Like a massive earthquake, Hitler’s war forever destroyed a world order with Europe at its center. After 1945, the United States became the world’s principal driving force. The shift of Poland’s borders to the West, the Soviet Union’s dominance of Eastern Europe, which would last until 1989, and the partition of Germany — none of this would have happened without World War II.
And at the root of it all was a man who — if one is to believe his contemporaries — was just 1.75 meters (5 foot 9 inches) tall and who weighed a mere 70 kilograms (154 pounds), a man whose guttural pronunciation betrayed his Austrian origins: Adolf Hitler, born in the town of Braunau am Inn.
But is it possible for one man, no matter how powerful a dictator, to set the entire world on fire? For some time, there have been growing doubts about the previously generally accepted view, and the consensus today is that the situation was far more complex than once believed. It remains indisputable that World War II would not have happened without Hitler. But it is also clear that a number of factors helped to turn the Nazi leader’s war fantasies into reality.
One of those factors was the compliance of conservative elites in the military, the civil administration and the world of business. They did not share Hitler’s crude concept of racial superiority, and many of them feared a war with the Western powers. Nevertheless, they dreamed of acquiring global power and had aspirations to create a Greater Germany that would, at the very least, dominate Eastern Europe. They included men like Franz Halder, the commander-in-chief of the army, who announced in the spring of 1939 that his men had to overrun Poland and would then, “filled with the spirit of having emerged victorious from enormous battles, be prepared to either oppose Bolshevism or be thrown to the West.”
The first question is, what is all about Hitler? Like this quotation already suggests, things are way more complicated than a few lines of a blog post might suggest. If you are interested in the history of WW II, you should read the whole series.