Air University Review, July-August 1969

The Origins of the Second World War
Reflections on Three Approaches to the Problem

Dr. Donald S. Detwiler

Few serious historians categorically deny that Adolf Hitler was responsible for having unleashed the Second World War. There is less agreement, however, on the precise definition of his responsibility, the extent to which it must be shared with others, and the means by which it may be demonstrated. The purpose of this article is to review three approaches to the problem of defining the origins of the war: the textual criticism of Hans-Günther Seraphim,* the academic exercise of A.J.P. Taylor,** and the grotesque misconstruction of David L. Hoggan.***

The Göttingen archivist and Hans-Günther Seraphim is by no means a revisionist in the sense that Taylor is, to say nothing of Hoggan. He neither explicitly questions that Hitler started the war nor suggests that there is any question in his mind about Hitler’s primary responsibility for the outbreak of war in 1939. However, in his contribution to a collection of essays published in honor of the Göttingen law professor, Dr. Herbert Kraus, he does deny the historiographical legitimacy of the Nuremberg verdict. He raises serious methodological questions concerning the validity as historical sources of several documents which were cited in the verdict of that International Military Tribunal as particularly conclusive proof of Hitler’s deliberate intention to start the war. Most important are the records of Hitler’s secret conferences on November 5, 1937, May 23, 1939, and on August 22 and November 23 of the same year.1

Hitler had, of course, indicated his aggressive intentions in Mein Kampf, in his party newspaper Völkischer Beobachter, and in public speeches long before coming to power. But in studying the origins of the war, we cannot attach the same significance to those earlier utterances as we can to what Hitler said as Führer und Reichskanzler to his closest associates during the period immediately preceding the conflict. Do we, however, actually know exactly what Hitler did say, especially at these crucial conferences? Are the records that have been preserved dependable enough to be considered reliable sources by the responsible historian? These are the questions Seraphim raises. Let us review his argument concerning the three most important of the conferences cited in the Nuremberg Judgment, those which took place before the actual outbreak of the war on September 1, 1939.

1. On November 5, 1937, Hitler summoned to the New Chancellery in Berlin his ministers of war and foreign affairs as well as the commanders-in-chief of the German army, navy, and air force. He discussed the need to increase Germany’s Lebensraum and the various means by which he intended to do it. He spoke bluntly of war and of the urgency of preparing for it. The record of this conference has been called a summary of German foreign policy in 1937 and 1938. Yet the fact is that at the time no official record was made. It was only five days later that, on his own initiative, Hitler’s Wehrmacht adjutant, Colonel Friedrich Hossbach, finally prepared a memorandum on Hitler’s speech, filling in from memory the gaps in the notes he had taken. Although this minute has often been described as the “Hossbach Protocol,” its author would not have been able to prepare a complete transcript of the proceedings. “Since I do not have stenographic ability,” he later testified, “I was not in a position to give a literal or complete account of the meeting (Da ich fiber keine stenographischen Fiihigkeiten verfiige, war ich zu einer wortgetreuen und vollinhaltlichen Wiedergabe der Sitzung nicht in der Lage).”

Considering the fact that Hitler had gone so far in his introductory remarks as to call this speech his political testament, Hossbach, well aware of the deficiencies of his memorandum, attempted repeatedly to have Hitler review and correct it. To his surprise, however, Hitler would not so much as look at it. Consequently, even if we had the original of Hossbach’s uncorrected version, we could by no means regard it as completely accurate or dependable. Yet we do not even have that. The original of the Hossbach minute was never found after the war. Document PS-386, which was used at Nuremberg, is a typed copy. When Hossbach was shown a photocopy of this document and called upon to certify its authenticity, he declined to do so, merely declaring that what he was shown was a correct photocopy of PS-386. (This occurred when he was asked to sign an affidavit stating that PS-386 was a correct transcript of the original manuscript.  He did sign the affidavit, but only after inserting the words “photocopy of,” as Seraphim saw in the original copy. Thus the word “correct” was made to refer to “photocopy” rather than “transcript,” so that his statement merely affirmed that the photocopy was a correct copy of the transcript, not that the transcript was a correct copy of the original manuscript. That, he explained, would have been an affirmation which, after so many years, he could make in good conscience only on the basis of comparison with the original.)

We cannot be sure, therefore, that we have an accurate version of Hossbach’s minute, the inadequacy and possible inaccuracies of which had already concerned him when he originally got around to writing it almost a week after the conference. Seraphim concludes that the Hossbach memorandum can only be used with great care by the conscientious historian.

2. The second of the key documents questioned by Seraphim is the record of a conference of Hitler with his generals on May 23, 1939. It was prepared by Hossbach’s successor, Lieutenant Colonel Rudolf Schmundt. This meeting, at which Hitler explained to his military leaders the goals of his policy, was held after the march on Prague and dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, the annexation of Memel, and the repudiation of the naval agreement with London and the nonaggression pact with Warsaw. Goebbels’s press campaign against Poland was becoming more and more intense, focusing on Danzig and the Polish Corridor. But Hitler is recorded as having assured his generals that Danzig was not the basic issue. What he was really interested in was acquisition of territory in the East and what he called the “solution of the Baltic problem.” In other words, this document, like the previous one, is unambiguous evidence of Hitler’s aggressive intentions. But like the Hossbach memorandum, it also has serious technical deficiencies. In the first place, there is no indication as to when the minute was actually written. In this case, moreover, there was no possibility of consulting the writer, since Schmundt was killed by the bomb that Count Stauffenberg planted in Hitler’s headquarters on July 20, 1944.

Primarily on the basis of internal evidence, Seraphim develops a not implausible case to demonstrate that Schmundt’s minute was almost certainly written so long after the conference that it cannot be considered a valid primary source. The first indication of this is the inclusion of Göring and Warlimont among the list of participants. At Nuremberg, General Warlimont, who in May 1939 had been a colonel with an assignment that would have made his presence most unlikely, emphatically denied having been at the conference, and none of those who were there remembered his having attended. Göring, on the other hand, was unsure whether he had attended or not, though inclined to believe he had. However, his state secretary in the air ministry, Erhard Milch, who was listed and was present, who claimed that he had been sent to the conference to represent Göring, and who otherwise would hardly have had reason to be there, asserted unequivocally that Göring was not there. Seraphim attributes the discrepancy in regard to Warlimont and the very possible discrepancy as to Göring to the minute having been written so much later that Schmundt no longer could remember who had attended. He finds a number of other points to support this hypothesis, which, he observes, has also been developed in a separate study by Field Marshal Milch. Perhaps the most impressive argument is that Schmundt attributes to Hitler a number of observations and assertions which Hitler would not have been apt to make in May 1939 because they actually relate to subsequent situations and events. Thus Hitler is reported to have referred to the possibility of the Italians breaking through the Maginot Line. Yet this conference occurred over three months before the attack on Poland and almost a year before the western offensive against France. The thought of using Italian forces against the Maginot Line did not come up until early in 1940 (and then only briefly). Its mention by Schmundt therefore suggests that the minute may not have been written before January of that year, eight months after the conference. This hypothesis is further supported by the fact that Hitler is made to speak repeatedly of the necessity for security in terms which he used only after the grave security breach resulting from a German courier plane, with war plans, landing in Belgium in January 1940. Former army chief of staff Franz Halder in a letter to Seraphim categorically stated that Hitler did not so much as touch on the matter of security on May 23, 1939. Finally, to cite but one further detail among a number, on page seven of Schmundt’s manuscript the heading “How does this conflict with England look (Wie sieht diese Auseinandersetzung mit England aus)?” was altered, in Seraphim’s judgment by Schmundt’s own hand, to read, “How will this conflict look (Wie wird diese Auseinandersetzung aussehen)?” The point is, of course, that the original phrasing had reflected all too clearly the attitude of a nation already at war with England.

