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That pacifism would have been the best response of nations to the policies of Hitler

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adminadmin (PRO)
 I'd like to thank my opponent for an interesting discussion that led to this debate. Good to see a history debate once in a while too.

The policies of Hitler
Many people ask themselves why Hitler was ever voted into power. The answer is simple: the economy had collapsed. For all the hardship that the United States endured during the Great Depression, Germany was worse on every metric. As well as all the economic pressures that caused the Great Depression in most countries across the world, Germany also had the additional problem of needing to pay vast sums of money to foreign countries after their defeat in the first world war. As part of broader policies to combat this, the German government privatized their central banking system. Inequality ballooned like crazy and the German people demanded an alternative to the rapidly rising aristocracy.

Communism was undoubtedly appealing, and the communists routinely scored very well on the polls during this period. Hitler literally had to burn down the government and blame it on communists in order to diffuse that threat, because communism presented a seemingly viable economic plan. However, the German people feared another Stalin rising to power. Hitler's alternative was a curious blend of right-wing authoritarianism and socialism, with enough nationalism mixed in to raise people's spirits a bit. Hitler introduced a broad range of economic performs based on the revolutionary work by the then-recent economist Keynes - working towards full employment (as the nazi's defined it anyway, since they were simultaneously trying to encourage women to have more kids due to a slump in population growth, so women were excluded from employment figures), stimulating spending (particularly in infrastructure), reissuing the entire currency, getting foreign interests out of the banking sector, and undoing the privatization of the central bank. He achieved all of that.

Having reformed the economy, and cemented his position politically, it is worth noting that Hitler was relatively unprepared for a war compared with many other European powers. What army he did have, he sent to annex various minor places that wanted to be a part of Germany already anyway (which made the Germans super happy and everybody else a little bit upset, since this was in clear violation of Germany's post-WWI terms at the Treaty of Versailles). The build up of nazi arms was relatively swift between 1933 and 1938, during which time Hitler repeatedly stressed his willingness to work within international agreements, and sought for an alliance with numerous powerful nations, including England, Poland and many other countries. Most of these being refused, a small arms race was triggered which, for various unimportant reasons, Germany came out ahead in. It wasn't until 1938 that Hitler was actively preparing for war, however. He did make a 4-year plan for war in 1936, but at the same time pursued a foreign policy largely aimed at forming peace treaties with as many potential allies as possible.

It's important to note that Hitler still feared the communists. He knew that they were a threat to him and to his vision for Germany. As such little of his war policy appears to have been made for an invasion into the west (at least until mid 1939) - Hitler's "Lebensraum" basically meant that he wanted enough influence over eastern Europe to keep the Soviets out. This was no great secret either. When Chamberlain declared "Peace in our time!", many of the assurances he gave were anti-Soviet. Hitler agreed to peace even after he had already decided to make war. He then also, of his own accord, cut back military spending massively to focus on making his economy as strong as possible. Chamberlain had a diplomatic victory and certainly prevented a war in 1938.

Despite the western concessions against the Soviets, Hitler was still uneasy at the Russian machine to his east. Britain's subsequent siding with Poland he openly called an "encirclement", because he wanted to Germanize the east. The invasion of Poland, subsequent invasions of France and Britain, and finally his attempt to destroy the Communists once and for all (which contrary to popular belief had actually been his intention all along) were all because of this background. Before the invasion however, Hitler made a last ditch attempt at peace, asking Poland again to ally with him and laying out the consequences if they did not. Poland, who had an economic blockade on Germany since their seizure of Austria (and often generally sided with the Jews) refused Hitler's offer and preferred to fight Hitler instead. He also did so on the very good advice from multiple sources that neither Britain or France would particularly care if he took Poland, as although Hitler realized war with these was likely inevitable, he did not want to spark another world war. Which totally didn't work as planned.

