The Holocaust Was Mainly a Result of a Long Term Plan by Hitler to Eliminate the Jews
- Pages: 9
- Word count: 2161
- Category: Holocaust
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Crucially, very few historians would now argue that the Holocaust itself; the carefully coordinated genocide of Europe’s Jewish population, was a long term plan by Hitler. However, the very name, “Final Solution”, clarifies the position of this policy as the culmination of a determined effort to achieve the fundamental racial objective which underpinned the Hitler’s aspirations. The inherent centrality of anti-semitism to Hitler’s ideology probably bears closest resemblance to a “long term plan”, with the “clear and constant… eliminationist desire”, as Passage C describes, the defining characteristic of the regime.
Although Passage A, correctly stresses the significance of the war in intensifying the central importance of the Jewish Question, such urgency was undoubtedly a product first and foremost of the years of relentless anti-semitism which preceded, and the perpetuation of the sense of destiny explained by Hitler himself in “The Gemlich Letter” as early as Sept 1919, “It’s final aim must unshakably be the removal of the Jews altogether”. And, while Passage A attempts to portray subsequent radicalisation as an almost inevitable product of war by linking military success to logistical strain; Hitler was in fact instrumental more contemporaneously, with his oft-repeated “prophecy” making action critical in the light of the other alternative. At this time logistics directed attention onto the escalating ideological imperative to make the Holocaust resemble the only solution to the problem which had been so firmly established in the Nazi psyche.
In the absence of any clear and detailed “long term plan” focused irreconcilably upon producing genocide; Passage C’s assessment of a “regime.. determined to undertake a task- the elimination of the Jews” , highlights the idea that the Nazis sense of purpose was the primary factor in the establishment of the “final solution”. The wording of this account is enlightening in regard to a “plan” as the author uses the phrase “long term” on three occasions, but never “plan”; rather “goals”, “intentions” and “ideal”. This draws our attention to the other key word “eliminate”, because the meaning of this was never clarified. In line with his overall argument the effect is to imply that the Holocaust in itself a long term plan, which is a misrepresentation given the author’s avoidance of this terminology. In truth, the language used by Hitler on the issue was only consistent it is obscurity.
The impassioned language of “Mein Kampf” in which he captures the ultimate task to, “produce images of the Lord and not monstrosities halfway between man and ape”, reflects an emotional involvement inseparable from the policy; though as early as the “Gemlich Letter”, Hitler claimed unique “rationality” in his anti-semitism which would define policy and ensure a stronger Germany. Passage B contradicts the idea of rationality to an extent by emphasizing the “mythical target of ‘the Jew'”, to reflect the more immediate emotive tactics employed by propagandists which were required in spite of Hitler’s firm personal belief in the logic of removing the corruptive influence of Jews. Rather than focusing solely on public opinion, which whilst relevant, was limited in its capacity to actually effect the Holocaust decision, Passage D insists upon the overall clarity of the message which meant Hitler’s ideas could be acted upon. Kershaw, who has described Hitler’s status as “the embodiment of the ‘idea’ and its organizing genius”, uses the example of his absence from the apparently crucial Wannsee Conference to illustrate the point.
The personality cult made his authority unchallengeable and even if the more detailed ‘organizing’ responsibility would actually fall upon followers striving toward his obscured but ambitious target; it was his ‘idea’ that was so instrumental, as it directed the entire radicalization process. Although these sources have different emphases, with Passage B less useful in determining the link between ideology and definitive action, they support the idea that from the level of Nazi leaders to the public, there was a clear sense of purpose instilled through constant top down propaganda which produced the necessary psychological preparedness to ultimately pursue genocide. Hitler benefitted from the obscuring of any detailed long term plan, because attention was focused on the open ended racial imperative which would inevitably lead to radicalisation as his followers came to see the Jewish Problem as one which must be solved by any means.
Passage B insists upon the importance of the popular view in German society geared toward the “eradication of those of ‘inferior value'”. There are a few key weaknesses in the case presented by the author, particularly its failure to evaluate the tangible impact of popular opinion upon the decisions made by Hitler through examples. The relevance of this apparent deterioration of “mild racialism” to the Holocaust itself seems tenuous given that and the suggestion of universal support for increasingly radical measures contradicts Passage C, which raises the issue of Hitler’s political compromises; particularly the barrier of public opinion to the escalation of anti Jewish measures.
Passage C refers to a “variety of constraints” of which “mild racialism” was the strongest initially. “Inconsistencies” in subsequent policy stemmed from the inability to immediate convince a whole society of the need to address the Jewish Question in particular, with policy defined by the dialectic between spontaneous grass roots actions and top-down action, and resulting in formal legislation such as the Nuremburg Laws which would appease aggressive Nazi followers and a more conservative majority. Hitler had his own agenda to gradually bring bureaucracy into line with his fundamental thinking and initially policy was dictated more clearly by domestic and international political concerns than the strength of ideological motivation which Hitler had previously expounded. The reactions to certain key radicalizing steps in policy, such as T4, exhibit that public appreciation of appropriate action inevitably lagged behind that of policy makers, who were forced into secrecy.
After running for some time, the organized protest of Bishop von Galen encouraged Hitler to issue the stop order. Initially justified, by the personal plea from the father of a disabled child, the euthanasia programme was once more influenced by public opinion. However, this decision only prompted Hitler to try and remove the issue from the public consciousness by moving the killing centres further east and in many ways it was a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. T4 cannot be seen directly as a dry-run for the Holocaust, but it clearly shows that Hitler was willing to orchestrate genocide to maintain the future of a stronger Germany through the Volksgemeinschaft. Importantly, the T4 programme in Germany was framed by intrusion of public voice, initially to justify and then to dissent; showing that the public character was not so unambiguous as Passage B suggests.
