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I'm about 20 pages from the end of Kershaw's biography of Hitler. A book I'd recommend, but it is long. In discussing the events of 1940, Kershaw wrote that Hitler wanted to either quickly finish off Britain or make peace with it, because he was worried that the USA would come into the war on Britain's side.

My question is, why was he sure that if the USA entered, it would be on Britain's side?

I think with hindsight, America likes to depict itself as the saviour of Europe and defender of the minorities of Europe and that this was inevitable, but in 1940 there were plenty of isolationists in the USA, more Americans had German roots than British roots, American business had been eager to deal with the Nazis, and it was still recovering from the depression. So why was Hitler so sure it would enter at all and on the side of Britain if it did? Was FDR's pro-interventionist stance clear at this point (mid-1940) and was it necessarily obvious that he could drag a reluctant USA with him?

  • He wasn't as dumb has he seemed? – KorvinStarmast Oct 5 '17 at 3:30
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    It wasn't exactly strange for him to worry about something that was essentially the last nail in the coffin of the prior German Reich, only 23 years before. – Gort the Robot Oct 5 '17 at 3:59
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    I don't find this question to be a bad one; in addition to OP's comments, remember that in 1940, the "Final Solution" didn't exist, during WWI both sides were courting the US to enter their side, and sure Triumph of the Will was kind of loopy but Woodrow Wilson was a huge fan of Birth of a Nation. WWII was a good vs evil war only in hindsight, especially for the US. – congusbongus Oct 5 '17 at 4:05
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    My understanding is that "more Americans had German roots" than English roots, but not "British" if you count Scots, Welch, and northern Irish. – Tom Au Oct 7 '17 at 6:37
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    @Tom Au: More Americans may or may not have had German "roots" (and are you counting the Hessians from the revolution among them?); what they didn't have is a shared language and culture. Americans read books by British authors, saw British actors in movies, did business with Britain, wealthy Americans married into the aristocracy (e.g. Wallis Simpson and Winston Churchill's mother). OTOH, it seems from what I've read that most German immigrants saw coming to America as more of an escape. – jamesqf Oct 14 '17 at 3:25
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America and Nazi Germany represented existential threats to each other. And even though "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" was often "more honored in the breach than the observance," it went directly against Nazi ideology.

Hitler considered America a "mongrel nation run by Jews," that could never coexist peacefully with a "pure," Aryan Germany. Then there was the quote attributed to Bismarck: "The most important fact of the 20th century will be that North Americans speak English."

Hitler knew that there were Americans that were pro-German, but felt that they did not speak for the rest of America, because they were, in fact, a minority. He still hoped that they would support Germany, or weaken the American war effort when the conflict came, but that's a different story. And even though there were real isolationist or anti-war elements in the U.S., this fact was less important that what Hitler believed; he declared war on America without being forced to, thereby making it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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    “As politically incorrect as this opinion might be” is an unnecessary distraction in an otherwise useful answer. – Erik Schmidt Oct 7 '17 at 2:12
  • @ErikSchmidt: OK, deleted this reference. – Tom Au Oct 13 '17 at 23:40
  • I think that after a certain point, probably WW1, it was absolutely inconceivable that we would fight Great Britain. Maybe it was sooner and maybe it was because of what the fairly perceptive Otto von Bismarck said. Just try to visualize a war where we sided against GB with France or Germany or Russia or China today. Not going to happen. I understand that if the GB government is wiped out, GB submarines are to steam to an American port. No closer allies exist, at least the USA has none. Maybe Israel, maybe not Israel. – Jeff Oct 14 '17 at 3:47
  • @Tom Au Thanks for this. It makes sense. You might be interested in a program I heard on BBC Radio 4 in the last few days that discussed Britain's efforts to influence US public opinion to make it more anti-German, pro-Britain, and pro-intervention. It was part of a series called The Long View and here it is: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09gg8t3 – Flynn Dec 7 '17 at 20:03
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Because Roosevelt was a democrat (not the party, the system) and abhorred totalitarianism. He couldn't enter the war before Pearl Harbor, because the America first movement was very strong. He went as far as he could supporting England. The Cash & Carry and Lend Lease acts weren't exactly reaching out to the Germans, for example.

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    "abhorred totalitarianism" !!!??? Roosevelt was closest thing USA had to a dictator. He was friend of Stalin and trusted him, he lost WWII for the democracy. – user25367 Oct 5 '17 at 6:43
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    @Tlen If you add such a comment, you better support it with some serious references. – Magicsowon Oct 5 '17 at 7:15
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    csmonitor.com/Books/Book-Reviews/2015/0305/… and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Franklin_D._Roosevelt is a good start. Many copared his 'New Deal' to Mussolinis plan. He seized control of supreme court. He was a racist, after the 1936 Berlin Olympics he invited only white athletes. – user25367 Oct 5 '17 at 7:27
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    1) Roosvelt was not a friend of Stalin, but an ally. There is a big difference. 2) The fact that economic policies pursued by Roosvelt happen to be similar to those pursued by Mussolini does not make him a dictator, nor does it make in close to. Example: Hitler build highways, would this imply that every government that did the same is showing signs of totalitarianism? – Matei Florescu Oct 5 '17 at 12:11
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    @TomAu What evidence do you have that Roosevelt "was a lot friendlier to Stalin than Churchill (was)"? Churchill visited Stalin in Moscow at least twice during the war, I believe. I don't recall Roosevelt ever doing so. And Churchill clearly had an open line to Stalin. For example when Eisenhower was planning the timing of D-Day, he was anxious to find out when the Red Army was planning its assault on the Vistula. He happened to mention that he couldn't get any information through Washington, so WC simply said, I'll call Stalin and ask him - which he did. – WS2 Nov 11 '18 at 7:39
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My question is, why was he sure that if the USA entered, it would be on Britain's side?

For the same reason the US entered the war against the UK in 1812 and WW1 against Germany:

Because their (merchant) ships were getting sunk. In this case, by the Nazis.

In each case, their ships were getting sunk for "good reasons". In 1812 the US was doing business with the French. In WW1 and WW2, the US was doing business with the allies.

  • I don't see any USN ships attacked until September 1941 and the first sunk was in October 1941. The first merchant ship I can find (Here usmm.org/sunk39-41.html#anchor325668) was in December 1940. My question was why was Hitler sure in May 1940 that USA would come in on side of UK? Were there merchant ships sunk by German forces before May 1940? – Flynn Oct 4 '17 at 22:00
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    The US government was doing absolutely everything short of outright declaring war to aid Great Britain before Pearl Harbor. Plus, most of the political leadership was of the generation that came of age during WWI. There were very few pro-German people in the US prior to it's entry. Most people were either pro-UK or did not want to be involved at all. – Gort the Robot Oct 5 '17 at 3:51
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    @Flynn - USN ships might not have been getting sunk - but their merchant ships were usmm.org/sunk39-41.html – user13123 Oct 5 '17 at 5:03
  • @HorusKol and Denis that's the same list I linked to in my comment. It does not show any US merchant ships being sunk by German military action until December 1940 (unless I'm reading it incorrectly). But either way, thanks for your comments. I'll be thinking about them. – Flynn Oct 5 '17 at 15:44

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