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Reading Hitler March 21, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This recent BBC Free Thinking podcast/programme had an overview of a new biography of Hitler by Volker Ullrich. 

Some very thought-provoking questions on foot of the above. Not least the following point that was made:

Hitler wasn’t a regular bureaucrat… people had to guess what he wanted. One functionary said  “If you don’t get an order about this you have to work towards the Fuhrer”. 

Good question was whether we are reaching the end of meaningful Hitler studies?


1. gendjinn - March 21, 2016

Kershaw said the “Work toward the Fuhrer” had the value of encouraging zealotry and excess in application of Nazi ideals by the rank and file in the various arms of the government.

It also took Hitler’s ambiguous instructions and allowed smarter and more capable administrators to render the detail according to Nazi ideology.

If only he’d interfered more in the minutiae, it would have been over sooner.


Gewerkschaftler - March 21, 2016

Luckily he did fulsomely interfere – especially in military matters. Had he left it to some of his more fearsomely realistic and capable generals then history may have been different, or the slaughter would have lasted longer. The atom bomb would have quite possibly been tested on European as opposed to Japanese civilians.


gendjinn - March 21, 2016


Although given the relative economic strengths of the Allies & Axis the end was never in doubt. Just the number of years and the body count.

Take the critiques of Von Manstein, Guderian, Liddell Hart and apply their recommendations for the Russian front. The best case is Moscow is captured in ’41 and securing that transport hub is sufficient to topple Leningrad/Stalingrad and secure that front in ’42. The losses have still been heavy in men, materiel and there’s now a gigantic area to garrison. The factories are beyond the Urals and they’re over 1,000 km away. Let’s say the Germans make it to the Urals and create a defensible, maintainable border there in ’44. Russia can hold that defense line just as cheaply and pivot to opening a front in Asia. The USA/UK still get to open a front in North Africa. Does Germany have enough resource not wasted in Russia to defeat that?

And as you point out. The bomb was going to be dropped in 45 and would come in pretty handy at any Kursk type battles the Germans would like to fight.


WorldbyStorm - March 21, 2016

I think that’s persuasive, once the US enters the war that’s it – even significant defeats for the USSR would have prolonged but not prevented an eventual German defeat. I read a fascinating analysis of US output by end f 43 as against German output and the difference is monumental but then the US has an entire (sub) continent to call upon.


gendjinn - March 21, 2016

It was a staggering economy – a liberty battleship a day. The ability to toss airplanes over the side if the engine sounded dodgy.

Yamamoto warned the Japanese high command. Gobshites going to be gobshites I guess. Same as it ever was.


Pasionario - March 21, 2016

Adam Tooze’s The Wages of Detruction is good on this. He also emphasizes the scale of the material contribution made by the Soviet war economy. Still, would the Western Allies have had the stomach for casualties on the same scale as the Soviets (presuming Hitler was able to turn the bulk of his forces towards the West)? You’re right though that the Bomb probably would have settled it eventually.


Michael Carley - March 21, 2016

Also worth reading David Edgerton Britain’s War Machine on how the UK out-produced Germany (spoiler: he remembers the empire).


gendjinn - March 21, 2016


The UK planned to evacuate the government to Canada if Britain fell. Plans for stay behind forces were put in place. So I guess they were contemplating fighting on even after losing their capital and homeland.

It’s hard to see where Germany would have been able to bring sufficient force to bear to inflict Russian front level of destruction on the other Allies outside of France. The Blitz was a pretty good shot at it and the British seemed to handle it.

Say Britain does fall. There’s the entirety of Africa to land in unopposed. So the Germans are obliged to occupy it all. That is just a whole lot of manpower and time the Germans don’t have. Even if the US/UK forces are building up in South Africa. Which is great support into India, Indonesia, etc. Linking up with any Russian pivot to Asia.

Eventually Germany runs out of men. Long before the Allies do.


