After gaining power, Hitler aggressively built up the German military and in 1936, occupied the Rhineland, a formerly German area designated as a buffer zone to protect France. Britain and France were preoccupied with Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia and made little protest. By 1938, Germany had the most powerful military force in the world. In that same year, Hitler demanded and was given the Sudetanland in Czechoslovakia. It was highly populated with Germans and Hitler claimed to be liberating them.
In 1939, through military intimidation, Hitler took all of Czechoslovakia and part of Lithuania (the Memel Territory). He next demanded the return of Danzig, a highly German populated free state. Poland refused; Britain and France pledged to support Poland. Fearing a war on two fronts, which would eventually lead to his downfall, Hitler signed a nonagression pact with USSR leader, Joseph Stalin.
The German army then invaded Poland and began World War II. After crushing the Poles, Hitler invaded Norway, Denmark, Belgium, and The Netherlands in quick succession. France fell in 1940. In 1941, Hitler made himself Personal Commander of the Army and, in 1942, Supreme War Lord. On July 20, 1944, a group of officers, angered by Hitler’s recent military failing, set off a bomb in his office. He escaped unharmed.
Hitler’s plan to take Great Britain failed, largely due to poor results in air battles. When Italy lost momentum, Hitler conquered North Africa and Greece. By this time, Hitler was running low on human resources, so he forced Jews and other peoples he considered inferior into labor camps. Those that refused were herded up and shipped to concentration camps or death camps. Thus began the Holocaust, a horrific extermination of twelve million people, six million Jews. Other victims included Gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, and atheists. The Holocaust: A Tragic Legacy is a terrific resource for more information on the Holocaust.
Hitler made the fatal mistake of invading the USSR. He won many early victories on the border and found an ally in Japan but soon it all came crumbling down. The supply lines were too long and the winter, horribly harsh. Also, the Germans faced a surprisingly strong resistance from brave Russians. The German soldiers lost heart; they knew that retreat would be wise. Hitler would not allow it; instead he forced them to carry on, culminating in the horrible defeat at Stalingrad.
Soon, the allies retook Africa Italy and the Soviet Union. After the invasion of Normandy, Hitler married Eva Braun and then killed himself. Germany soon surrendered unconditionally. How Hitler came to power is not cut and dried. The situations were drastic with the German economy in complete ruin. Hitler was traumatized by the beatings from his father and his failure as an artist. He manifested this rage in his hate-filled politics. He seized onto the feeling of anti-Semitism as a tenet of his political beliefs and as a means to gain power. Even through this common hatred and overwhelming propaganda, the Nazis never received more than 44% of the vote. Not everyone was so easily fooled by Hitler’s tripe. Many Germans already disliked the Jews, but on top of that resentment, Hitler convinced them that the Jews were the root of all-evil. He also promised to expand Germany’s borders and strengthen the economy. Germans were brimming with pride again after the loss of World War I and the ensuing Great Depression.
Hitler fell from power essentially due to military ineptitude. Britain had the Germans beat in the air. Hitler foolishly attacked his ally Russia, creating a war on two fronts and with a foe he could not vanquish. He declared war on the United States after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Hitler should have realized he needed numerous and powerful allies to defeat his opposition. Japan, Germany and Italy were simply no match for the rest of the world.