I was thinking about going back in time and killing Hitler the other day. It’s something we all think about, right? Is the best time to do it while he was in the trenches in World War One? After that, but before he marched through Berlin in an attempt to seize power by force in the early twenties?
As my mind was wandering into a post-Hitler world, I had an epiphany: I was thinking about killing the wrong person.
Now for a bit of history. I like European history (mainly, I suspect, because I live there).
See, mainland Europe in the eighteen-hundreds was basically a battleground.
There was the Austrian Empire in the east, the Ottoman Empire to the south, the Russians, the English, the French, the Germans. They spent the entire century bickering with each other through the medium of war. Boarder disputes, stealing countries off each other, invading each other… Germany wasn’t even a country until 1871. It was a collection of independent kingdoms who mostly worked together. The unification treaty was signed in France’s Versailles Palace, after the Franco-Prussian war. The Prussian troops pushed all the way into Paris before the French surrendered. And the French! They went though more revolutions than a car tyre on a Formula 1 car. The First World War was just a continuation on the same path. Just another bicker between powers. Only forty years ago, the French and Prussians had a full scale land war and it was over in less than a year. How were they going to know it was going to turn into what it did?
It’s after the First World War that I need to make my move. And it’s George ‘the Tiger’ Clemenceau that I need to kill. Or maybe it’s Woodrow ‘the Dove’ Wilson.
See, the victorious powers met to decide Germany’s fate in 1919. Clemenceau wanted to wipe Germany off the map. He wanted it so broken it could never rise up again. As a nation, it was only forty-or-so years old–dis-uniting it wasn’t such a radical notion. Wilson, on the hand, wanted peace and reconciliation. Both points of view are understandable: the war had been fought on French soil and France had paid a heavy, heavy loss; but the war was so terrible, so horrific, we needed to remember ourselves as human beings and work to make sure it never happens again.
What they got was an ungodly mash of the two. It broke Germany, but kept it alive.
The German’s, naturally, hated what was imposed on them. The grotesquely castrated army, the vast reparations, the demilitarized zones enforced around it’s French boarder, the fact their country was split in two by Poland… and above all that they had no say in any of it. It created hatred and anger and gave it a place to stew. In the 1920′s, launching a putsch was practically a weekend past time.
I’m not saying that it’s not all Hitler’s fault, just that he’s the symptom rather than the disease.
If I wanted to so something to make sure the horrors of World War Two never happened, I would have to make sure that stew of hatred and anger never happened. I would either have to make sure Germany was thoroughly broken, or thoroughly healed.
Why am I telling you all of this? Just thought you might be interested.