Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Op-Ed: History Without Hitler?

Hitler is seated at the far right.
William Weber (author of Neither Victor nor Vanquished: America in the War of 1812) was kind enough to point out an op-ed piece in The New York Times by Timothy W. Ryback titled "History Without Hitler?" Here are a few key paragraphs:

We can never know how different history may have looked had Hitler been felled by bullets that early morning a hundred years — whether the Weimar Republic could have survived the postwar political and economic turmoil, whether President Hindenburg would have successfully navigated his country back into monarchy, or whether Europe would have been spared a sequel to the Great War.

Some Germans were already speaking of a “second world war” within a year of the armistice that was to have ended “the war to end all wars.” We can say with certainty that no other political leader of the era would have harnessed national passions or driven an anti-Semitic, pure-race agenda with such ferocity or tragic consequence, resulting in the deaths of millions of European Jews as well as gypsies, homosexuals, the weak and disabled.

So what is the lesson of this particular counterfactual moment for us today? Beyond the fact that the Weimar Republic might well be celebrating the 95th anniversary of its Constitution this autumn, a history without Hitler underscores both the potential and pitfalls of transitioning societies. It shows us that these processes require time, sometimes generations, and how different German history may have been had Hitler fallen with his regiment in Flanders fields 100 years ago this week.

What do you think about Ryback's theory that no other leader could have done what Hitler did? While there are a majority of people who wouldn't hesitate to go back in time and kill Hitler, there are still many who don't believe it would change anything. They presume another "Hitler" would arise if the real Hitler was dead. That being said I have also seen scenarios ranging from a successful Weimar Republic, to a Hohenzollern restoration and even a communist takeover. Which scenario do you think is most likely? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

You can read the full article here and check out Ryback's new book Hitler's First Victims: The Quest for Justice. You can also read another interpretation of Ryback's article at The Counterfactual History Review.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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