Saturday 17 February 2018

Review of R.H.S. Stolfi's "Hitler: Beyond Evil and Tyranny" - Part 1

John F. Kennedy, aged 28, wrote these words in his diary on holiday in Germany in the summer of 1945, after visiting the Berchtesgaden and the Eagle's Lair.
“After visiting these two places you can easily see how that within a few years Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived. He had boundless ambition for his country which rendered him a menace to the peace of the world, but he had a mystery about him in the way he lived and in the manner of his death that will live and grow after him."
They now read very oddly, although there is no question that Hitler was one of the most significant figures who ever lived. Kennedy did not foresee that the hatred that surrounded Hitler in 1945 has not lessened at all in 72 years. 

Historians have felt it necessary to explain that the diary entry does not mean that Kennedy, who fought in the war and idololised Churchill, was attracted to fascism. The historians may be wrong - in an earlier visit to Germany, in 1937, Kennedy said fascism was right for Germany. But whatever Kennedy's views on fascism, what is interesting is the intense hatred of Hitler that most Westerners (but not Eastern Europeans, Indians or Chinese) feel 72 years after his death. 

I feel it too. 

The few people who like Hitler are liable to be arrested if they say so openly.

Some readers who comment on my blog do not hate Hitler. One reader, anonymously, recommended a biography of Hitler which looked interesting. I am now reading and learning from it. It's called "Hitler: Beyond Evil and Tyranny" by Colonel R.H.S. Stolfi, an American military historian, and came out in 2011. 

Stolfi, now dead, was a respectable, obscure military historian, who late in life produced this fascinating book. I definitely urge everyone to read it. I am not completely sure what I make of it.

The book does not have much footprint on the net:  a positive review in a Minnesota newspaper, a rave review by a Neo-Nazi, a review on Kirkus accusing it of being an apology for Hitler and a few comments by various bloggers. 

Nor can I find anything much about Stolfi except that he was a colonel in the U.S. Marines who became a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and the names of his other three books, one about how NATO could defeat the Warsaw Pact countries and two about German tank warfare. 

He was not an admirer of Hitler, but seeking to examine his life dispassionately, to see things from Hitler's point of view, in order to understand him, his beliefs and his movement. This is exactly what historians are usually expected to do.

Or perhaps I should say that he was not a fascist or on the far right but did admire some (quite a few) attributes of Hitler. 

As he says at the beginning of the book:
"With Hitler, the perceived danger is that biography demands, or at least suggests, some empathy with its subject and a resulting understanding — and even admiration. The writers on the subject of Hitler have taken the view that rehabilitation is unthinkable, and in such a situation, they have presented verbal portraits that are either half empty or but lightly sketched-in."
Colonel Stolfi's relationship with the English language is not always happy and the book needed a good editor, but it is well worth reading. It makes Hitler make sense in a way very good historians (think Richard Overy) do not. 

The great AJP Taylor's The Origins of the Second World War does not quite do so. In any case he only covers foreign policy and only up until 1939. Mark Mazower's Hitler's Empire is very good indeed but does not tell us about Hitler.

Seeing things from Hitler's point of view makes the book read in many places like a defence of Hitler. In fact, it is a defence of Hitler against what the author deems unfair or inaccurate treatment by his  "great" biographers, such as Lord Bullock, John Toland and Ian Kershaw. 

They are accused of being so blinded by hatred for Hitler, or frightened of inadvertently showing him in a positive light, that they are not able to see him clearly.

Lord Skidelsky's wonderful biography of Sir Oswald Mosley is open to a similar charge of being surprisingly sympathetic to Mosley - very unlike the latest biography - though Lord Skidelsky, who is half Jewish and was made a peer by the SDP, is no Moselyite. Nor was Nicholas Nagy-Talavera, who escaped from Auschwitz, an admirer of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, but he wrote about him very sympathetically.

Even so, it is easy to see why people who do like Hitler will love this biography very much and why many other people will hate it and consider it dangerous. 

How odd that 72 years after the war Hitler's ideas are considered dangerous. It illustrates Richard Vinen's insight that the history of Western Europe since 1945 is a meditation on the holocaust.

Hitler undoubtedly was an extraordinary figure who remade the world, yet he is sneered at by biographers who think him an insignificant, dull and vulgar little man. (Many of his contemporaries, especially before he came to power, thought the same.) 

