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Treaty of Versailles, 1919

Political Disorder: The Weimar Republic and Revolt 1918-23

International Agreements

Stresemann Era, 1923-29

The Rise of the Nazi Party, 1933

Hitler's Foreign Policy and Appeasment

The Holocaust

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Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)


Adolf Hitler was born on April 20th, 1889 in Austria. As boy he got in trouble at school for being a bully. His favorite subject was art. The problem was that he could not draw people. Nevertheless he wanted to be an artist. At the age of fifteen he moved to Vienna to further his interest in art, but unfortunately he was rejected from an art school run primarily by Jews, making him very resentful of them. A few years later when his mother developed cancer, she was treated by a Jewish doctor and then she passed away, confirming his anti-Semitic views.

When World War One broke out, Hitler joined the German army. He nearly got killed and survived several gas attacks. Corporal Hitler was awarded an iron cross for his bravery. Hitler believed that he had a special destiny; that he could liberate Germany and make it great. He modeled himself as Christ like figure, but later he stated that Christ was too weak.

In 1919, Hitler became a German citizen when he settled in Munich. He visited taverns, and it was here that he found small street gangs of national socialist with ideas that seemed to tilt towards communism. When Hitler joined he added a greater structure and form to these gangs, by actually making them into better managed organization in some sense.  He was focused on strengthening the organization and watched Mussolini’s techniques as he came into power in Italy in 1922. Just like Mussolini’s ‘Black shirts’, Hitler created a paramilitary organization of the ‘Brown shirts’ or the SA (Storm Abteilung) in 1920. Hitler created a circle of local party leaders that reported directly to him and saw his leadership and charisma in action. In 1923, the national socialist movement was active only in Munich and Hitler made a failed attempt to take control of this Bavarian city through the Munich Putsch. After this is was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but only served 9 months due to sympathy. During this time Hitler dictated Mein Kampf to Rudolph Hess. It seems ironic that when an individual blatantly tried to take power in the manner of a dictator he receives sympathy. But when Aang Sang Suki was put under house arrest for wanting to bring democracy to Myanmar, the world just stood by for 20 years.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler emphasized the importance of race, purity and subsequently anti-Semitic views.  He wrote about Lebensraum or living space and autarky or self sufficiency. Finally, he stated that if one wants to take power then they need to have an illusion of legitimacy. He also expressed the importance of propaganda. All of these had important consequences when Hitler came to power.

Nazi Party

In December 1924, Hitler was released from prison. The Nazis sent out a great deal of propaganda but did not get the response they wanted as Germany was now recovering in its Stresemann years or Golden period. Thus, even in 1928 when the Nazis were legitimate party that ran for seats in the Reichstag, they only got 810,000 votes.

However, the Nazi’s got lucky when the Great Depression hit. When people have difficult times, they turn to extreme views in order to solve their problem, Hitler was just that solution.  This was well represented by the fact that in 1930 the Nazis received 6.4 million votes, the same number as the Social Democrats. The Nazi strategy was very clever at this time. They would walk out when votes needed to be taken and tried to paralyze the Riechstag (Parliament) in any sort of way they could during the depression. In essence, through this “program of catastrophe” the Nazis were causing the internal disintegration of the Weimar Republic.

In 1932, the Nazi party received 37.5% of the votes. At that time World War One General Von Hindenburg was President. He had the power to select a new Chancellor. He disliked Hitler. But, unfortunately Hitler struck a deal with the two other major parties the Social Democrats and the Center party where they agreed that each of the three parties would keep one-third of the seats in the Reichstag and Hitler would be the Chancellor. The Social Democrats and the Center Party were afraid of Hitler’s SA, and so in January 1933, Hindenburg was pressured into making Hitler the Chancellor. In February 1933, Hitler orchestrated the Reichstag Fire and then blamed it on a young Dutch Communist,  Van Der Lubb, essentially ousting the communists as a significant opponent.

