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Initially, it was believed that Hitler was the all-powerful Fuhrer who had no fear of being contradicted by the rest of his party; and therefore, the events that followed his rise to power were intentional from the very beginning. This supports Dawidowicz’s view that the Final solution could be traced back to Mein Kampf, however, as it was much easier for people to believe that a single person alone was responsible for the whole atrocity. This view was forwarded by Contemporary Historians, such as, Hermann Beukema.
In his book Contemporary Foreign Governments published in 1949 he describes the “totalitarian state”1 formed by Hitler. This may be due to the effectiveness of the Nazi propaganda, which led people to believe in the strength of Hitler’s character and image, and so over the years, with the benefit of hindsight, historians have continued to re-interpret Hitler’s leadership style. Peterson highlights how Hitler frequently didn’t rule on issues instead “Hitler’s will”2 was used which was governed by an assumption of what the Fuhrer would have wanted, not always what had been explicitly ordered.
Kristallnacht is often cited as a key event to highlight this. Hitler was not in any way involved in the planning or action taken on the 9th-10th November 1938; instead it was Goebbels’s implementing ‘Hitler’s will’. Peterson realises that there is one flaw with this method; no one can accurately judge what an individual would want and how they would react and so majority of the rulings were “largely a mirage”3. This is further supported by Mommsen’s view that Hitler was “unwilling to take decisions” and mainly “concerned with upholding his prestige.”4. Alternately, this can be opposed by the fact that Hitler often proposed revolutionary ideas to a crowd, who, for all he knew, could react in a negative manner, an example being the Nuremberg Laws.
From this it can still be argued that it was the power of Hitler’s speeches and charisma that won many over to the Nazi cause, as highlighted by Goebbels, “His ability to reach the masses is unique and remarkable, fitting no organizational scheme.”5 This is further emphasised when looking at the Nuremberg Laws. They were revolutionary and so they disprove the view Mommsen’s held that Hitler was “concerned with upholding his prestige.”6 However, Kershaw offers another viewpoint which takes into consideration both of the previously mentioned styles of leadership and suggests that the Nazi policies reflected Hitler’s overall vision. It infers that although it may not have been his wish for one specific thing to occur, the occurrence of it would help to achieve the final goal and thus it was indirectly approved.
So, theoretically, Kershaw is saying that the Nazi party knew that Hitler wished to create a Volk full of strong Aryans and so conjured up a method to rid Germany of the Jews. However, this would have shown extremely weak leadership from Hitler as he would have been unaware of major policies occurring in his own country.
Kershaw also suggests that if Hitler did wish to intervene then his views were not challenged and he was allowed to overrule at any time. The following diary entry by Goebbels supports this view as Goebbels seems to be genuinely surprised at how Hitler’s will is being carried out. ” The Fuhrer’s prophecy is coming true in the most terrible way”7, suggests that Hitler’s will was taken by the Hitler’s followers and then turned into coherent policy. In order for the holocaust to have occurred someone must have initially listened to Hitler’s speech, concocted a plan of action and then implemented it in the name of Hitler, not through his direct ruling.
It must first be established when the final solution was planned or if was an evolutionary extension of Nazi racial policy. L. Dawidowicz argues that the Final solution was being planned as early as 1923 whilst Hitler was writing Mein Kampf. She argues that “Mein Kampf was the basic treatise of Hitler’s ideas, where he brought together the three essential components that formed the embryonic concept of the final solution.”8 It is undeniable that the three essential components for the holocaust did exist in Mein Kampf; Hitler’s Anti-Semitism, his desire to punish the Jews and Hitler’s violent nature, but nonetheless, Hitler did not link these three components together within it.
Dawidowicz, uses the benefit of hindsight to draw these links together and although this is a logical step, we should not assume that Hitler personally made these links. The phrase “Hitler’s ideas” is of key importance. Mein Kampf was written by Hitler and was not written by the Nazi Regime and therefore it can be argued that it is only Hitler’s ideas and not the Nazi Party’s policy. In viewing Nazi party literature, the fundamental anti-Semitic view is portrayed; however, there is no mention, or implication of the planning of the final solution. An example of this is the 25-point programme, published in 1920.
