I think the "both side" narative is flawed

Hi Charlotte thanks for the reply. Well one thing I learned in school was part of a term paper is rereading a book and then write down your thoughts on the book and then evaluate your own thoughts on the book. So 2 people can draw their own conclusions. As for me I like the narrow economic focus but he actually doesn’t mention the big elephant in the room which is a lot of the criticism on this book. The whole idea of "lebensraum " or getting territory in the East. The National Socialist would have done a lot better (yes is also counterfactual) with less crazy food policies and actually working with the locals. Also eliminating the local population was already in Mein Kampf (lebensraum). There is a lot of criticism of Tooze as well (I like the book).

Which brings me to my second point:

“Without hindsight, voting for the Nazis was a supremely rational act, one most of us would have made. People say a lot of shit. They thought Hitler was lying about the whole race war thing because it was crazy talk. And Hitler certainly lied about nearly everything else, which makes him a typical politician. How do you tell brown toxic waste in a cesspit filled with liquid shit? You can’t”

With all respects I find this view simply not true in my view.

Well Hitler wasn’t the unknown factor. He tried a coup in 1924. Mein Kampf was widely read and he did not make a secret of his extreme antisemitic views, so it was not an invented lie on the fly he thought about it and people read it and voted for it. Hitler war kein betriebsunfall and the Germans could have voted for someone else instead of this violent gang with a history of trying to overthrow the Republic (proving that the people could stop these idiots if the had wanted to). I can’t go mindread each and every German who voted for Hitlers gang but based on the knowledge of 1933 I find this choice extremely irrational. Especially as the terror against the Democratic people was already widespread. I don’t think the Hitler of 1941 was so much different from that one of 1933, his voters knew.

In the Netherlands next door the Communist party had 3.2 percent and the Dutch fascist parties got no seats at all. So different countries made different choices. Yes circumstances were different but not crazy enough to mass vote for warlike Hitler just 15 years after losing a horrible number of people.

German also HAD many moderate choices but didn’t take that route, that is the end. After reading Mein Kampf, choosing Hitler wasn’t rational unless your ratio is pure hate and blaming the Germans who happened to be Jew or others.

Some people blame the “obrigkeitshorigkeits” mindset (very loosely translated as a follow the leader culture). Ed Shames a WW2 veteran compared them with automotons.In business meetings. On the other hand the German school systems is almost based around questioning authority. So I don’t speak for all Germans but they DID have a choice and too many made the wrong one.

In conclusion here simply is no scientific basis for the “inevitable single lane road from Democracy to Dachau” . There were a lot of turn-offs to better choices, more Germans could and should have made a better choice .

Personally if I was a german I wouldn’t have voted for hitler since I’m the kind of person that he would see as a subhuman (I’m autistic and I got a genetic disease call “délétion 22Q11” in french)

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There’s more than a couple of problems with this line of thinking:

  1. The Dutch were not involved in World War I, and thus not economically ruined by it, nor had the Dutch have experienced revolution and bloodshed in the streets.

  2. The Dutch didn’t alienate the conservatives and monarchists by abolishing the monarchy. And yes the post-war German government could have invited one of the more democratically minded German princes, preferably from the house of Hohenzollern, to become a powerless constitutional monarch.

  3. It’s important to understand that by 1932, the Communists and Nazis were BOTH working together to make Weimar rule untenable. There was a HUGE months-long strike in Berlin co-organized by both the Nazis and Communists. The army and the police were unable to control them together and in a three-way, civil war would probably lose still.

  4. Democracy is not a moral imperative, it is only a tool to protect the property of the petit-bourgeois, and all political rights are an extension (forward operating perimeter) of that. The Weimar Republic was not able to ensure that property was maintained and defended, in part because the dominant party of the Weimar era were the Social Democrats, and though they had for the moment purged the Communists, the party was still chocked full of Marxists and socialists, neither of which were opposed in principle to seizing assets for the greater good.

The power brokers of all modern polities are the middle and professional classes. They are what keep a country stable, and they, unlike the Dutch, were economically ruined and anxious.

  1. Who? Who could beat back both the Nazis and the Communists? Yeah they could have in theory voted for anyone, but there were no viable candidates other than Thalman and Hitler. Any other vote was wasted. In America, because we have a powerful presidency, we understand that third parties are untenable because our elections are total war, every political resource and ally must be called to fight. In 1932, the desperation of a collapsed German economy and extreme political violence imposed this American political reality onto a parliamentary system not designed for it.

In America, a vote for a third party is a vote for the guy you don’t like. It’s a protest, nothing more. And in 1932 Germany, it was the same.

