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German enthusiasm for war in 1939

LAURENCE REES: To what extent do you think there was enthusiasm for the war within Germany in 1939?

NORBERT FREI: I don’t think there was much enthusiasm in 1939 for war, especially if you compare it to the situation before the First World War. I mean, people at that time really were enthusiastic, and now they had the experience of a couple of very good years under Nazism - if you are not a Jew or not a political opponent of the Nazis then you had a rather good experience. And people loved Hitler, most of the Germans loved Hitler at that stage, not because he intended to go to war but just because he achieved all these things without going to war. Not only in terms of economic achievements and overcoming the mass unemployment, but also when it came to the revision of the Versailles Treaty and all the things that were related to it. The Germans at that time were even talking about Hitler as 'General Bloodless', a military person who was able to achieve all these things without spilling blood.

LAURENCE REES: But wasn’t there a general sense in Germany of where the increased rearmament ordered by Hitler might lead?

NORBERT FREI: Well, of course, the more enlightened people would ask themselves whether you can have all this rearmament without finally going to war. And from a certain point on Hitler even kind of alluded to war and the necessity of war, and there was always this heavy talk about strength and the importance of strength. But if you didn’t want to see it you might end up saying to yourself, well, Germany has to be strong again and overcome the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty and just to have this massive Wehrmacht. But that does not necessarily mean we have to fight a big war.