Design or Accident Essay

Submitted By Aleisha-Still
Words: 1676
Pages: 7

Design or Accident?
Taylor says World War Two happened not through any design on Hitler’s part, but through miscalculation and blunder. Assess the validity of Taylor’s view.

A. J. P. Taylor’s book, ‘The Origins of the Second World War’, challenges the conventional view formulated during the Nuremberg trials in 1946. This view argues that Hitler developed and carried out a preconceived plan of deliberate war and aggression against humanity. Unlike other historians, Taylor believes that Hitler was a normal German statesman who only wanted to repudiate the Treaty of Versailles and restore Germany as a dominant power in Europe. Taylor does not accept that Hitler conceived a plan of aggressive war, but instead argues that he took advantage of the mistakes of everyone else and simply blundered into a World War through misfortune. Taylor makes a valid statement when he suggests Hitler had no precise blueprint for a world war. However Hitler was working towards achieving certain international goals which are revealed in his documents and speeches and therefore Taylor is not justified in saying World War Two happened through Hitler’s miscalculation and blunder.

To Taylor, Hitler was just an ordinary German statesman, who behaved no differently to any other statesman. Taylor writes that Hitler in both principle and doctrine was not any more wicked or unscrupulous than any other statesman (Taylor, A. J. P., 1963). Historian W.H. Dray declares in his journal article ‘Concepts of Causation in A.J.P. Taylor’s account of the origins of the Second World War’ that according to Taylor, Hitler, “was not fundamentally different” even in the area of foreign policy (Dray, W.H, 1978, p160). “His foreign policy was that of his predecessors,...and indeed of virtually all Germans.” (Taylor, A. J. P., 1963, p97). Taylor believes Hitler like any German “wanted to free Germany from the restrictions of the peace treaty” (Taylor, A. J. P., 1963, p97) and to make Germany a dominant power in Europe by restoring her “great German army” (Taylor, A. J. P., 1963, p97). The ambition to undo the defeat of the vanquished power was shared by all politicians (Taylor, A. J. P., 1963). Taylor indicates that no concrete terms were made; that no one specifically identified what undoing the defeat meant, including Hitler (Taylor, A. J. P., 1963). These were only general aims; Hitler had no plan for their execution.

Taylor does not believe that Hitler’s speeches and documents such as ‘Mein Kampf’ and ‘The Hossbach Memorandum’ contain a blueprint or master plan for world domination and war. He believes that these documents and Hitler’s speeches only conveyed Hitler’s general aims, to repudiate the Treaty of Versailles and through Lebensraum, restore Germany as a dominant power (Taylor, A. J. P., 1963). Taylor declares that Hitler produces alleged blueprints continually, he writes, “Hitler produced a blueprint nearly every time he made a speech” (Taylor, A. J. P., 1963, p22). Taylor deems these blueprints to be merely speculations, mistaken speculations at that, which do not contain any significance to the actual events as they occurred. Taylor’s views are supported by the work of H.W. Koch, who also believes Hitler did not have a blueprint.

H. W. Koch’s ‘Hitler and the Origins of the Second World War’ focuses on documents and speeches made by Hitler including ‘Mein Kampf’ and the Hossbach Memorandum. Koch agrees with Taylor that Hitler’s speeches and documents do not “amount to a blueprint of Hitler's foreign policy, nor to a scheme of strategy” (Koch, H. W., 1968, p129). ‘Mein Kampf’ is described by Koch as being a guidebook that reflects the vulgarity of Hitler’s mind, but is not a strategy to his diplomacy (Koch, H. W., 1968). In a modification of Taylor’s Thesis, Koch believes Hitler was working towards achieving certain international goals, but he did not to intend to start the Second World War.
According to Taylor’s thesis, Hitler blundered