Under the leadership of Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), the National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazi Party, grew into a mass movement and ruled Germany through totalitarian means from 1933 to 1945. Founded in 1919 as the German Workers Party, the group promoted German pride and anti-Semitism, and expressed dissatisfaction with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the 1919 peace settlement that ended World War I (1914-1918) and required Germany to make numerous concessions and reparations. Hitler joined the party the year it was founded and became its leader in 1921. In 1933, he became chancellor of Germany and his Nazi government soon assumed dictatorial powers. After Germanys defeat in World War II (1939-45), the Nazi Party was outlawed and many of its top officials were convicted of war crimes related to the murder of some 6 million European Jews during the Nazis reign.
In 1919, army veteran Adolf Hitler, frustrated by Germanys defeat in World War, which had left the nation economically depressed and politically unstable, joined a fledgling political organization called the German Workers Party. Founded earlier that same year by a small group of men including locksmith Anton Drexler (1884-1942) and journalist Karl Harrer (1890-1926), the party promoted German nationalism and anti-Semitism, and felt that the Treaty of Versailles, the peace settlement that ended the war, was extremely unjust to Germany by burdening it with reparations it could never pay. Hitler soon emerged as a charismatic public speaker and began attracting new members with speeches blaming Jews and Marxists for Germanys problems and espousing extreme nationalism and the concept of an Aryan master race. In July 1921, he assumed leadership of the organization, which by then had been renamed the Nationalist Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party.
Through the 1920s, Hitler gave speech after speech in which he stated that unemployment, rampant inflation, hunger and economic stagnation in postwar Germany would continue until there was a total revolution in German life. Most problems could be solved, he explained, if communists and Jews were driven from the nation. His fiery speeches swelled the ranks of the Nazi Party, especially among young, economically disadvantaged Germans.
In 1923, Hitler and his followers staged the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, a failed takeover of the government in Bavaria, a state in southern Germany. Hitler had hoped that the putsch, or coup detat, would spark a larger revolution against the national government. In the aftermath of the Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years in prison, but spent less than a year behind bars (during which time he dictated the first volume of Mein Kampf, or My Struggle, his political autobiography). The publicity surrounding the Beer Hall Putsch and Hitlers subsequent trial turned him into a national figure. After his release from prison, he set about rebuilding the Nazi Party and attempting to gain power through the election process.