April 1945. Once the conqueror of Europe, the Bohemian corporal who rose from the slums of Munich and Vienna to perform a spontaneous little dance of joy outside the railroad carriage in which the Armistice of 1918 was signed, having just compelled the proud French to dine on the same unappetizing meal of humiliation and surrender previously served up to Germany, is now trapped like a rat in the catacombs beneath the Reichs Chancellery, listening to the nearby fighting and the shells falling outside his bunker while enemy forces draw closer and closer, with a cyanide capsule and a Walther pistol as his best remaining choice.
How did it come to this?
Hitler destroyed himself and his short-lived Reich by pushing his luck too far, intoxicated by the phantom allure of a terribly bad idea which was both impractically unattainable and of no real relevance to reality.
Hitler’s ideology was, at root, a sort of political patent medicine combining German Romanticism with Populism and technological Futurism. That mixture had considerable appeal, outmarketing thuggish and divisive Bolshevism as well as milk-and-water Social Democracy. But Hitler was only an autodidact café intellectual and putting him in charge of a major country was a very bad idea.
Hitler’s big idea in the realm of Foreign Policy simply amounted to reversing German losses consequent to WWI and the Treaty of Versailles, then proceeding to implement a humongous modern revival of the Teutonic Drang nach Osten that would enserf (or alternatively eliminate) Slavic populations to the East and take over their lands giving the German people (supposedly vital) Lebensraum and control of natural resources, particularly coal and petroleum.
This sort of stuff sounded great to German Nationalists, living mentally in the 19th Century, but all the racialist nonsense motivating and justifying this kind of barbarous piratical policy was nonsense. Germans and Slavs differed in linguistic traditions, but had lived as neighbors, immemorially, for countless centuries, intermarrying and mixing economically and culturally and politically. A “Hitler” is a Hüttler (also spelled Huettler), meaning “one who lives in a hut”, from Hütte (“hut”) and most probably of Slavic origin.
Even the Germans noticed the ironies of those racialist theories, and commonly joked that “the ideal Nazi was someone as tall as Goebbels, as slim as Goering, and as blond as Hitler.”
And a “Drang nach Osten” that required 52 million Germans to defeat 170.5 million Russian, 131 million Americans, 545 million from the British Commonwealth, &c., &c. that pitted the German economy as well against the US economy, the British economy, that effectively pitted Germany and Italy, and Japan against most of the rest of the world was never going to work out successfully.
Karl Marx said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce, and he might very well have been speaking of WWII followed by Vladimir Putin’s newly implemented war to restore the Soviet Empire and to reverse the result of the Cold War. Read the rest of this entry »