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Adolf Hitler was born on April 20 1889 in Braunau Am Inn, Austria, near Bavaria in Germany. His family lived outside the Austrian city of Linz. When his family moved to Lambach, he went to a monastery school where he first came into contact with the exercise of power and authority: the Abbot in charge of the monastery ruled over his monks with supreme authority. At home, he would imitate the priest, often delivering long sermons.
At school, Hitler read Karl May’s fiction tales, one of which was the legendry Shatterhand, a white hero who by his bravery and power always won his battles against the red Indians of America. He also came across some of his father’s war books, which related the 1870-1871 war between Germany and France. They planted the seed of passion for war, and ignited his enthusiasm for anything connected military combat. During the Boer wars in S. Africa, he would often take the Boers side against the British in mock war games with his friends. As a military officer year later, he would order his officers to carry May’s books, and often referred to the Russians he was fighting as the Red Indians.
But it was the demise of his brother Edmund, aged six, which brought the reality of death to young Hitler. A while later, the death of his father placed him in a position of responsibility in his family. These events in his early life might have prepared him for the role he played in the military and Nazi Party politics. At school, History lessons under Dr. Leopold Postch about Germany statesmen Bismarck and Fredric shaped his patriotism, at which time his obsession with nationalism became flamed. During the rise of Germany nationalism, he chose Germany over Austria, thereby deciding his future destiny.
Hitler’s initial rise to power began in September 1919, propelled by two events: his entry into politics and the Germany Revolution that saw the “decline of the Weimer Republic after a military defeat” The Nazi party that he joined was anti Marxist, opposed to the Weimer Republic and the Versailles Treaty which greatly disadvantaged Germany with its demands for reparations and disarmament. Instead, it advocated for pan-Germanism and nationalism.
However, entry into politics was not a direct transition. While in the military, he had established contacts, which he used to attempt a coup de tat, inspired by Mussolini’s March on Rome. Post-WWW1 conditions just made such a move viable. With the provisions of the Versailles Treaty, the French army had invaded Germany to demand reparations for the war. When the latter printed millions of currency to off-set the debt, inflation hit 295%. Investors who had lost their money were angered, and Hitler reckoned it was time to act. When the coup failed, he got jailed and while in prison at Landsberg, reconsidered his political strategy. He decided that political power was to be gained through a revolution from within the powers that be, and not from outside. After a parole from prison, he sought legal means, within the Weimer democratic system. He rejoined his old party, the Nazi movement.
In his early political life, Hitler demonstrated exceptional oratory skills and inspirational party leadership. His authoritative approach in advancing political agenda won him influence in the party. The publication of his book Mein Kampf (My Struggle), a political manifesto, accorded him a wider publicity.
After the defeat of the Weimer Republic, emerging political events presented Hitler and his Nazi Party with opportunities to ascend into political prominence. The leadership vacuum created by the Kaiser’s abdication paved way for a series of national elections, with the Nazis gaining more seats in every election. Thus, throughput the 1920s, they gathered enough electoral muscle to become the strongest party in the Reichstag. The Nazis were later to describe this period as the years of struggle.
The Great Depression also played in favor of Hitler’s party. The SA movement blamed the crisis on the Jewish business community, and started an anti-Jewish campaign on October 1930, when its followers attacked Jewish stores at Potsdamer Platz. Using the crunch as a propaganda tool, it got support from the lower classes who had been hit hardest by the Depression. “Support for the Weimer’s parliamentary system waned,” giving Hitler a stepping stone into the path to power.
During the political violence that rocked Germany at the time, the SA paramilitaries targeted Jews, a move that appealed to the anti-Semitic culture of the German public. The government’s attempt to curtail the SA’s activities through legislation was seen as favoring the much hated Jews, and popular opinion prompted the repletion of then law. As the attacks continued, the Nazi party gained popularity and strength in the Reichstag, such that by July 1932, it had close to 14 000 000 and 230 seats in the Reichstag. During the November elections, it managed to hold on to its majority seats.
With a sway in the Reichstag, an economic crisis and 6 million unemployed Germans, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler appointed chancellor of a coalition government on January 30 1933. The following month, the Reichstag was destroyed by fire. This afforded Hitler a guise to suspend legislative authority through the Enabling Bill, and assume power to enact new laws. When President Hindenburg died in august, he merged the office of the president with that of the chancellor into a new post, the Fuhrer, and in so doing “consolidated the absolute power of a dictator.” Joseph Stalin was born in 1879, in Gori, Georgia. The only child of a tyrant father and strict mother, he led a difficult childhood, growing up to a cruel and angry person. He was rude, embittered, insolent, and stubborn. Such was his childhood that once he got into power he “became incapable of feeling pity for man or beast”. Like Hitler, his ascendance to power was occasioned with decisive historical events of the time
However, Stalin’s ascension to power was very different from Hitler’s, since he never created “the movement he came to dominate, nor did he lead it when it seized power.” A number of events prepared Stalin into position of power: the emergence of Marxism, the Russian revolution in 1917, the WW1 aftermath, the anti-Semitic culture and though remotely, the French revolution.
The turning point in the life of the man who was to become Russia’s dictator was when he joined a theology seminary in Tiflis, Georgia. Darwinism was making a major impact, which influenced his rejection of religion. Having become an atheist, he rebelled against church authorities, marking his transformation into a ruthless radical.
The 19th Century was the era of Marxism. With its promise of workers paradise after the proletariat’s takeover, radical Marxist ideas impressed him so much that Marxism became his religion, giving him a new purpose in life: revolution. When he got expelled from the seminary, he found the freedom to pursue his revolutionary ambition. He joined a group of Marxist revolutionaries, opposed to Czarism. At the time, Georgia was under the Czarist rule, but when the flames of Russian nationalism sparked, he saw opportunity in defecting to Russia.
When the Marxist ideas inspired the masses into a revolution, Stalin rode on the back of the Bolshevik movement led by Lenin. In March 1917, a riot of women in St. Petersburg paved way for a provisional government, which nonetheless Lenin and his group refused to join. In November the same year, civil unrest saw a major revolt when the workers in Moscow and St. Petersburg, soldiers and sailors rejected the provisional government, and Lenin took over. However, soon after taking power, Lenin succumbed to a stroke, creating a vacuum which Zinoviev, Stalin and Trotsky aimed to fill.
It was then that the resultant effects of the French revolution became a factor: Napoleon established himself as a dictator, ruling with supreme power. In Russia, Trotsky had formed a Red Army, which Zinoviev and Kamenov feared he might use to rule like Napoleon. They supported Stalin to succeed Lenin. Significantly, the two (Zinoviev and Kamenov) were of Jew origin, and as in Germany, the anti-Semitic sentiments of the time would not have allowed them to ascend into power.
After WW1, Russia was economically crippled. The wing led by Trotsky advocated for immediate implementation of Marxist reforms, but Stalin, conscious of the implication of such a move on a nation at the brink of collapse, instead adopted the New Economic Policy, which was partly of a capitalist nature. He avoided direct confrontation with the capitalist West, whose intervention would have destabilized Russia. Thus, against a backdrop of internal party wrangles, Stalin managed to hang on to power, as he waited to consolidate power. And this he did, after eliminating his rivals and establishing a dictatorship in Russia. As Chirot observed, “when disorder leaves a whole population at a loss of how to react because the old rules of behavior seem to have become useless, the likelihood increases that a tyrant will emerge as a self proclaimed savior