Last week, I published here a short review of aspects of Frank McDonough’s book “The Weimar Years”, a political history of Germany between 1919 and 1931.
It focussed on the factors that enabled the Nazis, with the aid of other authoritarian inclined political parties, to overthrow democracy. These other parties were closely associated with the army and/ or were highly nationalistic. Alfred Hugenberg and Franz Von Papen were a principal leaders of this group. They thought they could control Hitler. So too German President of the time, Marshall Von Hindenbuzrg.
When the Reichstag was burned by a lone arsonist in 1933, Hitler seized the moment t abolished the last remnants of German democracy.
Dr Joseph Goebbels had created the public mood that would accept this. He used technique, that we should watch out for , among the arsonist far right in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. Goebbels technique was to find something that people already hated, and encourage them to hate it even more. The “big lie” is a variant of this technique. It played to people’s emotions, rather than to their reason.
One other thing that interested me in McDonough’s book was the long term foreign policy that Hitler had prepared as a Second Book (Zweites Buch) in summer of 1928. This sequel to Mein Kampfh was not published as the time, and did not appeat in English until 1961.
One wonders if Vladamir Putin has a “second essay”, a sequel to the long historical essay he published on the eve of his so far unsuccessful invasion of Ukraine.
Putin could not mount no Blitzkreig, but his interntions are no less malign than Hitlers’!
Hitler’s “Zweites Buch” laid out a four stage process
Stage ONE envisaged massive German Rearmament, the revision of the Versailles Treaty, and the formation of military alliances with the UK and Mussolini
Stage TWO envisaged German wars against France, Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia
Stage THREE would consist of the destruction of the Soviet Union
Stage FOUR was a planned war against the United States.
We know , with hindsight, that important parts of Hitlers plan did not work out. But the fact that a relatively unsuccessful opposition politician, as Hitler was in 1928, could think in such ambitious terms, is a warning from history.
Stage ONE involved an alliance with the UK. Hitler thought the English and the Germans were racially close as many English people did at the time. But a sceptical democracy was too well implanted in Britain , for an alliance with a loud mouthed German dictator ever to have taken off. But Hitler continued to dream of an alliance with the UK even after the war had started.
A military alliance with Italy in the 1930’s would have been a liability for Germany. This was demonstrated when the war actually started, and Germany had to rescue Italy many times. The reasons for the degree of Italian military weakness are hard to understand.
The 1930s were a dark decade for Europe. I fear we are entering a similarly dark decade now. We need to study what happened in the 1930s, if we are to avoid the mistakes made then.