9 1 4-45
The conservatives, having won round Hindenburg, thought that they could control the new government. There were only three Nazis in the cabinet: Hitler as Chancellor, Frick as Minister of the Interior and Goering as Minister without Portfolio. Those responsible for this accession to power could not have envisaged the eventual fruits of their manoeuvres, the years of war and the gas chambers. However Hitler's anti-democratic intentions had already been made clear, not merely in Mein Kampf, which few of these aristocratic intriguers had consulted, but also in his speeches, and in the speeches of other Nazi party leaders. The brutality of the Nazis was also already evident from the street violence which they had fostered. There was no ambiguity about the Nazis' intention of using democracy in order to destroy it. It seems equally clear that a large section of the German population who voted for them, as well as important elements in the German establishment, had the same intention. How is this readiness to ditch democracy to be explained? Germany had undergone defeat, followed by traumatic economic crises, both of which had undermined the legitimacy of the Weimar Republic. But the rejection of democracy also reflects defects of the German political culture of the time. Arnold Brecht, a German bureaucrat of the old school (who also happened to be a convinced Social Democrat), wrote in his memoirs (The Political Education of Arnold Brecht) of 'the political immaturity, ignorance and shortsightedness of the average German citizen regarding the special risk of uncontrolled authoritarian government'. Spared the arbitrary government and civil war of seventeenth-century England or the absolutism of the French ancien regime, the Germans 'were entirely blind to the dangers threatening their nation and themselves if they were to transfer unlimited power to one man or group.' If Weimar had some chances of survival before 1929, it had very little chance afterwards, not just because of the Slump but also because of the attitudes and actions of the German electorate and their political leaders. This does not mean that Nazism was its inevitable replacement. Nazism came to power as a result of a miscalculation by conservative politicians and the military after a large number, but by no means a majority of the electorate, had put it in a position to contend for power. Those who intrigued Hitler into power were opposed to Weimar democracy and favoured a return to authoritarianism, but they neither wanted nor expected the triumph of Nazism. Patrick Salmon lectures in History at the University of Newcastleupon-Tyne.
Alan Bullock Personality in History: Hitler and Stalin
A perennial A-level dilemma is how to explain the rise of Hitler and Stalin and the horrors that were carried out under their rules. Drawing on his recent research, Alan Bullock offers some clues.
I do not believe that either Hitler or Stalin created the historical circumstances of which they were able to take advantage. Nor was there anything inevitable about the rise of either man. Neither would have succeeded had it not been for a stroke of luck. In Stalin's case this was the unexpected death of Lenin at the early age of 54; in Hitler's the unexpected chance offered by the economic depression which hit Germany with such force that it allowed him to convert the Nazi vote of 800,000 in the election of 1928 to over 6 million in 1930, and to double that again to over 13 million in 1932.
Men of destiny
The motivation of both men was a passion to dominate, a need to dominate, which they combined with a belief about themselves that they were men of destiny, destined to play a great role in the world. In both cases this belief was linked to a feeling about history. Stalin derived his sense of mission from an identification with the creed of Marxism-Leninism, a creed he believed had uncovered the laws of historical development of which he was to be the agent. Hitler too saw his destiny as a part of history. 'I often wonder,' he said, 'why the ancient world collapsed.' He thought the explanation was Christianity, the invention of the Jew, Saul of Tarsus, better known as St Paul, who had played the same disintegrative role in the ancient world as Bolshevism, the invention of the Jew, Karl Marx, had in the modern. He saw himself having been born in a time of crisis similar to that of the ancient world, at a time when the liberal bourgeois order of the nineteenth century was disintegrating and when the future would lie with the egalitarian JewishBolshevik ideology of the Marxist-led masses, unless Europe could be saved by the Nazi racist ideology of the new elite which it was his mission to create. Hitler was quite open in what he had to say about himself. He spoke of himself confidently as a man called by Providence to raise