Kershaw again:
“Hitler’s non-political life is not a pretty one. We are faced with a vulgar uneducated upstart lacking a rounded personality, the outsider with half-baked opinions on everything under the sun, the uncultured self-appointed adjudicator on culture.”
His wide reading was 'unsystematic' (outside universities, whose isn't?) and he did not understand Marxism, though in Ian Kershaw's grudging admission he was
"certainly not unintelligent". 
The book quotes Kershaw calling Hitler 
"an unperson". 
The impression left is that Hitler was a demon rather than a human being. I think this is an idea that has lodged in the popular imagination.

Lenin was comparably extraordinary and from a much higher social class, but he achieved power by a cleverly planned putsch against a shaky regime in a revolutionary situation in wartime, whereas Hitler came to power at the head of a mass movement that he created and had to find his own ideas rather than adopt those of a well-known thinker like Marx. Lenin, in my view, was undoubtedly evil but he is treated with more objectivity than Hitler.

Evil is undoubtedly a fact and people who shy away from using the word are usually happy to use it of Hitler - though some obstinate liberals prefer to call him mad rather than face the idea that evil exists. 

I'd say Hitler was evil, as were his mass murders. 
“If he isn't evil, who is?” 
Lord Bullock exclaimed to Ron Rosenbaum, a line quoted by Stolfi. 

But is evil a word it is very useful for historians to use? 

I cannot think of any historical figures who are regularly called evil except for Nazis and, rarely, Communists. 

Assuming evil is a useful word for historians - and perhaps it is - the danger exists that it prevents a careful search for an explanation of why Hitler, Lenin or Stalin did what they did. Especially this is true of Hitler. This seems to me the weakness with books about the Nazis. 

Of those three men, although I am not a psychologist, it is very clear to me that Stalin was a psychopath. Still, psychopath though he was, he was also a passionately sincere Marxist. Hitler and Lenin were equally sincere in their beliefs. This does not make them any less evil, but can you be both an evil monster and a great man?

The great British historian Hugh Trevor Roper (Lord Dacre) had no doubts that Hitler was a genius, which is not quite the same thing but close.
"No one, I believe, can hope to understand or explain Nazism unless he is prepared to admit the reality of this problem, and unless, furthermore, he is willing to make a distinction which our ideologically minded historians seem incapable of making: that is, to admit that Hitler, without whom Nazism could not have existed—for he preceded it, founded it, nurtured it, expressed it, and to the end controlled it—was both a revolutionary leader of genius and the meanest, most squalid character who has ever, by genius, conquered great political power. In the 1930’s too many observers recognised the first fact and therefore, because they could not make this distinction, refused even to conceive the second. Since 1945 the second is a platitude; but because the distinction still seems beyond the capacity of the average man, and even the average historian, the first fact is stubbornly denied and Hitler’s rise, being therefore the rise of a nobody, must be ascribed to impersonal historic forces which, though now obvious, seem to have attracted no attention at the time."
This reminds me that Michael Grant once said, 
"It is a mocking travesty of justice to call such a murderer Constantine the Great. Or perhaps not: for what does Greatness mean? Constantine was, as we have seen, a superlative military commander, and a first-rate organiser. He was also an utterly ruthless man, whose ruthlessness extended to the execution of his nearest kin, and who believed that he had God behind him in everything he did. That surely, it must be repeated, is the stuff of which the most successful leaders are made."
By the way, the charge of murdering his nearest kin is probably unfair to St. Constantine and his conversion to Christianity was probably sincere. 

Stolfi doubts that the word evil is appropriate, says that nothing in Hitler's early life suggested that he was evil (on the contrary, he was a brave soldier) and makes the point that he did not consider himself evil. 

I don't see the last as persuasive. Lenin, Stalin and Pol Pot thought they were historically progressive, which is the Marxist equivalent of good. Many evil people are knowingly evil but many think that they justified. 

Hitler does not appear to this layman to be an obvious psychopath (though he was someone, as Stolfi says in one of his strange phrases, "at the outer edge of reality"). Still his philosophy bought heavily from social Darwinism and might is right. 

Might is right was the philosophy of many conquerors and is the philosophy of all psychopaths.  

