Before Hitler claimed it as his personal title, Führer simply meant “leader” or “guide” in German. It was also used as a military title for commanders who lacked the qualifications to hold permanent command. Since its connotation to Nazi Germany, führer is not used in political context anymore, but may be combined with other words to mean “guide.” For instance, a mountain guide would be called a Bergführer, with “berg” meaning “mountain.” 

Führer as Hitler’s Title

Hitler claimed the word “Führer” as an unique name for himself and started using it when he became chairman of the Nazi Party. It was at the time not uncommon to call party leaders “Führer” but usually the word had an addition to indicate which party the leader belonged to. When adopting it as a single title, Hitler may have been inspired by Austrian politician, Georg von Schonerer who also used the word without a qualification and whose followers also made use of the “Sieg Heil” greeting.

After the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act which gave Hitler absolute power for four years, he dissolved the  president’s office and made himself the successor of Paul von Hindenburg. This was however in breach of the Enabling Act, and Hitler did not use the title as “president” but called himself “Führer and Chancellor of the Reich.” He would, after that often make use of the title in combination with other political leadership positions he took, for instance ” Germanic Führer” or “Führer and Supreme Commander of the Army”