Would WWII have happened without Hitler?


Fact Box

  • Although the leader of Germany during WWII, Adolf Hitler was born in Austria in 1889 and “never advanced beyond secondary education.” Wishing to study art, however, Hitler applied to Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts on two separate occasions but was never granted admission. For Hitler, the experience of serving the Bavarian military during WWI was a “great relief from the frustration and aimlessness of civilian life.” 
  • Signed in 1919 after the first World War, the Treaty of Versailles explained that Germany was “responsible for starting the war and imposed harsh penalties on the Germans, including loss of territory, massive reparations payments and demilitarization.” 
  • World War II, which began on September 3, 1939, and ended on September 2, 1945, involved the so-called “Axis Powers” of Germany, Italy, and Japan fighting the “Allies” of France, Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. The estimated 50,000,000 deaths attributed to the war made the conflict the bloodiest in history. 
  • Although there are conspiracy theories that Hitler fled to Argentina at the end of WWII, the official story is that on April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide “by swallowing a cyanide capsule and shooting himself in the head” in his underground bunker in Berlin. This act effectively led to Germany “unconditionally [surrendering] to the Allied forces, ending Hitler’s dreams of a “1,000-year” Reich.”

Elliot (Yes)

The Second World War would have still happened if Hitler had never been born. The Treaty of Versailles humiliated Germany and severely weakened its economy. It was only a matter of time before someone rose up and channeled that humiliation and hatred among the population toward war and redemption. 

Hitler wasn't the only person motivated to change things during the Weimar Republic. There was also Dr. Goebbels, Himmler, Hess, and so on. All of these major Nazi party members rose to fame independently, and they helped build the Nazi party together after the Beer Hall Putsch. The only reason Hitler took the leadership role was that he was an excellent public speaker. That said, someone else would have taken Hitler's place, as there was a vacuum in Germany that was just begging to be filled by a strong, fascist leader. Dr. Goebbels, for instance, was also an extremely effective public speaker. 

Additionally, there were other fascist states at that time that would have sparked a world conflict. Italy is a prime example--although the war would have been over much sooner due to Mussolini's poor military. On the other hand, Japan would have still posed a significant threat with its imperialist desires throughout China, Asia, and perhaps most notably, Australia. Russia might have also caused a world conflict--and indeed, it did in a delayed manner via the Cold War. In fact, one might argue that Hitler's rise to power prevented the inevitable clash between Russia and the West, at least for a few decades. Without Nazi Germany, the Cold War would have simply happened sooner, and without Hitler, we would call the Cold War 'World War II.' 

Luke (No)

The Treaty of Versailles and Germany's economy are often cited as the primary motivations for World War II. Yet, Hitler had already halted the payment of reparations, as laid out by the treaty, by 1933. While Hitler's economic focus on military production had made the German economy unsustainable, the fact remains that the German economy was no longer in shambles, having had sufficient time to recover in the post-war era.

Throughout history, there has never been a shortage of people wanting to start wars; however, these voices are generally not listened to. For a nation to be driven to war and willing to sacrifice for a cause, the people must be inspired to do so. As the historical record demonstrates, Hitler was an excellent orator who could sway the masses in his favor. So strong was Hitler's charisma that it was felt worldwide, even earning Hitler the cover of Time Magazine as Person of the Year in 1938. 

Another important aspect concerning Hitler's unique rise was his backing by an influential, occultic, and highly antisemitic organization, the Thule Society, which is important for two reasons. One, Germany and the rest of Europe were and still are considered Christian, putting the members and adherents of the Thule Society at odds with the religious and philosophical beliefs of Europe during that time. And two, the Thule Society's strong antisemitism was a driving force behind Hitler committing the Holocaust.

Given these facts, it seems reasonable to assume that the start of World War II required Hitler—or someone with the exact same temperament and qualities. Because despite his horrific agenda, Hitler’s incredible charisma was enough to garner his nation’s support and start the most prominent war witnessed in modern history.

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