Hitler's Personal Desire for Genocide Led to the Holocaust: True or False?

The Holocaust was not the result of Hitler’s desire for genocide, but rather stemmed from Hitler’s desire for genocide. Hitler’s desire for genocide meant that he was able to create the circumstances in Germany under which genocide could be possible, and encourage other individuals, such as Himmler to become involved. It is clear from Hitler’s first public statements made as early as 1920 that he had a long term desire for the extermination of the Jews “there can be no compromise – there are only two possibilities: either victory of the Aryan, or annihilation of the Aryan and the victory of the Jew.

This suggests that Hitler perceives himself as defender of the Aryan race, for the Aryan’s to be victorious the Jew’s must die and thus his desire for genocide. Hitler’s strong anti-Semitic beliefs can be seen in the 25 point programme, Mein Kampf and the increasingly discriminatory measures, Dawidowicz[1] asserts these advocate his vision for the final solution.

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However, some historians have used Mein Kampf and discriminatory measures in order to discredit the view Hitler had a desire for genocide, but have suggested that they are indicative of a gradual movement to the “final solution” which ‘preceded rather than followed on from a central decision to carry out the genocide of European Jews. ’[2] Furthermore, although Hitler had a proven vision for genocide this alone did could not lead to the Holocaust, he needed to put this vision into action.

However, one of Hitler’s main restraints in doing so, was his personality as he was legendary for hesitating with almost disastrous effects, when faced with grave decisions, such as the Roehm Purge, the Munich Crisis and whether to run in the presidential election of 1932.

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Therefore mass killings of about one million Jews occurred before the plans of the Final Solution were fully implemented in 1942, indeed Hitler had a desire for genocide but lacked plan.

Himmler therefore became the catalyst as he was the ‘architect of the final solution’ [3] who had the qualities Hitler lacked such as the organizational talent that was necessary for the annihilation of the Jew’s, This enabled him to translate Hitler’s vision of a “racially pure Europe” into a reality, culminating in the mass killing of over six million Jews between 1939 and 1945. Hitler’s anti-Semitic ideology layed the foundation for the Holocaust.

By 1924, Hitler’s had made his stance towards Jews undeniably clear “it by no means believes in an equality of races, but along with their difference it recognizes their higher or lesser value and feels itself obliged to promote the victory of the better and stronger, and demand the subordination of the inferior and weaker in accordance with the eternal will that dominates this universe. ” This suggests that Hitler felt obligated to make the Jews surbordinate to ‘Aryans’, and exclude them from society which the Nazi’s used as justification for the Holocaust.

The anti-Semitic ideology Hitler expressed paid contribution to the process of the Holocaust. There were many early references to gassing made by Hitler, which became an integral part of the extermination process. “If at the beginning of the War and during the War, twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under the poison gas, as happened to hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers in the field, the sacrifice of millions would not have been in vain. [4] Based on his avowed anti-Semitism as early as Mein Kampf (1923) and his early statements (1939) that Jews would be completely destroyed if they plunged Germany into another world war, therefore all decisions, political and military, were made with an eye to the ultimate extermination of the Jews. However, historians such as Dawidowitz have come under sustained criticism for using Mein Kampf as evidence that Hitler had a desire for genocide. As Mein Kampf is 684 pages long, there are few and far between references to the annihilation of Jews.

However, the fact that gassing became an integral part of the extermination camp suggests that ideas in Mein Kampf were meant to be carried out when it became possible in which case demonstrate a long term desire for genocide. However, historians have criticised the use of Hitler’s ideology as proof that he had a true desire for genocide, but have suggested that he had a desire for power and sought genocide in order to gain the support from what has been perceived as anti- Semitic Germany. Hitler used the Jews as scapegoats by presenting them as the culprits of Imperial Germany’s downfall and subsequent economic problems as well.

