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Did Hitler Want a World Dominion?

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Journal of Contemporary History
April, 1978
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Did Hitler Want a World Dominion?
Author(s): Milan Hauner
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Jan., 1978), pp. 15-32
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/260090 .
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Milan Hauner

Did HitlerWant a WorldDominion?
The dispute among historians about the true nature of Hitler's war
aims still continues and, in all certainty, will go on as long as
history remains 'an argument without an end'. Sixteen years after
A.J.P. Taylor came out with his thesis that Hitler was merely a
traditional statesman, of limited aims, who was only responding to
a given situation without any preconceived plan of world conquest, the controversy among historians has not yet receded.
Taylor's extravagant statements, however, are now being regarded
with much less credibility owing to the additional evidence which he
either ignored or which was simply not accessible to him.'
Did Hitler in fact have any specific design, a master plan, a
definite blueprint for the aggression he was preparing for and
which was to unfold, stage by stage, from 1933 to 1945? The standard term which German historians writing on the Nazi period have
accepted for this kind of plan is Hitler's 'Programme'. Not surprisingly, it is treated with forbearance by their British and American
colleagues. For instance, Geo; ffrey Barraclough maintains that
'there is not a scrap of evidence to support . . . the idea that Hitler

had a distinctive "Programme".'2 Moreover, he seems to be
puzzled by the fact that German historians3 always speak of
Hitler's 'Programme' in quotation marks, thereby implying that
the 'Programme' is a post-facto construction of historians, for
which there is no direct contemporary evidence. Let us first briefly
examine Hitler's vision of Germany's future role in the world, as it
developed during his active political life. To avoid unnecessary
semantic quibbles, I should perhaps warn the reader that in this
survey the name 'Hitler' will be frequently used in place of
'Germany'; for such was the charismatic appeal of this man and the
totalitarian character of his power, that Hitler can justifiably be
seen as the personification of Germany's will-power from the
moment he assumed full control over her foreign and military
affairs. 'The point cannot be stressed too strongly', says Norman
Rich, 'Hitler was master in the Third Reich . . . in his ultimate

control of power and authority, Hitler was indeed the Fuhrer.'4
Journal of Contemporary History (SAGE, London and Beverly Hills),
Vol 13 (1978), 15-32


Journal of Contemporary History

When, just before Christmas 1924, Hitler was released from the
prison at Landsberg, having served only nine months of his five
year sentence for the abortive coup in Munich of November 1923,
he had completed a manuscript which contained the crucial
statement: 'Germany will either be a world power or there will be
no Germany.'5 This manuscript, for which he had originally
selected the rather pathetic title: 'Four and a Half Years of Struggle
against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice', was to become the bible of
the National Society movement in Germany under its abridged title
'My Struggle'.
Yet, in spite of its explosive content, or perhaps precisely because
of its extraordinaryverbosity, Mein Kampf was never taken seriously
outside Germany. The German historian K.D. Bracher is therefore
absolutely justified when he says that 'the most important problem
of National Socialism is that of its fundamental underrating.'6For
some time, however, before war broke out, several authors who
knew Hitler intimately had tried to warn world opinion by publishing
Hitler's sinister revelations. They insisted that Hitler's ideas should
be regarded as deadly serious - but all in vain. Above all, two
prominent names of fugitives from Nazi Germany deserve to be
mentioned: Konrad Heiden and Hermann Rauschning.7Heiden and
Rauschning presented Nazism as a sort of irrational drive aspiring to
dominate and conquer. Hitler, as its embodiment, was portrayed as
an unscrupulous opportunist who, inspired by his sheer nihilism, had
no precise doctrine, in other words, no 'Programme' for world
conquest. The two authors, however, agreed that the Nazi doctrine,
as revealed in Mein Kampf, contained two fundamental elements:
firstly, the racist doctrine of a Herrenvolk, which showed itself in the
racial superiority of the Nordic Germanic tribe over all other races,
and was moreover reinforced by antisemitism; and secondly, it
contained the idea of a Lebensraum in the East. Rauschning saw in
Hitler the apocalyptic rider of world annihilation and an eruption of
the 'beast from the abyss.'8
Leaving aside the recent pretentious book, Hitler's Warby David
Irving which, despite its astonishing amassment of primary
evidence, does not discuss Hitler's long-term objectives but only
day-to-day routine in his headquarters,9the most noticeable feature
has been the revival of the psycho-historical approach among the
uncounted biographies of Hitler. Apart from focusing on the
rather masochistic perversion of Hitler's megalomania,'0 there are
also bold and original attempts, such as the works of Rudolf

Hauner: Did Hitler Want a WorldDominion?


