Friday Firesmith – Killing Hitler


History, as I see it, is like the waves of an ocean. You couldn’t tell one from the other, all of them, no matter how different they are, can be seen as the same. The forces that create waves may make one larger, or stronger, or more destructive than a million that came along in the years before. But whatever those forces do, the world is shaped by the waves. It’s more or less a given that it was going to happen like that sooner or later.

Think about it. All the great discoveries of all the great thinkers, sooner or later, it was going to happen, wasn’t it? Gravity, relativity, electricity, the steam engine, all of it and more. The path was always there, waiting to be followed, and for all we know, everything that has been done by someone, was going to be done by someone, eventually.

Suppose the Vikings had gained a foothold in North America and prospered there. Would they have lived in peace with the natives of this land? Would they have repelled the English, Spanish, and French from colonies along the east coast?  

Clearly, when Columbus invaded the islands off the North American coast, had the natives killed him, and his men, someone else would have arrived in due time.

This isn’t to say things would have been exactly the same. Suppose the natives of North America would have formed a union to expel the white invaders, could they have held by the tide of ships sent to conquer, kill, and loot? Had the Aztecs killed Cortez, and then guarded their lands more heavily against the Spanish, could they have become a major force in North America, eventually?

But let’s make this a bit more specific, shall we? You go back to the year 1920, you find a young former corporal in the German army, and you kill him. Hitler is dead, and when you return to 2021, what will you find? If the theory of human history is more of a process than a product of personality, it’s very likely the second world war would have happened anyway. Could there have been a worse person than Hitler? It’s possible because, towards the end of his reign, Hitler wasn’t exactly competent when it came to military strategy. With Hitler gone, would Stalin have filled the void? Would the Soviet Union have risen to be a global power? Would Japan have made a deal with Stalin against the United States after Europe fell?

If the Holocaust had not happened, would Israel exist today?

But suppose with Hitler gone, Germany would have fallen into chaos. If Germany would have withered, and a new power emerged, would it have been England? Or perhaps Spain? Without a European war to get involved in, would the United States have become more isolated, perhaps?

Hitler was the ultimate evil for our time, but was he worse than Stalin or Mao? Was Hitler’s pogrom against the Jews any worse than what the United States did to the native population of North America?

The idea of going back in time and fixing things by eliminating one human being has its appeal, but it might be more important to find a way to stay in this time, and change the way the world is today.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

14 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Killing Hitler”

  1. I do not always agree with your viewpoint but look forward to reading your articles each Friday. Your article today is thought provoking, but my view along these lines is Biblical. I read and have studied the KJV of the Bible along with views of Biblical scholars so my perspective is quite different from yours. My view is that all the events recorded in history are pretty well pre-ordained by a master Creator with Him allowing humankind to go their way in a general sense but always conform to His master plan. My view…..

  2. You packed a lot in this essay. There’s a thousand ways to go in responding.

    The past is always fighting with the present. There are those who learn from the past and there are those who want to bring back the past. The latter tends to believe the past offered something better than their present has. But unlike the former, they actually study and learn about the past, while there are those that worship the evil aspects of the past and ignore all the aspects that made the past a reason to not repeat it.

    Learning about the past is essential. Those lessons provide choices for our present. Such as the natives. The European settlers had a personal view of superiority over the natives, yet when one studies the lives of those natives, one would find much of their ways a more positive way of approaching their own lives. Natives have a higher regard for life (both human and planet-wise) than most European types.

    Playing “what if” with history can be fun if not interesting discussion. Maybe someone would have replaced Hitler if he was “eliminated” earlier. Would it have been a Stalin? Another Hitler who was better and smarter? Maybe, but Germany was suffering from the results of losing an earlier war and their economy was trudging through tough times because of a treaty that was designed to punish them. Because of that, a strongman who was able to demagogue a people, turned a nation of suffering people into easy followers. But, a bad economy was worldwide. One country chose a tyrant, while on the other side of the ocean, another nation chose someone with a different solution. Yet, they both pointed fingers at a certain group of people. FDR pointed the finger at the rich which brings us back to the natives. In many native cultures, greed and selfishness is frowned upon. So, in a sense, FDR latched onto something basic (fairness) in humans, while it can be said Hitler latched onto another basic (hate) trait.

    I think it’s important that the past is discussed. While I’m not suggesting you think otherwise, I do think discussing “what ifs” opens the possibilities of discussions that would benefit the present. There’s no way of proving one “what if” over another, but if the discussion is done properly, it can lead to solutions that benefit the present.

  3. Looking at history it’s hard for me to believe there has ever been a master plan or outline. Humanity has been more like a roomba blundering to things that cause it to shift direction.
    What drives me crazy is people discussing how people should have behaved 100, 500, 3000 years ago from the comfort and mores of the 21st century. To quote some folks of my youth, “You don’t know, man, you weren’t there.”

