To What Extent Can The Second World

War In Europe Be Described As Hitler?s War Essay, Research Paper

To what extent

can the Second World War in Europe be described as Hitler?s war? There has been much debate over

the subject of to what extent Hitler can be blamed for the outbreak of the

Second World War in 1939. Historians disagree over to what extent Hitler can be

blamed.? Different historians have gone

to opposite extremes over this issue. Hugh Trevor Roper takes the following

view: ?The Second World War was Hitler?s personal war in

many senses.? He intended it, he

prepared for it, he chose the moment for launching it.? (1953) However, A.J.P

Taylor takes a diametrically opposite viewpoint in his book ?The Origins

of the Second World War (1961) and even goes as

far as saying that: ?Little can be discovered so

long as we go on attributing everything that happened to Hitler? How much can we attribute the war to Hitler? To

what extent can Nazi Germany?s strong dictator be blamed for the commencement

of the Second World War? At the Nuremberg trials, much was

contributed to the Hossbach memorandum, and it was claimed that this proved

Hitler?s warring intentions. This document was emphasised too strongly at

Nuremberg; however, it is not a source to be ignored.? Hitler appears to give this document extraordinary importance,

even instructing those present to regard it as his last will and testament in

the event of his death.? A.J.P.Taylor

questions its importance saying that those present at this meeting bar Goering

were not Nazis but conservatives and not the people that Hitler would confide

in.? However, the memorandum does give a

vague indication as to Hitler?s intentions. As A.P.Adamthwaite says in his book

?The making of the Second World War (1979) ?The Hossbach memorandum

confirms the continuity of Hitler?s thinking: the primacy of force in world

politics, conquest for living space in the east, anti-Bolshevism, hostility to

France.? Hitler?s warlike intentions

were now explicit.? Adamthwaite takes his argument one stage too far

and certainly Hitler?s ?warlike intentions? were not made explicit in the

Hossbach memorandum, but it certainly went someway towards indicating that

Hitler did harbour some aspirations toward war. In Mein Kampf, Hitler

clearly states his expansionist tendencies. His desire for Lebensraum

for the excess German population is apparent. Hitler foresaw an Eastern Europe

populated by Arian Germans. Hitler knew that this aim could not be achieved

without a war.? In this policy alone

then, we see that Hitler is prepared to fight in order achieve his objectives.

Many of Hitler?s policies were achievable only through war; in short Hitler

knew that for him to succeed, Germany must become embroiled in a European

conflict of some sort. Hitler was prepared to take risks to achieve his

territorial gains. His invasion of the Rhineland was a high-risk gesture.? The fact that he was unopposed was due to

the British and French policy of appeasement.?

However, this policy could have been aborted at any stage had either

Britain or France decided enough was enough.?

Each knew territorial invasion was a leap of faith on Hitler?s

part.? Hitler must have realised that

the ?appeasement? policy would not last forever; therefore, Hitler must have

been prepared for war.? With each new

invasion, Germany moved one step closer to European war.? The question was not if Hitler would

engineer a war but when! Although Hitler did not intend to start the Second

World War with his invasion of Poland, he willingly took a risk and he was

prepared to fight if necessary.? He was

aggressive and his expansionist policies led to European war. Hitler simply

underestimated how long the British and French would continue to ?appease?

him.? On the other hand, the German expansionist

tendencies had existed for centuries.?

From Bismarckian times, there was a Prussian history of expansionist policies,

the unification of Germany, the search by the Kaiser for colonies and the First

World War were all examples of these policies.?

In recent modern history, Prussia and later Germany under Prussian rule

had been the instigator of European territorial war.? The German people had long wanted to dominate Europe both

territorially and politically.?

Therefore, it was not simply Hitler that wanted to expand German borders

and spheres of influence; he received support from the German people as a

whole. Furthermore, the Treaty of Versailles had

humiliated the German people and caused deep routed resentment among them. The

warring tendencies that had remained dormant since the end of the First World

War in 1918 were awoken by Hitler?s oratory skills. It was not just Hitler?s

expansion, but Hitler on a wave of public feeling that led to expansion.? Hitler cannot be held solely to blame for

Germany?s expansion in the late 1930?s as the feelings of the German nation

must also be taken into account.? Hitler

was supported by public opinion and therefore the German people must take some

of the blame for the outbreak of war. Hitler did not intend to go to

war over the Polish invasion.? He did

not plan for a full-scale war with Britain and France and indeed he still felt

that some form of understanding with Britain was possible.? Hitler was intent on preventing a war on two

fronts, and as the land he required for Lebensraum lay to the east, he

therefore looked for peace on the western front.? Hitler did not plan a war with Britain and France and indeed, had

he felt that invading Poland would lead to war; it is unlikely that he would

have done so.? The war in 1939 was

accidental on Hitler?s part and was certainly not the war that he envisaged to

take place somewhere between 1943 and 1945. ?The Third Reich was a chaotic system of government and it is

difficult to determine to what extent Hitler controlled foreign policy. As Hans

Mommsen says in his book ?National Socialism: Continuity and Change?

(1979): ?Hitler was in some respects a weak dictator? Although Hitler evidently

determined much of Nazi policy, amongst the chaos it is difficult to say to

what extent Hitler can be held responsible for the key decisions that led to

the outbreak of war in 1939.? At the

Nuremberg trials, Goering claimed a personal role in the outbreak of war.? He claimed to have planned the annexation of

Austria, and Germany?s rearmament as well as the training of the new soldiers.? This claim has been attributed to personal

vanity. However, the evidence of Goering?s testimony at Nuremberg begs the

question how many of the key decisions were made by Hitler and to what extent

the men around him like Goering made the decisions for him?? This is near impossible to determine,

however, it is apparent from records such as the Hossbach memorandum that

Hitler consulted his advisors on key decisions. Although, Hitler often had the

final word on issues, he cannot be held entirely responsible for the outbreak

of war; his advisors must share the blame. In conclusion, the Second World

War came about almost by accident.? As

A.J.P.Taylor says: ?Hitler never planned to get his end not by war ?

merely by threatening war, raising the tensions which he thought would throw

his enemies into disarray? In this statement Taylor assumes

too much, Hitler certainly did intend to go to war eventually, however, in the

late 1930?s, Taylor?s analysis of Hitler?s intentions is correct.? Hitler, spurred on by the German people,

planned territorial expansion without war initially, by abusing the appeasement

policy.? It was only when Britain and

France took an unexpected stand over the issue of Poland that Hitler was

thwarted.? Hitler can in part be held

responsible for the outbreak of war; after all it was he that gave the order to

invade Poland.? However, he did not plan

to go to war in 1939, nor did he plan to fight Britain and France.? Furthermore, Hitler can only be held

responsible for the war to the extent that it was undertaken under his

leadership.? It was the backing and

assistance that he received from the German people and the Nazi party that made

the war possible.? Therefore, despite

his warring tendencies, Hitler can only be held partially responsible for the

outbreak of the Second World War, and much of the blame must be placed elsewhere.


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