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Hitler in Rehab

It is time for the quest of Hitler sympathizers to be demolished.

by Jonathan Wilson
March 3, 2009

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Hitler in Rehab

Adolph Hitler has been the subject of a decades-long revisionist history project. The orthodoxy that Hitler was an insane, murderous racist who launched the Second World War has been called into question by his revisionists. This orthodoxy is challenged because of the post-modern suspicion that history is written by the winners. This suspicion is used by Hitler revisionists to insinuate that there were credible elements to his philosophy of race and government, since we cannot trust the judgment on those issues by "the winners" of the Second World War.

It is time for this effort to rehabilitate Adolph Hitler to be demolished.

History is the study of documents to gain perspective on the events of the past. Primary sources include legal documents, memos, personal diaries, treaties, grocery lists, speeches, ancient historians retelling other ancient histories, road signs, maps, carvings and glyphs--anything and everything that makes a statement about something. Historians try to determine whether they are reading a grocery list or an internal government memo, and then interpret the document's or object's significance in relation to events.

A post-modern suspicion is that history is "written by the winners." This is a legitimate suspicion, leading to such alternative histories as Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a history of the conquest of the American Plains written from the perspective of a Native American, Dee Williams. This sparked the conscience of the majority culture as it called into question the ideologies of manifest destiny, rugged individualism and frontier domination which had shaped majority America's perceptions of itself.

The interpretive stance of post-modern suspicion is influenced by Marxist philosophy, which reduces all history to economic causes.

Diversity in perspective, coupled with the awareness of economic causes, has produced a more nuanced view of history.  The study of history is richer and more meaningful in the post-modern context than in any other to date.The critical question becomes, when is the "revised version" that accounts for interpretive suspicion, to be preferred over historical orthodoxy? Some factors on this issue:

1. Are voices being heard that had been suppressed?

2. Is the revised version continuing to account for the documented evidence?

Consider dialog in the United States about our Civil War.  History, claim Confederate sympathizers, had been written "by the winners." The Yankee version about slavery and equality and national unity, the progressive notions of the mid-19th century, were trumped up to justify the violation of state's rights and the invasion of northern carpet-baggers, which was REALLY what the war was about.

Yet the minutes of the Confederate Congress clearly demonstrate the connection between the institution of chattel slavery and the Confederacy's view of itself. The race-based culture mutated from slavery into post-Reconstruction "Jim Crow" segregation. Meanwhile, voices sympathetic to the Confederacy have gotten all kinds of positive press and exposure  since the end of the war. The silent movie Birth of a Nation, filmed in 1915, is a baldly racist tribute to the Ku Klux Klan. The novel and movie Gone with the Wind confirmed those myths for millions of Americans in its description of the epic struggles of a southern belle.

So against the Yankee Manifest Destiny view, the Confederate Sympathies view "of the loser" has always had a voice and expression in American culture, even before Marxist and "post-modern" structures revolutionized history as a subject. The reason that the Confederate viewpoint has gotten such exposure, is that those with a Confederate viewpoint continued in power and influence.

It was the African American voice that, until around forty years ago, had been suppressed.With the post-modern priority for diversity, African American voices began to be heard. From the struggle for abolition to the struggle for civil rights, from Sojourner Truth to Jesse Jackson, America's black leaders have entered their rightful place in the telling of the story of constitutional compromise, supreme court rulings, civil war, segregation, and struggle.  The result is that there is now less sympathy for the Confederacy than ever before, which is wonderful.

The revised history of Adolph Hitler can be seen at internet web pages that "raise questions about the Holocaust", and in the government of Iran, among other places. It is not taken seriously in academic circles; but anything that takes root in popular and political culture is a phenomenon of concern. Here are some key points in the revisionist rehabilitation of Adolph Hitler:

1. If the Holocaust happened, it was not as bad as the orthodox historians claim; besides, it was put together by his underlings. 

2. It was a war the United States had no business entering.

3. The Treaty of Versaille was unjust, therefore Hitler was justified.

4. The western leaders Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt were hardly paragons of virtue and idealism, therefore Hitler's idealism had some virtues.

