, Hitler goes about forming foreign alliances.

Only a few weeks after the German-Italian intervention in the Spanish Civil War to help the coup being led by General Franco, Benito Mussolini spoke for the first time in Milan on 1 November 1936 of a "Berlin-Rome Axis". By this time, Italy has become internationally isolated by its annexation of Abyssinia international, but it still wants to lead an aggressive foreign policy in North Africa and the Balkans and is hoping for German support. Hitler had long sought closer ties with fascist Italy. Until 1939, the "Berlin-Rome Axis" means a straightforward rapprochement between the two states with regard to an anti-communist policy and support for the respective expansion interests. The ever-closer ties between Germany and Italy find their most visible expression in the "Pact of Steel" of 22 May 1939. The pact provides for close military cooperation and mutual assistance in the event of a war of aggression.

As early as August 1936, in a secret memorandum, Hitler had declared that the Wehrmacht must be ready for "military service in four years, the German economy in four years' time". On 5 November 1937, Hitler opens a conference with the Wehrmacht's leaders by saying that the German living space would be "in the middle of Europe" and would be secured for future generations to come with Austria's and the Czech Republic's annexation to the Reich. He wanted to ensure this by force if necessary by the mid-1940s.

With a "Heim ins Reich" policy, the first step of which is Austria's annexation to the German Reich, Hitler creates tension in foreign policy starting in the spring of 1938. Approximately 3.5 million German-speaking people live in the regions of Czechoslovakia outside the German Reich and the Republic of Austria.

In 1931, gymnastics teacher Konrad Henlein founded the "Front of Sudeten German Homeland " (SHF). In 1935, the SHF was renamed the Sudeten German Party (SdP). In the parliamentary elections on 19 May 1935, the SdP, to which many Nazis belonged, enjoyed great success and becomes the second-strongest party in Czechoslovakia with 44 seats. It represents about two-thirds of the German population there. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels initiates a "Heim ins Reich" (Home into the Reich) campaign, which, concerning the right of self-determination of the peoples, also aims to connect the "Sudetenland", which is mainly populated by German-speaking "Sudetenland", to the German Reich. Violence and provocations on the part of the "Sudetendeutsche Freikorps" intensify the political crisis in Czechoslovakia. Hitler threatens to send in the Wehrmacht. The "Sudeten Crisis" comes about in September 1938.

The danger of a war caused by Hitler is real, and after many months, Great Britain, France, Italy and the German Reich sign the Munich Agreement on 30 September 1938, in which Czechoslovakia's transfer of the Sudeten area to Germany is stipulated. Hitler assures everyone that this will be his last territorial demand. The British Government, in particular, believes that the agreement has secured peace in Europe. The Munich Agreement is seen as a triumph made possible by Hitler. Hitler, however, does not see it like this. He would have preferred to use violence to gain what the agreement secured without violence.

On 13 February 1939, Hitler informs a few close confidants that he intends to take action against the Czechs in mid-March. German propaganda is made to reflect this. When German troops enter Prague on 15 March 1939, the "smashing of the rest of Czechoslovakia" takes place. Hitler's SS and Heydrich's secret police follow the invading Wehrmacht. Bohemia and Moravia become German "Reich Protectorate", while Slovakia, which is now sovereign under international law, becomes a German satellite state.

Hitler's breach of the Munich Agreement shows the Western powers that he cannot be trusted. They change their diplomacy and guarantee the independence of the Polish state. Hitler, on the other hand, aims to make Poland a German satellite state, to annex the "Free City of Gdansk" to the Reich, and to get an extraterritorial motorway link through the so-called "Polish Corridor", which separates East Prussia from the Reich.

On 23rd May 1939, Hitler tells the commanders-in-chief of the Wehrmacht that he wants to defeat Poland using the German military. At the end of July 1939 and with Hitler’s approval, Foreign Minister Ribbentrop and Secretary of State von Weizsäcker set the foundations for an agreement with the Soviet Union, which governs the division of Poland and the Baltic countries in a further secret agreement.

The so-called Hitler-Stalin-Pact, a non-aggression treaty from 23 August 1939, allows both states to wage war against Poland without affecting the respective interests of either country. The purely tactical alliance with the Soviet Union does not change Hitler's real foreign policy goal of gaining "living space" in the east. Hitler is now in a hurry: he does not think he will be able to wage a motorised war in Poland, which is not as advanced as Germany. The Pact of Steel means there is a strong link between Germany and Italy. Duce Benito Mussolini writes a letter to Hitler in which he concludes his country is "not ready for war".

On 1 September 1939, Hitler's invasion of Poland is the trigger that starts the Second World War. Hitler feels almost indestructible and is not worried about entering into a war with the other world powers. Moreover, in 1938 and 1939, the Wehrmacht has an armament lead over the British and French, which will be gambled away in a few years.

