History and Historiography

Was Hitler Really Right-Wing?

Mises Institute

Was Hitler really “right wing”? The German-British publicist Sebastian Haffner, who wrote one of the most notable essays on Adolf Hitler, has pointed out that the only opposition which could really have become dangerous for Hitler came from the Right: “From its vantage, Hitler was on the left. This makes us stop and think. Hitler can certainly not be so readily sorted into the extreme right of the political spectrum as many people are in the habit of doing.”

Indeed, the only effective opposition to Hitler, represented by conservative and in part also monarchist forces such as Ludwig Beck, Franz Halder, Hans Oster, Erwin von Witzleben, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, Johannes Popitz, Count Peter Yorck von Wartenburg, and Ulrich von Hassell, stood to his right. The German-British sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf has pointed out the dilemma of German resistance to Hitler, which, while certainly having been highly moral, still did not mark a step forward on the road of German society to a constitution of liberty:

What is even worse is that it was Hitler who effected that transformation of German society which alone made the constitution of liberty possible, while the resistance to his regime appeared in the name of a society which could serve as a base for nothing but an authoritarian regime.

The assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944, and the persecutions set off by its failure, meant, said Dahrendorf, “the end of a political élite.”

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