were they any more than figureheads. with the Russian-nationalist. Declaring that no one could take Lenin's place.EUROPE 1 9 1 4-45 HITLER AND STALIN Germany from the humiliation of defeat in 1918 . In 1939 Hitler. Stalin had been carried into office by the October Revolution of 1917. But in laying claim to be the successor to Peter the Great. had still to complete his revolution.' Stalin's seizure of power Stalin presents an entirely different picture. and owed his subsequent promotion as General Secretary of the party to Lenin's favour. While Hitler had to create his own party and win mass support in a series of open elections. 10 years younger. In Stalin's hands this was enough to enable him to out-manoeuvre his rivals (above all Trotsky) by accusing them of abandoning 64 Leninist principles and branding them as guilty of factionalism and of dividing the party in pursuit of personal ambition. just when he realised that he had made a mistake and was planning to revoke Stalin's appointment. were deeply hostile to anything like a cult of personality. so miracle-like to the audience. They would have been counterproductive with the audience he had to win. you may ask. whoever was nominally in command? Certainly neither series of changes would have been possible without the commitment and active participation of a great number of other men. In all great deceivers a remarkable process is at work to which they owe their power.who effectively governed the huge country. By this means. In the process had Stalin and Hitler not become prisoners of the systems and bureaucracies it had been necessary to create. not Lenin's successor.such as regional secretaries . the expressions. with its huge populations and complex organisation. they are overcome by their belief in themselves and it is this belief which then speaks so persuasively. the Marxist-Leninistideological. in which he succeeded in establishing his own claim to be. And Nietzsche added: 'not only does he communicate that to the audience but the audience returns it to him and strengthens his belief. the gestures. no individual. In the very act of deception with all its preparations. could have carried them out by himself. 11 years before Hitler was born: Men believe in the truth of all that is seen to be strongly believed. the dreadful voice. It was the combination of these two traditions. which characterised the Stalinist state. Stalin was already coming to see his revolution as a continuation of the historic tradition of the tsarist state. in which he played a minor role. during the 1920s. but he had taken a decisive step towards it by freeing himself of dependence on the traditional German elites who had helped him into power. Stalin possessed none of Hitler's charismatic gifts. No one has described the charismatic attraction someone like Hitler could exercise on an audience better than Nietzsche. Great men in history But how far. arguably the greatest demagogue in history. His great gift was as a speaker. he called for a collective leadership. however gifted. Stalin had to keep this belief to himself. he refused to abandon the claim to the revolutionary succession as well. The Bolshevik Party. both refracted through the medium of Stalin's own personality. however. but the guardian of his legacy. Unlike Hitler. the 5. whose continuation in office depended upon their continuing to satisfy the expectations of their supporters? How could it be otherwise? In the modern world.the first stage of re-creating a new racist empire in the east of Europe. The least fancied of the contestants for the succession. By the end of 1939 each man had achieved a unique position which admitted no rivals and no opposition. Stalin built up a body of clients (to borrow a term from Roman history) who knew very well on whom they depended for preferment and what was expected of them in return. as good Marxists. surely no individual can exert an influence upon the course of history comparable with that exercised by rulers in earlier times . At the same time he used his position as General Secretary of the party to manipulate appointments to the nomenklatura. and by breaking through the barrier between peace and war with the attack on Poland. the closed world of the central bodies of the Soviet Communist Party. His chance came by an extraordinary piece of luck when Lenin died in January 1924. The revolution which Stalin had imposed on the Russian peoples between his fiftieth and his sixtieth year (1929-39) had completed the work left incomplete when Lenin died. by restoring Germany's dominant position in Central Europe with the occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia. at the early age of 54.for example the Tsar Peter 65 . At some stage.500 leading party office holders . were these personal achievements? Are they not rather to be seen as the product of socio-historical forces which both in Russia and in Germany would have produced the same result. he formed the same conviction as Hitler that he was destined to play a great role in history. For Stalin to allow any hint to appear of his conviction that he had a historic role to play would have been fatal to his advancement.