The Germans follow Adolf Hitler into an unwanted war. Their motives differ, ranging from "love" for the Führer, a less emphatic "loyalty", a tendency among older generations to follow and obey, and the simple fact that so many were scared of the regime’s Gestapo, justice system and concentration camps. People are more scared of these things than they are of war.


1939 to 1941

The Commander

If we are mark’d to die, we are enow, To do our country loss; and if to live, The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
William Shakespeare
‘Henry V ‘ - St. Crispin Day Speech

The Commander

Who was Hitler: Chapter #13, 1939 to 1941

Since the spring of 1939, German propaganda has strengthened the anti-Polish prejudices existing among large parts of the population. In the last few weeks before the beginning of the war, newspapers and radio stations report almost daily on violence against the minority German population in Poland. A war against Poland is seen as a punitive action.

Although the Polish State and army leadership are informed of the German preparations for war, the attack in the early hours of 1 September 1939 still comes as a surprise to them. After a week, all Polish lines of defence have been broken, and the Polish army is in retreat, with their units surrounded by the fast German divisions. The Polish defeat is unavoidable with the attack of two Red Army forces on Eastern Poland on 17th September. In accordance with the secret agreements in the "Hitler-Stalin Pact", the Soviet units advance towards the Narew-Vistula-San line. After the German and Soviet invasion of Poland and the defeat of the Polish army, Poland is dissolved as an independent state and divided between Germany and the Soviet Union.

The beginning of the Second World War changes Hitler's style of rule. He increasingly withdraws from political leadership and increasingly takes on the role of a supreme warlord. By 1943, Hitler rarely appears in public or on the radio. Instead, he chooses the isolation of his military headquarters and dedicates himself almost exclusively to managing the war.

On 3 September 1939, the Commonwealth nations of Australia and New Zealand declare war on Germany, as does the Indian Empire and the Union of South Africa on 6 September, and Canada on 10 September. Despite the British and French declarations of war on the German Reich on 3 September, the Western Front is relatively quiet for seven months. Hitler only has a few newly-formed motorised divisions march on the Western Front. The British and French only offer political assistance, they fail to attack, as they had promised in their alliance with Poland.

Already at the beginning of the war, the Wehrmacht High Command (OKW) urges an invasion of Norway for war economic reasons. In a race with the British, Germany starts the invasion of neutral Norway on 8/9 April 1940 in a combined air and sea operation without declaring war. At the same time as the German invasion of Norway, from April 9, 1940, two German infantry divisions and a rifle brigade secure the Baltic approaches and the Danish supply links.

By June 1940, about 130,000 German soldiers had been transferred to Norway. In the far north of the country, the bitter battle of Narvik is coming to an end in late-May 1940 when the Allies withdraw their troops from Northern Norway.

Hitler ends the "phoney war" in the west on 10 May 1940 with a surprise German attack on the British and French.

The French defensive strategy has given Lieutenant-General Erich von Manstein, head of the Armed Forces General Staff Army Group A, the opportunity to elaborate a bold plan in detail. Hitler had long had the vague idea of having the offensive carried out by a tank advance through the Ardennes in southern Belgium. He then pays attention to Erich von Manstein's suggestions. Favoured by the element of surprise, 141 German divisions manage to defeat an opponent of equal military strength within a few weeks in the so-called "Westfeldzug" (western campaign). The Netherlands surrenders on 15 May 1940, and Belgium surrenders without consulting the French and British on 28 May.

With the advance of German troops on the French defensive line along the Somme and Aisne, the second phase of the "Westfeldzug" begins on 5 June. The Wehrmacht breaks through the defence lines in northern France and then turns southeast into the back of the Maginot Line. The mass of French troops is surrounded in eastern France; the Maginot Line is taken out from the rear. On 17 June, the new French Prime Minister Henri Philippe Pétain offers a ceasefire in the face of the hopeless military situation against Germany. This is signed on 22 June 1940 in the forest of Compiègne with Adolf Hitler present.

As part of Germany's plans to invade the British Isles, air sovereignty over the islands is to be gained by 13 August 1940. The air force's large-scale attacks initially focus on British naval units, armaments industries, air defence positions and Royal Air Force bases in southern England.

After heavy losses, the large-scale German attacks are brought to an end in mid-September. On 24 August 1940, the first bombs fall over London. Despite the tenfold numerical superiority of the German bomber forces and six-fold longer approach routes, Winston Churchill immediately initiates the bombing of Berlin. Further British night attacks follow. They do not fail to affect Adolf Hitler. On 4 September, he announces his intention to "wipe out" London.