Of course, Hitler was an idealist - Lord Bullock was very foolish to think him a mountebank. But weren't his ideals, like Lenin's, evil? 

The Germans' 'Hunger Plan' to starve to death millions of Ukrainians and Russians may have been less terrible than the horrors Genghis Khan committed and might even be compared with some things the colonial powers did in Africa or India, but in the context of twentieth century Europe evil seems to me the right word. 

The German murder of over three million Soviet prisoners of war in 1941 was something I didn't know about until I read Stolfi. 

I did know about the terrible pogroms organised or encouraged by the Germans in Eastern Europe and the millions of Jews who were murdered. Everyone knows this. 

Stolfi compares Hitler to Alexander the Great, Caesar, who was responsible for ten million deaths in Gaul, many of women and children, and Napoleon. 

He does not mention Genghis Khan, who was a barbarian, not a Greek or Roman or 20th century German. 

While it's impossible to know, some historians put the number or people killed in the Mongol invasions as somewhere around 40 million, 10% of the world's population. Genghis Khan is a national hero in Mongolia, of course. 

Vlad the Impaler, who fought against Muslim invaders, is a great hero for Romanians and Attila the Hun is a great hero in Hungary, despite having no connection with the Hungarians, who arrived in Europe centuries after his time.

Were these men evil? 

Vlad certainly wasn't, in my opinion, but lived in a very brutal age, as did all the others except Napoleon. 

I admire Vlad. Hitler, on the other hand, grew up in one of the most civilised countries in Europe, at the high point of European civilisation before 1914. This is the rub.

Stolfi also compares Hitler to Muhammad. 

This last comparison is very interesting. Stolfi is completely mistaken to think that we know anything at all about Muhammad's life, but  he is, I am sure, right to see Hitler in religious terms. Hitler was a visionary - Stolfi uses the word messiah. 

This was how Carl Jung saw Hitler and the Nazis. I talked about this and compared Hitler and Muhammed here.

Religion, which seemed out of date in the 1960s and likely to disappear, now seems, in the age of Islamism, to explain most things. Marxism is a religion and, certainly, Hitler is best understood as a religious figure.

From what I can see, the Nazi party was staffed by true believers just as much as their enemies the Marxists, rather than by chancers. For Stolfi, Hitler was not a power-hungry demagogue who said what people wanted to hear in order to win power. He saw himself, and was seen by his admirers, as ordained by Providence to save Germany.

Hitler who, by his account, disliked the vulgar and uncultured anti-Semitism of the masses and religious prejudice, came by 1908 to be an anti-Semite for cerebral reasons. Stolfi shows Hitler opposing Marxism not because of its economic doctrines or the killings and brutality in its  name but because of its internationalism. He had opposed and feared Jews since 1908 for the same reason and saw the existence of Jews in Germany as incompatible with the nationalistic society he wanted to create.

Stolfi thinks Germany was not to blame for the First World War. This is a big, complex question which he does not go into and nor shall I, though I disagree, but Germans thought so in the Great War and until at least recently. 

He also thinks the 1919 peace settlement was grossly unfair to Germany and gives many reasons. I disagree here. Again, Germans certainly thought so and so did people like Keynes, but in hindsight it is pretty obvious that it was not nearly harsh enough. 

With Russia hijacked by Bolsheviks, and therefore unable to help France restrain a resurgent Germany, it should have been clear that the only way of doing so was breaking Germany up into the states that it had been until Bismarck united the country.

Hitler went to prison, I learnt from this book, twice in his life. The second time, of course, was for the Munich beer hall putsch but the first time was for breaking up a meeting by an obscure politician, who was not left-wing or Jewish but who was a Bavarian separatist. Hitler saw the danger to his plans from an independent Bavaria and so do I. 

By the way, an independent Bavaria was not only a good idea then.  I hope it now breaks away from Angela Merkel's Germany, but this is another story. 
Vive la Baviere libre! 
as Charles de Gaulle said.

Still, the Versailles settlement failed badly to implement the Wilsonian principle of national self determination when it came to Germans, many millions of whom found themselves living in successor states. 

Hitler, according to Stolfi, had the soul of an artist and could have been a fine architect. His experience sleeping on benches in Vienna and his four years as a brave soldier formed him, but the most formative experience of his life, as it was for so many of his countrymen, was German surrender in 1918, for which the catalyst was a mutiny by sailors who did not want to die in a hopeless attack on the Royal Navy.

