Germany: Victim or Aggressor? An Examination of German Actions and Motives in the World War II Era Criterion A: Plan of the Investigation From 1939 to 1945, the second world war tore asunder the European world and is recognized today as one of the most devastating global catastrophes. Since then, Germany has been haunted by the remnants of the war, which serve as a constant reminder of the atrocities their nation committed under the ruthless leader, Adolf Hitler. Given that World War I left Germany a broken a nation, tremendous pressure for economic, social, and political reform created a chaotic nation.
While mourning the loss of millions of military deaths, struggling with an unstable economy, and attempting to rebuild their war torn Rhineland, the Germans also had to send reparations to Allied Powers for damages caused directly by German hands. These factors siphoned all remaining German morale, internationally portraying Germany a volatile nation. The transpiring of these events ultimately created a need for redemption and unification for the German peoples; one that Hitler and the Nazi regime was not afraid to deliver.
Since the initial invasion of Poland on September 1st, 1939, Germany has been noted an aggressor in and are blamed soleyfor the start of World War II. However, some scholars may offer the viewpoint that Germany victimization catalyzed the start of WWII. So were German motives and actions in WWII derived from aggression or victimization? In order to obtain a definitive answer, the student must consider a wide plethora of opinions and sources. The student must undergo a thorough analysis of secondary sources, as well as intense study of German actions post WWI, ranging no further than the WWII era.
In addition, the student must manually dissect a variety of expert reports, books, and other references, while recognizing the bias that each contain, in order to form a justifiable opinion and gain a historical perspective of Germany in the Pre-WWII era. Criterion B: Summary of Evidence A thorough evaluation of the evidence suggests two opposing perspectives for the appropriate classification of Germany in the Pre-WWII era: victim and aggressor. Some scholars infer that Germany was driven purely by aggression. However others may offer the viewpoint that the aftermath of WWI in Germany sparked expansionistic motives and actions.
An agreed perspective still remains unresolved. Following the initial German invasion of Poland, several other German attacks were launched on countries such as France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. From then on supporters of the German Aggression theory have proclaimed that these acts were purely aggressive, and that Germany could not justify a logical reason for a mass European take-over. In opposition to this, considering the events that transpired in Germany Pre WWII, the student is subject to conclude that Germany was driven to expansion in a response to pressure from Allied reparations, de-moralization, and several domestic issues.
In fact, there was such a vast amount of national problems within Germany, it is difficult for the student to form an opinion without taking into consideration the state of Germany post WWI. Evidence in Support of the German Aggression Theory For decades, German expansion into Eastern Europe has played a role in German History. Hitler’s Drag Noch Osten plan included the expansion of German frontiers at the expense of Eastern Slav territories. At the moment of Hitler’s initial rise to power, leaders of the Third Reich along with Hitler egan making preparations for eastern, and eventually total, European conquest. These preparations include the expansion of Germany’s War industry post WWI, mass training future troops, and “drafting of plans for aggression of the each individual countries”. (www. dac. neu. edu) “A blueprint was also to be drawn up for a new order in Europe to follow the successful conclusion of a war that was still to be launched”. (www. dac. neu. edu) According to the Third Reich, “the Germans being a super human race, had a biological right to slave, displace, and eliminate any inferiors”.
This reveals hostile German motives for expansion in order to create a master race. (www. dac. neu. edu) Hitler “discounted the Czech-Russian Alliance almost entirely”, portraying his hostility towards Czechoslovakia during the late 1930’s whom he would eventually conquer. (Lukacs, 145). It is extremely notable how “little consideration Hitler gave to Russia during the Munich Crisis” (Lukacs, 145). This action displayed Germany’s intentions of eventually turning hostile against the Russians to expand eastward in the war’s later years.
