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The Polysemic Configuration of Hitler’s Regime

Info: 2033 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 18th May 2020 in History

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“Hitler had no clear aims and was essentially a pragmatist. Events took the course they did because of circumstances, not according to Hitler”[1]

The polysemic configuration of Hitler’s regime and the reality of his prearranged, strategic and premediated decisions, does not, by any means, constitute an organised führer. However, his ability to understand his enemies and with his adjutants and adviser’s assistance throughout his campaign, has by no surprise, led many historians such as Hugh Trevor- Robert, to believe so. Proceedings of expansion, such as Lebensraum and the Anschluss of Austria were, without a doubt, long-awaited diplomacy of Hitler’s in the lead up to World War II, however, how and by when, these measures were to be implemented, has been an effective contrasting argument used by opposing revisionists. Historians such as A.J.P Taylor who maintain reason against the view, ‘of Hitler as a perfected planner’, raise arguments to where Hitler had little or no direct incentive of scenarios to play out, such as, The 12th of March 1938 Anschluss with Austria, The 1938 September Munich Crisis and The October 1938 Sudetenland Crisis. These historians argue that although he did have overarching strategies, Hitler, like any other leader, had major flaws in his plans and was not ready for everything thrown his way. They also expose Hitlers overwhelming miscalculations and misinterpretations regarding certain events, to address the flawed metafiction of Hugh-Trevor Robert and other likeminded historians. All these factors present an antithesis of facts and redirect the authenticity of the researchers understanding of the topic. Nevertheless across the broad spectrum of events that unfolded prior and during the Second World War, A.J.P Taylor, Alon Bullock and many other historians have unravelled nothing less than the reality, that Hitler was indeed an opportunist, however, like any bilateral analysis the topic is of constant historiographical revision.

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The ‘5th of November 1937 Hossbach Memorandum’, was established and stipulated on the foundation of, Colonel Friedrich Hossbach’s (Hitlers military adjutant) notes, during a four-hour meeting. The objective of the meeting was to resolve priorities in the allocation of raw materials and labour; however, Hitler used the opportunity to make a demanding speech regarding his specific plans for the future of Germany. Although this document is candidate for much speculation, criticism and subject to a great deal of historical controversy, typically due to revisionist analysis, such as A.J.P Taylor, it still constitutes as a reliable testimony of Hitlers inner thoughts and plans, despite its questionable minutiae. In this speech Hitler posed two main contingencies, firstly that, “the aim of German Policy was to make secure and to preserve the racial community [Volksmasse] and to enlarge it. It was therefore a question of space! [living space]” – The Führer[2]. Hitler also feared the debauched rearmament of other major powers, and hence “it was his unalterable determination to solve Germany’s problem of [living] space by 1942-45 at the latest”. [3]Colonel Friedrich makes a clear account of Hitlers instigative strategy on what hindsight now establishes as, ‘the invasion into the Sudetenland’ (Czechoslovakia), and thus poses as an argument and laid the foundation of Hugh-Trevor Roberts view, that Hitler strategized and varnished all his future decisions.[4] In Hitlers second main contingency, Colonel Friedrich states that “if France was either embroiled in internal strife or war then Germany could act sooner to overthrow Czechoslovakia and Austria simultaneously”.[5] The document here makes a direct assumption on Hitlers strategic tactics to control both Czechoslovakia and Austria, thus leading post-revisionist historian, Geoffrey Pridham to state, “in this address [document], Hitler had for the first time expressed a concrete commitment to war in terms of specific goal/ plans- Anschluss with Austria and the destruction of Czechoslovakia- within a specific time limit”.[6] However although this testimony had lead many audiences to believe that Hitler fashioned definitive long-term plans and strategies, A.J.P Taylor a complexed foundation of revisionist thesis, in his ‘Origins of the Second World War’ states that, “Hitler’s exposition was in large part daydreaming, [and was] unrelated to what followed in real life.”[7] A.J.P Taylor, then proceeded to retain his argument by stating in his second edition of the book that “the meeting had no significance” and condemned the reliability of the document as, “not being a proper record”.[8] Contrary to this view, other members of the conference relate, that the Hossbach Memorandum was intact with the proceedings and plans arranged at the meeting and therefore establishes a reliable testimony of the accounts.