Consequently, historians have suggested that Hitler, with a knowledge that Germany was highly anti-Semitic, capitalised on their desire for the Jews to be exterminated in order to consolidate his power, as he believed people would have voted for him on the basis of his anti-Semitic ideologies. This is supported by Goldhagen[5] who suggests that anti-Semitism that was rampant in Germany before Hitler and Shulamit Vulkov’s [6]interpretation of the late nineteenth centuries anti-Semitism as a ‘cultural code. However, Hitler’s desire for genocide was genuine as he gained votes not because of his anti-Semitism, but in spite of it. This is demonstrated throughout the 20’s in which Germany had shown any interest in voting for Hitler even with his vehemently anti-Semitic ideas, but after the Great Depression the number of Nazi seats in the Reichstag rose from 12 in 1928 to 230 in July 1932. This suggests the German people voted for Hitler, because of the failings of Weimar and not because they agreed with his anti- Semitic beliefs.

This is corroborated by Browning “For the Jewish issue was but one among many, neither top priority nor source of the greatest fear”. [7] This is also supported by the poor sales of Mein Kampf before Hitler came to power. Similarly, an abridged English translation of Mein Kampf was produced before World War II and the publisher removed some of the more anti-Semitic and militaristic statements. This implies that Hitler’s desires were genuine rather than pragmatic as his ideology was not particular popular until he was in power.

However, Hitler once in power, this desire was to be the inspiration behind the legislation he introduced. Hitler’s visions before he was in power, once in power put into action in legislation, which was reflective of his long term desire for genocide. The first wave of legislation introduced limited participation of Jews in public life with the ‘Law of the restoration of service Act’ April 7th 1933. In 1935 the Nuremburg laws were introduced, excluding Jews from German life. By 1937 the government had forbidden Jewish doctors to treat non-Jews and revoked the licenses of Jewish lawyers to practice law.

Between 1933 and 37 the legislation became more oppressive and far reaching in an attempt to gradually initiate Hitler’s ‘final solution’. Hitler wanted de-sensitize the German population as he was aware that to initiate the final solution immediately would face huge opposition, and so would introduce increasingly discriminatory measures. Hitler’s fears were realised in April 1933 when Hitler attempted to introduce a one-day national boycott of Jewish shops and businesses, but the boycott failed to gain the support of the population as many Germans were either sympathetic or indifferent towards the Jews.

This undermines Goldhagen’s position that Germany was largely anti-Semitic as it is clear that Hitler is almost restrained by the German people. The legislation that Hitler introduced has also been criticised as not representative for his desire for genocide. Lebensraum and the Madagascar plan were both designed for the forced emigration of the Jews. This suggests that Hitler did not desire genocide as he would not have wasted time trying to put these plans into action, only to exterminate the Jews.

This is supported by A Farmer “Nazi Jewish policy from September 1939 to early May 1941 seems to have been largely improvised little had been planned before 1939, given the constantly changing decisions nothing was inevitable”. [8] Therefore, Farmer suggests that the legislation was not part of a long term plan to de-sensitize the Jews but was ad-hoc and sporadic whilst Hitler searched for a “final solution”. Although the legislation does often illustrate that there was no consistency in Nazi policy, it was not as Roseman suggested “but it was not yet decided that the final solution meant murder alone”. 9] The fact that there appeared to be no plan, is not indicative that Hitler did not have a desire for genocide. Hitler’s desire was deep-rooted although he lacked the organisational skills to be able to implement a policy of extermination single-handedly. Although Hitler did have a clear desire for genocide this alone was not enough to lead to the Holocaust as Hitler lacked the skills to be able to implement an organised plan. Therefore the holocaust could not be the result of Hitler’s desire but stemmed from Hitler’s desire.

This is because although Hitler had a desire for genocide, Himmler took this desire to the next level, making Hitler’s vision a reality. Hitler had often been perceived as disorganised and spontaneous, whereas Himmler was well organised and systematic. Brietman supports this idea in stating “Hitler needed Himmler for more practical and less emotional reasons”. “As Hitler struggled to bring both the unruly stormtroopers of the Stermabeiltung (SA), and the first Nazi parliamentary force and the tiny SS under control, he pparently picked someone both capable and unlikely to cause trouble. ”[10] Himmler allowed a systematic and organised plan for the Holocaust to take place and has led to him being infamous as the “architect of the final solution. ” However, Himmler orchestrated the final solution Heinrich Himmler was not only head of Hitler’s SS police, but was also in charge of the death camps in the East. Himmler also went beyond what was asked of him, and investigated death camps to find more effective ways of exterminating the Jews.

