It happened today - November 8, 2015

On Nov. 8, 1939, Johann Georg Elser did not assassinate Hitler. Nor, to be fair, did a lot of other people. At least Elser tried.

On the whole I do not approve of assassinations. But by the time Elser set his time bomb, Hitler had started World War II. And while the Holocaust was not yet fully under way, it was fairly clear what kind of regime the Nazis had created.

I also do not approve of radical communists, which Elser apparently was. The regime Stalin had created by 1939 was no better than the Nazi one; if it was less prone to attacking its neighbours it was primarily a matter of being less well placed to do so.

Still, I do wish Elser’s bomb had killed Hitler and other top Nazis as intended, instead of killing 8 other people, and wounding 62, at the Bürgerbräukeller, the Munich beer hall from which the Nazis had launched the feeble Beer Hall Putsch 16 years earlier, on Nov. 8, 1923.

Of course, no one is ever told what would have happened. I believe there are all kinds of occasions on which removing the top Nazi leadership would have prevented World War II, or even just removing Hitler, including the 1936 remilitarization of the Rhineland, when German generals would have ousted the Nazis if the Western powers had shown any sign of resistance. But killing Hitler in November 1939 obviously could not have that result.

It could have led to the public rallying round Hitler’s Nazi successor, who would have been likely to continue the war as ruthlessly as Hitler but probably without his extraordinary daring that proved so effective in the first year. Alternatively, it might have led to the collapse of the Nazi regime and the coming to power of a nationalist equally determined to continue the war but more willing to listen to the advice of military leaders. It might even have led to the collapse of France followed by the trapping and destruction of the BEF at Dunkirk and a negotiated peace. Or to a negotiated peace in the spring of 1940, before any dramatic successes of the Blitzkrieg, with only minor adjustments in Germany’s borders.

We cannot say. But we can say that Hitler was a maniacal war leader. And virtually any of these scenarios would have meant no Holocaust on the scale that actually occurred.

So no, I cannot approve of Elser’s beliefs and I have grave reservations about his methods. But this is one assassination that should have succeeded.