concentrating his attention on his long-term interests of foreign policy. this meant Hitler. whenever he chose to. Having created a unique position of authority for himself. t As a general proposition. but it was part of the fiction necessary. There was. allowing him to make arbitrary interventions. The sole basis of the Nazi regime was a single law. This removed the police function and the power of coercion from the state. Stalin was the more reserved. in fact. 'the "highest Soviet authorities" have decided'. that this should be presented as the spontaneous tribute of the Russian people. It was the fact that Stalin held it. Hitler performed best in the limelight. but also concealed. personal power inherent in the man not the office. Stalin operated in the shadows. The 'cult of personality' increasingly projected him as of more than human stature. in the settled societies in which we live. On the pretext of defending the Bolshevik Party and the Leninist tradition. from top to bottom of the bureaucratic hierarchy. Stalin was more the calculator. The only office Stalin held until 1941 was as General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. The formula employed for any decision was impersonal. laws were soon replaced by decrees. 'administrative chaos' – very different from the outside world's picture of a monolithic totalitarian state. the secret was all the more powerful because everyone in office knew that this meant Stalin. hating routine. Ley – free not only to build up rival empires but to feud with each other and with the established ministries in a continuing fight to take over parts of each other's territory. Such a state of affairs suited Hitler very well. and more and more withdrew from it. he left the more powerful of the Nazi leaders – Goering. just as it was the fact Stalin held it that made the office of General Secretary of the party the most important in the Soviet Union. The two most powerful of these were the Four Year Plan headed by Goering – which absorbed an increasing share of the German economy and eventually the economies of the occupied countries as well. the Enabling Act. 'permanent improvisati In'. As the cabinet met less and less frequently and not at all after February 1938. placing it in the hands of a body unknown to the constitution and responsible only to Hitler himself. yes: who could disagree with it? But let us look a little more closely at the nature of the power Stalin and Hitler exercised. Himmler.EUROPE 1 9 1 4-45 HITLER AND STALIN the Great and the Prussian King Frederick the Great. had to be arbitrary and intervention unpredictable – at any level he chose. with whom Stalin and Hitler identified – when the scale of events and the forces engaged were so much smaller. too. power. But like Hitler he was determined not to let his power be defined or regularised. if he was to continue to lay claim to the Marxist-Leninist as well as the tsarist succession. rearmament and war. the experienced administrator. Hitler's position was exactly the opposite: head of state. never repealed. but openly acknowledged in Hitler's. Hitler the more flamboyant. To a degee unthinkable in the case of Stalin. The Georgian was un homme de gouvernement. so keeping the civil service uncertain of his intentions. Stalin's power was not only personal. At first sight. giving the cabinet the power to enact laws. We have still to go on and ask. disciplining himself to regular work. that it was effective. At the same time he outflanked it by setting up special agencies for tasks he regarded as urgent. however. who asked no more than to serve them and the party as its general secretary. the Austrian still the artist-politician. The Weimar constitution was never formally replaced: the constitutional rights of the citizen were only 'suspended' by emergency decree. all combined in the unique title of Fuhrer of the German People. For him. But it was the fact that Adolf Hitler was the Fuhrer that gave the office its authority. The exercise of power The fact that Hitler's and Stalin's power was personal in character was no guarantee. was real not formal power. who detested administration and absented himself from his Chancellery for long periods. with the priority for rearmament that Hitler demanded – and the fusion of the police and the Gestapo (secret police) with Himmler's SS empire. Goebbels. sprung from the Russian people. that made this the most important office in the Soviet Union. The result has been variously described as 'authoritarian anarchy'. The style was different but the nature of the power they exercised was the same. head of party and supreme commander. Stalin wiped out the 67 . Stalin rarely left the Kremlin and demanded that his secretariat keep him informed of everything. a great difference in style between them. of course. Only with the war did he become formally head of government and Supreme Commander. The only difference was that this was concealed in Stalin's case. but that this must never be mentioned in public. Hitler was determined not to see it institutionalised or defined. Unlike Hitler. what was the relationship between the two individual leaders and the massive bureaucracies which were characteristic of both Communist Russia and Nazi Germany. to be effective. But Hitler was not interested in the day-to-day business of government. This is the key to the extraordinary series of purges and show trials launched by Stalin in 1936–39. passed by the Reichstag in March 1933. embarrassing to a man. Hitler the gambler. head of government.