The Kaiser's ministers adroitly allowed the Social Democrats to take power and therefore responsibility for surrender. For a moment a Communist revolution seemed to herald Bolshevism. It was easy to blame the defeat of Germany on the 'stab in the back', socialists and Jewish Bolshevism. Hitler did so and may have meant it.

Here we see the things that drove Hitler: the need to overturn the defeat of 1918 and unite all Germans in one country that dominated Central and Eastern Europe. 

These aims were shared by most or all Germans except the Communists. Hitler however also intended a Germany that would free of Marxists, Jews and 'asocials' and be safe from further defeat in the future because she would have expanded into and absorbed European Russia (emptied of the indigenous inhabitants). 

The second and final part of my review of "Hitler: Beyond Evil and Tyranny" is here.


  1. I've read Kershaw's biography of Hitler. I was only marginally interested in Hitler, what really fascinated me and made me read the book was the question why didn't the army desert him. After Stalingrad. After Kursk. After the Normandy landing. I don't buy the theory that, after the Night of the Long Knives, he put only extremely loyal supporters in the army. I don't think that the first duty of a general is to obey the supreme commander of the army. I think it is to "optimise" the war, to get the best outcome from the war, maximum gain with minimum loss. It is his duty for his countrymen. And then you watch those eerie films shot by the Soviets in Berlin, the piles of rubble (there's a small hill outside Munich, it can be seen from the tower of the Frauenkirche, that was created from the rubble shipped outside the city), kilometres of streets reduced to rubble, fields of rubble, chains of women passing buckets of water, I think it took the Germans five years to clear their cities. I think no general was so deluded not to know that it was game over. I've read the book but I still have no answer to my question. Have you found one in this book?

    If I, in a totally unscientific way, speculate on let's call it psyche of the Germans, then I am tempted to explain it with a sort of profound and almost mystical respect for the figure of the leader, or maybe for rules and order. Maybe the Germans prefer an organised system that goes in a doubtful direction to a liberating anarchy. It is still baffling to see how they do not voice their doubts in public. You can see these doubts in more or less anonymous internet forums, comments to articles, often they are very intellectual, very lucid, of a depth that shames the level of debate elsewhere, but then no distillation in political action. Only "weiter so".

    1. A very left wing historian who taught me, Dr Jay Winter, tried to understand why British soldiers didn't mutiny in the trenches in 1914 and explained it by patriotism, cheap editions of the English poets and false consciousness, which he considered something that had been manufactured to bolster the social order. It is very hard to mutiny against your leaders when your country is losing a war, especially a war against Communists, and your leaders can hang you with piano wire if you do.

    2. I didn't have the rank and file in mind. I was thinking more of a military putsch organised by the generals of the army that would have deposed Hitler and made peace with the Western Allies. I'm aware that the upper commando, who would be anyway executed at Nürnberg, Jodl et al, had no motivation to do it, as they knew what their fate would be. But why weren't more attempts such as Colonel von Stauffenberg's?

    3. The book stops at October 1941 when according to Stolfi Hitler had effectively lost the war by delaying the attack on Moscow. At that point, Stolfi says, he turned to the murder of the Jews.

  2. With Russia hijacked by Bolsheviks, and therefore unable to help France restrain a resurgent Germany, it should have been clear that the only way of doing so was breaking Germany up into the states that it had been until Bismarck united the country.

    I can see where you're coming from but a divided Germany would easily have been gobbled up piece by piece by the Bolsheviks. And once Germany was gone there would only be France in the way. The French would have collapsed very quickly indeed.

    A major problem was the utter uselessness of the French. They were too weak to defend themselves from the Germans, but if Germany went communist the French were too weak to defend themselves from the Soviets. There were only two continental powers that mattered, Germany and Russia. Trying to strengthen France would probably have been futile and no-one in their right mind was going to trust a strengthened France.

    Since a strong united Germany was likely to be needed to stop the Soviets from dominating the whole of eastern and central Europe it would have been preferable to have a strong united Germany with fewer grudges.

    Of course a more sensible policy might have been to preserve the Austro-Hungarian Empire intact. Breaking up that empire simply created a whole bunch of defenceless nations that were really just pawns that would quickly be cleared from the board if things got nasty. Preserving the Ottoman Empire might have been wise as well.

