There was nothing remarkable about Hitler in his early days. He was a bastard son of Alois Hitler Sr and was never adopted/legitimized. Hitler was not a German but an Austrian, who was stateless for seven years before being granted German citizenship in 1932. He was an aspiring architect & a painter. Yet there are no notable buildings or paintings credited to his name.
His military credentials are also doubtful. On 5th February 1914, he was deemed unfit for military service by Austro-Hungarian Army, hence he volunteered to be enlisted in the Bavarian Army. (even though his citizenship prevented him from legally doing so). He served away from the front-lines as a dispatch runner and never rose above the rank of Gefreiter (a very junior position). His much acclaimed Iron Cross was due to the recommendation of his Jewish commanding officer Lieutenant Hugo Gutmann, who championed his cause. His antisemitism views are famous, yet his first love was rumored to be with a Jewish girl, Stefanie Rabatsch.
Politically he was a failure throughout his career. He joined DAP (German worker’s Party) in September 2019 as an undercover intelligence agent responsible to spy on the party and influence its opinions. In 1923, his infamous “Beer Hall Putsch” was a failed coup and a poor imitation of Mussolini’s “March to Rome” a year earlier. He was charged with high treason and sentenced to five years of prison, at Landsberg. Where he was doomed, but achieved his resurgence through his book “Mein Kampf” and was released early.
There were seven elections between 1924 and 1933 and his party was never able to achieve majority. This is in spite of the global depression, high unemployment, hyperinflation and all other socio-economic factors that are contributed to rise of Fascism in Germany. Nazi party never won the elections. Hitler was nominated as the Chancellor in 1933 and later grabbed Dictatorship to form Nazi Germany.
So why was Hitler so successful in his initial days as head of Nazi?
Nothing sums up the rise of Hitler then the famous poem “First they Came… “ by Martin Niemöller. The world at that time had become too self-centered to act against the atrocities against mankind. It became an easy prey to the divisive ideology & propaganda promoted by fascism.
In 1931, The League of Nations chose not to act when Japan attacked China in Manchuria. Japan’s indiscriminate rape, plunder and massacre of Manchuria, China continued for three years without any intervention.
It failed to mobilize when Mussolini attacked Somalia (Abyssinia) in 1935.The League of Nations gave a tacit approval to Nazi annexation of Saarland in 1935 and Rhineland in 1936. The nationalist caused a 3 year long civil war in Spain overthrowing a elected democracy there but the world did not care. In fact, it was encouraged to expand east closer to Russia. In 1938, Hitler invaded Austria on the eve of plebiscite (referendum to decide on joining with Nazi) and the world did nothing.
in 1939, Czechoslovakia had a well-equipped modern army of 1.2mn soldiers with a home advantage ready for onslaught of 1.5mn German soldiers. (total strength invading Poland). They had prepared a series of fortifications of 264 small forts and over 10,000 light pillboxes designed to provide a stiff resistance. On the other hand hand in 1939, the German tanks were yet not a fighting force. As demonstrated in the march of Austria, over 30% of the armored vehicles developed mechanical failures even though no shots were fired. The Czech’s LT-35 was much more reliable and mobile, unlike Panzer I and II. In fact, German continued to produce 1,400 of them till 1942 under the new name Panzer 38(t). Nazis were fully aware of their positions and hence relied on posturing rather than military.
The policy of appeasement by Chamberlain (then British Prime Minister) fanned the dreams of world domination rather than nipping the fascist menace at its bud. Annexation of foreign reserves, material stock piles, industries, natural resources & technology from these conquests further strengthened the Nazi military at the cost of its inhabitants. For example, Germany gained 2,175 field cannons, 469 tanks, 500 anti-aircraft artillery pieces, 43,000 machine guns, 1,090,000 military rifles, 114,000 pistols, about a billion rounds of ammunition and three millions of anti-aircraft grenades from Czechoslovakia. This amount of weaponry would be sufficient to arm about half of the then Wehrmacht and enabled them to expand to Poland.
The invasion of Poland was also the same story. Except for a token declaration of war against Germany, France & Britain did nothing for 8 long months, till it invaded France. Germany army bloated from 100,000 men in 1935 to over 2mn (1.5 participated in invasion) by 1st Sept 1939. This new green, untested army had unproven tactics, command structure, training & discipline which could easily be bogged down if the Western front was opened. Furthermore, in this first battle fought by Nazi Germany, the bulk of the tanks, weaponry used were Czech and acquired forcefully only a few months ago without adequate time to train/familiarize.
Hitler, aware of his weak position, signed a pact with his arch-rival Stalin & handed him over more than half of the Polish territory in return of Russian support in the invasion to surround the Poles. This war and the lull that followed helped Hitler to revolutionize his green recruits into the most formidable wrath that the world has ever seen.
In short, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke