Andreas Hillgruber

Andreas Hillgruber

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Andreas Fritz Hillgruber (18 January 1925 - 8 May 1989) was a conservative
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 German historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

. Hillgruber was influential as a military and diplomatic historian.

At his death in 1989, the American historian Francis L. Loewenheim said: "Andreas Hillgruber was probably the leading West German historian of his generation - a scholar of indefatigable energy and fierce independence, a scholar of weighty judgment even if one did not always agree with him". Other historians were more hostile, with the British historian Richard J. Evans
Richard J. Evans
Richard John Evans is a British academic and historian, prominently known for his history of Germany.-Life:Evans was born in London, of Welsh parentage, and is now Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge and President of Wolfson College...

 taking the view that Hillgruber was a great historian whose once-sterling reputation as a historian was in ruins.

Biography


Hillgruber was born in Angerburg, Germany (modern Wegorzewo
Wegorzewo
Węgorzewo is a tourist town in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, Poland, not far from the border with Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast. It is the seat of Węgorzewo County. Lake Mamry is close to the town.-Etymology:...

, Poland) near the then East Prussian city of Königsberg
Königsberg
Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945 as well as the northernmost and easternmost German city with 286,666 inhabitants . Due to the multicultural society in and around the city, there are several local names for it...

 (modern Kaliningrad
Kaliningrad
Kaliningrad is a seaport and the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea...

, Russia). Hillgruber's father lost his job as a teacher under the Third Reich. Hillgruber served in the German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 from 1943 to 1945 and spent the years 1945-1948 as a POW in France. During World War II, Hillgruber fought on the Eastern Front, an experience that was later to play a role in his evaluation and writing about the period. In 1945, Hillgruber fled west to escape the Red Army, another experience that was to have much influence on him. After his release he studied at the University of Göttingen, where he received a PhD in 1952. As a student, Hillgruber was a leading protégée of the medievalist Percy Ernst Schramm
Percy Ernst Schramm
Percy Ernst Schramm was a German historian of medieval political symbolism and ritual. His research focused primarily on the ideology of the medieval state, particularly the ways in which the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages represented their authority through images and rituals,...

, an academic who, as Eberhard Jäckel
Eberhard Jäckel
Eberhard Jäckel is a Social Democratic German historian, noted for his studies of Adolf Hitler's role in German history. Jäckel sees Hitler as being the historical equivalent to the Chernobyl disaster.-Career:...

 commented, regarded World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 as a normal war that regrettably the Nazis were not as skilled at waging as they should have been. Much of Hillgruber's early work reflected Schramm's influence. He spent the decade 1954-1964 working as school teacher. In 1960 he married Karin Zieran, with whom he had three children. Hillgruber worked as a professor at the University of Marburg (1965–1968), the University of Freiburg
University of Freiburg
The University of Freiburg , sometimes referred to in English as the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, is a public research university located in Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.The university was founded in 1457 by the Habsburg dynasty as the...

 (1968–1972) and the University of Cologne
University of Cologne
The University of Cologne is one of the oldest universities in Europe and, with over 44,000 students, one of the largest universities in Germany. The university is part of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, an association of Germany's leading research universities...

 (1972–1989). In the late 1960s he was a target of radical student protesters. He died in Cologne
Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

 of throat cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

.

Early historical work


Hillgruber's area of expertise was German history from 1871 to 1945, especially its political
Political history
Political history is the narrative and analysis of political events, ideas, movements, and leaders. It is distinct from, but related to, other fields of history such as Diplomatic history, social history, economic history, and military history, as well as constitutional history and public...

, diplomatic
Diplomatic history
Diplomatic history deals with the history of international relations between states. Diplomatic history can be different from international relations in that the former can concern itself with the foreign policy of one state while the latter deals with relations between two or more states...

 and military
Military history
Military history is a humanities discipline within the scope of general historical recording of armed conflict in the history of humanity, and its impact on the societies, their cultures, economies and changing intra and international relationships....

 aspects. He argued for understanding this period as one of continuities. In his first address as a professor at Freiburg in 1969, Hillgruber argued for understanding the entire "Bismarck Reich" as one of continuities between 1871-1945. For Hillgruber, the continuities of the "Bismarck Reich" were a certain mentalité amongst German elites, namely a Weltanschuauung (world view) that emphasized an "either-or" outlook on international relations, Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism is a term commonly used for theories of society that emerged in England and the United States in the 1870s, seeking to apply the principles of Darwinian evolution to sociology and politics...

, a deterministic understanding of history, and dreams of worldwide expansionism. However, though Hillgruber paid attention to structural factors, in his opinion it was the actions of individuals that made the difference. As a member of the "Hitler Youth generation" and a World War II veteran, Hillgruber's major interest was why and how Germany failed as a great power. These interests were reflected in the title of one of Hillgruber's better-known books, Die gescheiterte Grossmacht (The Failed Great Power) (1980), in which he examined German power politics from 1871 to 1945.

In the early 1950s Hillgruber still saw World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 as a conventional war, but by 1965 in his book Hitlers Strategie (Hitler's Strategy), he was arguing that the war was for Hitler a vicious, ideological war in which no mercy was to be given to one's enemies. In his first book, Hitler, König Carol und Marschall Antonescu (Hitler, King Carol and Marshal Antonescu) (1953), a study of relations between Germany and Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 from 1938 to 1944 with a focus on the personalities of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, King Carol II
Carol II of Romania
Carol II reigned as King of Romania from 8 June 1930 until 6 September 1940. Eldest son of Ferdinand, King of Romania, and his wife, Queen Marie, a daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the second eldest son of Queen Victoria...

 and Marshal Ion Antonescu
Ion Antonescu
Ion Victor Antonescu was a Romanian soldier, authoritarian politician and convicted war criminal. The Prime Minister and Conducător during most of World War II, he presided over two successive wartime dictatorships...

, Hillgruber argued for the fundamental normality of German foreign policy, with the foreign policy of the Reich being no different from that of any other power. By contrast, in his 1965 book Hitlers Strategie, which was Hillgruber's Habilitationsschrift
Habilitation
Habilitation is the highest academic qualification a scholar can achieve by his or her own pursuit in several European and Asian countries. Earned after obtaining a research doctorate, such as a PhD, habilitation requires the candidate to write a professorial thesis based on independent...

, Hillgruber examined the grand strategic decision-making progress in 1940-1941 and concluded that, while Hitler had to adjust to diplomatic, economic, strategic and operational military realities, whenever possible his decisions were influenced by his racist, anti-Semitic and Social Darwinist beliefs. Hillgruber's work on German foreign policy made him one of the leading players in the debates about National Socialist foreign policy
Nazi Foreign Policy (debate)
This article refers to the historical argument over the Nazi Foreign Policy in terms of territorial expansion. The National Socialists governed Germany between 1933 and 1945...

.

Hillgruber's writings on the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 show certain constancies as well as changes over the years. He always argued that the Soviet Union was a brutal, expansionary, totalitarian
Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

 power, in many ways similar to Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. But, on the other hand, he argued that Moscow's foreign policy was conducted in a way that was rational and realistic, while the foreign policy of Berlin during the Nazi era was completely irrational and unrealistic. The turning point in Hillgruber's attitude came in 1953-1954 when he was in involved in a celebrated debate with Gerhard Weinberg
Gerhard Weinberg
Gerhard Ludwig Weinberg is a German-born American diplomatic and military historian noted for his studies in the history of World War II. Weinberg currently is the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been a member of the...

 and Hans Rothfels
Hans Rothfels
Hans Rothfels was a nationalist conservative German historian. He supported an idea of authoritarian German state, dominance of Germany over Europe and was hostile to Germany's eastern neighbours...

 on the pages of the Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte. Together with Hans-Günther Seraphim, Hillgruber had argued that Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, had been a "preventive war", forced on Hitler to prevent an imminent Soviet attack on Germany. So effectively did Weinberg and Rothfels demolish Hillgruber's arguments that he repudiated his previous views. Thereafter, he maintained that Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 had been prompted solely by Hitler's ideological belief in the need for Lebensraum
Lebensraum
was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as the motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany...

(living space) in Russia, where a massive German colonization effort was planned and the entire Russian people were to be reduced to slave status. In the 1970s and 1980s Hillgruber often attacked historians such as David Irving
David Irving
David John Cawdell Irving is an English writer,best known for his denial of the Holocaust, who specialises in the military and political history of World War II, with a focus on Nazi Germany...

 and Viktor Suvorov
Viktor Suvorov
Viktor Suvorov is the pen name for Vladimir Bogdanovich Rezun , a former Soviet and now British writer of Russian and Ukrainian descent who writes primarily in Russian, as well as a former Soviet military intelligence spy who defected to the UK...

 for putting forward the same arguments as he had done in 1954. Along the same lines, he criticized the American neo-Nazi historian David Hoggan
David Hoggan
David Leslie Hoggan was an American historical writer, author of The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed and other works in the German and English languages.-Early life:...

, who argued that the British had provoked World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in 1939. Hillgruber contended that there was a "kernel of truth" in Hoggan's claims in that Hitler had believed that he could invade Poland in 1939 without provoking a war with Britain, and was most unpleasantly surprised by the British declaration of war, but that, overall, Hoggan's view of Germany as the victim of an Anglo-Polish conspiracy was simply "preposterous".

The exchange between Hillgruber and Weinberg on the pages of Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte in 1953-54 marked the beginning of a long series of clashes between the two historians over interpretations of German foreign policy. In a 1956 book review of Hitler, König Carol und Marschall Antonescu, Weinberg criticized Hillgruber for engaging in what Weinberg considered an apologia for Germany in World War II. Weinberg took issue with Hillgruber's claim that World War II began with the Anglo-French declarations of war on Germany on 3 September 1939 rather with the German attack on Poland on 1 September 1939. In his 1980 monograph The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Starting World War II 1937-1939, Weinberg noted that about the question of the war's origins that "my view is somewhat different" from Hillgruber's. In his 1981 book World in the Balance, Weinberg stated that "Hillgruber's interpretation is not, however, followed here".

Continuities and discontinuities of German history


For Hillgruber, there were many elements of continuity in German foreign policy in the 1871–1945 period, especially with regard to Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

. Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen is a left-wing German historian. He is the twin brother of the late Wolfgang Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen and great-grandson of the Roman historian Theodor Mommsen. He studied German, history and philosophy at the University of...

 wrote that the "ground-laying works of Andreas Hillgruber... suggested the view for the continuities of German policy from the late Wilhelminian period up to the capitulation".

Hillgruber argued that in the 1870s, Germany had won a position of "semi-hegemony" in Europe, and that Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

 had three options for preserving that "semi-hegemony":
  • Follow the advice of Moltke the Elder
    Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
    Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke was a German Field Marshal. The chief of staff of the Prussian Army for thirty years, he is regarded as one of the great strategists of the latter 19th century, and the creator of a new, more modern method of directing armies in the field...

     and launch a "preventive war" to destroy France once and all.
  • End Franco-German enmity by "compensating" France for the loss of Alsace-Lorraine
    Alsace-Lorraine
    The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east...

     by supporting the French annexation of Belgium.
  • Maintain the status quo of "semi-hegemony".

Hillgruber argued that the "war-in-sight" crisis of 1875 was Bismarck's way of probing the European reaction towards a German "preventive war" to destroy France, and finding that Russia was unsupportive and Britain inclined to intervene, chose the third option. In response to negative international reaction to the "war-in-sight" crisis, Bismarck ultimately issued the Bad Kissingnen degree of June 25, 1877 in which he called for a situation "in which all powers save France need us and in which they are prevented from forming coalitions against us through their ties to one another".

Hillgruber argued that the accession of Wilhelm II in 1888 marked a watershed in German diplomatic history. To start with, the German decision not to renew the Reinsurance Treaty
Reinsurance Treaty
The Reinsurance Treaty of June 18, 1887 was an attempt by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to continue to ally with Russia after the League of the Three Emperors had broken down in the aftermath of the 1885 Serbo-Bulgarian War....

 in 1890 marked the breakdown of the once warm relations between the Hohenzollerns and the Romanovs going back to the 18th century. Instead, Wilhelm preferred a policy of Anglo-German alliance, which he attempted to achieve through a mixture of bribery and blackmail in the form of a vastly expanded German navy. The huge build-up in the Navy sphereheaded by Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz was a German Admiral, Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office, the powerful administrative branch of the German Imperial Navy from 1897 until 1916. Prussia never had a major navy, nor did the other German states before the German Empire was formed in 1871...

 with his Riskflotte (Risk Fleet) concept of creating a sufficiently powerful fleet that Britain could never risk war with, had the opposite effect from the one intended on Britain. Instead of leading British leaders to conclude that they could never risk a war with Germany, and therefore must ally themselves with the Reich, the build-up in German naval power led to the Anglo-German naval race of the early 20th century, and Britain aligning herself against Germany. Hillgruber maintained that influenced by Friedrich von Holstein
Friedrich von Holstein
Friedrich August von Holstein was a statesman of the German Empire and served as the head of the political department of the German Foreign Office for more than thirty years.-Biography:...

, Wilhelm came to believe in the inevitability of a "race war" in Eastern Europe between the "Teutonic race" and "Slavic race", which ultimately came to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hillgruber argued that Wilhelm's policy of Weltpolitik
Weltpolitik
The "Weltpolitik" strategy was adopted by Germany in the late 19th century, replacing the earlier "Realpolitik" approach.The start of this policy was signaled in 1897 with then Foreign Minister Bernhard von Bülow stating that Germany now pursued such a policy...

(World Politics) which he launched with great fanfare in 1897 had with the First Moroccan Crisis
First Moroccan Crisis
The First Moroccan Crisis was the international crisis over the international status of Morocco between March 1905 and May 1906. Germany resented France's increasing dominance of Morocco, and insisted on an open door policy that would allow German business access to its market...

 in 1905 ended in failure, and that thereafter Germany was forced to retreat into a defensive posture in the "bastion" of Central Europe with Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 forming the crucial "land bridge" to the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 in the Middle East.

To some extent he agreed with Fritz Fischer
Fritz Fischer
Fritz Fischer was a German historian best known for his analysis of the causes of World War I. Fischer has been described by The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing as the most important German historian of the 20th century.-Biography:Fischer was born in Ludwigsstadt in Bavaria. His...

's assessment that the differences between Imperial
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

, Weimar
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 and Nazi
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 foreign policy were of degree rather than kind. Moreover, he accepted Fischer's argument that Germany was primarily responsible for World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, but as a follower of the Primat der Aussenpolitik ("primacy of foreign policy") school, Hillgruber rejected Fischer's Primat der Innenpolitik ("primacy of domestic policy") argument as to why Germany started the First World War. During the so-called "Fischer Controversy" which coalesced the German historical profession in the early 1960s, Hillgruber stood apart from the various right-wing historians who attempted to rebut Fischer, such as Gerhard Ritter
Gerhard Ritter
Gerhard Georg Bernhard Ritter was a conservative German historian.-Before the Third Reich:...

, Hans Herzfeld, Egmont Zechlin, and Karl Dietrich Erdmann, by accepting Fischer's arguments in part instead of attempting to rebut Fischer in toto.

Hillgruber argued in the aftermath of Fischer's 1961 book Griff nach der Weltmacht (Grasping at World Power) that the old distinction made by the Swiss historian Walter Hofer between the "outbreak" of World War I in 1914, in which all of the Great Powers were equally at fault, and the "unleashing" of World War II in 1939, in which Germany was exclusively responsible, was no longer acceptable. Hillgruber commented that Fischer had established that Germany was indeed responsible for both world wars, and Hofer's formula had to be disregarded by all serious historians. Having conceded that much to Fischer, Hillgruber went on to challenge Fischer's argument that Germany had started a premeditated war of aggression in 1914.

Hillgruber believed that what had happened in 1914 was a "calculated risk" on the part of the Imperial German government
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 that had gone horribly wrong. Germany had encouraged Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 to attack Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

 in an attempt to break the informal Triple Entente
Triple Entente
The Triple Entente was the name given to the alliance among Britain, France and Russia after the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907....

 alliance between the United Kingdom, France and Russia by provoking a crisis that would concern Russia only, the so-called "calculated risk". Hillgruber maintained that Germany did not want to cause a world war in 1914, but, by pursuing a high-risk diplomatic strategy of provoking what was supposed to be only a limited war in the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

, had inadvertently caused the wider conflict. Hillgruber argued that, long before 1914, the leaders of Germany had been increasingly influenced by Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism is a term commonly used for theories of society that emerged in England and the United States in the 1870s, seeking to apply the principles of Darwinian evolution to sociology and politics...

 and völkisch ideology
Völkisch movement
The volkisch movement is the German interpretation of the populist movement, with a romantic focus on folklore and the "organic"...

, and had become obsessed with Russian industrial and military growth, leading to the view that Germany was in an untenable position that required drastic measures. Hillgruber argued that, when the Austrian attack on Serbia caused Russia to mobilize instead of backing down and seeking an accommodation with Germany as expected, the German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, under strong pressure from a hawkish General Staff led by General Motke the Younger
Helmuth von Moltke the Younger
Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke , also known as Moltke the Younger, was a nephew of Field Marshal Count Moltke and served as the Chief of the German General Staff from 1906 to 1914. The two are often differentiated as Moltke the Elder and Moltke the Younger...

, panicked and ordered the Schlieffen Plan
Schlieffen Plan
The Schlieffen Plan was the German General Staff's early 20th century overall strategic plan for victory in a possible future war in which the German Empire might find itself fighting on two fronts: France to the west and Russia to the east...

 to be activated, thus leading to a German attack on France. In Hillgruber's opinion, the "calculated risk" gambit was a highly dangerous and foolish one, as Bethmann Hollweg and the rest of the German leadership gratuitously failed to anticipate what the most likely Russian reaction to an Austro-Serbian war would be, and that therefore the German leadership of 1914 was extremely irresponsible in trying to use the "calculated risk" of an Austro-Serbian war as a diplomatic device to break the Triple Entente. The German historian Annelise Thimme commented that Hillgruber's "calcuated risk" theory to explain World War I was little more than putting "new wine into old wine skins". Thimme noted that Hillgruber relied almost entirely upon the diary of Bethmann Hollweg's aide and friend, Kurt Riezler
Kurt Riezler
Kurt Riezler was a German philosopher and diplomat. A top-level cabinet adviser in the German Empire and the Weimar Republic, he negotiated Germany's underwriting of Russia's October Revolution and authored the 1914 September Program which outlined German war aims during World War I...

, to support his "calculated risk" thesis, which was a dubious source because portions of Riezler's diary had been forged after the war to make German foreign policy appear less aggressive then it was in 1914. The Canadian historian Holger Herwig commented that Hillgruber's "calculated risk" theory was the most intellectually sophisticated and ingenious attempt to rebut Fischer's claim of a premeditated war of aggression in 1914, but suffered from his heavy reliance on passages in Riezler's diary likely to have been forged.

In Hillgruber's opinion, after the war had begun, a split occurred within the German leadership between the moderate imperialism of the Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, who wished for territorial gains if they could be obtained, but was prepared to settle for a peace based on the pre-1914 status quo, and a more radical group centered around General Erich Ludendorff
Erich Ludendorff
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg...

 and the rest of the Third Supreme Command
Oberste Heeresleitung
The Oberste Heeresleitung or OHL was Germany's highest echelon of command of the German Army in World War I, while the Navy was led by the Seekriegsleitung or SKL ....

 who wanted total victory over all of Germany's enemies, no matter what the cost, and very wide-ranging annexations in Europe, Asia and Africa. In this way, Hillgruber largely followed the distinction first made by Gerhard Ritter
Gerhard Ritter
Gerhard Georg Bernhard Ritter was a conservative German historian.-Before the Third Reich:...

 between a moderate civilian group in the German leadership centred around Bethmann Hollweg who, while not eschewing territorial expansionism, did not insist on it as a precondition for making peace, and the more radical group in the military centered around Ludendorff, who would settle for nothing less than a war ending in making Germany the world's greatest power. Hillgruber argued that Ludendorff's foreign policy, with its demand for extensive territorial gains together with plans for obtaining lebensraum
Lebensraum
was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as the motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany...

 in Eastern Europe through a program of ethnic cleasing and German colonization, was in many ways the prototype of National Socialist foreign policy. Hillgruber argued that the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, mediated by South African Andrik Fuller, at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, headed by Germany, marking Russia's exit from World War I.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year,...

 and the empire it created for Germany in Eastern Europe was the prototype for Hitler's vision of a great empire for Germany in Eastern Europe. Hillgruber wrote:
"To understand later German history one must pay special attention to a consequence of the Eastern situation in the autumn of 1918 that has often been overlooked: the widely shared and strangely irrational misconceptions concerning the end of the war that found such currency in the Weimar period. These ideas were not informed, as they should have been, by an appreciation of the enemy's superiority in the West and the inevitable step-by-step retreat of the German Western Front before the massive influx of the Americans. Nor did they indicate any understanding of the catastrophic consequences for the Central Powers following the collapse of the Balkan front after Bulgaria's withdrawal from the war. They were instead largely determined by the fact that German troops, as "victors" held vast strategically and economically important areas of Russia.

At the moment of the November 1918 ceasefire in the West, newspaper maps of the military situation showed German troops in Finland, holding a line from the Finnish fjords near Narva, down through Pskov-Orsha-Mogilev and the area south of Kursk, to the Don east of Rostov. Germany had thus secured the Ukraine. The Russian recognition of the Ukraine's separation exacted at Brest-Litovsk represented the key element in German efforts to keep Russia perpetually subservient. In addition, German troops held the Crimea and were stationed in smaller numbers in Transcaucasia. Even the unoccupied "rump" Russia appeared-with the conclusion of the German-Soviet Supplementary Treaty on 28 August 1918-to be in firm though indirect dependency on the Reich. Thus, Hitler's long-range aim, fixed in the 1920s, of erecting a German Eastern Imperium on the ruins of the Soviet Union was not simply a vision emanating from an abstract wish. In the Eastern sphere established in 1918, this goal had a concrete point of departure. The German Eastern Imperium had already been - if only for a short time - a reality".
Hillgruber argued that the Weimar Republic was only a "bridge" between the expansionism of the Second Reich and the even radical expansionism of the Third Reich rather a new era in German diplomacy. Hillgruber argued that Gustav Stresemann
Gustav Stresemann
was a German politician and statesman who served as Chancellor and Foreign Minister during the Weimar Republic. He was co-laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926.Stresemann's politics defy easy categorization...

 was carrying out a "liberal-imperialist" policy in which he sought improved relations with France and by creating an unofficial alliance with the United States in return for which he wanted acquiescence in Germany "revising" her borders with Poland, the annexation of Austria, the remilitarization of the Rhineland, and the return of Eupen-Malmedy
Eupen-Malmedy
Eupen-Malmedy, or the East Cantons , is a group of cantons in Belgium, composed of the former Prussian districts of Malmedy and Eupen, together with the Neutral Moresnet...

. Hillgruber wrote that Stresemann was seeking the return of the Bismarckian "semi-hegemony", which would serve as "the prerequisite and the basis for an active Weltpolitik". In his 1974 essay “Militarismus am Ende der Weimarer Republik und im “Dritten Reich”” ("Militarism at the End of the Weimar Republic and in the Third Reich"), Eberhard Kolb
Eberhard Kolb
Professor Eberhard Kolb is one of Germany's foremost authorities on German history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.- Biography :...

 noted that:
“Referring to M. Geyer’s research, which had not then been published, Hillgruber pointed out from the mid-1920s onwards the Army leaders had developed and propagated new social conceptions of a militarist kind, tending towards a fusion of the military and civilian sectors and ultimately a totalitarian military state (Wehrstaat)”.
Hillgruber wrote that after the fall of Hans von Seeckt
Hans von Seeckt
Johannes Friedrich "Hans" von Seeckt was a German military officer noted for his organization of the German Army during the Weimar Republic.-Early life:...

 in 1926, Kurt von Schleicher
Kurt von Schleicher
Kurt von Schleicher was a German general and the last Chancellor of Germany during the era of the Weimar Republic. Seventeen months after his resignation, he was assassinated by order of his successor, Adolf Hitler, in the Night of the Long Knives....

 became “in fact, if not in name”, the "military-political head of the Reichswehr
Reichswehr
The Reichswehr formed the military organisation of Germany from 1919 until 1935, when it was renamed the Wehrmacht ....

”. Hillgruber wrote that Schleicher's triumph was also the triumph of the "modern" faction within the Reichswehr who favored a total war ideology and wanted Germany to become a dicatorship in order to wage total war upon the other nations of Europe. The total war ideology of the Reichswehr and the attendant demand that Germany be transformed into a militaristic, totalitarian Wehrstaat (defense state) went a long way to explaining why almost the entire Reichswehr welcomed the coming of the National Socialist dictatorship in 1933.
Despite the example provided by Ludendorff and his circle, for Hillgruber, the changes in German foreign policy introduced by National Socialist Ostpolitik (Eastern Policy) were so radical as to be almost differences of kind rather than degree. He argued that Nazi foreign policy was an extremely radical version of traditional German foreign policy. Furthermore, he argued that what during the Weimar era had been the end became, for the Nazis, just the means. He set out a thesis that goals such as the Remilitarization of the Rhineland
Remilitarization of the Rhineland
The Remilitarization of the Rhineland by the German Army took place on 7 March 1936 when German military forces entered the Rhineland. This was significant because it violated the terms of the Locarno Treaties and was the first time since the end of World War I that German troops had been in this...

 and the Anschluss
Anschluss
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

 with Austria, which had been the end-goals during the Weimar period, were just the beginning for the Nazis. Unlike the Weimar government, the Nazis' desire to re-militarize was only a step on the road to the complete domination of all Europe, and eventual world domination
Hegemony
Hegemony is an indirect form of imperial dominance in which the hegemon rules sub-ordinate states by the implied means of power rather than direct military force. In Ancient Greece , hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of a city-state over other city-states...

.

The Stufenplan concept


From the 1960s on, Hillgruber was regarded as one of the world's foremost authorities on German military-diplomatic history, his theory about Hitler having a Stufenplan (stage-by-stage plan) being especially influential. In 1989 the American historian Jerry Z. Muller called Hillgruber "the most distinguished German diplomatic historian of his generation". Hillgruber argued that Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 had a Stufenplan (stage-by-stage plan) for conquest and genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 in Eastern Europe, and then the world. In the 1960s-70s, Hillgruber was one of the leaders of a group of German historians comprising Klaus Hildebrand
Klaus Hildebrand
Klaus Hildebrand is a German conservative historian whose area of expertise is 19th-20th century German political and military history.- Biography :...

, Gunter Moltman and J. Henke who argued that far from being “haphazard” as was thought after the war, that Hitler possessed and attempted to executed a coherent and detailed foreign policy programme aiming at nothing less than world conquest. Hillgruber stated that Hitler’s foreign policy “geographically was designed to span the globe; ideologically, too , the doctrine of universal anti-Semitism and Social Darwinism, fundamental to his programme, were intended to embrace the whole of mankind”. According to Hillgruber, the conquest of the Soviet Union and the intended alliance with Britain were the most important stages of Hitler’s Stufenplan. Hillgruber claimed that through Hitler was highly flexible in ways of realizing his "progamme", Hitler was consistent throughout his political career in trying to achieve the "programme" he worked out in the 1920s. Hillgruber claimed that the outbreak of a world war in 1939 which Hitler had caused, but had not planned with the invasion of Poland brought forward the timing of "programme". Hillgruber used as examples to support his theory the Z Plan
Plan Z
Plan Z was the name given to the planned re-equipment and expansion of the Nazi German Navy ordered by Adolf Hitler on January 27, 1939...

 of January 1939 and Hitler's plans in June 1940 for annexing much of Africa together with key strategic points in the Atlantic as evidence that Hitler was moving forward drastically the timing of his planned ultimate show-down with the United States.

According to this argument, the first stage of Hitler's plan consisted of the military build-up of German strength and the achievement of the Weimar Republic's traditional foreign policy goals. The second stage was to be a series of swift regional wars to destroy such states as Poland, Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

  and France. The third stage was to be a war to liquidate the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and what Hitler regarded as its "Judaeo-Bolshevik" regime. The fourth stage was to be a war against the United States by the now Greater Germany in alliance with the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 and Japan. Hillgruber argued that after the conquest of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, Hitler wanted to seize most of Africa, build a huge navy
Navy
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

 and in alliance with both the Japanese and the British to engage the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in a "War of the Continents" for world domination. As Hillgruber described it:
"After the creation of an European continental empire buttressed by the conquest of Russia, a second stage of imperial expansion was to follow with the acquisition of complementary territory in Central Africa and a system of bases to support a strong surface fleet in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. Germany, in alliance with Japan and if possible also Britain, would in the first place isolate the USA and confine it to the Western hemisphere. Then, in the next generation, there would be a "war of the continents" in which the "Germanic empire of the Germanic nation" would fight America for world supremacy".
Hillgruber wrote that:
"These enormous schemes, and particularly their connection with racist ideology, were, to be sure, the program of a single individual. But in the case of such prominent provisions as the revision of the Versailles Treaty and the creation of a "Greater Germany", they overlapped with the aims of the old German leadership and the fantasies of a large part of the German public that had never assimilated the loss of the war. To this one must add, however, that the essence of Hitler's program "violated all standards and concepts of German foreign policy to such a radical degree that it... did not penetrate the consciousness of the German public", despite its continual proclamation in his speeches from 1926 to 1930".
The American historian of modern Germany Gordon A. Craig
Gordon A. Craig
Gordon Alexander Craig was a Scottish-American historian of German history and of diplomatic history.-Early life:...

 praised Hillgruber for his "masterful delineation of Hitler's grand strategical plan".

Hillgruber maintained that the strategy of Blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

was based largely on economic factors, namely, that for the earlier stages of the stufenplan, Germany did not have the economic resources for a long war, and that therefore a military programme based upon quality, not quantity, was the most rational use of German economic capacity. Hillgruber argued that Hitler's desire to postpone the final struggle with the United States to the last stage of the stufenplan was likewise determined by economic considerations, namely that only a Germany with sufficient lebensraum ruling most of Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

 and Africa would be immune to the effects of blockade, and have the necessary economic resources to match the enormous economic capacity of the United States. In the debate
Nazi Foreign Policy (debate)
This article refers to the historical argument over the Nazi Foreign Policy in terms of territorial expansion. The National Socialists governed Germany between 1933 and 1945...

 between the "Continentists" such as Hugh Trevor-Roper, Axel Kuhn, and Eberhard Jäckel
Eberhard Jäckel
Eberhard Jäckel is a Social Democratic German historian, noted for his studies of Adolf Hitler's role in German history. Jäckel sees Hitler as being the historical equivalent to the Chernobyl disaster.-Career:...

, who argued that Hitler wanted only to seize Europe, and the "Globalists", who argued that Hitler wanted to conquer the entire world, Hillgruber was definitely in the latter camp.

Hillgruber regarded Hitler as a fanatical ideologue with a firmly fixed programme, and criticized the view of him as a grasping opportunist with no real beliefs other than the pursuit of power — a thesis promoted by such British historians as A.J.P. Taylor and Alan Bullock
Alan Bullock
Alan Louis Charles Bullock, Baron Bullock , was a British historian, who wrote an influential biography of Adolf Hitler and many other works.-Early life and career:...

, which he thought profoundly shallow and facile. Moreover, he categorically rejected Taylor's contention that the German invasion of Poland was an "accident" precipitated by diplomatic blunders. Hillgruber argued adamantly that the German invasion of Poland was a war of aggression caused by Hitler's ideological belief in war and the need for Lebensraum
Lebensraum
was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as the motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany...

(living space). World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, for Hillgruber, really consisted of two wars. One was an europäisches Normalkrieg ("normal European war") between the Western powers and Germany, a conflict which Hitler caused but did not really want. The other war — which Hitler both caused and most decidedly did want (as evidenced in part by Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf is a book written by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. It combines elements of autobiography with an exposition of Hitler's political ideology. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926...

) - was the German-Soviet one, a savage, merciless and brutal all-out struggle of racial and ideological extermination between German National Socialism
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 and Soviet Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

.

In Hillgruber's opinion, Hitler's foreign policy program was totally unrealistic and incapable of being realized. Hillgruber argued that Hitler's assumption that a German "renunciation" of naval and colonial claims, in exchange for British recognition of all of Europe as lying within the German sphere of influence, was based on an unviable notion that British interests were limited only to the naval and colonial spheres. Hillgruber noted that Britain was just as much a European as a world power, and would never accept so far-reaching a disruption of the balance of power as Hitler proposed in the 1920s in Mein Kampf. Hillgruber wrote that Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

 for all his attachment to appeasement, once he learned that Hitler’s aims were not limited towards revising Versailles, ultimately went to war with Germany in September 1939 rather accept the disruption of the balance of power that Hitler was attempting to carry out" Likewise, Hillgruber argued that Hitler's contempt for the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, especially the fighting power of the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

, was a dangerous illusion. Hillgruber argued that the lack of British interest in Hitler's proposed anti-Soviet alliance temporarily derailed Hitler's foreign policy programme in the late 1930s, and led to the ideas of the Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

 whose anti-British foreign policy programme Hillgruber called the "very opposite" of Hitler's taking precedence in the period 1938-41

In his 1974 article "England's Place In Hitler's Plans for World Dominion", Hillgruber argued that, during the Nazi period, German foreign policy went through ten different phases. Hillgruber contended that, during the early phases, Hitler was intent on having the anti-Soviet alliance with Britain he had written of in Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf is a book written by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. It combines elements of autobiography with an exposition of Hitler's political ideology. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926...

and Zweites Buch
Zweites Buch
The Zweites Buch is an unedited transcript of Adolf Hitler's thoughts on foreign policy written in 1928; it was written after Mein Kampf and was never published in his lifetime.-Composition:...

. By the time of the Hossbach Memorandum
Hossbach Memorandum
The Hossbach Memorandum was the summary of a meeting on November 5, 1937 between German dictator Adolf Hitler and his military and foreign policy leadership where Hitler's future expansionist policies were outlined. The meeting marked a turning point in Hitler's foreign policies, which then began...

 of 1937, Hillgruber argued, Hitler was undertaking a course of expansion either "without Britain" or, preferably, "with Britain", but if necessary "against Britain". By the late 1930s, when it became clear that Britain had no interest in his overtures, German foreign policy turned anti-British as reflected in the Z Plan
Plan Z
Plan Z was the name given to the planned re-equipment and expansion of the Nazi German Navy ordered by Adolf Hitler on January 27, 1939...

 of January 1939 for a gigantic German fleet that would crush the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 by 1944.

Hillgruber noted that in 1939, when war threatened over Poland, unlike in 1938 when war threatened to occur over Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

, Hitler received overwhelming support from the Wehrmacht leadership. The reason for this difference, in Hillgruber's opinion, was the rampant anti-Polish feelings in the German Army. In support of this argument, Hillgruber quoted from a letter written by General Eduard Wagner
Eduard Wagner
General Eduard Wagner was a German Artillery officer who was the quartermaster-general of the German Army and a member of the resistance to Adolf Hitler....

, who was one of the officers involved in the abortive putsch of 1938, who wrote to his wife just before the invasion of Poland, "We believe we will make quick work of the Poles, and in truth, we are delighted at the prospect. That business must be cleared up" (emphasis in the original). Hillgruber noted because of anti-Polish prejudices that in 1939 Fall Weiss served to unite Hitler and the German military in a way that Fall Grün
Fall Grün
Fall Grün was a pre-World War II German plan for an aggressive war against Czechoslovakia. The plan was first drafted late in 1937, then revised as the military situation and requirements changed...

 had failed to do in 1938.

Hillgruber argued that Hitler's decision to declare war on the United States before he had defeated the Soviet Union was due to Hitler's belief that the United States might quickly defeat Japan, and hence it was better to engage the Americans while they were still involved in a two-front war. Likewise, Hillgruber argued that Hitler's decision to take on the United States in December 1941 was influenced by his belief that the Soviet Union would be defeated by no later than the summer of 1942.

In his 1965 book Hitlers Strategie, Hillgruber caused some controversy with his argument that a French attack on the Siegfried Line
Siegfried Line
The original Siegfried line was a line of defensive forts and tank defences built by Germany as a section of the Hindenburg Line 1916–1917 in northern France during World War I...

 in the autumn of 1939 would have resulted in a swift German defeat. In 1969, the French historian Albert Merglen expanded on Hillgruber's suggestion by writing a PhD thesis depicting a counter-factual successful French offensive against the Siegfried Line. However, many historians have criticized both Hillgruber and Merglen for ignoring the realities of the time, and for using the advantage of historical hindsight too much in making these judgements.

Hillgruber's Stufenplan concept was and is not universally accepted by historians. The British historian E.M. Robertson wrote that through the Stufenplan concept seemed to explain much of Hitler's foreign policy, but noted that Hitler himself never spoken of having any "stages" or even a plan at all. Moreover, Robertson commented that Hitler's use of the phrase "world power or collapse" in Mein Kampf is ambiguous and can be interpreted in several different ways. However, Robertson went on to note in support of the Stufenplan thesis several speeches Hitler made to his senior officers in late 1938-early 1939 where Hitler did claimed to be working out some sort of a master plan in his foreign policy, albeit in a very improvised and flexible way. The Anglo-German historian H.W. Koch in a 1983 essay criticized Hillgruber's picture of Hitler following rigidly preconceived foreign policy he was alleged to have worked out in the 1920s. Koch wrote against Hillgruber that Hitler did not want a war with Poland and the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact
in his view was meant to pressure the Poles into making concessions instead of being as Hillgruber claimed a plan for partitioning Poland. The Hungarian-American historian John Lukacs
John Lukacs
John Adalbert Lukacs is a Hungarian-born American historian who has written more than thirty books, including Five Days in London, May 1940 and A New Republic...

 criticized Hillgruber's portrayal of Hitler following a Stufenplan, arguing that there was much opportunism and contingency in Hitler's strategy, with little sign of a masterplan. In Lukacs's opinion, Operation Barbarossa was primarily an anti-British move intended to force Britain to surrender by defeating the Soviet Union. Likewise, Lukacs argued that Hitler's statement to the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 High Commissioner for Danzig, Carl Jacob Burckhardt
Carl Jacob Burckhardt
Carl Jacob Burckhardt was a Swiss diplomat and historian. His career alternated between periods of academic historical research and diplomatic postings; the most prominent of the latter were League of Nations High Commissioner for the Free City of Danzig and President of the International...

, in August 1939, stating that "Everything I undertake is directed against Russia…", which Hillgruber cited as evidence of Hitler's ultimate anti-Soviet intentions, was merely an effort to intimidate Britain and France into abandoning Poland. In the same way, Lukacs took issue with Hillgruber's claim that the war against Britain was of only "secondary" importance to Hitler compared to the war against the Soviet Union. The Greek historian Aristotle Kallis wrote that there is "no conclusive evidence" that Hitler "...had a clear plan for world domination..."

As a conservative historian


In the 1970s, Hillgruber, together with his close associate Klaus Hildebrand
Klaus Hildebrand
Klaus Hildebrand is a German conservative historian whose area of expertise is 19th-20th century German political and military history.- Biography :...

, was involved in a very acrimonious debate with Hans-Ulrich Wehler
Hans-Ulrich Wehler
Hans-Ulrich Wehler is a German historian known for his role in promoting social history through the "Bielefeld School", and for his critical studies of 19th century Germany.-Career:...

 over the merits of the Primat der Aussenpolitik ("primacy of foreign politics") and Primat der Innenpolitik ("primacy of domestic politics") schools. Hillgruber and Hildebrand made a case for the traditional Primat der Aussenpolitik approach to diplomatic history
Diplomatic history
Diplomatic history deals with the history of international relations between states. Diplomatic history can be different from international relations in that the former can concern itself with the foreign policy of one state while the latter deals with relations between two or more states...

 with the stress on examining the records of the relevant foreign ministry and studies of the foreign policy decision-making elite. Wehler, who favored the Primat der Innenpolitik, for his part contended that diplomatic history should be treated as a sub-branch of social history
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

, calling for theoretically-based research, and argued that the real focus should be on the study of the society in question.

As a right-wing historian, Hillgruber often felt uncomfortable with the increasing left-wing influence in German academia from the late 1960s onwards. In his 1974 textbook, Deutsche Geschichte 1945-1972 (German History 1945-1972), Hillgruber complained that radicals influenced by "the forces of doctrinaire Marxism-Leninism", and leaning towards East Germany, were having too much influence in West German higher education. In the same book, Hillgruber attacked the New Left
New Left
The New Left was a term used mainly in the United Kingdom and United States in reference to activists, educators, agitators and others in the 1960s and 1970s who sought to implement a broad range of reforms, in contrast to earlier leftist or Marxist movements that had taken a more vanguardist...

 for lacking the proper methodological tools for the understanding of German history. In particular, Hillgruber argued that the Primat der Innenpolitik thesis employed by historians such as Wehler was not a proper scholarly device, but was instead "an apparent scholarly legitimation" for the New Left to advance its agenda in the present. Hillgruber accused Wehler of "quasi-totalitarian" goals for the German historical profession, and called for conservative historians to make a sustained offensive to defeat Wehler and his "cultural revolutionaries" for the sake of saving history as a profession in Germany. Likewise, despite his partial agreement with Fischer about the origins of the First World War, Hillgruber frequently fought against Fischer's interpretation of the Second Reich as a uniquely aggressive power threatening its neighbours throughout its existence. In 1990, Hillgruber was a posthumous contributor to the book Escape Into War?, a collection of essays examining Imperial German foreign policy that attacked Fischer and the left-wing Bielefeld school of historians headed by Wehler for "relativising" history, and making "banal" statements The Canadian historian James Retallack took the view that Hillgruber together with his allies Klaus Hildebrand
Klaus Hildebrand
Klaus Hildebrand is a German conservative historian whose area of expertise is 19th-20th century German political and military history.- Biography :...

, Lothar Gall, Gregor Schöllgen and Michael Stürmer
Michael Stürmer
Michael Stürmer is a right-wing German historian best known for his role in the Historikerstreit of the 1980s, for his geographical interpretation of German history and for an admiring 2008 biography of the Russian leader Vladimir Putin .Born in Kassel, Germany, Stürmer received his education in...

 were guilty of a "grave injustice" with their attacks in Escape Into War? on those German historians like Fischer and Wehler critical of Imperial German foreign policy. Hillgruber expressed considerable disappointment with the republication of the once-banned work by Eckart Kehr
Eckart Kehr
Eckart Kehr was one of the first historians to emphasize the importance of social structure and economic interests in influencing political decisions...

, which Hillgruber dismissed as merely "trendy Marxisants" typical of the intellectual environment of the 1960s-70s. In a book review published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , short F.A.Z., also known as the FAZ, is a national German newspaper, founded in 1949. It is published daily in Frankfurt am Main. The Sunday edition is the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung .F.A.Z...

on 18 June 1979, Hillgruber for the most part offered a highly unfavorable judgment of David Irving
David Irving
David John Cawdell Irving is an English writer,best known for his denial of the Holocaust, who specialises in the military and political history of World War II, with a focus on Nazi Germany...

's work. Despite his criticism, Hillgruber ended his review with the comment that Irving's work "amounts to an indubitable and in no way small merit of Irving". The American historian John Lukacs
John Lukacs
John Adalbert Lukacs is a Hungarian-born American historian who has written more than thirty books, including Five Days in London, May 1940 and A New Republic...

 thought it a sign of Hillgruber's general right-wing biases that he attached no such qualifying words of praise like those he gave to Irving during any of his attacks on left-wing historians like Eberhard Jäckel
Eberhard Jäckel
Eberhard Jäckel is a Social Democratic German historian, noted for his studies of Adolf Hitler's role in German history. Jäckel sees Hitler as being the historical equivalent to the Chernobyl disaster.-Career:...

 and Hans-Ulrich Wehler
Hans-Ulrich Wehler
Hans-Ulrich Wehler is a German historian known for his role in promoting social history through the "Bielefeld School", and for his critical studies of 19th century Germany.-Career:...

. As part of his criticism of the left-wing social historians, Hillgruber affirmed what he considered the primacy of traditional diplomatic-military history by writing:
"Despite the significance of all long-term developments, the great differences between the great world powers have basically determined the course of general history, even in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries"
The Canadian historian Holger Herwig wrote in 1982 that Hillgruber was a follower of Leopold von Ranke
Leopold von Ranke
Leopold von Ranke was a German historian, considered one of the founders of modern source-based history. Ranke set the standards for much of later historical writing, introducing such ideas as reliance on primary sources , an emphasis on narrative history and especially international politics .-...

's Primat der Aussenpolitik concept. Herwig wrote for Hillgruber history was made by small political and military elites who were not prisoners of forces beyond their control, and that instead made history through their choices and decisions.

A self-proclaimed conservative
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 and nationalist
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

, Hillgruber never denied nor downplayed the crimes committed in Germany's name and in no way can he be considered a Holocaust denier
Holocaust denial
Holocaust denial is the act of denying the genocide of Jews in World War II, usually referred to as the Holocaust. The key claims of Holocaust denial are: the German Nazi government had no official policy or intention of exterminating Jews, Nazi authorities did not use extermination camps and gas...

; but he argued that Germany as a great power had the potential to do much good for Europe. For Hillgruber, the tragedy was that this potential was never fulfilled. In his view, the problem did not lie with Germany's domination of Eastern and Central Europe, but rather with the particular way this domination was exercised by the Nazis. He argued that German-Russian, German-Polish, German-Czech, German-Hungarian and German-Jewish relations were traditionally friendly, and lamented that the Nazis had shattered these friendly ties. Others contended that these bonds of friendship had never existed except as figments of Hillgruber's imagination. For Hillgruber, Germany's defeat in 1945 was a catastrophe that ended both the ethnic German presence in Eastern Europe and Germany as a great power in Europe. As someone from the "Germanic East", Hillgruber often wrote nostalgically of the lost Heimat of East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

 where he had grown up. Hillgruber once responded to a question about what was his fondest wish by replying "to live a life in Königsberg".East German, Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, Polish, Hungarian and Czechoslovak counterparts, denounced him as a German chauvinist, racist and imperialist, and accused him of glorifying the Drang nach Osten
Drang nach Osten
Drang nach Osten was a term coined in the 19th century to designate German expansion into Slavic lands. The term became a motto of the German nationalist movement in the late nineteenth century...

 concept.

However, Hillgruber was prepared to accept, albeit grudgingly, what he often called Germany's "Yalta frontiers" after the Yalta Conference
Yalta Conference
The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, held February 4–11, 1945, was the wartime meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, represented by President Franklin D...

 of 1945. What he was not prepared to accept was the partition of Germany. He often complained that the West German government was not doing enough to re-unite Germany. In a 1981 speech, he called on Bonn
Bonn
Bonn is the 19th largest city in Germany. Located in the Cologne/Bonn Region, about 25 kilometres south of Cologne on the river Rhine in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, it was the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 and the official seat of government of united Germany from 1990 to 1999....

 to create a new German nationalism based on respect for human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 that would ensure that future generations would not lose sight of the dream of re-unification.

The intentionalist historian


Hillgruber was an Intentionist
Functionalism versus intentionalism
Functionalism versus intentionalism is a historiographical debate about the origins of the Holocaust as well as most aspects of the Third Reich, such as foreign policy...

 on the origins of the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

 debate, arguing that Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 was the driving force behind the Holocaust. This set Hillgruber against Functionalist historians such as Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen is a left-wing German historian. He is the twin brother of the late Wolfgang Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen and great-grandson of the Roman historian Theodor Mommsen. He studied German, history and philosophy at the University of...

 and Martin Broszat
Martin Broszat
Martin Broszat was a German historian specializing in modern German social history whose work has been described by The Encyclopedia of Historians as indispensable for any serious study of the Third Reich. Broszat was born in Leipzig, Germany and studied history at the University of Leipzig and...

, whose "revisionist" claims on the origins of the Holocaust Hillgruber found distasteful. Hillgruber was well known for arguing that there was a close connection between Hitler's foreign policy and anti-Semitic policies and that Hitler's decision to invade the Soviet Union in 1941 was linked to the decision to initiate the Holocaust. Hillgruber argued that the Kernstück (Nucleus) of Hitler's racist Weltanschauung (world view) was to be found in Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf is a book written by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. It combines elements of autobiography with an exposition of Hitler's political ideology. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926...

.
He believed that the Holocaust was meant to be launched only with the invasion of the Soviet Union. In Hillgruber's view, Hitler's frequent references to "Judaeo-Bolshevism", to describe both Jews and Communism, betrayed his desire to destroy both simultaneously. In Hillgruber's opinion, Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 had been conceived as, and was, a war of total extermination against what Hitler saw as "Judaeo-Bolshevik" system in the Soviet Union. Hillgruber was noteworthy as the first historian to argue for the connection between Operation Barbarossa and the decision to begin the Holocaust. In Hillgruber's opinion, for Hitler:
"The conquest of European Russia, the cornerstone of the continental European phase of his program, was thus for Hitler inextricably linked with the extermination of these "bacilli", the Jews. In his conception they had gained dominance over Russia with the Bolshevik Revolution. Russia thereby became the center from which a global danger radiated, particularly threatening to the Aryan race and its German core. To Hitler, Bolshevism meant the consummate rule of Jewry, while democracy - as it had developed in Western Europe and Weimar Germany - represented a preliminary stage of Bolshevism, since the Jews there won a leading, if not yet a dominant influence. This racist component of Hitler's thought was so closely interwoven with the central political element of his program, the conquest of European Russia, that Russia's defeat and the extermination of the Jews were - in theory as later in practice - inseparable for him. To the aim of expansion per se, however, Hitler gave not racial, but political, strategic, economic and demographic underpinnings".


In the 1984 essay "War in the East and the Extermination of the Jews", Hillgruber argued that based on a reading of Hitler's early speeches and writings that Hitler associated Jews and the Communists as one and the same, and accordinlgy Hitler regarded the destruction of the Jews and the Soviet Union as part and parcel of the same process. Hillgruber argued that the decision to begin the Holocaust was probably taken during the very earliest stages of the planning for Operation Barbarossa in late June-early July 1940, but that the surviving documentary evidence was not conclusive on this point. Based upon Hitler's statements to his generals about the coming war of annihilation against “Judeo-Bolshevism”
Jewish Bolshevism
Jewish Bolshevism, Judeo-Bolshevism, and known as Żydokomuna in Poland, is an antisemitic stereotype based on the claim that Jews have been the driving force behind or are disproportionately involved in the modern Communist movement, or sometimes more specifically Russian Bolshevism.The expression...

 and Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

's orders to re-establish the Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen were SS paramilitary death squads that were responsible for mass killings, typically by shooting, of Jews in particular, but also significant numbers of other population groups and political categories...

, Hillgruber argued that the decision to start the Endlösung
Final Solution
The Final Solution was Nazi Germany's plan and execution of the systematic genocide of European Jews during World War II, resulting in the most deadly phase of the Holocaust...

was not taken later than March 1941. Through Hillgruber noted that the massacres of Soviet Jews by the Einsatzgruppen that were to culminate in their extermination were often justified under the grounds of anti-partisan operations, that this was just a mere "excuse" for the German Army's considerable involvement in the Holocaust in Russia and the term war crimes and crimes against humanity were indeed correct labels for what happened. Hillgruber maintained that the slaughter of about 2.2 million defenceless men, women and children for the reasons of racist ideology cannot possibly be justified for any reason, and that those German generals who claimed that the Einsatzgruppen were a necessary anti-partisan response were lying.

