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Comment: Was Hitler to blame for World War II?

September 7th, 2009
04:07 PM ET
History lays the blame for World War II firmly on Adolf Hitler. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
History lays the blame for World War II firmly on Adolf Hitler. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

History is the propaganda of the victors. Accordingly, Germany's Adolf Hitler has been assigned total blame for starting World War II in Europe, history's deadliest conflict in which 50 million died.

Interestingly, the 70th anniversary of World War II has reopened old wounds and ignited an ugly battle of words between Russia and its unloving neighbors, Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic states. The latter two accuse Moscow of having stabbed them in the back in 1939 by becoming a partner with Nazi Germany.

The parliamentary assembly of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe recently held the USSR and Germany `equally responsible for World War II.’ After 70 years, it’s about time.

`A flat-out lie,’ angrily retorted Russia’s president, Dimitry Medvedev. The war cost the Soviet Union 25 million dead. Russians are quite right in believing that they, not the US and British Empire, defeated Hitler’s Germany. Russians fought with incredible heroism, suffered unthinkably casualties and damage, and ground Nazi Germany into dust. The Allies played an important but comparatively far less important role in Europe against an already defeated and ruined Germany.

Underlining Moscow’s worrying rehabilitation of Stalin, Medvedev claims the Soviet dictator saved Europe from Hitler and rejects all attempts to equate him with Hitler.

But the facts say differently. Stalin was an even worse mass murderer than Hitler by a factor of three or four. Stalin was also a much cleverer strategist, war leader and diplomat than Hitler, who stumbled into a war that Germany could not possibly win and for which it was woefully unprepared.

Click here to read the rest of this article on Eric Margolis' Web site.

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  1. Adam Kibbey

    World War Two was always going to happen, regardless of who started it. A continent full of empires was always going to result in war. Either Spain, Germany, Italy, Britain, Russia or France was going to have another crack at taking the continent some time or another; it just happens that World War One created a vengeful, pride-damaged Germany, who felt that they should have more space.

    World War Two needed to happen. Europe simply required a continental war so great, that all involved would be in ruins, simply to put them off the thought of doing it again. Previously in history there had been similar conflicts – the Naploeonic Wars (France's effort to take Europe), and the Great War (Imperial Germany's attempt) – but none had left enough citizens dead for a real desire for change to result. Had Germany not been ruined post WW2, perhaps Italy would have had more time to build forces under Mussolini, who knows.

    September 7, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  2. Gunnar

    "The facts say differently"... oh dear.

    September 7, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Reply
  3. Leo

    Agree with Adam, WW2 was going to happen whomever happened to start it.

    Hilter has been cast in the role of the 'boogey-man' and I'm not going to say he wasn't. But don't forget he was surrounded by very clever, and equally strange, and (though I normally hate to use absolutes) evil people – so who was really in charge?

    One slightly worrying aspect of Adam's statement: if WW2 was 'going to happen anyway', does this imply that WW3 is going to happen sooner or later, anyway? So whose turn is it to wear the Hitler Hat?

    September 7, 2009 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  4. P Rajeswaran

    WW3 will not happen thanks to the marvelous communication technology that had portrayed – rather exaggerated- the disastrous outcomes of WW2! There is no country that is now safe from any kind of retaliatory attack and hence no one will venture into large scale wars.
    Clashes will always happen everywhere around the globe for access to and control over water resources!

    September 8, 2009 at 5:33 am | Reply
  5. ants

    The way to WW2 was opened of the Munic agreement Sept. 1938, allowing Hitler occupy Chechs. But doubtless Stalin intended about 1940-41 attack not only Germany, merely the whole Europe.

    September 8, 2009 at 5:36 am | Reply
  6. ghost geezer

    The question is stupid. The causes of WWII were
    as in most wars complex and some reached for back into
    history. Hitler is of all people the most to blame, followed
    immediately by Hirohito, whose bellicose leadership was
    sanitized by MacArthur in the cause of stabilizing Japan
    after the war ended.

