Tuesday 31 May 2022

A.J.P Taylor on Hitler


There have been so many Hitlers since the real one died and the world's obsession with the Nazis has grown more and more obsessive since the late 1970s. Now the fear of Hitler will become even more obsessive thanks to Putin, who is wicked but not evil or mad.

Thinking so led me to google some thoughts about Hitler and wickedness by the great left-wing British historian A.J.P Taylor.

"Hitler was a rational, though no doubt a wicked, statesman." 

"In principle and doctrine Hitler was no more wicked and unscrupulous than many other contemporary statemen.''

[Hitler was a] "traditional European statesman" [seeking to restore Germany; he] "simply leaned on the door hoping to gain entrance and the whole house fell in".
Taylor, though a socialist, was a 'Tory historian', i.e. not interested in ideas or large tendencies so much as how individual politicians acted, which is to a large extent from self-interest.

I also came across this from the summary of an academic paper by Professor Gavriel D. Rosenfeld.
But, by the end of World War II, the revelation of the Nazis' unprecedented crimes exposed these analogies as insufficient and led many commentators to flee from secular history to religious mythology. In the process, they identified Hitler as Western civilization's new archetype of evil and turned him into a hegemonic analogy for the postwar period.

Hitler is now seen primarily in theological terms and theology and history do not mix well. Theology and politics do not either, especially if political ideas become a sort of substitute for religion.  But welfare, egalitarianism and human rights are taking the place of the sacred in the West. 


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