13

Update to the question, contains spoilers for "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald":

In the speech that Grindelwald gives to his supporters in Paris (in 1927), he references future events, including WWII, the holocaust and the atomic bomb. One can assume that the events leading up to his battle with Dumbledore have a definite connection to WWII, although it is not clear exactly what that connection is.


Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in 1945. From the books you get the impression that Grindelwald was the most terrifying thing to happen at the time. But we know that among muggles, that was the time of the holocaust, WWII and the first nuclear attacks. As scary as the war with Grindelwald would have been, the world as a whole was facing a much bigger problem.

We also know that wizards interact with the muggle world, why else would the minister of magic talk to the British prime minister? Presumably, good wizards care about muggle well being as much as they do about magical people's well being. They could also intervene in the affairs of muggles and cover their tracks or make whatever happened look like natural events.

But then that raises the question, why didn't Dumbledore, given his powers, intervene in WWII to stop Hitler and the holocaust?

I can think of 3 possible answers:

  1. In the Potterverse WWII never happened, and so Grindelwald was the biggest problem facing humanity (both wizards and muggles) at the time.
  2. As good as the wizards seem in the books, they actually are pretty self centered and don't really care about muggles at all. As long as the wizarding community is safe, the muggles could commit all the genocides and nuclear attacks they wanted, magical people wouldn't care less.
  3. The events of WWII were all actually side effects of the battle between Dumbledore and Grindelwald (Or Grindelwald and the Nazis were both side effects of some greater underlying evil phenomenon). That's why both Grindelwald and Hitler were defeated in 1945.

Which one of 1, 2 or 3 is most likely? Or is there another explanation?

  • 8
    While I don't really know it, I'm pretty sure version 3 is correct. Otherwise it wouldn't have to be 45 specifically. – Mario Jan 28 '17 at 8:45
  • 3
    I'm pretty sure we're gonna see this in further franchise films. – Gallifreyan Jan 28 '17 at 8:53
  • 6
    But there is a mistake here, nonetheless. People tend to focus on Hitler, assuming that if he had suffered a mysterious accident, the whole war machine of Nazi Germany would have collapsed. The opposite is the case. In the later days of the war, the Allies considered it desirable for Hitler to be in power, since he was unstable and significantly less competent than many of his immediate underlings. – Adamant Jan 28 '17 at 9:02
  • 2
    A few assassinations could certainly be hidden, but that wouldn’t have stopped the Nazis. Germany was a sprawling bureaucracy, not a nation dependent on one person, or a few people. Think about it this way: If ISIS succeeding in killing the President of the United States and most members of Congress, would the United States suddenly collapse, or ignore them? Or would it simply redouble its efforts? Any action that witches and wizards could have taken that would genuinely have stopped Nazi Germany would have posed a serious risk of exposing their existence. – Adamant Jan 28 '17 at 9:06
  • 23
    Because you don't undo big historical tragedies in juvenile fiction. That'd be super weird and awkward. – RedCaio Jan 28 '17 at 9:14
28

Killing Hitler won't end World War II. There's way too many factors fueling World War II, and remember, up until about half way through, it looked very much like Nazi Germany was going to win big.

The Nazi party had full governmental and ideological control of the country. The atrocities being committed here kept under wraps; most German citizens lived a normal life, unaware of the campaign of terror being waged against their neighbors.

Hitler was the charismatic leader who organized the party, and he was definitely the Fuhrer. The concept of Führerprinzip pretty much made him de-facto dictator for Nazi Germany. But it didn't make Nazi Germany depend on him.

Depending on when you kill Hitler, it's much more likely you'll help Germany win. For a huge part of the war, Germany's "Lightning War" was doing just fine. They'd negotiated a peace with the USSR, they took over most of the mainland of Europe. America was still sitting out the war with its untouched factories and untapped industrial power. Imperial Japan was chewing their way through the Pacific. It looked like Springtime for Hitler, and Germany.

But the problem was, Hitler was insane, or was slowly slipping into insanity. He became paranoid, turning the terror of the regime on the upper crusts. He was burning billions of reichmarks on failed projects, and constantly demanding "wonder weapons" that would swiftly end the war with total victory. His initial reticence to bomb Britain had been blown away, and he took the Battle of Britain personally. He was the one who pushed the military into a two front war, during a time when the new Reich was becoming exhausted.