Seraphim’s conclusion from these and a number of other indices is that the Schmundt minute was written so much later that for the purposes of historical research it cannot be considered a valid primary source (“dass es für die historisehe Forschung als historisehe Quelle ausseheiden muss”).

3. On August 22, 1939, on the eve of Ribbentrop’s flight to Moscow to sign the Nazi-Soviet Pact and little more than a week before the invasion of Poland, Hitler summoned to Obersalzburg the senior admirals and generals of the German armed forces for an all-day briefing on the political situation and his military plans. The record of this conference used at Nuremberg, documents PS-798 and PS-1014 for the morning and afternoon sessions, respectively, bears no heading, date, signature, or other evidence of provenience whatsoever. Seraphim notes that, having been written in the first person, it might conceivably have been the outline from which Hitler spoke, but he rejects this possibility because it is not typed in the extra-large script that Hitler required in order to be able to read without his detested spectacles. Another minute of the conference of August 22, 1939, was drawn up the evening of the same day by Admiral Böhm. It differs in a number of important points from that accepted by the Nuremberg Tribunal as the authoritative version. In an affidavit presented to the court by Admiral Raeder’s defense, Admiral Böhm categorized the anonymous version as imprecise and superficial (“ungenau und obeiflächlich”). He went on to cite specific statements which he alleged had falsely been attributed to Hitler. Nor is this the only quarter from which PS-798 and 1014 have been challenged. Seraphim cites the testimony of Admiral Schülte-Monting, of Field Marshals von Leeb and von Küchler, and of General Halder to further discredit the accuracy of the protocol, which he consequently rejects as too problematical to be considered a dependable source. The fact, which Seraphim presumably did not know when writing his essay, that the account of the conference in Halder’s diary is in some respects closer to that of PS-798 and 1014 than that of Böhm, may weaken the case but by no means destroys it, for Seraphim is not pleading the authenticity of Böhm’s version rather than the accepted one. He is arguing, rather, that in view of the authoritative testimony of persons present August 22, 1939, at the conference, the accuracy of the anonymous minute is so questionable that it cannot be relied upon by the historian. As in the case of the other two minutes, this document, just as any, even if accepted as evidence and published by an international military tribunal or any other agency, must be judged according to the criteria of sound historiography, and provenience is certainly a criterion of primary importance.

If the German historian Hans-Günther Seraphim did not undertake in his 1954 essay to do more than chip away at the massive documentary foundations on which rested the verdict of Nuremberg, the British historian and once bitter critic of German power politics A. J. P. Taylor undertook in 1961 a surprising frontal assault with a full-length study entitled The Origins of the Second World War.2

The International Military Tribunal had, in effect, placed the full burden of guilt for the war on Hitler Germany. During the intervening years, this very one-sided interpretation of the origins of the war in Europe had gradually given way to a more pluralistic approach. World public opinion and historiography generously permitted the Germans to share their guilt with others. Western historians gave Stalin full credit for his complicity in Hitler’s aggression on Poland, while Communists, not to mention American revisionists like Charles Callan Tansill, sought and found Hitler’s witting or witless coconspirators against world peace among the leaders of the Western democracies. But Taylor’s book, so strikingly different in tone and content from his earlier works on modern German history, attempts to make a radically fresh start:

Many . . . , believe that Hitler was a modern Attila, loving destruction for its own sake and therefore bent on war without thought of policy. There is no arguing with such dogmas. Hitler was an extraordinary man; and they may well be true. But his policy is capable of rational explanation; and it is on these that history is built. The escape into irrationality is no doubt easier. The blame for war can be put on Hitler’s Nihilism instead of on the faults and failures of European statesmen — faults and failures which their public shared. Human blunders, however, usually do more to shape history than human wickedness. At any rate, this is a rival dogma which is worth developing, if only as an academic exercise. (p.209)