including torture and death. What they made sure of was that their power remained inherent in the man. Stalin's revolution from above. the nationalised industries. in the Soviet Union. operating outside the law and licensed to use any degree of force necessary. Stalin won support in the party because he argued that this could not be put off. 5 million of that total was due to a man-made famine which Stalin deliberately imposed on the Ukraine in order to break peasant resistance.the det'ils of which remain obscure . he replaced them with a rising younger generation . not executioner. without warning. Russia was overwhelmingly a peasant country: 80% of its population.and some historians since . The whole Communist Party as well as the security forces and the army were involved. if the Communist programme was to be carried out. Himmler and Bormann.' Amongst the proofs are 383 lists of names . took care to conceal his role. It could only be accomplished by force. In December 1934 Kirov was assassinated (almost certainly on Stalin's initiative) and over the next two years Stalin made his preparations for the series of purges and trials which I have already described. Today this is a fact. already proved. but no one ever supposed that he would attempt to carry it out and collectivise the 25 million peasant holdings in one or at most two years . so far as is known. And with a twist characteristic of Stalin. Nonetheless. My second example follows on from the first.to replace him with Kirov. From the operations on the ground. 120 million people.000 villages. The maintenance of personal power Let me try to draw together the threads of my argument. the NKVD itself was subject to the purge: those who carried out the interrogations and secured confessions by torture knew all the time that they might be cast in the role of victim. the state ministries. with another 3. of whom around one million died in the camps. The move failed and an open split was avoided. Stalin. But Stalin did not forget. provided Stalin. but the driving force behind collectivisation. their responsibility was of a different kind from and greater than that of anyone else.Khrushchev's and Brezhnev's generation . like Hitler in the Holocaust.who had never known Lenin or any other leader than Stalin. crimes and mistakes committed during these years.that was impossible but that they were free to decide anything which they chose. The first is the collectivisation of Russian agriculture. lived in 600.in all. neither Stalin nor Hitler had any intention of letting themselves become prisoners of a system. once they came to power. Although muted. the will to complete it in four years. and a move at the 1934 Party Congress . I shall illustrate my argument with half a dozen examples. without consulting or requiring the agreement of anyone else. 40.and Russian agriculture has never recovered from the methods he used. I have sought to show that. Neither Hitler nor Stalin. responsible solely to him personally.5 million dying in the labour camps later.a social upheaval on a scale for which there is no parallel in history except Mao's Great Leap Forward. The human cost is estimated at 11 million lives. he organised and directed the purges. The security police. but even the evidence we already have leaves no doubt that Pravda was right when it declared in April 1988: 'Stalin did not simply know. in Germany and as collaborators in the occupied countries. which was modelled on it. responsibility reached up through the bureaucratic hierarchies where the thousands of 'little Hitlers' and 'little Stalins' abused their power without waiting for orders from above. But the purge was not abandoned. Goering. with an instrument specially created to carry out arbitrary decisions. whatever the cost. was Stalin's . and the cultural establishment as well as the party hierarchy. Of course Stalin and Hitler do not bear the sole responsibility for the actions. ever witnessed or personally took part in the acts of terror and repression which were not peripheral but absolutely central to the exercise and preservation of their power. All told. The intensity of the purges in the late 1930s could not be maintained without dangerously weakening the Soviet Union. but instead of turning aggression inwards and setting one class against another. and that they could do this. Millions of men and women were involved. not the office. to Hitler's and Stalin's closest associates. instead of an emergency measure. there was criticism of Stalin's methods in the party. the NKVD. This does not mean that they decided everything . as the Gestapo-SS provided Hitler.which required and received Stalin's personal signature for execution. Beria. Kaganovich.his own generation .into believing that he was not to be taken seriously as a revolutionary.000 names . At some stage. Stalin made it into a permanent feature of Soviet life.who had known and served with Lenin. the number of those arrested in 1937 and 1938 was of the order of 7-8 million. Molotov. Hitler meant to have his revolution all right. Stalin extended the purges to the Red Army and navy. the land had to be taken out of peasant ownership and nationalised. Accusing them of betraying the cause to which they had devoted their lives.EUROPE 1 9 1 4-45 HITLER AND STALIN generation of leaders . he meant to turn the energies and 69 . Hitler and war The fact that Hitler suppressed the radical wing of the Nazi Party in 1934 when it called for a 'second revolution' misled many at the time .