    1. It was Poland that protected Europe from Lenin, not Germany. Stalin would have stood no chance of conquering his neighbours had it not been for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and then the defeat of Germany and her allies.

      It so happened that France fell to Germany -if certain military decisions had been taken the war in France might have continued for years. Had Hitler made certain decisions the USSR might have been defeated, according to this book.

      I strongly agree about the Austrian empire and an Ottoman Empire with parliamentary government and a constitutional monarchy, as immediately after the Revolution of 1908, would have been very good things too. Empires worked better than the E.U. nowadays seems to.

    2. With Russia hijacked by Bolsheviks a strong Germany was even more important. Breaking up Germany into small weak states would have been a disaster and would have opened the door to communist revolutions. Britain and France had nothing to fear and everything to benefit from from a resurgent Germany. Germany only wanted friendship with France and the British Empire.

      Hitler's great crime which led to Germany being targeted for destruction was his policy of ejecting Jews from positions of power and influence in Germany and restoring control to the Germans. Had he been another Mussolini or Franco there would have been no war. With hindsight, Hitler should not have moved so soon against such a formidable foe that was so safely entrenched in power in the Western democracies. Roosevelt, according to his son-in-law and others, was an ignorant man and easily manipulated by his Jewish advisors, Baruch, Morgenthau, Brandeis and Frankfurter. The U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Forrestall noted in particular the key influence of the Jewish envoy William C Bullit in fomenting the war. Bullitt put pressure on Roosevelt who then put pressure on Chamberlain to commit Britain to war over Poland. The aim was to use Poland as bait to reject all of Hitler's attempts at a diplomatic solution to the Polish Corridor. Forrestall wrote in his diary about his conversations with Joe Kennedy:

      "I asked him about his conversations with Roosevelt and Neville Chamberlain from 1938 on.  He said Chamberlain’s position in 1938 was that England had nothing with which to fight and that she could not risk going to war with Hitler.  Kennedy’s view :  That Hitler would have fought Russia without any later conflict with England if it had not been for Bullitt’s [William C. Bullitt, descendant of Hyam Salomon, then Ambassador to France] urging on Roosevelt in the summer of 1939 that the Germans must be faced down about Poland ;  neither the French nor the British would have made Poland a cause of war if it had not been for the constant needling from Washington.  Bullitt, he said, kept telling Roosevelt that the Germans wouldn’t fight, Kennedy that they would, and that they would overrun Europe.  Chamberlain, he says, stated that America and the world Jews had forced England into the war."

    3. In Mein Kampf Hitler talked about potential lebensraum in Russia. This is correct. However, he was writing at a time when he thought that the USSR was going to collapse by itself. Hitler believed, that the Jewish Bolsheviks would run Russia in into the ground. If that had happened, Germany and other powers would have seized parts of the collapsed Soviet Union. 15 years after Mein Kampf was written the Soviet Union was in a much a stronger position and there is little indication Hitler was preparing for a major war against Poland or Russia. Operation Barbarrossa was a preemptive attack. Hitler believed, (rightly in my view) that Stalin was about to attack Germany. Viktor Suvorov offers a lot of good evidence that this was the case.

    4. I am reminded of what Pappy Boyington wrote in his memoirs about how in America you could find at least someone on any block who is indifferent enough or psychotic enough to have no problem running a death camp. Hitler was the product of circumstances that made him what he became. Other people lived hard lives but became great and good as a consequence. Monsters and saints are not born, they are made as demonstrated by the shooter in Florida last week. We can, however, affect the situation so as to minimize the monsters. Our current corrupt political system does just the opposite despite the fact that time again it is demonstrated that it is, for example, cheaper to say send someone through college than keep them in prison. Yes, power corrupts but people can be educated to good for all instead of for individual self-interest.

  3. "Is evil a useful concept?" I am flattered to have been quoted here.

  4. I loved this. Your weltanschauungen are unique and interesting. Ryan

  5. Over my ill-spent years in the social sciences & whereabouts, it was impossible to mention what you call 'the rub'. I came to think that speech was indeed the essence of it all - no more than this handle of faiths.

    1. Ana, do not be offended but I find your utterances so hard to follow, in English or Romanian. Please might I ask you to explain?