In an attempt to establish total control over Europe, Hitler “was not seeking to reset the balance of European power in the interests for justice for Germany, but to destroy it” (Burleigh, 269-270). This reveals that Germany’s motives were far more than just restoring justice. Evidence in Support of the German Victimization Theory Nazi principles and foreign policies were “products of an acute sense of international victimhood”, (Burleigh 268). An examination of the rise of the Nazi party will reveal their primary motives were to create a more unified Germany.
The Germans felt victimized by the reparations imposed on them from the Treaty of Versailles and perceived it as “an international attempt to reduce Germany to helotry”, (Burleigh 269). From Allied intervention post WWI, Germany “had become an allied colony, the most demeaning fate to impose on civilized Europeans” (Burleigh, 269). This contributed to the popular feeling that Germany was being manipulated by Allied hands. Germany’s original motives for expansion were “solely to regain lands lost as a result of the first world war” (Strachan, 320).
This reveals no signs of aggressive military nature. In addition to Germany taking full blame for the war they also “lost much territory while their forces were greatly reduced, as well as pay immense war reparations” (Strachan 317), which left the masses feeling wronged and uneasy in a chaotic Germany. German pride, which played a massive role in German culture and society, was deemed “stolen by the West due to the military restraints” (Strachan, 319). Ultimately because of this, Germany was bound to become even more demoralized, thus more inclined to retake their former lands during WWII.
Criterion C: Evaluation of Sources Among the plethora of sources retaining to the topic of Germany in WWII, the most thorough are Michael Burleigh’s, The Third Reich, and Northeastern University Holocaust Awareness Committee’s web publication, www. dac. neu. edu. The writings display two different perspectives in determining wether Germany was the victim or the aggressor. Burleigh insists that Germany was subjected to “national victimhood”, and that it was “especially heinous for the European powers to inflict on Germany what they routinely did” (Burleigh, 268).
While on the other hand, Northeastern University suggests “imperial objectives were taken over”, which revealed aggressive actions of hostile take over such as the composing of “plans for the future political shape of Europe” (www. dac. neu. edu). Despite Northeastern University’s status as an accredited university, the fact that the publication was written by a Holocaust Awareness Committee introduces a strong sense of bias into the source. Although the Holocaust did display, Nazi aggression at its peak, the publication lacks an analysis of Germany victimization.
While the website did prove to be resourceful, it is written to inform a person about the horrors that Nazi Germany inflicted during the WWII era, therefore it naturally displays Germany as a ruthless aggressor. With the inclusion of Nazi Germany’s “pseudo-scientific theory of racism”, and “The General Plan for the East”, the source tends to persuade the reader more towards viewing Germany as the aggressor (www. dac. neu. edu). Because the website was approved by a credited University, and given the universal opinions of Germany in WWII, no one questions the bias the source presents.
In addition, the source also excludes German actions in the early post WWI stage. From this absence of information, the reader is inclined to assume that Germany was the obvious aggressor, being presented only with the harsh social and political reforms and goals of Germany in the early WWII era. Furthermore, the website fails to analyze Germany’s main reason for feelings of victimization: the Treaty of Versailles. If the reader was given the appropriate backdrop of a chaotic post WWI Germany instead of the “malicious World War II Nazi Germany”, oppositions that Germany was in fact a victim of Allied Powers would of definitely arise (www. ac. neu. edu). Although the information within the publication is valid, the exclusion of important German events, feelings, and settings post World War I ultimately instilled strong bias into the source. Similar to Northeastern University Holocaust Awareness Committee’s website, Burleigh’s publication includes a very thorough and detailed analysis of Germany in the WWII era. However in contrast, Burleigh’s novel did present new information that was omitted in the previous source. The common German notion of the International law and institutions regarded with skepticism and hostility”, of the European Powers, specifically the clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, created a very strong sense of victimization within the country (Burleigh, 268). Aside from the fact that this source presents a wider range of information pertaining to the topic than the previous source, the publication was written with little to no bias. From discussing “the insidious tone, bullying, and opportunism” Germany displayed mid-WWII to the investigation of “the crimes being introduced upon the troops in the Rhineland”, the source includes information to support both claims. Burleigh 268). Although the publication is not extremely conclusive, it provides ample, appropriate information for the student to form an opinion German motives and actions in the WWII era. Though both Burleigh and the Northeastern University Holocaust Awareness Committee offer valid information, generally, in terms of credibility based on the lack of bias presented, Burleigh offers a more unbiased, though not necessarily conclusive text of study. Criterion D: Analysis
Given the backdrop of Germany post WWI, hard evidence supports the idea that German motives were sparked from “an acute sense of international vitcimhood” (Burleigh 268). Though tensions were high between Germany and the European forces, the Germans “regarded with skepticism and hostility”, because they felt they were dealt injustice, not because they pertained an aggressive stature (Burleigh 268). Indeed Germany did incorporate malevolent means of expansion through the invasion Poland and other countries, however it can be argued that those takeovers “were solely to regain lands lost in the first world war” (Strachan, 320).
