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An overview of Hitler and the Nazis.

Hitler. Was he German? No, he was born in Austria - but close to the German border.

Who can tell me what year Hitler was born in?
He was born in 1889.

How many siblings did he have?
He had 6 brothers and sisters.

Hitler had an accent, a regional accent, that made his speech sound just a little different to the German people he ended up leading. He grew up in Bavaria - which is where what cars come from? BMW - Bavarian Motor Works.

Did you know know that Hitler wanted to be a priest at one point? Imagine how the world would be different if he had followed that career instead of becoming one of the most evil men the world has ever known.

Anyway, he didn’t become a priest; he choose instead to become an artist. At first he wanted to be an artist, but he wasn’t really good enough and failed to get into the academy of arts. See some of his paintings here. Then, he changed to trying to be an architect.

But again, he didn’t get into the university for architecture. He was left not really knowing what to do; painting quite a lot and selling his paintings to friends.

Hitler is well-known for hating which group of people?
The Jews.

Some of his best friends in Vienna, which was where he tried to be an artist, were Jewish. That’s quite strange, when we think about his Nazi government murdered over 5 million Jewish people. The Nazis also murdered millions of others - gays, cripples, disabled, the mentally ill, those with physical problems, and lots of people who just didn’t agree with Hitler’s ideas.

It is important to remember that when I say ‘Hitler’ or ‘Hitler’s ideas’, Hitler himself was never recorded as having killed anyone. 

The thing is that it was the wishes of Hitler that tens of millions were murdered, and on Hitler’s desire to rule the world that wars started.

So he might never have personally killed anyone, but those under his command did murder tens of millions.

No one really knows why Hitler is thought to hate the Jews. As I said, some of his friends were Jewish; how did he come to hate the Jewish people?

The answer seems to be mostly that the Nazis needed what we call a ‘scapegoat’.

Does anyone know what a scapegoat is?
Someone or a group of people we blame when things go wrong, although it is not their fault.

The Nazis decided that Jewish people would be the scapegoat. This was not the first time that the Jews had been scapegoats and targeted when a country was not doing well.

After World War One, you might remember that Germany was in a really poor condition. When Hitler came to power, he needed to make sure that he and the Nazis had someone to blame for that poor condition after the first war.

The German people decided that Jewish people were to blame.

Were they really to blame, do you think?
In fact, of course, no they were not. The way of life of Jewish people is that they work very hard and dedicate their lives to work. If you do that, you usually make a lot of money. 

When an economy is bad, like Germany’s after WW1, if you have lots of money, you’re going to do better than most other people.

It was easy for Hitler and the Nazis to say “look at those Jews! THEY are keeping all our money, and making us poor! THEY are to blame for the bad economy!”

Do you think that’s true?
No, of course not.

But, with the right amount or technique, anyone can make sure that some people are blamed.

Do you know what that technique is called? The use of posters, films, leaflets to tell people that a another group of people are bad? This technique is also used to say how good tings are. In both cases, the posters and books and so on are telling only half-truths, or simple lies.

It’s called ‘propaganda’.

Now, Hitler was not a very good propagandist, but he was an excellent speaker.

Who did his propaganda?
Josef Goebbels.

He had just the right abilities to use posters and those things to convince the German people that the Jews were a bad lot of people, who were to blame for the troubles in Germany.

Goebbels was a failed journalist, but he joined the Nazis and became very important in the Nazi party.

He promoted the idea of the perfect German. The perfect German male was fairly tall, had muscles but not too many, had blond hair, and was an athlete. (Picture 1)

The perfect German female was shorter than the men, had a large … ‘front’, long blond hair and was happy to be a housewife, making babies and running the house. (Picture 2

This which is another odd thing, because Goebbels was small, very skinny, had bad teeth and one leg shorter than the other leg. (Picture 3)

Even looking at Hitler, he was not really very good looking. (Picture 4)

But both Hitler and Goebbels, and other Nazi leaders, had a special quality that not many people have. Other dictators also have this quality - then and even these days.

What is that quality?
Charisma.

Charisma is a quality which means that people want to listen to what you say, they want to be near you, they want to follow you. Some - but not all - pop stars have charisma. Some people you meet have this quality too.

Charisma can of course be used for good OR bad. Hitler and the Nazis used it for badness, to get the German people to vote for them. Yes, the Nazis were elected in a democratic election.

When they got into power, though, they changed the law so only they could be elected. That’s when Germany became a dictatorship, and when Hitler took power as the Prime Minister AND the President, he became the dictator himself.

That’s when it all started getting bad for the Jews, but it got very much better for Germany and the non-Jewish German people.

Hitler promised prosperity (when a country gets better) and it happened. The first motorways (freeways) were in Germany (picture 6 and 7). There were not many cars to use them, but the roads were there.

Anyone who wanted a job could get a job. And everyone DID want a job, because that meant they were supporting Hitler.

If everyone has a job, they have a salary, and they can have a better way of living.

When people spend they money, it means the economy is stimulated, and grows bigger. Which means more money, better things and people get more happy.

And then Hitler became incredibly popular (picture 8). In one election, 92% of people voted for the Nazis, led by Hitler. His promises of prosperity and his blame of the Jews gave the German people something to concentrate on, and they elected him (‘him’ meaning the Nazis).

For the first few years, from 1933 until about 1937, Germany became a strong country, but still had to pay attention to a Treaty made at the end of the first war.

What that treaty was called?
The Treaty of Versailles.

That meant that Germany could not have an army, air force or navy. But secretly, Hitler had all three, and made them strong and the best in the world. Of course, you can’t make an army, or build planes or ships in secret really, so it was called an ‘open secret’.

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