So: I have been watching a lot of Mayday and Seconds from Disaster lately.
As a result, I’ve learned that a lot of aircraft accidents could have been prevented by someone stepping up to a maintenance man at a critical moment and saying: “Hey, what about that bit there? Looks a bit off, doesn’t it?”
A very big problem could be prevented by doing a very small thing.
If you don’t take that small step then, then you’ll be dealing with a flaming plane, an exploding engine; and at that point small solutions will not do.
Now let us apply the same to the destruction of Adolf Hitler.
Now, the usual Hitler-prevention chestnut is “Kill this child!”, which has some moral problems. Or, in cinematic adaptations, a full-on “Let’s kill the Fuehrer!” intervention, since when the man has a moustache, the moral problems go away.
But consider the parts that make up a man. His environment, of course: without the First World War, there would have been no Fuehrer. Without his upbringing, also no Fuehrer: see Boys from Brazil. But could you do the same with less?
I present to you a rustic setting in Austria in the summer of 1888: the municipality of Braunau am Inn, and the residence of Mr. Alois Hitler, a rather unsympathetic customs official who is at the moment once again failing to keep it in his pants; though at the moment he is failing along with his second wife, Klara. They have two children… well, Mr. Hitler has two children; the three that were also Klara’s died in infancy and Mr. Hitler is rather too enthusiastically and forcefully attempting the production of one more.
In mid-production, Klara whimpers: “Alois! I think someone’s—”
“Klara!” the man grunts, “I have told you I am to be addressed as Herr — Oberoffizial — Hitler!”
“—there’s someone at the window!”
At which moment the windowpane of the bedroom rattles; Alois withdraws, roaring, and, pantsless, runs outside only to see a giggling boy running away. Alois Hitler curses in best Austrian fashion, cheeks red, thinning hair in disarray, and shakes a meaty fist. A neighbor comes out, alarmed by the noise, sees the pantsless Herr Oberoffizial, and expresses disapproval. Alois flinches, fumes and retreats back inside, much as his erection has retreated already; and so Alois’s sexual desires are killed for that evening.
The next evening, there will be sex, and a semi-randomly selected sperm will meet an egg. Nine months later, 21st of April, 1889, a child will be born. Maybe a boy, maybe a girl: but in all probability a child with a different selection of Alois’s genes from a different sperm. Maybe a better artist; maybe a nicer man, a blonde, blue-eyed Adonis with no self-esteem issues; maybe just a bit less a genocidal fuckhead.
(Then again, go back to Austria in 1888 and kick a dog: maybe the dog changes ten thousand things which lead to the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna burning down: a young Adolf Hitler stands there watching the flames, says a very rude word, and goes back to the sticks to be a customs official just like his father. Very much like his father, in fact, since he’s constantly troubled by peculiarly dressed foreigners and fucking Jews who always seem to lug the sort of luggage and imports that call for an endless Germanic hell of paperwork. Truly, Mr. Hitler will be bald with frustration before he is thirty, and the time travellers will be… entertained.)
Think of all the steamy encounters that have been interrupted by the unlikely appearance of someone curious, or a scary owl, or one of the persons involved undoing the hand brake: if time travel was possible, and if changing time was possible, that might be the easiest way to undo inconvenient persons. For them, life would… end at conception.