The Propagander FAQ

Did Adolf Hitler Cause the Cold War?

During the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, the Soviet Union attempted to blame the Germans for one of their own war crimes; the Massacre at Katyn. It was a sensible--if cynical--strategy. After all, with all the other horrible, unthinkable crimes the Germans had committed, who would doubt their responsibility for this dirty deed as well?

If a low-life is arrested and charged with rape, it makes sense to peruse the unsolved rape cases to determine whether or not the suspect was involved in other sex crimes. That's just good police work. An over-zealous--or just plain lazy--law-enforcement type will sometimes attempt to clear out some of his old unsolved case files by attributing a measure of them to whoever happens to be within the reach of their radar at a given moment. Detectives like to solve cases, or at least to appear to have done so. Historians often seem particularly susceptible to this unfortunate tendency, as well. A lazy, over-zealous, or just plain partisan author can easily be tempted to perpetrate a similar error of generic attribution when dealing with highly controversial historical events involving iconic figures. This results in bad police work, and unreliable history.

Adolf Hitler is one such iconic figure, and the controversial events linked to the German Fuehrer are among the most important events of the last century: WW2, The Holocaust, the founding of Israel, and the Cold War. These highly-charged, historically significant events are all, to one degree or another, attributed directly to the actions and policies of Hitler. But are all these things "really" Hitler's 'fault?'

WW2 and The Holocaust are directly the responsibility of Adolf Hitler, without question. Were I a World Court Prosecutor, these would be the first two counts of my Indictment against Adolf Hitler. As a Prosecutor, you could not ask for a better case. Easy money. However, Hitler's "responsibility" for the creation of the State of Israel--which was and is not a crime, by the way--is tenuous, at best, and, were the full facts to be aired, it is doubtful a conviction on this point would be forthcoming from an impartial jury. As a responsible Prosecutor, I would not waste the Courts time with such a spurious charge. (Who would have good reason to "blame" Hitler for the creation of Israel? Only unscrupulous--and wrong-headed--Hitler apologists, Deniers, anti-Semites, and low-information observers.)

Likewise, I contend that the Cold War was not Hitler's responsibility in any way. The Encarta World English Dictionary defines cold war as a "state of enmity without hostilities: a relationship between two people or groups that is unfriendly or hostile but does not involve actual fighting or military combat." By this definition, a cold war between the USSR and the western democracies--represented mainly by Great Britain and the United States--began decades before the official start date, and was only given the official label Cold War after the end of WW2.

US Federal Law states that the Cold War ran from September 2, 1945--the date the Japanese formally surrendered--to December 26, 1991, the date of the formal collapse of the Soviet Union. However, declarations embedded in US Federal Law are hardly superior to the normal debate and revision of historians and scholars intent on historical accuracy. D. F. Fleming, the author of the invaluable--and in some respects, definitive--two volume study The Cold War and its Origins, dates the beginning of the Cold War with the initial intervention of Western Forces in December, 1918. Professor Fleming's interpretation is obviously of more value than history defined by politicians.

Hitler was serving on the Western Front at the time the Cold War began; he would not gain power--or any degree of international influence--for another 26 years. The Cold War began in the hearts and policies of Western Leaders much earlier. From the beginning of the consolidation of the Russian Revolution, the Western powers were disinclined to acquiesce in the power shift. They felt--with some justification--that this was a radical revolution along the lines of the French Revolution, and thus a grave danger to the status quo. The emphasis from "down with kings" to "down with capitalists" induced panic around the world, and immediate steps were taken in an attempt to contain the outbreak.

Though there was not much that could be done against the Bolsheviks while the war still raged, the Western Powers--and Japan--occupied selected areas of Russia post-war in support of the counter-revolutionary White Russians. Most forces had evacuated by 1920, though the Japanese stayed until 1922, but trade and diplomatic opposition to the new regime continued unabated. Recognition of the USSR was hardly forthcoming, though it did eventually occur, piecemeal.

Hitler was NOT "responsible" for the Cold War, regardless of the start date. The most that can be said is that Hitler's policies and actions kept the Soviet regime in power for many decades longer than what was historically necessary. The system would most probably have disintegrated under its own internal contradictions upon the death of Stalin. The unwilling hostages trapped in the Satellite States of Eastern Europe allowed the Soviets to hang on long past their time. Hitler is responsible for that.

Ironically, Hitler was responsible for the only period of the Cold War to experience any meaningful thaw in relations. The USSR was still, to most intents and purposes, a pariah state in most Western minds when Hitler, in one stroke, legitimized the Soviet Union with that infamous Pact. Ironically, when Hitler later turned on Stalin, even Cold Warriors like Churchill were compelled by stark necessity to embrace the USSR as an Ally. Only a greater threat--Hitler--could have caused such an odd reversal. When asked how he could sanction such a turn of heart, Churchill replied to the effect that if Hitler were to invade Hell, he'd find some way to compliment Satan. Hardly a ringing endorsement of "Uncle Joe."

Hitler did, of course, affect the Cold War with his disingenuous policies; his ill-considered invasion of Russia caused the Western Powers to hold their noses and accept Stalin as an equal. This would NEVER have happened without Hitler's intervention. Once the East and West were united against him, Hitler tried every trick to cause the Alliance to crumble, to little actual effect. The end result of Barbarossa, and the later delay of the advance of the Normandy invasion forces by Hitler's so-called "Battle of the Bulge," was to put the two sides on a nearly equal footing as regards post-war geopolitics, conquered territory, and forward military deployment.

Conclusion: Hitler was in no way responsible for the Cold War. Setting the stage for the second half of the Cold War is the most that can be said against Hitler in this regard.
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Featured Sites:
Austria: The Other Germany
Adolf Hitler: The First Super-Villian
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Countdown to Infamy: Timeline to Pearl Harbor
Biographical Timeline: of the Infamous Adolf Hitler
Countdown To WW2: August 22 - September 1, 1939
The Nuremberg Nazis: Detailed, Documented Biographies
Wunderwaffen: Hitler's Deception and the History of Rocketry
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