Some of Taylor’s readers have been annoyed by this passage and its implications. They suspect him of hedging, of refusing to commit himself unequivocally to the thesis of his book. Moreover, he puts his critics in a somewhat uncomfortable position by his ambivalence. Those who would roundly condemn him for his revision cannot be sure he means it seriously, cannot be sure it is more than “an academic exercise,” while those who would laud him for the latter cannot be sure that he has not thrown them off the scent by a cunning verbal gambit. But the problem of his intention, intriguing though it may be, is not my concern here. Whatever Taylor may have set out to do, his book’s primary value, in my opinion, lies in the re-examination and rethinking of the origins of the Second World War which it has stimulated.

Assuming the pose of an academic Rip Van Winkle who had slept not through the American Revolution but through the decade between Hitler’s march into the Rhineland and Eisenhower’s and who never had heard of the terror of V-bombs or the horror of Dachau, Taylor went back to the archives to work his way through the documents leading up to the Second World War and write a objective account of its origins. With a faith (whether genuine or feigned is beside the point) in traditional values and virtues worthy of a simpler and happier age, he wrote as though each of the protagonists was essentially an honorable man, capable perhaps of stupidity but not of malice nor, least of all, of the demonic fanaticism of the German dictator.

Asking himself not “What is the truth?” but “What is a rational and plausible explanation?” he rises to the occasion when he finds none by inventing it. Thus we read that at the conference of November 5, 1937, Hitler was conspiring not against the peace but merely against his own Minister of Economics, Hjalmar Schacht, whose frugality threatened the armaments program. Furthermore, Taylor informs us, the extensive changing of the guard at the beginning of 1938, which saw the removal of Blomberg, Fritsch, Neurath, Papen, and Hassell, was a smoke screen to cover the financier’s break with the Hitler regime. “. . . The resignation of Schacht,” he writes, “could now be smuggled quietly in among the other changes. This was of course the object of the whole operation; yet in the stir of the time it passed almost unnoticed.” (p. 138)

This is, to say the least, a novel interpretation. Yet there may, in fact, be a grain of truth in it. Do we know that there is not? Can we afford to dismiss the possibility that this consideration might not also have played a part, even though a very subordinate one indeed, in the events of fall and winter 1937-38? Are those who reject Taylor’s interpretation, unexamined, prepared to assert that in the labyrinthine maze of the inscrutable Austro-German tyrant’s subconscious such secondary considerations may not in fact actually have tipped the scales in favor of one course instead of another? Percy Ernst Schramm has analyzed Hitler’s personality and military leadership in two extensive essays published as introductions to the war diary of the German high command and to a new critical edition of Hitler’s table conversations.3 He found that Hitler lived simultaneously on several levels of consciousness, often failing to differentiate between dream and reality, and acknowledging, at least on one occasion, his failure to resolve irreconcilable contradictions in strategic plans as “problems of the future which I do not think through (Probleme der Zukunft, die ich nicht zu Ende denke ).”4

Confronted with a mind like this, can we categorically dismiss Taylor’s alternative explanations and analyses as nothing more than exegetical casuistry? Taylor’s account may indeed be two- instead of three- or four-dimensional. In its way, it may be as two-dimensional, in fact, as the Nuremberg verdict. But in dealing with the extraordinarily complex problem of the origins of the Second World War, we cannot afford to ignore Taylor’s contribution.

Deliberately studying his subject through colored lenses that filter out the dominant pattern of Hitler’s aggressive intentions, Taylor has enabled himself to see far more clearly than ever before other threads in the fabric of events that led to war; he has, so to speak, “taylored” his history to make them apparent to us as well. There are few, I trust, who will be convinced by his basic thesis that Hitler was a rational statesman forced by circumstances more or less beyond his control into a war he did not want. But by the same token, I think that few who carefully and critically read this book (and I would not recommend it to someone unprepared to read it critically) will fail to be stimulated into rethinking many of the episodes and aspects of the chain of events which led to catastrophe. Whatever Taylor’s purpose in writing may have been, I think that, on the whole, the book will ultimately serve the cause of historical truth far better than its individual pages do.