Hillgruber took a rather extreme "No Hitler, no Holocaust" position. He believed it was Hitler alone who made the Holocaust possible. He argued that, even if the Nazis had come to power under some other leader such as Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 or Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

, for example, the Jews would have suffered persecution and discrimination, but not genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

. Hillgruber once presented at a historians' conference in 1984 a counter-factual scenario whereby, had it been a coalition of the German National People's Party
German National People's Party
The German National People's Party was a national conservative party in Germany during the time of the Weimar Republic. Before the rise of the NSDAP it was the main nationalist party in Weimar Germany composed of nationalists, reactionary monarchists, völkisch, and antisemitic elements, and...

 and the Stahlhelm
Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten
The Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten also known in short form as Der Stahlhelm was one of the many paramilitary organizations that arose after the defeat of World War I in the Weimar Republic...

 that took power in 1933 without the NSDAP, all the anti-Semitic laws in Germany that were passed between 1933 and 1938 would still have been passed, but there would had been no Holocaust. He maintained that the other Nazi leaders such as Göring, Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 willingly participated in the Holocaust, as did many other Germans in the ever-widening "rings of responsibility" for the Holocaust, but that without Hitler's decisive role there would have been no Holocaust. Despite his emphasis on the role of Hitler, Hillgruber often stressed that the Holocaust was the work of both the German state bureaucracy and the Nazi Party, the apolitical and committed Nazis while "the mass of the German population" accepted "unvermeidlicherweise nur unzulänglich verschleierten Vorgangs" ("a process that could never be more than inadequately concealed").

Zweierlei Untergang


Hillgruber was one of the protagonists in the so-called Historikerstreit
Historikerstreit
The Historikerstreit was an intellectual and political controversy in late 20th-century West Germany about the historical interpretation of the Holocaust. The German word Streit translates variously as "quarrel", "dispute", or "conflict"...

, the Historians' Dispute (or Historians' Controversy) of 1986-87. Hillgruber felt that the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

 was a horrific tragedy, but just one of many that occurred in the 20th century. In a 1986 interview, Hillgruber stated there was no moral difference between the Soviet regime and the Nazi regime, and that the Holocaust was not unique. In his highly controversial 1986 essay "Der Zusammenbruch im Osten 1944/45" ("The Collapse in the East 1944/45") from his book Zweierlei Untergang (Two Kinds of Ruin), Hillgruber highlighted the sufferings of Germans in what was then eastern Germany, who had to flee or were expelled or killed by the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

. He documented the mass gang rape of German women and girls, and widespread looting and massacres of German civilians by the Soviet army. He paid homage to those who had had to evacuate the German population and to those soldiers who did their best to stem the Soviet advance. Hillgruber described the efforts to evacuate the German population, much of which was hopelessly bungled by corrupt and incompetent Nazi Party officials, and the savage and desperate fighting which marked the bloody climax of the war on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

.
For Hillgruber, the end of the "German East", in which he had been born and grew up, was just as tragic as the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

 and marked the end of what he considered to be Eastern Europe's best chance for progress. Hillgruber's intention in Zweierlei Untergang was to show the "obscure intertwinement" between the Shoah and the expulsion of the Germans from Eastern Europe. Hillgruber described it as "a tragedy for all of Europe" that World War II ended with Eastern Europe brought into the Soviet sphere of influence, with the expulsion of the Germans from Eastern Europe (which, Hillgruber pointed out, included his family) and with Germany reduced from a great power to a Cold War battlefield between the United States and the Soviet Union. The two kinds of ruin in the title were the Holocaust and the expulsion
Expulsion of Germans after World War II
The later stages of World War II, and the period after the end of that war, saw the forced migration of millions of German nationals and ethnic Germans from various European states and territories, mostly into the areas which would become post-war Germany and post-war Austria...

 of Reichsdeutsche (Reich Germans; those Germans living in Germany) and Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche - "German in terms of people/folk" -, defined ethnically, is a historical term from the 20th century. The words volk and volkische conveyed in Nazi thinking the meanings of "folk" and "race" while adding the sense of superior civilization and blood...

(ethnic Germans living outside of Germany). For Hillgruber, both events, or "national catastrophes" as he preferred to call them, were equally tragic. He blamed both ultimately on the Nazis and their ideologically driven and inhuman expansionism. The subtitle of Zweierlei Untergang, Die Zerschlagung des Deutschen Reiches und das Ende des europäischen Judentums (The Smashing of the German Reich and the End of European Jewry), reflected his controversial view of the moral equivalence of the ending of Germany as a great power and the Holocaust. In the same essay, Hillgruber attacked American President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 for supporting at various war-time conferences the expansion of Poland and the Soviet Union at the expense of Germany. Hillgruber asserted that Germany had every moral right to keep all the territory that had belonged to the Reich in 1914, plus Austria and the Sudetenland
Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

, and that any effort to take land away from Germany was profoundly wrong. Hillgruber wrote that the doomed German defence in the East was "justified" as every city, every town and every village in eastern Germany the Soviets took was "lost forever for Germany and its German inhabitants". In Hillgruber's opinion, what he considered to be the great wrong that Germany was to lose some of its eastern territories after losing the war could only be explained by anti-German
Anti-German sentiment
Anti-German sentiment is defined as an opposition to or fear of Germany, its inhabitants, and the German language. Its opposite is Germanophilia.-Russia:...

 prejudices that he accused American and especially British leaders of holding. Hillgruber wrote that the expulsion of the Germans from Eastern Europe was not a response to Nazi crimes, but was instead part of pre-existing Allied plans to destroy Germany, writing that the expulsions were not: "some kind of "answer" to the crimes of German despotism-the full extent of which was not actually recognised while the war was on. They also corresponded to objectives which had long been harboured by the main enemy powers, and which were put into effect during the war".

In an apparent disavowal of his own criticism of the Anglophobic American historical writer David Hoggan
David Hoggan
David Leslie Hoggan was an American historical writer, author of The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed and other works in the German and English languages.-Early life:...

 in his 1967 book Germany and the Two World Wars, Hillgruber claimed in his 1986 essay that it had been British policy to seek the destruction of Germany since 1907 starting with Sir Eyre Crowe
Eyre Crowe
Sir Eyre Alexander Barby Wichart Crowe GCB GCMG was a British diplomat. Crowe was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1907, Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1911, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1917, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St...

's memo on Germany entitled "Memorandum on the Present State of British Relations with France and Germany". Hillgruber claimed that were irrational anti-German prejudices within the British elite drove British policy, and that what happened to Germany in 1945 was merely the culmination of a long-term British policy to destroy Germany as a nation, which every British government had pursued since 1907. According to Hillgruber: "Anti-Prussianism was the basis of the British war policy against Germany". Hillgruber accused the British of holding to "a negative image of Prussia, exaggerated to the point of becoming a myth", which led them to seek the utter destruction of the Prussian-German state in World War II, and blinded them to the fact that a strong Central European state led by Prussia was the only thing that prevented the "flooding" of Central Europe by the Red Army. In this way, Hillgruber argued "that the amputation of the Reich in favor of a greater Poland was a war aim of the Allies long before Auschwitz", and asserted that the loss of the German eastern territories was due to anti-German prejudices. Hillgruber claimed that the Anglo-American strategic bombing offensive against Germany was just as much a policy of Anglo-American genocide for the Germans as the policy of genocide that Germans were waging against European Jews at the same time. Perhaps most controversially, Hillgruber described how the German Wehrmacht acted in what he regarded as a "heroic" and "self-sacrificing" way in defending the German population against the Red Army and the "orgy of revenge" that they perpetrated in 1944-1945. Hillgruber wrote that it was time to start celebrating what he regarded as the Wehrmacht's "heroic" last stand on the Eastern Front. Hillgruber asserted that the Wehrmacht was fighting in 1944-45 "for a centuries-old area of German settlement, for the home of millions of Germans who lived in a core of the German Reich-namely in eastern Prussia, in the provinces of East Prussia, West Prussia, Silesia, East Brandenburg and Pomerania". Hillgruber claimed during the war that there were four versions of what Central Europe should look after the war. These were:
  • Hitler's vision of a greater Germany ruling over all of Europe from the English Channel to the Urals with all of the European Jewish population exterminated and 30 million Slavs expelled from Eastern Europe to make way for German colonization.
  • The conservative German vision associated with the July 20 plotters, who envisioned the destruction of the Versailles system and a greater Germany ruling over all of Central and Eastern Europe.
  • The Anglo-American vision which called for a greater Poland up to the Oder-Neisse Line
    Oder-Neisse line
    The Oder–Neisse line is the border between Germany and Poland which was drawn in the aftermath of World War II. The line is formed primarily by the Oder and Lusatian Neisse rivers, and meets the Baltic Sea west of the seaport cities of Szczecin and Świnoujście...

     at Germany's expense, and an alliance of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria to keep the peace.
  • And finally Stalin's vision which envisioned for the Soviet Union to expand at the expense of its neighbours and the establishment of Communist regimes in all of the countries of Eastern Europe.


Hillgruber claimed that Roosevelt and even more so, Churchill blinded by their hatred of everything German failed to see that their vision was flawed as it called for the dismemberment of Germany,the only power capable of keeping the Soviet Union out of Central Europe and thus tragically allowed Stalin's vision to prevail.

Hillgruber ended his essay "Der Zusammenbruch im Osten 1944/45" with a call for a history that would take account of what Hillgruber considered the decisive events on the Eastern Front. Hillgruber wrote that:
"The mighty happenings between the autumn of 1944 and the spring of 1945 still demand a description and treatment which keeps in view the events on the world historical stage, and yet illustrates the sufferings, deeds, ambitions and failings of men as individuals. This must be one of the most difficult tasks which lie before historians. With stupendous effort historians have researched the decline of the democratic Republic, the rise of the National Socialist movement and its Führer, and the foundation of the Third Reich and its structures. Perhaps the last great demand on this historiography will be to form a comprehensive picture of the collapse of the battle fronts, the conquest of eastern Central Europe, and the shattering of the Third Reich and the fall of the Germanic East, together with all the things that these developments mean".
The British military historian Christopher Duffy
Christopher Duffy
Christopher Duffy is a British military historian. Duffy read history at Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1961 with the PhD. Afterwards, he taught military history at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the college of the British General Staff...

 was to write in the preface to his 1991 book Red Storm on the Reich that his book was meant to answer the call for the sort of history that Hillgruber wanted to see written about the final days of the Eastern Front.

Hillgruber praised those German generals who had stayed loyal to Hitler during the 20 July plot as making the right moral decision. Hillgruber called the leaders of the putsch attempt of 20 July 1944 Gesinnungsethiker (sentimental moralists) and those who stayed loyal to Hitler Veranthworthungsethiker (responsible moralists). Hillgruber argued that if Hitler had been killed, the Eastern Front would had collapsed faster than it did, thereby endangering the lives of millions of German civilians, and he therefore condemned the July plot as irresponsible. John Lukacs
John Lukacs
John Adalbert Lukacs is a Hungarian-born American historian who has written more than thirty books, including Five Days in London, May 1940 and A New Republic...

 commented that what Hillgruber appeared to be saying here was that, in light of the Soviet threat in 1944, the right and moral thing for a German to do was to rally around the Führer. In addition, Hillgruber claimed falsely that Himmler had ordered the death camps to cease operating in September 1944, and argued that after January 1945 all the death camps were in Soviet hands anyhow. Thus, in Hillgruber's opinion, the only moral question in 1945 was whether the German Army could hold out long enough to allow as many German civilians as possible to escape westwards. In his essay, Hillgruber raised the "problem of identification" for the historian when writing about the last days of World War II. Hillgruber wrote that, as a German historian, he could not "identify" with those in the German death and concentration camps, for whom the defeat of Germany meant liberation. Hilgruber wrote that, although the term "liberation" was "completely justified for the victims of the National Socialist regime freed from the concentration camps and gaols", it was "inappropriate" as concerns "the fate of the German nation". Hillgruber wrote that the Allies, especially the Red Army, came as conquerors, not liberators, to Germany, and that no German could "identify" with them. Hillgruber wrote:
"If the historian gazes on the winter catastrophe of 1944-45, only one position is possible...he must identify himself with the concrete fate of the German population in the East and with the desperate and sacrificial exertions of the German Army of the East and the German Baltic navy, which sought to defend the population from the orgy of revenge of the Red Army, the mass rapine, the arbitrary killing, and the compulsory deportations".
The American historian Charles S. Maier
Charles S. Maier
Charles S. Maier is the Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History at Harvard University. He teaches European and international history at Harvard. Maier has also served as the director of the Center for European Studies at Harvard.Maier has written several books...

 summarized Hillgruber's thesis in "Der Zusammenbruch im Osten 1944/45" as:
"Evoking the Wehrmacht's terrible mission in the winter of 1945, Hillgruber has written, is among the most difficult challenges a historian can face. He refers to the hallowing winter flight before the Russians. Hitler had given orders for impossible defenses of fortress cities; Soviet troops had arrived with apparent license to rape and assault. Millions of German civilians and soldiers waited for occasional trains in bombed out stations, caravanned through the Prussian forests, or precariously sailed through the Baltic to Jutland, often harassed by their own fanatic Nazi officials"
Hillgruber saw the expulsion of the Germans as the culmiation of a half century of horror. Hillgruber wrote:
"The mass expulsion of the Germans from a quarter of the territory of the 1937 Reich was a provisional end station on the journey that had began with the spread of the idea of a rationalization of territory according to national allegiance and that had led to the nationality struggles on the European periphery during the First World War. These struggles were followed by the first genocide-that of the Armenians in Turkey-and the mass expulsions of Greeks from Asia Minor. The extermination and resettlement practices of Hitler and Stalin in their respective "spheres of influence" in the period of their partnership in 1939-41 had continued such "exchanges of populations", and mass murder had reached an extreme degree in Hitler's "Eastern War" from June 1941 onward; first the Jews in Poland and in the entire East were to be exterminated, then those in the whole of German-occupied Continental Europe. The idea of mass resettlement in East-Central Europe won ever more support-first in Great Britain and then in the United States, in a complete departure from their humanitarian traditions-as victory became more certain and as the aim of the destruction of Prussia as the allegedly permanent hard core of the German Reich became more and more clearly an actual war aim".


Of the two essays in Zweierlei Untergang, one was a well-regarded summary (at least by those who take an Intentionalist position such as John Lukacs
John Lukacs
John Adalbert Lukacs is a Hungarian-born American historian who has written more than thirty books, including Five Days in London, May 1940 and A New Republic...

) of the history of the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

. In his essay about the Holocaust, Hillgruber admitted there had been much anti-Semitism in the Second Reich, but argued that anti-Semitism was more much prevalent and worse in France, Russia and Austria-Hungary before 1914. Hillgruber believed that, with the appearance of the government sponsored and avowedly anti-Semitic Fatherland Party
Fatherland Party (Germany)
German Fatherland Party was a pro-war party in the German Empire.The party was founded close to the end of 1917 and represented political circles supporting the war. Among founding members were Wolfgang Kapp and Alfred von Tirpitz . Walter Nicolai, head of the military secret service, was also...

 led by Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz was a German Admiral, Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office, the powerful administrative branch of the German Imperial Navy from 1897 until 1916. Prussia never had a major navy, nor did the other German states before the German Empire was formed in 1871...

 in 1917, anti-Semitism become for the first time sanctioned by the German state. Hillgruber argued that, due to Austrian and Russian influences, anti-Semitism become more common in the Weimar Republic than it had been during the Kaiserreich. Finally, Hillgruber ended his essay by claiming that the Holocaust was Hitler's personal pet project and nobody else's, and that without him there would had been no Holocaust. The other essay concerned the ending of the "Germanic East".

Other historians react, and Hillgruber's defence


With his favorable description of Wehrmacht activities, Hillgruber drew the anger of the philosopher Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

 who rebuked Hillgruber in a feuilleton
Feuilleton
Feuilleton was originally a kind of supplement attached to the political portion of French newspapers, consisting chiefly of non-political news and gossip, literature and art criticism, a chronicle of the latest fashions, and epigrams, charades and other literary trifles...

(opinion piece) entitled “A Kind of Settlement of Damages” published on 11 July 1986 in Die Zeit
Die Zeit
Die Zeit is a German nationwide weekly newspaper that is highly respected for its quality journalism.With a circulation of 488,036 and an estimated readership of slightly above 2 million, it is the most widely read German weekly newspaper...

. Habermas attacked Hillgruber for allegedly praising the "tested senior officials" in the Nazi Party in the East in Zweierlei Untergang. In fact, Hillgruber had written no such sentence. What Hillgruber had written was a lengthy sentence in which he had commented that different officials of the Nazi Party in eastern Germany evacuated the German public with varying degrees of success. What Habermas had done was to edit Hillgruber's sentence selectively and remove the customary ellipsis that indicate that something is being left out of the quote to produce the sentence about the Nazi Party's "tested senior officials". Hillgruber was enraged at what he considered to be a fabricated quote being attributed to him, which he called a "scandal". Many, such as the British historian Richard J. Evans
Richard J. Evans
Richard John Evans is a British academic and historian, prominently known for his history of Germany.-Life:Evans was born in London, of Welsh parentage, and is now Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge and President of Wolfson College...

