Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 in Braunau-am-Inn, Austria. His father was a customs officer on the border crossing with Germany and his mother gave birth to two other children, but both of them died. He dropped out of school early with dreams of becoming an artist, but his application to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna was denied twice. With his hopes destroyed, Hitler lived as a vagabond in poverty after his mother died from cancer in 1908. He moved from homeless shelter to homeless shelter, eating at soup kitchens and, despite job offers, he chose to live in poverty.
When World War 1 began in 1914, he joined the Bavarian army. In battle, he proved to be a brave soldier and he was promoted to the rank of corporal and awarded the Iron Cross Second Class for his efforts. In 1918, just before the war ended, he was caught in a cloud of gas released by English soldiers and was overcome. He survived, but was unable to see for several months until his eyes recovered.
After World War 1 ended, Hitler moved to Munich, Germany. While there, he joined the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) in 1919 and worked full time in their political operations. His hard work paid off when he was elected as the party chairman in 1921.
Hitler proved to be a natural speaker and his obsession with the nationalist movement allowed him to convince many German citizens to support the party's platform. His name became well known throughout Munich and his speeches were attended by many. As time progressed, he began injecting his opinions on the inferiority of other races into his speeches and blaming these people for Germany's lack of power.
In November of 1923, he staged a coup de etat in Munich to remove the Weimar Republic from power. However, he was arrested by the police and sentenced to five years in the Landsberg prison. With all of the free time in prison, Hitler decided to pen a novel on his political beliefs and life, naming it "Mein Kampf" (my struggle).
When a political amnesty was declared by the government, he was released after only nine months in prison and he rejoined his friends in what was now known as the Nazi party. By 1930, the party had 107 seats in the German parliament and Hitler had an immense amount of influence over the people of Germany. His party placed increasing pressure on the leader of Germany, President Hindenburg, and Hitler was eventually named chancellor of Germany in January of 1933.
Once Hitler gained his position of power, he quickly introduced acts into legislation that would give him dictatorial powers over Germany. Of course, since the Nazi party had many seats in parliament he had no trouble passing them. Within a short time, he had removed Hindenburg from power and become the sole dictator of Germany.
After World War 1, Germany had made an agreement to not build up its armed forces (the Versailles Treaty), but Hitler ignored the agreement. The German armed forces quickly rose in rank and power, posing a great threat to the small countries located nearby. In 1936, he sent troops into the Rhineland, which was the demilitarized zone between Germany and France, but France did nothing to prevent it. That same year, he sent troops to Spain to assist Francisco Franco in putting down the anarchist revolution.
In 1938, Hitler sent troops into Austria and Czechoslovakia, without any resistance. France and Great Britain were horrified by these movements and made an agreement with Hitler that he wouldn't seize any more territory in Czechoslovakia. Hitler abided by the agreement until 1939, when he seized the rest of the country.
In August of 1939, Germany signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, most likely in conspiracy to invade Poland and divide it up between the countries. The next month, Hitler did exactly that and seized Poland, causing Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany yet again.
France was not prepared for the strength of the German military and fell quickly, along with most of Europe. The fascist leader of Italy at the time, Mussolini, allied himself with Hitler and contributed troops to the war.
While World War 2 was raging, Hitler began to take action against everyone that he felt was a threat to his regime. This group of people included Jews, communists, Africans, and homosexuals. The German police were not only allowed, but encouraged to harass these people and eventually isolated them from the rest of Germany in ghettos and concentration camps. Unbeknownst to the majority of the German population, Hitler executed "The Final Solution to the Jewish Question", which consisted of burning thousands of Jewish people every day in death camps throughout Germany and Poland.
Hitler made a serious error of judgement when he decided to invade the Soviet Union in 1941. His forces were able to make huge gains against the Soviet army and nearly seized Moscow before Zhukov was placed in command and decimated the German Army over the next two years. On July 20, 1944, a group German officers led by colonel Graf von Stauffenberg conspired to assassinate Hitler with a bomb, but failed.
Things were looking dire for Hitler in 1945. Germany was fighting on two fronts against Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union, and its forces were quickly being destroyed. On April 30, 1945, Hitler killed himself and his wife Eva Braun in a bunker in Berlin. His body was discovered soon after by the Soviet army, ending his reign of terror. Today, Hitler remains one of the most infamous figures in history and is credited with the genocide of millions of Jews.