The Optimism of Adolf Hitler
The common thread linking most if not all of Adolf Hitler’s actions and statements throughout The Forced War is ethnocentrism. He harbored a deep identification with the German people, and, to a lesser extent, an appreciation of distinct, non-German (or non-Aryan) European peoples. From the beginning, Hitler sought to undo the injustices to the German people committed by the framers of the Treaty of Versailles. This meant that in 1933 over ten million ethnic Germans in the political nation-states of Czechoslovakia, Austria, Poland, and Lithuania had been robbed of self-determination and were made to suffer foreign rule. Aside from shepherding Germany’s economic recovery during the Great Depression and reestablishing Germany’s status as a great power, bringing these people back into the Reich where they belonged (and in most cases wanted to be) was of paramount importance to Hitler.
But Hitler sought to do this peacefully and by stepping on as few toes as possible. In The Forced War, Hoggan allows for the historical record to speak for itself in order to exonerate Hitler from the charge that he wished to conquer the world. The Sudeten Germans, the Germans in Austria and Poland, and in Memel, which was seized by Lithuania in 1920 in violation of the League of Nations, did suffer oppression and indignities as second-class citizens under hostile rule. Hitler was addressing a pressing problem for his people, and had no interest in incorporating outgroup members such as Poles, Czech, and Slovaks under his rule. He said this numerous times. Is this what a power-mad conqueror would say?
Further, in January 1937, Hitler had instructed Marshal Hermann Göring to insist to Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Beck that Germany had no designs on the Polish Corridor or any other part of Poland for that matter, and would not form an alliance with the Soviet Union as Germany had done in 1922 in Rapallo, Italy. In return he had hoped for similar concessions from the Poles (such as Danzig, which was not even officially part of Poland). Now, either this was a wise move or it wasn’t, given how the Poles were not being honest and were abusing their German minority. Either way, it makes the reader ask if Hitler’s behavior was consistent with that of a modern-day Genghis Khan.
Nearly every time Hitler’s name appears on the page (which is often), Hoggan forces us to ask such questions. And every time, it gets harder and harder to answer in a manner harmonious with the accepted narrative, which paints Hitler as evil and insane.
If there are any criticisms of Hitler lurking in The Forced War, they are exceedingly mild—praise by faint damnation, if you will. Yes, Hitler underestimated the military capabilities of the Soviet Union. Then again, so did almost everybody in Western and Central Europe. After all the bloody purges and terror famines of the 1930s, who could have envisioned the Red Army as the colossus it turned out to be? Hoggan has a few choice things to say about some of Hitler’s diplomats as well, especially Hans Moltke, German ambassador to Poland.
Hoggan’s most consistent criticism, however, deals with Hitler’s character. Der Führer was optimistic almost to the point of naïveté. He didn’t realize until it was too late that Lord Halifax was a snake in the grass intent upon encircling Germany. He also didn’t realize that Józef Beck had been an enemy all along and never once negotiated in good faith over Danzig. Hitler, in Hoggan’s view, simply assumed that everyone wanted peace as much as he did. This is why he instructed Göring not to haggle with the Poles over Teschen. This is why he renounced German claims to territory in France, Denmark, Italy, and Poland. This is why he continually suppressed stories of Polish anti-German atrocities in the German press. This is why he made the Poles a very generous offer in return for Danzig. This is why he instructed Danzig Senate President Artur Greiser to capitulate to the August 4 Polish ultimatum, which threatened to starve the city. This is why mere days before the invasion of Poland, he halted all military operations when there appeared a glimmer of hope that the Poles might negotiate after all. This is why he never stopped trying until the moment Poland made her belligerent intentions clear by fully mobilizing.
Here are the terms Hitler offered the Poles:
Germany would request Poland to permit her to annex Danzig. She would ask permission to construct a superhighway and a railroad to East Prussia. Lipski was assured that these carefully circumscribed suggestions represented the total of German requests from Poland.
It was clear that there had to be a quid pro quo basis for negotiation and Germany was prepared to offer many concessions. Poland would be granted a permanent free port in Danzig and the right to build her own highway and railroad to the port. The entire Danzig area would be a permanent free market for Polish goods on which no German customs duties would be levied. Germany would take the unprecedented step of recognizing and guaranteeing the existing German-Polish frontier, including the 1922 boundary in Upper Silesia.
Sadly, Beck preferred subterfuge, inflated national prestige, and a disastrous war over solving the Danzig crisis and acquiring a steadfast ally against the Soviet Union, of whom the Poles were rightfully wary. He also unwittingly preferred being a pawn in Lord Halifax’s grand scheme for crushing Germany, and being ruthlessly sacrificed in the process. Not realizing this caused Hitler and his government to waste time and resources being more conciliatory towards Poland than they should have been. With 20/20 hindsight, Hoggan avers that Hitler’s diplomatic efforts in the days leading up to the invasion, earnest as they were, “left very little to be desired.”
