XX11 INTRODUCTION The day of maritime empires such as the empires of Portugal, Holland and Britain, was, in his opinion, over. In old times, indeed, the sea had provided the only smooth and cheap communications with the distant parts of the earth, and great landmasses had been the barriers, not the means of travel; but now, thanks to roads and railways, motor-power and air-power, that was reversed: the new empire, which would conquer and absorb and replace the society of Western Europe, must be a great land empire, bound together not by ships and trade but by giant roads and massive armies, the real nexus of the new age. Hitler was naturally a landsman : he came not from the Baltic or the Mediterranean but from the heart of Europe, and he had probably seldom seen the sea. Certainly he never understood sea-power; and distant colonies, which depended on sea-power, he altogether rejected. It was continents, not islands, that interested him. So he brooded over maps and planned vast roads and studied the new science of "geopolitics" which, inspired by Sir Haiford Mackinder in 1919, had found a more sympathetic reception in Central Europe than in its native England. Hitler's obsession with roads and land-armies and the conquest of great spaces is often evident in his Table-Talk; but it was older than that also. "No two men", he once confessed, "interested me more in my youth than Nansen and Sven Hedin"; and even in the middle of the war he would turn aside from politics and strategy to receive a devout but disreputable pilgrim, the aged Sven Hedin, and together they would discuss those empires of the steppes which the one had once explored and the other now sought to conquer. 1 Similarly, his mind often dwelt on great roads, "the beginnings of every civilisation", the nerves which must animate a land-empire. He would imagine the roads of the past—Roman roads in Europe, Inca roads in Peru, and the roads of the future—German Reichsautobahnen "from Klagenfürt to Trondhjem and from Hamburg to the Crimea" ; and when he recollected, as he so often did, the exhilarating days of the Kampfzeit, it was in the endless motor-journeys along "the beautiful, broad, white Autobahnen" that that recollection seemed to him most concentrated. But if the new age was to be the age of a great land-empire 1 See Som Hedin's German Diary (Dublin, 1951).
THE MIND OF ADOLF HITLER xxiii dominating what Sir Haiford Mackinder had called "the Heartland", "the Citadel of the World Empire"—the area, that is, invulnerable to sea-power in Central Europe and Asia— what people, what government could claim this empire? Clearly it could not be any of the old maritime peoples—and in them therefore Hitler was fundamentally uninterested : it must be—if it were to be a European people—either the Germans or the Russians, for these peoples alone had the land-armies, the land-ambitions, the "geopolitical" outlook for such an achievement. The German geopoliticians, on the whole, had assumed that it would be the Russians, who were, after all, both more numerous and already there; and they had advocated, for Germany, rather an alliance with Russia than an attempt to conquer it. And yet, Hitler asked himself, was that really inevitable? Were not the Germans the real Kulturträger, the culture-bearers of Europe? Was it not the Germans who, when the Roman Empire had been rotted inwardly by Jewish Christianity and a declining population, had conquered and inherited it? The Germanic Middle Ages had indeed been frustrated by the "Christian" Renaissance, the rise of the plutocratic capitalist civilisation of Western Europe; but now that that plutocratic capitalist civilisation was in its turn decaying, might not the Germans reawake and, awakened, resume and redirect their splendid mission? The old German Emperors, for good technical reasons, had looked south to Italy; the new German Reich, for similar reasons, must look east. Might it not, even now, by some heroic effort, wrest from the Russians their dominion and impose upon the Heartland a German instead of a Russian Empire? It is true, the Russians were more numerous; but had not minorities often before, by skill and determination, conquered and enslaved great nations? It is true, the Germans had just been defeated in war and Germany was now amputated, unarmed and helpless ; but had not Russia also been defeated in war, had it not lost, in the West, its richest provinces, had it not been ravaged by civil war ? It is true, the Germans were politically incompetent— Dickschädel, Querschädel, Dummköpfe—desperate blockheads and ninnies incapable of political sense or action; but "even stupid races can accomplish something, given good leadership"