Reading Comprehension
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Common Information

On August 22, 1939, Adolf Hitler summoned his top military generals to Obersalzberg, where he delivered a speech explaining his plans for war, first with Poland, then with the rest of Europe. Despite resistance from those both inside and outside Germany, Hitler felt exceedingly confident that he could defy the will of the international community and conquer vast amounts of land. In his speech at Obersalzberg, he laid out numerous factors he believed would contribute to the success of his war plans.

Chief among Hitler's sources of confidence in Germany's brazen war plans was German military quickness. Hitler said, "Our strength lies in our quickness." On the advice of Colonel-General von Brauchitsch, Hitler believed Poland could be captured in a few weeks, an astonishingly short amount of time given the recent history of trench warfare and the long history of protracted European military engagements that resulted in minimal land gains and high casualty counts.

Hitler's confidence in the ability of the German military to inflict considerable brutality further strengthened his determination to pursue an exceedingly ambitious plan of territorial aggrandizement. He said, "I shall shoot everyone who utters one word of criticism" and noted that "the goal to be obtained in the war is not that of reaching certain lines but of physically demolishing the opponent." In this vein, Hitler ordered his military to "be hard, be without mercy, [and] act more quickly and brutally than others…for it scares the others off." Hitler believed that enemies, not used to this type of brutality, would surrender quickly.

In addition to speed and brutality, Hitler believed that, in the end, history would overlook his inhumane conduct. To support this view, which turned out to be anything but prescient, Hitler invoked a Pollyannaish view of Asian leader Genghis Kahn. In Hitler's eyes, Kahn "sent millions of women and children into death knowingly and with a light heart," yet "history sees in him only the great founder of States."

Although Hitler brimmed with confidence and experienced initial yet widely-expected success in Poland and then in Denmark, he overlooked important considerations. In many ways, Hitler made the same mistake Napoleon Bonaparte made years earlier. Hitler believed he could advance further and conquer Britain, yet, like Napoleon, Hitler did not adequately foresee the insurmountable barrier posed by Britain's island status. Despite the damage inflicted at the hands of the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain (1940), British forces eventually won this important battle. Nevertheless, Hitler pressed on and, in an even more fateful decision that carried echoes of a Napoleonic tactical misstep, invaded the USSR where his forces suffered the decisive defeat of World War II at Stalingrad in 1943. In the end, Hitler's reputation in history proved to be as brutal and decisive as the battle plans and philosophy he announced at Obersalzberg.

Q.

Common Information Question: 4/7

According to the passage, what best describes the author's understanding of why Hitler's military campaign eventually failed?

 A.

Failed to demoralize opponents

 B.

Overlooked important tactical and geographic considerations

 C.

Underestimated international resolve

 D.

Fell behind technological advancements of European enemies

 E.

Failed to consolidate initial military and land gains

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Solution:
Option(B) is correct

The part of the passage that is of special interest is:

"he overlooked important considerations.... Hitler believed he could advance further and conquer Britain, yet, like Napoleon, Hitler did not adequately foresee the insurmountable barrier posed by Britain's island status. ... Hitler pressed on and, in an even more fateful decision that carried echoes of a Napoleonic tactical misstep, invaded the USSR where his forces suffered the decisive defeat of World War II"

This passage indicates that Hitler made mistakes in overlooking geographical considerations (i.e., "Britain's island status") and tactical considerations (i.e., "echoes of a Napoleonic tactical misstep").

A. The passage never states that Hitler failed to demoralize his opponents. Although Hitler's losses over England and in the USSR likely caused Hitler to fail in demoralizing his opponents, this is a consequence of losing not an explanation for why Hitler's military campaign failed in the first place.

B. This answer matches the author's explanation, given in the final paragraph.

C. The passage does not mention international resolve. Although Hitler's losses over England and in the USSR likely strengthened international resolve, this is a consequence of losing not an explanation for why Hitler's military campaign failed in the first place.

D. Technological advancements on the part of either Hitler's forces or those of his enemies are never mentioned.

E. The passage never speaks of whether Hitler consolidated his gains and there is not enough evidence to make any type of inference.


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