Italy's declaration of war on Great Britain on 10 June 1940 leads to the expansion of the war to North Africa, where Italy formed a colony from what are the modern Libyan regions of Tripoli, Cyrenaica and Fezzan. In September 1940, Italian troops from Libya launched an offensive against Egypt under British rule. A counteroffensive led the British Eighth Army to El Agheila in Great Sirte by early- February 1941. The impending loss of his colony prompted Benito Mussolini to ask Hitler for military support. Under lieutenant general Erwin Rommel, a German Africa corps lands in Tripoli on 11 February 1941. Erwin Rommel begins the task of reconquering Cyrenaica at the end of March.

Between 8 April and 12 April 1939, Italian troops had occupied the country, which at that time was a kingdom, without much resistance from Albanian forces. On 16 April, the Albanian Kingdom is annexed in a personal union by the Kingdom of Italy. In the autumn of 1940, Benito Mussolini wages war against Greece without consulting his German ally. While German plans for an attack on the Soviet Union have been underway since December, Adolf Hitler also feels compelled to provide military aid to his Italian ally in the Balkans.

At the end of March 1941, Hitler decides to attack Yugoslavia after a coup against the German-friendly government in Belgrade. With the Balkan campaign, which ends with the capitulation of the Yugoslav army on 17 April and the Greek army on 21 April, Hitler's timetable for the invasion of the Soviet Union has fallen behind.


1941 to 1943

A Conquerer

If Hitler won the war, the Middle Ages would reign again - but without being illuminated by the mercy of Christ.
Paul Reynaud
French prime minister

A Conquerer

Who was Hitler: Chapter #14, 1941 to 1943

On 21 June 1941, the eve of the attack on the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler dictates a letter to the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. The letter is Hitler's official statement about his previously unknown intentions to the ally: "Duce! I am writing this letter to you at a moment when months of anxious deliberation and continuous nerve-racking waiting are ending in the hardest decision of my life. I believe…that I cannot take responsibility for waiting longer, and, above all, I believe there is no other way out of this danger – unless it be further waiting, which, however, would necessarily lead to disaster in this or the next year at the latest."

On 22 June 1941, on a wide front between the Baltic Sea and the Carpathians, Hitler has the Wehrmacht and its ally Romania start a war against the clearly surprised Soviet Union. In the north, the Finnish Republic is also attacking the Soviet Union.

Hitler attacks with three groups of armies. The Northern Army Group has its attention focused on Leningrad, but the movement fails to conquer it in early August 1941. The Wehrmacht is content with starving the civilian population. Leningrad successfully withstands the siege until the Red Army's counteroffensive in early 1944.

The Middle Army Group is the strongest of the three German army groups at the start of the war against the Soviet Union. While the army leadership wishes to focus on conquering Moscow, capturing the capital is not a priority for Hitler. On 19 July 1941, he gives a directive that will weaken the Army Group Centre.

Army Group South moves out of its staging areas from southern Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania towards Dnepr and Kiev and. Once these objectives have been achieved, the group will begin a march into the Donets Basin. After capturing Odessa, some sections penetrate Crimea in October and begin to siege the Black Sea port of Sevastopol. Other sections succeed in taking Kharkov and, for a time, Rostov-on-Don.

During the first months of the war in 1941, more than 600,000 soldiers from the allied states of Finland, Italy, Croatia, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary march eastwards with the Wehrmacht. Their number doubles in 1942, as Hitler then urges his allies to increase their troop contingents. In 1942, he is no longer able to compensate for the losses of the Wehrmacht by recruiting in the "Great German Reich".

On the Libyan-Egyptian border, trench warfare has been going on since April 1941. On 18 November 1941, Commonwealth units under British command bring it to an end with an attack of superior strength. The British attack pushes back the forces gathered together in the Africa Panzer Army -which is suffering from a shortage of supplies - to its initial position at the western edge of the Cyrenaica until the end of 1941. The Africa Corps was able to regain the initiative in January 1942 by means of massive attacks by the German "Luftflotte 2", which had been transferred from the central section of the Eastern Front to North Africa. This is the start of a counterattack. At this time, the front is faltering outside Moscow. The successes in North Africa are great for propaganda back home in Germany.

On 2 December 1941, despite the unfavourable weather conditions, the Wehrmacht almost reaches Moscow. On the evening of 5 December, with temperatures as low as 50 degrees Celsius and a lack of adequate support, Colonel-General Heinz Guderian, Commander of Panzer Group 2 decides to withdraw his troops to defensive positions. The German fourth and third panzer armies are forced to do the same. On 5 December, a Soviet counter-attack begins with fresh troops from Siberia. The German front falters under the onslaught of 100 Soviet divisions.