but never lost sight of his ultimate objective. scrapping their plan for the French campaign in favour of 70 . Not until German troops had reached the oilfields of the Caucasus. By the winter of 1937-38 he had made sufficient progress to change the terms of the game and raise the stakes. however. was not only the outstanding example of such a strategy but provides the clearest possible illustration of both men's personal authority. insisting that they should first 71 . however. and the defeat of the German air force in the Battle of Britain convinced him that invasion would be a risky gamble. all he asked was that they should give up any pretension to interfere in Europe. published in the mid-1920s.EUROPE 1 9 1 4-45 HITLER AND STALIN tensions of the German people outwards and create a racist empire at the expense of the Slav Untermenschen ('sub-humans') in the East. Until he could carry out the re-armament to which he gave overriding priority. compounding the unprecedented blows he had dealt to the Soviet military leadership during the purges.as the French had done . then the French. taken without consultation or discussion. The first was an improvisation. The gain for Stalin was the partition of Poland and the annexation of territory in Eastern Europe larger than France. his own phrase) for the conquest of empire. The Russian commanders were not allowed to order defensive preparations right up to and including the night of 21/22 June. with the psychological satisfaction as well as the material advantages of a Herrenvolk (' master-race'). That night. On 31 July 1940 he ordered the army to prepare plans for an attack on Russia the following May (1941) which would destroy the Soviet state in a campaign of five months.Hitler's defence of European civilisation against Communism. in the second half of 1941. the largest army ever assembled for a single campaign. one which they had rejected. Hitler never wanted a war with the British. capturing three million prisoners. Stalin's leadership of the anti-fascist crusade. It is possible that the gamble might have come off. Hitler acted in defiance of the General Staff's advice. and that the Western powers were trying to trick him into provoking Hitler by counter-measures. overrunning the Ukraine and. for Hitler it was a free hand in defeating first the Poles. most of whom were' so badly treated by the Germans that they died. Hitler's gamble was that the Soviet state was so much weakened by the purges that it would collapse .if subjected to a series of violent blows compressed into a single campaigning season. In the face of a flood of evidence that the Germans were concentrating their forces for an invasion of Russia. so providing the Germans. Hitler was both a gambler and an opportunist. over the psychological barrier between peace and war. War in the East Hitler left it to the German army to carry out the preparations for the attack on Russia. had he not rejected the army plan to continue the advance on Moscow after the capture of Smolensk in mid-July. This was the price of Stalin's obstinacy. 3. When the British refused. The key was to isolate those Powers which opposed him and defeat them one at a time in a series of single campaigns. and the Red Army was fighting desperately to hold Stalingrad on the Volga in the winter of 1942-43. In achieving this. the second so alarmed the German army that a plot was mounted to arrest Hitler al~d only called off when Chamberlain offered to fly to Munich. Hitler had to lull suspicions abroad and keep the support of the conservative-nationalist forces in Germany. Hitler's object.200. driving to the outskirts of Leningrad and Moscow. Dismissing the banker Schacht as Minister of Economics and the conservative leaders of the foreign ministry and the army. For only leaders completely confident of their hold on power and free to act without consultation could have taken the risk of openly reversing the policies with which they were identified at home and abroad . This programme was plainly set out in Mein Kampf. relieving him of any threat of Soviet intervention in case of war. still mindful of defeat in 1918. the attack on Russia. It was followed by the defeat of France and the eviction of Britain from the continent. Stalin persisted in believing that Hitler would not attack before 1942-43. There was no timetable or blueprint of aggression. he decided to ignore them and go ahead with his real objective from the beginning. Si months later Hitler entered Prague without a gun being fired. But the decision to make such an attack was Hitler's alone. raising him to a peak of personal success which no German leader before him had equalled. With the destruction of Poland. far better than any internal revolution could. whom he admired for their success in creating an empire. Hitler had carried the German people. he believed war was essential if he was to re-arm the German people psychologically ( Wiederwehrheftmachung. would Stalin's distrust of the officer corps allow an alternative military leadership to emerge. he went over to the offensive with the annexation of Austria and the destruction of the Czechoslovak state. The diplomatic coup of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The effect was to convince Hitler of the infallibility of his judgement in war as in politics. While Hitler became more and more irked by the Nazi-Soviet Pact.000 troops broke across the frontiers. Stalin did all in his power to prolong it by increasing Soviet supplies to Germany of raw materials and food to levels which Russia could ill afford to spare. was not to avoid war.
