World War II[change | change source]
Alliance with Japan[change | change source]
Joachim von Ribbentrop, German's Foreign Minister, advised Hitler to make an alliance with the Republic of China instead of the more modern and powerful Japan. Germany then made claims to the former colonies in the Pacific held by Japan. Hitler also stopped the trade of guns and war material to China. He wanted all German officers, who worked with the Chinese Army to stop.
Austria and Czechoslovakia[change | change source]
On 12 March 1938, Hitler gave notice that Austria joins Germany. This was called the Anschluss. Hitler then turned his attention to the German population of Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia.
On 28–29 March 1938, Hitler held some secret meetings in Berlin with Konrad Henlein. Henlein was of the Sudeten Heimfront (Home Front), the largest of the ethnic German parties of the Sudetenland. They wanted to demand more autonomy for Sudeten Germans from the Czechoslovakian government. In private, Hitler considered the Sudeten issue unimportant. His goal was a war against Czechoslovakia.
In April 1938, Hitler ordered the Armed Forces High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, or OKW) to prepare for Fall Grün (Case Green). It was the codename for an invasion of Czechoslovakia. As a result of French and British diplomatic pressure, Czechoslovakian President Edvard Beneš disclosed on 5 September 1938, the "Fourth Plan" for constitutional reorganization of his country. It agreed to most of Germany's demands for Sudeten autonomy.
Because of Germany's dependence on imported oil, and that a confrontation with Britain over the Czechoslovakian dispute could stop Germany's oil supplies, Hitler called off Fall Grün. This invasion was originally planned for 1 October 1938. On 29 September 1938, a one-day conference was held in Munich. Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini attended it. The conference led to the Munich Agreement. This handed over the Sudetenland districts to Germany.
Chamberlain was pleased with the Munich conference, calling the outcome "peace for our time". Hitler was angered about his missed opportunity for war in 1938. Hitler expressed his disappointment over the Munich Agreement in a speech on 9 October 1938 in Saarbrücken.
In late 1938 and early 1939, the economic crisis continued. This was caused by the upgrade of Germany's army. The crisis forced Hitler to make major defence cuts.
Start of World War II[change | change source]
In private discussions in 1939, Hitler described Britain as the main enemy. In his view, Poland's extinction as a sovereign nation was needed as first measure. He wanted to secure the eastern flank and to add to Germany's Lebensraum. As part of his anti-British view, Hitler wanted Poland to be either a German satellite state or otherwise neutralized. This was to secure the Reich's eastern flank and to evade the effects of a possible British blockade.
Hitler was offended by the British "guarantee" of Polish independence issued on 31 March 1939. On 3 April 1939, Hitler ordered the military to start preparing for Fall Weiss (Case White). It was the plan for a German invasion on 25 August 1939. This was followed by a speech before the Reichstag on 28 April 1939. Poland refused to become a German satellite. Hitler then believed he had no choice other than wiping Poland off the map.
Hitler was firstly concerned that a military attack against Poland could result in a war with Britain. However, Hitler's foreign minister—and former Ambassador to London—Joachim von Ribbentrop assured him that neither Britain nor France would honour their commitments to Poland. He also said that a German–Polish war would only be a limited regional war. The German Ambassador in London supported Ribbentrop's analysis. On 21 August 1939, Hitler ordered a military mobilization against Poland.
Hitler's plans for a military campaign in Poland in late August or early September required Soviet Union's support. The Munich agreement with Soviet was signed on 23 August 1939. The non-aggression pact (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) between Germany and the Soviet Union led by Joseph Stalin, included secret protocols with an agreement to divide Poland between the two countries.
Hitler claimed the Free City of Danzig and the right for extraterritorial roads across the Polish Corridor. Those were removed from Germany formerly under the Versailles treaty. On 1 September 1939, Germany started to invad western Poland. In response, Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September. However, France and Britain did not act on their declarations immediately. On 17 September, Soviet forces invaded eastern Poland.
On 15 May 1940, Himmler sent Hitler a memo entitled "Some Thoughts on the Treatment of Alien Population in the East", which called for displacement of the entire Jewish population of Europe into Africa and reducing the remainder of the Polish population to a "leaderless class of labourers". Hitler called Himmler's memo "good and correct".
Hitler started to build up military forces on Germany's western border. In April 1940, German forces invaded Denmark and Norway. In May 1940, Hitler's forces attacked France, and also conquered Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium. These victories prompted Benito Mussolini to have Italy join forces with Hitler on 10 June 1940. France surrendered on 22 June 1940.
