“As fast as our skinny legs could carry us, we go to every barrack in the vicinity we open up the door and yell in every language that we know, ‘We are Free! We are Free!’” The Nazi dictatorship committed some of the worst atrocities in history against the Jewish and other racial minorities, the suffering endured in concentration camps across Nazi-occupied Europe was one of the most horrific crimes committed against humanity in modern history. The Nazi’s road to power was one littered with the corpses of their enemies, such as the events leading to the liberation of those held in concentration camps was equally devastating and treacherous. Although horrifying, the acts of the Nazi party will continue to profoundly impact society for centuries to come and it is important that we continue to recognize and learn about the people suffering so we can prevent it from occurring again.
It’s 1914, a young German man who is homeless at the time enlists in the German army to assist Germany in their war effort. He is a brave soldier who fights fearlessly for his country and unlike most people suffering through the awful conditions of WW1 he embraces them, taking the friendship and brotherhood from his fellow soldiers as a welcome change to the homeless life he had lived for several years before that. He suffered many close calls with death and was awarded the Iron Cross for his bravery. Having narrowly avoided death the young man eventually joined a political party and climbed to be the most powerful man in Germany, his name was Adolf Hitler. Hitler’s climb to power involved carefully and subtly dismantling what was, at the time, a democracy. He used careful manipulation of not only government officials but the German people to gradually gain a little more power, with each step up putting him just in reach of his next goal. By the time Hitler was in place to gain absolute control, nobody had taken notice of his careful advance forward and therefore there was no one left in a position to stop him. After his time serving in WW1, the Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to dramatically decrease the size of their armed forces and so Hitler could no longer serve in the military however, Hitler continued to serve the German army as an informant. At this time communists in Germany had attempted a revolution, and the government’s main concern was preventing the spread of communism. In September of 1919, Hitler was assigned with investigating a suspected communist party called the ‘German Workers Party.’ He attended one of their meetings undercover as a civilian but was shocked to find that the party’s ideology was not communist and rather fell in line with many of his own political views and beliefs. On that same day, he made an impassionate speech to the members of the party who were shocked at his public speaking abilities and the impressed party leaders soon invited him to join reluctantly, he accepted becoming a full-time politician and taking the first step towards the powerful leader he would become.
Now being a full-time politician Hitler found himself exactly where he needed to be and with his powerful leadership skills and captivating public speaking he stood out among other members and quickly rose to be the new leader of the party. Now with the support of his new party, Hitler renamed them to the Nationalist Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party and used his skills as an artist to design a new logo and branding for the Nazi party. Hitler had always believed he was destined for great things and in his new position, his superiority complex only further developed as he began truly believing he was Germany’s great savior and started taking steps to increase the Nazi party’s popularity. By 1923 the Nazi party had gained some popularity with over 3000 members but was still struggling to gain much political significance or influence although, this would soon change as Hitler’s sole intention was to make the Nazi party as important and influential as possible and in November of 1923 Hitler would finally act. The people were angry, inflation in Germany had skyrocketed and the great depression and subsequent famine were sweeping across the country. The people were losing confidence in Germany’s democratic Governance and Hitler decided it was the perfect time to start a revolution. Inspired by Mussolini’s successful government takeover a year earlier, Hitler hatched a daring plan in which he would kidnap the leaders of the government and force them to accept him as the new leader. He would soon learn that a large meeting of businessmen would be held in a Munich beer hall with his kidnapping targets as guest speakers. Then on the 8th of November at around 8.30 pm Hitler and his para-military supporters stormed the beer hall taking the stage and proclaiming that the “Revolution has begun!” and his party was now in full control of the country (this was entirely false, but those inside the beer hall had no way of knowing) he then proceeded to order the three men he had come for into a back room. Inside that backroom, however, Hitler’s negotiations were not going exactly to plan, and even when threatened with a pistol the three men were not budging. Exasperated, Hitler left the room and went back to the podium proclaiming to everyone that the three men had pledged alliance to the Nazis. This was enough for all of those in the beer hall as cheering began to erupt in support of Hitler. He would later convince all three men to reluctantly take the stage and tell the crowd they had joined the Nazi regime. Hitler would make one key mistake however as he decided to leave the beer hall overnight during which time his three captives had snuck out and his control over the crowd was beginning to lose effect. By the following morning, the crowd he rallied at the beer hall had largely decimated and Hitler’s other para-military groups had failed to capture key army barracks around the country. A desperate Hitler made one final attempt at salvaging the revolution he decided he would simply march the streets of Munich with his supporters and just take the capital himself. However, Hitler soon encountered a police blockade of around 300 officers he had hoped the officers would surrender or even join him but in a tragic moment for Hitler and his supporters they did not. The fire was exchanged on both sides and several protesters and a few police officers were dead or wounded. Hitler was arrested for treason and faced life in prison.
Hitler’s trial was a nationwide spectacle. He had made sure to gain as much media attention as possible leading up to the trial and the whole of Germany watched on as this potential revolutionary was put on trial. Hitler knew the judges on the case, some were friends with him and almost all were right-wing extremists as he was. He knew that they would be lenient and took the opportunity to make several impassionate and emotional speeches throughout the case. His message was now broadcast nationwide and the Nazi party had gained popularity all over Germany. Eventually, Hitler was sentenced to a mere 5 years in prison (the absolute minimum for high treason) of which he would only serve 9 months and the ‘prison’ was more like a hotel during which he had plenty of time to write a memoir called ‘Mein Kampf’ (My Struggle). Upon being released from prison Hitler found the situation in Germany worsening and people were becoming increasingly angry. Political moderates began to disappear, and it became known that if you wanted to change your options were either Nazi or Communist. This resulted in many people who didn’t agree with Hitler’s racist messages voting for him anyway as they were in desperate need of the other promises he was making. Eventually, the Nazi party began steadily gaining popularity winning slightly more seats in the house with every passing year. Hitler even ran for prime minister losing by only a narrow margin. With his newfound support, he twisted the then prime minister’s arm into making him chancellor. Then on the 23rd of February 1933, Hitler saw an opportunity and struck. A parliament building was set on fire and despite the fact it was most likely Nazi supporters who were responsible Hitler was adamant that the communists (his main political opponents) were the perpetrators. He convinced the prime minister to sign the enabling act; an emergency decree allowing him to imprison all communists and make all laws for 4 years without parliament approval. With his political opponents, now-imprisoned Hitler was only a few steps away from becoming a complete dictator. On the 14th of July Hitler would ban political parties dismantling democracy and turning the country into a one-party rule system than on the 19th of August as the Prime Minister passed away Hitler declared himself the Fuhrer of Germany and was finally at the center of the German dictatorship.
With complete control of the German state, Hitler was free to begin carrying his plans to rid the world of all lesser races and undoing the hated Treaty of Versailles that belittled and demoralized the country he loved so much. What followed was one of the greatest periods of suffering in human history with not only the casualties sustained in WW2 but the atrocities committed against the Jewish and many other racial minorities in all occupied territory across Europe and Asia. It is important that as we look back on the actions of the Nazi party and the events of WW2 and consider what led up to them because the next time an event such as this occurs it will be the people’s responsibility to prevent history from repeating itself.