 (who was otherwise highly critical of Hillgruber's historical work), felt that this was an intellectually disreputable method of attacking Hillgruber. In addition, Habermas claimed in a sentence where Hillgruber wrote that Hitler believed that only through the genocide of the Jews “could” Germany become the world’s greatest power that Hillgruber’s use of the word “could” might had indicated that he shared Hitler’s perspective.

It was Habermas's attack in Die Zeit in July 1986 that first drew attention to Zweierlei Untergang, which had until then been an obscure book published in the spring of 1986 by the Siedler press of Berlin. Habermas wrote in his essay first published in Die Zeit
Die Zeit
Die Zeit is a German nationwide weekly newspaper that is highly respected for its quality journalism.With a circulation of 488,036 and an estimated readership of slightly above 2 million, it is the most widely read German weekly newspaper...

newspaper on 11 July 1986 that the work of Hillgruber in glorifying the last days of the German Army on the Eastern Front was, together with the work of Michael Stürmer
Michael Stürmer
Michael Stürmer is a right-wing German historian best known for his role in the Historikerstreit of the 1980s, for his geographical interpretation of German history and for an admiring 2008 biography of the Russian leader Vladimir Putin .Born in Kassel, Germany, Stürmer received his education in...

 and Ernst Nolte
Ernst Nolte
Ernst Nolte is a German historian and philosopher. Nolte’s major interest is the comparative studies of Fascism and Communism. He is Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the Free University of Berlin, where he taught from 1973 to 1991. He was previously a Professor at the University of Marburg...

, intended to serve as a "...kind of NATO philosophy colored with German nationalism". Habermas argued that Hillgruber's claims that Allied plans for the borders of a post-war Germany were due to anti-German prejudices and a "cliché-image of Prussia" was absurd, and that "it does not occur to Hillgruber that the structure of power in the Reich could actually have had something to do, as the Allies had assumed, with the social structure especially well-preserved in Prussia". Writing of Hillgruber's intentionist theories about the Holocaust, Habermas claimed that Hillgruber wrote in such a way as to imply that even top Nazis were opposed to the Shoah, and were only reluctantly forced to participate in the "Final Solution" by Hitler. Apart from philosopher Habermas, numerous historians took issue with Hillgruber's essay, including Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen is a left-wing German historian. He is the twin brother of the late Wolfgang Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen and great-grandson of the Roman historian Theodor Mommsen. He studied German, history and philosophy at the University of...

, Eberhard Jäckel
Eberhard Jäckel
Eberhard Jäckel is a Social Democratic German historian, noted for his studies of Adolf Hitler's role in German history. Jäckel sees Hitler as being the historical equivalent to the Chernobyl disaster.-Career:...

, Heinrich August Winkler
Heinrich August Winkler
Heinrich August Winkler is a German historian.After attending a Gymnasium in Ulm, he studied history, political science, philosophy and public law at Münster, Heidelberg and Tübingen. In 1970 he became professor at the Free University of Berlin. From 1972 to 1991 he was professor at the University...

, Martin Broszat
Martin Broszat
Martin Broszat was a German historian specializing in modern German social history whose work has been described by The Encyclopedia of Historians as indispensable for any serious study of the Third Reich. Broszat was born in Leipzig, Germany and studied history at the University of Leipzig and...

, Hans-Ulrich Wehler
Hans-Ulrich Wehler
Hans-Ulrich Wehler is a German historian known for his role in promoting social history through the "Bielefeld School", and for his critical studies of 19th century Germany.-Career:...

, Karl Dietrich Bracher
Karl Dietrich Bracher
Karl Dietrich Bracher is a German political scientist and historian of the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. Born in Stuttgart, Bracher was awarded a Ph.D. in the Classics by the University of Tübingen in 1948 and subsequently studied at Harvard University from 1949 to 1950...

, and Wolfgang Mommsen
Wolfgang Mommsen
Wolfgang Justin Mommsen was a German historian. He was the twin brother of Hans Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen. He was educated at the University of Marburg, University of Cologne and University of Leeds between 1951–1959...

.

Criticism centered around a number of areas. The following points were raised against Hillgruber:
  • Those historians who take a functionalist line on the origins of the Shoah like Richard J. Evans
    Richard J. Evans
    Richard John Evans is a British academic and historian, prominently known for his history of Germany.-Life:Evans was born in London, of Welsh parentage, and is now Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge and President of Wolfson College...

     felt that Hillgruber attributed too much responsibility for the Shoah to Hitler. Evans went on to write that Hillgruber had down-played both the level and the virulence of anti-Semitism in pre-1914 Germany, writing that Wilhelm II and his Court were a center of a vicious anti-Semitism that Hitler could have easily approved of.
  • Hillgruber largely ignored the fact that the reason why Soviet troops were in Germany in 1945 was because Germany had attacked the Soviet Union in 1941.
  • Hillgruber mostly ignored the fact that the same troops fighting to save German civilians from the Soviets were also allowing the Nazis to continue the Holocaust. The Israeli historian Omer Bartov
    Omer Bartov
    Omer Bartov is the John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History and Professor of History and Professor of German Studies at Brown University....

     commented that it was simply disgusting on the part of Hillgruber to call upon historians to "identify" with German troops fighting to extend the Holocaust. Furthermore, it was noted that Hillgruber's call for "empathy" for the German troops fighting on the Eastern Front implicitly devalued the lives of those held in the German death camps or forced to walk in the death marches
    Death marches (Holocaust)
    The death marches refer to the forcible movement between Autumn 1944 and late April 1945 by Nazi Germany of thousands of prisoners from German concentration camps near the war front to camps inside Germany.-General:...

    . Critics of Hillgruber such as Bartov noted that his call for historians to have "empathy" with German soldiers placed a higher value on the lives of German civilians protected by the Wehrmacht then on those dying in the Holocaust. In another essay, Bartov commented that Hillgruber appeared to imply that the British government’s decision to repudiate the Munich Agreement
    Munich Agreement
    The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

     in 1942 was the basis of the decision to expel the Germans after the war. Bartov commented that Hillgruber appeared not to care that the German aggression against the states of Eastern Europe such as the destruction of Czecho-Slovakia in March 1939, which itself negated the Munich Agreement might had something to do with the British abrogatation of the Munich Agreement, and that there is no direct link between the repudiation of Munich in 1942 and the expulsion of the Germans from Czechoslovakia after the war.
  • That the expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe (which today might come under the rubric of "ethnic cleansing
    Ethnic cleansing
    Ethnic cleansing is a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic orreligious group from certain geographic areas....

    ") cannot be equated with the racially-based extermination of European Jewry.
  • The sufferings of Germans were presented in isolation, with little reference to the sufferings of Jews, Poles, Russians, Czechs, etc. The impression given is that Germans were the primary victims of the war.
  • That Hillgruber asked his readers to sympathize with the officers and men of the German Wehrmacht
    Wehrmacht
    The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

     and Kriegsmarine
    Kriegsmarine
    The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

     who fought to protect and evacuate the German population is morally indefensible/


The sub-title of Hillgruber's book drew controversy with the Swiss historian Micha Brumlik
Micha Brumlik
Micha Brumlik is professor of education at the Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main, Germany. From October 2000 to 2005 he was director of the Fritz Bauer Institute for the Study and Documentation of the History of the Holocaust.-Books :* Die Gnostiker * Schrift, Wort, Ikone Wege aus dem...

 in an essay entitled "New Myth of State" first published in Die Tagezeitung newspaper on 12 July 1986, commenting that the use of the word Zerschlagung (destruction) for the Germans indicated that an act of extreme violence was committed against the Germans while the Jews were assigned only the neutral term Ende (end) to describe the Holocaust. Brumlik argued that in his view, Hillgruber by his use of the word "End" to label the Holocaust implied that the Shoah was just something terrible that happened to the Jews of Europe, but it was not anybody's fault. Brumlik accused Hillgruber of reducing German history down to the level of Landserheft (a type of comics in Germany glorifying war). Brumlik argued that Hillgruber's thesis about the Holocaust as one of many genocides, instead of a unique event, was a form of "psychological repression".

The right-wing German historian Klaus Hildebrand
Klaus Hildebrand
Klaus Hildebrand is a German conservative historian whose area of expertise is 19th-20th century German political and military history.- Biography :...

 defended Hillgruber in an essay first published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , short F.A.Z., also known as the FAZ, is a national German newspaper, founded in 1949. It is published daily in Frankfurt am Main. The Sunday edition is the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung .F.A.Z...

newspaper on 31 July 1986, by attacking Habermas over the "tried and true higher-ups of the NSDAP" line created by Habermas, which Hildebrand considered a highly dishonest method of attack. Hildebrand argued that Hillgruber was merely trying to show the "tragedy" of the Eastern Front, and was not engaging in moral equivalence between the German and Soviet sides. Responding to the defence of Hillgruber by his close associate Hildebrand in his essay "The Age of the Tyrants", Habermas argued in a letter to the editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 11 August 1986 that Hillgruber's approach of "identifying" with German soldiers fighting on the Eastern Front "...would perhaps be a legitimate point of view for the memoirs of a veteran - but not for a historian writing from the distance of four decades". Habermas went to warn of the "apologetic effect" of the sub-title of Hillgruber's book. Habermas stated that:
"A German reader would have to bring along a healthy portion of linguistic insensitivity in order not to let himself be influenced by the juxtaposition of an aggressive 'destruction of the German Reich by its external enemies and an almost automatic following 'end of European Jewry'. This first impression justifes itself above all through the compilation of two parts so unlike in their style of presentation and declared partisanship".
Joachim Fest
Joachim Fest
Joachim Clemens Fest was a German historian, journalist, critic and editor, best known for his writings and public commentary on Nazi Germany, including an important biography of Adolf Hitler and books about Albert Speer and the German Resistance...

 defended Hillgruber in an essay entitled "Encumbered Remembrance", first published in the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 16 August 1986, by arguing that Habermas himself was guilty of euphemistic language such as labelling dekulakization
Dekulakization
Dekulakization was the Soviet campaign of political repressions, including arrests, deportations, and executions of millions of the better-off peasants and their families in 1929-1932. The richer peasants were labeled kulaks and considered class enemies...

 as "the expulsion of the kulaks". The philosopher Helmut Fleischer, in an essay first published in the
Nürnberger Zeitung newspaper on 20 September 1986, asserted that there was nothing morally objectionable in Hillgruber's argument for the morality of historians siding with German troops on the Eastern Front. The left-wing German historian Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen is a left-wing German historian. He is the twin brother of the late Wolfgang Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen and great-grandson of the Roman historian Theodor Mommsen. He studied German, history and philosophy at the University of...

 in an essay first published for
Blatter fur deutsche und internationale Politik magazine in October 1986 wrote of Hillgruber that:
"His [Hillgruber's] historiographic association of resettlement and the Holocaust indirectly supports the plan, so aggressively posited by Stürmer, of relativizing the crimes of the Third Reich. It allows for revisionist misunderstandings by its demand for "a reconstruction of the destroyed European Middle".
Martin Broszat
Martin Broszat
Martin Broszat was a German historian specializing in modern German social history whose work has been described by The Encyclopedia of Historians as indispensable for any serious study of the Third Reich. Broszat was born in Leipzig, Germany and studied history at the University of Leipzig and...

, in an essay first published in Die Zeit on 3 October 1986, wrote that Hillgruber had come very close to being a Nazi apologist, and his book Zweierlei Untergang was simply not very good.

The German publisher Rudolf Augstein
Rudolf Augstein
Rudolf Karl Augstein was one of the most influential German journalists, founder and part-owner of Der Spiegel magazine....

, in an essay entitled "The New Auschwitz Lie" first published in
Der Spiegel
Der Spiegel
Der Spiegel is a German weekly news magazine published in Hamburg. It is one of Europe's largest publications of its kind, with a weekly circulation of more than one million.-Overview:...

 magazine on 6 October 1986, called Hillgruber "a constitutional Nazi". Augstein went on to call for Hillgruber to be fired from his post at the University of Cologne for being a "constitutional Nazi", and argued that there was no moral difference between Hillgruber and Hans Globke
Hans Globke
- See also :* Theodor Oberländer* Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff- Bibliography :* Tetens, T.H. The New Germany and the Old Nazis. Random House/Marzani & Munsel, New York, 1961. LCN 61-7240....

. The classicist Christian Meier, who was president of the German Historical Association at the time, in a speech given on 8 October 1986 called the allegations that Hillgruber was a Nazi apologist "nonsensical", but argued that Hillgruber was guilty of "methodological dubiousness" in Zweierlei Untergang.

The German historian Imanuel Geiss
Imanuel Geiss
Imanuel Geiss is a German historian.- Life :Imanuel Geiss was born as the youngest of 5 children to a working class family affected by the economic crisis. The unemployed father had to raise the children alone as the mother suffered from Meningitis...

 wrote in defence of Hillgruber that Augstein's calling him a "constitutional Nazi" was way over the top; that together with Habermas, Augstein was guilty of slandering Hillgruber; that Hillgruber's views deserved consideration; and that Hillgruber was no Nazi apologist. The German historian Hagen Schulze
Hagen Schulze
Hagen Schulze is a German historian currently working at the Free University of Berlin. He specializes in early modern and modern German and European history, particularly in comparative European nationalisms.-Life:...

 wrote in defense of Hillgruber:
"For the discipline of history, singularity and comparability of historical events are thus not mutually exclusive alternatives. They are complementary concepts. A claim that historians such as Ernst Nolte or Andreas Hillgruber deny the uniqueness of Auschwitz because they are looking for comparisons stems from incorrect presuppositions. Of course, Nolte and Hillgruber can be refuted if their comparisons rests on empirically or logically false assumptions. But Habermas never provided such proof".


Hillgruber defended his call for the identification with the German troops fighting on the Eastern Front in an interview with the Rheinischer Merkur
Rheinischer Merkur
The Rheinischer Merkur was a nationwide conservative German weekly newspaper appearing on Thursdays. It was published in Bonn, its managing director was Bert Günther Wegener, and the editor in chief from 1994 to 2010 was Michael Rutz...

 newspaper on 31 October 1986, on the ground that he was only trying "…to experience things from the perspective of the main body of the population". In the same 1986 interview, Hillgruber said it was necessary for a more nationalistic version of German history to be written because the East German government was embarking upon a more nationalist history, and if West German historians did not keep up with their East German counterparts in terms of German nationalism, it was inevitable that Germans would come to see the East German regime as the legitimate German state. Hillgruber was most furious with Augstein's "constitutional Nazi" line, and stated that he was considering suing Augstein for libel. Repying to the interviewer's question about whether he thought the Holocaust was unique, Hillgruber stated:
"...that the mass murder of the kulaks in the early 1930s, the mass murder of the leadership cadre of the Red Army in 1937-38, and the mass murder of the Polish officers who in September 1939 fell into Soviet hands are not qualitatively different in evaluation from the mass murder in the Third Reich".
In response to the interviewer's question about whatever he was a "revisionist" (by which the interviewer clearly meant negationist
Historical revisionism (negationism)
Historical revisionism is either the legitimate scholastic re-examination of existing knowledge about a historical event, or the illegitimate distortion of the historical record such that certain events appear in a more or less favourable light. For the former, i.e. the academic pursuit, see...

), Hillgruber stated that:
"Revision of the results of scholarship is, as I said, in itself the most natural thing in the world. The discipline of history lives, like every discipline, on the revision through research of previous conceptualizations...Here I would like to say that in principle since the mid-1960s substantial revisions of various kinds have taken place and have rendered absurd the clichéd "image" that Habermas as a nonhistorian obviously possesses".
Repying to the interviewer's question about whether he wanted to see the revival of the original concept of the Sonderweg
Sonderweg
Sonderweg is a controversial theory in German historiography that considers the German-speaking lands, or the country Germany, to have followed a unique course from aristocracy into democracy, distinct from other European countries...

, that is of the idea of Germany as a great Central European power equally opposed to both the West and the East, Hillgruber denied that German history since 1945 had been that "golden", and claimed that his conception of the Central European identity he wanted to see revived was cultural, not political. Hillgruber called the idea of Germany as great power that would take on and destroy both the United States and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 as:
"...historically hopeless because of the way the Second World War ended. To want to develop such a projection now would mean to bring the powers in the East and the West together against the Germans. I cannot imagine that anyone is earnestly striving for that. Reminiscences of good cooperation between the Germans and Slavic peoples in the middle of Europe before the First World War, and in part also still between the wars, are awakened whenever journalists or historians travel to Poland, Czechoslovakia, or Hungary. In that atmosphere it seems imperative to express how closely one feels connected to representatives of these nations. This is understandable, but it cannot all merge into a notion of "Central Europe" that could be misunderstood as taking up the old concept again, which is, as I have said, no longer realizable. In a word, I think the effort to latch on to the connections torn apart in 1945, because of the outcome of the war, and then in turn because of the Cold War, is a sensible political task, especially for West Germans".


