HITLER: ONLY THE WORLD WAS ENOUGH
by Brendan Simms (Allen Lane £30, 704 pp)
What? Yet another book about Adolf Hitler? But it’s amply justified by the fact that this is the man we must reluctantly acknowledge as the most significant figure of the 20th century.
Apart from his responsibility for world war and the most heinous genocide in all history, the European Union would probably not otherwise have come into existence, set up as it was as an attempt to nullify nationalism on the Continent — specifically, German nationalism.
That is the big picture; and it is to Hitler’s philosophy, not his personality, that Brendan Simms (author of Britain’s Europe: A Thousand Years Of Conflict And Cooperation) dedicates a characteristically monumental work.
Brendan Simms recounts Hitler’s (pictured) speeches, remarks and the Bavarian archive in a fascinating new biography
This makes it a less sensational read than volumes about Hitler the man or Hitler the mass murderer. But, in another sense, the book is truly sensational because it offers — at least, to this non-academic reader — a radically new assessment of the Fuhrer’s world view and the motivation for his plunging the world into a terminal struggle for survival.
The conventional view is that Hitler was an ideological polar opposite of Communism; that, above all, he feared ‘Bolshevism’ — which he claimed to be a ‘Jewish’ conspiracy — and that this was why he invaded the Soviet Union, where the greatest land battles of the war were fought.
Yet, through a close reading of Hitler’s speeches and remarks over decades, and new findings in Bavarian archives, Simms develops a radically different account.
As Simms writes: ‘The Fuhrer was aware that the supreme command of the Allied Expeditionary Force had been given to Dwight Eisenhower, descended from the Eisenhauers . . . who left the Saarland for Pennsylvania’
The theme of Hitler: Only The World Was Enough is that the founder of the National Socialist Party — the clue is in the name — saw international capitalism as the main enemy of the German people and, indeed, of the world as a whole.
This was completely congruent with Hitler’s paranoiac anti-Semitism, as he saw the Jews as the eternal string-pullers of international finance, dedicated to their own enrichment, rather than the benefit of working people.
In this way, his ideology — though not his predilection for extreme violence — was fundamentally the same as those Corbyn-supporting anti-Semites on the hard Left now befouling the Labour Party’s tradition of anti-racism.
It is therefore clear why Hitler would have seen the U.S. and the UK as his primary enemies, not ‘Russia’ (as Hitler tended to term the USSR). As Simms notes, in a speech made on November 8, 1941, ‘despite the battle against Bolshevism raging in the East, Hitler spent far more time attacking Western capitalism, and the supposed connection with the stock market and the armaments industry’.
Simms also digs up a speech to Germany’s own armaments workers a year earlier, in which Hitler told them that ‘plutocratic-capitalist Britain’ had gone to war against the German ‘welfare state’.
The Fuhrer questioned how the UK could claim to represent civilisation, given the conditions in ‘British mining areas, slums in Whitechapel and in other areas of mass poverty’.
Brendan says Hitler (pictured centre) spent much of his time attacking Western capitalism, he questioned how the UK could claim to represent civilisation
As Simms notes: ‘For Hitler, the battle against the British Empire was an international class struggle, in which nations took the place of classes. The conflict was framed not just as a German war of national liberation against British domination of the continent, but as a global insurrection against Anglo-American capitalism and imperialism.’
Yet there was always a paradox here, which Simms illuminates brilliantly. While Hitler wanted to demonstrate German superiority over the UK and the U.S., he regarded both those opponents with a kind of fearful admiration.
The number of Germans who emigrated to the U.S. between 1820 and World War I
In particular, he saw the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ — as he termed the British and British-descended Americans — as superior to Germans in their cohesiveness and resilience.
In the British case, this was based on his respect for their creation of a mighty Empire. Hitler fulminated against it, but wanted to emulate it: the attack on the USSR was not ideologically motivated, but designed to seize control of Russia’s oil and coal reserves (and Lebensraum — the huge tracts of territory that Germany could colonise).
This bizarrely conflicted view was even more pronounced in Hitler’s attitude towards the U.S. In World War I, Corporal Hitler had been given two captured American soldiers to escort back to his brigade HQ and he was appalled by the fact that the pair were of German descent.
Brendan recalls Hitler (pictured) becoming transfixed with the idea that the best of Germans had emigrated to the U.S.
From that moment on, Hitler was transfixed by the notion that the best of Germans had emigrated to the U.S. (attracted by the potential for self-realisation in its vastness) and that Germany should prove itself to be a mighty state that would persuade its ‘children’ to return.
Hitler would constantly complain that ‘American soil had been fertilised by Germans’ and that his historical mission was to reverse that process.
Simms points out: ‘In the late 1930s, he briefly experimented with a really quite grotesque plan for an international “exchange” of German-Americans for German Jews.’
HITLER: ONLY THE WORLD WAS ENOUGH by Professor Simms
In the end, Hitler saw his fear of the superiority of the Germanic Americans, fuelled by the resources of a continent, vindicated.
As Simms writes: ‘The Fuhrer was aware that the supreme command of the Allied Expeditionary Force had been given to Dwight Eisenhower, descended from the Eisenhauers . . . who left the Saarland for Pennsylvania.’
Then there was General Clarence Huebner, General Walter Lauer, General Donald Stroh, General Paul Baade and General Bertram Hoffmeister — all from German emigrant families, leading the pulverisation of Hitler’s regime.
Though Simms doesn’t mention it, I can’t resist raising the name of Wernher von Braun, the engineer behind the V-Rockets that Hitler saw as his final chance to change the balance of the conflict against the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ — who subsequently put his talents to the service of the American government’s Cold War rocket programme.
It was the Soviet Army, approaching from the East, who reached Hitler’s bunker first, to find the incinerated remains of the Fuhrer.
But, as Simms concludes, the ‘last will and testament’ Hitler wrote before killing himself, ‘made no mention of either Communism or the Soviet Union, but inveighed instead against the real villains: “international money and finance conspirators” who treated the “peoples of Europe like blocks of shares”. He was referring, of course, to the same international capitalists, most of them Jewish, he had targeted in his first political statements back in 1919.’
Case closed, I think.