Hoggan assesses this melancholy situation quite well:
Hitler had stressed with unerring aim the importance of the British attitude toward Germany. His optimism about avoiding an Anglo-German war would have been justified to a greater extent had German-Polish relations been as solid and friendly as Hitler had indicated. Hitler was not aware of the extent to which Great Britain had fostered an anti-German policy in Poland, and he had been misled by the friendly attitude of Beck at Berchtesgaden. Hitler was disappointed by the failure of the Ribbentrop mission to Warsaw, but he remained confident that the Poles could be induced to cooperate, if they were handled with tact and patience. Hitler had made a formidable attempt to convince the foreign groups hostile toward Germany that another World War would be a disaster. It is surprising that it was necessary, after the experience of World War I, to expend so much eloquence to make such an obvious point, and it is depressing to note that the war enthusiasts of Great Britain were impervious to every such eloquent argument.
Still, Hitler never wanted war, and in an April 1939 Reichstag speech declared that despite his deep admiration for Britain, “love cannot be provided from one side if it is not received from the other.” On the eve of the invasion, he wrote to the Duke of Windsor, who was living in France at the time, “you may rest assured that my attitude toward Britain and my desire to avoid another war between our peoples remain unchanged.”
Astonishing things for a German patriot like Hitler to say a mere 20 years after Britain had helped starve to death 800,000 German children and old people during the Allied Hunger Blockade of the First World War. Even after the invasion, Hitler stated he would stop all military action if only the Poles would finally negotiate.
The Absence of Jews
There are many fascinating aspects of this crucial history not discussed at length in this review—most notably, Hoggan’s evaluation of the historical and ideological backdrop to the events of the late 1930s, his thorough coverage of the Czech crisis, his biting appraisal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ignorance and cynicism, his tart dismissals of rival mainstream historians such as Martin Gilbert, Richard Gott, and William Shirer, and his moving depiction of French Foreign Minister Bonnet and his government’s slow, tragic, and entirely unnecessary capitulation to Lord Halifax.
But one curious aspect of The Forced War must be discussed to make this review complete for today’s dissidents and revisionists: Hoggan pretty much kept the Jews of out of it. On balance, there is barely a whiff of counter-Semitism in the entire book. Yes, he characterizes William Bullitt as a warmonger, but he ignores his Jewish roots and at best construes him as a junior partner to Lord Halifax. Nor does he mention that Gilbert and Gott were Jewish, while he does mention the Jewish roots of historians Lewis B. Namier and T.L. Jarman whom he finds more able and honest. There are also a small number of Jews or half-Jews who turn up from time to time to enflame the war hysteria in Britain and the United States, such as “tory warmonger” Leopold Amery. But one must go to Wikipedia and not David Hoggan to discover this.
The closest Hoggan gets to taking a stand regarding the Jews is his evenhanded (some would say approving) estimation of Hitler’s Jewish policy, as exemplified by the following two passages:
Hitler believed that the policy of granting full legal and political equality to the Jews, which had been adopted in Germany and Great Britain during the previous century, had been a great mistake for Germany. He believed that inter-marriage between Germans and Jews harmed the German people and should be discontinued. He shared the conviction of Roman Dmowski in Poland that the Jews were harmful in the economic and cultural spheres. He also believed that the Jewish influence on German politics had weakened Germany. Hitler worked for the day when there would be no more Jewish subjects in Germany, just as Abraham Lincoln in his last years had worked for an exodus of Negroes from America.
. . . and . . .
He charged that the Jews had monopolized the leading positions in German life, but he wanted his own people in those positions. He desired German civilization to remain German and not to become Jewish. Foreign spokesmen often claimed that Germany was driving away her most valuable cultural asset, and Hitler hoped that they were sufficiently grateful that Germany was making this asset available to them. He knew that there was ample room in the world for Jewish settlement, but he believed that it was time to discard the idea that the Jews had the right to exploit every other nation in the world. He urged the Jewish people to form a balanced community of their own, or to face an unpredictable crisis.
Of course, I am not in a position to challenge Hoggan’s neutrality on this issue. According to two Jewish sources I have read, Benjamin Ginsburg’s How the Jews Defeated Hitler and Edwin Black’s The Transfer Agreement, influential anti-German Jews did warmonger throughout the 1930s and did have a tremendous impact upon the events leading up to the war. Yet this makes almost no appearance in The Forced War. For one thing, Hoggan outclasses both Ginsburg and Black as a historian. For breadth and depth of information as well as scholarly objectivity there really is no comparison. So that must be taken into consideration.
Secondly, I spotted some glaring inconsistencies between The Forced War and these two other sources. In The Transfer Agreement Black strongly implies that the outrage of Polish Jews over Hitler’s ascension to power is what drove Polish intransigence when dealing with Germany. Hoggan, on the other hand, stresses Polish “cruel and audacious” anti-Semitism—which was stronger than Hitler’s—and lays this intransigence squarely at the feet of Beck and his subordinates. The Jews, according to Hoggan, had nothing to do with it. Ginsburg, on the other hand, paints Roosevelt as a great ally and benefactor of the Jews who was greatly influenced by Jews in his administration such as Felix Frankfurter, Henry Morgenthau, and Samuel Cohen. Yet Hoggan insists that Jews had little to no influence on Roosevelt’s anti-German belligerence, and that FDR had “no strong pro-Jewish feelings.” Germany’s Jewish policies never amounted to more than a pretext for FDR; as evidence, Hoggan demonstrates how Jews were treated worse in Poland than in Germany.