    2. Let me try,

      To begin with, I am agreeing with you that Hitler's transformation of a European democracy is 'the rub'. The potential for grassroots violence politics had at its disposal - I have only read about in Jewish commentary of European antisemitism, or manifestos calling it on. The rest of political theory is almost all of it; I fealt it recoiling from the subject, as if perceiving that talking of it is not neutral speech ...

    3. Actually I am just reading about the atrocities that were committed in Galicia in the First World War and after without any need for Hitler to stir up hatred. In Bessarabia the Germans were not needed to stir up hatred and mass murder.

    4. The one thing that feels known - if mercifully not familiar, in Islam ...

    5. I was thinking about the respective hatred of jews as part of the zeitgeist of the respective religions, &, wishfully, that irreligious antisemitism was the die-down thereof in Europe.

  6. From Wikipedia article on Ian Kershaw:

    For Kershaw, the real significance of Hitler lies not in the dictator himself, but rather in the German people's perception of him. In his biography of Hitler, Kershaw presented him as the ultimate "unperson"; a boring, pedestrian man devoid of even the "negative greatness" attributed to him by Joachim Fest. Kershaw rejects the Great Man theory of history and has criticised those who seek to explain everything that happened in Nazi Germany as the result of Hitler's will and intentions. Kershaw has argued that it is absurd to seek to explain German history in the Nazi era solely through Hitler, as Germany had sixty-eight million people during the Nazi era, and to seek to explain the fate of sixty-eight million people solely through the prism of one man is in Kershaw's opinion a flawed position.[43] Kershaw wrote about the problems of an excessive focus on Hitler that "... even the best biographies have seemed at times in danger of elevating Hitler's personal power to a level where the history of Germany between 1933 and 1945 becomes reduced to little more than an expression of the dictator's will". Kershaw has a low opinion of those who seek to provide "personalized" theories about the Holocaust and/or World War II as due to some defect, medical or otherwise, in Hitler. In his 2000 edition of The Nazi Dictatorship, Kershaw quoted with approval the dismissive remarks made by the German historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler in 1980 about such theories. Wehler wrote:

    Does our understanding of National Socialist policies really depend on whether Hitler had only one testicle? ... Perhaps the Führer had three, which made things difficult for him, who knows? ... Even if Hitler could be regarded irrefutably as a sadomasochist, which scientific interest does that further? ... Does the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" thus become more easily understandable or the "twisted road to Auschwitz" become the one-way street of a psychopath in power?

  7. Let's be historical about a theory of"evil" : During WW2 there was debate over "how to portray the enemy." Some wanted to portray Germans (as a people) as guilty. "Turn Germany into a potato patch." Others focused on Hitler as an evil genius and demagogue -- that allowed for a post-war rehabilitation of former Nazis in the new anti-communist crusade.

    Once the "evil" leader was gone.... well...

    After the war, Western govts wanted to mobilize the intense WW2 anti-Nazi hatred in service to a post-war anti-communist crusade (containment, witchhunts, struggle for Greece, Indochina, etc.)

    How does one "shift the rifle from one shoulder to the other"?

    One solution: Portray the USSR as the equivalent of Nazism -- as a continuation of the former enemy. The "totalitarian" thesis was invented.

    Meanwhile, portray newly targeted enemies as "evil" equivalent to Hitler -- recycling juices & verdicts from WW2's sense of righteousness.

    It's bad history, but sometimes effective propaganda.

    1. One solution: Portray the USSR as the equivalent of Nazism -- as a continuation of the former enemy

      And now exactly the same thing is being done with Christian anti-Communist Russia.

  8. You find out that countries emerging from extremely intense events (external war going over to civil war for example) often give rise to extreme politics, a "settling of accounts" and a kind of ruthless search for new stability.

    Germany, Russia, China, Cambodia -- all experienced some of the most extreme dislocations of war, followed by extreme polarization and civil conflict. They all experienced various kinds of defeat, occupation and/or domination.

    That has far more to do with each one experiencing a decade of dislocations and internal conflict -- including large numbers of deaths. Each cases is different: Hitler targeted Jewish people for purely ideological reasons. But in other mentioned cases, issues included food production, regime stabilization, industrialization, or aftershocks of intense civil war...

