Unlike most of the rest of the world, I do not see Adolf Hitler as the “personification of evil” or the most “evil” person that has ever existed.
Hitler was simply a politician like one of the many politicians today. And just like almost all politicians today, his actions were defined by a core belief, greed, ego and a certain love for the country he ruled.
The more sensitive readers would react now with “whoa! whoa! Hitler and love?! Hitler is EVIL! EVIL!”
Evil does not exist, but is a concept of the human intellect. What do we define as evil? We tend to associate unjust things with evil, or things we do not agree with. Essentially, what we feel or think is evil is simply what we do not agree with.
“Who cares about a technical definition? What Hitler did was EVIL! ”
Aiming to wipe out the Jews, that must be evil, right?
As I just said, no one does anything without a reason. And like I just said, any man’s actions are trigger by his own ego, greed, and his core belief.
Hitler believed that the Jews were harming Germany. Hitler believed that the Treaty of Versailles was unjust. Hitler believed that Austria and the Third Reich should become united.
These all came from his belief.
“His beliefs are EVIL!”
Like I just said, we define something as evil when this something does not agree with our moral standards.
Americans defined Communism as evil during the Cold War because they did not agree with it. Everybody being equal and controlled by the State did not agree with the “freedoms” of America. And because it did not agree with these Freedoms, Communism was defined as “bad” and “evil”.
Now in retrospect, can it really be defined as evil? No.
Of course I am not saying that what Hitler did was right. Of course not. I am saying that Hitler was not evil, but simply a man who did what he believed was right for the German people at that time. Of course, just like any politician today, his actions were also motivated by greed, ego and more greed. But it is important to make the distinction that Hitler was not an exception. He was simply a statesman who didn’t get away with it.
For example, Mao Ze Dong got away with it. Stalin (kind of) got away with it. The leaders of Meiji Japan got away with it.
And as a history major allow me to assure you, when comparing what the Japanese Imperial Army did in the 1930s and 1940s in South East Asia, the gas chambers of Auschwitz can be considered merciful.
“But Hitler brought misery to all of Europe! He is Evil!”
This might be what the more persistent readers will be saying/thinking.
Perhaps why the perception of Hitler being evil is so deeply rooted in so many peoples’ minds is that after WWII, the Allies needed to have a focus. The Meiji leaders of Meiji Japan perhaps are not remembered as completely evil because after WWII, the Western powers sought peace in Asia and Japan was a great trading partner. This left Hitler and Mussolini.
And naturally, Hitler got the Spotlight of Evil in history textbooks.
Yet, Hitler is not an exception even by today’s standards.
America’s War on Terror may be justified by the core belief of 9/11 and that the American Way is right without question. It is ironic that it seems that very few people have ever thought about why there is this hate to begin with.
Now in retrospect, we can see that a big part of the hate was the perceived American imperialism and greed. Greed for crude oil.
The pictures of people in the streets in the US when the death of Bin Laden was announced, that mad sparkle of euphoria in their eyes, cheering for the death of a man (disturbing, isn’t it?) was very much the same sparkle I saw in videos of German citizen when they cheered for Hitler.
So, do not brainlessly brand Hitler as pure evil. If you strictly judge, he was simply a man who did what he believed was right, along with greed and ego as motivators (just like any person today). Nothing more, nothing less.