The commanding generals of the Wehrmacht want to withdraw their troops. Hitler prohibits this – he knows that there are no reserves available and fears that the Red Army could advance to the Reich border. He categorically forbids retreat. Hitler's ban on withdrawal has had a decisive effect on the Wehrmacht’s military performance. The ban stabilises the frontline for a few weeks, even though the troops there are low in numbers and have few weapons, and keeps Wehrmacht's fighting force intact. On 15 January, Hitler then orders a withdrawal to a "winter position" which will be easier to defend. Due to a lack of horses, tractors and fuel, the German troops, which for the most part have to retreat on foot, leave all their heavy equipment behind.

Up until the attack on the Soviet Union, Great Britain and its Commonwealth allies have stood alone in the fight against Hitler's Germany. Fighting takes place in North Africa, at sea, and in a bombing war that increases with intensity month by month over areas dominated by Germany. Even before it enters the war, the American government openly supports Britain – in terms of both politics and materials. However, until December 1941, public opinion in the USA is against a war with Hitler's Germany. Immediately after the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, President Roosevelt also assures Stalin of US military support.

On the 7/8 December 1941, Germany's ally Japan attacks the US military base of Pearl Harbour on Hawaii without warning. More than 2,400 Americans die. The next day, the US Congress declares war on the Empire of Japan with a single dissenting vote - Great Britain and its Commonwealth allies also declare war.

Until the Soviet counteroffensive against Moscow, which began at the same time, Hitler had hoped the American army would keep out of European warfare. During a speech to the Reichstag on 11 December, Hitler announces a declaration of war against the USA. Italy declares war simultaneously. Representatives from the governments of Germany, Italy and Japan also sign an agreement prohibiting governments from negotiating a separate ceasefire or peace agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom. With the declaration of war, Hitler wants to demonstrate Germany's determination to determine the course of the war.

On 26 April 1942, the "Great German Reichstag", which now only consists of Nazis, meets for the last time at 3:00 pm. Due to the war and Hitler's position as leader, commander-in-chief, head of government and supreme court ruler, the sham parliament unanimously grants Hitler total legislative and judiciary power.

On 8 June 1942, Hitler launches a major summer offensive on the Eastern Front. Due to the Wehrmacht's weakening in the winter of 1941/42, the attack is limited to an 800-kilometre-wide front section on the southern part of the front. Hitler wants to conquer the Caucasian oil fields, reach the Caspian Sea and advance to Persia via the Caucasus. Just a few days after the start of the summer offensive, the Army Group South reaches the Don near Voronezh. An attempt by Red Army units to surround the Germans, like the attempts seen in the advances in 1941, fails.

With the conquest of Crimea and the advance to the Caucasus, Hitler's dominion reached its peak in the summer of 1942. The summer offensive in the northern front section of the Army Group South leads to an invasion of Stalingrad at the end of August. The 6th army is unable to drive the Soviet defenders out of the city during fierce battles. Instead of the triumph it had hoped for, the fights lead to catastrophe for the 6th army. A major offensive by the Red Army in mid-November 1942 surprises and surrounds the 6th Army. The Wehrmacht has no reserves available that can be successfully deployed. Hitler forbids the army from retreating. On 31 January and 2 February 1943, the German 6th Army surrenders in Stalingrad.

On 23 October 1942, Commonwealth troops launch a counter-attack in North Africa near El Alamein and penetrate the German line of defence. The Africa Corps retreats against Hitler's orders towards Western Libya. After landings in Morocco and Algeria on 8 and 9 November 1942, more than 100,000 American and British soldiers form a second front behind the German and Italian forces in North Africa, which subsequently falls into a hopeless position.


1939 to 1945

Mass Murderer

Not six million Jews were murdered. One Jew was murdered - and that six million times.
Abel Jacob Herzog
Dutch writer and concentration camp prisoner in Bergen-Belsen

Mass Murderer

Who was Hitler: Chapter #15, 1939 to 1945

For a long time, researchers and prosecutors searched for an order written by Adolf Hitler to murder the European Jews. It is likely that a command of this nature given by Hitler for the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" does not exist. However, there is no doubt among academics that Hitler knew about the crimes in great detail, ordered them or allowed them to happen.

The "SS state" is created in summer 1933 after Himmler's "Schutzstaffel" takes over the concentration camps from the first improvised "wilderness" camps operated by the SA. The concentration camps are just one part of the Nazi killing system. Other elements include the "institutions" with their role in euthanasia, the prisoner-of-war camps, forced labour, the terror of the Gestapo, the army's penal battalions, the Wehrmacht's prisoner-of-war camps, the prison and prison system, as well as the SS and police Einsatzgruppen.