  9. Morality is a name men give to their own preferences. Even if they believe it strongly enough to act against their own interest (which is rare) it still doesn't change the fact that "good" and "evil" are just labels for their own preferences. Within different historical and geographical contexts morality is useful and necessary to give society some driving lanes, but there is no such thing as absolute morality. If Hitler had the won the war he would not be the most hated man in our culture but as a Nietzschean Superman who saved Germany and Europe from decline.

    1. If Hitler had won the war, Germany would have eventually destroyed itself as did the Soviet Union. Putin is on the same path. Only democracies can survive.

    2. Had Germany won the Nazis in time would have reached their moment of glasnost and perestroika.

    3. Communism collapsed because its total suppression of the market economy meant it couldn't meet the material needs of the population. This provided the impetus for glasnost and perestroika which collapsed it like a house of cards. Fascism and Nazism did meet people's material needs (even better than capitalism did) so its unlikely that it would have collapsed.

      Liberal capitalist democracy does meet the people's material needs but it inevitably ruins your society. Like Communism, Capitalism it is a materialist, globalist system that treats man as an economic unit. It has led everywhere to dessicated cultures, severing the people from their cultural roots and turning men into an alienated, atomised mass. Look at young Japanese men of the 1930s comapred with those of today. Democracy + capitalism have given us tolerance and diversity, collapsed birth rates, floodtide immigration; feminism, the decline of public education and gross materialism. It is unthinkable we would have seen this under Fascism or Nazism who had as their organising principle the preservation and unification of the nation.

      The Chinese are increasingly confident in their own authoritarian paradigm and rightly see the democratic West as on the way down. Putin is wise to see the Chinese model as the future.

    4. The New Yorker, May 1, 1995 P. 50 synopsis

      "A REPORTER AT LARGE about Hitler biographers. Tells about Hugh Trevor-Roper's view that Hitler was "sincere" in his designs, and misguided, rather than evil. Alan Bullock (now Lord Bullock), the Oxford historian and conceptual rival of Trevor-Roper in postwar Hitler-explanatory theory, summed up his frustration after a lifetime of study: "The more I learn about Adolf Hitler," Bullock told writer, "the harder I find it to explain." Some historians, Bullock among them, believe that there was "something sexual" to the highly charged quality of Hitler's anti-Semitism. "If you ask me what I think evil is," Alan Bullock said to writer as they approached the pillared facade of Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, "it's the incomplete." This mystical streak surprised writer. After all, the hallmark of the work of this octogenarian Oxford historian has been scholarly restraint and modesty, a scrupulous unwillingness to exceed the limits of the available evidence. In his published work Bullock is a scholar who eschews speculation. But in person Bullock is a veritable fount of speculation, ranging from his notion of Hitler's metaphysical incompleteness to rather earthy thoughts about Hitler's physical incompleteness. Tells about Bullock's concept of evil. Bullock finds in the mystics' love of paradox a validation for his own paradoxical vision of Hitler's thought world. Bullock's massive biography was an instant success upon publication, a best seller on both sides of the Atlantic. To date, "Hitler: A Study in Tyranny" has sold more than three million copies, and it remains in print in a 1962 revised edition. Tells how since then, his viewpoint in the bookN"That Hitler wasn't a madman. He was an extremely astute and able politician. I think that actually did surprise people"Nhas changed. He now thinks of Hitler as an actor who comes to believe in his own act. The mesmerist who mesmerizes himself. Tells how believes that in 1941, at a turning point in Russia in the war, Hitler turned from a cunning politician into someone who fooled himself."

  10. I've read the article but not the comments. None of Hitler's views or philosophy was original. It was a culmination of 2000 years of European and Christian antisemitism. He read widely if not in a scholarly fashion and from this formed his ideas most of which were half-baked but were received by a willing population. If Hitler was not evil then the question is, who can be described as evil? To compare the rulers of 2000 or more years ago with Hitler who took Germany from the pinnacle of 20th century civilization back to barbaric times is ridiculous. In fact the Barbarians were more 'civilized' than the Nazis.