If you kill Hitler in the middle of the war, all you do is ensure German victory. Cooler heads would have prevailed, the regime would have softened up a bit, a truce would be called with Britain and lucrative trade deals set up with America. Japan would be convinced to satisfy themselves with the Pacific and not poke America, at least until Germany firms up its grip.

The last thing you want is a wonderwizard to step in and kill Hitler.

Killing Hitler before World War 2 wouldn't stop the National Socialists, or the war. Hitler was a key recruiter for the Nazis, and was deeply involved in the symbolism and pomp of the Nazis... but he wasn't indispensable. When he first joined the Nazis, it was as a spy and an informant, loyal to the government. It was by attending these meetings that he became radicalized, but not too radicalized. But remember: It was the men around him at the top, running propaganda, organizing the SS and the death squads, who actually made the Evil Nazi stock character possible. Those people would still have migrated to the party, and who knows where that would lead.

A startling number of people were, willfully or not, ignorant of just how totally evil the Nazis were. There were Nazi supporters here in America, even through the first stages of the war. When reports of the concentration camps came out, most people refused to believe it. When soldiers SAW the concentration camps, they refused to believe it. Surely nobody could be THAT evil. With the ability of hindsight, we can see that defeating the Nazis would be an imperative, but from their point of view... they might not realize it until it's too late.

My best guess is that the Wizarding community took a glimpse into the future, got some prophesies, and noticed that everything they tried to promote peace ended up worse than the WWII that we got today. Kill Hitler, and Germany doesn't lose; that's a pretty good reason to not kill Hitler, and it's a pretty good reason to make sure no wizards interact with the war.

Considering Germany's Wonder Weapons, and the huge leaps and bounds in technology that came from the war, are we sure no wizards participated? They just wore lab coats or tweed jackets and participated in the research and development. Figuring out the V rockets, or setting up "RADAR." Or using their skills to become an ace in the skies of Britain during the Blitz. They dare not use their powers in the open, or else they'll be taken by their own governments and torn apart to figure out how they work... or worse, they'll be used for those very missions they need to avoid turning the world on its ear.

I can imagine Churchill thumping the desk in the Ministry of Magic demanding to know why the wizards haven't sent squads of soldiers into enemy territory, and being told that the wizards have their own mutually assured destruction; as long as all wizards stay OUT, everyone will stay out. But if any side is seen to be assisting their side, the other side's wizards will support their side as well.

And it won't be wizard against wizard; it'll be wizard against fleets, wizard against army battalions, wizard against entire air force wings. Their force is so strong, they won't be competing with each other, they'll be decimating the muggles. And even Churchill would have to consider the repercussions of that.

  • 3
    Considering the total lack of interest and skill wizards display concerning muggle technology, the R&D approach seems rather unlikely. – CodesInChaos Jan 28 '17 at 9:38
  • 8
    Wizards would make great spies. Teleportation, unlocking spells, shape changing, listening spells and even limited invisibility. True name detection spells (like the marauder's map) would be great for counter intelligence. Perhaps the whole "Britain cracked enigma" claim was only a post-war cover up for wizard spies ;) – CodesInChaos Jan 28 '17 at 9:40
  • 4
    I think your answer is undermined by a lot of tenuous speculation that has no basis in canon. – The Giant of Lannister Jan 29 '17 at 12:07
  • 7
    Just remember that everyone kills Hitler their first time going back. – EvilSnack Feb 15 '17 at 4:44
  • 2
    @CodesInChaos For the record, Britain didn't crack the Enigma. The Poles did, and then the British improved the engineering and the Americans provided manufacturing and labor. – MissMonicaE Mar 15 '17 at 12:19
20

Because of the International Statute of Secrecy.

Leaving aside the history of World War 2, intervention in Muggle affairs is strictly off-limits. The Statute of Secrecy forbade any disclosure of magic to Muggles, and had been in place for a good few years by the turn of the war.

“Upon the signature of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1689, wizards went into hiding for good. It was natural, perhaps, that they formed their own small communities within a community."
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 16, Godric's Hollow).

It's right to say that an exception is made for the Muggle Prime Minister but any further magical intervention is strictly prohibited.