Pasionario - March 22, 2016

Gendjinn, my idea was not that the Germans would have invaded Britain but that, if the Russians had been pushed back to the Urals, they would have had enough forces to fight the British and Americans to a standstill in France.


EWI - March 22, 2016

Eventually Germany runs out of men. Long before the Allies do.

Not so. they just do what the Allies did (in WWI as well as WWII) – promise natives greater freedom in return for enlistment.

Sound familiar?


gendjinn - March 22, 2016


In my example above I was conceding France to the Axis, jumping off from their highpoint. Even with Europe from Britain to the Urals it’s not sufficient to hold off the combined economies of North America, Africa, Asia & Australia.

If Germany could negotiate a conditional peace with the UK after the fall of France and leave Japan to their fate with the US they would have a shot at ending the war and holding their gains.


2. Gewerkschaftler - March 21, 2016

“are reaching the end of meaningful Hitler studies?”

One would hope so – this whole ‘great/terrible men’ theory of history doesn’t serve us well.

You still hear the ‘we were all bewitched by an evil magician’ excuse, especially from conservative quarters in Germany.

Nazism was a mass-movement and mass party, however – more than Hitler and others originally planned during their cosy stay Bavarian prisons – he saw the Nazi party as a small cadre. The nature of that mass-movement, the particularity of the German historical situation and its parallels for today are much more interesting and far from over-analysed.


gendjinn - March 21, 2016

Isn’t there an element of truth to it? The ability of charismatic individuals to rally groups of like minded people into an effective mob?

“I wish I’d never heard of that man, Paisley!” It doesn’t diminish responsibility/culpability but mob psychology/behaviour does influence the decision making process for the worse.

Is it Hitler/Trump or is there a Hitler/Trump shaped hole created that someone inevitably steps into? Did the Blueshirts fail because the people rejected them or because their leadership were not charismatic enough?

Aren’t the explanations always a melange of competing hypotheses?


3. CL - March 21, 2016
4. sonofstan - March 21, 2016
CL - March 21, 2016

“Living in a post-modern city like New York has many advantages but some disadvantages too. Among the latter is the absence of bookstores”-Branko Milanovic

Branko needs to get out more.


And N.Y, -even tho’ its a pomo city also has an extensive library system, including one of world’s greatest research libraries.


5. yourcousin - March 21, 2016

I always found “The Nazi Seizure of Power” to be a much better read than infinite machinations on Hitler himself. Couple that with “Ordinary Men” and it paints a fuller more nuanced picture of “evil” than focusing on the architects of “the final solution”.



And if you want to add another layer on top of that I would further recommend “Bloodlands” and then “Orderly and Humane”.


6. FergusD - March 21, 2016

I found this a great insight when I read it many years ago:


and “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” is a very good journalistic account (not so much the analysis):



7. dmoc - March 21, 2016

‘Hitler Studies’ – Dom DeLillo, ‘White Noise’?


I was given my copy by a young man on a bus trip from Klamath Falls to Portland Oregon (he’d just finished reading it). I was in full J.G. Ballard mode at the time, so suffice to say it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but good stuff nonetheless.

Liked by 1 person

8. Gewerkschaftler - March 23, 2016

On the low-brow late-night reading end of things there’s a very popular writer of crime fiction – Volker Kutscher – who has set his series of Gereon Rath novels deliberately during the time of the rise of Nazism.

Well researched it deals partly with how democrats and the ‘apolitical’ in the public services (including the police) allowed the Nazis to steam-roller over them. I’m surprised no-one has bought the English rights translated them.

It should never be forgotten that a big part of the Nazi’s appeal was their promise to break with the mad austerity economics of Heinrich Brüning. Which they did with a massive injection of military Keynesian stimulus.


yourcousin - March 23, 2016

I always enjoyed Erich Remarque’s inter war novels. The Black Obelisk and Three Comrades both springing to mind off the top of my head. I would have to say that The Black Obelisk is one of my all time favorites although I haven’t picked it up in over a decade.


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