In ancient times there was no justification needed to annihilate a tribe or an ethnic group. Tribal leaders and warlords committed genocide because it was a strategic thing to do. But in the 20th century the idea of destroying the lives of millions of people based on an ideology was considered absurd. Political leaders require justification to declare war against another state. This claim is strengthened by the outcome of the First World War where the loss of lives and property convinced global leaders and ordinary individuals that war benefits no one. It is therefore interesting to point out that a few decades later Hitler was able to mastermind a global conflagration that engulfed Europe and Asia. Aside from that, Hitler was responsible for the murder of millions of European Jews. These dastardly acts were made possible because of his hatred, frustration and ideology.
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It was one of the most atrocious acts in human history but surprisingly the German people were silent and many supported Hitler and the Nazi political party. There were two main factors that contributed to this complicity. First, the German people were humiliated in the aftermath of World War I. Secondly, Hitler developed an ideology based on Darwin’s theory, that there is a hierarchy when it comes to human beings and at the to of the hierarchy are the Aryan people whose descendants were the German people (Wistrich, 2001). Hitler strengthened his argument through the publication of a booklet entitled Mein Kampf.
Before going any further it is important to point out the kind of mindset that the German people had back then that made it easier for Hitler to convince them to join him in a quest to reclaim lost glory and to annihilate the Jews. All can be traced back to the aftermath of the First World War. The victors comprised of the alliance of Great Britain, France, and the United States defeated the combined forces of Germany, Austro-Hungary, Turkey and Italy (Bartov, 2003). But it was Germany that took the brunt of the war because millions of German soldiers died in the said conflict (Keegan, 1998).
Aside from the military defeat Germany had to endure the economic hardships that came as the direct consequence of broken lives and resources destroyed on and off the battlefield (Keegan, 1998). Furthermore, the victors of the said war demanded that Germany must pay for leading the conflict and this demand can be satisfied by giving up territories conquered prior to World War I people had to contend with severe economic losses. Adding insult to injury Germany was forced to give up military expansion and the victors demanded that the German government must give up conquered territories prior to World War I (Grenville, 2011).
The German people were extremely unhappy with the armistice (Keegan, 1998). The young men and the soldiers criticized the decisions made by their political leaders. It was more than national pride on the line. There were many young soldiers who were angry at the treatment that they received from foreign governments and one of them was a young corporal named Adolf Hitler. Hitler saw action in the First World War and in the aftermath of the global conflict he began to contemplate how to bring Germany back to its former position in the world stage (Grenville, 2011). Hitler desperately wanted to make Germany great once again (Bosworth, 1994).
Hitler saw the dominance of foreign powers as a major factor in the suffering of the German people. But aside from global political arena he also saw another reason why the German people are suffering. Hitler believed that the Jews are to blame for much of Germany’s problems (Bartov, 2003). Hitler’s desire to eliminate the Jews can be very difficult to understand for an outsider and for those who live many decades after the Holocaust. But a deeper examination of the social and political factors of that period will reveal why Hitler had no misgivings when it comes to giving the order to kill six million Jews (Bauer, 2002).
Hitler began to develop a message of hope and hate. He provided hope by creating a vision of a new Germany while at the same time he made the general public believed that the Jews were contemptible people. Hitler made great speeches, exclaiming that Germany lost many of their sons in the battle field. In one of his speeches Hitler appealed to the emotions of the listeners and he said that they must honor the sacrifice of 2 million Germans who died in the war (Keegan, 1998).
After convincing Germany and the world that his rhetoric was both political and nationalistic in nature, Hitler began to expand the coverage of his ideology by pointing to the Jews as the enemy in their midst (Bauer, 2002). The emotionally-charged speeches as well as the pervading economic hardship in Germany created a slippery slope for Hitler and his supporters. They could never recover the moral compass that they lost in the process. Hitler and his followers were overwhelmed by their fanatical zeal and their hatred. They were blinded by their ideology so much so that when it was time to pull the trigger on a hapless Jewish man, woman and child, there was no hesitation on the part of the soldier that carried the order.
It is important to revisit the past in order to prevent the repetition of certain atrocious acts. By remembering the holocaust and the events that preceded the murder of European Jews one can develop awareness in order to eradicate prejudice that can lead to genocide. However, it is also important to figure out the relevance of historical facts. Thus, this study is not only a review of history but an attempt to understand how people in the 21st century come to view Hitler and his actions.
The data for this study was collected from a sample population. In this research, the criterion for inclusion was the age of the respondent. All the respondents must be at least 30 years old. The reason for this is to make sure that the respondents are well informed. This would also help ensure that most of the respondents went to college and therefore aware of important historical information such as Hitler and the Holocaust. If this is not the case then the researcher would not be able to account for error in the research because the respondents may not have a clear understanding regarding the significance of Hitler’s actions.
In this study specific questions were developed and then used to collect data from respondents. For simplicity of data analysis, the research questions were designed in the form of multiple choice questionnaires. The respondents were asked to choose one question from a list given to them. A digitized version of the questionnaire was sent via Blackberry cell phone.
