Researchers have tried to find cogent reasons for Hitler’s pathological hatred of the Jews. Nothing in his childhood in Austria happened which might have sown the seeds of that poisonous dislike growing in his innermost soul. His military service during the Great War brought him wounds, but what influence could Jewish people have had on him in the trenches? The enemy was British or French, not Jewish.
Nevertheless the Holocaust (Facts and Figures, 1941 – 45 q.v.) also known as ‘The Final Solution’ was Hitler’s attempt to eliminate all Jews and Jewishness from Europe. Hatred of the Jewish race was part and parcel of the National Socialist creed. It is expressed throughout his book Mein Kampf, in the pages of which he makes clear that he wishes first to enslave the Semite race with forced labour, especially in the armaments industries, and subsequently destroy it in camps designed specifically for that purpose.
When Hitler arrived legally on the German scene in 1933 as Chancellor, he set about excluding Jews from German society. First he concentrated on the rich, though many of the wiser wealthy Jews had foreseen what would happen and already removed themselves to other, supposedly safer countries. Switzerland and Britain were two of these, but the Jews who imagined Norway, Denmark, Finland and even Russia were safe were wrong.
Prominent Jews in public positions were fired without compensation and forced to leave their homes, also without compensation. The same happened in the judiciary, leaving Germany with far fewer judges and lawyers. Universities lost professors and tutors, put to manual work in the factories and on the land. Commerce lost its executives, and German business suffered. These negative results failed to disturb Adolf Hitler; he was encouraged by those close to him, men such as Reinhardt Heydrich (q.v.) and Göring, to go further.
The Nuremburg Laws of 1935 deprived Jews of their German citizenship, as well as forbidding them to marry Aryans, even to have sex with Aryans; certain death encouraged them to keep the law. Then came the 1938 Kristallnacht in which mobs were incited by the Nazis to loot and burn Jewish shops and eating houses. Synagogues were burned to the ground. The rest of Europe was horrified, but Ministers continued trying to maintain the peace, at the so-called appeasement conferences.
By 1938 around half a million Jews had already emigrated from Germany and Austria, most taking their possessions with them, but this could only be achieved by the well-to-do. Then Hitler made a particularly fiery speech in the Reichstag which clarified his position and frightened the most ardent appeaser: he shouted that when war broke out it would lead to ‘the annihilation of the Jews in Europe’. It was January, 1939. Following discreet but firm suggestions by Himmler, Göring and Heydrich, Hitler decided on what called ‘The Final Solution’ in the spring of 1941, two years after the Second War began. Its aim was the complete extermination of the Jews in Germany and Austria plus the countries already occupied by German armies, which included the Low Countries, Denmark and Norway but not Sweden or Spain, which maintained uneasy neutrality. If Britain and America had been defeated, the same solution would have been applied.The immediate plan was for 4 special SS action groups known as the Einsatzgruppen to follow German armies with orders to shoot all Jews, Communist officials and partisans they could find. Nearly half a million Jews were killed in this opening campaign. Historians tell us that the SS were helped by Waffen SS combat troops and small sections of the Wehrmacht itself. This was to be vehemently denied by senior army commanders in the 1945/46 Nuremburg tribunals.
By this time army officers were professing themselves horrified by the murders, and the bravest protested personally to their Fuehrer. Hitler’s answer was to set up special camps for Jews in all Nazi-occupied countries as well as Germany/Austria. This of course included Czechoslovakia and Poland among others. A conference of the most senior Nazis was held at Wannsee in Berlin in 1942, during which Heydrich stated that ‘the final solution to the Jewish problem in Europe will be applied to about eleven million people’. This was the germ of the extermination camp notion that Hitler ordered to be set in motion, though he was already fighting on two fronts, which was ignorant to say the least.
Most of the extermination camps were in occupied Poland, and the infamous trains set out from all over Nazi-occupied Europe with a Polish final destination. This could not have been achieved without massive help from local organisations. The French and Dutch authorities collaborated without inhibition, but the Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians did not. In defence of the French and Dutch officials it is fair to assume that they were never told that deportation to the camps meant certain death. The Danish and Italian people did all they could to help their own Jews. The Danes organised escape routes to Sweden and Switzerland, and the Italians after the fall of Mussolini actually refused to organise any deportation.
But there were at least six death camps set up and working twenty-four hours a day in Poland and other places. Their names are too well-known to be repeated here. It is stated by various sources that The Final Solution originally suggested by Heydrich killed between five and six million Jews, though these figures are always disputed. There have even been suggestions that the very existence of the Final Solution or Holocaust is an invention by Israelis, or pro-Israeli sources. When our article The Holocaust: Facts and Figures was posted on this site two years ago, dozens of Comments suggested that we should drop dead, among the more gentle notions. One Comment informed us that the ‘Final Solution’ was invented by Jewish communities in the United States.
To the many who believe that such an attempt to commit genocide on an entire people could not happen again, may we point out that already has, in the recent Balkan Wars and the evil intentions of Pol Pot in Cambodia, not forgetting the massive crimes against his own people committed by Josef Stalin. All that is required is a wicked leader charismatic enough to persuade his people to commit mass murder.
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