Britain called back their forces from Franche. The Empire continued to fight alongside other British dominions in the Battle of the Atlantic. Hitler made overtures for peace to the British, now led by Winston Churchill, and when these were rejected Hitler ordered bombing raids on the United Kingdom. Hitler's prelude to a planned invasion of the UK were widespread aerial attacks in the Battle of Britain on Royal Air Force airbases and radar stations in South-East England. However, the German Luftwaffe failed to defeat the Royal Air Force.
On 27 September 1940, the Tripartite Pact was signed in Berlin by Saburō Kurusu of Imperial Japan, Hitler, and Ciano, and was later expanded to include Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. They were collectively known as the Axis powers.
In the Spring of 1941, Hitler was distracted from his plans for the East by military activities in North Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East. In February, German forces arrived in Libya to help Italian forces. In April, Hitler launched the invasion of Yugoslavia, quickly followed by the invasion of Greece. In May, German forces were sent to support Iraqi rebel forces fighting against the British and to invade Crete.
Path to defeat[change | change source]
On 22 June 1941, contravening the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact of 1939, three million German troops attacked the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. The invasion seized a huge area, including the Baltic states, Belarus, and Ukraine. However, the German advance was stopped short of Moscow in December 1941 by the Russian Winter and Soviet resistance. The invasion failed to achieve the quick success Hitler had wanted.
The Wehrmacht invasion of the Soviet Union reached its peak on 2 December 1941 when the 258th Infantry Division advanced to within 15 miles (24 km) of Moscow. It was close enough to see the spires of the Kremlin. However, they were not prepared for the harsh conditions brought on by the first blizzards of winter. The Soviet forces drove German troops back over 320 kilometres (200 miles).
On 7 December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Four days later, Hitler's formal declaration of war against the United States officially engaged him in war against a coalition that included the world's largest empire (the British Empire), the world's greatest industrial and financial power (the United States), and the world's largest army (the Soviet Union).
On 18 December 1941, the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler met with Hitler, and in response to Himmler's question "What to do with the Jews of Russia?", Hitler's replied "als Partisanen auszurotten" ("exterminate them as partisans").
In late 1942, German forces were defeated in the second battle of El Alamein. In February 1943, the Battle of Stalingrad ended with the destruction of the German 6th Army. Thereafter came the Battle of Kursk. Hitler's military judgement became increasingly unstable, and Germany's military and economic position deteriorated along with Hitler's health. Some historians believe that Hitler may have suffered from Parkinson's disease. Syphilis has also been suspected as a cause of at least some of his symptoms.
Following the allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) in 1943, Mussolini was deposed by Pietro Badoglio. He then surrendered to the Allies. Throughout 1943 and 1944, the Soviet Union steadily forced Hitler's armies into retreat along the Eastern Front. On 6 June 1944, the Western Allied armies landed in northern France in what was one of the largest amphibious operations in history, Operation Overlord. Objective observers in the German army then knew that defeat was inevitable, and some plotted to remove Hitler from power.
Attempted assassination[change | change source]
There were seventeen planned attempts or plans to assassinate Hitler from 1939–1945, some which proceeded to significant degrees. The most famous assassination attempt on Hitler's life came from within Germany during World War II and was at least partly driven by the prospect of an increasingly imminent defeat of Germany in the war.
In July 1944, as part of Operation Valkyrie or 20 July plot, Claus von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in Hitler's headquarters, the Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair) at Rastenburg. Hitler narrowly survived because someone had unknowingly moved the briefcase that contained the bomb by pushing it behind a leg of the heavy conference table. When the bomb exploded, the table deflected much of the blast away from Hitler. Later, Hitler ordered savage reprisals, resulting in the executions of more than 4,900 people.
Defeat and death[change | change source]
By late 1944, the Red Army had driven the German army back into Western Europe, and the Western Allies were advancing into Germany. After being informed of the twin defeats in his Ardennes Offensive at his Adlerhorst command complex – Operation Wacht am Rhein and Operation Nordwind – Hitler realized that Germany was about to lose the war. However, he did not permit an orderly retreat of his armies. His hope was to negotiate peace with America and Britain, buoyed by the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on 12 April 1945. Hitler ordered the destruction of all German industrial infrastructure before it could fall into Allied hands.
On 20 April 1945, Hitler celebrated his 56th birthday in the Führerbunker ("Führer's shelter") below the Reichskanzlei (Reich Chancellery). The garrison commander of the Festung Breslau ("fortress Breslau"), General Hermann Niehoff, had chocolates distributed to his troops in honour of Hitler's birthday.
