Adolf Hitler rose to power after a bitter defeat in World War I. It was personal to Hitler. He had been a soldier on the losing side. Seeing the effects of the defeat on his countrymen planted a deep seed of resentment that found its fertile ground in the pre World War II Germany. The after effects would ripple into a tsunami.
Germany felt slighted and oppressed by the winning nations in the aftermath of WWI. The people yearned to feel pride again in their nation as they did in years gone by. They were primed for a ruler who could give them that. Hitler fit the bill perfectly. He followed a path defined by Bismarck years before.
Bismarck as a Model
The grand days of Germany were known to be under Otto von Bismarck. He was known as a “master strategist” who “introduced progressive reforms — including universal male suffrage and the establishment of the first welfare state.” (http://www.history.com/topics/otto-von-bismarck) He appeared at a time to fill needs and inspire hope. He gave the people want they needed and gave them hope.
Bismarck was one who did not just play the game. He wanted to control it, and he would do anything to get it. He played the political game very well as he “He manipulated European rivalries to make Germany a world power, but in doing so laid the groundwork for both World Wars.” (ibid.) He was going to get what he wanted.
He began with an alliance with Poland where he promised not to make any aggressive move toward the other nation. In the end, it was all a ploy as Hitler had no plans to follow through with the alliance. Secretly, he had been building a military force to make his move. Like Bismarck, he saw the military as the backbone to the powerful German Empire. He built up the army as he began his political game of chess. He played his cards with alliances and with the hearts of many Europeans. With the British, Hitler played on the regrets the nation had from the punishment it helped to impose on Germany. Britain gladly agreed to work with Germany, an act they would later regret.
Hitler waited until he had all of Europe lulled into a false sense of security when he moved into the Rhineland surprising the entire world. As one country failed to react in protest, others followed suit. The many alliances began to work in Hitler’s favor. From their lack of action against his aggression, Hitler surmised that “Britain and France were weak and that he could get away with more aggressive actions.” The game was now becoming deadly.
Hitler took Bismarck’s actions and built upon them. He used the same of idea of political strategy to make each move. They were successful in the beginning. As he was making his move against Europe, he took nationalism further than Bismarck by not only making the empire great but also pure.
In his speech in January 1937, Hitler announced that “the noblest and most sacred [task] for mankind is that each racial species must preserve the purity of the blood which God has given it.” He believed that other nations would understand his desire and stand with him on it though he still planned on attacking them and bringing them under German control. His targets for purity were the Jews who he saw as the downfall of Germany and the cancer it needed to cut out. He acknowledged that the German people had created a “united front towards the outside world.” Though he made many declarations in the speech that the world should have stood up and taken notice of, they focused more on the reassurance that he would uphold all treaties made as “there are no grounds for quarrel that are humanly thinkable.” It would be just a few years later that he would break every one of those agreements and tear Europe apart.
One has to remember that Europe during this period was still recovering from World War I. it was a time in which many Germans felt that the good old days were long gone. They were having several troubles and faced poverty as never before. One disaster led to another as “the well oiled German industrial machine quickly ground to a halt” and German workers were laid off. Along with this, banks failed throughout Germany. Savings accounts, the result of years of hard work, were instantly wiped out. Inflation soon followed making it hard for families to purchase expensive necessities with devalued money.” (http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/begins.htm)
Hitler saw an opportunity to give the nation hope economically. He rose up in power and began to give the impression that the nation was doing well financially. In the end, he brought it lower than it ever had been as he took it into war and tore the nation literally in two.
The rest of Europe? Well, he decided to destroy it all.
Hitler drastically changed the shape of Europe. He gobbled up the nations around him. In the long run, there was a positive result of what he did. He brought much of the large European nations to their knees. Saying that, I still see the man as the ultimate in evil. But it changed Europe forever.
Think of the empires of the time. They were large and imposing.
The first outcome, obviously, was that he destroyed Europe’s hegemony over much of the world and its influence over the rest. Within 15 years of the end of the war, Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands lost their empires. A handful of European nations had dominated the world.
By the end of the war they had lost the will, the energy and the wealth to maintain their power. After half-hearted and doomed attempts to resist, these countries willingly participated in the dismantling of what they had once thought of as their birthright.
This changed the shape of the world, of course, but the change was less the result of the world’s resistance to Europe than a result of Europe’s exhaustion. After the war, Europe faced the task of rebuilding buildings. The ambition to rule had been exhausted.
However flawed or wicked that ambition might have been, there is still something sad in the loss of all ambition, beyond the desire for comfort. The will to dominate, seen in its most extreme form in Hitler’s appetites, chills the blood. The loss of any transcendent ambition merely cools it. Europe has lost its recklessness, which is on the whole good.
Hitler committed many atrocities. Very few civilized people think of him without fear and disgust. He killed millions. He ripped Europe apart. Nothing good can be said to have come from this man and his followers. Yet the world found good within the horror and moved forward into a new age. The world was never the same after his actions.
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