Binion, to analyse the subconscious sources of Hitler's extraordinary pscyhological power over the German nation. Binion
recognizes two main thrusts to Hitler's politics both on the individual and collective level: one was his personal experience of
antisemitism which apparently derived from a trauma during
Hitler's young manhood when he had lost his mother after being
unsuccessfully treated by a Jewish doctor; the other was the collective trauma of nonacceptance of the defeat in the first world war,
which Hitler shared with the majority of Germans. He experienced
the latter with utmost intensity during his convalescence from gas
poisoning in Pasewalk shortly before the war ended. It made him,
on the one hand, into a passionate enemy of the communist revolution, which he believed had been instigated by the Jews, and, on the
other, it led to the desire for the reconquest of the Lebensraum in
the East, which Germany had gained through the Treaty of BrestLitovsk and subsequently lost during the same year of 1918."
The broad contingent of historians, however, in assessing
Hitler's ideas and their impact on Germany's foreign policy and
conduct of war seems to accept the first obvious fact that the
second world war was unleased primarily because of Germany's
irresistable drive, spurred by the new Nazi ideology, to repudiate
the limitations of the Versailles Treaty. The historians, however,
have been less in agreement as to the appreciation of Hitler's
specific role in this process. By applying only very broad criteria,
one can perhaps divide them into three schools of interpretation
which often overlap.
The first one is still very much the expansion of Rauschning's
own view, particularly with regard to the idea of a Lebensraum. It
is supported in Alan Bullock's book on Hitler12- the most wellknown biography, perhaps superseded only by Joachim Fest.'3 In
the first version published in 1952 Bullock does not question
Hitler's war aims or his global 'Programme' of world dominion.
However, important new sources have been unearthed since, above
all Hitler's Table Talk and the so-called Hitler's Second Book, an
unknown manuscript from 1928 discovered by Gerhard Weinberg
amongst the captured German documents in the National Archives,
Alexandria (Va.), in Autumn 1958.'4 Whereas Bullock was compelled by the sheer importance of new evidence to bring his
biography of Hitler up to date, Taylor never did. The latter, whose
much discussed book has already been mentioned, remains even today perhaps the most eccentric demythologizer of Hitler.15 It is,


Journal of Contemporary History

therefore, difficult to rank this brilliant and controversial
glossarist'6 along with other representatives of the first group.'7
Taylor maintains that the outbreak of war in 1939 was caused
largely by misunderstanding and miscalculations on the part of
Western politicians as well as Hitler himself. Needless to say, in this
kind of road-accident approach to the causes of the war any quest
for ideological motivation of Hitler's aggressive moves would be
misplaced. He rejects the idea of Hitler having any precise plan of
aggression. When referring to Churchill's statement of 14 March
1938 in the House of Commons, that Europe was 'confronted with
a programme of aggression, nicely calculated and timed, unfolding
stage by stage',18he had this to say:
This view was, in my judgement, wrong. Hitler, it seems to me, had no precise
plans of aggression, only an intention, which he held in common with most
Germans, to make Germany again the most powerful state in Europe and a
readiness to take advantage of events. I am confident that the truth of this interpretation will be recognized once the problem is discussed in terms of detached
historical curiosity and not of political commitment.19

The debate concerning Hitler's true war aims was in fact not initiated on the English historical scene by the publication of Taylor's
controversial Origins of the Second World War, but a few years
earlier by Hugh Trevor-Roper in his introduction to the first edition of Hitler's Table Talk in 1953. Seven years later he published a
more elaborate article,20 which summed up his views on Hitler's
war aims. Although Trevor-Roper says explicitly that Hitler had indeed a definite objective in creating a Lebensraum in Eastern
Europe, as Rauschning saw it, he fails to give us guidance about
Hitler's ultimate objectives.
This aspect was fully developed by the second and remarkably
coherent school of historians which is associated with the
'Programme' thesis. Andreas Hillgruber2' and Klaus Hildebrand22
are its leading names, who constructed, on a speculative basis but
backed up by convincing and detailed evidence, an extremely
elaborate concept of Hitler's stage-by-stage plan leading to the acquisition of a world dominion. Hitler's virtual silence about his
long-term objectives in the domain of foreign policy during the
years 1933-37 has often been pointed out by the critics of the
'Programme' thesis. One of the hitherto unexplored areas of
Hitler's intensive preoccupation during these years was architecture
which bears, in its symbolic imperial form as envisaged by Hitler

Hauner: Did Hitler Want a WorldDominion?


himself, all the neccessary features designed to epitomize the future
grandiose style of the German World Empire. The gap, however,
has been closed by the recently published book by Jochen Thies on
Hitler as the 'Architect of World Power'.23
Finally, there is a third and rather heterogeneous group of interpreters, who have, nevertheless, one feature in common, which one
might call 'anti-hitlerite', but in a different sense from that with
which Taylor might be associated. They do not centre their analyses
on Hitler's foreign policy or military strategy, but on the mechanics
of social and economic forces in Nazi Germany, which may also be
conveniently called by the vague and theophoric term 'structure'.
The instrument or agent of these forces, more or less accidental and
not at all determining them, was Hitler. The most simplistic version, propounded by the paraphrastic Marxist school, particularly
in East Germany, is that of Hitler as an interchangeable figurehead
in the service of German monopoly capitalism, who unleashed the
war and pursued goals dictated by these anonymous masters. At its
extreme, this approach sees in Hitler a mere 'factor among many,
but not a substantial cause' in the formulation of foreign policy
and strategy in the Third Reich.24 A more sophisticated view is
taken by the current so-called neo-revisionist school - to be
distinguished from the earlier 'revisionist' school which flourished
in America during the 1950s. Hitler is to be interpreted as a social
phenomenon from his social basis and social function. Because of
his conditioning he may well appear as a 'rather weak dictator';25
his incoherent outbursts referring to the conquest of a world dominion are to be understood simply as 'ideological metaphors', set up
by the Ftihrer merely in order to extort more enthusiastic activity in
the name of the regime which is characterized as a movement
without substance and aim.26 A more elaborate approach is supported by Tim Mason, who, backed up by massive but inevitably
selective evidence, concentrates on the internal crisis of Nazi Germany where serious economic and social frictions were to be avoided by Hitler's preventive and rather adventurous off-hand strikes in
the domain of foreign policy. But Mason stresses the cumulative effect of these nameless pressures rather than Hitler as the prime
cause of these expansionist outbursts. Hitler's limited conquests of
neighbouring territories were designed primarily as Raubkriege to
provide additional resources by plunder in order to maintain the
living standards of Germany's working population.27
It is impossible to reduce Hitler to a mere interchangeable


