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Was Hitler a Weak Dictator?

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Introduction

Was Hitler a Weak Dictator? For many historians, especially those writing immediately after the Second World War, Hitler's leadership and control of political life in the Nazi Reich was strong and absolute. This view is perhaps best emphasised by N. Rich when he commented that "The point cannot be stressed too strongly: Hitler was master in the Third Reich." However, this view has come under increasing attack from many, who have shown a number of areas of weakness in Hitler's rule. This has led a number of historians, most notably H. Mommsen, to argue that Hitler was "in some respects a weak dictator." Undoubtedly, both these contrasting views have elements of truth. As a result it would seem that a more correct standpoint is the one advocated by I. Kershaw. Kershaw accepts that Hitler did have a number of important weaknesses, but overall these failings should not detract from the fact that overall he was a strong dictator. Therefore, Hitler was strong dictator with weaknesses. It is hardly surprising that many commentators initially took it for granted that Hitler was a strong dictator. There is no doubt that he was the guiding and dominant light of the Nazi Party, whose position as supreme leader was unchallenged within the Party. Hitler had supplanted Anton Drexler, the founder of the Nazi Party, as leader of the Party in the early 1920s. ...read more.

Middle

On the contrary, there is much to suggest that his lifestyle and work habits became much too casual and erratic for him to do so effectively. The best description of Hitler's rather lethargic working day is supplied by one of Hitler's adjutants Fritz Weidemann, who commented "Hitler normally appeared shortly before lunch." Indeed Hitler's laziness seemed to make him totally disinterested in government. He certainly did not like the administration of government and on many spheres of policy he was not properly informed as Weidemann illustrated when he remarked that Hitler "disliked the study of documents." This meant that when Hitler did make decisions it was possible that he could have been manipulated by one of his subordinates, like Lammers, as Hitler rarely took the time to investigate and study issues. Furthermore, Hitler aloof stance also transcended into the process of decision making. This was illustrated in a reported discussion between Lammers and the Lord Mayor of Hamburg when it was reported that Hitler "found it difficult to make decisions about personnel." One of the best examples of Hitler wriggling out of the formulation of decisions was after the Nuremberg Laws over the issue of what constituted a Jew. On two occasions Hitler was meant to deliver in speeches his opinion but on both opportunities he disappointed government officials. With little direction from Hitler many in government were left to make decisions by second guessing Hitler and taking decisions on their own initiative. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, the debate on whether Hitler was a strong dictator should not hinge on whether he created a chaotic political structure on purpose or not. A more compelling consideration is that no matter the cause of the chaos and the lack of personal interference from Hitler, policies and the tone of Nazi Germany still went generally in the direction prescribed by Hitler. In Mein Kampf and in various speeches Hitler had expressed his general aims and goals for Nazi Germany, and once in power it was left to others to interpret the implementation of these objectives. As Ian Kershaw argues Hitler undoubtedly had weaknesses but his subordinates still 'worked to the will of the Fuhrer.' The fact that Hitler did not have to get too involved in the political arena showed his strength as loyal subordinates worked feverishly to interpret his general premises and formulate policies to match them. Furthermore, when Hitler did get involved his will was accepted. For example, he was able to over-rule the highly successful Schacht, the Economics Minister over the issue of the direction of the economy of the economy after 1936. Prior to 1936, Schacht had been virtually autonomous in the formulation of Germany's economic policies. However, when Hitler decided that the economy needed to prioritise rearmament, Schacht's protests were ignored. Another example were Hitler's orders to invade Poland even though Goring, who had up to this point been largely responsible for Nazi foreign policy, opposed such a move. ...read more.

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