By 21 April, Georgi Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front had broken through the last defences of German General Gotthard Heinrici's Army Group Vistula during the Battle of the Seelow Heights. Facing little resistance, the Soviets advanced into the outskirts of Berlin. In denial of his increasingly dire situation, Hitler placed his hopes on the units commanded by Waffen SS General Felix Steiner, the Armeeabteilung Steiner ("Army Detachment Steiner"). Although "Army Detachment Steiner" was more than a corps it was less than an army. Hitler ordered Steiner to attack the northern flank of the salient made up of Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front. At the same time, the German Ninth Army, which had been pushed south of the salient, was ordered to attack northward in a pincer attack.
Late on 21 April, Gotthard Heinrici called Hans Krebs, chief of the Oberkommando des Heeres (Supreme Command of the Army or OKH), to inform him that Hitler's defence plans could not be implemented. Heinrici also told Krebs to impress upon Hitler the need to withdraw the 9th Army from its position.
On 22 April, during military conference, Hitler asked about Steiner's offensive. After a long silence, Hitler was told that the attack has never happened and that the Russians had broken through into Berlin. This news prompted Hitler to ask everyone except Wilhelm Keitel, Hans Krebs, Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Burgdorf, and Martin Bormann to leave the room. Hitler then launched a tirade against the treachery and incompetence of his commanders, culminating in Hitler's declaration—for the first time—that the war was lost. Hitler announced that he would stay in Berlin, to direct the defence of the city and then shoot himself.
Before the day ended, Hitler again found fresh hope in a new plan that included General Walther Wenck's Twelfth Army. This new plan had Wenck turn his army – currently facing the Americans to the west – and attack towards the east to relieve Berlin. The Twelfth Army was to link up with the Ninth Army and break through to the city. Wenck did attack and made temporary contact with the Potsdam garrison. But the link with the Ninth Army, like the plan in general, was unsuccessful.
On 23 April, Göring sent a telegram from Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, arguing that since Hitler was cut off in Berlin, he, Göring, should assume leadership of Germany. Göring set a time limit after which he would consider Hitler incapacitated. Hitler responded angrily by having Göring arrested, and when writing his last will on 29 April, Göring was removed from all his positions in the government. Hitler appointed General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling as the commander of the Berlin Defence Area, replacing Lieutenant General (Generalleutnant) Helmuth Reymann and Colonel (Oberst) Ernst Kaether. Hitler also appointed Waffen-SS Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke the (Kommandant) Battle Commander for the defence of the government district (Zitadelle sector) that included the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker.
On 27 April, Berlin became completely cut off from the rest of Germany. As the Soviet forces closed in, Hitler's followers urged him to flee to the mountains of Bavaria to make a last stand in the national redoubt. However, Hitler was determined to either live or die in the capital.
On 28 April, Hitler discovered that Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler was trying to discuss surrender terms with the Western Allies (through the Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte). Hitler ordered Himmler's arrest and had Hermann Fegelein (Himmler's SS representative at Hitler's HQ in Berlin) shot. Adding to Hitler's woes was Wenck's report that his Twelfth Army had been forced back along the entire front and that his forces could no longer support Berlin.
After midnight on 29 April, Hitler married Eva Braun in a small civil ceremony in a map room within the Führerbunker. Antony Beevor stated that after Hitler hosted a modest wedding breakfast with his new wife, he then took secretary Traudl Junge to another room and dictated his last will and testament. Hitler signed these documents at 4:00 am. The event was witnessed and documents signed by Hans Krebs, Wilhelm Burgdorf, Joseph Goebbels, and Martin Bormann. Hitler then retired to bed. That afternoon, Hitler was informed of the assassination of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, which presumably increased his determination to avoid capture.
On 30 April 1945, after intense street-to-street combat, when Soviet troops were within a block or two of the Reich Chancellery, Hitler and Braun committed suicide; Braun by biting into a cyanide capsule and Hitler by shooting himself with his 7.65 mm Walther PPK pistol. Hitler had at various times contemplated suicide, and the Walther was the same pistol that his niece, Geli Raubal had used in her suicide. The lifeless bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were carried up the stairs and through the bunker's emergency exit to the bombed-out garden behind the Reich Chancellery where they were placed in a bomb crater and doused with petrol. The corpses were set on fire as the Red Army advanced and the shelling continued.
On 2 May, Berlin surrendered, and there were conflicting reports about what happened to Hitler's remains. Records in the Soviet archives— obtained after the fall of the Soviet Union—showed that the remains of Hitler, Eva Braun, Joseph and Magda Goebbels, the six Goebbels children, General Hans Krebs and Hitler's dogs, were repeatedly buried and exhumed. On 4 April 1970, a Soviet KGB team with detailed burial charts secretly exhumed five wooden boxes which had been buried at the SMERSH facility in Magdeburg. The remains from the boxes were thoroughly burned and crushed, after which the ashes were thrown into the Biederitz river, a tributary of the nearby Elbe.