David L. Hoggan’s account of the origins of the Second World War, with its suggestive title When Peaceful Revision Failed, may never appear in the original English version. However, a German translation appeared late in 1961 in Tübingen and received very favorable notices in the neo-Nazi and ultra-conservative press.5 Hoggan, seizing upon formal flaws such as Seraphim pointed out in the minutes of Hitler’s conferences of November 5, 1937, and May 23 and August 22, 1939, either entirely dismisses these sources and all they represent or else distorts them to suit his conception of history. Like Taylor, Hoggan casts Hitler as a conscientious statesman in the Continental tradition—certainly cunning, and perhaps even somewhat Machiavellian at times, but basically honest and sincere. However, he does not stop there, for his 900-page tome is neither an exercise in textual criticism nor a more extensive attempt than Taylor’s to demonstrate that the Second World War can be accounted for in terms of rational motives and conventional blunders without recourse to conspiratorial or demonic explanations. Quite the contrary! Hoggan has his villains. With all the partisan vehemence of a Charles C. Tansill, whose Back Door to War he characterizes as a brilliant analysis, or a Harry Emerson Barnes, who defended him in the vitriolic exchanges printed in the columns of the American Historical Review,6 Hoggan exposes the cynical ruthlessness with which England, having failed to destroy Germany during the First World War, set out to finish the job in the Second. The primary responsibility for the outbreak of the war, according to Hoggan, rests not with Hitler but with Lord Halifax, the British foreign minister:

In London [writes Hoggan], Halifax succeeded in forcing on the British Government a deliberate policy of war despite the fact that most of the prominent British experts on Germany argued for a policy of German-English friendship. In Warsaw, [Polish Foreign Minister] Beck was prepared to collaborate fully with Halifax’s war plans despite the warnings from numerous Poles who were horrified by the prospect of seeing their land destroyed.

German, Italian, French, and other European leaders did all they could to avert the great catastrophe, but in vain, while Halifax’s war policy, accompanied by the secret blessings of Roosevelt and Stalin, carried the day . . . .

The Second World War arose from the attempt to destroy Germany. (p.793, my translation—D.S.D.)

If Taylor’s conclusions were false, Hoggan’s are not only false but also vicious. Taylor seeks the origins of the war less in the malice or megalomania of Hitler than in the human faults and failings of European statesmen of good faith. Taylor may not bring Hitler to justice, but at least he is hardly a character assassin. Hoggan, however, defames as ruthless aggressors or cynical accomplices statesmen whose judgment Taylor indeed questions but whose character at least he does not malign.

Hans-Günther Seraphim, by his almost agonizingly meticulous textual criticism, challenges us to re-examine our comfortable documentation. He challenges us to leave our neat shelves of source books published in translation and go back to the archives and study the original documents themselves -typescripts, manuscripts, or whatever they may be, taking into consideration not only bare verbal content but also marginalia, emendations, provenience, and context. Otherwise we cannot have sound documentation; and without sound documentation we cannot have the sound historical writing we need in order to understand the past.

