Hitler: Part 3 ~ Act Two — 1918-1939; Act Three — the beginning of WWII

by faithgibson on September 13, 2014

Act Two: The Great War Ends in Victory and Humiliation

Having been fought on the megalithic scale of an industrialized, mechanized and technologically-enhanced , the Great War permanently ended the traditional codes of chivalry and honor that the nobility and its armies had lived and fought under for centuries. Even more important, the military and historical events of that era also brought an end to all the great ’empires’ on the European Continent.

When the “Central powers” (i.e. the Austrian, German and Ottoman Empires) were defeated it was far more than just a military defeat, most especially for the German people. When Kaiser Wilhelm abdication the throne of the Hohenzollern Monarchy, the German Empire founded by Bismarck in 1871 (also known as the “Second Reich”) abruptly and totally collapsed.

By default Germany had suddenly become a new republic with a democratic form of government. Historically the German aristocrats and its wealthy industrialists had little experience or and virtually no interest in democratic ideas. But like it or not, the ruling class soldiered on and created a constitution that on paper made Germany one of the most liberal democracies in history. The Constitution provided that political power begin with the German people and return to the people via a fair judicial process in the event of disputes.

The enumerated right of the people included:

  • equality for all
  • political minority representation in the new Reichstag
  • cabinet & chancellor elected by majority vote of the Reichstag
  • president elected by the people

Unfortunately, post-WWI Germany was in political and social chaos. Left-wing Marxist groups were proclaiming Russian-like revolutions, which in turn triggered violent opposition by a right-wing nationalist group called the Freikorps, who were actually a small corp of ex-soldiers for hire.

Nascent German democracy begins its down-hill slide into chaos

The self-appointed leaders of the new German democracy made a deal with the German General Staff which allowed the generals to maintain rank and privilege in return for the Army’s support of the young republic and a pledge to put down Marxism and help restore order. In January and again in May of 1919, regular Army troops and the Freikorps rounded up and murdered communists, Socialists and many innocent bystanders in Berlin and Munich in .

In the middle of intense political turmoil in Germany, the Treaty of Versailles was signed by the victorious Allies on June 28, 1919, and dutifully ratified by the German democratic government. Under the terms of the treaty, Germany was forced to give up land to France and Poland. But even more egregious for the German people (and ultimately for history), they alone had to accept responsibility for causing the war, and pay the equivalent of $75 billion in reparations for damages caused by the war.

“The Treaty had the effect of humiliating the German nation before the world. This would lead to a passionate desire in many Germans, including Adolf Hitler, to see their nation throw off the “shackles” of the treaty and once again take its place in the world – the “rebirth” of Germany through a strong nationalist government.
In years to come, Hitler would speak out endlessly against the treaty and gain much support. In addition, he would rail against the ‘November Criminals’ (Remember November) and the idea of ‘Jewish Marxists.'” {1}

 Sources: Wikipedia and {1} the History Place


Intergenerational Affect of 20th Century Industrialized War ~ 1918 to 1932

One immediate but far-reaching consequence was the ‘socializing affect‘ associated with these new mechanized and industrialized ways for waging wars. This affected four separate generations of men directly involved with the military, and all the high-level civilian leaders that called the shots from smoke-filled back rooms.

The volume of weaponry that was now capable of such deadly efficiency educated these men in ways to destroy enemy combatants and civilian populations on masse. But the real issue was the socialization; industrialized war introduced a new and very negative social norm — the de-personalized and ultimately trivialized the act of killing human being. In today’s world, we might describe this as a new computer video game that allowed its player to actually “off” real people from the convenience of their own home.

This kind of thinking was pervasive and began with the hundreds of thousands of fresh-faced 16-year old recruits, and moved up the age ladder to more experienced soldiers and sergeants. It included officers who commanded the fighting troops, older generations of generals who determined military strategy, and finally to the civilian heads-of-state who declared war and determined the objective goals of their military.

