World War II

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Student Question

Why could Hitler create German ultranationalism? Was it positive or negative?

Quick answer:

Because of the shame brought on from the Versailles Treaty, Hitler was able to create a sense of German ultranationalism that was ultimately detrimental to the German state and the world.

Expert Answers

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Hitler was able to come to power due to the financial hardship brought on by the Versailles Treaty's reparations against Germany. The end of WWI brought confusion to the German population since they had been told that they were winning the war. Under the Versailles Treaty, not only did Germany have to give up lands that were traditionally German in language and culture, but they also had to assume responsibility for the entire war. Germany also experienced potential socialist revolutions that many right-wing Germans believed came from Slavs or Jews.

Hitler was able to gain power by promoting pride in German culture at the expense of all other cultures. Hitler's early foreign policy ventures were ordered under the guise of self-determination as he sought to unite all German-speaking people of Europe under one flag. Hitler's repression of Jews was initially viewed as favorable by the German people, as Hitler painted the end of WWI as part of a larger Jewish conspiracy against Germany. Hitler was able to restart the economy by putting Germans to work making munitions and on large civil works projects. Hitler used the 1936 Olympics to showcase German prosperity and German athletic prowess—though the most famous athlete from this event was African American Jesse Owens.

The use of German ultranationalism as a tool for revenge against Europe ultimately hurt Germany and the world in general. Germans used nationalism as a motivating factor in the invasion of France and in the invasion of the Soviet Union. The belief that the German race was better than the Jews and Slavs of Eastern Europe led to one of history's worst genocides. German treatment of Soviet POWs led to the Soviet Union's insistence on a divided Germany well into the Cold War. Though Germany should not have had to suffer through the war guilt clause of the Versailles Treaty, German ultranationalism under Hitler led to one of history's bloodiest wars.

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