Then in July 1934, Hindenburg passed away and Hitler combined the offices of President and Chancellor to make himself Fuhrer or leader. He wanted to integrate the SA into the German army and got rid of anyone who stood in the way as shown by the Night of the Long Knives on June 30th, 1934, when multiple Nazi leaders including Ernst Rohm, leader of the SA, were murdered. Thus, Hitler redefined the German army, who then swore allegiance to Hitler, not Germany, on August 2nd, 1934. Hitler believed that the true will of the people could be expressed through the Fuhrer not votes. Thus, Hitler dissolved the Weimar constitution and set up a dictatorship. 

hitler

Nazification

 

Reflections

In some ways Hitler’s views of the people’s will being expressed through him adheres to Hobbes philosophy as expressed in his novel Leviathan (1651). Hobbes had a very morose view of life, with everyone being born into a chaotic state of war. As a result, men would give up all their rights in return for stability and security. One could infer that in response to this Hitler would say, that everyone German was in a state of war because of the Treaty of Versailles and perhaps attribute to the chaos in society to the parasitical Jews. With regards to his view that the people’s will is expressed through the fuhrer, he would probably say the people had a will for stability and security which he was providing through a strong army and subsequently a strong Germany. Hitler would probably have problems with a great deal of other enlightenment thought such as Voltaire’s view of the role of women changing. Hitler was a staunch believer of the women’s place being at home, to have babies and serve the family. Moreover, he enforced the belief that women should be dressed simply.  But at the same time he might have agreed with Voltaire that a woman’s weakness predisposed her to virtue and therefore she could not be violent.  As a result, German women did not fight in World War Two, a serious mistake made by Hitler as American, British and Russian women all contributed to the war effort through military service. Moreover, another point of agreement between Hitler and Voltaire would be that democracy is not a good idea, for Hitler this would be a matter of making the nation strong whereas for Voltaire it was just that he believed people were fools. Hitler might have also agreed with Voltaire’s sworn enemy, Rousseau who believed that the government should go by the general will which was not expressed through voting.

The propaganda and censorship of the Nazi state is a clear infringement on people’s freedom and rights. One would expect that in today’s pro-democratic world this sort of censorship would be non-existent. However, this is not the case with the Chinese Communist Party keeping a strong hold on society.  The government crushes anyone who demands change. When Human Rights activist Lui Xiaobo called for change in the political system in the document Charter 08 supported by 300 academics he was arrested and sentenced to eleven years in prison. He was treated as if he was a criminal, when in actual fact his campaign was completely legitimate as he received is the winner of a Nobel Peace Prize for his 20 years of activism. Xiaobo was present at Tianaman Square protests of 1989 encouraging students to leave before they were arrested and has supported the Tibetan cause for freedom and self-determination. He understood the plight of the Tibetan people having been oppressed by China to the extent that they cannot even keep a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a key spiritual Tibetan leader’s photograph in their house. The human rights situation is terrible in Tibet, and it was for causes like these that Xiaobo stood up.  Initially when Xiaobo was arrested his wife wasn’t even told that he had been taken into custody and the police only acknowledged this after a month. This sounds like something the ruthless Gestapo  (the Nazi secret police) would do. Moreover, it was leaders of the Gestapo, in particular those that ran the death camps, that were put trial after World War Two in the Nuremburg Trials for being war criminals. So how can we tolerate any Gestapo like behavior?

“One day, even if he’s not regarded as a hero, he’ll be thought of as a very good citizen.” – Liu Xia, wife of Liu Xiaobo. (Bristow, “Liu Xiaobo: 20 years of activism”, BBC News)

Although, the powerful nations may not have taken enough action against China, they have not appeased China the way they appeased Hitler. For example, when China warned Norway not to give Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize, Norway simply ignored China. Many nations were present at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. But that does not change the fact that several nations boycotted the event due to China’s pressure and bullying tactics. Also, the USA has issued a statement to requesting China to release Xiaobo. But, note that is all the USA has done, simply request. This isn’t enough especially considering the fact that the USA does support other dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia.

Both of the Videos below convey a lack of civil freedom and human rights.

 

 

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