Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)
Much has been written about him so I shall skip the aspects of his life that are too well-known. In retrospect I think he was the wrong man in the wrong time to amass such power, and so deleterious was his presence that history of the Third Reich has ever since remained a stumbling block in the National life. The only movement his regime has left for posterity is Neo-nazi movement that in America targets Afro Americans Jews and ethnic minorities. The recent carnage in Norway is a reminder of his legacy. His virulent attack against minorities and fear mongering in our times have found ready soil among nations coping with multiculturalism. In short his legacy was altogether bad, a tear in the fabric of our common experience just as bad as the time of Vandals and Visigoths. In Nazism we have had cultural barbarians, more or less of the same league.
Was a war really necessary to blot the shame of defeat of 1919? There were many other options for instance Germany could have worsted the Allies by their resurgent economy using peace time conditions to achieve their goals. It is possible as evidenced by the economic recovery as shown by Germany in the euro zone despite the global economic crisis of 2008. Wolfgang Schäuble German finance minister indeed rightly observed during the recently concluded Munich Security Conference,’The deeper the crisis, the better the chance for getting solutions!’ This confidence born out of traits that mark German National character was not sprung out so suddenly because consumer market has gone global!Why did not he then seek alternatives than plunging the nation into chaos? If Germany could reinvent themselves now was it not an option worth trying then as well? He was a military bungler who roughshod over his generals lest sane counsel should prevail over his whims. He was not in the mold of Metternich or Iron Chancellor.
why Hitler an Austrian by birth did not think of wiping the national shame of Post WWI similarly by an economic miracle?
The answer is simple. He was intellectually deficient by temperament and by discipline. Many examples could be cited that he never delved deep into the ideas of his time except to pick that suited his idea of the moment. The idea of master race he espoused for which the theories of eugenics, Natural selection were suitably altered. From those who knew well we are told that once his mind was made ( not from deeply thought out reasons) he merely froze than listening to ideas that would have proved he was wrong. Such a man surrounded by salon philosophers and jokers and occult fanciers (Rosenberg, Goering and Himmler) bode ill for the German nation.
It is of course naive to think the West was in any better in terms of statecraft at the Treaty of Versailles than the defeated Germany. What was imposed as Reparations from Germany by the Allies was exorbitant and cruel. Yet in terms of losses Germany in the end came off rather lightly than France.
Of course Hitler was a child of his times. War in his time was equated with honor and glory; add to them some Teutonic legends and half-baked scientific ideas from Herbert Spencer’s ‘Survival of the fittest’ Hitler had found a way out of his difficulties.
Balzac in one of his books writes of ‘man with one single idea is in better position than another with thousand ideas.’ Hitler certainly had a single idea that he was a man of destiny. He had a natural flair for politics and it must be granted. From the Kapp Putsch(1920) before him and his own abortive Beerhall putsch made him realise the role of Army and having the state machinery already ready to be given a makeover. It changed in his strategy to throw wool over the powers-that-be to put himself as docile and law abiding. If the brownshirt thugs broke up the peace on the streets it was on account of their natural exuberance and he showed himself as the one to bring them to heel. In order to appease the Army he would exterminate his mentor Ernest Rohm and his SA cohorts in the Night of the Long Knives. He could also strike a deal with the big Money in taking care of the red menace. In order to achieve it he would exploit every circumstance that came his way; like a gambler he upped his ante and could climb to the top. How he managed to wriggle out of his promises while dealing with Neville Chamberlain( whom he derisively dismissed as ‘worm’) speaks more of the asinine conservatism of privileged English who treated Europe as a Club to which they could speak as one to one. They were mistaken in him. He was a Bohemian all his life and played dirty if he could manage. As master of Europe throwing all for one win was worth his while, and war was his panacea. He never considered other options than what was tested ad infinitum since the founding of the Holy Roman Empire. If his underlings fought for every scrap of honour or title they could win and leave Administrative machine bungled he encouraged it. In his calculations those closer to him would stay put in the in-fighting than gang up on him. Such was his megalomania to believe the Third Reich only required his inflexible will to right itself for its Thousand Year reign!
In retro Hitler comes off badly in comparison with military commanders like Napoleon, Alexander and others. His method and vision reveal how weak intellectually he was really. His statecraft was more swagger than substance, the insight of a street bully.
It took only 12 years for him to rise from a common street-corner agitator to military master of Europe. Then in 13 years he had like Pied Piper of Hamelin beggared the future of Germany and the much vaunted Thousand Reich ended in absolute shambles. Germany would never go the same path again.
Germany’s present success is a testimony to this.
Germany for their very qualities of ingenuity, discipline, sense of order could work within the system of single currency to be in the lead. Unlike Nazi Germany the modern Germany achieved this preeminence because of their new approach. Hitler never even tried it or used all the opportunities that were present to his advantage. The life of the individual or even the nation for him was not worth as much as catering to his megalomania.
A failure at school he drifted to Vienna where he slummed for a while and the outbreak of War made him realize his destiny was to use every opportunity that came in his way to provoke, spit at every prejudice. He catered to the fears and prejudices that the man on the street had espoused and would show more hatred for the Reds, Jew, Gypsies than him to prove he was der Fuhrer and might is right.
During the WWI he enlisted and was in the trenches fighting for the Fatherland. How the Socialists clamored for peace and worked against successful prosecution of the war was an important turning point in his education as a politician. The canard that Bolshevism was bankrolled by International Jewry was his cardinal point to absorb all other prejudices man on the street lived by as sinews of policy. His power made it all the more virulent. He made himself a dictator so he would impose his iron hard discipline to remove all the flabbiness from the national life. Every demagogue thinks he is right and Hitler made his role as man of destiny his excuse however bitter were his cure for the failure of the Fatherland.
His failure was in his faulty vision: he had lost sight where his own prejudices ended or where the weal of the Fatherland began.
Nine days before the VE day with Russian tanks rumbling a few hundred yards from the ‘Berlin Führerbunker’ he married his mistress Eva Braun. Next day April 30, 1945 she took poison while he shot himself.
He has been named the most influential personality of the 20th Century.