Monday, May 27, 2024

It wasn't inevitable

I've always been interested in World War II, largely because it was so fraught and victory was so important. So I read all I could about it and found particularly interesting the events leading to its outbreak and the lessons that should have been learned. When I taught 9th grade US History, I spent an entire unit on the rise of the dictators in Germany, Italy, Japan, and the USSR leading to World War II and the subsequent much longer Cold War. So I found this recent book of interest and have ordered it. Takeover is about how Hitler gained power, and was reviewed in Commentary:
Adolf Hitler’s capture and destruction of the fragile Weimar Republic is a cautionary tale without rival. To tell the story in his new book, Takeover, the historian Timothy Ryback has narrowed the action to the six months leading up to Hitler’s elevation to national leadership. He relies heavily on newspaper reports, diaries, and memoirs to recount in vivid detail how the infighting between cocky, short-sighted members of the Prussian establishment eventually opened the door to the Nazi leader. But also ever-present in Ryback’s account is the role of chance—unplanned encounters, missed opportunities, hidden resentments. Conditions were ripe for this political catastrophe, but it wasn’t inevitable. ....

The specter of Weimar haunts us still. We can marvel from a distance at how small decisions—made in the moment, in response to immediate circumstances—cascaded into disaster. We can point out that peril awaits a leadership class willing to align itself with political extremists, seeking to counter forces which it perceives to be more unsavory. The lessons to be gleaned from this are eternal. (more, a pretty good summary of the events.)

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