According to the Russian Federal Security Service, a fragment of human skull stored in its archives and displayed to the public in a 2000 exhibition came from Hitler's remains. However, the authenticity of the skull fragment was challenged by historians and researchers, and DNA analysis conducted in 2009 showed the skull fragment to be that of a woman. Analysis of the sutures between the skull plates indicated that it belonged to a 20–40-year-old individual.
- Bloch 1992, pp. 178–179
- Butler & Young 1989, p. 159
- Bullock 1962, p. 434
- Overy 2005, p. 425
- Weinberg 1980, pp. 338–340
- Weinberg 1980, p. 366
- Weinberg 1980, pp. 418–419
- Murray 1984, pp. 256–260
- Bullock 1962, p. 469
- Overy, Richard "Germany and the Munich Crisis: A Mutilated Victory?" from The Munich Crisis, London: Frank Cass, 1999 p. 207.
- Kee 1988, pp. 202–203
- Weinberg 1980, pp. 462–463
- Messerschmidt 1990, p. 672
- Murray 1984, p. 268
- Murray 1984, pp. 268–269
- Weinberg 1980, pp. 579–581
- Messerschmidt 1990, pp. 688–690
- Maiolo, Joseph The Royal Navy and Nazi Germany Macmillan Press: London, 1998 p. 178
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- Weinberg 1980, p. 558
- Roberston, E.M. "Hitler Planning for War and the Response of the Great Powers" from Aspects of the Third Reich edited by H.W. Koch, London: Macmillan 1985 p. 212
- Bloch 1992, p. 228
- Overy 1989, p. 56
- Overy, Richard "Economy Germany, 'Domestic Crisis' and War in 1939" from The Third Reich: The Essential Readings edited by Christian Leitz, Blackwell: Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, 1999 p. 125
- Robertson 1963, pp. 181–187
- Max Beloff, The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, vol. II, I936–4I. Issued under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Oxford University Press, 1949
- Weinberg, Gerhard "Hitler and England, 1933–1945: Pretense and Reality" pp. 85–94 from Germany, Hitler and World War II Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom, 1995 pp. 89–90
- Bloch 1992, pp. 255–257
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- Shirer, William (1964), The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Pan, p. 1032, ISBN 978-0-671-72868-7
- Bauer, Yehuda Rethinking the Holocaust Yale University Press, 2000, p. 5
- Parkinson's part in Hitler's downfall, BBC, 29 July 1999, retrieved 13 June 2011
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- Assassination Attempts on Hitler’s Life
- Shirer 1990, §29
- Bullock 1962, p. 753
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- Bullock 1962, pp. 780–781
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- Le Tissier, Tony (1999, 2010), Race for the Reichstag, p. 45
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- Hitler's last days: "Hitler's will and marriage" on the website of MI5, using the sources available to Trevor Roper (a WWII MI5 agent and historian/author of The Last Days of Hitler), records the marriage as taking place after Hitler had dictated his last will and testament.
- Kershaw 2008, p. 950
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- Fischer 2008, p. 47 "...Günsche stated he entered the study to inspect the bodies, and observed Hitler ...sat...sunken over, with blood dripping out of his right temple. He had shot himself with his own pistol, a PPK 7.65."
- Kershaw 2008, p. 955 "...Blood dripped from a bullet hole in his right temple..."
- There have been different accounts citing the cause of his death with one alternative suggesting that Hitler died by a self-inflicted gunshot, while biting down on a cyanide capsule of poison. O'Donnell (1978, 2001) pp. 322–323 "... we have a fair answer...to the version of ...Russian author Lev Bezymenski...Hitler did shoot himself and did bite into the cyanide capsule, just as Professor Haase had clearly and repeatedly instructed..."
- Joachimsthaler 1999, pp. 160–180
- Nelken, Michael (1997), Hitler Unmasked: The Romance of Racism and Suicide, Darkside Press, p. 276
- Trevor-Roper, H. (1947, 1992), The Last Days of Hitler, University of Chicago Press, pp. 179–182, ISBN 978-84-9759-725-8 Check date values in:
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- Vinogradov, V. K. (2005), Hitler's Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB, Chaucer Press, pp. 111, 333
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- Russia displays 'Hitler skull fragment', BBC, 26 April 2000, retrieved 22 May 2008
- Hitlers skull really woman's, London: UK Daily Mail, 28 September 2009, retrieved 28 September 2009