Journal of Contemporary History

figurehead of German fascism and his foreign policy to nothing but
a derivation of the economic and social requirements of a dynamic
but chaotic regime. The functional and structural interpretations
also fail to explain what was the key factor in Nazism, namely the
role of its racist ideology, without which one can hardly imagine
the historical Hitler and the horrors of the 'Final Solution'
(Endlosung). It is precisely here, in the sinister praxis and theory of
racism, that lies the most conspicuous feature of Nazism: its
ominous singularity in history. One must admit, not without a
shiver, that Hitler overreaches the usual dimensions of a social type
- whatever the dangers of demonization which are not small when
assessing his person. As Joachim Fest put it, he incorporated all the
anxieties, protests and hopes of the age in his own self to a
remarkable degree.'28Hitler was 'peculiarly apt to excite the mind
and paralyse it at the same time', writes Peter Stern in the preface
of his book.29 That antisemitism had its roots in the political,
economic and social conditions of Europe has already been
demonstrated many times, but the decisive and singular moment in
Nazi racist policy lay in the gruesome perfection and finalization of
its 'solutions', such as genocide, euthanasia, racial extermination
on a massive scale aided by advanced technology and, last but not
least, the obsession with eugenics.30
What made Hitler's plans particularly dangerous was his inability to reconcile the two decisive forces in his thoughts and actions: the racial dogma with rational calculations.31Eventually, he
ceased to distinguish between means and ends, his irrational
behaviour led him to use the means of his racial policy as well as the
methods of his ruthless war conduct as the ends in themselves. It is
not only on the higher level of historical abstraction and reconstruction, such as the present discussion on Hitler's ultimate war
aims might entail, but also on the much more elementary level of
historical research, such as Hitler's binding decision to prepare for
a 'war', that misunderstandings occur. Hitler shared with his
generals the fears about the danger of a war on two fronts, which
the latter wanted to avoid at all costs - a few among the generals
even considered removing Hitler in 1938-39 should he continue in
his extremely risky provocations. In the important address to his
generals of 23 May 1939 Hitler said that 'there will be fighting',
which has been mistranslated in most works in English as 'there will
be war.'32 If Hitler, at this stage, did not want a general war, let
alone a total war, what kind of 'fighting' did he have in mind, what

Hauner: Did Hitler Want a World Dominion?


was he planning to achieve? Where would he stop and feel content
with his acquistions? Did he want more than the mere recovery of
the former German territories in Europe? Did he also want those
where substantial German minorities had lived for centuries? Did
Hitler aspire to recover the former German colonial empire? When
he spoke of the Lebensraum in the East, did he mean only the subjugation of the Ukraine, or of the entire Soviet Union? What did he
think would be the predictable reaction of the Western Powers?
Did he believe that Britain would let him conquer the entire East
without declaring war on Germany? What were Hitler's views on
the remaining world powers, particularly the United States and
Japan? What kind of solution would the German world conquest
bring to the non-European nations, particularly those still under
Western colonial rule? These are the sort of questions which must
be asked by every historian who wants to grasp the phenomenon
called Hitler.
As Hitler's Second Book shows, even between 1919 and 1928 he
had already developed a certain set of ideas about Germany's
future role in the world - the 'Programme' - which he consistently held until the end of his life. What was this 'Programme' all
about? The driving force behind the unprecedented dynamism in
Nazism and its most radical component was its racial ideology,
which in our opinion, overshadowed all other factors. It consisted
of a mixture of social Darwinism and of pathological antisemitism.
The white Germanic Aryan race (Herrenvolk), so the National
Socialists believed, was predestined to rule the world. As one of the
strongest obstacles hindering the spread of Nazism in Germany
proved to be Communism, the anti-Soviet course suited Hitler's
tactics perfectly. He wanted to be regarded as the defender of
Western civilization. Russia figured not only as the centre of world
communism, but could be easily identified as the repository of
world Jewry. But how do we explain that Hitler was capable of
calculated diplomatic manoeuvres, illuminated by sudden fits of
hysterical acting, and that he simultaneously followed a rather
pragmatic course in foreign policy - which A.J.P. Taylor uses as
the basis for his counter-argument? The answer to this apparent
contradiction between Hitler's words and deeds can be found
precisely in that phrase from Mein Kampf, quoted earlier:
'Germany will either be a world power or there will be no Germany.'33The determination was already there and it was absolute.
Hitler believed that his destiny was to lead the German nation into


