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Old 12-13-2006, 09:30 AM   #1
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Historic Circumstances

After posting in the Holocaust conference thread, the thought came to me - what if the circumstances in which historical events have occurred were different? Example: What if Adolf Hitler had come to power at a different time and place of human development, ie Roman times or in China during the middle ages or even in the pre-Columbian Americas?

Would he have had the ability or mental defect needed to carry out his plans for his empire? Would he have persecuted another group just as badly as he did the Jews (namely, were they the victims of historical circumstance, or did Hitler actually have something against the Jews in particular) if he were in a different place in history?

And finally, if Hitler had come about in another time or place, would we as a society consider him to be just as evil if he were an African king, or an Indian raja? Did the fact that World War II took place in Europe affect Hitler's legacy?

I'll be honest, I'm absolutely fascinated with Hitler from a historical perspective. I reject outright his ideologies and policies and condemn them in the harshest terms possible, but the fact that it is possible not only for such distorted mindsets to actually exist, but to have such a profound impact on history is very interesting, I think. I also think it's interesting to find out how these minds that so differ from the norm actually work. I wonder if the way we perceive Hitler today (the most evil person to ever have lived) is a result of historical circumstance or if he genuinely was simply the most evil person ever, and would have done whatever he could to advance the same or similar ideas no matter where he was in history (ie. if being leader of a technologically advanced nation in Central Europe and having the technological capability to commit the atrocities he did affected what happened or if he did what he would have tried no matter if it was Germany 1933-45 or Paraguay 933-45).

I often wonder the same question about other historical leaders, too. What would Julius Caesar have done if he had tanks and an Air Force in this day and age and was the ruler of Mexico?

The dice of history are loaded, and you don't get a second roll. But what if historical circumstances were different? What are some other events/people that if things had been slightly different, the entire world would be unrecognizably different today?

Maybe I'll start off with the next question that comes to mind: What if Pickett's Charge on Union lines up Cemetery Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg had actually succeeded? The Confederacy would surely have won the battle then and had free rein in the cities of the North - in all probability, the war would have been won by the South if Pickett's cavalry had simply managed to hold their positions along a rock wall on a hill in the middle of a Pennsylvania farm.

Makes me wonder...
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Old 12-13-2006, 10:02 AM   #2
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I'm writing a paper this weekend on the effects of antisemitism during Hitler's time in Vienna on shaping his views...so I'll get back to you on that one.
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Old 12-13-2006, 10:51 AM   #3
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Re: Historic Circumstances

Quote:
Originally posted by DaveC

I'll be honest, I'm absolutely fascinated with Hitler from a historical perspective. I reject outright his ideologies and policies and condemn them in the harshest terms possible, but the fact that it is possible not only for such distorted mindsets to actually exist, but to have such a profound impact on history is very interesting, I think. I also think it's interesting to find out how these minds that so differ from the norm actually work.
I agree. I think it's interesting, but actually disturbing this took place just a few decades ago and not centuries ago. But to be semi-fair, the world, and most of the German people, didn't know the full extent of the Holocaust until the camps were liberated. Still I can't imagine the war could have been fought any harder than it already was if the allies did know.


Quote:
Maybe I'll start off with the next question that comes to mind: What if Pickett's Charge on Union lines up Cemetery Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg had actually succeeded? The Confederacy would surely have won the battle then and had free rein in the cities of the North - in all probability, the war would have been won by the South if Pickett's cavalry had simply managed to hold their positions along a rock wall on a hill in the middle of a Pennsylvania farm.

Makes me wonder...
Pickett's charge was stupid, outright suicide. But what if they'd had modern weapons, or aircraft? They could have won easily. I don't think that was as much of a factor in the outcome of the war as the situation in the hills above Atlanta. If the South had held, (as they had at Kennesaw mountain) and prevented Sherman from going into Atlanta and making his famous march of devastation, it is likely that McClellan would have defeated Lincoln in the 1864 election (he was running on a 'stop the war and let the south go' stand) and the war would have ended right there. He was very close to beating Lincoln, since most people in the Union states were sick and tired of the war and loss of lives and money and didn't really give a damn if the South, or the slaves, were free or not. They just wanted the war to stop. So the Union victory at Atlanta showed enough voters that the war was winnable after all, and Lincoln won.
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Old 12-13-2006, 11:34 AM   #4
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I'd look into child rearing practices in late 19th century Bavaria.
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Old 12-13-2006, 11:36 AM   #5
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I'm not asking what historical circumstances led to Hitler gaining power as he did. I'm curious how he might have used his power under other circumstances, is all.
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by A_Wanderer
I'd look into child rearing practices in late 19th century Bavaria.
He didn't grow up in Bavaria, but in Steyr, Austria.