As the Russians overran the death camps. proved his undoing. he compounded his difficulties by brutal occupation policies. refusing to seek a compromise peace with Stalin which could have left him master of Europe.at nothing less than the extermination of the whole Jewish population of Europe. Hitler mastered the crisis. for nearly two and a half years after the defeat at Stalingrad. halted any German retreat and stabilised the front. But. Hitler and the Holocaust The attack on Russia enablec. 73 . just as he left the organisation of the final solution to the SS.to come up with so grandiose and bizarre a plan. with total disregard of the cost in human lives and of the consequences for Germany and Europe. to fight step by step all the way back from the Volga to Berlin. however. but they also knew. This was the year in which he showed the same unique gift for translating into literal fact another fantasy. those who had not yet been 'processed' were force-marched to Germany by the SS and shot on arrival. deprive them of all rights and force them to emigrate. Hitler insisted to the German commanders as well as to the SS that this was no 73 ordinary clash of arms. and every effort made to keep it secret. once Hitler's original gamble failed to come off . that of Lebensraum and the empire in the east. his belief that Providence would never allow him to be defeated. it was 1941. instead of in the summer weather of August or even September. If this was to be applied to ordinary Russian soldiers and civilians . until the war. as Himmler went on to tell them. Hitler to bring together into a common focus his strategic. The plan for exterminating the Jews was to be carried out in Poland and Russia. I believe neither would have happened.000 miles. Doubling the stakes by gratuitously declaring war on the United States and renewing the offensive on the Eastern Front instead of going over to the defensive. By an extraordinary effort of will-power. he would still prevail.as it was . a war of extermination. Persecution of the Jews had begun on the night Hitler became Chancellor. but there was only one man among the Nazi leaders who had the imagination .the conquest of Lebensraum in the East. it was in the middle of October that the Soviet resistance came nearest to cracking. But 'the total solution of the Jewish question' was aimed at more than the Jewish population of Poland and Russia . which had combined to produce one success after another. Instead he forced the German army. he had deliberately distanced himself from the anti-Jewish riots of November 1938. Certainly. But if there had not been a Hitler to conceive of such projects and to convince others that they could actually take place. estimated by the Nazis at around 11 million. political and ideological objectives .and with the winter weather and the Russian counter-offensive of 5 December. as Fiihrer. Those involved knew. And if there was one year in which Hitler was capable of making the giant leap from imagining such a 'solution' as fantasy to imagining it as fact. The fact that there is no order signed by Hitler is not surprising. after Hitler's suicide. As a result the drive on Moscow was not resumed until 2 October at the beginning of autumn.however twisted . the enslavement of the Slav Untermenschen and the 'Final Solution of the Jewish Problem'. including the Ukraine. that 'this is a page of glory in our history which can never be written'.for example. He left the organisation of that to the army's General Staff. his conviction of his mission. as Himmler told the SS. Hitler left it to Himmler. still deep in Russian territory. in the Ukraine . that so long as his will remained unbroken. its objec t had been to strip German Jews of their possessions. The end result of Hitler's defence of European civilisation against Communism was to leave half of Europe and half of Germany under Soviet occupation and Communist rule for more than 40 years. and from the secret wartime programme for killing the physically and mentally handicapped which he had authorised but immediately ordered stopped when it brought strong protests from the churches. Byelorussia and the Baltic States. The last such death march took place in May 1945. Hitler's final contribution was to insist that the operation to hunt down Jews all over Europe. now combined to produce one defeat after another. a distance of 1. On 'v those who needed to know were told by word of mouth that the order came from the Fiihrer himself. from Holland and France to Greece was to continue into the final stages of the war when everyone knew it was lost. held a supreme position of authority in the German Reich. but a conflict of two ideologies. Heydrich and the SS to