In his 1937 "Great Contemporaries," Winston Churchill wrote, "Whatever else may be thought about (Hitler's) exploits, they are among the most remarkable in the whole history of the world."
Churchill was referring not only to Hitler's political triumphs -- the return of the Saar and reoccupation of the Rhineland -- but his economic achievements. By his fourth year in power, Hitler had pulled Germany out of the Depression, cut unemployment from 6 million to 1 million, grown the GNP 37 percent and increased auto production from 45,000 vehicles a year to 250,000. City and provincial deficits had vanished.
In material terms, Nazi Germany was a startling success.
And not only Churchill and Lloyd George but others in Europe and America were marveling at the exploits of the Third Reich, its fascist ally Italy and Joseph Stalin's rapidly industrializing Soviet state. "I have seen the future, and it works," Lincoln Steffins had burbled. Many Western men, seeing the democracies mired in Depression and moral malaise, were also seeing the future in Berlin, Moscow, Rome.
In Germany, Hitler was winning plebiscites with more than 90 percent of the vote in what outside observers said were free elections.
What calls to mind the popularity of the Third Reich and the awe it inspired abroad -- even after the bloody Roehm purge and the Nazi murder of Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss in 1934, and the anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws -- is a poll buried in The New York Times.
In a survey of 24 countries by Pew Research Center, the nation that emerged as far and away first on earth in the satisfaction of its people was China. No other nation even came close.
"Eighty-six percent of Chinese people surveyed said they were content with the country's direction, up from 48 percent in 2002. ... And 82 percent of Chinese were satisfied with their national economy, up from 52 percent," said the Times.
Yet, China has a regime that punishes dissent, severely restricts freedom, persecutes Christians and all faiths that call for worship of a God higher than the state, brutally represses Tibetans and Uighurs, swamps their native lands with Han Chinese to bury their cultures and threatens Taiwan.
China is also a country where Maoist ideology has been replaced by a racial chauvinism and raw nationalism reminiscent of Italy and Germany in the 1930s. Yet, again, over 80 percent of all Chinese are content or even happy with the direction of the country. Two-thirds say the government is doing a good job in dealing with the issues of greatest concern to them.
And what nation is it whose people rank as third most satisfied?
Vladimir Putin's Russia.