In another essay first published in the Die Zeit newspaper on 7 November 1986, Habermas wrote that: "This longing for the unframed memories from the perspective of the veterans can now be satisfied by reading Andreas Hillgruber's presentation of the events on the Eastern Front in 1944-45. The 'problem of identification', something that is unusual for an historian, poses itself to the author only because he wants to incorporate the perspective of the fighting troops and the affected civilian population". In a newspaper feuilleton
Feuilleton
Feuilleton was originally a kind of supplement attached to the political portion of French newspapers, consisting chiefly of non-political news and gossip, literature and art criticism, a chronicle of the latest fashions, and epigrams, charades and other literary trifles...

entitled "Not a Concluding Remark", first published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 20 November 1986, Meier wrote that:
"What moved Hillgruber to "identify" with the defenders of the front in East Prussia will probably have to remain a mystery…But however that my be, and whatever other weaknesses his book contains, it cannot be accused of trivializing National Socialism. In this respect, Habermas's concerns are certainly without foundation".
The political scientist Kurt Sontheimer, in an essay entitled "Makeup Artists Are Creating a New Identity" first published in Rheinischer Merkur newspaper on 21 November 1986, accused Hillgruber of being guilty of "revisionism" (by which Sontheimer clearly meant negationism
Historical revisionism (negationism)
Historical revisionism is either the legitimate scholastic re-examination of existing knowledge about a historical event, or the illegitimate distortion of the historical record such that certain events appear in a more or less favourable light. For the former, i.e. the academic pursuit, see...

) in his writings on German history. In another essay entitled "He Who Wants to Escape the Abyss" first published in
Die Welt
Die Welt
Die Welt is a German national daily newspaper published by the Axel Springer AG company.It was founded in Hamburg in 1946 by the British occupying forces, aiming to provide a "quality newspaper" modelled on The Times...

newspaper on 22 November 1986, Hildebrand accused Habermas of engaging in "scandalous" attacks on Hillgruber. Hildebrand claimed that "Habermas's criticism is based in no small part on quotations that unambiguously falsify the matter".
Responding to Meier's comment about what why he chose to "identify" with German troops in a letter to the editor of the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 29 November 1986, Hillgruber wrote:
"Is it really so difficult for a German historian (even if he is, like Meier, a specialist in ancient history) to realize why the author of an essay about the collapse in the East in 1944-45 identifies with the efforts of the German populace? I identified with the German efforts not only in East Prussia, but also in Silesia, East Brandenburg and Pomerania (Meier's homeland) to protect themselves from what threatened them and to save as many people as possible".
The German historian Wolfgang Mommsen
Wolfgang Mommsen
Wolfgang Justin Mommsen was a German historian. He was the twin brother of Hans Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen. He was educated at the University of Marburg, University of Cologne and University of Leeds between 1951–1959...

, in an essay entitled "Neither Denial nor Forgetfulness Will Free Us" first published in Frankfurter Rundschau
Frankfurter Rundschau
The Frankfurter Rundschau is a German daily newspaper, based in Frankfurt am Main. It is published every day but Sunday as a city, two regional and one nationwide issues and offers an online edition as well as an e-paper...

 newspaper on 1 December 1986, wrote about Hillgruber's demands that historians identified with the "justified" German defence of the Eastern Front that:
"Andreas Hillgruber recently attempted to accord a relative historical justification to the Wehrmacht campaign in the East and the desperate resistance of the army in the East after the summer of 1944. He argued that the goal was to prevent the German civilian population from falling into the hands of the Red Army. However, the chief reason, he argued, was that the defense of German cities in the East had become tantamount to defending Western civilization. In light of the Allied war goals, which, independent of Stalin's final plans, envisioned breaking up Prussia and destroying the defensive position of a strong, Prussian-led Central European state that could serve as a bulwark against Bolshevism, the continuation of the war in the East was justified from the viewpoint of those involved. It was, as Hillgruber's argument would have it, also justified even from today's standpoint, despite the fact that prolonging the war in the East meant that the gigantic murder machinery of the Holocaust would be allowed to continue to run. All this, the essay argued, was justified as long as the fronts held. Hillgruber's essay is extremely problematic when viewed from the perspective of a democratically constituted community that orients itself towards Western moral and political standards.

There is no getting around the bitter truth that the defeat of National Socialist Germany was not only in the interest of the peoples who were bulldozed by Hitler's war and of the peoples who were selected by his henchmen for annihilation or oppression or exploitation - it was also in the interest of the Germans. Accordingly, parts of the gigantic scenery of the Second World War were, at least as far as we were concerned, totally senseless, even self-destructive. We cannot escape this bitter truth by assigning partial responsibility to other partners who took part in the war".


In an essay published in the 1 December 1986 edition of the New Republic entitled "Immoral Equivalence", the American historian Charles S. Maier criticized Hillgruber for engaging in "vulgar Historismus" in Zweierlei Untergang. Maier wrote the historian is supposed to examine all sides of historical occurrences, and not serve as the advocate of one side. Maier wrote:
"Hillgruber goes on to claim, moreover, that Stalin, Roosevelt, and above all Churchill had long harbored designs to dismember Germany. It does not seem relevant to Hillgruber's way of thinking that German aggression might indeed have led the Allies to contemplate partition; in any case the notion was rejected in theory, and partition came about only as a result of circumstances when the war ended. Hillgruber's historical contribution to "winning the future" thus amounts to the old Prusso-German lament, dusted off and refurbished, that the Machiavellian British were always conspiring to encircle the Reich. Predictably enough, the essay closes with a lament that after 1945, Prussia and Germany would not longer be able to fulfill their mediating role between East and West. But precisely what sort of "mediating role" had brought all those German soldiers to Stalingrad in the first place? "
Maier noted that in marked contrast to the way Hillgruber highlighted the suffering of German civilians on the Eastern Front in dramatic and emotionally charged language in the first essay, in the second essay:
"...that Hillgruber's second and (brief) chapter on the extermination of the Jews might seem pallid after the emotional exercise in "identification" that precedes it. No depiction of sealed freight cars, purposeful starvation, degradation, and the final herding to the gas chambers parallels Hillgruber's vivid evocation of the East Prussian collapse. Not that Hillgruber minimizes the crimes of the SS (through he ignores the massacres of Red Army prisoners by his heroic Wehrmacht)".
Maier called Zweierlei Untergang not an "evil book", but one that was "...baldy balanced; and its particular imbalance opens the way to apologia". Finally, Maier rejected Hillgruber's claim of moral equivalence between the actions of the Soviet Communists and German Nazis under the grounds that while the former were extremely brutal, the latter sought the total extermination of a people, namely the Jews.

The German historian Horst Möller
Horst Möller
Horst Möller is a German contemporary historian. He is Professor of Modern History at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and, from 1992 to 2011, Director of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte....

 defended Hillgruber in an essay first published in late 1986 in the Beiträge zur Konfliktforschung magazine by arguing that:
"Hillgruber comes to the conclusion, on the basis of British files that have come to light in the meantime, that the destruction of the German Reich was planned before the mass murder of the Jews became known-and that the mass murder does not explain the end of the Reich…It is hardly disputable that the attempt to hold the Eastern Front as long as possible against the Red Army meant protection for the German civilian populace in the eastern provinces against murders, rapes, plundering and expulsions by Soviet troops. It was not simply Nazi propaganda against these "Asiatic hordes" that caused this climate of fear. It was the concrete examples of Nemmersdorf in October 1944, mentioned by Hillgruber, that had brought the horror of the future occupation into view".
The journalist Joachim Perels, in an essay first published in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper on 27 December 1986, thought it was outrageous for Hillgruber to praise those German officers who stayed loyal to Hitler during the July 20th putsch as making the right moral choice, and felt that Hillgruber had slandered those Germans who chose to resist the Nazi regime as traitors who left down their country in its hour of need.

In an essay meant to reply to Habermas's criticism entitled "Jürgen Habermas, Karl-Heinz Janßen, and the Enlightenment in the Year 1986" first published in the right-wing
Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht (History In Academics and Instruction) magazine in December 1986, Hillgruber accused Habermas of engaging in "scandalous" methods of attack. In answer to Habermas's criticism of the sub-title of his book, Hillgruber argued that the title of his Holocaust essay, "Der geschichtliche Ort der Judenvernichtung" (The Historical Locus Of The Annihilation Of The Jews) and the first sentence of his book, in which he spoke of the "murder of the Jews in the territory controlled by National Socialist Germany", disproved Habermas's point. In particular, Hillgruber was highly furious over the sentence about "tried and true higher-ups of the NSDAP" that Habermas had created by selective editing of Hillgruber's book. Hillgruber claimed that Habermas was waging a "campaign of character assassination against Michael Stürmer, Ernst Nolte, Klaus Hildebrand and me in the style of the all-too-familiar APO pamphets of the late 1960s" [Hillgruber was attempting to associate Habermas with the APO here]. Hillgruber described Habermas as a kind of left-wing literary hit-man who had asked to "take apart" Zweierlei Untergang by Karl-Heinz Janßen, the editor of the culture section of the Die Zeit
Die Zeit
Die Zeit is a German nationwide weekly newspaper that is highly respected for its quality journalism.With a circulation of 488,036 and an estimated readership of slightly above 2 million, it is the most widely read German weekly newspaper...

newspaper.

Reacting to Habermas's criticism that in the Holocaust essay in
Zweierlei Untergang that his use of the word "could" in a sentence where Hillgruber wrote that Hitler believed only through genocide of the Jews could Germany become a great power, which Habermas claimed might had indicated that Hillgruber shared Hitler's viewpoint, Hillgruber took much umbrage to Habermas's claim. Hillgruber stated that what he wrote in his Holocaust essay was that the German leadership in 1939 was divided into three factions. One, centred on the Nazi Party and the SS, saw the war as a chance to carry out the "racial reorganization" of Europe via mass expulsions and German colonization, whose roots Hillgruber traced to the war aims of the Pan-German League in the First World War. Another faction comprised the traditional German elites in the military, the diplomatic service and the bureaucracy, who saw the war as a chance to destroy the settlement established by the Treaty of Versailles and to establish the world dominance that Germany had sought in the First World War. And finally, there was Hitler's "race" program, which sought the genocide of the Jews as the only way to ensure that Germany would be a world power. Hillgruber insisted that he was only describing Hitler's beliefs, and did not share them. Hillgruber argued that only by reading his second essay about the Holocaust in Zweierlei Untergang could one understand the first essay about the "collapse" on the Eastern Front. Hillgruber compared the feelings of Germans about the lost eastern territories to the feelings of the French about their lost colonies in Indochina. Hillgruber claimed that, when writing about the end of the "German East" in 1945, to understand the "sense of tragedy" that surrounded the matter one had to take the side of the German civilians who were menaced by the Red Army, and the German soldiers fighting to protect them. Hillgruber went on to write that Habermas was seeking to censor him by criticizing him for taking the German side when discussing the last days of the Eastern Front. Replying to Habermas's charge that he was a "neo-conservative", Hillgruber wrote:
"How does he come to come categorize my work as having so-called neoconservative tendencies? For decades I have never made any bones about my basic conservative position. Deeply suspicious as I am of all "leftist" and other world-improving utopias, I will gladly let the label "conservative" apply to me, meant through it is as a defamation. But what is the meaning of the prefix "neo"? No one "challenges" this new "battle" label, so often seen these days, in order to turn this APO jargon against the inventor of the label".
Hillgruber argued that there was a contradiction in Habermas's claim that he was seeking to revive the original concept of the Sonderweg
Sonderweg
Sonderweg is a controversial theory in German historiography that considers the German-speaking lands, or the country Germany, to have followed a unique course from aristocracy into democracy, distinct from other European countries...

, that is, the ideology of Germany as a great Central European power that was neither of the West or the East which would mean closing Germany off to the culture of the West while at the same time accusing him of trying to create a "NATO philosophy". Hillgruber took the opportunity to once more restate his belief that there was no moral difference between the actions of the German Nazis and the Soviet Communists, and questioned whether the Holocaust was a "singular" event. Finally, Hillgruber accused Habermas of being behind the "agitation and psychic terror" suffered by non-Marxist professors in the late 1960s, and warned him that if he was trying to bring back "...that unbearable atmosphere that ruled in those years at West German universities, then he is deluding himself".

The left-wing German historian Imanuel Geiss
Imanuel Geiss
Imanuel Geiss is a German historian.- Life :Imanuel Geiss was born as the youngest of 5 children to a working class family affected by the economic crisis. The unemployed father had to raise the children alone as the mother suffered from Meningitis...

 wrote in an essay first published in the Evangelische Kommentare magazine in February 1987 that both the essays in Zweierlei Untergang were "respectable", but that it was "irritating" and ill-advised on the part of Hillgruber to publish them together, with the implied moral equivalence between the expulsion of the Germans from Eastern Europe, and the genocide of the Jews. Geiss accused Habermas of engaging in a "malicious insinuation" in his attacks on Hillgruber. Geiss wrote that Hillgruber's demand that historians had to side with German troops fighting on the Eastern Front was problematic, but it did "...not justify the merciless severity, almost in the tone of an Old Testament prophet with which Habermas goes after this dissident historian".

Responding to Hillgruber in his "Note" of 23 February 1987, Habermas argued that Hillgruber's approach to history "justifies" the use of the line "tried and true higher-ups of the Nazi Party" as a method of attack. Habermas went on to argue that: "And in any case, this ridiculous dispute about words and secondary virtues just confirms Hillgruber's lack of objectivity about this entire sphere. This a case of praising the fire department that set the fire". Habermas ended his article with the remark that Hillgruber was an extremely shoddy historian, claiming that Hillgruber's charge that he was a leading 60s radical who was behind "...the agitation unleased by exteme leftists at West German universities and on the psychic terror aimed at individual non-Marxist colleagues" was simply not supported by the facts, and told Hillgruber to read one of his own books about his actions in the late 1960s before making such claims.

In response to Habermas, Hillgruber in "Concluding Remarks" of 12 May 1987, wrote of "...the peculiar way this philosopher [Habermas] deals with texts", and accused Habermas of engaging in "...evasion, diversion, sophist hair-splitting and - once again - by misrepresenting my statements". Hillgruber went on to state that in his opinion:
"Habermas, and this is evident from a large number of reviews of his works by authors of varying political affiliations, tends to descend upon these texts, even if they are philisophical texts (even classics such as the works of Kant and Hegel are not excepted) in a way that is no different than what he did to my historical essay. He does this with more or less grotesque distortions of quotations, excerpts that twist meaning, and quotations transplanted out of their context in order to provide the kind of confusion that causes the reader to be blinded and dazzled".
Hillgruber ended his "Concluding Remarks" by remarking that it was impossible to debate Habermas due to his slippery and dishonest nature, and he now ending his participation in the Historikerstreit to focus on his historical research.

In a 1987 essay entitled "German Historians And The Trivialization Of Nazi Criminality", the Austrian-born Israeli historian Walter Grab blasted Hillgruber for what he saw as Hillgruber’s sympathy for the
Junkers
Junker
A Junker was a member of the landed nobility of Prussia and eastern Germany. These families were mostly part of the German Uradel and carried on the colonization and Christianization of the northeastern European territories during the medieval Ostsiedlung. The abbreviation of Junker is Jkr...

 and German officer class, whom Grab pointed out were willing accomplices in the
Machtergreifung
Machtergreifung
Machtergreifung is a German word meaning "seizure of power". It is normally used specifically to refer to the Nazi takeover of power in the democratic Weimar Republic on 30 January 1933, the day Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany, turning it into the Nazi German dictatorship.-Term:The...

(Seizure of Power) and the dream of Lebensraum for Germany in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, Grab attacked Hillgruber for maintaining that Soviet concepts of war were fundamentally barbaric as being reminiscent of Nazi propaganda against Slavic Untermenschen (sub-humans). Moreover, Grab maintained that the period from the fall of 1944 until the war's end in May 1945 was the bloodiest period of the war, and that Hillgruber's comments about the "justified" German defense in the East as preventing a greater "catastrophe" for Germany simply ignored the carnage caused by prolonging a lost war. Finally, Grab was highly critical of Hillgruber's viewpoint that German foreign policy up to 1939 was basically legitimate in seeking to destroy the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

, and that Hitler's main sin was the seeking of Lebensraum over the ruins of the Soviet Union. Grab argued that there was a contradiction between Hillgruber's claim that the destruction of Germany had supposedly long been an aim of the Great Powers (especially Britain's) before World War II, and that Hillgruber's other point that Hitler had by going too far provoked a war that resulted in the destruction of Germany.

