History essay on hitler

The first is biographical: How did an Austrian watercolor painter turned military orderly emerge as a far-right German rabble-rouser after the First World War? The third has to do with the intersection of man and regime: To what extent was Hitler in control of the apparatus of the Third Reich?

All these questions point to the central enigma of the Holocaust, which has variously been interpreted as a premeditated action and as a barbaric improvisation. For dismantlers of democracy, there is no better exemplar.

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Since , the historiography of Nazism has undergone several broad transformations, reflecting political pressures both within Germany and abroad. In the early Cold War period, the emergence of West Germany as a bulwark against the Soviet menace tended to discourage a closer interrogation of German cultural values. In this reading, the Germany of the Wilhelmine period had failed to develop along healthy liberal-democratic lines; the inability to modernize politically prepared the ground for Nazism. In Germany, left-oriented scholars like Hans Mommsen used this concept to call for a greater sense of collective responsibility; to focus on Hitler was an evasion, the argument went, implying that Nazism was something that he did to us.

Abroad, the Sonderweg theory took on a punitive edge, indicting all of German history and culture. The Sonderweg argument was attacked on multiple fronts. Joachim Fest, who had published the first big German-language biography of Hitler, also stood apart from the Sonderweg school. More dubious readings presented Hitlerism as an experiment that modernized Germany and then went awry. Such ideas have lost ground in Germany, at least for now: in mainstream discourse there, it is axiomatic to accept responsibility for the Nazi terror.

Outside Germany, many critiques of the Sonderweg thesis came from the left. In the allegedly backward Kaiserreich, Eley and Blackbourn saw various liberalizing forces in motion: housing reform, public-health initiatives, an emboldened press. The Sonderweg narrative could become an exculpatory fairy tale for other nations: we may make mistakes, but we will never be as bad as the Germans.

With his nocturnal schedule, his dislike of paperwork, and his aversion to dialogue, Hitler was an eccentric executive, to say the least. His two abiding obsessions were violent anti-Semitism and Lebensraum. As early as , he spoke of confining Jews to concentration camps, and in he contemplated—and, for the moment, rejected—the idea of killing the entire Jewish population. The Holocaust was the result of a hideous syllogism: if Germany were to expand into the East, where millions of Jews lived, those Jews would have to vanish, because Germans could not coexist with them.

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Academic historians, by contrast, often portray Hitler as a cipher, a nobody. Hitler could pose as a cultured gentleman at Munich salons, as a pistol-waving thug at the beer hall, and as a bohemian in the company of singers and actors. He had an exceptional memory that allowed him to assume an air of superficial mastery. It goes without saying that he was an extreme narcissist lacking in empathy.

Much has been made of his love of dogs, but he was cruel to them.

Visual Essay: The Impact of Propaganda

From adolescence onward, Hitler was a dreamer and a loner. Averse to joining groups, much less leading them, he immersed himself in books, music, and art. His ambition to become a painter was hampered by a limited technique and by a telling want of feeling for human figures. In Munich, where he moved in , he eked out a living as an artist and otherwise spent his days in museums and his nights at the opera. A vague notion of being reserved for something else, something quite indeterminate, which, if it were named, would cause people to break out laughing.

Indeed, he seems to have had friendly relations with several Jews in Vienna and Munich. This does not mean that he was free of commonplace anti-Jewish prejudice.

Holocaust and Human Behavior

Certainly, he was a fervent German nationalist. When the First World War commenced, in , he volunteered for the German Army, and acquitted himself well as a soldier. Significantly, Hitler remained in the Army after the Armistice; disgruntled nationalist soldiers tended to join paramilitary groups. Because the Social Democratic parties were dominant at the founding of the Weimar Republic, Hitler was representing a leftist government. He even served the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic.


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The unprecedented anarchy of postwar Bavaria helps explain what happened next. Street killings were routine; politicians were assassinated on an almost weekly basis. The left was blamed for the chaos, and anti-Semitism escalated for the same reason: several prominent leaders of the left were Jewish. Then came the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed in June, The day after Germany ratified the treaty, Hitler began attending Army propaganda classes aimed at repressing revolutionary tendencies. These infused him with hard-core anti-capitalist and anti-Semitic ideas.

The officer in charge of the program was a tragic figure named Karl Mayr, who later forsook the right wing for the left; he died in Buchenwald, in He spoke up at one of its meetings and joined its ranks. Even those who found his words repulsive were mesmerized by him.

He would begin quietly, almost haltingly, testing out his audience and creating suspense. He amused the crowd with sardonic asides and actorly impersonations. Whitman methodically explores how the Nazis took inspiration from American racism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Only by stripping away its national regalia and comprehending its essential human form do we have any hope of vanquishing it.

The vast literature on Hitler and Nazism keeps circling around a few enduring questions. The first is biographical: How did an Austrian watercolor painter turned military orderly emerge as a far-right German rabble-rouser after the First World War? The third has to do with the intersection of man and regime: To what extent was Hitler in control of the apparatus of the Third Reich? All these questions point to the central enigma of the Holocaust, which has variously been interpreted as a premeditated action and as a barbaric improvisation.

For dismantlers of democracy, there is no better exemplar. Since , the historiography of Nazism has undergone several broad transformations, reflecting political pressures both within Germany and abroad. In the early Cold War period, the emergence of West Germany as a bulwark against the Soviet menace tended to discourage a closer interrogation of German cultural values. In this reading, the Germany of the Wilhelmine period had failed to develop along healthy liberal-democratic lines; the inability to modernize politically prepared the ground for Nazism.

In Germany, left-oriented scholars like Hans Mommsen used this concept to call for a greater sense of collective responsibility; to focus on Hitler was an evasion, the argument went, implying that Nazism was something that he did to us. Abroad, the Sonderweg theory took on a punitive edge, indicting all of German history and culture.

go The Sonderweg argument was attacked on multiple fronts. Joachim Fest, who had published the first big German-language biography of Hitler, also stood apart from the Sonderweg school. More dubious readings presented Hitlerism as an experiment that modernized Germany and then went awry. Such ideas have lost ground in Germany, at least for now: in mainstream discourse there, it is axiomatic to accept responsibility for the Nazi terror. Outside Germany, many critiques of the Sonderweg thesis came from the left. In the allegedly backward Kaiserreich, Eley and Blackbourn saw various liberalizing forces in motion: housing reform, public-health initiatives, an emboldened press.

The Sonderweg narrative could become an exculpatory fairy tale for other nations: we may make mistakes, but we will never be as bad as the Germans. With his nocturnal schedule, his dislike of paperwork, and his aversion to dialogue, Hitler was an eccentric executive, to say the least. His two abiding obsessions were violent anti-Semitism and Lebensraum. As early as , he spoke of confining Jews to concentration camps, and in he contemplated—and, for the moment, rejected—the idea of killing the entire Jewish population.

Was Hitler Jewish?

The Holocaust was the result of a hideous syllogism: if Germany were to expand into the East, where millions of Jews lived, those Jews would have to vanish, because Germans could not coexist with them. Academic historians, by contrast, often portray Hitler as a cipher, a nobody. Hitler could pose as a cultured gentleman at Munich salons, as a pistol-waving thug at the beer hall, and as a bohemian in the company of singers and actors. He had an exceptional memory that allowed him to assume an air of superficial mastery. It goes without saying that he was an extreme narcissist lacking in empathy.

Much has been made of his love of dogs, but he was cruel to them. From adolescence onward, Hitler was a dreamer and a loner. Averse to joining groups, much less leading them, he immersed himself in books, music, and art.