To be sure, no contemporary development maps easily on to the Nazi past, and we should beware of facile analogies, but we now have reason enough to take a fresh look at Hitler and the global dynamics to which he was reacting. But beneath this layer we find a more universal story, not so much about the human condition or the nature of power, but about the world system and discourses of race and global inequality. Based in part on new sources, my new biography overturns much of the long-accepted wisdom about Hitler.
His main preoccupation throughout his career, I argue, was not the Soviet Union and Bolshevism, but Anglo-America and capitalism, fear of which drove his anti-Semitism. What we know about him before is closer to a sketch than a full portrait. To be sure, his artistic interests were already well established; his hostility to the Habsburg empire, which influenced his move to Munich in , was a matter of record.
There was no sign whatever, though, of the ideas and ambitions to come. This is not surprising. What Hitler experienced in Habsburg Linz and Vienna may well have shaped his later views on domestic politics, and on race and culture. But he had not yet seen anything, and not taken in much of what was going on outside of the Habsburg empire and its German ally.
That was about to change, though. If the Hitler of had as yet left almost no mark on the world, the world was about to make its mark on him. Hitler responded to the outbreak of war by volunteering to fight in the German technically, the Bavarian army.
The main enemy, Hitler believed, lay across the Channel. Strikingly, Hitler did not target the Tsarist empire to the east, even though it was at this point menacing East Prussia. Throughout the war, indeed, he made only a single surviving reference to the eastern front.
In February , he reflected on the domestic and strategic situation of Germany. They were forced to beat a hasty retreat, but not before taking some prisoners. Two of them were dropped off by Hitler at Brigade Headquarters, a seminal event in his life. The way in which Hitler remembered and interpreted the war was central to the development of his world-view.
Hitler, who was otherwise adamantly opposed to democracy, even admired the Westminster parliament, which he regarded as a leadership selection process far superior to the alleged Babel of German and Austrian parliamentarianism. He was impressed by the sheer size and wealth of the country, and its modernity, as expressed by automobiles and other consumer products.
These sentiments clearly outweighed the cultural contempt he also expressed about jazz and other aspects of American popular culture usually in the context of their deleterious effects on Germany, rather than the United States.
The Reformation, the religious wars and especially the Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War in , epitomised this weakness for Hitler. Most of all, he was exercised by the massive emigration from 19th-century Germany, a product of her fragmentation and poverty, but also a cause of it.
During the Second World War, he spoke of the threat of German-American engineers and soldiers on a number of occasions.
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He did not necessarily object to capitalism per se, although it sometimes sounded that way. Hitler also believed that Jewish lobbies were responsible for the false political and racial consciousness in Britain and the United States, which prevented those countries from seeing their essential kinship with the Reich.
He saw Bolshevism as a disease that had knocked Russia out of the war in , and then undermined German resistance a year later. Students could try to construct the case for Chamberlain. Is this the same as a case for appeasement? Patented textile pattern by Christopher Dresser.
All content is available under the Open Government Licence v3. Skip to Main Content. Search our website Search our records. View lesson as PDF View full image. Lesson at a glance. What was Chamberlain trying to do? Tasks 1. These sources are extracts from a letter written by Nevile Henderson, British Ambassador in Germany, 6th September Do you think the German people were nervous about the outcome of the Sudetenland talks?
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What makes you think that? What did Nevile Henderson want the British press to do about Hitler? These three sources are extracts from the minutes of the conversation between Chamberlain and Hitler at Berchtesgaden. How does Chamberlain respond? Look at Source 2c What does Chamberlain suggest to Hitler? Sudetenland was part of Czechoslovakia. No Czech representative was present at this meeting. Did Chamberlain have the right to make this offer? Ismay was Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence.
