A History Of Hitler’s Empire, by Thomas Childers
As someone who is fairly familiar with the structure and organization of the Great Courses audiobooks already, there was a lot about this course that was familiar and comfortable–there is the usual format of twelve lectures on 6 cds, each lecture half an hour in length, taught by a skilled teacher with a strong moral basis to his view on history. While the cd jacket in this case was a bit janky, and rather fell apart as I was driving to and from work and listening to the audiobook, the guide had its usual skill in outlining and asking questions and the audio work for the lectures themselves was very good. The instructor made an unusual choice in what to focus on concerning his subject matter of Hitler’s Empire , but he also managed to point those listeners who wanted to hear more about the military and strategic aspects of World War II to the place where they would be able to listen to that, namely the Great Course collection on World War II. This particular book focused on Hitler’s Empire, and as might be expected, this view of history took a dark turn.
The twelve lectures of this course are divided into mostly two tasks–explaining the context of Hitler’s rise and the early history of the Nazi party before 1933 and then the history of Nazi rule over Germany, especially looking at Nazi policies towards Jews as well as in matters of international diplomacy. Throughout, the instructor shows himself to be a debunker of myths, including the myth that the Olympics were an embarrassment to Hitler because of Jesse Owen’s wins, when in fact Germany had a successful Olympics due to its wins in equestrian and shooting events. A lot of what the instructor has to say is deeply unpleasant, like his take on the criminal negligence of Chamberlain’s leadership of England during the late 1930’s and the way that Hitler sought to preserve deniability by not writing any of the orders that led to the extermination of Jews and other “life unworthy of life” within Hitler’s Germany. Even though the course does not focus on the military aspects of Nazi rule, this does not make the listening any more pleasant–Hitler’s Germany was unpleasant, especially because the most dark and evil plans and goals were accompanied by a ramshackle improvisational tactical style that worked out well at first but ended up disastrous for Germany and its people.
There are some frightening lessons that this course has for those who listen to it now. Hitler’s Empire was a short one in temporal span, lasting only from 1933 to 1945, but it was immensely destructive, leading to the death of tens of millions of people. The combination of legitimate grievances and the complex problems of simultaneity made it difficult to come to terms with what Hitler was doing, even as he was dragging Germany into disaster. Diplomacy and international relations, and indeed politics and leadership as a whole, is too important of a matter to give to those who lack the maturity to handle office, the discipline to control themselves, and respect and concern for others. To vote for someone out of a protest is to enable, at times, the election of those who lead their nations to ruin and destruction. Is it worthwhile to protest under those circumstances, to allow those who are evil and wicked into office simply because they rail against what everyone knows to be broken? Our nations are worth more than to be thrown away simply to complain or be hostile to the corruption of our present evil age.
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