The Verdict of Historians on the Third Reich
Broadly in agreement with the crude slogans of Allied war propaganda, early postwar interpretations by foreign authors who treated Hitler’s state as a more or less consistent result of the (faulty) development of the German nation: ‘from Luther to Hitler’, as William Montgomery McGovern put it (The History of Fascist-Nazi Philosophy, Boston, Mass., 1941). William L. Schirer in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York, 1959; London, 1960) likewise took the view that Nazism was basically the inevitable outcome of German history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In 1953-4 the French historian Edmond Vermeil in his two-volume work L’Allemagne contemporaine 1890-1950 (Paris) attributed the rise and development of Nazi Germany to authoritarian and imperialistic traditions which he traced back to the medieval empire. The quest for a discreditable pedigree was not confined to Anglo-American and French authors. As Wolfgang Wippermann has pointed out, Soviet and Polish historians in the immediate postwar period-‘in clear contrast to Marxist theory’—put forward similar interpretations in terms of national history and nationalism, linking the medieval Drang nach Osten with the ambitions of ‘imperialist Junkerdom’.