5. Hitler's main agenda was to destroy Communism, and Stalin was more evil and murderous than Hitler, so maybe the western alliance should have helped Hitler. At the very least they should have stayed neutral while Germany restored its own frontiers, and then went on the offensive against the Soviet Union.

6. Since the modern state of Israel was born out of a collective expression of guilt for the so-called "holocaust," international Jewry has a vested interest in its version of Hitler and World War II. Such a version is therefore suspect; Jews need us to believe it in order to give the modern state of Israel legitimacy.

The real problem for the Hitler sympathizers is that the study of World War II has itself occurred within the post-modern intellectual milieu. In this environment a multitude of diverse voices have contributed to a nuanced and complex "orthodox" history of the Second World War. The presentation in retrospect is not the same as the newsreel propaganda during the war. The global scale of the horrors of the regime became clearer through the voices of its victims, from Coventry to the Crimea.

Many religious groups honor heroes who were martyred by the Nazi ideologues in the death camps of the holocaust. These include Catholic, Protestant and sectarian adherents. For example, to deny the holocaust is to deny the experience of Germany's Jehovah Witnesses. Or are they in on the "Jewish Conspiracy to Justify Israel's Existence" and to what profit?  Hitler revisionists are not only callous to the suffering of so many, they are woefully ignorant of the truth.
 
A huge number of texts have been published that were written by the losers of World War II: I have read autobiographical books by the pilots and tank officers of the Third Reich which invite us to engage the humanity of German combatants. These texts inevitably speak of a sense of being betrayed when the true colors of the Nazi regime evil was unveiled in defeat. The officers in these autobiographies were not concerned with rehabilitating the image of Adolph Hitler. In this post-modern milieu American veterans, the "winners," wrote novels describing their horror and experience with biting cynicism: Kurt Vonnegut Jr. wrote Slaughterhouse Five about the Dresden fire-bombing, and Joseph Heller wrote Catch 22 about Air Corps life in a base in Italy.

Books in my elementary school library, and the history curriculum of my eleventh grade, took pains to point out:

1. The Treaty of Versailles after World War I was unjust, vindictive and humiliating.

2. There were lots of opportunities for the western powers to stop Hitler before 1939.

3. There was general indifference to the plight of the Jews in Germany from the rest of the world, including the refusal of many western powers to allow asylum to Jewish refugees from the regime.

4. Churchill was cynical.

5. The Nazis were never elected by a majority of Germans.

6. And finally: The diplomatic maneuvers of the western powers did NOT make Hitler into what and who he was; in their worst failures, the western powers gave Hitler his opportunity.

Churchill and Eisenhower wrote their books. So did Anne Frank and Corrie Ten Boom. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his books, and so did Albert Speer. The amount of information from multiple perspectives, in print and on film from every theater of the war, dwarfs anything we have from previous wars. Churchill's version and the newsreels of 1944 contribute to the mountains of primary source material, but they do not constitute the "orthodoxy" concerning the Second World War.

On May 8, 1930, Hitler was a witness at a trial in Leipzig in which two Nazi storm-troopers were accused of murder in the deaths of communists in a street fight. The prosecuting attorney, Hans Litton, on examining Hitler, proved that the Nazi party was treasonous in its very platform. Nevertheless Hitler got his plurality in the election two years later, then declared martial law in February of 1933. The morning after the Reichstag burned, Litton was jailed. He died in Dachau.

This is a matter of record, not of fantasy or of conspiracy among "the winners." To say, as some insinuate, that Hitler "was okay in the beginning" before being "forced" to fight World War II, begs the question: What beginning? The first thing he did as chancellor was set the Reichstag on fire, jail political opponents and construct concentration camps! Was he good when he wrote Mein Kamp in 1924? He touted ruthlessness as a philosophy, and promised to expand Germany's lebensraum.

The record of Hitler's monstrous regime contains a stupendous amount of information. Those that want to rehabilitate him, those that want to suggest that his villainy is actually a Jewish smear campaign to benefit modern Israel, are like aquaphobes sitting on the beach next to the Pacific ocean. Since the ocean is so big and they are afraid of water anyway, they would rather pretend that it does not exist.

It is time to shut the Hitler Rehab project down, and consign him forever to the place in history where he belongs: damned both by God and humanity.

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