The industrialization of killing was an intergenerational ‘gift’ that kept on giving.

By the end of the Great War, wholesale killing was no longer a rare or exceptional event that required hundreds of thousands of troops fighting it out in a pitched, face-to-face battle. Modern war was now a faceless and everyday impersonal staple of our industrialized world.

This provided the crucial element that turned ordinary acts of war aimed at enemies of one’s country into a targeted “holocaust“. This vocabulary was first used in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. It originated with the Greek concept of “whole” (holo) and “to blast apart” (caust). Holocaust is functionally defined as:  cataclysm, catastrophe, devastation, annihilation; massacre, slaughter, mass murder, extermination, extirpation, carnage, butchery; genocide, ethnic cleansing, pogrom.

Until the 20th century, holocaustic acts of military destruction were generally (and thankfully!) rare. After the industrialization of mechanized methods of war, holocaustic capabilities were turned into everyday tool of government that, 20 years later, would effectively neutralized the resistance of the German people. This in turn would permit Hitler’s dictatorial government to orchestrate the inexpensive and extraordinarily profitable genocide of two-thirds of the Jewish populations of Europe.

Like the social forces of racial prejudice and economic self-interest that invented and perpetuated the enslavement of black Africans in the US, the sustaining momentum of the holocaust in Germany that began in the 1930s is another sad example of “follow the money!”

While the military conflict of the Great War ended with Germany’s surrender in November of 1918, it is more accurate to see the dynamics of these intertwined events by thinking of WWII as simply part two of the 1914 Great War.

While armed fighting had stopped and there was a lull of sorts from 1918 to 1939, the Great European War between the Central Powers (Germany and other countries supporting Austria claim against Sebria) and the Great Powers (Britain, France, Russia and others opposed to Austria’s claim) was not actually resolved until the infinitely more fair reparation of Germany (1946-48) that following the 1945 end of WWII.

But the reality in 1918 was an armistice agreement demanded extremely punitive reparations. In theory this demand for economic compensation was a claim against all the countries that lost the war. But unfortunately the only country that was still geographically intact and had a sort-of functioning economy was Germany.

Bluntly put, the fervor by the countries that won WWI to make their enemies “pay” (which irrationally turned Germany into a proxy for all the countries that lost the war), actually created the political monster we now call a “failed state”.

The economic, social and political consequences for the German population of a $75 billion debt was humiliating, demoralizing and destabilizing. Eviscerating its economy and its sovereign national identify set the country up to be taken over by a vicious dictatorship.

However, the fundamental reason this succeeded was the absence of a broad-based and politically effective resistance by the citizens of Germany.  As reprehensible as Hitler and his vicious and self-serving co-conspirators, they are now (thankfully) dead. The motivates behind why they did what they did are perhaps still interesting.

But understanding the why the necessary push-back by the German population never arose is far more important, as this give us ‘actionable information’ that we can use to help prevent a repeat performance. This will be addressed in the next and final act of this tragic trilogy.

Act Three: Thirteen years of hell-on-earth between 1932 to 1945

The build-up to WWII ~1932 to 1939.  

Act three begins with the build-up to a second worldwide war started in earnest on January 30, 1933 with Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor of Germany. Hitler immediately set his ruthless internal policies in motion by unilaterally replacing a representative (i.e. democratically-elected) government with his own dictatorship.

Six weeks after being appointed as Chancellor, Hitler issued the “Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People“. This illegal executive order laid the leal ground work for German concentrations camps as a systematic method for eliminating political opposition on the mere “suspicion of activities inimical to the State“.

Contemporary Americans should note that the first domino in what was to become one of the most brutal governments in the history of world started out by issuing an edict that lowered the threshold for criminal detainment of its citizens to the merely a ‘suspicion’ of that someone was doing something that might (possibly) be wrong. These repressive concepts were neither constitutional nor legal defined, which is what made them so deadly dangerous.