If Adolf Hitler had not spoken out in 1935 for their preservation, the concentration camps and prisons would have been dissolved as Hermann Göring wanted. During a meeting with Himmler on 20 June, Hitler confirms that the camps will be needed in the coming years. Until the mass arrests after the 1938 Reichspogromnacht, only a few camp inmates were held for "racial reasons". Even in the large Sachsenhausen camp in 1937, only about 50 Jewish men were said to have been imprisoned. In 1938, as a result of the pogroms on 9 and 10 November, these numbers increase dramatically when the SS and Gestapo drag 27,000 Jewish boys and men to the camps.

The latest research assumes that Heinrich Himmler gave the order in autumn 1941, after consultation with Hitler, to murder all Jews in the so-called "Generalgouvernement" unless they could be used as forced labourers. The year 1941, with the war against the Soviet Union, marks the beginning of unbridled, mass murder on an industrial scale. Immediately after the Wehrmacht's invasion of the Soviet Union, the "recruiting task forces of the security police and the SD" begin their mass killings. Political responsibility lies with Hermann Göring, to whom Hitler had delegated the coordination of 'Jewish politics'. In the concentration camps and extermination camps, mass murder of the European Jews, Sinti and Roma is seen, not only in the gas chambers, but also partly during mass shootings, and also as a result of the conditions of imprisonment, which, for Jewish prisoners, are particularly inhumane.

The mass murder of Soviet prisoners of war is another colossal crime, especially for the German Wehrmacht. The military leadership does nothing to stop Soviet prisoners starving to death. While only one to three percent of Anglo-American prisoners die in German camps, about 50 percent of the captured Red Army soldiers die. Of the approximately 5.3 to 5.7 million Red Army soldiers in German custody, around 2.5 to 3.3 (estimates fluctuate) million die. Adolf Hitler has been "Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht" since February 1938. He is directly responsible for this mass murder.

After the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 and with the help of the many Soviet prisoners of war who were willingly handed over to them by the Wehrmacht, Himmler's SS turns the concentration camps into a forced labour tool to help colonise the east. Due to the army of slave labourers in them, the war economy benefits enormously from the camps.

The history of the gas chambers begins in Auschwitz. They are used to murder tens of thousands of "Soviet commissioners". By the time the war against the Soviet Union grinds to a halt, and no more Soviet prisoners of war arrive, the gas chambers have already been put to the test. They are now used to murder Jews - especially children, mothers, the elderly and the sick. The use of the camps for executions, as well as the lethal combination of imprisonment and terrible working conditions, especially in the area of building materials production, is an expression of the violence escalating as a result of the war. In the apocalyptic final phase of the camps, there is a final increase in the number of murders during relocations and forced marches.

For many of the crimes committed by Adolf Hitler, no documents exist to prove his direct and immediate responsibility. It was Hitler's style and indeed instinct not to issue deadly orders in written form. This is not the case, however, when it comes to the centrally organised execution of what is known as "euthanasia", i.e. the killing of "life that is not worth living". In early October 1939, Adolf Hitler signs an "order" backdated to 1 September 1939, the day of the outbreak of war. The sounds of battle were supposed to drown out the death cries of the disabled victims who fell victim to this spree of mass murder. With his signature, he authorised Philipp Bouhler, the head of the Führer Chancellery, and Hitler's young companion physician Karl Brandt to "widen the powers of particular doctors to be determined so that, according to human judgment, incurably ill persons may be granted the mercy-censure by the most critical assessment of their state of illness." By the autumn of 1939, however, the killing of the mentally ill has already been underway for a while, as Hitler had probably already given them authorisation before he signed any papers. In particular, the Bishop of Münster, Clemens August von Galen finds the courage to candidly, and publically, express his opinion. In his sermon on 3 August 1941, the bishop announces that he is now definitively aware of the fact that death transports for the sick from nursing homes in Westphalia are going on. Galen’s sermons quickly spread throughout the German Reich and among the soldiers of the Wehrmacht. As early as October, reports circulate in the British government about the "extraordinarily courageous and open sermons" by the Bishop of Münster. Von Galen’s courageous protest is based on specific points of criticism and is successful. The conflict between the Hitler regime and the Bishop of Münster and other public critics is only partially resolved. Hitler discontinues most of the euthanasia programme for more than a year. More than 70,000 people have already been murdered as part of the programme. In a less conspicuous form, however, the euthanasia programme returns to the sanatoriums and nursing homes immediately before the end of the war. The concentration camps were also used for euthanasia.

Adolf Hitler then has his victims killed by SA, the SS, the regular and "secret" state police, the courts, the judicial authorities and the Wehrmacht with its subdivisions. The Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal classifies the NSDAP's Political Leaders' Corps, the Gestapo, the Security Service (SD) and the SS as "criminal organisations". The legal consequences are severe for the members of these criminal organisations. They can be fined without proceedings and individual burden of proof. After 8 May 1945, a not altogether insignificant number of men is sentenced to die in the gallows; men who commanded the henchmen and saw to it that millions of people died a cruel death in the twelve years of Hitler's reign. They could be found at the head of the state, the NSDAP and the army. Above all, however, the SS men were Adolf Hitler's willing executioners. Their speciality was concentration and extermination camps. In contrast to many of his assistants and executioners, Hitler, a mass murderer, evaded conviction by killing himself.