    But questions like this are entertainment triggers. Understanding
    the causes of war is a serious business since defusing the
    potential for further war depends on thorough understanding, In
    the case of Germany, the Treaty of Versailles at least has to
    be understood as a fuse. But that fuse extends further back,
    to Napoleon and Talleyrand, and even further.

    Please spare us these time wasting, crowd baiting questions.

    September 8, 2009 at 5:41 am | Reply
  7. Herman

    Both Germany's and Russia's involvement had their roots in the ruins left there by WW1.

    But remember, it was the pact between Germany and Russia, that gave Hitler the lee-way to start WW2, by the agression versus his eastern neighbors.

    So in my view it is still Hitler-Germany that actively started WW2, with Sovjet-Russia holding open the door. And both were pushed by all the sentiments that grew on the unhappy dealings by the victors of WW1.

    September 8, 2009 at 9:18 am | Reply
  8. OP

    I also heard a lot about America big business people supporting Hitler up to 1940, dont u think it is worse then arguing about the country who won the war ?

    September 8, 2009 at 10:33 am | Reply
  9. Leo

    People who find these time wasting, crowd baiting questions so time wasting and crowd baiting that they appear to be falling over themselves to waste time telling everyone how time wasting, crowd baiting these questions are.

    Well, thank you.

    Why are you bothering to reply to the thread (I accept you are perfectly entitled to, of course 🙂 )

    September 8, 2009 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  10. Vishwanath

    Absolutely agree with the statement that "Treaty of Versailles" was a big fuse.It ensured that the conflict that started WW-1 does not end.Europeans' lack of imagination and foresight was firmly established by the raucous manner in which they dealt with the post WW-1 world(instigated on by USA ofcourse).
    What i find equally amusing is the European tendency to blame everything on Hitler.As if racism,anti-semitism,slavery..All concepts and notions of superiority were actually created by Hitler himself.(Any voracious history reader knows that Hitler was a fool and a coward surrounded by brilliant generals and scientists).Hitler was a symbol of what Europe once was.When are Europeans going to accept that??

    September 8, 2009 at 1:49 pm | Reply
  11. n

    Hitler didnt really do anything but hint at what he wanted done to the brainiacs around him... He wasn't THE cause but he was A cause.. So many other factors instigated WW2.

    September 8, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Reply
  12. Jack Stout

    Comparing deaths in Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union is easily misunderstood. They were both evil leaders; but since Stalin survived so many more years, the deaths are naturally going to be higher. Many of the SU deaths were part of a program to reorganize the country's agricultural structure. A bad way to die, but clearly different than a gas chamber.

    When a leader orders large segments of their population to be killed, that is a very different thing than to ignore suffering and ignore the welfare of people, which then results in their deaths.

    Germany never had a chance to defeat the SU. How far was Germany going to have to invade until all of Russia was defeated? This is not France. The Germans had more than 3900 miles to go from Moscow to get to Vladivostok. They didn't have the fuel to drive that far, they didn't have the bullets to fight their way that far and they didn't have the men to control the land in between. So even if Moscow, Leningrad, etc fell, they would have still had way too much territory to capture and hold.

    The explosive theory in the blog and the book upon which it is based is that Stalin offered Poland as a trap for Hitler. Plausible, but even if they hadn't Hitler might still have invaded Poland. After all, part of Germany was isolated from the rest by Poland. Hitler also made eastern Poland easier to occupy by invading western Poland.

    Both men were nuts, evil and uncaring. Both used war to strengthen and enlarge their power. Both committed genocide. If Stalin was worse it was because he avoided overplaying his hand.

    September 8, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  13. Brian C.

    You know, half the world actually learns that Japan started World War II when it invaded China, earlier than Germany invaded Poland. For some reason, the west doesn't acknowledge that it was a war until they were fighting.

    September 9, 2009 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  14. Herman

    Well, the problem with the Sino-Japanese wars is, that it started much earlier, in 'incidents', so the two countries were already at an intermittent war since 1931. That is why these are normally not included into the start of WW2, although the ending was in the same period.
    Similarly the Spanish Civil war, that started in 1936, with a heavy hand from Germany on one side, and similar help from the Soviet-Union, is not included in WW2, it may be seen as a prelude.

