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IT IS A SUPREME IRONY that, according to American President Woodrow Wilson, World War I was fought to make “the world safe for democracy.” Yet the war, which the greatest liberal statesmen of their generation were unable to prevent, ended in the birth of fascism, with communism one of the two most anti-democratic forces of modern times. Fascism or, as it was known in Germany, Nazism, was in a real sense the response of many front-line soldiers who survived the war against the political beliefs of the “donkeys” at home who had sent them to fight.

The two most visible human personifications of European fascism were Benito Mussolini of Italy and Adolf Hitler of Germany, who had both seen military service in the war. Hitler, who ...

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