If there is one person who has made a huge impact on the history of the 20th century, it is undoubtedly Adolf Hitler. Up until today, interest in Hitler and his Third Reich is still great, witnesssed by the never ending flow of books about the dictator. The urge is great to understand how it is possible that one man could rally such masses of people, that one person could exert such a devastating influence on human history.
Yet, that is an incomplete approach. Adolf Hitler cannot be explained solely from the personality of Hitler himself. Although it is difficult to overestimate his role, it must be prevented that everything be traced back to Hitler alone. As German historian Joachim Fest wrote about the Nazi leader in his exhaustive biography: "the overall circumstances, the relation, difficult to decypher, between the man and his time and between the time and the man," must be considered in particular. We can find a similar notion with British Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw. He argued that Hitler could do as he did because many Germans were keen to help him. "The dynamics unleashed by the regime could only be explained from the interaction between Hitler’s intentions and the structural pressure that was being put on him by the ranks and institutions subordinate to him, leading to ever more radical solutions."
In this article, attention will also be paid to the personality of Hitler himself, as well as to the circumstances that explain the power of the Führer. The driving force emanating from Hitler as well as the external forces that affected him must be dealt with. Easy, unequivocal answers will not be given here for the simple reason that they do not exist.
In order to keep this article surveyable, frequent referrals will be made to articles in which certain themes will be dealt with in more detail.