As I write, news reports tell us that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent. More than 150,000 troops have gathered along Ukraine's border. Russian President Valadimir Putin claims to be defending ethnic Russians and to want a diplomatic solution, but this sounds eerily like Adolph Hitler's attack on the Sudetenland region of Czechoslavkia.
Putin sounds eerily like Adolph Hitler...
In a written response to U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, dated September 27, 1938, Hitler complains of "the founding of the Czechoslovak State and the establishment of its frontiers without any consideration for history, or nationality. The Sudetenland was also included therein, although this area had always been German and although its inhabitants, after the destruction of the Hapsburg Monarchy, had unanimously declared their desire for Anschluss (annexation) to the German Reich. Thus the right of self-determination, which had been proclaimed by President Wilson as the most important basis of national life, was simply denied to the Sudeten Germans."
He then declared that, in his opinion, the League of Nations and Czechoslovakia had failed in its obligations to protect the rights and culture of Sudetenland citizens. "From day to day it became more evident that the Government of Prague was not disposed seriously to consider the most elementary rights of the Sudeten Germans," he said. "On the contrary, they attempted by increasingly violent methods to enforce the Czechization of the Sudetenland."
He said, "the German Government at first did not intervene in any way in this development and maintained its calm restraint even when, in May of this year, the Czechoslovak Government proceeded to a mobilization of their army, under purely fictitious pretext of German troop concentrations."
Hitler claimed the Czech government was mistreating Germans...
But Germany's patience had run out, he argued, as Czechoslovakia had shown itself to be uncompromising and negotiating in bad faith. "This was clearly shown by the course of the negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the Sudeten German Party with the Government. These negotiations produced the conclusive proof that the Czechoslovak Government was far removed from treating the Sudeten German problem in a fundamental manner and bringing about an equitable solution."
Stating conditions for the residents of Sudetenland "have become completely intolerable," Hitler claimed "political persecution and economic oppression have plunged the Sudeten Germans into untold misery." This had led, he said, to 214,000 Sudeten German refugees who had to leave their "ancestral country and flee across the German frontier, because they saw in this the last and only possibility of escaping from the revolting Czech regime of force and bloodiest terror."
Hitler explained to FDR that "these are the facts which compelled me in my Nuremberg speech of September 13 to state before the whole world that the deprivation of rights of 3 1/2 million Germans in Czechoslovakia must cease, and that these people, if they cannot find justice and help themselves, must receive both from the German Reich."
Hitler threatened Czechoslovakia in September of 1938, having just annexed Austria into Germany a few month earlier. Having annexed their southern neighbor, the Nazis held a "retroactive vote" in which allegedly 99.73% of Austrians voted in favor of joining the German nation.
Putin presents himself as the protector of ethnic Russians in Ukraine...
In 2014, Russian President Putin similarly annexed the Crimean Peninsula region of Ukraine. Afterward, the Russians too held a vote claiming that 86% of residents favored incorporation into Russia.
Today, Putin presents himself as the liberator of oppressed ethnic Russians inside of Ukraine.
In a letter released, by the Kremlin, on July 12, 2021, entitled "On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians," Putin argued that "Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians are all descendants of the ancient Rus... bound together by one language, economic ties, the rule of the princes of the Rurik dynasty, and- after the baptism of Rus- the Orthodox faith." He said "the wall that has emerged in recent years between Russia and Ukraine, between parts of what is essentially the same historical and spiritual space, to my mind is our great common misfortune and tragedy." He blamed external circumstances and anti-Russian forces for this division of Russian territory and, like Hitler's sentiment about the creation of Czechoslovakia, argued that Ukraine is an artificial country built upon seized Russian lands.
After the invasion of Batu Khan, Russia found itself divided with the southern and western territories becoming part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the 14th Century, Lithuania's ruling elite converted to Catholicism and in the 16th Century, Lithuania merged with the Kingdom of Poland to form the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Polish Catholic nobility, according to Putin, were granted large landholdings in former Russian territory and "the process of Polonization and Latinization began, ousting Orthodoxy."
