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The German daily FAZ recently ran a positive review of Irish historian Brendan Simms' article Against a ,World of Enemies‘: The Impact of the First World War on the Development of Hitler’s Ideology in the journal International Affairs. The article is said to contain an early summary of Simms' next scholarly book.

According to the review Simms argues that World War I and other experiences caused Hitler to turn hostile to the anglo-saxon world first. His hatred of international capitalism and even his antisemitism broke through only at a later time as secondary effects from this primary cause.

Some of the comments on the FAZ site are quite skeptical about this thesis: they e.g. argue that Hitler was initially friendly to Britain and that a large portrait of Henry Ford hung in Hitler's office at party headquarters. The review author, German historian Thomas Weber judges that while the thesis must be further sketched out before publication of the book it is bound to modify the way we think about Hitler in a dramatic and seminal way.

Since the book is not yet out and the reviewed article is behind a paywall I a wondering what else is currently known about this thesis. Is it a new one or is Simms building on other established work? Is there any reason to believe that the particular reviewer could be biased e.g. because of close academic ties?

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Hitler sort of admired the British, inspired somewhat by their Empire. I know the recovered bodies of RAF pilots shot down over the Channel were buried with full honors. However, I don't know if the later fact correlates with Hitler's ideology; the Luftwaffe were far more chivalrous than the rest of the German army, and it may have been a ploy to placate the British citizens. But they certainly weren't held with the same disdain the Nazis held of the Slavs or the Jews. –  Starkers Mar 17 at 11:00
My reading of WW2 history (sorry no refs, else I'd post an answer) is that Hitler's admiration of Britain made him reluctant to invade. Hence Operation Sea Lion, while it had plenty of other reasons for being delayed, was not pursued with vigor. –  andy256 Mar 18 at 9:57
Yes the idea that Hitler had special animus for England/Anglo-Saxons is bogus. Even if he thought they were mistaken in their policies or degraded by capitalism or whatever, they were fixable problems unlike the Jews or Slavs that in his eyes needed to be wiped out entirely. –  Oldcat Mar 21 at 22:11
While I still think its a bit remote, most of the information on Hitler is still in archives and has never been read, translated to English and catalogued. So there is always a possibility that Simms stumbled upon something new and its worth reading his book when it comes out. –  Razie Mah Apr 6 at 11:52

4 Answers 4

Eugenics based antisemitism predates WWI and Nazi antisemitism in particular appeared directly as a result of WWI. There is no break in the time line that allows for Hitler to be hostile to anything else before being a racist.

The Nazi's virulent antisemitism comes from Hitlers mentor, Anton Drexler, the leader of the German Worker's Party, the precursor to the Nazi party. He originally led the Fatherland Party. Hitler entered politics in 1919. For example, the Nazi's 1920 25 Point Program, composed by Hitler, includes:

Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently no Jew can be a member of the race.

I believe there is common confusion that Hitler's antisemitism developed later because the Freikorps were not antisemitic originally.

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+1 I'll change anglo-americanism into anglo-saxons (as in peoples descended or associated in some way with the English ethnic group), which is perhaps the better term (not a native speaker); a lot depends on the interpretation of "broke through" which is why I'd like to learn more about the reviewed article –  Drux Mar 16 at 19:31
Antisemitism was hardly a new thing in Europe so even if the Freikorps didn't have it in their charter, it had it in the membership ready for use when handy. It was the one thing nearly everyone in all walks of life could agree on. –  Oldcat Mar 21 at 22:09
Before WWI there was no fascism, by the way. I suggest to change to "far right". –  Anixx Apr 3 at 20:04

How can Hitler or anyone else be Hostile to Anglo-Saxons?.

Anglo-Saxon England refers to the period of the history of the part of Great Britain that became known as England, lasting from Sub-Roman Britain following the end of Roman occupation, with the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the 5th century, until the Norman conquest of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror.

By the time of William's death in 1087, those who had been England's Anglo-Saxon rulers were dead, exiled, or had joined the ranks of the peasantry. It was estimated that only about 8 percent of the land was under Anglo-Saxon control. Nearly all the Anglo-Saxon cathedrals and abbeys of any note had been demolished and replaced with Norman-style architecture by 1200.

So it looks like from 1087, the Anglo-Saxons got wiped out.

Do you mean British then?

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Did you see my link re (contemporary meanings) of anglo-saxon? –  Drux Mar 21 at 21:27
Hitler had nonsensical racial theories. –  Razie Mah Mar 21 at 21:27
just checked the link. From what i seen on TV and some films, Hitler changed his views about (this and that) after WW1, so likelyhood is hanging around the bars and cafes in Munich everyday and getting nowhere with his Artistic endeavors started hating everyone. Especially other ethic groups. I haven't read much info from the link you have but if these ethic groups with such background existed were he was, i would say most likely yes, as to if it was before or after the poor Jews at that time, well you may need to read some speech documents he wrote at that time. I'm sure some survived. –  Tasos Mar 21 at 21:49
Thx & welcome to the site BTW. –  Drux Mar 21 at 22:16

Hitler himself wrote in Mein Kampf that he became an antisemite during his years in Vienna before the First World War. Hitler picked up the ideology of anti-Semitic Austrian politicians like Karl Lueger.

During his political career Hitler believed that USA and Britain were heavily influenced by a Jewish conspiracy. It seems like his antipathy against these countries was just an extension of his generic anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

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Welcome to history.SE! Unfortunately a completely unsourced answer isn't terribly useful, so I don't expect this will receive a lot of upvotes. You could improve it by citing the passage in Mein Kampf that talks about the growth of his anti-Semitism, as well as evidence that Hitler believed the US was part of a Zionist conspiracy. –  NotVonKaiser Mar 22 at 15:56
Welcome to the site! Not a bad first answer. But this, or future answers would benefit from citing relevant sources such as Mein Kampf. –  Tom Au Mar 22 at 16:00
The first paragraph is good, and I think lays the foundation of a good answer. The second paragraph is an opinion. If we could support that opinion with evidence, you'd have an excellent answer. –  Mark C. Wallace Mar 22 at 21:28

Sir Ian Kershaw, writing in BBC History magazine this month, comments that we have so little evidence on Hitler, that we will never know when he developed his anti-semitic predilections.

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