I don't think that any of the three possibilities in the question hold water. World War 2 definitely happened in the Potterverse, and not as a result of Grindelwald and Dumbledore. This question deals with some of the connections between Grindelwald and World War 2. I imagine that we'll only be able to speak definitively on that link when the Fantastic Beasts series of films is fully released. As for wizards not caring about the affairs of Muggles, that may have been true for some wizards but not for Dumbledore. He had changed a lot from his days as an architect of wizarding supremacy over Muggles. He would've been aware of what was going on in the Muggle world and concerned about the outcome of World War 2. There are two main reasons why I don't think he would have involved himself in the war, however, even had the Statute of Secrecy allowed him to.

  1. Dumbledore not an interventionalist. He only fought Grindelwald when he felt that he had no other option.

    "I delayed meeting him until finally, it would have been too shameful to resist any longer. People were dying and he seemed unstoppable, and I had to do what I could."
    (Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35, King's Cross).

    A large part of that was to do with his personal connection with Grindelwald and the fear Dumbledore had about knowing whether or not he had accidentally struck down his sister. But Dumbledore's tone suggests that he was unwilling to go to war voluntarily. He doesn't lust for violence. Taking on Hitler would not be something he would've felt naturally inclined towards. Fighting a Muggle may also have reminded him of his previous beliefs on Muggle suppression. He may have wanted to avoid that temptation.

  2. Dumbledore had his hands full with Grindelwald. As the question mentions, Hitler and Grindelwald both met their downfall in 1945. If Dumbledore was fighting Grindelwald during this period then he would've had little time/energy left to organise a fight against Hitler.

  • 1
    'intervention in Muggle affairs is strictly off-limits.' True. But yet from pottermore.com/writing-by-jk-rowling/ministers-for-magic : Archer Evermonde 1912 - 1923 In post during the Muggle First World War, Evermonde passed emergency legislation forbidding witches and wizards to get involved, lest they risk mass infractions of the International Statute of Secrecy. Thousands defied him, aiding Muggles where they could. I'm still trying to figure out what Rowling is getting there exactly because of what you cite... Nothing with the Second World War Minister though. – Pryftan Sep 23 '17 at 0:24
  • @Pryftan The statute of secrecy was in place in both peacetime and wartime. – The Dark Lord Sep 23 '17 at 6:00
  • I didn't suggest the contrary? I have no idea where you got that idea from but either way I say it now: I wasn't suggesting that it wasn't in place. I know very well it was in place: many many years before the First and Second World Wars. – Pryftan Sep 24 '17 at 18:25
  • 1
    @Pryftan. Oh, I understand the relevancy of your quote now. I missed it the first time. – The Dark Lord Sep 24 '17 at 22:39
  • No worries :) I'm guilty of the same thing most assuredly more than I'd like to admit. Admitting and bettering it is what matters - like you did. – Pryftan Sep 25 '17 at 23:44
3

You mention both the Holocaust and the atomic bombing of Japan in your question, but you're forgetting one important detail: the general public weren't aware of either of these events.

None of the allies knew of the scale of the Holocaust until Hitler's Germany was in its final weeks. The wizarding population of the UK, France, the US, etc. would be even more blissfully ignorant as they would not be directly involved in the fighting; this was a Muggle war between Muggles and the International Statute of Secrecy forbade intervention. It's easy to see in hindsight to say the Nazis were 'the bad guys' were but back then this was all just politics. The magical community would want to keep out of it.

And that speaks for the magical community of Germany as well. From what we know of the witches and wizards that we meet in the books, Muggle politics (as well as just about everything else about Muggle life) is a mystery to them - they simply don't care. They're also isolated and tend to live in the country; it's likely most wouldn't even notice the segregation of the Jewish population. And again, the true nature of the Holocaust wasn't broadcast so there's no reason to assume even the German Ministry of Magic knew what was going on.

As for the bombing of Japan, that's a slightly different matter but you have to bear in mind that this was a country that had been at war in some form or another for decades. In this case the Japanese Ministry of Magic would be aware that the country was losing, and may even have been warned by MACUSA of an impending attack. It's no secret that the US dropped fliers with a warning several days before the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and any magical communities would hopefully have been evacuated. But that's all they can do - again, there's no way of interfering without revealing the entire wizarding world. Even then, there was still a war on - a war between Muggles that had nothing to do with wizarding politics. There was nothing that could be done - either Japan would be invaded, which would cost millions of American and Japanese lives, or the bombs could be dropped, costing tens of thousands of lives and forcing Japan's surrender. Wizarding simply couldn't de-escalate the situation from such a scale.

