Over time there have been many influential leaders who have changed the course of history. These leaders contained great leadership qualities, which allowed them to achieve their goals. But their success has also been questioned due to the effects and characteristics of the time period. Some historians believe that the success of these leaders is due to their person characteristics, while others believe that their success was due to the conditions of the society in which these leaders lived.
One leader, whose success is controversial, is Adolph Hitler. Hitler’s success can be seen as his own through to his charismatic qualities, military tactics and the holocaust. All three of these topics were original to him and made him a notorious leader and gained him success. Hitler’s success can also be due to the horrible conditions in Germany at the time of his rise to power. The failure of the economy, extreme nationalism and the fragile government of Germany in the 1920’s and 30’s could also be seen as the reason for Hitler’s success(Wepman 98).
The end of W.W.I left Germany in economic debt, suffering to survive. The Treaty of Versailles blamed Germany for the war and required them to pay for all the reparations. With many unemployed and homeless, the country was in economic ruins(Heck 120). To try and end their suffering, the German government printed more money, which in turn caused inflation and more problems. When the Great Depression hit Germany in the early 1930’s the German economy was in horrible shape. Many Germans were left unemployed, homeless and practically hopeless. The depression just added to German debts and despair.
These economical conditions in Germany created a perfect scenario for Hitler to gain power and influence(Heck 124). With the government in debt and unemployment growing everyday, the Germans were looking for a strong, powerful leader to take control. Hitler promised to get Germany out of debt and help it become a powerful nation again. The German people were quickly influenced by the promises and the Nazi party grew rapidly as Hitler gained power in the government(Wepman 65).
TheWeimar Republic began at the end of 1918, two days before the First World War ended. It was not strong from the start because it had signed the dreaded Versailles Treaty. People felt Germany had been stabbed in the back by the government, so there was a lot of political unrest. Then the Great Depression set in and there was economic turmoil as well. No one believed in the Weimar Republic anymore. This boosted the Nazi Party’s membership(Toland 349).
In 1921, Hitler gained control of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party and changed the name to the Nazi Party. From 1921 to 1923, the membership grew from a mere 6,000 people to 50,000. Hitler worked to win the support of the peasants, workers, middle class, and some of the wealthy business leaders by promising order, unity, strength and a better life for all. Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later earned a dictatorship, which allowed him to establish a fascist state known as the Third Reich. Opposers of the Nazi Party were rounded up by the Gestapo, the secret police, and many of them were murdered. Nazis extended their control over every aspect of people’s lives and through propaganda, they kept people happier. Thus was the beginning of the campaign against the Jews and others, known as the “Inferior Beings.” The previous conditions of life in Germany had successfully opened the door for the Nazi Party to take over and exhibit their power as they did.
Nationalism in Germany played a major part in setting the stage for someone to take over. Germany had been a country made through nationalistic tactics, led by Bismarck, and was a very proud country. When Germany lost W.W.I, they were humbled. The Versailles Treaty forced them to accept blame. They lost their over seas colonies and were only allowed a limited army. This left a lot of hatred towards the rest of Europe with the German people. The Nazi party came into the political scene soon after W.W.I had ended. German support for the Weimar had decreased because of the inflation and other side affects of the Versailles Treaty. Many people turned towards the Nazi party because it attacked both the Weimar Republic and the Versailles Treaty. The Nazi’s ideas were already formed, Hitler just came at the right time to be their spokesperson, giving people what they wanted, someone to blame and someone to look for help(Rathbone 78).
Hitler began his rise to power during a difficult time for the German people. The failing economy and government required a strong and charismatic leader to take control. Hitler had both of these qualities, along with promises for a fixed economy and successful government.
When Hitler joined the Nazi party in 1921 there was only 6,000 members, but within two years his powerful speeches and influential ideas caused the number of party members to explode to 50,000(Heck 45). Hitler creatively started his speeches soft and slow. He gradually grew louder and spoke with great emotion that carried the people right off into his world. Hitler’s powerful speeches not only gained the Nazi party thousands of members, but also the positions of chancellor and then dictator. These positions would not have been reached if Hitler had been a quiet self-contained person. His booming voice and great hand gestures added to the great impact of his speeches, as well as his powerful charisma(Toland 221).
Hitler’s influential ideas reached past the adult members of the Nazi party, to the German children. Hitler felt that by teaching the future generation about fascism, then all of his plans and ideas would succeed with the help of the children. Hitler then acted as the father of the German children. He gained their respect and support at a young age, which was a new tactic that had never been used before. Hitler nurtured the children’s respect and support by teaching them strict manners and disciplinary orders while they were still in school. He also enforced the teaching of fascism and severe nationalism in the schools(Heck 122).
