Was Hitler a Weak Dictator?
David Williamson examines two seemingly irreconcilable schools of thought.
Perhaps of all the exam questions set on the Third Reich, 'Was Hitler a Weak Dictator?' is the most difficult. It leads to the heart of the complex Intentionalist-Structuralist debate. On the one hand, there are the Intentionalist historians who argue forcefully in the words of Norman Rich that 'Hitler was master in the Third Reich', while the Structuralists stress the many contraints on Hitler's power which range from his own personal inadequacies to the limits imposed upon him by the structure of the Nazi party and state. Mommsen, for instance, argues that he was 'in many ways a weak dictator',1 and David Irving in one of his earlier and less outrageous books even goes so far as to describe him as 'probably the weakest leader Germany has known this century'.2