"As a consequence," Putin said, "the liberation movement of the Orthodox population was gaining strength in the Dnieper Region... supporters struggled for autonomy from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth."
Over the course of the lengthy war between the Russian state and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, some of the ruling elite would switch alliance, Putin said, but "for the people, that was a war of liberation." After the signing of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace in 1686, "the Russian state incorporated the city of Kiev and the lands of the left bank of the Dnieper River, including Poltava region, Chernigov region, and Zaporozhye. Their inhabitants were reunited with the main part of the Russian Orthodox people. Their territories were referred to as 'Malorosia' (Little Russia)."
Putin claims Ukraine is an artificial state...
"Malorosians," Putin wrote, "in many ways helped build a big common country- its statehood, culture, and science. They participated in the exploration and development of the Urals, Siberia, the Caucasus, and the Far East. Incidentally, during the Soviet period, natives of Ukraine held major, including the highest, posts in the leadership of the unified state. Suffice it to say that Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, whose party biography was most closely associated with Ukraine, led the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) for almost 30 years."
But, Putin also finds fault in the Soviet Union, and Bolshevik leaders.
"Many of the republics established by the Bolsheviks' supporters did not see themselves outside Russia," he said. But, these leaders "basically drove them out of Soviet Russia for various reasons."
Putin reasons that the Soviets were determined to further their international struggle, by erasing national borders and ethnicities and by diminishing the influence of "chauvinist Russia." In 1922, the USSR was created "as a federation of equal republics."
"In early 1918, the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic was proclaimed and asked Moscow to incorporate it into Soviet Russia. This was met with refusal," Putin said. "Vladimir Lenin insisted that they act as a part of Soviet Ukraine... The territories of the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic later formed most of the regions of southeastern Ukraine."
Through a lengthy list of further examples, Putin illustrated his belief that "modern Ukraine is entirely the product of the Soviet era. We know and remember well that it was shaped- for a significant part- on the lands of historical Russia."
Although, as a student of history, I appreciate the lesson and in-depth explanation of his viewpoint, my response is So What! Putin, himself, acknowledged that "some part of a people in the process of its development, influenced by a number of reasons and historical circumstances, can become aware of itself as a separate nation at a certain moment." Just because they share history with Russia does not mean that Ukrainians wish to be a part of Putin-Land.
Although flawed, they have developed a democratic system and national identity that many are proud of. But, that does not mean that there are not others who, due to ethnicity and religion, culturally identify more with Russia. So, what is the answer to averting war? As the overriding theme of FightingFascism.com is that constitutional federalism can provide peace, by protecting the individual rights of all citizens, I would normally argue that the citizens of eastern Ukraine should have the right to vote. They could vote in favor of a constitutional federal republic as part of Ukraine, for a confederal arrangement with Ukraine, or for annexation with Russia. What is important is that the vote be legal and fair, so it is a true expression of the people's will. It should be scheduled far enough in advance that everyone is aware of their voting options and the impact on their lives. International observers should be present to confirm election integrity. The vote should reflect the will of the people without undue influence from Putin's Russia, Ukrainian officials, or the West. Self-determination is the goal.
Eastern Ukrainians should vote on their future...
But, as Putin has officially announced his recognition of the eastern Donbas provinces of Ukraine as independent, I fear it is likely too late to prevent an invasion and lives will be lost. But, I think a vote should be the position of America, NATO, the European Union and international community at large. This position reflects our democratic values and, hopefully, may be enough of a win for Vladimir Putin to convince him not to invade. Since he seems to be following the path of Adolph Hitler, though, I fear this may not be a realistic outcome. I pray for the health and welfare of all citizens in Ukraine, who are being bullied by a megalomaniac bully who feels that his interpretation of history is more important than their lives. Heil Putin!
In September of 1919, just months after the fall of the Bavarian Soviet Republic, Corporal Hitler was ordered to investigate a small group in Munich known as the German Workers Party. As a result of the recently crushed communist rebellion, the German army was very focused on preventing the growth of Marxism in Germany.