 1933: Hitler invents a personal lean, mean killing machine

Hitler’s patriotic words about protecting German people in “the interest of public security and order” were actually used by his him and his Third Reich henchmen to summarily arrest and imprison anyone they pleased for any reason or no reason at all.

Because Hitler’s “Decree of Protection” describing these extra-judicial arrest as “protective custody”, the police and SS could hold such prisoners indefinitely without criminal charges, access to an attorney, proof of probable cause, a chance to make bail, seek redress, or any other judicial process

With no limits and no accountability, the SS began systematically rounding up Hitler’s political opponents and anyone thought to be anti-Nazis, which even included union organizers and member of the Catholic clergy. Other german citizens were arrested on the vaguest of accusations and unsubstantiated claim by someone with a score to settle, or saw this as a great opportunity to get business rival out of the way. Within a short time, hundreds of political hostages had overwhelmed the conventional prison system. Concentration camps were the obvious next step — a state-sponsored system for arresting, interning, and exploiting political prisoners.

With the stroke of a pen, Hitler created the perfect example that yes, “absolute power” really does corrupt absolutely.

Concentration Camps for the Germans as a political strategy

The plan for indefinite internment of its own population simultaneously achieved three diabolical goals:

  • controlling the German population through fear and intimidation
  • creating a hostage extortion racket that lined the pockets of the guards and SS elite and incentivized additional criminal activities on Hitler’s behalf
  • supplied an unlimited stream of slave-labor for manufacturing guns, war planes, and bombs

Eliminating the need to pay civilians employees for work in armament factories gave Germany a huge advantage in waging war.

The first of many a concentration camps was authorized by Hitler to be built outside Berlin. SS guards routinely threatened, abused, starved, beat, even tortured and killed political hostages with impunity. Sometimes they held prisoners for ransom, forcing families to pay huge sums to get a father, husband or brother out of the camp.

The SS officers in charge of the camp saw the potential for a lucrative extortion racket by having the SS arrest upper-class Germans from all walk of life and hold them until a suitable ransom was received. Jewish professionals (doctors, lawyers, university professors, etc) were disproportionally targeted for extortion, as they generally had the means to pay, while at the same time, Jews were unlikely to have substantial politically influence or garner public’s sympathy.

This system of political suppression was raised to a whole new level of evil just three months later when a second concentration camp was established at the city of Dachau (near Munich), which had a large munitions factory. The plan was to use the camp’s inmates as a slave-labor force to make the bullets and bombs for the German military.

By the end of the war in 1945, Hitler’s systematic imprisonment of political hostages had been turned into a mini-empire of SS-owned factories and war industries located in close proximity to concentration camps.

Inevitably, news of the concentration camps leaked out to the public. Combined with the extra-judicial arrests that were well-known by the public, rumors of the horrific mistreatment and exploitation of its prisoners spread a nagging fear among the Germans people, which suppressed effective political opposition to Hitler or his Nazi regime.

[ref: www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline.htm]

Adolf Hitler — an equal-opportunity killer on a global scale

His campaign to neutralized any individual or political ‘push-back’ by the German people, Hitler moved on to political assassinations on a grand scale sure to strike fear in the heart of potential dissidents of any background. An internal operation later referred to this as “The Night of the Long Knives”, during which Hitler ordered his top officers to purge 200 of his own high-ranking military and popular political rivals during the period of June 30 to July 2, 1934.

In addition to the mayhem and murder any organized crime, Hitler’s plan was purposefully designed to make the top level of his staff publicly demonstrate their personal loyalty to him by having each one shoot one or more of his targeted victims.

By making them equal partners in crime with him, Hitler knew he would have complete control over his inner circle of officers and advisors and could count on them to carry out his orders without questions or hesitation. The bold and very public assassination of high and low ranking members of society on a wholesale level was also meant as a stark object lesson to the average German.

