The Outbreak of the Second World War: Design or Blunder?

By John L. Snell | Go to book overview

HISTORY'S CASE AGAINST HITLER:
A GERMAN VIEW
HERMANN MAU AND HELMUT KRAUSNICK

The case against Hitler for causing the Second World War has been made by distinguished historians of Germany as well as by Western historians. In 1953 Hermann Mau and Helmut Krausnick of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Institute for Contemporary History) originally published the account of the Third Reich from which this reading was taken. In 1961, when many questions were being raised in England and the United States about how Germans viewed their own recent history, an English translation of the Mau-Krausnick volume was published. By then Dr. Mau had died prematurely as a result of an automobile accident, but Professor Krausnick and many other West German historians--young and old--have continued to strive for objective interpretations of Germany's recent history. Governmental offices of the Bonn Republic have seen to it that their appraisals are circulated in the public schools of West Germany. A survey in 1960-1961 of history textbooks used in West German elementary and high schools showed that most of them presented interpretations akin to those Mau and Krausnick offered in 1953. ( Karl Mielcke, 1917-1945 in den Geschichtsbüchern der Bundesrepublik [ Hannover, 1961], 73-76, 114-115, 148-150.) In East Germany (the "German Democratic Republic") historians have slavishly followed the interpretations offered by the U.S.S.R.

THE snatch at Prague6 was a fateful event. It proved the decisive turningpoint in Hitler's career and unleashed developments leading directly to the war and eventually to the abyss. The agreement at Munich, to which the Western Powers had given their consent only on the tacit assumption that this was Hitler's last territorial demand and that he would keep the peace in future, was cynically torn up. The world at last realised that the revision of the Treaty of Versailles and Hitler's evocation of the right of self-determination were only pretexts for an imperialist policy of conquest. In Austria and the Sudetenland the Reich had acquired territories which were linguistically and ethnically German. In the "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia" it had for the first time, and contrary to all Nazi theories, annexed foreign nationalities.

The end of Czechoslovakia brought the danger zone of Nazi aggression closer towards Poland. Between Germany and Poland stood a problem dating from long before 1933: Danzig and the question of the Polish Corridor. A sensible revision of this unsatisfactory arrangement, with which the Polish need for free access to the sea had been satisfied at Versailles, was a German concern for which the Treaty Powers entertained a certain sympathy. But after Prague nobody could keep up the belief that Hitler was merely interested in sensi

____________________
From Hermann Mau and Helmut Krausnick, German History, 1933-45: An Assessment by German Historians, transl. by Andrew and Eva Wilson ( London, 1961). Reprinted by permission of Oswald Wolff (Publishers) Ltd.

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