The effect of diplomatic pressure
With the exception of France (which would have been inappropriate due to the Versailles treaty) Hitler attempted to make peace with virtually every western nation. It was not the German negotiators who were seeking a war, but Germany was seeking a way to diffuse the Soviet threat and reclaim their lost territories, which had largely gone to Poland, Austria and Russia. These attempts were declined. I'm no fan of Hitler's policies generally. It's not hard to find fault with the guy. But Hitler's foreign ministry did at least as much as any other western nation to seek peace and prevent a war. Only five nations of the many Hitler tried to talk to responded positively:
  • Ironically, Russia. Russia made tons of secret agreements with the Germans that Hitler resented deeply. Nonetheless although the recapturing of German territories in Russia, and the nullification of communism had always been among Hitler's plans, the secret alliances he made with Russia did delay the conflict on that front somewhat, allowing Hitler to concentrate on the west for a time.
  • Italy, who happened to be ruled by a particularly violent strain of fascists at the time, and who idolized the nationalism of Hitler.
  • Japan. Hitler wasn't too keen on Japan initially because Germany was already in a quite stable alliance with China and indeed fighting the Japanese out of Manchuria. However, after some Japanese pressure and the change in the foreign ministry after 1938, as well as China not playing along with Germany's anti-Soviet pact, Germany and Japan made their alliance.
  • The Vatican. This was rather handy as much of Germany was Catholic. The church several times openly pleaded for all sides in the conflict to make peace.
  • Finally, Great Britain, twice. The first time, they decided to raise Germany's shipping limit, which Hitler called "the happiest day of my life", because he saw it as a road to peace with England. The second time, it was Chamberlain's peace in our time accord, which despite the fact Hitler had already made war plans to fight immediately, caused him to stop and concentrate on other matters until things became pressing again.

Hitler was certainly no pacifist. But he wasn't dead set on war either. In fact, on multiple occasions he went out of his way to achieve his goals with as little fighting as possible, and to maintain as much peace as possible. He even demonstrated a willingness to side with his "enemies", and make peace at his own expense right when he was about to declare a war. For the latter action, he was named Time magazine's "man of the year", so this wasn't exactly un-noticed. The point is that he was a man who, for his entire political career, wanted what was best for Germany. This was the motto of the Nazi party - "Alles Fur Deutschland", or "Everything For Germany". To achieve that he was a man ready to negotiate and make peace at any opportunity while fulfilling his goals. He did not simply want to "conquer the world", and his intentions were not necessarily "evil" (as opposed to various assertions by my opponent in the forums). In his speeches Hitler frequently called on the German people to be "equally both peace-loving and brave".

Indeed we find no major actor in this conflict followed a policy of pacifism. So that leads us to the most important question in the debate.

Why pacifism?
I'll be working on the assumption that avoiding war would be the ideal outcome, and failing that, preventing as much of the war as possible is the next best alternative. If my opponent contest this, let me briefly argue that there's nothing more important in the world than people, and peace costs fewer human lives than war (as evidenced by the relatively few deaths in the Great Depression despite the harshness of the conditions).

Pacifism is the philosophy of refusing to fight wars. It argues diplomacy is a more effective means to superior ends - in this case, a lack of war.

Foreign investors screwed Germany in the depression. Their diplomats screwed Germany in the Treaty of Versailles. They refused treaties with Germany and basically did little by way of "appeasement" other than occasionally flatly ignoring Germany. All the while, they were building up arms for a conflict with Germany. Even Britain, who made a little progress at peace, refused peace offers several times from Germany with little demands on the British side. Germany never attacked Britain - it was them who attacked Germany.

In these circumstances, where the other side is offering peace but apparently ready to fight you, it would be the pacifist way to avoid the fight. Even if Germany did not propose peace to some nations (ie communist nations, France) it was still in the best interests of these nations not to take part in a war, if the aim is to avoid war. That might have meant something like the revocation of the Treaty of Versailles. But would it have mattered, really, in the interests of sparing millions of innocent lives?

It's in this context that I'm proud to support pacifism as the ideal response to the policies of Hitler.

Return To Top | Posted:
2015-02-01 09:13:53
| Speak Round
gree0232gree0232 (CON)
There are a couple of serious error's in the historical analysis presented by Admin.  

#1 - The Nazi's never won an election.  

"Nevertheless, in making his argument Lewis repeats what is supposed to be the argument-clincher against elections — the fact that “Hitler came to power in a free and fair election.”The only problem is that this frequently-repeated “fact” is simply not true. In the final two free elections before Hitlers rise to power, in July and November 1932, the Nazis received 38% and 33% of the vote, respectively — a plurality but not enough to bring them into government. In the 1932 presidential election, Hitler lost to Hindenburg by a wide margin."