Journal of Contemporary History

an apocalyptic struggle against Bolshevist Russia. Even if we remain in the sphere of the perverse racist ideology of National
Socialism, it is obvious that the mere assumption that it was to be
the superior Germanic race which was destined to rescue European
civilization, and indeed the whole world, from the judeo-bolshevik
impurity as well as capitalist decadence, leads to only one logical
conclusion: could a superior race remain for ever confined to such
an unworthy and ridiculously small living space in Europe? For the
postulate of an undisputed racial superiority implies that it is the
Nordic race which is ultimately destined to dominate the whole
As for the scale of German armaments in 1938-39, historians like
Alan Taylor were quickly convinced that Hitler could not possibly
want a general war.34On the other hand, Tim Mason is absolutely
right in rejecting Taylor's simplified generalization as 'based upon
a very imperfect knowledge of the economic history of the Third
Reich.'35The total German military expenditure from 1936 to 1939
accounted for 16.5 per cent of the country's GNP,36 more than
twice as much as in France and Britain. The extent of German armaments, although not fit for a general war on two fronts, was indeed sufficient and modern enough for short but swift and effective
blitz thrusts. This was confirmed by one of the chief German experts on armaments, Rolf Wagenftihr.37This view is by and large
supported by Alan Milward who considers the concept of the Blitzkrieg,38in its entire complexity, as ideally suited for the kind of aggressive campaigns in brief but powerful bursts, aiming at a limited
territorial acquisition. Speed and surprise were its most distinct
features, unscrupulous propaganda its best psychological weapon.
The memories of the first world war, with its endless carnage, exercised a profound influence on men like Hitler. He was afraid of its
demoralizing effects on the population, and encouraged, therefore,
the planners of the German armed forces to develop an entirely new
and revolutionary concept of Blitzkrieg. It would apply only such
weapons and war technology as were needed for a brief war campaign, without upsetting the balance of the German economy,
which continued to be orientated, until 1942, to peace-time consumer goods; thus, not allowing more than fifty per cent of public
expenditure to be absorbed by the armament sector. The expected
upsurge of war expenditure in the course of a blitz campaign, the
loss of a productive labour force resulting from the call up, was to
be compensated by looting and plundering the conquered territories.

Hauner: Did Hitler Want a WorldDominion?


Thanks to the definite work on the two decisive years of 1940 and
1941 in German strategic planning by Andreas Hillgruber,39we
now have a much clearer picture of Hitler's strategic ideas, of how
he wanted to achieve German world dominion in a series of blitz
campaigns, extending stage by stage, over the entire globe. Hitler's
grand strategy, according to the 'Programme'-school, was to
evolve along three stages.
During the first stage of his 'Programme' Hitler wanted
Germany to achieve the domination of the European continent.
German-speaking groups were to be brought together and lost territories recovered. The enlarged Third Reich, which would emerge
in defiance of the Versailles Treaty, was to be called the Greater
German Reich and it was to last for a thousand years . . . Hitler
would, of course, make use of any minority claims under the cover
of self-determination. In order to win Britain's connivance he was
ready for the time being to make concessions in restraining
Germany's claims on her former colonies in Africa. In order to
show moderation he accepted a prospective reduction of German
naval rearmament embodied in the Anglo-German Naval Treaty of
1935, for he did not, at any rate, envisage using the fleet during the
initial stages of his aggressive moves on the Continent. But all these
concessions were made on the assumption that Germany was to obtain a free hand in her Eastward expansion (Drang nach Osten).
Hitler, who was convinced that Britain and France would remain
passive, was ready to risk a limited war against Czechoslovakia as
early as Autumn 1938. Thus, the Sudetenland fell, without war, the
second victim of Nazi aggression after the AnschluJ3of Austria in
the spring of the same year. In September 1939 Poland followed. It
was not the Soviet Union, but France, the key continental power
allied with Britain, which stood in the way of Hitler's ambition to
obtain hegemony over the Continent. The conquest of Russia, with
acquisition of colonies in Central and Western Africa was also conclude the first stage in Hitler's 'Programme'. For him, however,
racial motivation played the decisive part, for only the submission
of Russia could help Germany establish the so-called Lebensraum
- the future living space for German colonists who were to move
in only after the extermination squads had dealt with the Jews. The
acquisitionof colonies in Central and Western Africa was also considered in order to provide the raw materials not available in
Europe, and necessary naval bases in the Atlantic for the next
round of fighting.40It was believed that with such territorial expan-


Journal of Contemporary History

sion the new German Grossraum would become autarchic, i.e. entirely self-reliant and capable of withstanding any economic
blockade which might have been staged by the major maritime
powers. Whether the hypothetical German empire would then be
allowed to respire and consolidate for a couple of years or several
decades, depended very much on the attitude of Britain. If an early
arrangement between the two countries could have been achieved,
Hitler would not have had to waste time and energy in sending his
armoured forces down to the Persian Gulf, through Afghanistan to
India in order to force Britain down on her knees.41
Thus, after eliminating France and Russia, the only remaining
world powers would be Britain and her overseas empire, Japan and
the USA. The latter was regarded by Hitler as the most difficult
rival for Germany to challenge, but not to be drawn into the conflict as long as the continental expansion stage of Hitler's instalment plan had not been completed. He was led to speculate that the
decisive duel between the 'Teutonic Empire of the German Nation
and the American World Empire', in other words the second stage
of his 'Programme', would have to take place after he had died.42
Thus, not even at the peak of his military successes was Hitler sure
whether he could complete the first stage of his expansionist plan.
Indeed, when on 11 December 1941 Hitler had declared war on the
USA in a self-destructive fit of absent-mindedness he had to admit
to the Japanese Ambassador Oshima three weeks later that he did
not know how to defeat America.43The consolidation phase of the
Lebensraum acquistion in the East was to be shored up by further
external operations in the direction of the Mediterranean and the
Middle East with the aim of controlling the oil wells of Iraq and the
Persian Gulf. Swift and diverse thrusts were to be directed across
the Caucasus and Persia, advancing as far as Afghanistan with a
direct threat to India, for Hitler saw in her the source of British
world supremacy.44The other arm of the Axis pincer movement extended from Libya towards Suez and had the stubborn Russian
defences collapsed, nobody could have stopped Hitler reaching his
military objectives either in 1941 or 1942. The British took the
threat very seriously but were incapable of concentrating more
troops and equipment in this area than they actually did. The postBarbarossa stage was also to include the seizure of Gibraltar and
the securing of the West African coast with the Azores and Canary
Islands as important strategic outposts for German naval and air
forces, ready to attack America with their submarines and long-

