When I grew up, the concept of evil had a physical embodiment in the figure of one man: Adolf Hitler. Even now, I find the sight of his face or the sound of his voice unnerving.
After reading Shirer’s book, which provided plenty of insights into Hitler’s character, Bullock’s biography went further in explaining the devastating success of this small-minded man. His very lack of complexity meant that he was not held back by considerations that might give others pause. The only virtues and obligations he recognized were strength of will and force. Duplicity and single-minded pitilessness were simply two more weapons in his armoury with which to subjugate and crush the weak. Allied to a simplistic ideology of Germany’s destiny, might is right and the Arian superman, his drive to attain political power was only ever heading in one direction: military aggression and wars of conquest, domestic tyranny and the elimination all who differed. Such hatred always needs a scapegoat, and the Jews were his terribly convenient and defenceless target.
Ninety years later, in a Europe where Germany has long been a major guarantor of peace, justice and stability, we have another war of nationalistic ideology, with the people of Ukraine being murdered by another cold-blooded dictator. We cannot fail Ukraine, or allow despotism to prevail. Hitler and his Nazis stand as a warning to us for all time.