build the death camps and organise the transport to them of Jews from all over Europe. not Himmler or Goering but Hitler. But the lesson he drew from it. that they were carrying out the orders of the man who. Vernichtungskrieg. refusing to play the role of liberator from Stalin's oppression . to be achieved by the invasion of Russia.it meant that the last inhibitions had been abandoned in the treatment of Russian Jews. Hitler's second contribution to the Holocaust was to legitimise it. the defeat of egalitarian Marxism.or alternatively. Careful as always of his public image with the German people. not Germany. Moscow was the capital and symbol of the Slav. this became certain the odds against a German success grew longer and longer.EUROPE 1 9 4-45 1 HITLER AND STALIN complete the overrunning of the Ukraine. Marxist and Jewish threat to the Ayran race. The turning point was the decision to invade Russia. His refusal to listen to advice.
Hundreds of thousands of them were sent to the camps.between 20 and 25 million military and civilian dead. Those who survived sought hope in the widespread belief that life after the war would now be different. The same treatment was meted out to the millions who had lived under German occupation or been deported to the Reich as slave labour. Victory cost the Soviet peoples an even greater price. and the prisoners of war who had survived their brutal treatment by the Germans. Such occasions are not common. history seen 'from above'. the man who had first appeared in history 25 years earlier ranting about the Jewish problem. Stalin emerged victorious. The moment more often than not fails to find the right person. Where a leader does emerge. have found it natural to seek historical explanations in 74 terms of such impersonal factors as demographic changes. and Stalin had already launched yet another purge with the discovery of the so-called 'Doctors' Plot'. and in Germany in the Depression of the early 1930s. after all the efforts and sacrifices they had made. The dominant trend in the postwar study of history has been the rise of social and economic history. This is what happened in Russia when Lenin returned to Russia in 1917. once established. there is sufficient stability and prosperity to preserve a framework of normality. He still believed that the Russian people could only be ruled by force and fear . still convinced of his sense of mission. it is very difficult to dislodge a leader from such a position. he declared .all the vigilance of the NKVD was still needed to protect the state (for which. There are many more situations where. but saw no more reason than Hitler to change his mind. or with Mao in China. sitting amid the ruins of his hopes in the Berlin bunker. even a decisive. if not Hitler am. defeat.that had to come later . There are many ways of writing history. revolution or some other violent upheaval disrupt normality and continuity. like social scientists. I believe Hitler and Stalin to have been two such cases. civil war. countries where despite the rapidity of change. Britain and France. Stalin soon disillusioned them. are democratic.and that he was the only man who knew how to do this.EUROPE 1 9 1 4-45 HITLER AND STALIN Some weeks earlier. as it did in Russia in 1905. At the time of Stalin's death. read Stalin) against its enemies within and without. Such an approach is well-suited to countries like the United States. as the example of Saddam Hussein shows. lasted for nearly another 40 years. found consolation in the thought that this problem at least had been solved and that the world would be grateful to him for it. saw that there was a vacuum of power and turned the Bolshevik Party round and in defiance of the Marxist schema seized power not by a revolution . Nor did Stalin's death. so soon after the defeat of 1918 and the inflation that followed. but at least spared them . The officers and men who had fought their way halfway across Europe. 12 million are estimated to have been held in the camps.and the world . Dreadful legacy Hitler died by his own hand. leaving them economically so crippled and politically divided that they face an unpredictable future. as happened in Russia in 1917. movements of population. that the repressive regime under which they had lived would now be relaxed. and where pretensions to inspired leadership are unlikely to survive exposure by sceptical media and press. and to concern themselves with human beings collectively as members of groups in which individual characteristics are submerged in the average. regretting only that he had not had the time to carry it out. In such a situation. whose political institutions. I believe. the person can establish a position which allows