Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was the leader of the NSDAP (from 1919) and dictator of Germany from 1933 to 1945. Appointed Reichskanzler on January 30, 1933, he assumed the twin titles of Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor) after President Paul von Hindenburg's death (August 2, 1934).
Hitler was born in a family of a customs officer. Hitler's father, Alois (born 1837), was illegitimate and for a time bore his mother's name, Schicklgruber, but by 1876 he had established his claim to the surname Hitler. Adolf never used any other name, and the name Schicklgruber was revived only by his political opponents in Germany and Austria in the 1930s.
Unsuccessfully, he tried to become a fine arts student at the Vienna Arts Academy. He developed a special interest in architecture. He had several odd jobs, but never long enough to escape poverty. He often lived on the streets as a street painter. He spent some time in the public gallery of the Austrian Parliament. Through his observances there, he later wrote he developed his contempt of democracy and what he saw as the contaminating dominance of Jews in parliament and society. He also cultivated his love of Germanism, and observed how political activists influenced the masses. Spring 1912 he moved to Munich where he hoped to start his artistic career anew.
Hitler's introduction to war and politics
In 1914, he volunteered to the 16th Bavarian Infantry Regiment, he fought in World War I on the Western front and was gassed during one of the battles. Afterwards he was awarded a medal for bravery. He was a corporal by the end of the war.
After the return from the front to Munich, he joined a small party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, German Worker's Party). In April 1919 he became the leader of the party. Due to Hitler's organizing and speaking talents the party gained increasing popularity. In the course of time he changed the name of the party to Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP). On the 8th and 9th of November, 1923, Hitler was involved in an abortive coup known as the "Munich Beer Hall Putsch". He was accused of the state treason and jailed in Landsberg. During his imprisonment he wrote his political manifesto: Mein Kampf.
After several months he received amnesty and was released from prison. He soon rebuilt his party and again gained tremendous popularity.
Rise to power
See the Origins and Commencement of World War II for details missing here.
Hitler became Chancellor of the Weimar Republic in 1933 through a coalition with conservative and right wing parties, who had hoped to use Hitler's popularity to gain power. Once in power he initiated what was called the "legal seizure of power." In the course of a few years he managed to consolidate dictatorial powers through parliamentary legislation. Later he turned out to be erratic and unpredictable leader of the armed forces, often disregarding opinions of other experienced generals and marshals.
Under Hitler's leadership, driven by a vision of a Nordic master race, Germany invaded several of its smaller neighbors, beginning World War II. This vision also drove an attempt to systematically exterminate other peoples--notably the Jews--called the Holocaust in which 5-10 million people were killed. Other hated peoples included the Romani or Tzigane (Gypsies) of which between 600,000 and 2 million were killed (about 70% of population in German controlled areas).
World War II itself brought the death of tens of millions more, including 20 million casualties in the Soviet Union alone.
After the Soviet Red Army reached Berlin, Adolf Hitler committed suicide together with his lady friend Eva Braun (whom he married just two days before) on April 30, 1945, in the Führerbunker (leader's bunker). He was aged 56.
In the testament he left, he circumvented other Nazi leaders and appointed Admiral Karl Dönitz as his successor.