This suggests that it was Himmler’s desire for genocide that actually led to the Holocaust, as he transformed what began as a vision, into a reality. Although many historians agree that Hitler’s desire was the stem of the holocaust, the significance of other factors that led to the Holocaust have been highly contested. Browning has argued that the Germans also had a role to play in making sure Hitler’s desire for genocide became a reality. Christopher Browning states ‘Why did the Germans amongst the people of Europe come to play such a fateful role in the murderous climax reached in the 20th century”[11].

Goldhagen also advocates the same view stating “Endemic anti-semitism shared responsibility for moving Germany to genocide”. [12] This suggests that it was not only Hitler’s desire for genocide that led to masses of Jew’s killed but the everyday German people played a significant role. Evidence of this has been shown through a decision by normal shop and restaurant owners not to serve the Jewish population displaying placards such as “Jews not admitted” and “Jews enter this place at their own risk”.

Alfred Rosenberg and Houston Chamberlain were both writers of anti-Semitic literature and must have had an audience. However, David Bankier, Ian Kershaw and Otto Dov Kulka reached consensus that the population did not have an urgent priority for anti-semitism it was the minorities. Although the German people were pulled along by the Holocaust, it is unfair to say that they were a factor that actually led to the Holocaust. However, it is true to say that a minority did hold anti-semitic ideas and therefore could be held responsible, like Himmler for making Hitler’s desire into reality.

Sual Friedlander makes a similar distinction with “onlookers” in contrast to “activists”. The role of other individuals such as the SS and the police have been said to have contributed to the Holocaust, which would have been the “activists” Saul Friedlander spoke of. An argument has emerged that the Holocaust almost ran ahead of Hitler, as the SS began ad hoc killings taking matters into their own hands as they made makeshift gas chambers in trucks configured to pump out poisonous gas and carbon dioxide.

However, this was not the case as Hitler not only knew what was happening, but desired for it to happen on a larger scale, hence calling in Himmler to implement a plan for genocide. In addition it was a minority of German people that supported anti-Semitic, who arguably were brainwashed but Hitler anyway. As Lawrence Rees states “Whilst anti-Semitism existed is would not get people to burn synagogues”[13] suggesting that the German people did not have a desire for genocide.

Hitler and Himmler had a true desire for genocide, and it was inevitable that the German people would be pulled along. Martin Broszat held an alternative view, stating that the idea developed from practice of sporadic murders of groups of Jews led to the idea to kill all Jews systematically, rather than Hitler having a deep rooted desire for genocide. [14] Much like Roseman,[15] Martin Broszat articulates that Hitler never took a definitive decision nor issued a general order for the Final Solution.

Instead, he suggests the annihilation program developed in stages in conjunction with a series of isolated massacres at the end of 1941 and in 1942. These locally limited mass murders were improvised answers to an impossible situation that had developed as a result of two factors. First the ideological and political pressure for the creation of a Jew-free Europe that stemmed from Hitler and then the military reverses on the eastern front that led to stoppages in railway traffic and caused the buffer zones into which the Jews were to be removed to disappear.

Once the annihilation program was in progress, it gradually institutionalized itself until it was noticed that it offered the simplest solution logistically and became a program universally applied and single-mindedly pursued. This suggests that Hitler was a catalyst as opposed to a decision maker. Overall, although Hitler’s desire was the stem of the Holocaust it could not have taken place without the ‘architect’ of the final solution,[16] which was Himmler. Hitler’s early statement in 1920 epitomised his vision for genocide and this meant he put ideological and political pressure to create a Jew- free Europe.

His desire spread the seeds of anti-semitism which enabled the largely resistant-free environment for the Holocaust to happen. Himmler, with the organisational skills key to the Holocaust was able to translate Hitler’s vision into a reality by coming up with a clear and effective plan. However, the fact that Hitler had a strong and vehement desire for genocide meant that he would have found someone to implement his desire. Therefore Hitler’s desire was indeed the stem of the holocaust, but Himmler was the catalyst because Hitler lacked the skills to be able to implement a mass killing.

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Hitler's Personal Desire for Genocide Led to the Holocaust: True or False?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/holocaust-result-hitlers-personal-desire-genocide-assessment-statement-new-essay

Hitler's Personal Desire for Genocide Led to the Holocaust: True or False?
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