“4. Only members of the nation may be citizens of the State. Only those of German blood, whatever be their creed, may be members of the nation. Accordingly, no Jew may be a member of the nation.
5. Non-citizens may live in Germany only as guests and must be subject to laws for aliens.”9
In this case, Dawidowicz’s emphasis on Mein Kampf is substantiated because Hitler became the Nazi party leader in 1921, after this he continued to publish new literature. After his stay in jail in 1923-1924 he restructured the party and re-wrote the literature, therefore many of the ideas portrayed in Mein Kampf would have been placed into Nazi party literature.
Dawidowicz could also be seen to be placing far too much emphasis on a small section where Hitler states if only 12,000 Jews had been gassed in World War One instead of the German soldiers then “the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain”10. This is just a theory forwarded by Hitler. It by no means, meant he was planning the Holocaust, as highlighted by critics of Dawidowicz’s work. They use the evidence that Mein Kampf is 694 pages long and this short extract has been taken out of context. Mein Kampf does show Hitler’s Anti-Semitism, nonetheless, does not show sufficient evidence to say that Hitler was planning the Holocaust in 1924 whilst writing Mein Kampf, instead Dawidowicz turns Hitler’s conceit into policy.
Flemming highlight’s Hitler’s deeply held Anti-Semitism from a young age “in 1904 at the tender age of fifteen, ‘a pronounced Anti-Semite.”11 He then supports these claims with the evidence of Hitler’s love for the music of Anti-Semite Richard Wagner. This is very tenuous link, and relies on a stereotypical view being established. It is another example of historians working backwards from an event in order to pick up innocuous points. Flemming continues to argue that keywords from Wagner’s work were commonplace in Hitler’s speeches; words such as “elimination”, “ridding” and “reduction”. Again, his is a very tenuous link and can only be seen if you know what eventually happened. It can therefore be seen that Mein Kampf did not contain the blue print for genocide, however, did contain some of Hitler’s Anti-Semitic policies.
More moderate intentionalists however, argue that the Holocaust had been decided on no later then 1939. The Prophecy speech (January 30th 1939) is used greatly by historians such as Richard Breitmann to support this view, one line in particular where Hitler says if another war is started by Jewish financiers then “the result would be the annihilation of the entire Jewish race in Europe”12. However, by this point, severe sanctions had already been placed upon the German Jews during 1938, which would prevent the Jewish people from accumulating enough money to formulate a formal attack upon Germany. An example of this is the “decree entitled ‘For the Elimination of Jews from the German Economic Life'”13 signed by Goering on 12th November 1938.
This meant that Jews were banned from trades, shops and businesses, leaving them with very little income. Therefore, Breitman’s emphasis on this line may appear to be slightly unfounded. It is clear by the laws and regulations already imposed by the Nazi government that the Jewish financiers could not finance any form of rebellion due to their exclusion from the German economy, where much of their wealth lay. I. Kershaw emphasises that it clearly came as a surprise to Goebbels in 1940 when plans were laid down as he wrote in his diary ” the Fuhrer’s prophecy is coming true in the most terrible way”14, shows that Goebbel’s has only just realised the seriousness of the situation, it is now clear to him that Hitler was serious about carrying out his previous threat in the “Prophecy speech”.
However, Goebbels does not state which prophecy is coming true, therefore it could still be argued that the quotation cited is taken out of context and could be talking about how the war is shaping up, with Germany conquering most of Europe including France, so in order for Kershaw’s debate to be considered another form of evidence would be needed to support this quotation, as it has been highlighted that there is more then one of Hitler’s Prophecies that could have been “coming true”15 during this period.