their personality. especially of such large scale-and abnormal episodes as the history of Nazi Germany 75 . Conclusions But a different situation arises when war. with Gandhi in India. then someone else would have seized the opportunity and the result would have been much the same. The system he had imposed on them.the perpetuation of the Nazi regime. found themselves on their return received not with gratitude but with suspicion. But I do not believe that circumstances by themselves in some mysterious way produce the man. the impact on society of industrialisation and technological innovation. their individual gifts and their views to assume an i mportance out of all proportion to normal experience. of history 'seen from below'. it is possible for an individual to exert a powerful. Social and economic historians.but by a coup d'etat. however. a crisis is never resolved and the opportunity for a decisive turn goes begging. Defeat cost the Germans a terrible price. No other people had suffered anything like the Russian losses in the war . I do not believe that. for lack of leadership. although modified over time. influence on the way events develop and the policies which are followed. but did not liberate them. despite their shortcomings. Stalin. And. as happened for example with Kemal Pasha in Turkey. challenging the traditional concentration on political history. I said earlier that neither man created the circumstances which gave them their opportunity. defeated but unrepentant. This was no time for relaxation.
Some historians have been rather contemptuous of such concerns. Michael Foot entitled his book on appeasement The Guilty Men. Lord Bullock ' s book. the conduct of war and diplomacy was largely dependent on economic foundations. I submit that one which focuses on the roles of Hitler and Stalin is legitimate and is one that forms a necessary part of any attempt to understand what happened and why. Over thirty years ago A. 76 . P. Firstly. was published by Harper Collins in 1991. Why in Stalin's and Hitler' s case did the same belief provide so exceptional a psychological drive as to carry them to such peaks of success that it would be hard to omit them from any list. Chamberlain and Daladier (the prime ministers who signed the Munich agreement with Hitler) had both made their reputations in national rather than international politics. Let me leave you with a final provocative question. They contrast the aldermanic worthies of 1938 unfavourably with the detached aristocrats who dominated diplomacy in the nineteenth century. Besides. A revised edition in paperback was published in 1993. the realities of the 1930s were different from those of the nineteenth century. none of the statesmen involved in appeasing Hitler was exclusively concerned with foreign policy. indeed. This article was based on the Waterstone Lecture given by Lord Bullock on 28 October 1991. the Vichy government of France put its prewar political leaders on trial (though it was always rather unclear whether they were being tried for starting the war or losing it). PART IV The Weaknesses of the Democracies and the Descent to War Few subjects have aroused such moral indignation as the origins of the Second World War. in the area of foreign policy. however short. Economic and social affairs could no longer be ignored and. The policy of the Western allies makes more sense when it is considered in three lights.EUROPE 1 9 4-45 1 or Stalinist Russia. of individuals who have had the greatest impact on the history of the twentieth century? Read my book and work out the answer for yourselves. J. This criticism is unfair: attempts had been made to transfer power from diplomats to elected governments and parliaments precisely because of the disaster that the former were seen to have brought about in 1914. Only more recently have historians come round to the view that the leaders of Britain and France (Chamberlain and Daladier) might also deserve to be treated as ordinary statesmen pursuing their national interests rather than as unique examples of cowardice and stupidity. In any mental hospital you may expect to find patients who suffer from the delusion that they are called upon to play a great historic role in some form or another – and are completely incapacitated by it. Indeed Chamberlain (former Lord Mayor of Birmingham) and Daladier ('the Bull of Vaucluse') were both noted for their local preoccupations. Taylor sought to break away from this tone of moral indignation with the characteristically provocative claim that. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. Hitler should be treated as an ordinary German statesman pursuing the same national interests as his predecessors.