Hauner: Did Hitler Want a World Dominion?


distance bombers.45
In Hitler's calculation Britain was assigned an important role
during the second stage of Germany's world conquest. He was
prepared, indeed anxious, to accept her as a junior partner with her
overseas Empire left intact, provided she renounced her position in
Europe and gave Hitler a free hand by accepting his peace terms.
Alternatively, and this would have been against Hitler's wishes, she
would become a subdued vassal should her resistance continue.
Thus, the two major protagonists of European civilization would
challenge the American continent dominated by the racially decomposed USA. Finally, the elimination of United States as a world
power would lay the foundations for the third stage, the real beginning of the new racial millenium over the entire globe under the
ruthless domination of the Germanic Aryan elite.
The relationship with Japan and her future position in this new
Germanic world empire was never sufficiently clarified by Hitler.
In all crucial decisions mistrust prevailed between the two Axis
partners. Hitler kept the date of 'Barbarossa' secret from the
Japanese and they, in turn, left the Germans in the dark about their
decision to open the Pacific War by attacking Pearl Harbour.46
Although a secret military convention had been signed between
Germany and Japan on 18 January 1942, dividing the Eastern
hemisphere between the two powers along the 70? Eastern
longitude, running across Siberia and India, no specific military
agreements between Berlin and Tokyo were ever concluded. Leaving aside the insurmountable logistic difficulties which the two Axis
partners would have run into had they agreed to make the Indian
Ocean area the centre of their joint operations, Hitler's resentment
against the 'Yellow Peril' was a serious factor to count on.47 A
revealing note on this subject, preserved in the diaries of von
Hassell, was recorded on 22 March 1942, i.e. barely a week after
the fall of Singapore: 'It is said that Hitler himself is not entirely
enthusiastic about the gigantic successes of the Japanese, and has
said he would gladly send the English twenty divisions to help
throw back the yellow men.'48
Although Hitler realized that the attitude of Britain was of
crucial importance for the smooth running during the first stage of
his 'Programme', in fixing his mind on the belief that Britain would
one day be compelled to accept Germany's leadership, he made his
fatal miscalculation. He remained convinced that Germany's
Drang nach Osten, specifically designed to annihilate communist


Journal of Contemporary History

Russia, would gain the support of the British ruling classes. He
began to doubt, as early as 1937, whether Britain would tolerate excessive German territorial expansion on the Continent, which
would finally lead to nothing less than complete German hegemony
over Europe. As he had revealed during the 1920s, in Mein Kampf
and particularly in The Second Book, an alliance with Britain
the only viable partner for him on racial as well as strategic grounds
- remained Hitler's dearest political dream. Alarmed by the prospects of sudden failure, Hitler tried to pacify British politicians
and to divert their attention from his efforts to conquer Europe.
His dual-purpose colonial policy, already mentioned, was one of
the devices: German colonial claims were timed to divert British attention and to gain more concessions, but were abruptly abandoned by Hitler at the right moment in a pathetic but carefully
calculated gesture of reconciliation.
The other important factor which played a decisive role in the relationship of the two countriesduring the Nazi era was Hitler's love-hate
attitude towards the British. Two irreconcilabletraits, as in his grand
strategy, constituted Hitler's ambivalentviews on the British. The first
was his political pragmatismwhich told him that Germany in her attempt to gain hegemony over Europe would encounter Britain's
hostility - if only because of the traditional balance of power, since
there was no ideological strife between the two countries. Over the last
two centuriesBritain'spolicy in Europe had been designed to maintain
a careful balance between the European powers and not to allow any
of them to expand beyond reasonablelimits. The second characteristic
of Hitler was his admiration for the British super-race, amply illustrated,in Hitler's view, by their ability to control with relativelytiny
forces the vast spaces and numerically superior species of world
population. A sentimentof 'Nordic solidarity' a sort of 'racial internationalism' - as a perverted paraphrase to 'proletarian internationalism' - bound Hitler in spirit with the English. It was frequently
reflected in his laudatory comments on the role the British were playing as colonial rulers in India. Hitler needed an historical analogy for
his future Lebensraum in the East. Whenever he spoke of Russia in
this context he turned his gaze to India in a vain attempt to draw oversimplified parallels: 'What India was for England, the territoriesof
Russia will be for us. Our role in Russia will be analogous to that of
England in India . . . Like the English we shall rule this empire with a
'49On the other hand, if we look at Hitler as a
handful of men ...

shrewd and calculating tactician, he did search for the weaknesses in

Hauner: Did Hitler Want a World Dominion ?


