Hitler and Roosevelt

Hitler and Roosevelt: a dictator and a democrat. What do the two men have in common? Both came to power in the beginning of 1933. Both died in April 1945. But that’s where the parallels end. One led Western Europe to the brink of destruction, the other returned it to the path to freedom.

72 years ago today, on 11 December 1941, the German Empire declared war on the USA. To this day, historians speculate what made Hitler declare war on America. Four days earlier, Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. The following day, the US Senate and House of Representatives declared war on Japan. It could not be known at the time that what happened in Pearl Harbor would change what was going to happen in Western Europe.

Americans oppose US intervention

Until Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had secretly debated how to depose Adolf Hitler. But the majority of Americans wanted the US remain neutral in the European war. After Kristallnacht – Night of Broken Glass – in November of 1938, Hitler’s invasion of the Czech Republic and of Poland, public opinion began to change although the majority of Americans still opposed US intervention. And following the attack on Pearl Harbor the eyes of the American public were directed toward Japan.

Hitler is delighted

At the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, German troops were stuck in the snow in front of Moscow. The Red Army had begun a powerful offensive. The news of Pearl Harbor caught Hitler by surprise, but he saw an opportunity. He suspected that the U.S. would now focus all of their armament and military power against Japan and reduce or eliminate their support for the United Kingdom. If he employed his submarines, he may win against England.

Historians speculate

The historian, Alan Bullock, suspects that Hitler felt he had to demonstrate after the defeat of his troops in the east. Sebastian Haffner called it a simple act of madness. Hitler biographer, Ian Kershaw, says “It was in Hitler’s eyes the chance to win against England.” Together with Japan, Hitler hoped to not only control the European continent, but to also bring the US to its knees. In his 2011 book, Roosevelt and Hitler: Todfeindschaft und Totaler Krieg, Washington historian, Ronald D. Barley, surmises, “as paradoxical as it sounds the fact that Hitler declared war on the US on December 11, 1941, forged the path to freedom for Western Europe.” For additional information, visit www.zeit.de (Zweiter Weltkrieg: Krieg gegen America)


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.



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