A. J. P. Taylor, in his academic exercise, goes further. In a sort of laboratory demonstration, he also challenges our documentation, but only in passing. His primary concern is our objectivity (and perhaps also his own) regarding the question of the origins of the Second World War. Knowing that we have the ultimate answer, the guilt of Adolf Hitler, we may indeed have shirked our responsibility to study the secondary and corollary answers. Perhaps we have failed even to ask the questions that will lead us to discover other answers at all, though such questions may not be less valid or urgent than those to which we do have ready answers. We may indeed tend to take what Taylor terms the easier escape into irrationality—although when approached as a problem rather than as a solution, the irrational forces which contributed so much to the rise of National Socialism are a promising, though by no means easy, field of study, as has been shown by Christian Graf von Krockow, Georg Lukács, and Helmuth Plessner, to name but three.7 We may not accept Taylor’s thesis, and we may disagree with many of his implicit criticisms. That much he has to say is sound, however, will be clear to anyone who, rather than rejecting his book as a whole, sets out to refute it paragraph by paragraph. In another context, he himself once observed, “Error can often be fertile, but perfection is always sterile.”8

While Seraphim and Taylor can be interpreted as offering essentially constructive criticism, David L. Hoggan cannot.9 With his grimly serious, grotesque misconstruction, he can serve us only as an involuntarily eloquent warning never to lose our moorings and drift into the sea of prejudice and propaganda. For once we do, we risk destroying our intellectual integrity altogether, no matter what our field of endeavor.

Carbondale, Illinois

*Hans-Gunther Seraphim, “Nachkriegsprozesse und zeitgeschichtliche Forschung,” Mensch und Staat in Recht und Geschichte: Festschrift fur Herbert Kraus, ed. Hans Kruse and Hans-Günther Seraphim (Kitzingen/Main: Holzner-Verlag, 1954), pp. 436-55.

**A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War, Premier paperback tl93, 2d ed. (Greenwich and New York: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1966).

***David L. Hoggan, Der Erzwungene Krieg: Die Ursachen und Urheber des Zweiten Weltkriegs (Tubingen: Verlag der Deutschen Hochschullehrer-Zeitung, 1961).


1. “The Nuremberg Judgment” as excerpted in The Outbreak of the Second World War—Design or Blunder? ed. John L. Snell, “Problems in European Civilization” (Boston: D. C. Heath and Co., 1962), p. 3. This 125-page paperback gives a convenient cross section of the discussion during the fifteen years from the Nuremberg trials to its publication in the form of an excellent introduction, extensive excerpts from widely differing authorities, and a concise bibliography.

2. Two previous books on Germany by Taylor, who is one of the most readable historians of our time, are his incisive portrait of the Iron Chancellor, Bismarck: The Man and the Statesman, Vintage paperback V-387 (New York: Random House, 1955); and The Course of German History, Capricorn Giant paperback 218 (New York: Capricorn Books, Inc., 1962), an extremely hostile interpretation written during the Second World War.

3. Percy Ernst Schramm, Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht (Wehrmachtführungsstab), 1940-1945, Vol. IV (Frankfurt/Main: Bernard & Graefe Verlag für Wehrwesen, 1961), pp. 37-74; Henry Picker, Hitlers Tischgesprüche im Fülhrerhauptquartier 1941-1942, ed. Percy Ernst Schramm (Stuttgart: Seewald Verlag, 1963), pp. 28-119. These introductory essays will soon be published by Quadrangle Books, Inc., Chicago, in English translation with an introduction by the author of this article. The volume is tentatively entitled Adolf Hitler: The Man and the Military Leader.

4. Schramm, Kriegstagebuch, Vol. IV, p. 55, footnote 1.

5. The sophisticated liberal German newsweekly Der Spiegel, Vol. 18, No. 20 (May 13, 1964), had a cover story on Hoggan, his book, and its reception in Germany, as well as a most revealing interview in which he developed and attempted to defend his thesis. He fared as poorly as his book has in serious reviews. But it has certainly found a clientele. By 1964 it was already in its fifth edition (which was used in writing this article).

6. Hoggan’s book was initially reviewed in the October 1962 number of the American Historical Review (the same number in which the fourth volume of the Kriegstagebuch, cited above in note 3, was reviewed). For Hoggan’s and Barnes’s first letters protesting the devastating (but fair) review, and the reply by the reviewer (Professor Gerhard Weinberg of the University of Michigan), see the April 1963 number. The second round, with additional contributions, is in the October 1963 number. (These three issues are included in Vols. 58 and 59 of the American Historical Review.)

