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The Führer’s monologues (vii)

In his Anmerkungen zu Hitler, Sebastian Haffner argued that the character of the National Socialist leader was determined early on and ‘astonishingly always remained the same’. This is especially true of the basic ideological positions.[1] The proof was provided by Eberhard Jäckel in his study on Hitler’s Weltanschauung.[2]

Here we will only briefly touch on the thoughts that Hitler developed in the monologues recorded by Heim. The defeat of 1918, he thought, and the harsh terms of the peace treaty so wounded the national pride and self-confidence of the German people that they exerted all their strength to get out of the distress. Without the uncompromising attitude of the victorious powers of the First World War, it would never have been possible to inflame the national passions to such an extent, to achieve the will tension to regain the former world status. Hitler, in contrast to many of his followers and voters, sought it, however, only as a prerequisite for the establishment of a larger Reich, which at the same time was to become the organising power of a new Europe. To achieve this goal, no state should be in a position to oppose these aspirations. Hitler was deeply convinced that the land ‘according to eternal natural law’ belonged to the one who conquered it, ‘because the old borders did not offer sufficient possibilities for the growth of the people’ (table talk #117).

According to Hitler’s worldview, the first and most important prerequisite for the expansion of Germany’s sphere of power was the strengthening of the people’s vital energies, and the mobilisation of their readiness to fight. Since Hitler could not imagine history without war, he considered it necessary to educate the people to affirm the struggle for existence. He therefore consistently wanted the German people to wage war every fifteen to twenty years (table talk #17). Only in this way would they be able to summon up the utmost strength and maintain the necessary toughness. To get young and old, poor and rich, citizens and workers to identify with the National Socialist regime, to get them to unreservedly link their private existence with that of the state privileges were abolished, discrimination ended, and educational and promotional opportunities improved. Above all, the entire population was to be given access to the nation’s cultural assets. However, the National Socialist leadership reserved the right to determine what art was, and which works of music, poetry and painting corresponded to the consciousness of the people. In addition, Hitler expected everyone to take advantage of their opportunities, to make full use of the possibilities offered to them. If he failed to do so, if he deliberately withdrew from the struggle for life as demanded by the state, all support and tolerance would be withdrawn. The same applied to the people as a whole. Hitler spoke of them with appreciation and respect, and praised their diligence, loyalty and many other positive qualities. But he demanded that they accept the struggle and prove themselves in it. If they did not fight resolutely and bravely, if they showed symptoms of weakness, there was no excuse: ‘If the German people are not prepared to stand up for their self-preservation, fine: then let them disappear!’ (table talk #114)

Hitler himself spared no effort and no means to increase the strength and readiness to fight, but above all the inner unity of the nation. This was served by the attempt to bring as many people of German nationality as possible into the Reich from the occupied areas of Europe and other states, to have ethnic Germans or volunteers from related nations fight in units of the Wehrmacht or the Waffen-SS, and to enlist minorities or individual members of foreign nations, as far as they were considered assimilable, for cooperation.

The declared enemies of the regime were fought with the same uncompromising zeal that was used to select those who were considered useful and qualified according to ideological principles. These included, among others, Czechs, Poles, Russians and, first and foremost, the Jews. Hitler repeatedly emphasised with emphasis that there was no leniency for ‘aliens from the community’. It has recently been claimed that the deportation and murder of the European Jews took place without the knowledge of the German head of state.[3] According to another view, the order to kill them was only given after the conflict between rival forces had become so disastrous that there was no longer any alternative.[4] In my opinion, both theses are untenable. The assumption that the decision to the ‘final solution to the Jewish question’ in Europe was taken by Hitler in the face of the realisation that the war could no longer be decided militarily[5] is not confirmed either in these records or in other sources.

Hitler was the undisputed leader, he made or approved all essential decisions, including the most momentous of the whole war. The ‘removal’ of the Jews from Europe corresponded to the consistency of his worldview, as all his statements on this subject show. And the consequence of his actions from 1939 to 1941 can also be seen in the orders and measures he gave. The Einsatzgruppen that followed the German armies into Russia had clear instructions. On 31 July 1941, Heydrich was instructed to develop a concept for the removal of the Jews from the entire German sphere of power and influence. The fact that expulsion was no longer on the agenda is shown by the impediment and, from October 1941, the ban on all emigration. On 15 October the systematic deportation of Jews from Germany and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia began.

Ten days later, on 25 October, Hitler declared in the presence of Himmler and Heydrich at the Führer’s headquarters: ‘Before the Reichstag I prophesied to Jewry that the Jew would disappear from Europe if the war was not avoided. This criminal race has on its conscience the two million dead of the World War, now hundreds of thousands again. Don’t tell me: We can’t send them into the mire! Who cares about our people? It is good if we are preceded by the terror of eradicating Judaism. The attempt to found a Jewish state will be a failure’ (table talk #44). Without a doubt, all the fundamental decisions were made at this time. Heydrich then made the technical and organisational arrangements so that in November he could invite the state secretaries of all the ministries involved to the house on Wannsee for a meeting on 9 December 1941. The date for the conference had to be postponed given the events on the Eastern Front, but the ‘Final Solution’ was not. It began in December 1941.

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[1] Sebastian Haffner, Anmerkungen zu Hitler. Munich 1978.

[2] Eberhard Jäckel, Hitler’s Weltanschauung. Entwurf einer Herrschaft. Tübingen 1969.

[3] David Irving believes that Bormann, Himmler, Goebbels and others ruled the Reich while Hitler waged his war (Hitler’s War, p. 251). However, he fails to provide any convincing evidence for this.

[4] Martin Broszat, Hitler und die Genesis der »Endlösung« (Hitler and the Genesis of the ‘Final Solution’). On the occasion of David Irving’s theses. Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 25, 1977, p. 746 ff.

[5] Haffner, Anmerkungen zu Hitler (op. cit.) p. 157.