Adolf Hitler: A Devious Man Who Changed the Course of History

Adolf Hitler, in an undated portrait from the German Federal Archive. German Federal Archive

This article appears in the Newsweek's special edition, 100 People Who Shaped Our World, by Issue Editor Tim Baker.

Seventy years after the Third Reich was reduced to the pile of ashes surrounding Hitler's bunker in Berlin, his is still the most powerful legacy of violence and hatred mankind has produced. The fanaticism with which his Nazi menace swept the German people still frightens and flummoxes.

It is impossible to understand how a party based in hatred, hostile toward democracy and steadfast in its eschewal of personal freedom managed to gain a stranglehold on Europe. But it did. Despite Hitler's remarkable capacity for violence and corruption, he rose legally through the German political apparatus, becoming chancellor in 1933.

Italy may have given the world the model for fascism and the word itself, but it was Germany that showed the depths to which the absolutists could sink. As the Allies liberated the remnants of Hitler's death camps and the extent of his mania became clear to the world at large, Hitler took his own life in Berlin on April 30, 1945.

Learn more:The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany,by William L. Shirer

This article appears in the Newsweek's special edition, 100 People Who Shaped Our World, by Issue Editor Tim Baker.

Newsweek Special Issues brings you 100 individuals who have changed our world, for better or worse, through their actions, inventions, courage or, occasionally, mistakes. This 100-page collector's edition explores the impact of the world's most iconic leaders—from Jesus Christ to Mark Zuckerberg, Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln to Nelson Mandela. Featuring profiles of Adolf Hitler, William Shakespeare, Genghis Khan, Socrates, Muhammad Ali, Queen Elizabeth I, Albert Einstein and more, it's a fact-filled volume that illustrates how easily one idea can change the world. Orren Jack Turner/Library of Congress, Digital Colorization by Lorna Clark; AP Images; Private Collection/Archives Charmet/Bridgeman Images; Corbis; Oprah Winfrey Network/Discovery Networks; Private Collection/Bridgeman Images; Paul Sakuma/AP Photo