Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) was the leader of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party and führer of Germany during the Second World War. He was responsible for the genocide of six million European Jews and millions of others.

After serving in the Germany army during World War I, Hitler rose to power in the Nazi Party during the 1920s. In November 1923, Hitler led the party in an attempted insurrection at Munich Putsch, but he was arrested in the conflict and imprisoned for nine months. During his confinement, Hitler began writing Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”), a manifesto that called for revenge for the humiliation of Germany at the end of the World War I and advocated the elimination of Jews.

The instability created by the beginning of economic depression in 1929 cleared the way for the ascent of Hitler’s Nazi Party. After a strong showing in the presidential election of 1932, Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933. Hitler quickly created a dictatorship as chancellor. He withdrew from the League of Nations and ordered the execution of political enemies. He allied with Mussolini’s Italy and then with Japan. In 1938, he ordered the annexation of Austria, and in 1939, Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. In September 1939, Hitler precipitated World War II with Germany’s invasion of Poland.

Throughout the 1930s, Hitler enforced measures to expel Jews from the German Reich. As the war began, however, Hitler’s policy shifted from expulsion to extermination. Concentration and extermination camps were created. Throughout the war six million Jews and millions of others—including Catholics, homosexuals, the disabled, and Roma—were killed by Nazis in Europe.

By 1940, Germany had invaded and occupied most of western Europe. Britain, under the leadership of Winston Churchill, resisted the Nazi threat. In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor. England, the United States, and Soviet Union soon entered into an alliance of Allied Powers. In 1944, Hitler’s plans for world domination crumbled with the Allied invasion of Normandy. As the Allies liberated European cities, Hitler retreated to his bunker in Berlin. Though he briefly hoped to make a final effort at resistance, Hitler eventually realized that defeat was inevitable. On April 30, 1945, Hitler committed suicide and over the next week, German forces throughout Europe surrendered.

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