  4. Then you believe in a god with no regard for human life, and no love for any living thing. For any god that would allow humans to wreck this world in the manner in which they have, is either powerless, or amoral.

  5. Indeed, CAI, choosing this topic, in this manner, leaves a lot to be discussed, and for many reasons. If this then that, if not this, then not that, if not, then what? But the real question is, if FDR would have died early in his life, would their still had been someone to step in and be who he was? If the Japanese would have been allowed by The League to stay in China would we have sat out the war? I love this sort of thing.

  6. We know a lot more than you might think, Bruce. There are clay tablets from Sumer we can read. There’s a host of information that can tell us what happened and why, thousands of years ago, and there is this. “Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what
    she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student
    expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones. But
    5 no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a
    femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained
    that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run
    from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for
    prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone
    10 to heal. A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken
    time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the
    person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping
    someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said. “We
    are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized”

    • “No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal”

      we do see evidence of that in some animals; for instance one of those annoying canadian geese that uses my backyard as their toilet and dining facility has a broken wing; he cannot fly but he’s survived at least 6 years so far because the rest of the flock protects him.

      dolphins and whales have been observed protecting people, other whales, even seals from orcas. there was even a story about 15 years ago from ethopia where some lions protected a 12 year old (human) girl from a group of men that were trying to rape her. –

      empathy is clearly not some uniquely human characteristic.

      with regards to judging people from 500 years ago based on modern standards of morality – I at least partially agree; morality is evolving; it changes as we learn and realize the problems with our previous standards of morality. There are however certain people that try to make the claim that morality derives from their particular religion and is ‘impossible’ to be moral if you don’t follow their particular beliefs. – If however morality originated from a benevolent and omniscient ‘god’ then it absolutely should have been “perfect” from the very beginning but slavery, genocide and taking women as war booty don’t seem like “perfect” moral standards to me so anyone pointing to a book that blatantly permits (and demands) those immoral acts has no standing to lecture others on morality.

      • (The prior comment about morality evolving was talking about “judging” morality – If you try to claim this concept of “absolute morality” or “objective morality” then you are almost certainly taking the position that morality was defined from the beginning by an omniscient/benevolent ‘god’. THAT position (imo) is indefensible because it is really obvious that morality has evolved.

        If your religion doesn’t accept that morality is an evolutionary process then it has an awful lot of immoral history to answer for.

  7. “If however morality originated from a benevolent and omniscient ‘god’ then it absolutely should have been “perfect” from the very beginning…”
    If god doesn’t personally administer morality then it could still originate from him and be botched by management, the administrators. It becomes like a game of telephone, each time it’s passed on it’s infected with the prejudices of the teller and the told.

    Same with Sumerian tablets, the prejudices of the writer and reader taint the information we use to understand what it was like. What is left out is at least as important as what was written. Do you really think some scholar/scribe is going to write, “my neighbor was hungry so she cooked and ate her baby”? That being written or indeed happening is unthinkable, but we don’t know, we weren’t there.

    Biology, archeology, science in general is finding clues and postulating a whole picture from a few clues. Sometimes the picture holds up and sometimes additional clues demolish that picture. Dinosaurs having feathers would have drawn laughter not that many years ago. We don’t know, we weren’t there.

    • Bruce; that’s why I distinguished about those specific individuals that try to insist on this concept of “objective morality” – not all religious people do that; however some of them do; and those people also tend to cling to this fantasy that those scriptures are “inerrant” and somehow think that those oral story passing bronze age sheep herders that passed down those oral traditions had some supernatural ability to pass that message along for multiple generations without any change over several millennia.

      The reality is that we have older versions of those same myths from Babylon (recorded in the “Enuma Elish” and the “Epic of Gilgamesh” as well as other sources) that show pretty clearly that those myths were around long before these Hebrews adopted them and clearly evolved over time. We also have older law codes (such as the “code or ur nammu”, “the code of hammurabai” and the “code of urukagina”) all of which predate any of the books of the Hebrews by over a thousand years and reflect many of the moral rules (such as not murdering, stealing or committing perjury).

      My comment isn’t meant to disparage anyone that isn’t trying to make a claim that morality is some “objective” standard defined by their god (and curiously only “properly understood” by their particular church since everyone else has it wrong…) – That narrow view of thinking is divisive; it basically forms an “us” against “them” mindset where everyone outside of my specific cult is ‘evil’.

      That sort of thinking never ends well.

  8. Kindness, please.

    That’s all I ask for.

    That’s the request I got banned from Facebook for making.

    Am I so wrong?

  9. Keith, I love comments like that. It gives a reader a lot to think about. Dolphins, historically speaking, have saved humans from drowning, and so that sort of behavior, as you point out so well, is not limited to humans, even when human decide to behave that way.


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