1943 to 1944

A War Criminal

If the wild animals have sprung their custody, and have run under the people, every one who has a strong arm must reach for the weapon.
Hans Scholl
Student and resistance fighter

A War Criminal

Who was Hitler: Chapter #16, 1943 to 1944

On 18 February 1943, propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels proclaims "Total War" to 3,000 selected listeners at the Sportpalast in Berlin. A month earlier, Adolf Hitler ordered that all human and material resources in the German Reich and the occupied territories should be released for the "final victory". All men between the ages of 16 and 65, as well as women between the ages of 17 and 45, can now be called up to defend the Reich. With the extension of compulsory military service from August 1943, boys under the age of 18 are drafted into the Wehrmacht. The mobilisation of the last reserves in the homeland is accompanied by martial law and an intensification of the already unbridled terror seen across the country. The number of death sentences imposed for defeatism or undermining military force in the armed forces increases dramatically.

In response to the Allied landing in North Africa, the German Wehrmacht occupies the southern zone of France on 11 November 1942. The persecution of Jews, the forced recruitment of French workers for the German economy, and the increasing terror the Germans inflict on the population now leads to an intensification of the French resistance movement.

After the capitulation of the last German and Italian troops in North Africa and the conquest of Sicily by the Allies, enemy troops land in the Gulf of Taranto on the Italian mainland on 3 September 1943, and near Salerno on 9 September. Italy declares a ceasefire. The German troops in Italy disarm their former allies.

On 25 August 1940, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) attacks Berlin for the first time. Many of the 81 bombers sent out cannot find their target. Only minor damage is recorded in the city centre and the suburbs of Reinickendorf, Pankow and Lichtenberg. On the same night, the RAF also bombs Cologne, Hamm and the Italian city of Bologna. At the end of May 1942, the Royal Air Force flies with 1,046 bombers against Cologne in the first attack of the war to see more than 1,000 bombers in action. More than 30,000 people fall victim to the bombing of Hamburg by over 2,200 British aircraft in July 1943. From November 1943 onwards, Berlin is subject to massive air raids. At the same time, American long-range bombers continue to fly daytime raids on German cities. The Royal Air Force sticks to its night-time area bombing. From March 1944 onwards, the Allies have unrestricted air supremacy over Germany.

At a conference in Washington in May 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt agree to invade France in spring 1944. From 28 November to 1 December 1943, the first summit meeting between Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin takes place in the Persian capital of Tehran. At the conference, Stalin calls for a "second front" to ease the burden on his country. He does not see the battles in Italy as a front. The Allies, therefore, decide to send American and British troops to invade northern France in May 1944. The "Big Three" also agree to prevent Germany rising as a political and military power in the future.

The Allies used the year 1943 to transfer large contingents of troops from the USA and Canada to Great Britain and to assemble an armada for an invasion. Through a large landing in the "Fortress Europe", as declared by Hitler, they want to bring about the rapid military collapse of Germany. Hitler longs for the landing. He hopes to be able to send the troops that have been freed up after successfully repelling the invasion to the Eastern Front.

With more than 3,100 landing craft, the first wave of the invasion army is transferred from Great Britain to France on the evening of 6 June 1944. Under covering fire provided by 1,200 warships and 7,500 aircraft, some 150,000 Americans, Brits, French, Poles, Canadians and other Commonwealth members land on five different beaches in Normandy. At the same time, paratroopers and airborne troops bring critical strategic points in the hinterland under their control. On 31 July, the Americans penetrate the German front at Avranches. France's north is open to the allies for a wide-ranging mobile warfare.

In June 1944, the German Army Group Central on the Eastern Front has only 40 divisions with around 500,000 soldiers left. With these weak forces, it has a 1,000-kilometre curved front to defend Vitebsk, Orscha, Mogilev and Bobruisk. An attempt to straighten out the front and increase the defence capability is forbidden by Hitler. Two weeks after the Allied invasion of France, on 22 June 1944, the Red Army begins a major offensive against the army group with 1.2 million soldiers and 4,000 tanks. Within a few days, it penetrates more than 300 kilometres to the west, surrounding the German 4th and 9th armies as well as the 3rd panzer army. On 3 July, it conquers Minsk, followed by Vilnius ten days later. Approximately 350,000 German soldiers fall within four weeks or become Soviet prisoners of war. At the end of July, when the Wehrmacht succeeds in temporarily halting the advance of improvised units on the Kaunas-Brest-Litovsk line, the Middle Army Group is almost obliterated. In the next few weeks, the Red Army approaches the border of the Reich and Warsaw.

