Even a cursory survey of world history sadly confirms the validity of Lord Acton’s oft-quoted observation: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, the 20th-century’s most notorious monster, turned that notion of cause and effect on its head. Hitler was already “corrupted absolutely” before he gained “absolute power” in Germany in 1933. Germany’s power – political, economic, diplomatic, and most important, military – was corrupted by the Third Reich’s supreme leader, not vice-versa. For the 12 murderous years (1933-45) the “Thousand Year Reich” lasted, Hitler wielded Germany’s corrupted power to plunge Europe into a hellish nightmare.
In this issue, we examine the important events, influences, experiences, personalities and decisions that enabled Hitler to seize total control in Germany. Or, to use today’s pop-culture phrasing, we’re “deconstructing Adolf.”
Battlefield Leader traces Hitler’s steadily progressing control and eventual domination of Germany’s military professionals that enabled the dictator to take complete charge of the German war machine. As author Nick Shepley points out, the key to Hitler’s success was his “defeat” of the German General Staff, the vaunted organization that had masterminded Prussia’s/Germany’s battlefield triumphs since the mid-19th century. Yet Hitler’s flaws as a military commander – principally rooted in his World War I combat experience as a corporal – actually helped the Allies win World War II.
Years before Hitler took power, he wrote: “If you wish the sympathy of the broad masses, you must tell them the crudest and most stupid things. Propaganda must be limited to a few simple themes, and these must be represented again and again.” That is exactly how he used to his advantage the much-maligned 1919 Treaty of Versailles that formally ended World War I. However, as revealed in Special Feature, the German propaganda claims that the treaty was overly punitive and imposed prohibitively costly reparations that destroyed the German economy are demonstrably false. Despite how generations of historians have represented the Versailles treaty – “again and again” as Hitler advised – it is guilty of none of the things for which it has been blamed. In fact, most of what everyone “knows” about the treaty is simply wrong.
Other fascinating subjects covered this issue include ancient history’s greatest conqueror, Alexander the Great; the Roman-Jewish War, A.D. 66-73; Kublai Khan’s 13th-century Mongol navy; Mexican-American War “flying artillery,” 1846; the Civil War Battle of Honey Springs, 1863; Japanese army infantrymen, 1937-45; and two key 1944 World War II battles that put YOU in command.
Jerry D. Morelock,PhD, “Armchair General” Editor in Chief.
Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Armchair General.