Passage A argues that the Holocaust itself was not a” long term plan” with the example of Heydrich’s proclamation of the Madagascar resettlement idea as “the territorial final solution”. The policy was considered seriously in spite of the obvious logistical drawbacks, suggesting a desperate pursuit of any method which would guarantee the removal of Jews. The connection of “territorial” with “final solution”, is particularly interesting in light of the Holocaust as it leaves open the possibility that Madagascar was seen merely as the culmination of efforts to apply enforce resettlement and in the event of its failure, finality may only be achievable by other means. Passage D reveals Heydrich’s pivotal radicalisation role in a rational extension of Hitler’s, “blanket authorization”.
Alongside the detail of his absence from Wannsee, the author suggests that Hitler was able to rely on open ended “authorization”, because policy was “eminently coherent” at least in direction, as Passage C correctly insists. This typifies the Nazi hierarchy and although Passage C describes early policy’s “inconsistencies”; in the situation of war, granting freedom of interpretation and action to the most trusted and committed followers on the ground meant Hitler could actually guarantee more effective “cumulative radicalisation”. Himmler emphasized an important issue, claiming, “I do nothing that the Fuhrer does not know”, showing that leading Nazis were not directed merely by a long term ideal, but consistent short term goals under Hitler’s scrutiny. The combination of clarity of initial target and the freedom to react to events produced a system which inevitably perpetuated radicalization, particularly under the strain of the war and the will to satisfy Hitler.
Passage A argues that the nature of Germany’s war effort in the east “seriously weakened the Jew’s chances of survival”. But although in retrospect we might suggest escalation into Holocaust was inevitable as this view implies, the passage loses credibility by failing to address the impact of either the long term ideology or Hitler’s involvement in decision making. Passage D, like A, refers to “annihilation”, in the context of the war which reinforces the idea that the unique conditions of war influenced an important progression in the mindset of Nazi planners.
As early as May 1940, Himmler was discussing the possibility of extending the “killing operations” of the Einsatzgruppen into genocide, but at this time regarded deportation as the “mildest and best if one rejects…physical extermination of a people… as un-German”. Just six months after Heydrich had referred to deportation as “the Final Solution” and a month before the Madagascar Plan was published, this seems to reflect serious doubt about the efficiency and feasibility of this method long term. Personally he seems to have no real moral concern with the progression into genocide suggesting that only the “psychological barriers” to which Passage A refers were holding this necessary radicalisation back by this stage. As one of Hitler’s closest followers and chief exponent of “Working towards the Fuhrer”, Himmler inevitably reflected the Fuhrer’s will and had developed significant influence. To have such a key figure seemingly prepared for genocide would appear a worrying progression towards the Holocaust; as the practicalities and urgency of war enhanced the fundamental “eliminationist desire”, causing radicalisation in the image of Hitler’s will.
It could be argued that the more time went by without a solution, the Nazi party would have simply become impatient and that “psychological barriers” would eventually be overcome, especially in light of Passage B’s suggestion that society’s determination for a strong and racially pure Germany may have been sufficiently strong to condone genocide. However the “merciless consistency”, which Passage D emphasizes as the unique product of war-time conditions, could not have been instilled amongst the general public; only directed from above.
This consistency was established by Himmler’s declaration that, “the emigration of the Jews is to be prevented with immediate effect”, showing that everything now had to be brought in line with the methods of the “final solution”. The ruthless streak was instilled by the intensification of the long held racial imperative and the nature of the system geared towards Hitler’s ideals. But when it was most needed Hitler’s involvement focused action during the final decision making. His own views trickled down quietly to direct brutal efficiency from the Einsatzgruppen, “anyone who just looks funny… should be shot”, which might naturally be extended to tackling the Jewish problem conclusively. More publicly, Hitler’s repetition of his “prophecy” as Passage D stresses was vital to convince the population of the urgency provoked by circumstance and that any solution now would definitely have to be “final” because defeat would mean the “extermination of the European-Aryan Peoples”. Most importantly Hitler recognized war as a vital turning point and the “merciless consistency” of action which it produced finally brought the nature of policy in line with the importance of task, which as Passage D implies, was a source of relief to the nation
Ultimately, the Holocaust was the culmination of a racialist imperative without which, such radical policy would not have been followed. But perhaps the length of this target was the crucial element to produce the psychological preparation required for circumstances of the war to escalate policy. The significance of the war is only realized through the response of the decision makers and it cannot be regarded as inevitable. The war presented a major logistical problem which went far beyond anything in proceeding years and called for more radical action. This urgency of the situation was enhanced by Hitler, who had long seen a European War against Jewish Bolshevism as the pivotal moment at which his ideology could be realized and his prophecy fulfilled. The seemingly spontaneous work of “men on the ground” cannot be separated from Hitler’s will because it relied upon his charismatic presence and authorization. Although practicalities became the primary concern and Nazi policy was determined by the success of the initial Einsatzgruppen killing operation, the sense of relief brought by a “mercilessly consistent” final solution was only produced by years of struggle for achievement of the shared ideological objective. Whether or not Hitler ever meant for genocide when he talked of “elimination”, will probably never be known, but the collision of a “coherent” long term target, and the intense pressure of war enforced radicalisation as a “solution” became desperate.