The failed coup on 20 July 1944 is the most promising and visible attempt to end Hitler's reign. Its initiators, the officers Friedrich Olbricht, Henning von Tresckow and Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, rely on resistance circles ranging from former social democratic and trade union leaders to national conservative elites and the NSDAP and SS.

After the coup fails, the Secret State Police arrests thousands of people. Approximately 5,000 actual and alleged conspirators are executed by the end of the war or die as a result of prison conditions.

Between 25 August and 3 September, the Allies in the west gain 200 kilometres from Paris to Mons and Verdun on a broad front, and in one section of their advance to Brussels almost 300 kilometres. The various German units are being dissolved. By mid-September, there will be an almost panicked return of German troops to the Siegfried Line, which is to be held as a new line of defence.

Beginning in summer 1944, Hitler had the Wehrmacht leadership draw up plans for relieving the counteroffensive in the west. As had been the case with the German advance through the Ardennes in May 1940, the focus of this attack is on the densely-wooded Eifel. It is suspected that only relatively weak American troops are in the Ardennes. By mid-December 1944, the Wehrmacht in the Eifel put combatant divisions, some of which had been withdrawn from the Eastern Front, into position and still have around 600 tanks at their disposal. Just 80,000 American soldiers stand against more than 200,000 German soldiers in this section of the front. The German attack on the morning of 16 December 1944 comes as a complete surprise to them.

The relocation of new American troops to the Ardennes and a lack of German supplies, however, means the Ardennes offensive fails after only a few days. On 27 December, the Wehrmacht must go on the defence on all fronts. By 16 January 1945, it loses the conquered area again. Hitler confesses to some confidants that the war is lost.



A Suicide

I would consider all the Germans guilty who were not imprisoned in a concentration camp for at least five months.
Stanley High
Editor of ‚Reader’s Digest ‘, in June 1945 in the NBC-broadcast ‚Town Meeting of the Air‘

A Suicide

Who was Hitler: Chapter #17, 1945

At the beginning of 1945, Hitler's army is still deep behind enemy lines. They keep Warsaw and the encircled Courland occupied. The Wehrmacht slowly retreats through Romagna and northern Italy to the Alps. It still holds Budapest and the west of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In the Balkans, the German divisions are under pressure from partisans and the Soviets are heading for Austria in retreat. In the northwest of the continent, the majority of the Netherlands is still occupied by Germany and in the north, all of Denmark and Norway. In East Prussia, however, the Red Army is already in a narrow strip of German territory, as are Americans and British on the left bank of the Rhine.

The leaders of the Allied anti-Hitler coalition are certain to win at the beginning of 1945, but they are also disappointed they had not been able to achieve victory before Christmas 1944. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied commander-in-chief in Europe, had bet five Pounds with the British field marshal Bernard Montgomery during the 1943 Italy campaign that Germany would capitulate in December 1944; Montgomery had bet on the spring. They put the bet in writing on a page torn out of a notepad and then both signed it: "Agreement entered into, Oct 11, 1943, between Generals Eisenhower & Montgomery Amount £5 — General E bets war with Germany will end before Xmas 1944. Local Time."

At the beginning of 1945, Josef Stalin still assumes that the war will not end before the summer. He expects Germany to collapse as a result of famine as soon as his armies have conquered the German granaries in the east. Against the advice of Colonel-General Heinz Guderian, the Chief of the General staff of the high command of the Wehrmacht, to move all available forces from the Western Front to the Vistula and to cancel the Ardennes Offensive, Adolf Hitler still sends troops from occupied Poland marching into Hungary in December 1944. He wants to liberate Budapest, which is surrounded by the Red Army, and defend the Hungarian oil fields. On 9 January, Guderian travels to Hitler's headquarters in Ziegenberg, Hesse, where he uses diagrams and graphs to demonstrate the balance of power on the Vistula front. Hitler, when commenting on this material produced by the secret military service says: "This is completely idiotic, who made it? … The man belongs in the madhouse."

In the last four months of the war, 471,000 tons of bombs are dropped on Germany, twice as much as in the whole of 1943. In March alone, nearly three times as many bombs are dropped as in 1942.

The Red Army does not take part in the winter offensive in Hungary as Hitler expected, but from its bridgeheads on the Vistula on 12 January 1945. The 1 Belarusian front led by Georgiy Zhukov overruns the German defensive lines in the Warsaw area. On 17 January, it occupies the evacuated Polish capital. At the end of January 1945, it is already standing along the Oder from Küstrin to Guben at, just under 80 kilometres from Berlin. The 1st Belarusian Front establishes two bridgeheads on the west bank of the Oder near Küstrin and Frankfurt/Oder.