In order to determine the reality of the circumstance, of whether or not, Hitler planned both the Anschluss of Austria and the war on Czechoslovakia, one must account for the more measured historical analysis presented. The opportunity to intervene in Austria was precipitated by the destabilising activities of the Austrian Chancellor, Schuschnigg. On the 12th of February 1938 Hitler denigrated Schuschnigg with a “verbal barrage of assaults, psychological pressure and threats of invasion” [9]. Due to this encounter Schuschnigg was forced to accept ten demands including the appointment of an Austrian Nazi in the politically important post of Interior Minister, thus enforcing an unwanted plebiscite of which Hitler had not planned for. Seeing as though the Austrians were not entirely fond of Nazi ideology at the time, Hitler had no other option but to take the not so strategized decision of military intervention, despite his fear that Mussolini would not like it. Nevertheless, in a letter received by Hitler after his justification to Mussolini, it stated that “the ‘Duce’ (Mussolini), accepted the whole thing in a very friendly manner[10], an thus solidified the view that Hitler had not planned for the Anschluss, rather adhered to the circumstances available, not measured by his intentions. Hitler possessed a personal animosity towards what he liked to call, the ‘sub-people’ (Czechs), and in doing so, effectively advanced the development of internal destabilisation within Czechoslovakia by funding the 3.5 million Germans living in the ‘Sudetenland’.[11] Historian and scholar, Hugh-Trevor Robert, states in relation to this, that “ Hitler had a clear vision that involved a master plan”,[12] however confounding evidence reveals that there were no immediate plans for the takeover, as is documented in Noakes and Pridham’s ‘Nazism’ that “he [Hitler] abandoned this [plan] in May 1938 in the wake of what he felt to be a humiliation”,[13] that instead of what he had planned to be a destruction of Czechoslovakia, he established a partial partition. In their account, they state that “all these decisions [Czechoslovakia and Austria] were not ideas which were realised at the moment of their conception”[14], and thus, within the broad framework of these long-term objectives, Hitler had no immediate action of invasion into Czechoslovakia, nor had he constituted a foundational strategy of the Anschluss of Austria, but rather, they became a matter of improvisation and he became subject to flexibility in the objectives of circumstances not of his own makings, consequently supporting the view that Hitler was indeed, rightly or wrongly, what A.J.P Taylor calls ‘a pragmatic’ opportunist in the lead up to World War II.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Alphabetical Order


  • Bell. P, ‘The Origins of the Second World War’
  • Crozier. G, Germany 1866-1945, p.702, 1978
  • Simpson. W, ‘New Perspective’, p.34, 1996
  • Haffner Sebastian, Defying Hitter, ’Hossbach Memorandum, November 1937’
  • Noakes and Pridham Geoffrey, English translation: eds., Nazism, 1919-1945. Foreign Policy, War and Racial Extermination


[1] Taylor A.J.P, ‘Origins of the Second World War’, http://www.dandebat.dk/eng-taylor3.htm, p.27, 1961

[2] Hitler Adolf,(The Führer) by Friedrich Hossbach, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/hossbach.asp, Case 1, 1937

[3] Haffner Sebastian, Defying Hitter, ‘Hossbach Memorandum’, November 1937’, p. 49, 2000

[4] Simpson. W, ‘New Perspective’, p.34, 1996

[5] Hitler Adolf, (The Führer) by Friedrich Hossbach, Case 3

[6] Pridham Geoffrey, English translation: eds., Nazism, 1919-1945. Vol. 3: Foreign Policy, War and Racial Extermination. p. 117. 2001

[7] Haffner Sebastian, p. 49

[8] Haffner Sebastian, p.50

[9] Bell. P, ‘The Origins of the Second World War’, p.29, 1998

[10] Haffner Sebastian, p.51-52

[11] Crozier. G, Germany 1866-1945, p.702, 1978

[12] Hilton and John Hite, Weimar and Nazi Germany, p. 400, 1998

[13] Noakes and Pridham, ‘Nazism’, Vol 3, p.712, 2001

[14] Noakes and Pridham,Vol 3, p.725


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