by David Irving
My conclusions on completing the manuscript startled even me. Hitler was a far less omnipotent Führer than had been believed, and his grip on his subordinates had weakened with each passing year. Three episodes—the aftermath of the Ernst Röhm affair of June 30, 1934, the Dollfuss assassination a month later, and the anti-Jewish outrages of November 1938—show how his powers had been pre-empted by men to whom he felt himself in one way or another indebted. While my Hitler’s central and guiding pre- war ambition always remains constant, his methods and tactics were profoundly opportunistic. Hitler firmly believed in grasping at fleeting opportunities. ‘There is but one moment when the Goddess of Fortune wafts by,’ he lectured his adjutants in 1938, ‘and if you don’t grab her then by the hem you won’t get a second chance!’ The manner in which he seized upon the double scandal in January 1938 to divest himself of the over conservative army Commander in Chief, Werner von Fritsch, and to become his own Supreme Commander too, is a good example.
His geographical ambitions remained unchanged. He had no ambitions against Britain or her Empire at all, and all the captured records solidly bear this out. He had certainly built the wrong air force and the wrong navy for a sustained campaign against the British Isles; and subtle indications, like his instructions to Fritz Todt (page 21) to erect huge monuments on the Reich’s western frontiers, suggest that for Hitler these frontiers were of a lasting nature. There is equally solid proof of his plans to invade the east—his secret speech of February 1933 (page 25), his memorandum of August 1936 (pages 40–41), his June 1937 instructions for the expansion of Pillau as a Baltic naval base (page 50), and his remarks to Mussolini in May 1938 (page 88), that ‘Germany will step out along the ancient Teutonic path, toward the east.’ Not until later that month, it turns out (page 92), did Hitler finally resign himself to the likelihood that Britain and France would probably not stand aside.