In early-February 1945, the last German units withdraw from Belgium. On 23 February, under British command on the Western Front, an offensive is launched that pushes the Wehrmacht back to the right bank of the Lower Rhine. As commander-in-chief in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower halts the advance of Allied troops towards Berlin at the beginning of March. He wants to leave Berlin's conquest to the Red Army.

On 5 March 1945, the Wehrmacht calls up all boys born in 1929 for military service.

Two days later, a small advance detachment of the 9th American Armoured Division near Remagen near Bonn is able to capture an intact railway bridge and make it over the Rhine. The Americans occupy Cologne on the left bank of the Rhine on the same day.

While the British and American troops in Hamburg, Magdeburg, Leipzig and Munich are advancing, the Soviets are positioning around 2.5 million soldiers for the attack on Berlin. On the other hand, there are about one million German soldiers who are a mixture of what is left of the Wehrmacht divisions, Weapons SS units and improvised police, Volkssturm and Hitler Youth units. On 16 April 1945, the Red Army starts the battle with a pincer attack. The 1st Ukrainian Front overruns the German defensive positions on the Lusatian Neisse south of Berlin. The 1st Belarusian front bypasses the city in the north after massive opening battles that cause severe losses on the Seelow Heights. The nearly two million people still in destroyed Berlin have been demoralised by daily air and artillery attacks and now seek shelter in cellars and bunkers during the fighting.

On the night of 20 to 21 April 1945, Walter Hewel, liaison officer to the German Foreign Office at the Führer's headquarters, asks Hitler for orders for his minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. "My Führer, it's five seconds to twelve. If there's anything you want to achieve with politics, it's high time." "Politics?" asks Hitler. "I don't do politics anymore. It disgusts me. When I'm dead, you'll have enough politics to sort out."

The Soviets only succeed in penetrating the city centre in tough street battles with heavy losses. On 30 April, Red Army soldiers raise the red flag with the hammer and sickle on the top of the Reichstag.

By this time, Hitler had already decided to resort to suicide. On 29 April, he marries his long-time lover Eva Braun, who dies with him. He draws up a personal and a political testament, expels Göring and Himmler from the NSASDP, relieves them of all their offices, and appoints Karl Dönitz as Reich President and Supreme Commander and Joseph Göbbels as Reich Chancellor as his successors. Finally, he shoots himself in the afternoon of 30 April in the Reich Chancellery bunker. Eva Braun poisons herself with cyanide. The corpses are burnt in a burrow in front of the bunker and then buried. The remains are exhumed by the Russians shortly afterwards. The body is identified as that of Adolf Hitler by the jaw and a comparison with dental records. What happens to Hitler's body has not been fully clarified to this day. Allegedly, the jaw and skull parts are said to be in the Russian State Archives, and the rest of the corpse is said to have been ultimately cremated in 1970 after being buried several times and the ashes scattered in a place unknown to this day so that there is no grave site. From May 1945, the Russians not only keep their knowledge to themselves but deliberately spread false rumours and thus continue to feed doubts as to whether Hitler had really died - this leads to conspiracy theories that Hitler is still alive and had escaped. In Germany, the official records of legal death were not issued until 25 October 1956 by the district court of Berchtesgaden, after the last eyewitnesses from Russian prisoners of war had returned home and could be interrogated. It was not until the beginning of the 1960s that the Russians declared they definitely thought Hitler was dead and in some cases revealed details.

On 3 May 1945, British troops occupy Hamburg, which was declared an "open city". In Denmark, the Netherlands and Northwest Germany, the German Wehrmacht capitulates a day later. At the Brenner Pass, American armies meet in Sicily and Normandy. On 5 May, the Americans liberate Mauthausen in Austria as the last large concentration camp.

After the German surrender had been signed on 7 May 1945 in Reims for the complete surrender on 8 May 1945 at midnight, the Soviet Union insists on a further ceremonial signing in the capital of the Reich, Berlin. Field Marshal Keitel, General Admiral von Friedeburg and Colonel General Stumpff are flown in on British military aircraft from Flensburg to Berlin-Tempelhof to sign the unconditional surrender in the officers' casino of the Wehrmacht Pioneer School Berlin-Karlshorst. The signatures are received by Marshal Zhukov as Soviet Commander-in-Chief and by the British Air Marshal and Deputy Commander of Eisenhower, Sir Arthur Tedder, for the Western Headquarters, as witnesses to the American General Spaatz and the French General de Lattre de Tassigny. Signing these documents puts an end to the war.

In the Far East, on the other hand, the Japanese are still fighting. Only after the atomic bombs fall over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August did the Hitler-led Second World War end with the capitulation of Japan on 2 September 1945 - with an estimated 65 million dead civilians and 6 million murdered Jews.