    September 9, 2009 at 2:21 pm | Reply
  15. Carleddy Saint Jean

    World War Two was always going to happen, regardless of who started it. A continent full of empires was always going to result in war. Either Spain, Germany, Italy, Britain, Russia or France was going to have another crack at taking the continent some time or another, and hitler really wasn't the reason why it started. Also, if hilter actually went into war he would have lost anyway as well because the german army wasn't that strong.

    September 9, 2009 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  16. Jack Stout

    The Japanese occupation of Korea dated back to 1905 with annexation in 1910, so I don't think you can say 1931 because that is when Japan invaded China. Therefore WWII started before WWI, which causes an obvious confusion in the numbering scheme.

    Until there were at least two world-class powers fighting against one another it wouldn't be called a "World War". Until Pearl Harbor & Japan declaring war on the European allies the Japanese actions were really colonial actions.
    Likewise the begining of WWII is dated to the German invasion of Poland, not Czechoslovakia because the Czech invasion was not opposed by a major power.

    I submit that what is known in the US as the French & Indian War and is known in Europe as the Seven Years War was really the first World War, since it was fought around the globe, various countries on each side, etc. And it was all started by this young British Colonial officer named George Washington.

    Therefore 7YW=WWI, WWII=WWII, WWI=WWIII.
    We just have to change the names of two other wars and we can keep WWII as WWII, even though it started before August 1914. We just have to explain how WWIII (nee WWI) caused WWII as most historians agree it did.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  17. basha

    for sure Adolf Hitler is hard 1 and all we know about him and people have feeling about him and waiting for more bad reply .
    But some people like him , and not expose yourself you like hiter.
    we are in 2009 we are talking about Hitler
    is darkness to light, now we have many masks that people died without reason.

    September 11, 2009 at 3:59 am | Reply
  18. Yonah

    The blame for WWII falls exclusively on the Germany. Stalin would have perhaps invaded Poland unilaterally had Hitler not taken the initiative, but this is merely speculation. It was Germany, appraised of the fact that Poland had signed defense treaties with France and England, that invaded Poland and started WWII.

    In the midst of a great financial crisis, the German people elected a socialist who ran on a platform of change, and promised to stick it to internationalists and bankers. He offered Germans universal health care, wasted millions on public works projects, and put the country on the verge of bankruptcy. The solution? Team up with socialist Russia and steal Poland.

    September 11, 2009 at 5:19 am | Reply
  19. Lawrence Howard

    This is revisionism - pure and simple. The facts lay out a different narrative - Sure the USSR was wrong to get into bed with Germany - however they suffered badly and ended up fighting back with very high human loss. The idea that the US and UK were not that important is also revisionism. Without the US the outcome of the war could well have been very different. Germany was racing to make an atomic weapon - time was of the essence. The US (and UK) input in men and material (money investment) tipped things that gave us the outcome that we wanted. Assigning responsibility... perhaps Germany 85 or 90% and the USSR at 10 or 15% max. The value of the US involvement - 100%. Without the US this war would have run for many more years and that single fact gives rise to a completly different outcome. How is it possible for people to publish revisionist / fringe ideas in the face of so much knowledge. Shame on them.

    September 12, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  20. Rich

    No, it was George Bush, as everyone should know.

    September 12, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  21. Rich

    Yeah, Hitler just"stumbled" into that blitzkreig thing in Poland – you know, with all those tanks and dive bombers and things – and started the war by accident.

    September 12, 2009 at 4:11 pm | Reply
  22. Nawaz.B.T

    well,may be the blame, is on hitler......................sir adulf hitler,but he was a genious....................and on instance he has that line to say for............................................a soldier dies ,a mother cries a nation..nations sing that harmonize world.......................but tell me...us when it will happen ........who is responsible for this kind...............peace revealing job?

    February 16, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Reply
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