Hitler, Adolf (1889-1945), German political and military leader and one of the 20th century's most powerful dictators. Hitler converted Germany into a fully militarized society and launched World War II in 1939 (see Federal Republic of Germany). He made anti-Semitism a keystone of his propaganda and policies and built the Nazi Party (see National Socialism) into a mass movement. He hoped to conquer the entire world, and for a time dominated most of Europe and much of North Africa. He instituted sterilization and euthanasia measures to enforce his idea of racial purity among German people and caused the slaughter of millions of Jews, Sinti and Roma (Gypsies), Slavic peoples, and many others, all of whom he considered inferior
Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary, in 1889, the fourth child of Klara and Alois Hitler. Hitler's father worked his way up in the Austrian customs service to a position of considerable status, and as a result Hitler had a comfortable childhood.
Hitler began school in 1900, and his grades were above average. It was decided that he would attend Realschule, a secondary school that prepared students for further study and emphasized modern languages and technical subjects. However, Hitler and his father strongly differed about career plans. His father wanted him to enter the civil service; Hitler insisted on becoming an artist. As a result, Hitler did poorly in Realschule, having to repeat the first year and improving little thereafter.
During this time, Hitler began to form his political views: a strong sense of German nationalism, the beginnings of anti-Semitism, and a distaste for the ruling family and political structure of Austria-Hungary. Like many German-speaking citizens of Austria-Hungary, Hitler considered himself first and foremost a German.
The death of Hitler's father in January 1903 changed the family. The...