In his 1988 book
Entsorgung der deutschen Vergangenheit?: ein polemischer Essay zum "Historikerstreit" (Exoneration of the German past?: A polemical essay about the 'Historikerstreit), Hillgruber's old enemy Hans-Ulrich Wehler
Hans-Ulrich Wehler
Hans-Ulrich Wehler is a German historian known for his role in promoting social history through the "Bielefeld School", and for his critical studies of 19th century Germany.-Career:...

 wrote about Hillgruber's intentionist theories about the Holocaust that:
"This survey is directed - among other matters - against the apologetic effect of the tendency of interpretations that once more blame Hitler alone for the 'Holocaust' - thereby exonerating the older power elites and the Army, the executive bureaucracy, and the judiciary ...and the silent majority who knew".
In another essay, Wehler wrote:
"An even closer connection between academic and political interests is apparent in Andreas Hillgruber's Zweierlei Untergang, where the plight of the German Army on the Eastern Front and the civilian population of eastern Germany is treated without any countervailing consideration for the fate of the Jewish and Slavic "subhumans", the members of the German opposition, and incarcerated groups, or indeed for the Europeans subject to German occupation, and the German people themselves, all caught up in a senselessly prolonged "total war". Such a position unavoidably carries immensely oppressive political implications. His laments over the destruction of the "European center", Germany's intermediary position between East and West, and her loss of great power status is shot through with countless political value judgments. His guiding position (later admitted openly), according to which the loss of the eastern provinces and the expulsion of the German population westward represented "probably the most burdensome consequence of the war", is in itself a matter for political discussion.

Such political implications can only lead us down the wrong path-not to mention a scientific dead-end. In all likelihood it was Hillgruber's aversion to methodological and theoretical reflection that was largely responsible for this wrong turn. Be that as it may, the political effect of Zweierlei Untergang has been downright fatal. It has led to the return of an unreflecting nationalism, in which sympathetic identification with the German Army on the Eastern Front and with the German civilian population has become dogma. Such a worldview has led an otherwise extremely knowledgeable historian to extrude and exclude the victims of National Socialism from his narrative, an omission that would once have been unimaginable but that we now see in black and white. The consequences of a naive attempt to identify with the subjects of historical writing could hardly be demonstrated more drastically".


The American historian Anson Rachinbach wrote against Hillgruber that:
"Hillgruber never explicitly relates the two essays, which with the collapse of the German Army on the Eastern Front and with the "Final Solution" in the East. Nevertheless, the effect of their juxtaposition is strikingly clear: the first essay laments the final days of the German Army and the consequences of the Russian conquest of Germany as a German "national catastrophe", the second is a dry and ascetic account of the Nazi crime against the Jews in light of recent historical works on anti-Semitism. Placed together, it is difficult to escape the conclusion which appears on the book jacket, "that the amputation of the Reich in favor of a greater Poland was a war aim of the Allies long before Auschwitz". The destruction of the German Army, the terror unleashed by the Soviet Army, and the complicity of the Allies in dismembering the eastern part of Germany are all tragic consequences of the blind anti-Prussianism of the Allies, independent of Hitler's crimes...Hillgruber argues that the division of Germany and its loss of global political status as a "failed world power" (gescheiterte Grossmacht) was a consequence of anti-Prussian (not expressly anti-Hitler) war aims of the Allies. In World War II, the legitimate "core" of the desire for revision (of Germany's eastern borders and its Untertan role in world affairs) in the Weimar Republic was perverted by the "Hitler Reich". The German catastrophe is the end of a "politically fully sovereign great power German Reich" and the "unconscious retreat of the majority of Germans in the postwar years from their nation". The "German Question", in short, has to be separated from its subversion by Hitler. The defense of the nation is divorced from the catastrophic policies of the leader".


The American historian Charles S. Maier
Charles S. Maier
Charles S. Maier is the Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History at Harvard University. He teaches European and international history at Harvard. Maier has also served as the director of the Center for European Studies at Harvard.Maier has written several books...

 continued his criticism of Hillgruber in his 1988 book The Unmasterable Past. Maier wrote that Hillgruber in Zweierlei Untergang had made some of the ideas of the German far-right "...presentable with footnotes". Maier wrote that Hillgruber's point about the death camps ceasing to operate in the winter of 1944-45 was irrelevant as he ignored the concentration camps and the death marches. Maier wrote:
""Life" in the concentration camps within greater Germany did grow crueler as deportations ceased: Anne Frank, like so many others, perished inside Germany only a couple of months before she might have been liberated. Moreover, forced marches of surviving Jews from camps shut down in the East to those still functioning in the West took the lives of tens of thousands, as did deportations among what remained of Hungary's Jewish population in the last winter of the war. German courts sentenced 5, 764 countrymen to death for crimes of opposition during 1944 and at least 800 from January to May 1945. Buckled to the guillotine or dangling in slow nooses, the victims probably identified less with the Reichswehr than has the historian."
Maier went on to write that the historian has to understand the people whom he or she is writing about, and understanding does not necessarily mean "identification" as Hillgruber claimed, and that the historian has to understand a plurality of viewpoints, not just one as Hillgruber was trying to claim. Maier wrote about the cool, detached way Hillgruber described the Holocaust as compared to his anger about the expulsion of the Germans, and argued that Hillgruber's choice of the word Judentum (Jewry) instead of Juden (Jews) indicated a certain aloofness on his part about the Holocaust. Maier argued that through there was no "anti-Semitic agenda" in Zweierlei Untergang, that Hillgruber's book reflected his conservative politics and was intended to create a positive German national identity by restoring what Hillgruber considered the honour of the German Army on the Eastern Front. Maier concluded that through Hillgruber believed Hitler to have "maniacal" views, his Germany as the threatened "land in the middle" geopolitics-Primat der Aussenpolitik approach to history meant the last stand of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front was still "sub specie necessitatis" (under the sight of necessity).

The American historian Jerry Muller wrote in the May 1989 edition of Commentary that the best "antidote" to the version of Anglo-German relations presented in Zweierlei Untergang and the "pseudo-history" of Ernst Nolte
Ernst Nolte
Ernst Nolte is a German historian and philosopher. Nolte’s major interest is the comparative studies of Fascism and Communism. He is Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the Free University of Berlin, where he taught from 1973 to 1991. He was previously a Professor at the University of Marburg...

 were Hillgruber's own writings prior to 1986. Muller wrote that Hillgruber himself had noted in Zweierlei Untergang that every day the Wehrmacht held out meant that the Holocaust continued for one more day, but then criticized Hillgruber for having ducked this issue by claiming that one had to understand and "identify" with the concerns and fears of German civilians threatened by the Red Army. Muller complained about the "arbitrariness" of Hillgruber's demand that historians should "identify" with the people of East Prussia instead of the Jews suffering and dying in the death camps. But Muller went on to defend Hillgruber from Habermas. Muller wrote:
"But Habermas went further-much further. Quoting Hillgruber's statement that Hitler sought the physical extermination of all Jews "because only through such a "racial revolution" could he secure the "world-power status" for which he strove", Habermas claimed that the world "could" in this sentence makes it unclear whether or not Hillgruber shares Hitler's perspective. Here was an insinuation that would recur two years later, when Philipp Jenninger would similarly be accused of holding views he was only describing" (Philipp Jenninger
Philipp Jenninger
Philipp Jenninger is a German politician of the Christian Democratic Union and diplomat. He served as Member of the German Parliament, the Bundestag , Minister of State at the German Chancellery , President of the Bundestag , German Ambassador to Austria and German Ambassador to the Holy See...

 was a German politician forced to resigned as the speaker of the Bundstag in November 1988 after giving a speech that through meant to condemn Nazi crimes erroneously gave the impression that he shared the Nazi perspective).
Muller further argued that it was unjust for Habermas to lump Hillgruber and Nolte together, accusing Habermas of making a guilt by association attack.
The Israeli historian Dan Diner wrote:
"Andreas Hillgruber-sought-and this is why his approach is problematic-to realize a nationalistic perspective capable of eliciting sympathetic identification. Such a perspective claims to be inimical to the Nazi regime; yet is still seeks to preserve national identification (and thus national continuity) in spite of National Socialism. Thus Hillgruber considers the defense of the German Reich, and its territorial integrity in the East during the final phrase of the war, to have been justified. Moreover, Hillgruber evaluates the bitter defensive battle against the Soviet army on the Eastern Front as a tragic historical dilemma even through he recognizes its connection to the machinery of death at Auschwitz. In this way he affirms the ready nationalism of his own subjective perspective on the era. The choice of such a perspective contains, whether explicitly or not, a clear historiographic judgment: for the sake of the nation, the historian takes sides in a "dilemma"-against the victims of National Socialism.

By proceeding from the experiences and subjective feelings of the greater part of the German populace to arrive at his paradigm of national identification, Hillgruber necessarily ignores the centrality of the phenomenon "Auschwitz" in his evaluation of National Socialism. Paradoxically, the conservative Hillgruber justifies his approach with what is usually considered a left-wing concern: the history of everyday life, or what might be called a locally oriented, close-up of National Socialism. This might seem surprising; but when applied to Nazism, a close-up perspective oriented towards the everyday experiences brings with it a depoliticizing, desubstantiating, structurally desubjectivizing effect"


The British historian Richard J. Evans
Richard J. Evans
Richard John Evans is a British academic and historian, prominently known for his history of Germany.-Life:Evans was born in London, of Welsh parentage, and is now Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge and President of Wolfson College...

 in his 1989 book In Hitler's Shadow attacked Hillgruber for taking the Eastern Front out of context, arguing that the Wehrmacht had been guilty of far worse crimes in the occupied areas of the Soviet Union than the Red Army was in the occupied areas of Germany. Evans wrote that "it was not the Soviet Army which adhered to a fundamentally barbarous concept of war, but the German Army". Evans went on to argue that:
"None of this of course excuses the conduct of the Soviet troops, the mass rape of German women, the looting and the plundering, the deportation and lengthy imprisonment in Russia of many German troops, or the unauthorized killing of many German civilians. But it has to be said that the conduct of the Red Army in Germany was by no means as barbarous as that of the German Army in Russia. The Russians did not deliberately lay waste whole towns and villages in Germany, nor did they systematically destroy whole communities during their occupation of German territory".
Evans argued against Hillgruber that through the expulsions of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe was done in an extremely brutal manner that could not be defended, the basic aim of expelling the ethnic German population of Poland and Czechoslovakia was justified by the subversive role played by the German minorities before World War II. Evans wrote that Hillgruber was simply wrong when he claimed that the Polish government-in-exile in London had ambitions for annexing eastern Germany, and that the Poles were opposed to the west-ward expansion of their nation, preferring instead that Poland be restored to its pre-September 1939 borders. Evans wrote the decisions to expand Poland westward were taken by the British and the Americans out as a way of compensating Poland for territory the Soviet Union planned to re-annex from Poland and as a way of seeking to persuade the Soviets to broaden the Lublin government. Evans argued that it was not true as Hillgruber had claimed that the expulsions of the Germans from Eastern Europe was caused by anti-German prejudices held by British and American leaders, but instead claimed that it was the behavior of ethnic German minorities during the inter-war period that led to the adoption of expulsion. Evans wrote that under the Weimar Republic the vast majority of ethnic Germans in Poland and Czechoslovakia made it clear that they were not loyal to the states they happened to live under, and under the Third Reich the German minorities in Eastern Europe were willing tools of German foreign policy. Evans asserted that Hillgruber was mistaken when he described pre-1945 eastern Germany as a "centuries-old area of German settlement", arguing that in many areas like Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia is the southeastern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia. Since the 9th century, Upper Silesia has been part of Greater Moravia, the Duchy of Bohemia, the Piast Kingdom of Poland, again of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown and the Holy Roman Empire, as well as of...

 the German nature of the area was a result of forced Germanization in the Imperial period. Evans noted that even Hillgruber admitted that up to 1918 the German state had become increasing harsh in its discrimination and oppression against non-German minorities. Evans wrote that many areas of Eastern Europe featured a jumble of various ethnic groups of which Germans were only one, and that it was the destructive role played by ethnic Germans as instruments of Nazi Germany that led to their expulsion after the war. Likewise, Evans argued that Hillgruber was totally wrong when he claimed that Allies had plans for partitioning Germany during the war. Evans wrote that the Allies had a number of possible plans for Germany after the war, none of which were ever adopted as policy, and the division of Germany was a product of the Cold War, not of any plans made during World War II.
Evans noted that through Hillgruber always used the words "destruction" and "murder" to describe the Shoah in his Holocaust essay, Habermas had through the "unfair example" of the sub-title of Hillgruber's book made a valid point. Evans wrote that in his Holocaust essay, Hillgruber wrote in a cold and detached tone to describe the "Final Solution" which was a very marked contrast to the passionate and angry tone of the essay dealing with Germany's defeat. Likewise, Evans attacked Hillgruber for focusing too much on Hitler as an explanation for the Holocaust. Evans claimed that Hillgruber was being highly misleading in claiming that the other Nazi leaders were "apolitical", and instead asserted that all of the Nazi leaders were fanatical anti-Semitics. Evans maintained that Hillgruber by treating the Holocaust as something caused entirely by Hitler ignored the central role played by the German Army, the civil service, and Junkers as agents of the "Final Solution". Despite this criticism, Evans wrote against Habermas that "no serious reading" of Hillgruber's essay could support the claim that Hitler had forced the Holocaust "against the will" of the other Nazi leaders. Evans wrote against Hillgruber's claim that anti-Semitism in Imperial Germany was not so bad as proven by the electoral collapse of the Völkisch
Völkisch movement
The volkisch movement is the German interpretation of the populist movement, with a romantic focus on folklore and the "organic"...

 parties in the 1912 Reichstag elections, that Hillgruber ignored the fact that the collapse of the völkisch parties was caused by the "mainstream" parties like the Catholic Centre and the Conservatives incorporating völkisch anti-Semitism into their platforms. Likewise, Evans maintained that Hillgruber had ignored the widespread popularity of völkisch anti-Semitic, eugenic and Social Darwinist ideas in Germany in the 1880s-1890s, which may not had an immediate political impact at the time, but did provide the intellectual atmosphere which made the Third Reich possible. Evans took the view that Hillgruber had totally discredited himself in the Historikerstreit, and that his reputation as a scholar was in tatters.
In an April 1990 essay entitled "On Emplotment-Andreas Hillgruber", the British Marxist theorist Perry Anderson
Perry Anderson
Perry Anderson is a British Leftist intellectual, historian, and political essayist. He is often identified with the post-1956 Western Marxism of the New Left in Europe. He is Professor of History and Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles and an editor of the New Left Review. He...

 wrote against Evans in support of Hillguber that Evans’s distinction between the justified aim of expelling the German minorities and the unjustified way this was accomplished was untenable. Against Evans, Anderson wrote that Hillgruber was right when he claimed that General Władysław Sikorski and other leading Polish politicians supported by Churchill wished to annex East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

, Silesia
Silesia
Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts also in the Czech Republic, and Germany.Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources, and includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest city and historical capital is Wrocław...

 and Pomerania
Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

 from 1940 onwards. As part of his defense of Hillgruber, Anderson claimed that in the lands lost by Poland to the Soviet Union, ethnic Poles were 30% of the population while in the lands gained by Poland at Germany's expense, Germans were 90% of the population. Anderson wrote that Hillgruber was correct when he claimed that "traditional imperial interests" instead of concerns with "universal values" drove Allied policy towards the Germans in 1945. In support of Hillgruber's claim that it was a tragedy that Germany had ceased to play its traditional "Land in the Middle" role after 1945, Anderson argued Germany's position in Central Europe had historically played a central role in German national identity, and that Hillgruber was correct to moan its absence. Anderson wrote:
"Hillgruber died in May 1989. In November the Berlin Wall was breached. Today, less than a year later [Anderson was writing in April 1990], German reunification is at hand. Hillgruber, a conservative, saw things more lucidly than his liberal critics. The reunion of Germany will indeed involve the reemergence of a Central Europe-already in statu nascendi; and the reconstruction of Central Europe will all but certainly restore independence to Europe as a whole, in the wider theatre of the world. To have asserted these connexions so clearly, on the eve of their historical realization, was not an inconsiderable achievement".
Anderson claimed that it was hard to argue against Hillgruber's point that the Holocaust was only one chapter in the wider history of horror in the 20th century. Anderson praised Hillgruber as the first historian who traced how the plans for an extensive Eastern empire for Germany unveiled in the summer of 1916 by Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg , known universally as Paul von Hindenburg was a Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and politician, and served as the second President of Germany from 1925 to 1934....

 and Erich Ludendorff
Erich Ludendorff
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg...

 evolved 25 years later into genocidal reality by the summer of 1941.

Despite some sympathy for Hillgruber, Andreson was more critical of other aspects of Zweierlei Untergang. Anderson argued that Hillgruber's condemnation of the putsch attempt of 20 July 1944 as irresponsible and his claim that having World War II go on to May 1945 was "justified" by allowing 2 million German civilians to escape West and another 2 million German soldiers to surrender to the Western Allies instead of the Soviets was entirely mistaken. Anderson wrote that the one million German soldiers killed between the summer of 1944 and the spring of 1945, to say nothing of the Allied dead and wounded, German civilans killed by Allied bombing, those killed in the Holocaust and other victims of Nazi terror simply invalidated Hillgruber's claim about the benefits of World War II going on until May 1945. Anderson noted that Hillgruber's demand for "identification" with German troops on the Eastern Front reflected his own personal background as an infantryman who fought in East Prussia in 1945, and argued that Hillgruber had no right to try to impose his own personal preferences on other historians. Moreover, Anderson commented that in his Holocaust essay, Hillgruber made no demands for "identification" with the victims of the Holocaust Anderson concluded:
"Scrutiny of Zweiereli Untergang reveals, then, a series of complexities. Hillgruber was a nationalist historian, but he was not an apologist of National Socialism. The device of collatio did not in itself dictate a diminution of the Final Solution. Nor did Hillgruber's treatment of the destruction of European Jewry as such contribute to one. But any juxtaposition of Jewish and German fates demanded an exceptional-moral and empirical-delicacy that was beyond the compass of this historian. In its absence, the laconic could not but seem insensible. For its part, colored by personal memory, Hillgruber's obituary of the German East was of divided validity too: its counter-factual assessment of the conspiracy of July 1944 groundless, its factual verdict on the expulsions of 1945-47 well-grounded. Finally, Hillgruber's projection of Central Europe as the common scene, and victim, of the tragedies he related, signally failed to situate the Jews historically within it; but political in impulse, it captured the current position of the Germans, and some of its possible consequences, remarkable well. All of this, in its mixture of acuteness and obtuseness, fallacies and foresights, is quite normal for a historian".


