Hitler was a high-school dropout and a failed artist whose military service during World War 1 had been the ‘high point’ of his life. However, he was convinced that his life’s mission was to “save Germany,” as he later put it1.
After the war, Hitler returned to Munich, where he had lived before the war, and was employed as a police spy. Told to infiltrate a small group called the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, (DAP; German Workers’ Party), Hitler was attracted to the group’s nationalistic and anti-Semitic ideology. He joined the party in 1919 and soon became one of its early leaders and by 1921, he was addressing crowds of several thousand people in local beer halls. At about that time, DAP changed its name to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, (NSDAP; National German Socialist Workers’ Party), or Nazi Party, and elected Hitler as its leader in July 19211.
By November 1923, Hitler and his associates had concocted a plot to seize power of the Bavarian state government (and thereby launch a larger revolution against the Weimar Republic) by kidnapping Gustav von Kahr, the state commissioner of Bavaria, and two other conservative politicians. Hitler’s plan involved using Erich Ludendorff, the right-wing World War I general, as a figurehead to lead a march on Berlin to overthrow the Weimar Republic. However, after the Beer Hall Putsch was stopped in its tracks, Hitler fled to the house of a friend, but was arrested on November 11, 1923. Accused of high treason, he was tried on February 26, 1924, and sentenced to five years in Landsberg prison. Landsberg was a relatively comfortable prison, intended for inmates who were considered misguided rather than dangerous. Hitler was allowed to receive visitors as well as fan mail from admirers. Assisted by his deputy and regular visitor, Rudolf Hess, Hitler produced the first volume of his political autobiography, ‘Mein Kampf’ (My Struggle), while in Landsberg. He served only about nine months of his sentence, obtaining a pardon and early release on December 20, 19241.
The invasion of the Capitol building in Washington DC a few days ago, was a lot more dangerous than the Beer Hall Putsch as the aim of the miscreants was clearly not to simply kidnap those in congress but, as some indicated at the time, to execute them. This included Vice President Mike Pence, who had refused Trump’s entreaties to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election win. Given that many of the miscreants filmed themselves, took selfies or allowed the media to film them, many have now been arrested and charged for their crimes2. On seeing this, and the likelihood of their incarceration, it made me wondered what would have happened if Hitler had been incarcerated in a less salubrious prison and had served the full 5 years of his sentence. In such a prison, visitors presumably would have been restricted to once a week; there would have been limited contact with the outside world, and it would have presumably been censored, or at least examined to make sure there were no instructions for anyone to commit crimes or suchlike.
While ‘what ifs’ are always unfathomable because we are unable to account for all the variables in any particular case, still, it does make me wonder if Hitler would have faded away and perhaps a proportion of the 60 million who died during the Second World War would have survived to live out their lives in relative peace.
Anyone who believes that these gullible MAGA fools are going to go away, just because their Capitol Putsch failed, is, I believe, sadly mistaken. Twitter executives released a statement when banning Trump from the platform, which included the following: “Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021”3. If those arrested are allowed to get away with this attempted overthrow of the system of government, or if they suffer only minimal punishment, this will be a nod and a wink for such activities to continue. Furthermore, if those who incited this riot, including Trump and his enablers, do not face justice, or are pardoned, then Trump will continue and the gullible will follow him. It should be one law for all.