|9 Hitler Comes to Power 1933
IN ANY ACCOUNTING of the millennium's monsters, first place must go to the ruler who made genocide a multinational industry--Adolf Hitler. The scale of the enterprise boggles the mind: freight trains carrying Jews to human stockyards from across Nazi-occupied Europe; victims worked to death, shot or gassed; corpses incinerated or processed into soap; gold teeth harvested for the coffers of the Reich. Hitler's megalomania sparked the Holocaust and history's most destructive war. The preparation for both began the moment he became Germany's chancellor in January 1933.
Promising salvation from the chaos of the Depression, Hitler swept aside German democracy. A hypnotic orator, he preached a sort of crank Darwinism: At evolution's pinnacle were the so-called Aryans (Germans and other Nordic peoples), destined to subdue or destroy all "inferior" races--particularly the Jews, whom Hitler blamed for most of humanity's ills. Linking ancient prejudice to wild dreams of glory, this mad ideology galvanized the nation. Herded into lockstep by the propaganda and police forces of a totalitarian state, Germans prepared to conquer the earth.
World War II began in 1939. Six years later, the Axis countries were vanquished; some 17 million combatants and 60 million civilians were dead. And within that horror lay a new benchmark of evil: six million Jews and nearly as many other "undesirables" (Gypsies, homosexuals, leftists, Slavs) systematically slaughtered.
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