The American historian Peter Baldwin
Peter Baldwin (professor)
Peter Baldwin is a professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was educated at Yale and Harvard and has written several books on Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries: The Politics of Social Solidarity: Class Bases of the European Welfare State, 1875-1975; Contagion and...

 in the 1990 book Reworking the Past commented on the cold and clinical way in which Hillgruber spoke of the Holocaust in contrast to his passionate anger about the fate of the Germans killed or expelled in 1945-46. Baldwin went on to note that, although Hillgruber claimed that both the Holocaust and the expulsion of the Germans were equally tragic events, his tone betrayed which one he really regarded as the greater tragedy.

In 1991, the British military historian Christopher Duffy
Christopher Duffy
Christopher Duffy is a British military historian. Duffy read history at Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1961 with the PhD. Afterwards, he taught military history at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the college of the British General Staff...

 wrote that Hillgruber had set out a "formidable challenge" for historians in Zweierlei Untergang with his demand that historians write a history of the Eastern Front that paid special cognition to the end of the "German East" Duffy stated his book Red Storm on the Reich was an attempt to write the sort of history Hillgruber had demanded In 1992, the Israeli historian Omer Bartov
Omer Bartov
Omer Bartov is the John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History and Professor of History and Professor of German Studies at Brown University....

 wrote that Hillgruber was one of the three leaders of the "new revisionism" in German history that sparked the Historikerstreit
Historikerstreit
The Historikerstreit was an intellectual and political controversy in late 20th-century West Germany about the historical interpretation of the Holocaust. The German word Streit translates variously as "quarrel", "dispute", or "conflict"...

of the late 1980s, who were all in some ways seeking to promote the image of the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 as a force for the good by downplaying Wehrmacht war crimes
War crimes of the Wehrmacht
War crimes of the Wehrmacht were those carried out by the German armed forces during World War II. While the principal perpetrators of the Holocaust amongst German armed forces were the Nazi German 'political' armies , the regular armed forces represented by the Wehrmacht committed war crimes of...

, and seeking to portray the Wehrmacht as a victim of the Allies rather the victimizer of the peoples of Europe, writing of "...the bizarre inversion of the Wehrmacht's roles proposed by all three exponents of the new revisionism, whereby overtly or by implication the Army is transformed from culprit to saviour, from an object of hatred and fear to one of empathy and pity, from victimizer to victim". Specially, Bartov noted that for:
  • That Michael Stürmer
    Michael Stürmer
    Michael Stürmer is a right-wing German historian best known for his role in the Historikerstreit of the 1980s, for his geographical interpretation of German history and for an admiring 2008 biography of the Russian leader Vladimir Putin .Born in Kassel, Germany, Stürmer received his education in...

    ’s geographical interpretation of German history meant that Germany’s "mission" in Central Europe was to serve as a bulwark against the Slavic menace from the East in both World Wars.
  • That Ernst Nolte
    Ernst Nolte
    Ernst Nolte is a German historian and philosopher. Nolte’s major interest is the comparative studies of Fascism and Communism. He is Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the Free University of Berlin, where he taught from 1973 to 1991. He was previously a Professor at the University of Marburg...

    ’s argument about a "casual nexus" with the National Socialist genocide as an logical, if extreme response to the horrors of Communism led to Wehrmacht crimes in the Soviet Union being portrayed as essentially justified. This was even more the case as Nolte insisted that Operation Barbarossa was as Hitler claimed a "preventive war", which meant that for Nolte Wehrmacht war crimes were portrayed as a defensive response to the threat posed to Germany by the "Asiatic hordes".
  • That Hillgruber’s call for historians to "identity" and "empathize" with German troops fighting on the Eastern Front in 1944-45 implicitly devalued the lives of those suffering and dying in the Holocaust, which was allowed to continue in part because the German troops held out for so long.

Bartov wrote that all three historians had in varying ways sought to justify and excuse Wehrmacht war crimes by depicting the Wehrmacht as engaging in a heroic battle for Western civilization, often using the same language as the Nazis such as referring to the Red Army as the "Asiatic hordes". Bartov ended that these sorts of arguments reflected a broader unwillingness of the part of some Germans to admit to what their Army did during the war.

The American historian Deborah Lipstadt
Deborah Lipstadt
Deborah Esther Lipstadt, Ph.D. is an American historian and author of the book Denying the Holocaust and The Eichmann Trial. She is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University...

 in her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust accused Hillgruber of being a grossly offensive German apologist with his claim that the Holocaust and the end of Germany as a great power were equally great tragedies that "belonged together". Lipstadt wrote that she regarded Hillgruber as guilty of a moral relativism
Moral relativism
Moral relativism may be any of several descriptive, meta-ethical, or normative positions. Each of them is concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures:...

 with his call for historians to "identify" with German soldiers on the Eastern Front that consciously down-played Jewish suffering and the Jewish dead of the Holocaust while falsely elevating German suffering and the German dead to the same level. In his 1994 book A World At Arms, Hillgruber's old adversary Gerhard Weinberg
Gerhard Weinberg
Gerhard Ludwig Weinberg is a German-born American diplomatic and military historian noted for his studies in the history of World War II. Weinberg currently is the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been a member of the...

 called Hillgruber's thesis in Zweierlei Untergang "...a preposterous reversal of the realities". Weinberg sarcastically commented that if the German Army had held out longer against the Red Army in 1945 as Hillgruber had wished, the result would not have been the saving of more German lives as Hillgruber had claimed, but rather an American atomic bombing
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

 of Germany.

In a 1998 essay, the Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer
Yehuda Bauer
Yehuda Bauer is a historian and scholar of the Holocaust. He is a Professor of Holocaust Studies at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.-Biography:...

 called Hillgruber as a "great German historian" who "unfortunately" in the 1980s "unwittingly" and "unwillingly" allowed himself to be associated with the fraction of German historians centered around Ernst Nolte
Ernst Nolte
Ernst Nolte is a German historian and philosopher. Nolte’s major interest is the comparative studies of Fascism and Communism. He is Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the Free University of Berlin, where he taught from 1973 to 1991. He was previously a Professor at the University of Marburg...

. Bauer went on to praise Hillgruber as a way of rebutting Arno J. Mayer
Arno J. Mayer
Arno Joseph Mayer is a United States Marxist historian originally from Luxembourg, who specializes in modern Europe, diplomatic history, and the Holocaust, and is currently Dayton-Stockton Professor of History, Emeritus, at Princeton University.-Early life and academic career:Mayer was born into a...

 as the historian who proved in his 1972 essay "`Die Endlösung' und das deutsche Ostimperium als Kernstück des rassenideologische Programms des Nationsozialismus" (The 'Final Solution' and the German Eastern Imperium as the Nuclus of the National Socialist Racial-Ideological Program) that in National Socialism Communism was viewed as an instrument of the Jews, and thus contra Mayer Nazi anti-Communism was most definitely subordinated to anti-Semitism.

The British historian Sir Ian Kershaw
Ian Kershaw
Sir Ian Kershaw is a British historian of 20th-century Germany whose work has chiefly focused on the period of the Third Reich...

 in the 2000 edition of his book The Nazi Dictatorship argued that Hillgruber's approach was flawed as it was based on the assumption that to "understand" a period in history required one to "identify" with one side or the other. Kershaw wrote:
"It was precisely the claim that the historians' only valid position is one of identification with the German troops fighting on the Eastern Front which invoked such widespread and vehement criticism of Hillgruber's essay. The critical method, which in his other work-not excluding his essay on "The Historical Place of the Extermination of the Jews" in the same volume as the controversial treatment of the Eastern Front-made him a formidable historian whose strength lay in the careful and measured treatment of empirical data, entirely deserted him here and was wholly lacking in this one-sided, uncritical, empathizing with the German troops".


The American historian Donald McKale in his 2002 book Hitler's Shadow War accused Hillgruber of writing the sort of nonsense one would expect from a German apologist with his claim that the Anglo-American strategic bombing offensive was an act of "genocide" against the German people, and thought especially offensive Hillgruber's comparison of the strategic bombing offensive with the Holocaust. McKale argued that historians like Hillgruber were trying to create a version of the German past that would allow Germans to get over the guilt caused by the Holocaust, and allow Germans to feel good about being German again.

The British historian Norman Davies
Norman Davies
Professor Ivor Norman Richard Davies FBA, FRHistS is a leading English historian of Welsh descent, noted for his publications on the history of Europe, Poland, and the United Kingdom.- Academic career :...

 in his 2006 book No Simple Victory appeared to lend Hillgruber some support by writing:
"...Andreas Hillgruber published a book provocatively entitled Zweirelei Untergang or 'Double Ruin' (1986). The subject was the expulsion of Germans from the east in 1945-47. But the clear implication was that Germany had been victimized twice over-once by the military defeat and again by the expulsions. The explosion was immediate. Habermas and other left-wingers went into action with a flurry of articles and of letter-writing. They claimed that the uniqueness of the Holocaust was under attack. They disliked comparisons, particulary between the tragedy of the Jews and the misfortunes of the Germans."
Davies went to argue that revelations made after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989-91 supported Hillgruber's moral equating of National Socialism and Communism. The British economic historian Adam Tooze
Adam Tooze
Adam Tooze is a British historian and was Reader in Modern European Economic History at the University of Cambridge. In 2002, he was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for Modern History. As of Summer 2010, he is a professor of history at Yale University.He is currently best known for his economic...

 in his 2006 book The Wages of Destruction
The Wages of Destruction
The Wages of Destruction is an award-winning non-fiction book detailing the economic history of Nazi Germany. Written by Adam Tooze, it was first published by Allen Lane in 2006....

wrote his interpretation of German foreign policy owed much to Hillgruber's "monumental" book Hitlers Strategie (Hitler’s Strategy). Tooze added that he felt that the Historikerstreit had the unfortunate effect of obscuring the "immense contribution" Hillgruber had made to "...our understanding of the Third Reich".

His defenders have argued that his work shows that World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 is more morally complex than it is usually presented, and that he was merely highlighting a little known chapter of history. More importantly however, Hillgruber's historical method of "comparing" was considered by many to be "equating". This is the same criticism Ernst Nolte
Ernst Nolte
Ernst Nolte is a German historian and philosopher. Nolte’s major interest is the comparative studies of Fascism and Communism. He is Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the Free University of Berlin, where he taught from 1973 to 1991. He was previously a Professor at the University of Marburg...

 had faced, during the Historians' Debate
Historikerstreit
The Historikerstreit was an intellectual and political controversy in late 20th-century West Germany about the historical interpretation of the Holocaust. The German word Streit translates variously as "quarrel", "dispute", or "conflict"...

.

Works

  • Hitler, König Carol und Marschall Antonesu: die deutsch-rumänischen Beziehungen, 1938–1944 (Hitler, King Carol and Marshal Antonesu: the German-Romanian Relationship, 1938–1944), 1954.
  • co-written with Hans-Günther Seraphim "Hitlers Entschluss zum Angriff auf Russland (Eine Entgegnung)" (Hitler's Decision for the Attack on Russia: A Reply) pp. 240–254 from Vieteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Volume 2, 1954.
  • Hitlers Strategie: Politik und Kriegsführung, 1940–1941, (Hitler's Strategy: Politics and War Leadership, 1940–1941) 1965.
  • "Riezlers Theorie des kalkulierten Risikos und Bethmann Hollwegs politische Konzeption in der Julikrise 1914" (Riezler's Theory of the Calculated Risk and Bethmann Hollweg's Political Conception in the July Crisis 1914") pp. 333–351 from Historische Zeitschrift, Volume 202, 1966.
  • Deutschlands Rolle in der Vorgeschichte der beiden Weltkriege, 1967; translated into English by William C. Kirby
    William C. Kirby
    William C. Kirby is T. M. Chang Professor of China Studies and Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University, where is he concurrently the Director of Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and Chairman of the Harvard China Fund. He is the former Dean of the Harvard...

     as Germany And The Two World Wars, Harvard University Press, 1981. ISBN 978-0-674-35321-3
  • Kontinuität und Diskontinuität in der deutschen Aussenpolitik von Bismarck bis Hitler (Continuity and Discontinuity in German Foreign Policy from Bismarck to Hitler), 1969.
  • Bismarcks Aussenpolitik (Bismarck's Foreign Policy), 1972.
  • "`Die Endlösung' und das deutsche Ostimperium als Kernstück des rassenideologische Programms des Nationsozialismus" (The 'Final Solution' and the German Empire in the East as the Core of National Socialism's Race-based Ideological Program) pp. 133–153 from Vieteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Volume 20, 1972.
  • Deutsche Geschichte, 1945-1972: Die "Deutsche Frage" in der Weltpolitik (German History, 1945-1972: The "German Question" in World Politics), 1974.
  • "England's Place In Hitler's Plans for World Dominion" pp. 5–22 from Journal of Contemporary History, Volume 9, 1974.
  • Deutsche Grossmacht-und Weltpolitik im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (German Great-and Global-Power Policy during the 19th and 20th Centuries), 1977.
  • Otto von Bismarck: Gründer der europäischen Grossmacht Deutsches Reich (Otto von Bismarck: Founder of the European Great Power, the German Reich), 1978.
  • "Tendenzen, Ergebnisse und Perspektiven der gegenwärtigen Hitler-Forschung" (Tendencies, Results And Perspectives Of The Present Hitler Research) pp. 600–621 from Historische Zeitschrift, Volume 226, June 1978.
  • Europa in der Weltpolitik der Nachkriegszeit (1945–1963) (Europe in World Politics during the Postwar Period, (1945–63)), 1979.
  • Sowjetische Aussenpolitik im Zweten Weltkrieg (Soviet Foreign Policy in World War Two), 1979.
  • Die gescheiterte Grossmacht: Eine Skizze des Deutschen Reiches, 1871–1945 (The Failed Great Power: A Sketch of the German Reich, 1871–1945), 1980.
  • co-written with Klaus Hildebrand
    Klaus Hildebrand
    Klaus Hildebrand is a German conservative historian whose area of expertise is 19th-20th century German political and military history.- Biography :...

    Kalkül zwischen Macht und Ideologie. Der Hitler- Stalin-Pakt: Parallelen bis heute? (Calculation Between Power And Ideology The Hitler-Stalin Pact: Parallels to Today?), 1980, ISBN 978-3-7201-5125-2.
  • Der Zweite Weltkriege, 1939-1945: Kriegsziele und Strategie der grossen Mächte (The Second World War, 1939-1945: War Aims and Strategy of the Great Powers), 1982.
  • "Noch einmal: Hitler's Wendung gegen die Sowjetunion 1940" pages 214-226 from Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, Volume 33, 1982.
  • Die Last der Nation: Fünf Beiträge über Deutschland und die Deutschen (The Burden of the Nation: Five Contributions about Germany and the Germans), 1984.
  • "The Extermination of the European Jews in Its Historical Context—a Recapitulation," pp. 1–15 from Yad Vashem Studies Volume 17, 1986.
  • "Hitler und die USA" (Hitler and the USA) pages 27–41 from Deutschland und die USA 1890-1985 (Germany and the USA 1890-1985) edited by D. Junker, 1986.
  • Zweierlei Untergang: Die Zerschlagung des Deutschen Reiches und das Ende des europäischen Judentums (Two Kinds of Ruin: The Fall of the German Reich and the End of European Jewry), 1986.
  • Die Zerstörung Europas: Beiträge zur Weltkriegsepoche 1914 bis 1945 (The Destruction of Europe: Contributions on the Epoch of World Wars, 1914 to 1945), 1988.
  • "War in the East and the Extermination of the Jews" pages 85–114 from The Nazi Holocaust Part 3, The "Final Solution": The Implementatiof Mass Murder Volume 1 edited by Michael Marrus, Mecler: Westpoint, CT 1989.
  • "No Questions are Forbidden To Research" pp. 155–161; "Letter to the Editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 29 November 1986" p. 198; "Jürgen Habermas, Karl-Heinz Janßen, and the Enlightenment in the Year 1986" pp. 222–236 & "My Concluding Remarks on the So-Called Historikerstreit, 12 May 1987" pp. 268–269 from Forever In The Shadow Of Hitler?: Original Documents Of the Historikerstreit, The Controversy Concerning The Singularity Of The Holocaust edited by Ernst Piper, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1993, ISBN 978-0-391-03784-7.