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Hitler?s World View (Weltanschauung)
In the early quarter of the twentieth century, a young man was beginning to fill his mind with ideas of a unification of all Germanic countries. That young man was Adolf Hitler, and what he learned in his youth would surface again as he struggled to become the leader of this movement. Hitler formed views of countries and even certain cities early in his life, those views often affecting his dictation of foreign policy, as he grew older. What was Hitler?s view of the world before the Nazi Party came to power? Based in large part on incidents occurring in his boyhood, Hitler?s view included the belief that Jews should be eliminated, and that European countries were merely pawns for him to use in his game of world dominion.
Adolf Hitler grew up the son of a respectable imperial customhouse official, who refused to let his son do what he was most interested in?art. Hitler never excelled in school, and took interest only in art, gymnastics and a casual interest in geography and history due to a liking he had taken to his teacher. It was his history teacher who would fill Adolf?s mind with a simple thought: “The day will come, that all of us, of German descent, will once more belong to one mighty Teutonic nation that will stretch from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, just like the Empire of the Middle Ages, and that will stand supreme among the peoples of this earth.” Already the young Adolf could envision himself in such a position.
Much of the ideology that Adolf Hitler used was not original by any means. There were many thinkers and writers who laid the groundwork for what would become not just Hitler?s, but the Nazi Party?s Weltanschauung (world view). Three primary writers were Dietrich Eckart, editor of a harshly anti-Semitic periodical, Auf gut deutsch (Agd), Alfred Rosenberg, a Baltic German and contributor to Agd, and Gottfried Feder, an opponent of finance capitalism. These three men moulded the political outlook of the German Worker?s Party before Hitler encountered it in 1919, and would become quite influential in Adolf?s ideology. Rosenberg contributed largely to Hitler?s view of the Jews on an international perspective, suggesting the existence of a Jewish conspiracy to overthrow established nation-states on a worldwide scale. In 1924, Hitler proclaimed that he had departed from Vienna as an absolute anti-Semitic, a deadly enemy of the whole Marxist outlook, and as a Pan-German in his political persuasion. The Pan-German movement was dedicated to achieving the defence and fortification of the German Volk (people) everywhere in the world.
The elimination of the Jews was but one item on Hitler?s agenda, however. Hitler wanted to do away with the Versailles Treaty, which he saw as criminal. He also believed that Germany should not ally itself with any other nation, except perhaps Italy and England. Italy, because of its Fascist regime under Mussolini, and England, because it could be considered a Nordic region. While he would go on to ally himself with Italy, his views of these two nations would change drastically later. As for other European nations, Hitler?s idea of expansionism laid the groundwork for his relations with them. Lebensraum or living space, which Hitler mentioned in his book Mein Kampf, had been a key concept for German National Socialists. It was an old concept, not inconsistent with beliefs held since the Middle Ages. Hitler believed that an increase in his country?s living space would effectively improve the health and well being of his Volk. As Hitler stated in his Secret Book: “A healthy foreign policy therefore will always keep the winning of the basis of a people?s sustenance immovably in sight as its ultimate goal.”
Hitler was very hostile towards France and saw the French as a hereditary enemy that was always looking for a chance to annex the left bank of the Rhine so as to have a “natural” frontier with Germany. Hitler was ready to support a war against France at any time and any cost.
England was portrayed as one of Germany?s absolute enemies, even though Hitler had considered making an alliance at one point. Hitler thought that England had been the Weltmacht or world power for too long and was not a worthy ally because they assisted the Jewish cause and had allowed Jews to hold influential positions within the state. Hitler also said that the British people had a reason to be proud though, because even though they were only a people of a few million, they ruled practically 1/5 of the earth. This, Hitler claimed, had to do with racial purity, British national feeling, and its ability to turn conquered enemies into friends. He was especially impressed with the British idea that “might makes right.”
In contrast, Russia was not considered an absolute enemy of Germany, but was rather an enemy because of unfortunate situations on their part. Hitler maintained that war had never really been necessary between Russia and Germany, that there were no real conflict of interests. He also maintained that Russia had become Germany?s enemy only because of Austria and the failure to renew Bismarck?s Reinsurance Treaty with the Russians. Although Hitler did not see Russia as an absolute enemy, he did despise the Russians, whom he saw as inferior people because of their Slavic origins. Hitler saw the government run by Jewish capitalists as well, which only made him despise them more.
Italy was in the same category as Russia in Hitler?s view. He again blamed poor relations on the Austrians. Hitler?s main reason for an alliance with Italy would be to use it to destroy the Versailles Treaty. His desire to “liberate” Germans living in South Tyrol from Italian rule did not do much for Italo-German relations. On the other hand, Italy was concerned about an alliance with Germany because of the possibility of a German-Austrian Anschluss. There was a contradiction between Hitler?s suggestion of an Italo-German alliance and his Grossdeutsch ambitions for Germany.
America, like France and England, was seen as Germany?s absolute enemy because of its opposition to Germany?s becoming a major world power. Hitler theorised that England opposed this for fear of losing its own stand in the world powers, France because it wanted to settle old scores and America in order to protect investments in the Entente nations.
Japan did not fit into a category in Hitler?s view, because he felt that there was no conflict of interests if Japan wanted to keep the whites out of Asia. It is unclear whether Hitler was saving the possibility of an alliance with Japan later, or if he had racial qualms concerning an alliance with a non-white nation. Either way, Japan did not play an extensive role in Hitler?s view of the world in the pre-war period, although Hitler had insisted that an alliance with Japan could help lead Germany “into a new future.” Hitler saw the Japanese in a similar light as the Germans; hard working, martially aware, racially unspoiled and with little living space. While he showed restraint in advocating an alliance, Hitler recognised the strategic value of Japan on the Russian front.
Such was the outlook of Hitler in the years before power. His emerging Weltanschauung was due to the ingestion of Pan-German propaganda in his youth. His ideas of Lebensraum were less economic in nature, but rather slogans of Pan-German coinage. His entire foreign policy was based upon his beliefs and views of the country in question, and what he could manipulate out of that country. I do not believe that Hitler had uncontested world dominion in mind before his party came into power. His views and beliefs in regards to other countries, however, certainly show that his thoughts were leaning in that direction. One man?s outlook would soon become a nation?s driving force.
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