  1. Don’t pretend that the German far-right was the only group in Europe with plans for lebensraum and ethnic cleansing. You had Polish Nationalists who wanted to ethnically cleanse all Germans east of the Oder to re-establish Poland’s supposed 10th-century border with the Holy Roman Empire, you had calls of both Hungary and Romania to ethnically cleanse the other side out of Transylvania, you had Slavic Nationalists who wanted to ethnically cleanse what was then eastern Poland of Poles to establish Slavic/Russian/Belorussian domination of the historical borderland by means of removing the other claimant, and of course, some Czech ultranationalists who wanted to ethnically cleanse the Sudetenland. Three of these things happened.

Like it or not, ethnic cleansing works, and they’d seen it. Genocide works and they’d seen it. And they were all planning it. Only power capacity prevented them from acting.

  1. As far as lebensraum goes, well, the best I can put it is that that desire was absolutely rational. Hitler was not the only person to realize, and I have known this from quotes from Shall, Wells, and Russel, all of which were leftists, that the era of the nation-state was coming to an end, and only a continental spanning superstate could engage in the sumo wrestling of superpower politics. For Germany not to become the puppet of either the United States or Russia, both of which were superpowers by population alone, and also size, Hitler needed to create a superstate the size and population of either, and the problem with things like the EU, is that they are empires and thus will collapse like Austria Hungry. Austria collapsed because it was ethnically diverse, Germany didn’t because it wasn’t.

And in Hitler’s case, unlike America he wasn’t gonna have smallpox to do the heavy lifting, nor was there the institutional advantage of the locals having a vastly smaller population due to carrying capacity differences.

Was this right? No, but there is no right. There are only power and anarchy at the international level. All of these notions of human rights and territorial integrity are unnatural social norms imposed by the Pax Americana and will only last insofar as America remains dominant in the developed world. I’m not opposed to these things while they last, but they won’t. They never do.

BUT, the key here is something beyond morals. The reason you DON’T genocide your neighbors or try and take Lebesnraum is colation. And that’s what happened to Hitler, all his neighbors coalitioned him into oblivion, same as Napoleon.

  1. Again, you need to understand the difference between the Old Fighter and the people who voted for Hitler just in the 1932 elections. They didn’t vote for him because of Mein Kampf, they voted for him because they needed a tool to smash in the heads of the communists and Hitler was the only hammer within reach. Tha’s not hate, that’s not racism, that’s strategic default.

And again, even if Hitler got emergency powers, something no one thought he could get until the Reichstag fire, there were other social barriers to him running around making racial war on others. Hitler’s rapid and pitiless dismantling of the formal and informal checks and balances in a non-totalitarian regime had never been seen before and anticipated that would have been impossible in 1932 or even 1933.

And that’s where you HAVE to let go of hindsight. Totalitarianism was novel in the early 1930s, they couldn’t understand what ride they were in for because this kind of thing had never been done before. Remember something important: even visionaries don’t understand the future. Orville Wright said after inventing the airplane there would never be flight service between New York in and Paris and as late as the early 1950s, leading rocket scientists were writing in magazines the technical challenges of getting a man to the moon and back were so extrme that moon travel even in an exploratory capacity was 100 to 200 years off.

Here’s the video:

And remember these are technical experts, not laymen like the general population. I cannot recommend watching that video enough because all of us desperately need intellectual humility when trying to assign blame.

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Your argument was going so well… until you said that the EU was an Empire. sad


Actually let’s talk about that. Cause it could be a semantic difference, which is actually quite important When I say the EU is an empire I mean it clearly has, in its charter superstate ambitions, a move by it’s proponents to federalism. But this will fail for the reasons Austria Hungry failed. Because as World War I proved, it is ONLY ethnic solidarity that can hold a state together in times of supreme crisis. Ethnically homogenous states do have civil was, but usually not breakaway movements, and if those movements fail, re-integration is realtively easy, ie, the American Civil War.

The reason for this is every ethnic group are factions, and they are all set against each other, and even in the American case, where ethnic acclimation is possible to some extent, it’s never as fluid as ideological or regional or class-based factions. It’s very solidity as a concept makes it far FAR more important.

And as much as some dismiss nationalism as a romantic idea, there’s a hard-headed realist case for nationalism too. See, in a multiethnic state, the ruling elite can play off the ethnic groups against each other, and can marginalize one by shifting patronage to other, more marginalized groups where that patronage gets better bang for the buck.

This is why so many German Austrians hated the empire, the ascension of the Hungarians wasn’t simply racial antipathy but legitimate anger that the Hapsburgs were no longer fully accountable to THEM. In pre-modern times, an aristocratic system was possible where accountability to the people was easy to ignore but with the rise of the modern middle class, that class lives just above hand to mouth and is intolerant of misrule because they can lose everything so easily. That’s the push for democratic systems.