On the other hand, Germany imposed “imperial objectives”, as well as a “General Plan for the East”, while strictly practicing their “pseudo-scietific theory of racism” back in the Rhineland through the extermination of minority races. Meanwhile, Germany’s leader, Adolf Hitler, was coming substantially closer to achieving his goal not “to reset the European power in the interests for justice for Germany but to destroy it” (Burleigh, 269- 270). Unarguably, Germany was expanding in lands that it had never been in ossession of, such as France, and indeed the German’s exersized their self proclaimed “biological right to slave, displace, and eliminate any inferiors” (www. dac. neu. edu). However, in contrast, some scholars may argue that this was simply Hitler’s way of restoring Germany to its former glory and to ensure that it would not again become “an allied colony” (Burleigh, 269). But, if that were the case, would Hitler have drafted “plans for aggression for each of the individual countries” as well as mass train future troops and have drawn “up a new order in Europe to follow the successful conclusion” of WWII (www. ac. neu. edu)? These factors point to a pre-meditated attack from an aggressive Germany, and prove to subdue some evidence that Germany was fighting merely for redemption purposes. Counter to this, Germany was in dire straights, and arguably the only option for a reborn Germany was “a newfound economical expansion through Eastern European countries” (Lukacs 144). Although both arguments are valid in the context of Nazi Germany in WWII, an universal agreement is difficult to draw due to the absence of accounts from witnesses of German high power’s motives.
Criterion E: Conclusion Following a thorough study of both opposing sides of the German state in the WWII era, the investigator remains unpersuaded to either side. Indeed German aggression was evident during WWII, however the argument that German expansionism was an attempt to both reclaim lost lands and restore former German glory can be justified. The answer to this question remains unresolved due to the fact that the most impeccable evidence lies burned in ashes.
Although survivors of WWII abdicate the German Aggression theory, the validity of the argument is undermined by the extreme amount of bias presented by eyewitnesses. The only true eyewitnesses who could answer wether the motives were sparked by aggression or victimization was found dead in the Furherbunker on April 30th, 1945. Criterion F: List of Sources Burleigh, Michael. The Third Reich. New York: Hill and Wang, 2000. Northeastern University, “Hitler’s Plans for Eastern Europe”. Northeastern University Holocaust Awareness. Northeastern University. 004. http://www. dac. neu. edu/holocaust/Hitlers_Plans. htm#*. Strachan, Hew. The First World War. New York: Penguin Group, Inc. 2003. Lukacs, John. The Hitler of History. New York: Alfred A. Knofp, Inc. 1997. Friedrich, Otto. Blood ; Iron. New York: HaperCollins Publishing, Inc. 1995. Larson, Erik. In the Garden of Beasts. New York: Crown Publishers. 2001. Strachan, Hew, and Oxford University. World War I, A History. New York: Oxford University Press. 1998. Shirer, William. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1990.