Considerable attention was given to the problem of encouraging Jewish emigration from Germany in the years from 1933 to 1938, but far more Jews departed from Poland than from Germany during these years. An average 100,000 Jews were emigrating from Poland each year compared to 25–28,000 Jews leaving Germany annually. From September 1933 to November 1938 a special economic agreement (Havarah agreement) enabled German Jews to transfer their assets to Palestine, and the German authorities were far more liberal in this respect than Poland. There were also special arrangements for wealthy Jews in Germany to contribute to the emigration of others by capital transfers to various places. 170,000 Jews had left Germany by November 9, 1938, compared to approximately 575,000 who had departed from Poland during the same years. It was noted that thousands of Jews who left Germany in 1933 returned to the country after 1934, and that scarcely any of the Polish Jews returned to Poland during the same period.
If it was all about the Jews for FDR, then why not support war against Poland, or stay out of the fight altogether?
I don’t know who is correct about this, but I suspect there are elements of truth on both sides. History, as we all as know, can be quite messy, and historians have been known to grind axes. While Ginsburg and Black can be criticized for their anti-German biases, the same can be said for Hoggan’s apparent pro-German bias. In any case, Hoggan’s work is valuable in that he discusses the devastating harm that White gentiles can undoubtedly do to themselves. Such analysis can help prevent or limit future blunders as well as understanding the Jewish Question can.
There is, however, one personage in The Forced War who does challenge Hoggan, and Hoggan, to his credit, gives him ample airtime—even as he dismisses him outright. It seems that nearly every time Polish Ambassador Jerzy Potocki’s name appears on the page, he’s blaming the Jews for something:
Potocki overestimated the Jewish question because of his own intense prejudices against the Jews, which were shared by the entire Polish leadership. He was highly critical of the American Jews. He believed that Jewish influence on American culture and public opinion, which he regarded as unquestionably preponderant, was producing a rapid decline of intellectual standards in the United States. He reported to Warsaw again and again that American public opinion was merely the product of Jewish machinations.
Hoggan states further that . . .
Potocki continued to exaggerate the importance of the Jews in American policy, and he ridiculed prominent American Jews, who claimed that they were “desirous of being representative of ‘true Americanism’,” but were, “in point of fact, linked with international Jewry by ties incapable of being torn asunder.” He complained that the Jews hid their Jewish internationalism in a false nationalism, and “succeeded in dividing the world into two warlike camps.”
Far be it for this reviewer to give greater weight to Potocki’s position on the Jews than Hoggan’s. But considering all the scholarship and revelations of the post-Soviet period, which include the crucial works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Kevin MacDonald, Andrew Joyce, Ron Unz, Brenton Sanderson, and Igor Shafarevich (among others), as well as the fact that Potocki’s analysis accords very closely with those of Jewish writers like Ginsburg and Black, one cannot help but suspect that David Hoggan may have had a bit of a blind spot when it came to the Jews.
David Hoggan’s The Forced War is an invaluable work of history and a crucial touchstone for modern dissidents. Appreciating the justice and truth behind the German perspective during the Second World War is the first step we all must take to have a balanced and accurate understanding, not only of history, but of the crippling ideological conformity of our own times—which springs directly from the smoldering ruins of 1945 Berlin and the Nuremburg Trials which followed.
But the book’s own story is fascinating as well.
First published in West Germany in 1961 under the title Der erzwungene Krieg, the book engendered much hostility in the press and from establishment scholars, who dubbed it a work of “right-wing extremism.” According to historian Kurt Glaser, this was due less to the few errors Hoggan had committed and more to his “heresy against the creed of historical orthodoxy.” Naturally, patriotic German citizens, especially those who had lived through the war, praised Hoggan. His popularity was such that the German edition of The Forced War went through over a dozen printings of more than 50,000 copies.
Efforts to publish an English-language edition stalled due to disputes between Hoggan and publisher Devin-Adair. Eventually, the Institute for Historical Review obtained the rights to the book. But disaster struck in 1984. As IHR director Mark Weber explains in his Foreword to the 2023 edition:
But a devastating arson attack on the IHR’s offices in July 1984, which destroyed the book’s layout and proof sheets, art work and other key files, delayed publication several more years. (No one was ever arrested for the crime. Only years later did law enforcement authorities reveal that the perpetrators had been activists of the “Jewish Defense League,” an organization identified by the FBI as a major terrorist group.)
Fortunately, IHR persevered with The Forced War. This book should be read carefully and with great urgency by as wide an audience as possible. As pure history, it is as entertaining as it is enlightening. The sheer breadth of Hoggan’s scholarship makes us ask important questions and inspires high confidence in his thesis. Any atrocities, actual or purported, committed by the Germans during the Second World War must be counterbalanced by the wealth of exonerating evidence found in The Forced War. And none of this diminishes the irony that a work which scrupulously shielded Jews from blame had nearly been done in by them forty years later.