Something like th EU, even moreso than Austria Hungary, allows the elites, and by this, I mean the political class, the financiers, the capitalists, the media to an extent, can play various ethnic groups against each other via patronage or [passive aggressive denounceation so they can line their own pockets. When you are the elite, on the individual basis corruption IS the point, as unlimited corruption leads to unlimited power, at least until the system collapses.

This comes from The Dictator’s Handbook:

And don’t worry this is the most logical and system-level defense of democracy I’ve ever seen.

So that’s why the EU, which was a concept even before world war I, in some form would be entirely unworkable in the long term. Now Hitler’s a REAL bad guy, and looking for an excuse, but to him, after the experiences of World War I, and the fecklessness of Italy in the Triple Alliance convinced men like Hitler, international cooperation was unreliable. Thus the only consistent ally an ethnic group can have is members of the same ethnicity. And also makes a logical deduction that states DO weaken and leaving conquered ethnic groups alive only means they will rebel and in the worst case, collapse any empire from within at some future point.

In and of themselves, the idea of Lebensraum and genocide are instrumentally rational from a national security standpoint. BUT, it doesn’t consider blowback and permanent alienation from the admittedly unstable alliance system of international politics. This is a facet of the security dilemma, and for Hitler to properly appreciate it, if he ever could, you’d need the early 1960s version of Hans Morgenthau explaining this to a VERY early 1920s Hitler before his antisemitism hardened into concrete.

This does not absolve Hitler, but I think it adds some context we can use against Nazi ideas without moral appeals or moral outrage.

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sigh So now instead of a slight nitpick, I have to disagree with everything you said.

First of all, I have no idea where you get your info on the EU. Looking at the ‘superstate’ term, the ‘inevitable failure’ and the ‘elites’; I take it you’ve been reading some bias Brexiteer Englishman’s view of the EU. Either that or some American source that analyzed a Brexiteer’s view but presented it more objectively, not realizing that these claims were false to begin with. (we could literally discuss this for days, so lets not)

Just to end this part: the EU looking to become a federal country is discussed in the same way humanity discusses colonizing Mars: Sure, it’s a nice goal to have and we should definitely work towards it, but its also very far into the future (decades, if not centuries). Right now, the EU countries take years to agree on a single common law; you think they would just synchronize all tax laws, labor laws, judiciary laws in one magical moment?

Also, Austria-Hungary did not collapse only due to ethnic tensions, it collapsed for a variety of reasons. By your words, you make it sound like a failed state because of its collapse. All Empires collapse, this is just inevitable. Are we going to treat the Roman Empire as a failed state because it collapsed?

A nation state is nothing more that the default version of a country. This has been the case since the dawn of mankind. Isn’t a tribe a version of the ‘nation state’? Isn’t a city-state a version of the ‘nation state’? The conditions may vary throughout history but this has always been the case. An Empire is nothing more than a nation state that expanded beyond itself. Some survive longer than others but, in the end they will all collapse for one reason or another and revert to their default state.

Now, the idea that Hitler would only see members of his own ethnicity as the only allies he could have could be theoretically true, however, if that were the case, why does he have allies? Western historians love to simplify everything and pretend that smaller countries don’t exist, however, they do. Fact is, there is no such thing as a ‘reliable ally’, there is only ‘personal interest’. Allow me to clarify:

  • As we are seeing with the latest episodes, the Germans are being greeted as liberators by the conquered people of Eastern Europe, yet they are alienating these people by treating them like lesser human beings. If this were Imperial WW1 Germany, they would’ve rallied countless support among the Baltics, Ukraine and Belorussia just by acting on the liberator role. Instead, this idea of Lebensraum is pushing potential allies away, thus securing the USSR’s victory in the long term. In fact, now that I think about it, I am going to make a bold statement: Imperial Germany would have defeated the Soviets and won WW2.

  • The Nazi idea of ‘United by ethnicity’ is nothing more than a reskin of the communist idea of ‘United by class’ the difference is only superficial by the result is the same: alienate a noticeable chunk of your population (usually the inteligencia, ie the people who push progress forward) and then blame someone else when your Empire collapses. Western Empires had a slightly different version of that, as that was more of a ‘United by color’ and that resulted in the alienating of a population that far exceeds their own. As we see, neither the British, nor the French, nor the Dutch Empires exist anymore.

In short, accepting of other nationalities, classes, people of color, is the only way for an Empire to prosper, unless they want to revert back to the default nation-state.


Oh, and to address the OP, both sides were bad and pointing out the Holocaust and the other Germany crimes usually just comes across as making excuses for Allied war crimes.