The way Hitler rose to power was by forming coalition governments and deliberately seeking out the posts that would give him control over the apparatus of the state.  The Nazi's first post of power was the Ministry of Interior (i.e. the police).  The Nazi's packed loyalists into these positions and turned the police force from a 'German' force into a 'Nazi' force with the rule of law applied based more on loyalty to the Nazi party rather than the rule of law.  These tactics are similar to those used by the mafia to take over areas of weakly controlled governance, and instances of rising violence against the brown shirts and Jews (Krystalnacht) very clearly laid bear the Nazi's intent to violently seize power.  

#2 - Communism scared the ever living begezzers out of most Germans.  

Communism was not some far off thing.  They watched in the after WWII as Russia descended into utter chaos and civil war, watched Russia reform and then immediately begin a murderous rampage of purges and Revolutionary zeal that turned simple morality onto its head and left a group pf thus in power.  The German elite, long with their Junker traditions, were absolutely horrified by the reality of communism - and the reality that the poor in industrialized Nations as predicted by Marx failed to materialize in favor of what were then ignorant peasants was a hefty fear with most Germans.  The materialization of brown shirted thugs seemed like the opening act of a 'fifth column' (Spanish Civil War) and an attempt to send Germany into its own chaos.  The Nazi's, with a heavy focus on propaganda, expertly played upon this fear - but could never convince a majority of Germans that their brand of thuggery was the way forward. 

#3 - Hitler's intentions were clearly spelled out. 

"Chief among his ideas was the absolute, innate superiority of the Germanic race, which Hitler called Aryan, over every group of people. "Mein Kampf" singled out Jews as the source of many of Germany's ills and a threat to Aryan dominance. The Aryans had a duty to restore Germany's former glory and enlarge its territory by winning back the land it had during World War I and gaining new area by expanding into Russia."


The idea of Germany being a 'master race' destined to rule over the lesser races was clearly spelled out while Hitler was still in prison.  His attacks on the Jews were clearly spelled out.  His desire to conquer Russia equally spelled out, as it was in perfect harmony with his Aryan ideology.  In short, the world (Mein Kampf was well read during the period) knew exactly what Hitler would do with power.  Anyone thinking a man who wrote this was bent on 'reason' was rolling himself - as we will see. 

#4 - Pacifism was tried, it failed. 

We now deride the attempt to appease Hitler by placating 'Germany' be relieving the legitimate grievances left over from WWI.  The reparations were forgiven, German territorial acquisitions were supported for the German peoples of Austria and Czechoslovakia.  If Germany, rather than Hitler, were simply reacting to unreasonable infringements, appeasement would have worked.  the other Great Powers made it clear that Poland was the limit - they are culturally and linguistically distinct, and any idea of 'German' concerns were right out.  Even the USSR tried to reason with Hitler, believing his territorial ambitions were simple Realpolitik.  The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact divided up Poland between the Nazi's and the USSR, and a horrified group of appeasers looked on as Hitler made an absolute mockery of their attempts to 'reason'.  If the USSR believed it could reason with Hitler, they would find out just how wrong their were when, totally unprovoked, Hitler invaded the USSR - but not before attacking France, Norway, Denmark, the Balkans (where he seized the Polesti oil fields specifically to fuel his armored juggernaut into the USSR), Greece, and Crete - creating a massive front along Russia's border and flooding the Black Sea with German Naval Power.  The intent was clear.  Unlike the Western counter-parts, the Soviets were not blind to these actions and their likely result - Russia created a defense in depth and was in the process of reforming the Red Army when Hitler stuck.  In the opening months of the war, the entire six million souls of the Red Army would be wiped off the map.  It is ONLY when the German Battle Staff, studiously counting off Red Army units in the Order of Battle off the list as they were destroyed, realized that there were MORE Russian Soldiers facing them after the destruction of the Red Army in total that the limits of German violence began to seap into the Nazi though process.  