    1. I have not read Mein Kampf and have not studied Hitler enough. His ideas are always described as 'half-baked' which is defined as 'poorly developed or carried out; lacking adequate planning or forethought'. I think he was crazy, leaving morality out of it for a moment, to think Germany needed to kill the Ukrainians Russians and Poles in order to create the German equivalent of Canada, an empty space which Germans would settle as the British and French had settled in Canada. But if he was unoriginal, unoriginal compared to whom? I cannot think of many national leaders in history who had thought out for themselves so elaborate and eccentric a philosophy. The other people with whom he is compared like Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot took their ideas from Marx and Lenin. Antisemitism was only a part of Hitlerism and Europe in Hitler's day and before was full of anti-Semites who had nothing in common with Nazism. I have no wish to defend Hitler in any way at all but half baked does not seem to me to be the word for his ideas. I'd compare him to a religious visionary - for example, Brigham Young.

    2. Napoleon was described as 'a Mahomet who failed'. This is an even more apt description for Hitler.

    3. Where does this obsessive antisemitism theme come from? Why is it that the whole 2000 years of European and most of all Christian history are seen as a long story of antisemitism. It can only come from outside Christian Europe.

    4. RE. "where does ..."

      If I had the luxury of time, I would rather look at antisemitism as a trait of the other Abrahamic religions (many that there are) - not to exonerate the European variety, sure enough.

    5. A trait of the other Abrahamic religions?

      Cicero (pagan) wrote:

      "The Jews belong to a dark and repulsive force. One knows how numerous this clique is, how they stick together and what power they exercise through their unions. They are a nation of rascals and deceivers."

      Tacitus (pagan) wrote:

      "the other customs of the Jews are base and abominable, and owe their persistence to their depravity. For the worst rascals among other peoples, renouncing their ancestral religions, always kept sending tribute and contributions to Jerusalem, thereby increasing the wealth of the Jews; again, the Jews are extremely loyal toward one another, and always ready to show compassion, but toward every other people they feel only hate and enmity"

      So much for your theory, Ana.

      Here's a radical thought: maybe the main cause of antisemitism is the behaviour of Jews? Surely, when you are looking to explain a phenomenon that exists across time and space you look for the common denominator? If a man gets kicked out of a bar then the fault could lie with the mean landlord but if he gets kicked out of every bar in town, where is the blame more likely to lie? With him or with everybody else?

  11. 'Clear land' is self-evident, if only collectively (perhaps a species of philosophical truth value); inasmuch, I believe that the Hollocaust was crucial - as proof that was done and seen to be done etc.

    Islamic antisemitism seems to play out similarly (perhaps I should say 'to have played'); I should have a better word than 'Islamic' here, since I am reffering strictly to history.

    Thinking out loud ...

  12. Replies
    1. As in 'to clear land', a simplistic reason for war.

  13. Oddly enough one of the glories of Germanic Central European culture were the highly assimilated German and Austro-Hungarian Jews. It was their internationalism that Hitler disliked.

  14. Why Europe saw its Jews as it did, must be a different matter. H had a duty to represent & a knack for the zeitgeist (which, perhaps academic endeavors would have killed - come to think of it).

    Thinking out loud ...

    1. Lol of course. These same people have only been expelled 109 times from different countries since 250 AD. Each and every time it was never provoked by anything they did. Just irrational haters hating. It's a truly amazing phenomenon.

  15. This is how I understand it too. What he calls 'political fantasies', I call ethos - beliefs of the scale of religion & such, eventually politically enacted (the kingdom of this world, as it were).

  16. 'How Hitler was Even More Evil Than You Think - Prof. Jordan Peterson'

  17. Stolfi in the last two pages of his book, where he talks of the murder of the Jews, says that in his recorded table talk 1933-39 Hitler did not mention the Jews. From the outbreak of the war in September 1939 he started to do so but only in the summer of 1941 does he do so a lot.

    Timothy Snyder in 'Bloodlands' says that killing Jews which began partly for strategic and military reasons (saving food, fear of a Fifth Column, etc) turned in the summer of 1941 into an ideological imperative.

    How odd that the Germans did not have the people to settle Ukraine or Poland and, as Mark Mazower recounts in Hitler's Empire, tried to turn Dutchmen or even Czechs with one German grandfather into Germans, while they busily murdered people who had wanted to be German.

    Hitler said his antipathy to the Jews dated from 1908. I think it was their internationalism that made Hitler oppose them, rather than the normal sort of racism.

  18. Would Hitler have been a better leader with a university education or would it have emasculated him, robbed him of his street wise quality?