Henig agrees that it is “difficult to argue it was coherently planned”16 highlighting the Madagascar plan as evidence for this because “Why would you force them out of the continent if you planned to kill them.”17 Henceforth, she shows the belief that early planning did not occur. Henig explains that in 1933 there was no clear strategy; instead, there were a lot of chaotic actions taken by individuals, including both Kristallnacht and the introduction of the first concentration camps. These concentration camps were used to hold political opposition after the introduction of the Enabling act. Not to hold Jews. However, it could also have been seen as a way to ensure no one would interfere with the Final solution. By ensuring political opposition is imprisoned within concentration camps the Nazi party then gave themselves free rule to do as they wished in terms of the Jewish Question.
Henig continues to argue that the segregation of Jews in the local community and in schools was down to individual local action. It was not a Nazi directive. However, her view can be queried because although the Nazi regime may not have specifically said to exclude the Jews, there had been Anti-Semitic propaganda circulated around Germany and many Anti Jewish rallies such as “The Jews are our Misfortune!”18 by Julius Streicher in 1932. The Nazis also encouraged the boycott of Jewish shops on 1st April 1933, clearly trying to segregate the Jews from the rest of the German public. However, Henig does highlight that the violence towards the Jews depended on the strength of the Nazi regime in the area.
This is supported by the fact that Nazi strongholds such as Munich experienced a lot more violence then rural areas, possibly due to the creation of the Volksgemeinschaft as this lead to the larger cities becoming more of a community leading to a unification of ideas and a strong Nazi ethos. This was provided by the Gaulieter. Contrastingly, in rural areas people saw less of each other and their local Gaulieter, therefore the ethos was not pressured upon them as much and as a result they were less inclined to act upon Nazi orders. This was proved during Kristallnacht, as although the violence was nationwide “The pogrom proved especially destructive in Berlin and Vienna”19.
Henig continues to highlight the progressive strength of the Anti-Semitic measures. 1935 saw the introduction of Racial purity laws and racial defile laws (Within the Nuremberg Laws) and with these stringent measures in place there was a mass exit of Jews from Germany. Wasserstein suggests around 40,00020 Jews relocated to Palestine between 1933 and 1938 under the Havaara Agreement. Furthermore, “By the end of 1938 an estimated 150,000 Jews had emigrated”21 to either Palenstine or ‘safe’ parts of Europe which accepted the Jews such as Holland, France and the United Kingdom. However a huge problem soon arose which stemmed from the Nazi policy of Leibensraum. As the Nazi government started their expansion of Germany, gaining control over a wider area, they started to obtain more Jewish people within their control, so although they may have driven 150,00022 Jews to leave Germany by 1938, during Auchluss 200,00023 more Jews were now under Nazi rule.
This shows that the Nazi’s policy was evolutionary. They started by concentrating on one area of Jewish policy and then eventually broadened their horizons. Hening says that the Nazi government still continued to persevere with enforced emigration and the possible implementation of the Madagascar plan. However, in order for this to occur Germany had to come to some form of an agreement with Britain as they had control over the waters upon which the transportation ships would have to sail. Henig supports the fact that the Madagascar plan was still the Nazis main plan in terms of dealing with the Jews by citing a diary entry by Goebbels on 17th April 1940 where he states that the Nazis are still intent on shipping the Jews to Madagascar.
Henig and others highlight 1941 as the key year of which the Final solution took shape. She states “Up until 1941 the Final solution did not relate to massacre, only the shipping out of Jews over Europe”24. 1941 was the start of the Final solution, as we know it for several reasons. Firstly, Britain had survived the Battle of Britain and still controlled the seas, therefore meaning that constant shipping to and from Madagascar would alert the British of the Nazi policy and in addition ships could be attacked for sailing in foreign waters. After this, the invasion of the Soviet Union led to thousands of Jews becoming trapped under Nazi rule. Finally, the Nazi policy of Euthanasia meant that a policy of mass extermination had already been tried and tested with 70,000 disabled and terminally ill people already being killed between 1937-1941.
