What Hitler Knew: The Battle for Information in Nazi Foreign Policy

What Hitler Knew: The Battle for Information in Nazi Foreign Policy

by Zachary Shore

Unlike previous studies, this book draws the reader into the diplomats' darker world, and illustrates how Hitler's power to make informed decisions was limited by the very system he created.

The result, Shore concludes, was a chaotic flow of information between Hitler and his advisers that may have accelerated the march toward war.

  • Language: English
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 3.50
  • Pages: 184
  • Publish Date: December 5th 2002 by Oxford University Press, USA
  • Isbn10: 0195154592
  • Isbn13: 9780195154597

What People Think about "What Hitler Knew: The Battle for Information in Nazi Foreign Policy"

This is a superb bit of diplomatic micro-history covering a series of foreign policy crises between 1933 and 1939, using the question of what facts Hitler had to hand when he made a number of important decisions. This book is illuminating about German and European history in the run-up to the cataclysmic Second World War but it should really be seen as a contribution to a much deeper contemporary concern - how can we be sure that we have true information in making policy decisions? I argued in a Lobster article before this book was published that 'truth' in contemporary political analysis required both a rigorous attitude to the evidence but equally a sensible judgment on the gaps in the record. This is not to deny the terror represented by the Nazi regime or the reality of collaboration and resistance amongst the conservative elite - the case of Von Papen is instructive in how terror can work with almost scalpel-like precision in the hands of political genius. It is simply to point out that second-guessing human motivation is perhaps a judgment too far and to say that much of the conduct Shore describes in closed political and bureaucratic systems is far from unique to national socialist Germany. Our own experience of working inside the New Labour culture from 1992 to 1996 indicated precisely the same processes of competitive control of information, manipulation of facts, deliberate denial of access for bearers of inconvenient truths and so on. The first provides particular insight on the balance of power betwen traditional conservate realism and the more intuitive and ideological approach of Hitler. It is interesting that conservative realist and ideological aims were similar in terms of the issue at hand - ultimately anschluss with Austria - but the conservatives took a traditional line of national interest that saw Italy as threat to the dream of German unification. We can never know what might have happened if Chamberlain had not blundered, working behind the backs of his own nation and much of his party. As Shore points out if indirectly, the information flow at the hands of Saddam was a material fact in a fairly recent war.

This is an interesting study of information flow, or the lack of it, in the making of Nazi foreign policy. Dr Zachary Shore, Associate Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies, University of California at Berkeley, argues the importance of information control during the Third Reich and its impact on decision-making in German foreign policy. The study is the published version of Shores doctoral thesis in modern history titled Dictatorship, Information, and the Limits of Power: Hitler and Foreign Policy Decision Making, 1933-1939 (University of Oxford, 1999). In another episode, Shore describes the role of the German Foreign Minister Constantin Freiherr von Neurath in Hitlers decision to remilitarize the Rhineland in March 1936. The author argues that an Anglo-German agreement failed to materialize in 1939 because Hermann Göring and Ribbentrop kept the secret British proposals from the Führers ears. The study connects the failed Anglo-German talks with the making of the Nazi-Soviet pact. According to the author, Ernst von Weizsäcker, State Secretary at the Foreign Ministry, withheld information on Stalins speech in an effort to prevent or forestall a Nazi-Soviet rapprochement (p.112). It points out how the chaotic flow of information limited what Hitler knew and how it affected his decisions in the making of foreign policy.

Shores articles and editorials on foreign policy have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Newsday, Haaretz, The National Interest, Orbis, The Journal of Contemporary History, and Intelligence and National Security.