A British academic builds on previous scholarship to make a bold thesis—that Hitler’s principal obsession was not communism but rather “Anglo-America” and global capitalism.
Situating his argument alongside the vast research of others, which he carefully delineates in a pointed introduction, Simms (History/Univ. of Cambridge; The Longest Afternoon: The 400 Men Who Decided the Battle of Waterloo, 2015, etc.) stresses the global processes that motivated Hitler—e.g., the crash of 1929 and the Depression—and the galvanizing might of the Americans, which he believed was largely due to the German emigrant drain from the motherland. The author draws from sources he believes to be neglected as well as a deep reading of Mein Kampf, and he locates the origins of Hitler’s strategic approach to the enemy in the years during and following World War I, after which he emerged “as a rather lonely figure on the margins of German and world history.” Moving thematically—from “Humiliation” to “Fragmentation,” “Unification,” “Mobilization,” “Confrontation,” and “Annihilation”—Simms shows how Hitler’s early experience of “humiliation” (as an artist, soldier witnessing Germany’s defeat, and leader of the failed putsch) led into an obsession with the successful Anglo-Saxon model—i.e., the American dream, at least partly driven by German emigration. His plan for the vast expansion of the Reich “had less to do with hatred of Bolshevism and eastern European Jewry, and more to do with the need to prepare the Reich for a confrontation or equal coexistence with an Anglo-America whose dynamism mesmerized [him].” Thus, Simms asserts, Hitler’s motivation was less a hatred of communism (the classic argument) than obsession with the racial bolstering that Germany needed to take its rightful place in the global order. Moreover, Simms finds that in building his plan for an expanded empire, Hitler used the model of the British Empire’s colonialism and the American colonization of the West.
A vigorous, original study that adds to the ongoing scholarship.