the aging edifice of the British Empire and tried to exploit them. During the decisive Hossbach conference of 5 November 1937 Hitler
predicted that the Empire would soon disintegrate for four reasons:
the constitutional struggle in India, the Irish question, the Japanese
threat in the Far East and the Anglo-Italian discord over the control of
the Mediterranean.
Hitler calculated that Germany's continental expansion could be
completed by 1945 at the latest. After that he would be free to carry
out his ambitious overseas plans. But Hitler's scenario for world
conquest by instalments had been significantly halted by the end of
1941, when he failed to eliminate Russia and, by declaring war on
the USA, made the dreaded prospect of a two-front war a permanent feature of German strategy. Though the Axis fortunes brightened in the early part of 1942 owing to the unexpected victories of the
Japanese, Hitler was neither able nor willing to co-ordinate his
plans with theirs; the repeated Japanese requests that Germany
should conclude an armistice with the Soviet Union, and throw her
full weight against the Anglo-Saxons, drove Hitler mad.50 Then
there was Hitler's deficiency in understanding the importance of
maritime strategy, for his views on war conduct were hopelessly
dominated by the land warfare dicta of which he had direct experience as infantryman during the first world war. The importance
of naval strategy, therefore, did not occur to him until late 1937-38.
He then embarked on a grandiose naval rearmament programme,
the so-called 'Z-Plan', (from the German word 'Ziel', meaning
'target') in order to provide Germany with a navy capable of eventually challenging the Allied sea powers. By this time Hitler was losing hope that Britain would join Germany as a 'junior partner'.
This 'Z-Plan' constitutes indeed some of the best proof of Hitler's
'Programme' for world domination and can be seen in direct
historical parallel to the plans of Admiral Tirpitz, the fleet-builder
of the Wilhelminian navy before the first world war. Resulting
from Hitler's special directive of 27 January 1939, the 'Z-Plan' envisaged a navy that by 1944-46 would comprise ten giant battleships, three battle cruisers, four aircraft carriers, eight heavy
cruisers, 44 light cruisers designed for colonial service, 68
destroyers, 90 torpedo-boats and 250 submarines.51 In addition,
Hitler ordered that henceforth naval armament must be given
priority over the other two services, the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe.
During the eight years necessary for the completion of this new
German world navy the risk of direct conflict with Britain, as Hitler


Journal of Contemporary History

openly admitted to Admiral Raeder, had to be avoided at all costs.
The attainment of the unrivalled world supremacy (Weltherrschaft) in the last stage of Hitler's 'Programme' was to represent the ultimate phase in Hitler's drive which aimed at the
establishment of the Thousand Years' Reich. Leaving unanswered
Germany's future relationship with the Japanese variant of
Lebensraum in the Far East, the Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity
Sphere, one is still astonished at Hitler's profound misjudgements
vis-a-vis the other powers. We spoke of his fatal error as far as
alliance with Britain was concerned: he also underestimated the industrial potential of the USA and her isolationist attitude to the
European war. His further, equally catastrophic mistake was the
disastrous miscalculation of Russia's resistance to the German
onslaught. Here, as elsewhere, Hitler's racialist ideology was
directly responsible. The conquest of European Russia, the core of
the continental stage of his 'Programme', must be seen as inseparable from his fanatic belief that Bolshevism - in Hitler's eyes
identical with the advent of the world Jewish conspiracy - must be
uprooted. This racist obsession in Hitler's mind must also be seen
as equally important a component in his overall strategy as the
other factors, more related to the general conduct of war.
Moreover, the Weltherrschaft was to represent a new revolutionary phase in the development of civilization, precisely because
it was to begin with the procreation and cultivation of the new
super-human species: the so-called Herrenvolk. How this would be
achieved was foreshadowed by the adoption of the 'Final Solution'
against the so-called inferior human species, involving mass extermination not only of the Jews, but of the entire strata of intelligentsia of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. This was indeed
the ultima ratio of Hitler's 'Programme' and he maintained his
apocalyptic vision through the war despite German defeats and
withdrawals from 1942 onwards. While he was concentrating on
the destruction of Jews in the East, the Red Army was already
counterattacking along the entire front. Why did he intensify this
mass genocide when, from the pragmatic strategy stand alone, he
badly needed the railway carriages and the manpower for military
purposes? Now the Blitzkrieg strategy was all over, but Hitler carried on his fanatical determination whose sinister meaning had
already been spelled out in the 1920s: 'Germany will either be a
world power or there will be no Germany.'
Hitler's insane views on the future procreation of mankind

Hauner: Did Hitler Want a World Dominion ?


found a similar apocalyptic utterance in his prophecy, that in the
event of defeat there was no alternative to the total annihilation of
the German nation. Rauschning tells us that as early as 1932 he
witnessed a macabre scene during which Hitler was heard to say:
'We shall never capitulate . . . We may be destroyed, but if we are,

we shall drag a world with us - a world in flames.' And he hummed a characteristic motive from the Twilight of the Gods.52 In
March 1945, a few weeks before his suicide, Hitler, living
underground in the shelter of the Reichschancellery, as Rauschning
said like 'the beast from the abyss', reiterated to Albert Speer: 'If
the German nation is not ready to do everything for its survival,
then, well, it should rather perish . . .'53