A worker-led, national socialist political party
Dressed as a civilian, Hitler went to a party meeting, held in the back room of a Munich beer hall, on September 12, 1919. With about 25 other people, he listened to an economic speech by Gottfried Feder entitled, "How and by what means is capitalism to be eliminated." As the speech concluded, he got up to leave when another attendee spoke out in favor of Bavaria seceding from Germany and joining Austria to form a south German nation. Angered, Hitler spoke out, uninterrupted for about fifteen minutes, against the man and his proposal. This was the first time anyone had noticed the future Fuhrer's speaking ability, and he captured the attention of Anton Drexler, one of the party's founders and its de-facto leader. As the Hitler concluded, Drexler rushed over to give him a pamphlet, he had written, entitled "My Political Awakening." He urged his new acquaintance to read it and to come to another meeting.
Sitting in his army barracks, the next morning, Adolph Hitler did read Drexler's pamphlet and was pleased to find a political philosophy similar to his own... the building of a worker-led, national socialist political party for the German people. But, he was hesitant to join the group recalling, in Mein Kampf, that "aside from a few directives, there was nothing, no program, no leaflet, no printed matter at all, no membership cards, not event a miserable stamp...." He also saw, though, the infant party as a blank canvas that, as Drexler said, could become a movement.
"This absurd little organization with its few members seemed to me to possess the one advantage that it had not frozen into an 'organization,' but left the individual opportunity for real personal activity. Here it was still possible to work, and the smaller the movement, the more readily it could be put into proper form. Here, the content, the goal, and the road could still be determined."
Continued Influence of Socialist Ideology
Deciding the content and the party's path is what Hitler did. Assuming a leadership role, he took charge of the GWP's propaganda efforts, and on February 24, 1920, he presented the party's Twenty Five Points platform. Within its contents, we can see the continued influence of socialist ideology on the young Adolph Hitler. Below are planks of the platform that reveal some of the party's goals and, as co-author, those of Hitler as well.
"We demand the State shall above all undertake to ensure that every citizen shall have the possibility of living decently and earning a livelihood."
"We wage war against the corrupt parliamentary administration...."
"No individual shall do any work that offends against the interest of the community to the benefit of all."
"Therefore we demand... that all unearned income, and all income that does not arise from work, be abolished."
"We demand that nationalization of all trusts."
"We demand profit-sharing in large industries."
"We demand a generous increase in old-age pensions."
"We demand... the immediate communalization of large stores which will be rented cheaply to small tradespeople, the strongest consideration must be given to ensure that small traders shall deliver the supplies needed by the State, the provinces and municipalities."
"We demand an agrarian reform in accordance with our national requirements, and the enactment of a law to expropriate the owners without compensation of any land needed for the common purpose."
"The State must assume the responsibility of organizing thoroughly the entire cultural system of the people."
"The State has the duty to help raise the standard of national health."
"We demand the abolition of the regular army and the creation of a national (folk) army."
"Newspapers transgressing against the common welfare shall be suppressed."
"We demand a strong central authority in the State...."
"Common good before individual good."
Each of these demands easily fits within socialist doctrine. Additionally, it was Hitler, himself, who changed the name of the German Workers Party to the National Socialist German Workers Party!
"Basically, National Socialism and Marxism are the same," remarked Adolph Hitler during a November 1941 speech in Munich, Germany. But wait, wasn't Hitler a Right-wing German nationalist? That is what we have been told by Left-wing politicians and academics since the end of World War II. But is it true?
Corporal Hitler Supported the Bavarian Soviet Republic....
While researching his 2011 book, Hitler's First War, German historian Thomas Weber discovered and revealed lost archives from the barracks, in Munich, where where Hitler served as a young corporal after World War I. Thought to have been lost during a bombing campaign, by Allied forces, these archives provide compelling evidence of Corporal Hitler's support for and involvement with the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic.
Defeat of Germany in World War I led to social tension and unrest throughout the country, culminating in the German Revolution of 1918. On November 7, 1918, the first anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, King Ludwig III of Bavaria fled the palace with his family and Kurt Eisner, a Jewish politician from the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) became president of the newly proclaimed People's State of Bavaria.
Hitler is seen carrying the coffin of Jewish Socialist Kurt Eisner....