7. Count Christian von Krockow (political science professor at Frankfurt), Die Entscheidung: Eine Untersuchung über Ernst jünger, Carl Schmitt, Martin Heidegger (Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke Verlag, 1958); Georg Lukács (the Hungarian Marxist whom Thomas Mann once called “the most important literary critic of today”), Die Zerstörung der Vernunft: Der Weg des Irrationalismus von Schelling zu Hitler (East Berlin: AufbauVerlag, 1955), reprinted in part in West Germany in a paperback edition, Von Nietzsche zu Hitler oder Der 1rrationalismus und die deutsche Politik (Frankfurt and Hamburg: Fischer Bücherei, 1966); Helmuth Plessner (professor emeritus of sociology and philosophy at Göttingen), Das Schicksal deutschen Geistes im Ausgang seiner bürgerlichen Epoche (Zürich: Max Niehans Verlag, 1935), a challenging sociocultural analysis published almost immediately after the Nazi seizure of power, and reprinted over twenty years later with a new introductory essay as Die verspütete Nation: Uber die politische Verfügbarkeit bürgerlichen Geistes (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer Verlag, 1959).

8. Ved Mehta, Fly and the Fly-Bottle: Encounters with British Intellectuals, Pelican paperback A- 723 (Baltimore: Penguin Books, Inc., 1965), p. 1,55.

9. Though Seraphim’s essay has been easier to ignore than refute, Taylor’s and Hoggan’s far more vulnerable studies have both been very widely reviewed and discussed. Perhaps the most thorough analysis of both is the distinguished Swiss-German historian Walther Hofer’s 50-page appendix to the fourth edition of his basic work on the unleashing of the Second World War, Die Entfesselung des Zweiten Weltkriegs: Eine Studie über die internationalen Beziehungen im Sommer 1939 mit Dokumenten (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1964), pp. 419-75. While the references cited above in notes 5 and 6 are a good introduction to the discussion of Hoggan, the most impressive and damaging review of Taylor was undoubtedly his Oxford colleague H. R. Trevor-Roper’s brilliant review article in Encounter, which is reprinted in the Snell book cited in note 1. Taylor answered his critics collectively in a chapter of “Second Thoughts” appended to a new edition of his Origins (pp. 27793 of the edition cited on page 94). He also found a rhetorically adequate reply to Trevor-Roper in the form of an Encounter article of his own entitled “How To Quote—Exercises for Beginners.” In two columns he juxtaposed a number of Trevor-Roper’s statements about his book and original quotations from it, graphically demonstrating that enough liberties had in fact been taken to justify his final juxtaposition. In the column opposite the observation that the book “will do harm, perhaps irreparable harm, to Mr. Taylor’s reputation as a serious historian,” he placed the mordant observation that “the Regius Professor’s methods of quotation might also do harm to his reputation as a serious historian, if he had one” (quoted from Ved Mehta, Fly and the Fly-Bottle, p. 102, who covered the controversy in the chapter “Argument Without End” of his stimulating book, which originally appeared as a series of articles in the New Yorker).


Professor Donald S. Detwiler (B.A., George Washington University; Dr. Phil., Göttingen University, Germany) is a member of the History Department, Southern Illinois University. He has also taught at West Virginia University and at American University and Catholic University in his native city of Washington. Commissioned in the Air Force reserve from ROTC in 1954, he attended Intelligence School, Shepherd AFB, Texas, and served in Germany as a language intelligence officer. He separated from active duty in 1957 to begin four years’ study at Göttingen University. His book, Hitler, Franco und Gibraltar (1962), was written in German and published by the Institute of European History, Mainz; and his English translation of two studies on Hitler by Percy E. Schramm are being published by Quadrangle Books, Chicago.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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