Extra judicial killing plainly said: “Better think more than twice before you criticize Hitler or his policies, because the SS storm troopers will simply shoot you”. The vicious public killing of a few thousand people provided Hitler with virtually total control over many millions of people. If it weren’t so heinous, one would have to admit that it was economically and politically brilliant.

As already discussed above, Hitler’s next ‘big’ thing was to institutionalized terror as an official government policy, and systematize atrocities via the organized extermination of millions of Germany’s own Jewish population, along with a smattering of deserters, dissenters and other ‘undesirables’.

Formal Beginning of WWII ~ Upping the ante by invading Poland and starting/finishing another Great War

As a sadistic, power-hungry, nut-case, no amount of success was ever enough for the Fuhrer his purposeful betrayal of civilized values.

Having temporarily run out of ways to further damaged the German republic, Hitler was forced to expand into the international arena. In 1936 he sent Nazi troops to invade and occupy the demilitarized zone between Germany and France (the Rhineland). Europe was stunned by his audacity, but fear of another “Great War” (i.e. the military holocaust of WWI) was psychologically immobilizing. For many for good, bad and indifferent reasons, politicians all across Europe were unwilling to use military force (such air and sea as blockades) or political actions (such as sanctions and freezing bank accounts) to stop Germany’s out-of-control Third Reich.

Emboldened by his easy and unopposed victory, Hitler’s next move was to forcibly ‘annex’ Austria and the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. Under Hitler’s threat of military force, the political leaders of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia all quickly capitulated, allowing their countries to become satellites powers under the control of Nazi Germany.

Taking every opportunity to make a bad situation worse, Hitler and the fascist dictator Mussolini formally agreed to combine their military resources and unify their policies and objectives. The “Berlin-Rome Axis Agreement” created a joint military force known as the”Axis” powers. Emboldened by this new and expanded arrangement, Hitler and Mussolini both ordered their armies to march through the countries of western and eastern Europe like a herd of drunken teenaged causally gobbling up Nachos.

In Eastern Europe, Albania, the Free City of Danzig, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Moravia were toppled one after another. To justify a German attack on Poland, Hitler fabricated and orchestrated a ‘false-flag’ event so he could publicly claim that Poland, as a neutral country, crossed Germany’s borders and its military was planning to attack.

None of this was true, but nonetheless Hitler’s troops quickly invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939, crossing its western boarder on the pretext of a justified ‘retaliation’. The profoundly diabolical nature of Nazism became instantly clear in Hitler’s order to the German military: “‘to kill without pity or mercy all men, women and children of the Polish race or language.”

Two weeks later, the Soviet Red Army invaded the eastern half of Poland. After Poland fell, it was divided east-to-west between its German occupiers and the Soviet military. Hitler’s vile plan to exterminate all Polish civilians had just begun.

These events left Britain and France with little choice but to declared war with Hitler’s Germany, marking the technical start of WWII. Apparently war with the British and French this all was part of his plan. Using the German army’s new “blitzkrieg” tactics, Hitler immediately followed the assault on Poland with a Nazi invasion and occupation of nearly all the independent countries of Western Europe. Blitzkrieg was the systematic use of lightening-fast attacks, combined with overwhelming military numbers — the original ‘shock and awe’ concept of military battles.

During the next two years, the civilian populations of Finland, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Yugoslavia and Greece were attacked one after another . Invaded countries were forced to either surrendered or fall under a prolonged and brutal military attack that lasted for weeks or months before their cities were destroyed and their starving population pounded into submission by Nazi storm troopers.

As if being at war with all of Europe was not enough murder and mayhem any one person, Hitler’s troops were order to invade the Soviet Union in May of 1914. By December 1941, Hitler also declared war against the United States, making this into a truly global conflict worthy of its name — the Second World War.


 Hitler: Part 4 ~ Act Three continues as Hitler et al wages war against Europe, while coducting a national policy of euthanasia against Germany’s “undesirables” and against the entire Jewish population of Europe

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