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Old 04-14-2021, 06:29 PM   #6 (permalink)
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The Men Who Sold the World: The Movers, Shakers, Givers and Takers of World War II

Part I: Deutschland Uber Alles

From Apathy to Apotheosis: The Making of a Monster
The Rise of Hitler and the Ensorcellment of Germany

Although there were many contributing factors to the war, and although Germany was ripe for revolution and revenge, it’s probably fair to say that, on the whole, the Second World War would never have broken out had it not been for its principal architect. Various science fiction stories have been written where someone goes back in time and kills Hitler, or the idea has merely been floated (“if you had a time machine and could go back to Germany in the 1930s would you kill Hitler?”) and it does seem likely that had he not been born, or had his life tended in other directions, the main impetus for what became the most massive global conflict in human history would not have been there, or if it had, nobody would have been willing to push it as he did.

So, while it may seem trite and cliched to say “without Hitler there would have been no World War II”, on balance it can be said to be the case. Which means that if we are to look for the reasons and the ideas that led to the war, we have to trace the life story of the man who would grow up resentful at his own government, ashamed of his country, and hungry for both power and a chance to set the scales straight, if not overload them on the side of his country.

But of course, one man cannot change history on his own, no matter how dedicated or insane he may be. Osama bin Laden could have done nothing without his Al Qaeda, Genghis Khan would have cut a pretty lonely and forlorn figure sweeping across the Mongolian Steppe on his own, and Vlad the Impaler? Well, he sure didn’t impale all those hundreds or thousands of victims by himself, now did he?

Just my typically oblique way of pointing out that even a demagogue like Hitler needed others to carry out his plans and execute (often literally) his orders, and as shown in, among others, History’s programme Hitler’s Circle of Evil, the man who would be ruler of the world made sure to surround himself not only with sycophants and like-minded killers, but men who were - in the context of the Reich - good at their jobs. Men without morals, scruples or the slightest shred of pity for their victims. Men who thought only of themselves and their Fuhrer. Men who pledged their undying loyalty to Hitler, even if almost all of them deserted him in the end. Men like Goebbels, Himmler, Goring and Bormann, Speer and Heydrich and Hess, all of whom helped, to one degree or another, bring about and prosecute the Second World War. We will be looking into their lives too as part of this feature.

But right now, it’s the top madman we’re checking out, to see how he grew from being a quiet, reticent boy into the man who would become forever synonymous with the word evil.

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)

I: A Loser From Linz

It’s always been mildly amusing to me that Hitler, the archetypal fascist who demanded all Germans be “pure-bred Aryans” was nothing of the sort. Born in Austria, not Germany, he did not come from any noble family, in fact his father, Alois Hitler (originally Heidler) was a bastard, only legitimised (how? Do not ask me: I assumed an illegitimate child was always so) in 1876 at the age of 39. Adolf was born on April 20 1889, the fourth of six children, three of which did not survive. He was the issue of his father’s third wife, and lived with also two of Alois’s children by his second.

After his father had failed as a farmer, moving around from Austria to Germany and back, Adolf lost his younger brother Edmund to measles in 1900, and from that point his attitude changed; from being a conscientious, likeable child he turned inwards, becoming moody and fractious and withdrawn, constantly picking fights with his father and his teachers. When Alois scorned his son’s dream of becoming an artist and sent him not to the classical school Adolf wished to attend, but a bog-standard secondary school, (he later claimed) he deliberately did poorly there, in order to force his father to give it up and let him go to the art school. This never happened, even when his father died in 1903 and his mother allowed him to leave the school.

A German nationalist from an early age, Hitler refused to recognise or pay homage to the Hapsburg Empire, which controlled Germany and Austria, among other countries, at the time, already using the greeting “Heil”. In 1907 he wandered to Vienna where he tried to enrol at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, but was rejected on two occasions. His work was deemed “mediocre”, mostly in that he tended to draw or paint buildings but was unable to draw people, and it was suggested he instead apply to the Academy of Architecture, but as he had left school without finishing his term he did not have sufficient academic credits to allow this.

Perhaps the biggest blow to him in his young life was the sudden death of his mother, whom he had idolised, at the age of 47. Two years later, without her financial support he ran out of money and had to live in homeless shelters. While in Vienna he became what we would probably today call radicalised, as he listened to the hateful anti-Semitic rhetoric and ravings of certain figures who we will now discuss.
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Last edited by Trollheart; 04-17-2021 at 10:48 AM.
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