I know… that picture really has nothing to do with the title of this post. But I didn’t want to use a picture of a random baby. I sure didn’t want to use a picture of Adolf Hitler. So… yeah.
It’s the classic philosophical question… If you had access to some kind of time travel and were presented with the opportunity to kill Adolf Hitler as a baby, would you kill him?
No, this isn’t another Question of the Week. I was recently watching Rhett & Link’s Good Mythical Morning where they were having this very discussion with Rainn Wilson, spelling out the pros and cons to taking out an infant Hitler.
Being a YouTube show that is looking for entertainment value, of course, they joked around a bit. At one point they said you shouldn’t kill him as a baby… but you should wait until he’s a toddler. Because that makes more sense.
Aside from that, I think it was Link that brought up the possibility that, if you remove Hitler from the equation, it’s likely that someone else would still rise to power with that same mentality in that period of history. I thought that was a pretty good point.
So if it were me, I’d say no, you don’t kill baby Hitler. And my reasoning is not “the devil you know versus the devil you don’t…” Even though I agree that someone would have filled that void if it hadn’t been Hitler. No, my thought is that, if you can travel back in time and make a change to history, why not go back a little further? I mean, not further back before Hitler was born… because he was born before what I’m talking about…
Anyway, go back to 1914 and prevent the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. Historians agree that this was the inciting incident which directly led to the first World War.
Prevent this action from happening and the butterfly effect would take over from there, preventing two wars and millions of deaths over the next 30 years. If there’d been no Great War, there would have been no vacuum of power in Germany leading to the inevitable rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.
Right? I mean… it has been a long time since I studied the events surrounding World War II. But didn’t the first World War leave Germany in dire straits? And didn’t that give Hitler the opportunity he needed to seize power by making charismatic speeches about how Germany could ultimately heal by placing the blame squarely on everyone who didn’t have blond hair and blue eyes?
Don’t get me wrong, Hitler was absolutely evil and deserved whatever horrible torture and death that the worst of us could conceive. I’m just suggesting that changing something may ultimately make the bigger difference.
I wonder if there’s an alternate reality where that assassination never took place and there was never a World War? What does that world look like? Would nuclear weapons have ever been developed? Would communism have ever taken hold in the east? Would the United Nations exist?
How crazy is the butterfly effect?
By the way, if you’re an actual historian who did actual research regarding these events and feel the need to correct my assumptions, please feel free to do so in the comments! I mentioned it’s been a long time since I’ve done any studying on any World Wars, but I am teachable. What’s your take on all this? Let me know in the comments below!