Hitler Should Not Have Been

Adolf_HitlerA good many people seem to have forgotten that if we don’t learn the lessons of history, we’re doomed to repeat them. There’s a lesson we should have learned from Hitler coming to power.

Hitler’s coming into being is not at issue, but the phenomena over which he presided—the creation of the Third Reich; Germany’s invasion of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland; World War II; the Holocaust—should never have taken place.

At the end of World War I, known at the time as the Great War, Germany underwent a revolution which brought to power a moderate government that walked the line between socialists and communists on one side and extreme right wing forces that believed democracy would weaken the country on the other. The new government took the form of a parliamentary republic system and became know as the Weimar Republic.

As the government was being set up and a constitution written, fighting continued between the extreme forces inside Germany.

A Soviet republic was declared in Munich, but was quickly put down by Freikorps and remnants of the regular army. The fall of the Munich Soviet Republic to these units, many of which were situated on the extreme right, resulted in the growth of far-right movements and organisations in Bavaria, including Organisation Consul, the Nazi Party, and societies of exiled Russian Monarchists. Sporadic fighting continued to flare up around the country. In eastern provinces, forces loyal to Germany’s fallen Monarchy fought the republic, while militias of Polish nationalists fought for independence (“Weimar Republic”)

You might liken these circumstances to the sectarian fighting between Sunni and Shi’a in Iraq along with the Kurds who want their own homeland.

The fledgling German republic faced problems from outside, too. The conquering Allies presented them with a repressive peace treaty which limited the size of Germany’s armed forces, took away land, and required impossible war reparations payments. In addition they maintained a blockade which stifled trade.

Soon the value of the new republic’s currency fell. Inflation grew along with unemployment, and the extreme elements, both left and right, blamed the moderate Weimar government for signing the Treaty of Versailles and for not solving the enormous problems it created.

For a short period, as America extended some financial aid that alleviated some of the pressing problems of the reparations debt and France worked with Germany to solve the land disputes, the Weimar Republic stabilized to a degree.

Then came the Great Depression. With unemployment soaring, the Nazi party gained enough votes in the German parliament to foil attempts to create a working coalition which would allow the government to function. Instead through the use of the emergency powers granted to the president by the constitution, a chancellor was appointed to operate independently of the parliament. Eventually that body was dissolved and new elections took place, bringing a shift away from the republic idea of government.

For three years the chancellor tried to reform the Weimar Republic, often ruling by decrees issued by the president. His policies were unpopular. A new chancellor brought some change, including a second dismantling of the parliament and more elections.

The Nazi party doubled in size but still no party held a majority in parliament. Political maneuvers continued for a year, but in the end, the president appointed Hitler to be the chancellor of Germany.

By early February, a mere week after Hitler’s assumption of the chancellorship, the government had begun to clamp down on the opposition. Meetings of the left-wing parties were banned and even some of the moderate parties found their members threatened and assaulted. Measures with an appearance of legality suppressed the Communist Party in mid-February and included the plainly illegal arrests of Reichstag [parliament] deputies. (“Weimar Republic”)

Late in February the parliament building was set on fire. The following day, using the state of emergency as motivation, Hitler had the president suspend parliament. With the new elections, the last multi-party elections and the last under the Weimar Republic, the Nazis took control.

But where were the Allies?

During all the unrest, the war-weary, depression era governments adopted an appeasement stance with Germany. So when reparation payments stopped, nothing happened. When the military began to rebuild and munitions once again were churned out from German factories, nothing happened.

Having taken a repressive stand early, the Allies now took a permissive approach, letting Germany solve Germany’s problems.

Hitler would not have come to power if the Allies had not treated Germany like a continuing enemy after the war ended, humiliating them and forcing their new government to agree to things that were bad for the country.

Hitler would not have come to power if the Allies had done more to alleviate the economic plight of the country, before the Depression.

Hitler would not have created the havoc he did if the Allies had not appeased him for so long.

So here’s the history lesson. Yes, we are war-weary in the US. Yes, we can say it was a mistake to go into Iraq in the first place, especially when we hadn’t actually won the war in Afghanistan yet. But as one veteran of Iraq put it, if you break it, you buy it.

If the US doesn’t “own” the new democratic government in Iraq, it is destined to go the way of the Weimar Republic. And who knows what Hitler is waiting in the wings to rise to power.

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Published in: on June 20, 2014 at 6:55 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] Speaking of learning from history, I found this post about the rise of Hitler and today's tensions in Iraq to be thought-provoking. There's also a lot more to read in my Other Posts of […]

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