Anne Frank
Learning About the Holocaust

The Rise of Hitler


This page is adapted with the author's permission from an original online lesson created by Andrew Field.

You can see the full lesson, along with many other excellent resources for the study of history, at the web site.

'The World in Conflict' is indebted to Andrew for his kind support and sharing of resources.

On this page, dates, places and people are given in red when they first appear.

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A Brief Profile of Adolf Hitler: 1889 - 1945

Adolf Hitler was born on 20th April 1889 in Austria.

His father was a customs official.

The family name was originally Schickelgruber. Adolf Hitler grew up with a poor record at school and left, before completing his tuition, with an ambition to become an artist.

He went to Vienna to fulfill his dream.

He failed to win a scholarship at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1909 Hitler moved to Vienna hoping to find work but within a year he was living in homeless shelters and eating at charity soup-kitchens.

He took occasional menial jobs and sold some of his paintings or advertising posters whenever he could.

In Vienna he developed his hatred of foreigners and Jews.

Ironically, the regimental captain who later recommended Hitler for his Iron Cross (First Class) award was actually Jewish.

In 1913 Hitler moved to Munich in southern Germany.

When war broke out in 1914 he immediately volunteered to join the German army.

He fought bravely and was promoted to corporal.

He won the both the Iron Cross second class and first class.

At the end of the war in 1918 Hitler was in hospital recovering from temporary gas-blindness.

He had been wounded by a British gas attack in the Ypres Salient.

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Hitler remained in the army after the war and one of his duties was to spy on local political groups.

One such group was the German Workers Party.

Hitler became interested and soon joined the party.

Hitler's skills for publicity and as a speaker saw him transform it into the Nazi Party.

This strange name comes from the longer term National Sozialismus ("National Socialism").

In 1923 he led an attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government but this spectacularly failed.

He was sentenced to nine months in prison where he dictated his book Mein Kampf ("My Struggle").

After 1925 he rebuilt the Nazi Party, deciding he had to obtain power by democracy rather than by force.

The Wall Street Crash in 1929 and the subsequent worldwide depression hit Germany hard.

Hitler used to situation to blame Jews and Communists, using them as scapegoats to gain support for himself.

He became Chancellor in 1933 and President in 1934 and used the title Der Führer - leader.

During the 1930s he “Nazified” Germany, removing any potential opposition and establishing his ideas for a Greater Germany.

Hitler led Germany to war in 1939 and tried to exterminate the Jews and other groups in Germany.

When Germany was defeated in 1945 Hitler married his mistress Eva Braun in his bomb proof bunker in Berlin. He shot himself on 30th April, 1945.

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How did Hitler come to power?

The Munich Putsch

By 1923 Hitler was the leader of the Nazi Party.

With inflation running high, Hitler thought the time was ripe for his party to seize control in Germany.

With a group of ex-soldiers, including a war time air ace Hermann Goering, and Field Marshall Ludendorff, the Nazis plotted to seize control of Munich, the capital of Bavaria, and then stage a march on Berlin.

It was a disaster.

The plotters had not planned things carefully enough and Hitler lost his nerve. He spent most of the crisis making speeches to his own supporters in a beer hall. When Ludendorff finally persuaded him to lead a march through the streets, the police fired on the marchers and Hitler and the Nazis ran away. Two days later Hitler was arrested.

Adolf Hitler received a five year prison sentence for the Munich Putsch, but prison was very comfortable and he was let out after serving less than a year. He spent the time writing a book about his ideas - Mein Kampf

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A Change of Tactics

Hitler decided to stop trying to seize power and sought election by legal means. He claimed he would have to use democracy. His chance came after 1929. America's economy was in trouble, so the Americans stopped lending Germany money. The German economy collapsed.

Thousands of Germans were thrown out of work. In the election of 1932 the Nazi Party made a very attractive set of promises based on what Hitler had written in Mein Kampf. Hitler promised to provide jobs, sort out the economy and make Germany proud and strong again. In July 1932 the Nazi party was the biggest in the Reichstag, the German Parliament building. Yet in November 1932, the Nazi vote dropped back again.

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Hitler Becomes Chancellor of Germany

There was a power struggle in Germany after the 1932 election. Many of the political parties thought they could use Hitler's popularity to their advantage. The power struggle ended in the President's asking Hitler to become Chancellor.

Many people thought that other experienced politicians could control Hitler and the Nazis. They soon found that this was a mistake. Hitler quickly organised another election and made sure the Nazis would do well...

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The Reichstag Fire

Just before the election in 1933 the Reichstag building was set on fire. Hitler cleverly blamed the Communists, who were feared by many Germans. Most historians think that Hitler organised the entire event to make people more afraid of the Communists and thus vote for the Nazis.

The Nazi vote increased in the election. By 1934 Hitler tightened his grip on Germany and had banned other political parties. He created a Nazi dictatorship.

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Why Did German People Support Hitler?

Hitler Promised People What They Wanted

The Weimar Republic appeared to have no idea how to solve the problems of the Depression. The Nazis on the other hand promised to solve the problems. Hitler promised most groups in Germany what they wanted. Hitler used the Jews and other sections of society as scapegoats, blaming all the problems on them. To Germans at the time Hitler made sense - he united everyone by providing explanations for Germany's problems.

People in Germany were tired of their poor quality of life. Hitler promised to make Germany proud again - it was exactly what people wanted to hear. Hitler pledged something for every part of German society:

Group Promise
Farmers Higher prices for their produce - making up for all their losses during the Depression.
Unemployed workers Jobs building public works such as roads and stadiums.
The middle class To restore the profits of small business and the value of savings. To end the Communist threat.

To all Germans he promised to restore German honour by tearing up the hated Treaty of Versailles and by making Germany great again.

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Nazi Beliefs

Behind these promises were beliefs that were to lead to the Second World War and the death of millions of people:

  • That Germany should re-arm and take back what she had lost at Versailles.
  • That the German Race (blonde, blue eyed Aryans) were a superior race. Anyone else was racially impure and should be removed from Germany. Hitler called the Germans the Herrenvolk (“master race”).
  • The “master race” needed more living space - known (in German) as Lebensraum.
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To find out how much you have learned, you may take a test by clicking on the link below. This will open the test page from in a new window.

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The copyright in materials on this page belongs to Andrew Field of Please acknowledge intellectual property rights by giving the URL of any pages you use, and/or include the © copyright symbol. Thank you.

© Andrew Field, 2001;

Copyright in teaching resources and materials on this site belongs to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council. Please acknowledge intellectual property rights by giving the URL of any pages you use, and/or include the © copyright symbol. Thank you.

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