It should also be noted that Hitler was often confronted with words of caution and continuously chose war.  Poland?  France?  Balkans?  Russia?  Declaration of War on the USA?  There is scant record of Hitler ever choosing anything but violence, and in the end rather than face the consequences of his actions he chose suicide.  This was not a man who could be reasoned with.  This was a man fully intending to invade, enslave and/or murder, the Soviet Union into silence.  The same with the Jews, the lowest of Aryan spectrum, whom he went out of his way to 'destroy' in the 'Final Solution'.  That was his thought process.  And it was no accident that Nazi's found common cause with the Aryan's of the East - the martial cult of Emperor worship under Tojo (which lead to the rape of Nanking among others).  These were kit and kin, bent on dominance and martial subjugation.  They intended violence, and openly used it to terrorize humanity. 

How does pacifism reason with that?  How do you avoid a war that someone INSISTS on thrusting on you?   To be a slave or a murder victim is not a valid alternative to legitimate resistance. 

#5 - Hitler was beyond reason.  

Paul Kennedy, in the Rise and the Fall of the Great Powers, has laid out the substantial changes in military thinking made reality by Blitzkrieg.  Whereas numbers of men were the old measure of military power, mechanized, combined arms warfare could smash through and destroy its unarmored rivals with ease.  The new basis of power was economics, the ability produce tanks, infantry carriers, canons, and warplanes was the new measure of power.  Against any of the previous Great Powers, German economic might was equal or greater; i.e. a war of attrition (which the US Civil War and WWI made military reality) could be won by any of these Great Powers based on husbanding of resources.  The USSR and Germany were roughly equal.  Yet the reactions of the two could not be more different.  Hitler would continue to spend his resources in the Atlantic (where he deliberately picked a fight with the US) and North Africa, keeping as much as a quarter of his forces outside the main event - even as the process of attritionary war became clear.  Hitler's Aryan ambitions caused him to overlook the oppressed Baltic, Belorussian, and Ukrainian states, taking potential allies and thrusting them into the arms of his enemy through deliberate acts of violence and exploitation - manpower and resources wasted.  Stalin, in sharp contrast, completely mobilized the state against Germany.  Stalin resisted all calls to fight the Japanese until the Nazi's were defeated.  He turned the might of the USSR toward war production, and used the logistical support of Lend Lease - harnessing the Russian might totally toward defeating the Germans.  The scorched earth policy further denied resources to Germany, and, over time, the results were telling.  In Kennedy's estimation, Germany SIGNED UP to fight a war of attrition with 8% of world economic output against well over half the world's economic output.  

It was no secret that Roosevelt viewed the Germans as a rising and intractable threat, one so great that he deliberately shaped the American public off its pacifistic and isolationist culture to deal with.  He need not have worried about 'reason' though.  On 7 Dec, 1941 the Japanese made their violent intentions clear and the German's declared war on the US shortly thereafter.  A Nation of pacifists was roused to war because the aggressive and violent actions of would be master races left them no choice: Defend yourself or be enslaved and murdered.  When your 'reasoned' opponent offers you a discourse like that, there is little choice in the matter.  History is rife with Servile Insurrection even against insurmountable odds.   

We must bear in mind that Hitler chose violence based on adherence to a messianic belief in his and his subordinates racial superiority.  In the end, as armies crashed down upon the Germans from both East and West, Hitler remained in utter, and totally unreasonable denial ... and again, when reality finally set in, the reasonable consequences of choosing violence constantly...

Return To Top | Posted:
2015-02-01 10:18:49
| Speak Round
adminadmin (PRO)
I thank my opponent for opening his case.

Historical analysis
Little of what my opponent "rebuts" in this section is in response to something I actually said.

I never said Hitler won the support of more than 50% of Germans prior to the Enabling Act, but merely that he won the election. The NSDAP may not have been that popular, but Hitler personally was one of the most popular leaders in history within Germany. The Enabling Act was passed by well over a two-third majority of government, but it is unimportant to my case. I was instead trying to establish what Germany's priorities were at the time and how Hitler addressed them.

I never said Communism was a far off thing, and indeed my opponent's analysis here supports my points on the matter.

I never said Hitler did not believe in the superiority of the German race. Anyone who's read Mein Kampf will know it's not just a series of ramblings. He makes actual arguments in that book, including his dislike of the Jews (WWI war contributions). He describes how he was at first tolerant towards Jews but then, through a series of incidents in Vienna, began to take the anti-Semitic press seriously. The rational development he shows in this is a logical one.

I also need to point out that prior to the war Hitler didn't send Jews to concentration camps but rather tried to get them as far away from Germany as possible, first isolating them in Ghettos and then shipping them out of the country as fast as his ships could carry them to places like Madagascar and Palestine.

