Historiography on Hitler Being More of a Masterplanner Than an Opportunist
“Mein Kampf presents a Hitler who had a relatively happy childhood (despite conflict with his father about his ultimate profession) during which his history teacher, Dr Poetsch, filled him with a love of Germany. His early twenties, by contrast, in Vienna, eking out a living as a painter, were unhappy and ‘a continual struggle with Hunger’. It was in these years, he claimed, that he formed his ideologythe hatred of Communism and (in a famous encounter) the Jews.
After the defeat of 1918, he ‘decided to go into politics’. (Declare, 1999). In style, Mein Kampf has been appropriately deemed turgid, repetitious, wandering, illogical, and, in the first edition at least, filled with grammatical errors”all reflecting a half-educated man. It was adeptly inflammatory and therefore was not taken too seriously.
In this book Hitler presents himself as a grand leader that will take Germany from a position of vulnerability to that of strength where it could rule all of Europe and possibly the world as its sole superior sovereignty. Although Hitler did mention a few long term goals and plans he had, nowhere in his 654 pages book had he spoken about even a draft of a strategical scheme that was going to help him achieve his aims. Similarly, from his writing style, one could conclude that Hitler was disorganised and all over the place. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to conclude that it is very unlikely that a person like himself who barely was organised to get into school, and was not build up with leadership skills be capable of coming up with detailed plan and war strategies that out manoeuvred his opponents. This idea is supported by Hitler when he contradicted himself in the late chapters by suggesting that having a plan is not necessary so long as you are quick enough to seized the opportunities that come your way. (hitler, 1988). In a way Hitler himself is hinting at the fact that one does not need to plan out things in life but to just accept what ever comes his way and use it wisely. Don’t we think that Hitler must also live by his own philosophy?. Hence it is certain at least that Hitler (impetuously) did not really view himself as a strategist or master planner but rather as a person who knew how to take advantage of an opportunity: in other words an opportunist.
That was brief introduction as well to Hitler’s thoughts but now lets move on to the 1950s a little post the decline of Hitler.
The 1950s: Master schemer or Opportunist?
After the war, many historians believed that it was too early for the production of an objective account of Hitler (Lukacs, interestingly, rejects the very terms ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’he believes that, since a historian’s instruments are words, which have to be chosen, therefore ALL writing is ‘subjective’. (Lemmons, 1994)) Nevertheless, the 1950s saw two accounts of note.
In first place we have Alan Bullock’s book , Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1952) which is now regarded as out-of-date. Bullockwho claimed that he wrote ‘without any particular axe to grind or case to argue’presented a Hitler little different to that of the Munich Post journalists at the time. He claimed Hitler was ‘an entirely unprincipled opportunist’ who was prepared to say, and do, anything necessary to get power. (Bullock, 1952). In particular, Bullock drew attention to the political manoeuvring which brought Hitler to power in 1933. He goes further to explain that if not because of his subordinates and loyalist Hitler would have been able to maintain his power in Germany. Similarly he claims Hitler never came up with any of the plans made in the late 1930s but rather only gave approval for their execution. Although Bullock’s work have been criticized as missing depth of analysis, they fail to keep in mind that his biography was the first written by a professional scholar, and just to get the facts straight, Bullock did a remarkably job in this biography given his extremely limited sources I would say it was s an impressive accomplishment. Bullock’s books stood test of time ; it is still in print and remains one of the most widely reads accounts of Hitler’s life. Alan Bullock’s opinions of Hitler, although unpopular at the time was very logical as he made very convincing argument and they were supported by spot on evidence. In a whole, Bullock is a reliable author hence his work are still valid today and I agree with him when it come to this as I believe that it was very unlikely that Hitler who was incapable of even getting himself to power be able to have gained such level of skill in the span of 2 years or so.
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“Mein Kampf presents a Hitler who had a relatively happy childhood (despite conflict with his father about his ultimate profession) during which his history teacher, Dr Poetsch, filled him with […]