Again Henig draws links between policies. She automatically assumes that the Nazi regime had linked the Euthanasia policy and the Jewish Question, although before 1941 there had been no plan to murder the Jewish people. However, by explaing the situational factors this creates a firmer argument. It is clear that a policy change was needed as the Jewish people were becoming more problematic. Therefore, at some point during 1941 there was a clear policy decision to exterminate the Jews. Henig highlights the summer of 1941 as being the start of the Final Solution. She states that this is when the order for the extermination of all Eastern European Jews was sent out.
This is logical because it meant as Germany was conquering land during their invasion of the Soviet Union they could exterminate the Jews, instead of them remaining unwanted under their command. It can further be highlighted that as the Nazi regime had already used the policy of enforced emigration they could have continued this and pushed the Jews out of Europe into Asia; meaning the implementation of the Final Solution could have been delayed or even avoided, and so Henigs choice of the phrase “trapped under Nazi rule”25 is not strictly true. However, it is also argued that this command was aimed at all Jews who were under Nazi control; the problem which occurs here is that nothing was ever written down by Hitler about his commands of the mass extermination of the Jews and therefore it is difficult to pinpoint the exact date or wording of the order.
Henig then highlights September 1941 as the time that the mass extermintation of all Jews was called for. She supports this by explaining by this point it has been realised that an easy victory over the Soviet Union was not going to occur and therefore freeing Nazi Germany of the traitorous Jews would in Redles’ words “prevent a repeat of World War I”26.
This links back to Mein Kampf as Hitler clearly highlighted in his work that he blamed the Jews for the loss of World War one. Howeverthe Wannsee Conference did not take place until January 1942, which is where the implementation of the practical aspects of the Final Solution were discussed, this allows a huge time gap between when Henig suggests the order went out and the actual implementation of the order. However a diary entry by Gobbels written on 12th December 1941 reads “The world war is here, and the annihilation of Jewry must be the necessary consequence.”27, which supports Henig’s view as it suggests that the Final Solution is already being planned and set in motion.
Overall it is very difficult to pin point an exact date at which the Final Solution manifested itself in the manner we know of today. When studying the topic we have to be extremely cautious not to draw links which were not made at the time. Some of Flemming’s and Dawidowicz’s work highlight this as they see logical steps and assume that was how it happened without using any substantial evidence.
Therefore, it can be seen that the fundamental concept of the final solution was present in Mein Kampf, however Hitler had yet to come up with a method to carry out his revenge on the Jews, and by no means had he at this point decided that the revenge was to be murder. Instead the Final solution stemmed from the evolution of Nazi Racial policy, however, at what point this did turn from exclusion, into persecution and mass murder cannot be stated exactly due to the lack of evidence in relation to the matter left by Hitler and the Nazi party, and due to the cahotic manner in which the Final Solution began due to Hitler’s style of leadership.
1 Contemporary Foreign Governments- page xv
2 Weimar and Nazi Germany- page 190
3 Weimar and Nazi Germany- page 186
4 Weimar and Nazi Germany- page 190
5 Joseph Goebbels, “Der Fï¿½hrer als Redner,” page 30
6 Weimar and Nazi Germany- page 190
7 Hitler, 1936-1945: 1936-1945: Nemesis- page 459
8 The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945, Page 201
10 Mein Kampf- Page 528
11 Hitler and the Final Solution- page4
13 Nazi Conspiracy and aggression- Page 724
14 Hitler, 1936-1945: 1936-1945: Nemesis- page 459
15 Hitler, 1936-1945: 1936-1945: Nemesis- page 459
16 Talk at Carrs Lane 22/5/08
17 Talk at Carrs Lane 22/5/08
18 Nazi Poster advertising the event
20 Britain and the Jews of Europe. Page 6
21 Britain and the Jews of Europe. Page 6
22 Britain and the Jews of Europe. Page 6
23 Talk at Carrs Lane 22/5/08
24 Talk at Carrs Lane 22/5/08
25 Talk at Carrs lane 22/5/08
26 Talk at Carrs Lane 22/5/08
27 Hitler’s Millennial Reich: Apocalyptic Belief and the Search for Salvation page 182