It’s a popular meme on the internet to ask the question of whether you would go back and kill Hitler if you could go back in time.
Let me offer a non-obvious answer: No.
I believe very much that there is an inevitability to most things. If we hadn’t dropped the atom bomb, then very shortly thereafter some other country would have. It’s much like the invention of the telephone: We now know that Alexander Bell wasn’t the first or second or even third to have invented the phone. He was just the first to have been issued a patent. With patents, I think we have shown that the invention of most things is inevitable. The claim that somebody was brilliant and only they could have invented something is pretty much shown to be false.
So back to Hitler: Remember that the German people,very smart people, liked him. Most saw him as a good man, and as somebody who genuinely cared about them. Hitler promised and delivered jobs and security to Germany.
The forces that created Hitler would have created another Hitler, if not him. The onerous demands by Europe against Germany after World War I were devastating to Germany. They created perpetual poverty and unemployment. Anybody could have come along with socialist ideas and lead the Germans the same way.
History also tells us that well intentioned maniacal leaders always exist in time, and they make Hitler-like problems.
Many falsely believe that the Jews suffered the most in the era of World War II or possibly in all of history. This is not quite correct.
Eight times more people—about 50 million people vs 6 million Jews—died at the hands of Mao as he starved his own country. Five times more people—about 40 million—died at the hands of the Japanese leader during this same era. The losses in Russia were equally severe and we will never know the exact numbers. Later in time, Pol Pot killed ¼ of his own country.
So the answer I have is that we won the battle against Hitler. I wouldn’t kill him because inevitably another villain would emerge and he may not be so crazy and just might win the war. Fortunately, Hitler chose to fight the Russians in the dead of winter. (Pretty Stupid.)
My point is less about whether Hitler was the best of the evils.
My point is that most technology and most events are inevitable. It may go a little one way or another, and it may be this person or that person. But in the end, the telephone is going to get invented by somebody in the 1870s. That much seems certain.
So perhaps rather than worrying about killing Hitler we should worry about killing the patent system. Most of the stuff being invented and patented is equally inevitable. The invention of the phone is proof enough. Sorry Elisa Gray.