The Historical Present: Uses and Abuses of the Past

By Edwin M. Yoder | Go to book overview

Hitler and the Historians

IT IS A RARE student of history who is wholly free of nationalist bias, conscious or unconscious. But for half a century now, German historians have labored under a special burden. They can write almost nothing about the German past, near or remote, that does not in some way implicitly comment upon the lingering shadow of Adolf Hitler.

Hitler, born in the village of Branau, Austria, in April 1889, is certainly among the evildoers whose crib death would have spared the world much sorrow. For that reason as well as others, he continues to haunt the civilized imagination, in Germany and elsewhere, half a century after he died by his own hand in the Berlin bunker at the end of the war he started. To this day, his name and memory permit little more than ritual anathema. A storm of abuse greeted the suggestion of the British diplomatic historian A. J. P. Taylor (in his book The Oriqins of the Second World War) that, while Hitler exceeded all others in evil acts, his foreign policy was practically indistinguishable from that of the Weimar Republic and that

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