So let's work out some things about appeasement. First of all, con implicitly agrees that appeasement happened when Hitler had already decided and planned to make war. Germany had been lobbying for friendly relations for about a decade but the western powers refused. Appeasement did not take into account all of Hitler's grievances, particularly the communist threat. It established no military friendly terms and indeed, most of the other major powers at the Munich conference were also at the time engaged in a massive arms race with Hitler. For his part, Hitler saw their unwillingness to end the arms race as making the proposal insincere. The German people likewise believed that the concessions of "appeasement" and generally capturing foreign territory were a path to war, which led to the so-called Oster conspiracy. It was only after the conference that Chamberlain thought about disarmament, but he never entertained the Nazi peace offers that were sent regularly. As such, he did not even pursue a policy of pacifism.

Poland wasn't entirely Polish. Strange though that is to say, Germany lost a good deal of territory to Poland after the last war, and this territory was not restored through appeasement. I just want to note though that:
  • Poland was never mentioned in the Munich agreement. The British guarentee to Poland came the following year and with no consultation with Hitler. Rather appeasement was only attempted with the Sudetenland capture, and it worked because no war was provoked. In fact Hitler cancelled his plans to wage one at the time. For much the same reason as the Czech people were betrayed by the British and French, Hitler had good intelligence the same would happen with Poland, avoiding the war. Con does not engage with any of this. There is no indication that Poland would have been any different from the capture of Sudetenland had this not happened.
  • Hitler's negotiations with the USSR, too, led to a much more peaceful outcome for both states at the time. Though both Stalin and Hitler were mutually enemies personally and ideologically, they were able to make a peace for a good amount of time.
  • Hitler did not attack France, the UK etc. Rather, these nations declared war on Hitler first.

My opponent fails to note a specific instance where Hitler was cautioned in those situations he listed. Hitler had a tendency to view the war as a practical necessity to achieve his aims, which was probably because his offers of working stuff out peacefully kept getting rejected. The notion that he could not be reasoned with is rebutted by:
  • The historical fact appeasement prevented a war, and prevented much death in so doing.
  • That the refusal to negotiate and continue appeasement (over Poland) led to a massive war.
  • That Hitler didn't want an alliance with the Japanese but relented.
  • That Hitler didn't want to work with the Russians but relented.
  • That Hitler basically agreed to every reasonable offer of peace he was given.
  • And numerous other evidence from this round and my last.

Beyond Reason
First, the USA was already at war with Japan at the time of Pearl Harbor. While the attack itself was a surprise and allowed Japan to take the initiative, the USA had already long been planning to invade Japan to overthrow the emperor, saving their allies in China. American soldiers had already been engaged in battle on mainland China against Japanese invaders for almost a decade when Pearl Harbor happened. Regardless, pro fails to show why this discussion is relevant to the motion.

Second, to claim Hitler's war strategy was entirely irrational would be misguided. Like all generals, he made mistakes. Some of them were big ones. But he got many things right too. One simply does not conquer continental Europe when your war strategies make absolutely no sense. Further, his ability as a general has little bearing on his ability as a diplomat.

Third, as has been time and time again made abundantly clear in my case, Hitler's motivation for war was to neutralize the Soviets as opposed to asserting racial superiority (among more minor reasons such as the economic blockade and restoring Germany's prior borders). At no point did Hitler seek a war with the USA - he merely struck trade ships to prevent Britain receiving supplies (including munitions) from the USA. I've presented numerous pieces of evidence for this already, but let me bring up two more. First, despite hating black people and making this also clear in his autobiography (though for different reasons than Jews), Hitler put on more of a parade for Jesse Owens than the United States did. While Hitler respected Owen's achievement, he received few honors from the US and indeed openly proclaimed the USA to be significantly more racist than Germany. Second, even races deemed "subhuman" by Hitler routinely did business with him. The "Independent State of Croatia", while a horrible nazi-like regime, nonetheless worked with Hitler despite the fact Hitler considered them subhuman. Likewise Hitler believed Japanese were subhuman but still treated them well. There are numerous other examples of non-Aryan governments Hitler worked with. Negotiation with Hitler was far from impossible because it was done several times.