Example: we know why the Soviets wanted revenge on the Germans and thus committed mass rape against German women, correct? We can disagree with it on a moral standpoint but we can, at least, understand it. Now, what was the reason for the mass rape of Japanese women by the US army? Perhaps the answer would be ‘Well, the Japanese also committed mass rape in China, Philippines, etc…’ and that is true. However! If that is the case, why are US soldiers doing the revenge-rape? Or are they getting revenge because ‘Those nasty Japs bombed Pearl Harbor!’. Furthermore, as far as my research goes, the rapes were committed by largely fresh recruits who had seen little to no fighting. So the soldiers who risked their lives in the Pacific (and probably saw many of their close friends die) behaved themselves while the rookies decided to get revenge for… someone™? Both sides did bad things. Fact! I understand that the tiny Japanese women don’t generate the same amount of sympathy as the blonde-haired white German women but still…


Hey I gotta respond you your thing on my points, but it’s late here.

I want to let you know that Japanese women carry as much sympathy from me at least as the blonde woman. BUT as far as I know, a lot fewer were raped because the only parts of Japan we actually took were Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Saipan, all with small populations.

I don’t care about the vets taking home dead soldiers’ body parts as souvenirs, they are already dead. Same thing with those tanks with Japanese skulls fascinated to the sides that horrified Elanor Roosevelt so much. But things like the Americans shooting the German solider/Hiwi in the opening of saving Private Ryan when he was very obviously trying to surrender, that upsets me.

You don’t put civilians in play, and once they surrender you treat them right. Normally I despise making moral appeals but on this one, I will admit I’m not heartless. The point of war is to compel the enemy, not kill. It is the domination that’s important, not the bloodshed. Surrender and cowed populations are as glorious as mountains of dead enemies around your machine gun nest. Actually a lot more.

Not to mention, it helps build bridges in a permanently unstable international system of shifting alliances, so it’s wise and cost-effective. But generally, if you’re gonna do total war, destroy the infrastructure but spare the people, which is what Sherman mostly did in Georgia. Cause all of us are caught in systems we cannot really control and the moral culpability of the common folk because they supported a regime you don’t like is too easily abused and too easily used against you in the wind blows in the other direction.

Control is an illusion, we are all victims of fate except how we process things afterward.


Something like this is tricky in my opinion. Yes the Nazi’s has the Holocaust but both sides raped, looted, murdered, bombed innocents.

So sure Nazis were worse overall but the allies aren’t innocent and should be help accountable for what they did.

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Just to add something here regarding Uchinaa (Okinawa). Okinawan people are an ethnic minority who were oppressed for centuries by the Japanese after they invaded and conquered the Ryukyu Islands to expand their empire (March to May of 1609, if I remember correctly).

A great deal of the rape on Okinawa during WWII occurred by bad actors in the U.S. forces against women of both Okinawan and Japanese descent (possibly because many American soldiers made no distinction between them?).

There is a famous incident in which Okinawan men killed several U.S. soldiers in reprisal for their criminality - the incident is now termed “The Katsuyama Killing Incident of 1945” though it has a less savory name I won’t mention here. (Be warned! There was a racist component to this incident.)

Relations between US military forces and native Okinawans were frequently under strain as a result of this and other incidents that occurred post-war on Okinawa. A few bad actors made it rough on everyone concerned, especially when their military commands did not act to prosecute them for their crimes, instead, taking steps to shield them from prosecution by local Okinawan authorities in several cases.

As for mutilation of the fallen, and removal of their body parts as “souvenirs”, that harkens back to a truly terrifying part of the human psyche that exists in all of us, and which will exert itself under the right kind of stresses - stresses which war serves to bring out in us more extremely than anything else.

In many cultures, mutilation of the fallen is a means of denying the dead their immortality. It was seen as such by the Japanese, and, so, had a grim psychological effect on them during the Okinawan and other island campaigns. That US forces engaged in this sort of thing is a testament to just how hardened and determined their Japanese foe really was.

I am not, by any means, justifying this behavior - if anything it shows the great depth of “mankind’s inhumanity to mankind”, and just how far we as humans can descend into bestial cruelty in times of war.

The US soldiers who shot their prisoner in Saving Private Ryan may have had reasons the movie failed to bring out because doing so did not contribute to the story the movie wanted to tell. War movies are generally a poor mirror of history, anyway. All that said, there was historical mistreatment of POWs, and very little of it met with the prosecution in military law that it deserved - that is truly disturbing, but is one of the vicissitudes of war that happens. Military commands frequently are so fervent in their worship of Victory that they are willing to overlook at what cost it is achieved.

One the subject of sides, good, bad, right, wrong I’m not sure anyone now or at any time could qualify or quantify the ultimately subjective idea of what is or isn’t right or wrong. Unquestionably horrible events occurred both for individual and a policy based reasons, and with the benefit of hindsight, and people at the time of the events, will always be debated of what was the justification for these acts and policies. All we can do is acknowledge these kind of subjects as based on facts without trying to qualify them by any standards and understand not the justification for but the obedience to such acts and try to avoid the paths that lead to such issues. Thanks

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