Though he advocated for a socialist republic, Eisner separated himself from Soviet-backed communists, vowing to protect property rights. But, his administration proved unable to provide basic services and was defeated in the January 1919 elections. While on his way to resign before parliament, the following month, Eisner was shot and killed by German nationalist, Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley. From the archives Weber recovered a picture of the mourning crowd carrying Eisner's coffin in procession. Among those seen carrying the coffin is a young Adolph Hitler!
Eisner's death created a martyr for the Left, but left the Bavarian parliament in disarray. Members were shot by extremists and government became disfunctional. By March 7, 1919, the USPD's new leader, Johannes Hoffman, a former school teacher, managed to form a coalition government. But, before he could consolidate his rule, German communists and anarchists formed a counter-government in Bavaria.
Communist "Bavarian Revolution of Love"....
Inspired by news of a communist revolution in Hungary, they declared their own Bavarian Soviet Republic under the leadership of Ernst Toller. Toller immediately called upon the army to support the new dictatorship of the proletariat and to ruthlessly stop any counter-revolutionary activities against the new government. This caused Hoffman and his Social Democrat administration to flee Munich for Bamberg, which it declared the new capital and seat of government.
Toller described his rule as the "Bavarian Revolution of Love," while others called it the "regime of the coffeehouse anarchists." It was an incompetent administration that did not garner much support. As a Social Democrat, himself, Toller didn't command full allegiance from communists, who defected from his revolution and seized power just six days later on Saturday, April 12, 1919.
Having received the blessing of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, Communist leader Eugene Levine, the new head of state of the Bavarian Soviet Republic, started enacting more hardline communist reforms such as seizing cash, guns and food supplies. He also formed a "Red Army" from factory workers and placed ownership of factories under their control. Luxury apartments were seized and given to the homeless, and Munich church was confiscated and rededicated to the "Goddess of Reason."
Hitler elected to office in Bavarian Soviet Republic....
While researching the Munich archives, Weber discovered that the young Corporal Hitler, whom we know mourned the death of Socialist leader Kurt Eisner, sought and was elected to office in the new Bavarian Soviet Republic, as Deputy Battalion Representative. His election meant that he was pledging his allegiance to Lenin and the Soviet Union, and a photograph, taken by Heinrich Hoffman, shows Hitler wearing the red armband of support for the new communist regime. His duties included acting as liaison between BSR leaders and their Department of Propoganda.
Some argue that Hitler was an opportunist and not a true-believer of the Soviet cause. In fact, Weber fully admits that all Munich-based military units, including Hitler's regiment, were considered part of the Red Army. But most members never actively supported Levine's regime, as Hitler did. He loyally served for the entire lifespan of the Bavarian Soviet Republic and never defected to join the German Freikorps, as did some of his fellow soldiers, who fought to free Bavaria from communist rule. This failure to join the partisans fighting the "Bolsheviks in Bavaria" brought Hitler criticism from Otto Strasser, an early member of the Nazi Party, as well as from Ernst Rohm, co-founder of the Nazi Stormtroopers. Having stayed loyal to Levine and the BSR until the very end, Hitler was arrested and held along with other communists, during the street battles that brought the downfall of the Soviet republic on May 1, 1919.
The evidence of Hitler's socialist sympathies, although strong, remains circumstantial, if based only upon his years of military service in Munich. But, his Left-wing beliefs become more clear if we follow his political journey immediately afterward and throughout his reign as Fuhrer of the Third Reich. This journey began with his joining the German Socialist Workers Party just months after the fall of the Bavarian Soviet Republic.
Samuel Griswold is a lifelong student of history and politics, whose studies have given him unique insights into the true nature of totalitarianism in all of its aspects... Fascism, Communism and Socialism. As an American Jew, who lost relatives in the Holocaust, he's lived by the pledges "Never Forget" and "Never Again." But, for him, these pledges mean to never let the policies that led to the Holocaust happen again. To prevent fascism from thriving, we must know how to see and define it. That is the purpose of FightingFascism.com, to draw attention and rally opposition to current fascist policies and governments.