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, 2014 at 11:00
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    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, 2014 at 9:57
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    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, 2014 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, 2014 at 11:52
  • They aided the French against the Germans in the first world war.
    – Lucian
    Aug 13, 2021 at 11:06

4 Answers 4


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. Mar 22, 2014 at 15:56
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    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, 2014 at 16:00
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    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.
    – MCW
    Mar 22, 2014 at 21:28

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.

  • +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, 2014 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, 2014 at 22:09

"Was Hitler hostile to anglo-saxons before he became hostile to Jews?"

No. Any hostility he felt towards the English or the Anglo-Americans (I assume that's what you mean by 'Anglo-Saxons') is not comparable to his hostility towards the Jews.

The most obvious way to compare this is Hitler's relative treatment of PoWs of the Western Allies and of Jews. A British or American PoW in WW2 Germany was not to be envied. However, Hitler did not attempt to exterminate captured British or Americans, nor did he, for example, kill everyone in the German-occupied Channel Islands.

However, he killed all the Jews he could lay his hands upon. I know I'm supposed to provide references, but c'mon...

Antisemitism, more colourfully and accurately known in Germany as Judenhass or Jewhate, was a central feature of Hitler's philosophy. Many other things were inessential, and that includes his attitude to Britain and America.

  • Actually he did not directly kill the Jews who were POWs from the Western (Anglo-American) countries. Most of them survived the war. Though the Nazis separated them from other POWs and assigned harder work. Still percent of Western Jewish POWs who died is much smaller than the percent of non-Jewish Soviet POWs.
    – Anixx
    Oct 19, 2015 at 15:30
  • Interesting. Speaks to my point that he did not harbour a specific animus against 'Anglo-Saxons'.
    – Ne Mo
    Oct 19, 2015 at 15:38
  • Of Western POWs overall perished about 3%. Of Jewish Western POWs perished about 1/5. Of Soviet POWs overall perished about 60% and I think nearly all Jews.
    – Anixx
    Oct 19, 2015 at 15:42

Based on my reading of Mein Kampf, I understand that the thesis of the book contains the following axes (among others):

  • Germany must create the "necessary land" known as the Lebensraum
  • Germany was faced with British opposition during WW1
  • Germany must extend in the East and Central Europe
  • Anglo Saxon culture is somewhat close to German ones

So there was no "hate" of Anglo-Saxon world but a consciousness of the opposition of interests. On the other hand, there was a true hate of Jewish culture, religion and people.

Based on those points, I would say that antisemitism was not a consequence of the opposition of the Anglo-Saxon world.

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