1. A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War (London 1967).'
2. Geoffrey Barraclough, 'Farewell to Hitler' in The New York Review of
Books, 3 April 1975, 15.
3. Barraclough refers to the comprehensive analysis by Klaus Hildebrand
'Hitlers Ort in der Geschichte des preu3isch-deutschen Nationalstaates' in
Historische Zeitschrift, 217 (1974), 584-632.
4. Hitler's War Aims, vol. I (New York 1973), 11, 77.
5. Mein Kampf, Engl. Edition, (London 1969), 596-98.
6. Zeitgeschichtliche
Kontroversen ur Faschismus, Totalitarismus,
Demokratie (Munich 1976), 81.
7. K. Heiden, Adolf Hitler. Das Zeitalter der Verantwortungslosigkeit(Zurich
1936) and Ein Mann gegen Europa, Engl. trans., (London 1939). H. Rauschning,
Germany's Revolution of Destruction (London 1939) and Hitler Speaks (London
8. Hitler Speaks, preface. See also the most comprehensive review of literature
on this topic which has hitherto appeared in English, by M. Michaelis, 'World
Power Status or World Dominion? A Survey of the Literature on Hitler's Plan of
World Dominion (1937-1970)' in The Historical Journal, 15 (1972), 331-60.
9. Hitler's War (London 1977). Irving's attempt to dissociate Hitler from the
actual Final Solution order for the mass extermination of Jews, under the pretext
that he has not found yet the crucial scrap of paper bearing Hitler's signature and
date, has been unanimously dismissed by reviewers as a most irresponsible way of
dealing with the Jewish Question.
10. E.g. W. Langer, The Mind of Adolf Hitler (London 1972).
11. 'Hitler's Concept of Lebensraum: The Psychological Basis' in History of
Childhood Quarterly - The Journal of Psychohistory, 2 (1973), 187-258; 'Hitler


Journal of Contemporary History

Looks East' in ibid., 1 (1975), 85-102; Hitler Among the Germans, (New York
1976). The other, though less original, book from the US school of psycho-history
which appeared recently is R.G.L. Waite, The Psychopathic God, Adolf Hitler,
(London 1977).
12. Hitler - A Study of Tyranny (London 1952).
13. Hitler (London 1974).
14. H.R. Trevor-Roper, ed., Hitler's Table Talk, 1941-1944, (London 1953). A
separate version is H. Picker, ed. Hitlers Tischgesprache im Fiilirerhauptqluartier,
1941-1942 (Bonn 1951);; Hitlers Secret Book, (New York 1962).
15. Cf. A.J.P. Taylor in his televised talk 'Hitler as a Warlord' (BBC 1, 11
August 1976).
16. The more important contributions to the 'Taylor controversy' appear in
E.M. Robertson's edited collection, The Origins of the Second World War(London
1971) and in the American edition with the same title edited by W.R. Louis (1972).
17. E.g. E. Jackel, Hitlers Weltanschauung - Entwurf einer Herrschaft, (Tubingen 1969); A. Kuhn, Hitlers au3fenpolistisches Programm (Stuttgart 1970).
18. Quoted from W.S. Churchill, The Second World War, vol. I, (London
1948), 244.
19. A.J.P. Taylor, English History 1914-1945 (London 1970), 519.
20. In Vierteljahrshefte fur Zeitgeschichte, 8 (1960), 121-33. See also introduction to The Testament of Adolf Hitler (London 1961).
21. Hitlers Strategie. Politik und Kriegfuhrung 1940-41 (Frankfurt am Main
1965); 'Der Faktor Amerika in Hitlers Strategie 1938-41' in Aus Politik und
Zeitgeschichte. Supplement to the weekly Das Parlament of 11 May 1966; 'Japan
und der Fall "Barbarossa" ' in Wehrwissenschaftliche Rundschau, 18 (1968), 312;
'Die "Endlosung" und das deutsche Ostimperium als Kernstuck des
rassenideologischen Programms des Nationalsozialismus' in Vierteljahrsheftefur
Zeitgeschichte, 20 (1972), 133 ff.; 'England in Hitlers au3enpolitischer Konzeption'
in Historische Zeitschrift, 218 (1974), 65-84; 'Deutschland 1936-1939' in O.Hauser,
ed., Weltpolitik 1933-1939, vol. 1, and 'Die weltpolitische Lage 1939-1941:
Deutschland' in ibid., vol. 2, (Gottingen 1973), 1975.
22. Vom,Reich zum Weltreich. Hitler, NSDAP und koloniale Frage, 1919-1945,
(Munich 1970); Foreign Policy of the Third Reich (London 1973); 'Zwischen
Mythos und Moderne - Hitler in seiner Zeit' in Das Historisch-Politische Buch, 22
(1974), 33; see also footnote 3 Hitler, Deutschland lund die Machle, (Diisseldorf
1976), 63-93.
23. Architekt der Weltherrschaft. Die "Endziele" Hitlers (Dtisseldorf 1976).
24. R. Kuhnl, 'Der deutsche Faschismus. Nationalsozialismus und "Drittes
Reich" in Einzeluntersuchungen und Gesamtdarstellungen' in Neue Politische
Literatur, 15 (1970), 14.
25. H. Mommsen, 'National Socialism' in C.D. Kernig, ed., Marxism, Communism and Western Society, vol. 6 (Freiburg 1971), 68.
26. M. Broszat, 'Soziale Motivation und Fuhrerbindung des Nationalsozialismus' in Vierteljahrsheftefir Zeitgeschichte, 18 (1970), 408.
27. 'Innere Krise und Angriffskrieg 1938-1939' in F. Forstmeier und H.E.
Volkmann, eds., Wirtschaft und Ristung am Vorabend des Zweiten Weltkrieges,
(Disseldorf 1975) 158-88 and Arbeiterklasse und Volksgemeinschaft (Dokumente
und Materialien zur deutschen Arbeiterpolitik, 1936-1939) (Opladen 1975).
28. Op.cit., prologue.