Throughout Hitler’s career he retained these very powerful characteristics, helping him remain a powerful leader in Germany and the rest of the war throughout W.W.II until the German defeat in 1945. Now, with Germany on his side, he commenced his plan of totalitarian control.
Hitler believed that in order for Germany to obtain full prosperity, it must ‘cleanse’ itself of the ‘impure’ people. Hitler expressed his views in the book Mein Kampf in which he also talked of his right to maintain ‘living space.’ He increased his forces from a measly 100,000 men to 500,000 men and withdrew from the League of Nations(Rathbone 70). Planning a major invasion of Europe, Hitler decided to test out his new weapons in the Spanish Civil War, and while he was there he became acquainted with Italian methods and political ideas. This was the basis for the Rome Berlin Axis, and an alliance was made in October 1936. Only six months later, German troops occupied the Rhineland. Hitler then turned to Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia. He convinced the 3,000 Germans living there to demand self-government. After the Czech crisis was resolved, Hitler called a conference of the major European powers but conveniently forgot to invite Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, its major alliance. Germany, Britain, France, and Italy determined the fate of Czechoslovakia. Hitler gained the right to send troops into the Rhineland and promised to control his actions involving world affairs from then on. But only six months later, Hitler gained control of the rest of Czechoslovakia in March of 1939. The world was shocked at his inability to keep a promise, and before they could react, Hitler was demanding Danzig and the Polish Corridor. These were both taken from Germany during the Versailles Treaty. Because of this, Neville Chamberlain (the Prime Minister of Great Britain) and France both agreed to help Poland if Hitler invaded. Hitler was not shocked by this, but he also knew that they could not help Poland to any great extent because he had territorially cut off both countries from Poland. Hitler then realized that Russia might pose a problem to an invasion because of its long border with Poland. To resolve this, Hitler secretly signed a treaty with Stalin, planning to divide up Poland, the Soviet Union with one-third, Germany with two. So on September 1, 1939, Germany crossed over the Polish border. Two days later, the world was at war. Using his unique tactic of the blitzkrieg, or lightning war, Hitler took control of Poland in almost four weeks. There were five effective steps of the blitzkrieg:
1: Hitler sent spies and saboteurs into the area to map out and mark major intersections and storehouses. 2: Airplanes were sent into the area and bombed bridges and key points to create chaos. 3: Tanks going 40 miles per hour with cannons roll into back yards and across cities. 4: Then come the troops in fast moving trucks with machine guns to wipe out any protesters or soldiers getting in the way. 5: Then finally came the occupation with either special officers or just regular German police to capture and kill, if necessary, anyone who objected(Toland 823).
This method was very effective because of its speed and efficiency. He took the enemy by surprise, not giving them time to react to the situation. By catching them off their guard, Hitler easily crushed Poland and occupied the country without a problem. Hitler took a slight seven month break from his invasions in order to make Europe think he was done seizing other “weaker” countries. However, Hitler took Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Using the same tactics, Hitler went around the Maginot line and took France. While some countries were falling victim to Hitler’s attacks, some decided it would be easier to side with him. Hungary and Romania joined with Germany in 1940, Bulgaria joined in 1942 and Spain let Hitler use its ports. Hitler, remembering that the Soviet Union had killed most of its army generals in the Great Purges, decided it would be worth the risk of a two front war to obtain the Soviet’s rich farm lands and oil deposits. And masked by Mussolini’s attacks, Germany crossed the border and marched into the Soviet Union in June of 1941.
Adolf Hitler was very anti-Semitic and wrote Mein Kampf while he was in jail. It detailed his beliefs that the “Aryan” race was far superior to the “inferior races,” such as Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, the physically and mentally disabled, and the Aryans were destined to rule them. He blamed the Jews for all the economic troubles and started persecuting them. It became practiced so much that concentration camps were set up for the inferior races to be sent to. At the concentration camps, people suffered terrible deaths. If they were lucky enough to live through the mass executions in gas chambers, being buried in mass graves, and being executed; then they were forced to work for the Germans(Deichmann 54). When working for the Germans the prisoners were fed very little and many died of sickness or starvation. If the dead bodies were not thrown into a community burial grave, then they were burned in furnaces. These camps were found all over Europe, in Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland, as well as other countries. There were about 12 million deaths with 6 million being political prisoners, the physically and mentally disabled, Gypsies, and Slavs. The other 6 million were Jewish deaths. Hitler’s purification process was obviously against all Anglo Saxon morals and ethics, but was part of his master plan for control.
Until his death in 1945, a suicide, which he chose as his fate, Hitler, proved to be an Influential character of charm, charisma and power. He worked himself into power, led a nation into war and executed his plans for a supreme race, no matter how unethical his ideas were. Like a tragic hero, however, he held his own flaw and in the end his own downfall and collapse of power. Hitler found a time where he could easily slide into power, giving a torn apart nation a purpose, goal and a union to build upon.
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