  • You're basically agreeing with #2 in your analysis. – Alex Kinman Mar 15 '17 at 4:54
  • @AlexKinman I'm not saying they don't care about Muggles though, I'm saying they're either unaware or unable to do anything about it. – Cooper Mar 15 '17 at 16:07
  • 2
    None of the allies knew about the scale of the Holocaust, Actually, while Allies knew about it since Hitler started invasion of Soviet Union, the info wasn't made public until 17th Dec 1942, almost three years before the fall of the Reich, When British Foreign Secretary issued a statement in House of Commons condemning Germany on "Mass Execution of Jews in Occupied Europe". Given the choice of the Words, It is clear that they were aware of the scale by then. – Aegon Sep 27 '17 at 15:34
3

For the same reason Axis wizards didn't take out Allied leaders

In addition to the other answers, I felt one important aspect of the situation was overlooked. Wizards are an international community, and are generally on good terms with one another (obviously there have been a few major wizarding wars, but those were not between wizarding governments or nationalities).

Wizards choose to stay out of the affairs of muggles in part because if they don't, then start getting pulled into national politics. They already isolate themselves enough from the muggle community, so there's no sense in getting involved when it would put them at odds with foreign wizards. The end result would only be their own annihilation.

Imagine if Churchill were to be assassinated by a Nazi wizard. What would be the reaction of the British wizarding community? While the two aren't wholly equivalent, I could still imagine there being some wizards in agreement with Hitler, whose only reason to stay uninvolved is greater loyalty to the magical community. Break that, and all bets are off.

2

It may be very illuminating to reference the exchange between the MACUSA and the Ministry of Magic at the start of the American Revolutionary War (from Pottermore):

The issue for discussion was: did the magical community owe their highest allegiance to the country in which they had made their homes, or to the global underground wizarding community? Were they morally obliged to join American No-Majs in their fight for liberation from the British Muggles? Or was this, simply put, not their fight?

The arguments for and against intervention were protracted and the fight became vicious. Pro-interventionists argued that they might be able to save lives; anti-interventionists that wizards risked their own security by revealing themselves in battle. Messengers were sent to the Ministry of Magic in London to ask whether they intended to fight. A four-word message returned: ‘Sitting this one out.’ McGilliguddy’s famous response was even shorter: ‘Mind you do.’ While officially the American witches and wizards did not engage in battle, unofficially there were many instances of intervention to protect No-Maj neighbours and the wizarding community celebrated Independence Day along with the rest of American society – although not necessarily alongside them.

1

Adding to the previous answers of ISoS and Axis wizards not assassinating Allied leaders, I would say that Dumbledore lacked the capability.

Assume wizards participated directly in Muggle war (even without trying to break ISoS).

What would it lead to?

It would most probably mean participation on both sides -- there should be wizards in Germany sympathetic to Nazi propaganda. One could speculate even that Hitler's obsession with mysticism might be part of some Nazi-sympathetic wizard(s) at least partly breaking ISoS to support him.

If Axis wizards participated in WW2, then some of them would probably be tasked with protecting Hitler.

It is one thing to assassinate a Muggle, protected by Muggles.

It is quite different to single-handedly go into enemy country protected by unknown quantity and quality of wizards to do that.

There is no indication of any British wizarding organization dealing with espionage on wizard level during WW2. You'd have to devote huge resources to investigate the possibility of assassination attempt, taking into account all possible magical countermeasures and threats for it to have a chance to succeed.

And the British (and assuming other countries') wizards very rather busy with the global problems of the wizarding world at that time.

1

The answer to this question may be alluded to in the dialogue between the Prime Minister and Rufus Scrimgeour in the first chapter of Half-Blood Prince:

"But for heaven's sake — you're wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out — well — anything!"

Scrimgeour turned slowly on the spot and exchanged an incredulous look with Fudge, who really did manage a smile this time as he said kindly, "The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime Minister."

Presumably, there were magical folk who agreed with Hitler, so it would not be a simple question of wizards taking on Muggles.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.