This is all relatively unimportant
The debate concerns not whether Hitler was capable of making a diplomatic agreement (strange though it still seems to me that this is even a point of contention, given that Hitler did make such agreements and, at least immediately, kept to them). It concerns whether the policy of pacifism would have been ideal.

There were a number of nonviolent resistance groups in Germany, particularly in the latter half of the war. The White Rose is a well-known example, and although the ringleaders met an early end, their pamphlets inspired plenty of active, non-violent resistance within Germany, especially after the allies helped give the pamphlets a broader distribution. This alone toppled Hitler's propaganda network that was core to running his government. Hitler knew he could not withstand a revolt as, unlike Stalin, his own Gestapo was actually surprisingly small in number (though with no less of a reputation for ruthlessness). This is why Hitler relented in the face of strong public opposition to Action T4. As further evidence, it's also why so comparatively many attempts were able to be made on Hitler's life in a short period of time - Hitler's personal security was basically the love of the people.

In my first round, I concentrated on what Hitler wanted to achieve, and demonstrated that these aims could (in theory) be realized without war. As such, world war two was not inevitable. What was missing was good communication. I also gave many examples of Hitler attempting to initiate - and western powers refusing to take part in - such negotiation. Indeed it took the capture of the Sudetenland before Hitler was actually taken seriously at all by the western powers. I then argued that any condition is superior to the loss of life, war causes the massive loss of life, and that therefore pacifism must be the best possible policy.

An example - the only one I know of - of a country that accepted Hitler's offers and brokered a peace without the loss of sovereignty (ie Italy) or participating in war elsewhere (ie Japan, or the Russians) was Switzerland. Switzerland did mobilize their army just in case, but they paid money to Hitler and appeased him generally all the way to the end of the war. It worked fantastically and Hitler never bothered to invade (the allies, on the other hand, did "accidentally" bomb Switzerland). Switzerland managed this in spite of the fact that they routinely shot down German planes entering their airspace, and also frequently published anti-nazi propaganda which angered the Germans. Although Switzerland may be indeed a hard place to invade, so are many of the other places that the Germans attacked. In the end the Swiss policy proved much more effective and saved many more lives.

On this side of the house, we support such actions as brave and heroic. Just as Sophie Scholl is generally regarded as Germany's greatest WW2 wartime hero, we believe similar kinds of pressure could have been applied externally. Pacifism does not necessarily mean mere appeasement - it means applying diplomatic pressure to achieve desired goals in other nations - in this case, the prevention of a war. As Hitler had stopped his plans once, so might...

Return To Top | Posted:
2015-02-03 11:10:50
| Speak Round

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Posted 2015-03-02 19:17:49
Let's do that ... I may not be bale to get to a full response until this upcoming weekend though?
Posted 2015-03-02 19:02:55
It's complicated. It's much easier to just do it again with longer post timings and agree to just copy and paste in the rounds that we've done so far.
Posted 2015-03-02 02:03:16
We can ... unless there is a way to resurrect it?
Posted 2015-03-01 18:23:05
Want to do this again with longer post timings?
Posted 2015-03-01 00:04:49
Apologies, got sucked into stuff at work - and that trumps everything unfortunately.
Posted 2015-02-28 17:26:59
Oh man, what a let down!
I figured this one had to be over by now, so I went looking for it only to find this.

For the record, that second round argument was epic. I would love to see someone really good counter that. We need to set up an exhibition match between you and whoever the best person is on DDO. I want to see that.
Posted 2015-02-18 11:14:17
What a disappointing finish.
Posted 2015-02-06 23:56:13
This is a pretty strong debate. I know it is a strong debate, because my stance of who was winning kept faltering.
Admin is taking a strong hardline position, and is doing a great job arguing it. Gree is taking less of a controversial stance, but is still arguing it pretty strongly.

Personally I would focus on anti-nazi rhetoric as much as possible in cons shoes. Pro in real life would have a hard time winning people over, but if I were the affirmative in a real life argument, I would try to spend as much as time possible installing a sense of doubt on whether Hitler was really that unprone to negotiations, and then go in for the whammy speech at the end.
Posted 2015-02-05 01:18:52
Boom! How did I miss THIS debate?! Nice work so far both of you! McLovin' it!
Posted 2015-02-04 09:44:00
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