Treaty of Versailles: | Hitler's Background | Hitler's Rise to Power: | Hitler's Beliefs: | The Nazi Party: | Education and Youth: | Hitler's Actions Towards the War: | The Persecution of the Jews:


Treaty of Versailles:

The peace settlement at the end of World War I was called the Treaty of Versailles. This treaty was drawn up by US President Woodrow Wilson, French Premier Georges Clemenceau and British Prime Minister David Lloyd-George. Germany was blamed for causing World War I and punished severely in this treaty. Germany lost territory including all her overseas colonies and various neighbouring regions such as Alsace and Lorraine. The were also required to pay reparation of 6.6 billion pounds and reduce the size of their army to 100 000 men. Germany was no longer allowed to have an air force and their navy was only allowed 6 battleships. The are between France and Germany known as the Rhineland also had to be demilitarised.


Hitler's Background

Adolf Hitler was born in Austria in 1889. He did not like school and left at the age of 16. Although he wanted to be a painter he lacked the talent to get in to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. When World War One broke out in 1914 Hitler joined the German Army. Eventually after winning the Iron Cross he was wounded in the war.

One of the things that had the biggest influence on Hitler was the fact that Germany surrendered in 1918. Hitler believed that they could not have lost the war and that they had been 'stabbed in the back' by politicians. In 1919 he started to be involved in politics when he joined the Geman Workers Party. Several months after joining the party Hitler was put in charge of propaganda and of developing the parties ideas. Hitler also suggested the party change its name to the National Socialist German Workers Party or Nazi party.

Hitler believed that the best way to gain support for the party was by holding marches, parades and rallies. He also established the SA (Storm Troopers) to deal with any opposition to his party. He took over leadership of the Nazi party in 1921.

Hitler's Rise to Power:

In 1923 Hitler belived the Nazi party was in a position to gain some more power. On 8 Novemer 1923 he tried to take control of the state govenment of Bavaria. This did not work and Hitler was defeated in what is referred to as the Munich Putsch. Although Hitler initially managed to escape he was eventually arrested and put in jail in Landsberg Castle. It was while he was in jail that he wrote his book called Mein Kampf (My Struggle). In this book he outlined his ideas for Germany.

Hitler learned from his mistakes and when he tried to get into government again he did it be being elected into parliament. In 1929 before the Great Depression the Nazi Party did not hold much power in the Reichstag (Parliament). Four years later in 1933 Hitler was made Chancellor. Hitler was able to gain this position partly due to the hardships people faced because of the economic depression and partly though running a good campaign. Many peope had to give up their houses during the depression because they could not afford to pay the rent. Unemployment was high and food was rationed. In times of hardship people often look for someone that has ideas to make things better. Many people though Hitlers ideas would work so voted for him.

Hitler's Beliefs:

Most of Hitlers beliefs were written in Mein Kampf. They include his belief that Aryan people of Northern Europe were superior to all other races. According to Hitler the lowest form of humanity was the Jews. They were blamed for all the bad things that had happened to Germany.

Hitler also believed that Germany needed Lebensraum (Living Space). If he ha to get this through war then that was what he would do. Conquest and expansion were high on Hitler's list of priorities. Nationalism and Socialism were also important to Hitler. He believed that Nationalism would once again make Germany powerful. The German race could also be purified. Socialism would mean that the state controlled the economy.

Hitler believed that he knew what was best for Germany so he should be given total control of the country. Through the use of propaganda Hitler managed to make the Nazi Party appeal to the German people and ruin the reputation of the Weimar Republic.

The Nazi Party:

Hitler had several people that helped him govern Germany.
  1. Hermann Goering: was bestowed with the title of Reichmarshal in 1940. He was resposible for establishing the first concentration camps and the Gestapo (Secret Police). Goering also founded the Luffwaffe (Air Force).
  2. Joseph Goebbels: was Hitler's Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment. He hated Jewish people and organised Kristallnacht (Crystal Night). Goebbels was as good a speaker as Hitler.
  3. Reynard Heydrich: was appointed head of the Gestpo in 1936. He also organised transportation of Jews from all over Europe to the death camps.
  4. Heinrich Himmler: was incharge of the SS after it was established in 1929. Himmler set up the death camps.
  5. Rudolf Hess: helped Hitler write Mein Kampf. In 1933 he became deputy leader of the Nazi Party.

Hermann Goering
Joseph Goebbels
Reynard Heydrich
Heinrich Himmler
Rudolf Hess

Education and Youth:

Hitler believed that he could gain the loyalty of young Germans through what they were taught in schools. Teachers were forced to join the Nazi Party and attend classes on how to teach Nazi ideas in their lessons. Anti-Jewish propaganda was a common part of education in Nazi Germany.

Outside school young people belonged to organisation such as Hitler Youth. Hitler Youth promoted anti- Semitist ideas. It aimed to motivate children to be loyal to the Nazi party. Physical and military training was given to young males. Summers were spent in camps learning to read maps, use weapons, play sports ad do gymnastics.

Hitler Youth Training Video

Hitler's Actions Towards the War:

From the time Hitler took power in Germany his actions were destined to start another war. In 1933 he withdrew Germany from the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations. This made clear his intention to rearm Germany. In 1934 Hitler signed a non-aggression pact with Poland. This was supposed to show the world that although he wanted to rearm he was not actually going to go to war. The Luftwaffe was also established in 1934.

1935 saw Hitler reoccupy the Rhineland. As he encountered no opposition to this continued to strengthen Germany's position by forming the Rome-Berlin Axis in 1936. When Japan joined this alliance in 1937 this became the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. 1938 saw the annexing of Austria by Germany. This had previously been forbidden under the Treaty of Versailles. Towards the end of 1938 after the successful Anschluss with Austria, Hitler attempted to take over the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. A compromise was reached in the form of the Munich Agreement inwhich Hitler was given the Sudetenland in return for a written guarantee that there would be no war.

The following year saw the allies change how they dealt with Hitler. Chamberlain was no longer will he appease Hitler to keep the peace. If he made any more demands he would have to be stopped by force. British had also pledged to support Poland if they were attached ny Germany. Stalin did not think Britain and France were doing enough to stop Hitler so decided to protect himself by signing an agreement with Hitler. This was known as the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact. On September 1st, 1939 Hitler sent German troops into Poland. Two days later on September 3rd Britain and France declared war on Germany.


The Persecution of the Jews:

The persecution of the Jews started almost as soon as Hitler came to power in Germany. In 1933 the SA were ordered to stand outside Jewish shops and order people not to go inside. This same year most Jewish people that worked for the government were forced to give up their jobs and Jews could no longer inherit land.

1935 saw Jews excluded from parks, swimming pools, public buildings and restaurants. They were also no longer allowed to vote and marriages between Jews and non-Jews were banned. The persecutions were not so bad in 1936 due to the fact that the Olympic Games were on in Berlin. At this stage Hitler was still concerned with what the outside world though of his anti-Semetic views. This was not the case 2 years later when the persecutions increased.

Jewish people had to now name their children names off an approved list. Kristallnacht (Crystal Night / Night of the Broken Glass) saw Jewish shops smashed and synagogues being burnt to the ground. 40 000 Jews were also sent to concentration camps. This was the start of the extermination of approximately 6 million Jews. Concentration and death camps were set up in both Poland and Germany. Some of the more well known camps include Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, Maidenek and Dachau. These camps were controlled by the SS. Many people were sent there to work but died of starvation in the process. Others had medical experiments performed on them. Examples of these include limbs being removed and sterilizations without anaesthetic.

Auschwitz-Birkenau camp today


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