Hauner: Did Hitler Want a World Dominion ?


29. Hitler, The Fuhrer and the People (London 1975).
30. See also K. Hildebrand, 'Geschichte oder "Gesellschaftsgeschichte" ' in
Historische Zeitschriji, vol. 223/2 (1976), 353. and 'Weltmacht oder Untergang:
Hitlers Deutschland 1941-1945', in O. Hauser, ed., Weltpolitik II, 1939-1945
(Gottingen 1975), 291.
31. Cf. Hildebrand's Foreign Policy in the Third Reich, footnote 22 above.
32. DGFP, D/VI, Nos. 195 and 433. Emphasized by Robertson, op. cit., 18.
When Poland was attacked in 1939 the German General Staff had no operational
military plans completed for the subsequent campaigns against Northern and
Western Europe (cf. A. Hillgruber, Deutschlands Rolle in der Vorgeschichte der
beiden Weltkriege (Gottingen 1967), 100.
33. Cf. footnote 5 above.
34. Taylor, op. cit., (London 1964), 16.
35. Cf. in Robertson (ed.); op. cit., 115.
36. Berenice Carroll, Design for Total War (The Hague 1968), 179-90, 262-67.
37. Die deutsche Industrie im Kriege, 1939-45 (Berlin 1954).
38. The German Economy at War (London 1965).
39. Hitlers Strategie - see footnote 21 above.
40. For further details see Hildebrand, VomiReich zuim Weltreich(cf. footnote
22 above).
41. M. Hauner, 'The Place of India in the Strategic and Political Considerations
of the Axis Powers, 1939-1942' (unpubl. Cambridge PhD Diss. 1972).
42. Hitlers Zweites Buch, 123-30. Table Talk, 10 September 1941; Conversation
Ciano-Hitler, 25 October 1941, in Hillgruber (ed.), Staatsminner und Diplomalen
bei Hitler, 1939-1941, vol. 1, (Frankfurt 1967), 632, Hitlers Strategie, 200, Faktor
Amnerika. . ., 18, Deutschlands Rolle . . ., 69, 123.
43. Conversation Oshima-Hitler, 3 January 1942, in Hillgruber, Staatsimdnner
und Diploimaten . . ., 1942-1944, vol. 2, (Frankfurt am Main 1970), 41.
44. See footnote 41 above.
45. Thies; op. cit., 136-48.
46. Cf. B. Martin. Deutschland und Japan im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Gottingen
1969), 103.
47. E.L. Presseisen; 'Le racisme et les Japonais (un dilemme Nazi)' in Revue
d'histoire de la deuxieme guerre mondiale, No. 5 (1963); Conversation AntonescuHitler, 11 February 1942, in Hillgruber, Staatsmanner und Diplomaten . . ., vol. 2,
48; G. Ciano: Diaries 1939-1943 (London 1947), entries for 22 and 25 February, 10
and 11 March, and 24 April 1942; The Goebbels Diaries(Lopdon 1948), 94-95.
48. The von Hassell Diaries, 1938-1944 (London 1948), 221.
49. Table Talk, 8-10 September 1942, 17-18 September 1941, For Hitler's views
on India, see M. Hauner, 'Les puissances de 1'Axe et la lutte de l'Inde pour
l'independance' in Revue d'histoire de la deuxieme guerre mondiale, No. 96 (1974).
50. See footnote 46 above.
51. F. Ruge, Der Seekrieg 1939-1945 (Stuttgart 1962), 27, M. Salewski, Die
deutsche Seekriegsleitung, 1935-1941, vol. 1 (Frankfurt am Main 1970), 57; J. Dilffer: Weimar, Hitler und die Marine (Diisseldorf 1973), 498.
52. Hitler Speaks, 15.
53. A. Bullock, op. cit., (London 1962), 774. A. Speer, Inside the Third Reich,
(London 1971), 529, 588.

Journal of Contemporary History


Milan Hauner
Research Fellow at the German Historical Institute, London, has contributed to Revue
d'histoire de la deuxietmeguerre mondiale, No.
96 (1974) and to M. Funke, ed., Hitler,
Deutschland und die Machte (Dusseldorf 1976).

The 'Confession' of
Mikhail Bakunin
With the Marginal Comments
of Tsar Nicholas I


Translated from the Russian by Robert C. Howes
With an Introduction and Notes by Lawrence D. Orton
'Write to the sovereign as though you were speaking to your
spiritual father' were the words of advice given in 1851 by
Count Orlov, head of the political police, to Mikhail
Bakunin, revolutionary, anarchist, and political prisoner of
Tsar Nicholas 1. The Confession, addressed to the tsar as his
spiritual father, covers Bakunin's life from his arrival in
Berlin in 1840 to his arrest for political activities by the Saxon
police in May, 1849. Whatever his motives in writing the
Confession, it is a fascinating document by a complex and
brilliant, if often erratic, man. As a psychological document,
it offers a remarkable picture of Mikhail Bakunin, the man
and the political activist.

2-4 Brook Street, London Wl