Quote:
Originally posted by DaveC
I'm not asking what historical circumstances led to Hitler gaining power as he did. I'm curious how he might have used his power under other circumstances, is all.

Under other circumstances he wouldn't have come to power.
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:15 PM   #7
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The mistakes we make
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Vincent Vega

Under other circumstances he wouldn't have come to power.
That's not the question I'm asking. I realize it's a stretch, but let's say he's already gained power somewhere else or at some other time in history - what, if anything, would be different?
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:42 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Vincent Vega


He didn't grow up in Bavaria, but in Steyr, Austria.
They say the Austrians' greatest victory is convincing the world Hitler was German and Beethoven was Austrian.

BTW Vincent I loved Bavaria and Germany in general. Die Biere (I was drunk most of the time I was there ) I think I'm moving there someday.
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:56 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by A_Wanderer
The mistakes we make
Not a problem.

I don't think it was a problem of how he grew up, or where he grew up.

I mean, many children were raised in a similar way, but didn't become mass murderer.

Still, it had an influence on him, for sure. Socialisation of children is, and was then, pretty much dependent on the parent's behaviour.
But there for sure was also some kind of mental disfunction.
And he was literally a loser. He wasn't accepted as a painter, and he wasn't a brilliant soldier.
He got his Iron Cross not for being a very good soldier , indeed the exact reason is questioned.
Some state he helped one or a small group of comrades risking his life.
Hitler himself told several stories why he got the cross.
Fact is, the officer who suggested Hitler being awarded with a cross was a Jew.
His turning point came when he came into contact with gas that made him blind for a while.

Why he hated the Jews so much is not really known.
My opinion is (not backed by any Historians I think) his whole regime and ideology needed an enemy that people can see and "feel".
So he chose the Jews because throughout Europe Jews were the example for the bad, greedy people. It was easy to build his ideology upon that because antisemitism was widespread among the people, from the ordinary, simple-minded, to the rich and very well educated.
The nazis created the "Arier", and everything that was different (Jews, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, disabled...) was used to build this hate.

So he got more support from the masses that were totally discouraged by the bad economical situation and the uncertain future.

This is also a reason why I don't think a person like Hitler would ever have gotten in a position like that in any other time, culture or country.

The only thing he was good in was giving speeches. He was an underperformer in school, in painting, in strategy and whatever. But he was able to influence people through his words and by exploiting the situation people lived in.

For me it is really hard to imagine of any other possibility for a person like Hitler to become what he was.


Ah, now I got the question
Sorry, I'm a bit out of shape today and always "read" something else.

Hm, have to think about it a bit and also I have to visit my local supermarket before it closes.
So I will try to find an answer later.
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Old 12-13-2006, 01:07 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Varitek


They say the Austrians' greatest victory is convincing the world Hitler was German and Beethoven was Austrian.

BTW Vincent I loved Bavaria and Germany in general. Die Biere (I was drunk most of the time I was there ) I think I'm moving there someday.
What have you visited, Bvaria or Germany?
Great you enjoyed our beer. It's really something special.

Maybe this is not the right place, email maybe?

leif_hinrichsen@gmx.de
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Old 12-13-2006, 01:13 PM   #12
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Dave, you should read Virtual History by Niall Ferguson which explores many such scenarios including a couple about Hitler- what if he'd invaded England in 1940 was one. I think the topics are more biased towards English history but there was a thought provoking one about what if America had remained a British colony There's a number of other similar books around in the What If series which are supposed to be quite good as well.
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Old 12-13-2006, 01:32 PM   #13
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He shouldn't have invaded Russia.

But, in a way we can be happy that he did.
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Old 12-13-2006, 01:45 PM   #14
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^ because it helped lead to the downfall?
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Old 12-13-2006, 01:58 PM   #15
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Yes, if he had used the full power of the army to for the western European countries he would've had a much greater chance to win, and also his proceeds in Africa would have been more successful because he could've sent more troops there.

He really "wasted" many soldiers and much material on Russia which was good for the failure of his strategy.

The Russian winter helped as well. He stuck before Moskow.
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