This post comments on a passage that appears early in the paper. I will have more to say about the paper as a whole, or other aspects of it, later on.
In discussing the two world wars of the 20th century, Braumoeller writes on p. 3 that:
World War II may have been begun by Hitler, but the ground was made fertile for him by the punitive peace of World War I and the crushing terms of German reparations. The Allies took these steps knowing full well that there was a risk of substantial backlash: although no one could have foreseen Hitler, some hypernationalist response leading to a Great Power war was hardly out of the question.In fact, there is, at a minimum, serious historiographical debate about whether the terms of the Versailles treaty were indeed 'punitive'. I discovered this a while ago in the course of reading the roughly 350 comments attached to a post of last May 7 at Crooked Timber. Eric Rauchway's post "Sympathy and the Sources of Keynes's Critique of the Peace" sparked a long comment thread that contained contributions from an historian (writing pseudonymously) who maintained that the Versailles settlement was not punitive. This commenter wrote (among other things):
Nobody tried to squeeze “the German lemon” dry. Go read Sally Marks. The reparations imposed on Germany were below what Keynes thought doable. Sally Marks established this over forty years ago.
The peace was not punitive.... The peace was largely a form of restorative justice intended to repair the enormous damage done to Belgium and northern France (much of it as Germany retreated). The only element that can be considered punitive was Jan Smuts' insertion of the war pensions into the reparations....
Now obviously this is one viewpoint, but it became clear in the course of the thread that there is serious historiographical debate on this issue. By failing to acknowledge that and simply repeating what many of us were taught in high school -- namely, the peace was punitive and the reparations "crushing" -- Braumoeller gets his paper off to a somewhat rickety start.
This is a minor point but not completely negligible. I will have something to say about more central parts of Braumoeller's argument later.
P.s. (added later): Does it matter to the point Braumoeller is making here, namely that Hitler shouldn't be seen as the indispensable (i.e. necessary) prerequisite of WW2? It does somewhat, because if the peace in fact was not all that punitive but was inclined to be seen as punitive by large segments of the German public, then Hitler's demagogic skills were arguably quite vital to helping shape and reinforce a distorted view of the treaty in the public's mind. (And this of course was connected to other parts of the German right wing's perspective on WW1, such as the "stab in the back" thesis.)