Here they are outside Israel's Department Store in Berlin. The signs read: "Germans! Defend yourselves! Don't buy from Jews. Wehrt Euch! Kauft nicht bei Juden! The store was later ransacked during Kristallnacht in , then handed over to a non-Jewish family. Additional legislation restricted the number of Jewish students at schools and universities, limited Jews working in medical and legal professions, and revoked the licenses of Jewish tax consultants. By , Jewish actors were forbidden from performing in film or in the theater.
On September 15, , the Reichstag introduced the Nuremberg Laws, which defined a "Jew" as anyone with three or four grandparents who were Jewish, regardless of whether the person considered themselves Jewish or observed the religion.
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In , Hitler and his regime muted their Anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions when Germany hosted the Winter and Summer Olympic Games , in an effort to avoid criticism on the world stage and a negative impact on tourism. After the Olympics, the Nazi persecution of Jews intensified with the continued "Aryanization" of Jewish businesses, which involved the firing of Jewish workers and takeover by non-Jewish owners.
The Nazis continued to segregate Jews from German society, banning them from public school, universities, theaters, sports events and "Aryan" zones. Jewish doctors were also barred from treating "Aryan" patients. Jews were required to carry identity cards and, in the fall of , Jewish people had to have their passports stamped with a "J. On November 9 and 10, , a wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms swept Germany, Austria and parts of the Sudetenland.
Nazis destroyed synagogues and vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses. Close to Jews were murdered. Called Kristallnacht , the "Night of Crystal" or the "Night of Broken Glass," referring to the broken window glass left in the wake of the destruction, it escalated the Nazi persecution of Jews to another level of brutality and violence. Almost 30, Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps, signaling more horrors to come.
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Hitler's eugenic policies also targeted children with physical and developmental disabilities, later authorizing a euthanasia program for disabled adults. His regime also persecuted homosexuals, arresting an estimated , men from to , some of whom were imprisoned or sent to concentration camps. At the camps, gay prisoners were forced to wear pink triangles to identify their homosexuality, which Nazis considered a crime and a disease.
Between the start of World War II, in , and its end, in , Nazis and their collaborators were responsible for the deaths of at least 11 million noncombatants, including about six million Jews, representing two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe. As part of Hitler's "Final Solution," the genocide enacted by the regime would come to be known as the Holocaust.
German police shooting women and children from the Mizocz Ghetto, October 14, Deaths and mass executions took place in concentration and extermination camps including Auschwitz -Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and Treblinka, among many others. Other persecuted groups included Poles, communists, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses and trade unionists. Prisoners were used as forced laborers for SS construction projects, and in some instances they were forced to build and expand concentration camps.
They were subject to starvation, torture and horrific brutalities, including gruesome and painful medical experiments.
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Hitler probably never visited the concentration camps and did not speak publicly about the mass killings. However, Germans documented the atrocities committed at the camps on paper and in films. In , Hitler, along with several other European leaders, signed the Munich Pact. The treaty ceded the Sudetenland districts to Germany, reversing part of the Versailles Treaty. As a result of the summit, Hitler was named Time magazine's Man of the Year for This diplomatic win only whetted his appetite for a renewed German dominance. In response, Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later.
By July, Hitler ordered bombing raids on the United Kingdom, with the goal of invasion. On June 22, , Hitler violated the non-aggression pact with Joseph Stalin , sending a massive army of German troops into the Soviet Union. The invading force seized a huge area of Russia before Hitler temporarily halted the invasion and diverted forces to encircle Leningrad and Kiev. The pause allowed the Red Army to regroup and conduct a counter-offensive attack, and the German advance was stopped outside Moscow in December Honoring the alliance with Japan, Hitler was now at war against the Allied powers, a coalition that included Britain, the world's largest empire, led by Prime Minister Winston Churchill ; the United States, the world's greatest financial power, led by President Franklin D.
Roosevelt ; and the Soviet Union, which had the world's largest army, commanded by Stalin. Initially hoping that he could play the Allies off of one another, Hitler's military judgment became increasingly erratic, and the Axis powers could not sustain his aggressive and expansive war.
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