Some of the challenges encountered during this research process included but not limited to non-responsiveness of the targeted participants. Some of the targeted participants did not answer the electronic survey forms given to them. This outcome interfered with the data analysis process. As a result the proponent of the said research had to use certain statistical tools to account for missing data. At the same time, the researchers encountered problems when it comes to the time constraints of the study because the targeted participants did not immediately submitted the answers the electronic forms that they were supposed to answer.
In this study, 68 respondents were surveyed and all of them were able to respond to the questions; however not all of them answered all the questions asked in the questionnaire. There were five questions listed in the survey. There were 3 questions that were answered by all the respondents while there were 2 questions that were not answered by one respondent in each case. Based on each question that was listed in the research survey form these were the responses. The first questions intended to measure the respondent’s general perception and opinion regarding Hitler who was the subject of the said study.
The majority of the people surveyed or 54% responded by saying that Hitler was a genius. There 20% of the respondents who said that Hitler was crazy. There were 32% of the respondents who answered that Hitler was misunderstood. This implies that majority of the respondents, as much as 80% must have approved of Hitler’s actions since it is only 20% who believed that he was crazy. The rest have chosen to describe him favorably as a genius while others said he was merely misunderstood. It could also probably mean that people misjudged Hitler based on this data.
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The second question asked respondents if Hitler should be forgotten. In reply, 88% answered no while only 10% said yes. This is expected and is consistent with the answers provided in question 1, because the majority of the respondents think that Hitler was a genius. It is therefore not surprising to see the results showing the same respondents who believed that Hitler must not be forgotten.
The third question asked the respondents their opinion regarding the idea that Hitler should be a role model. The answers of the respondents were consistent with the data collected for questions 1 and 2. There were 65% of the respondents who said yes, while 35% answered no. This makes sense when one considers that if majority of the respondents thinks Hitler is a genius and should be remembered, then they will also want him to be a role model. The fourth question asked the respondents to give their views on whether Hitler’s actions were good or bad. Majority of them or 48% of the respondents said yes while the rest were split between saying no and not sure. This is also consistent with the previous feedbacks. Finally, the study asked respondents to list their sources of information regarding Hitler and majority of them or 60% of the respondents pointed to mass media as their main source of information. This is expected since mass media is the most common source of information among many people.
This study is an attempt to understand Hitler’s worldview in order to explain the reason why he paved the way for the Holocaust. It was pointed out that he was motivated by a patriotism that burned with fanatical zeal. Hitler was willing to attack and destroy the hurdles that separated him from his goal: the rise of a German Reich populated by a pure race – the Aryan Race (Wistrich, 2001). However, it is impossible to provide a clear explanation if the researcher simply focuses on the aftermath of the First World War. His anger and frustration reaches far beyond his time in the military. It is imperative to go back to his early years as a young boy growing up in Austria (Wistrich, 2001).
It must be pointed out that before he reached adulthood, his father and mother died and he became an orphan (Wistrich, 2001). As a consequence he was forced to live and work in the city. It was during this period when he experienced a major cultural and social shock as he transitioned from an idyllic life in the country and the fast-paced life of the city. He experienced poverty and believed that certain groups of people were responsible for the economic hardships that many Germans experienced during that period. His struggles became the inspiration for the Mein Kampf and when he was old enough he wrote the following in the said booklet: “What was – and still is – bound to happen some day, when the stream of unleashed slaves pours forth from these miserable dens to avenge themselves on their thoughtless fellow men? For thoughtless they are!” (Hitler,1939, p.1). He wanted to build a new tomorrow for his fellow citizens.
Hitler was convinced that Germany could be great again. Hitler also believed that the territories lost in the armistice signed after the war can be recovered by the German national government. He also believed that to secure the future of Germany, its people must destroy anything that threatens to enslave them (Hitler, 1939). However, much of his hatred was reserved for the Jewish people because Hitler was fully convinced that they were the main reason why Germans were poor, weak, and lacking national pride (Wistrich, 2001).
In the mind of Hitler, the annihilation of the Jews can be justified if one can perceive their existence not as a moral dilemma but a practical economic and scientific problem that can be dealt with in a businesslike manner (Wistrich, 2001). Hitler used the ideas that were made popular during this period and this was the idea that came from social Darwinism theory (Bosworth, 1994). In essence, this theory explains how human beings can be classified into different categories. According to this theory the respective race that a person belongs to dictates his physical characteristics and his behavior tendencies (Wistrich, 2001). As a result, these characteristics are inherited and greatly affected their thought process.
Hitler went on to say that there are some groups of people that are weak. Thus, in a world governed by the survival of the fittest their eradication can be justified (Bartov, 2003). In addition, Hitler also believed in the superiority of the so-called “Aryan” race from which the German people descended from. Hitler went a step further that ethnic cleansing is justified and in effect, Hitler and his supporters were “conducting a demographic restructuring and resettlement because they could not share their living space with Jews” (Bartov, 2003, p.84).
Hitler detested the Jews because even if they were an inferior race they still manage to infiltrate and control much of German society (Wistrich, 2001). Hitler made the declaration that Germans must do something to rectify this error because if they fail to act they will be under the control of what he called the “Jewish menace” (Hitler, 1939). Hitler was uncomfortable and unhappy with the rise Jewish influence within Germany and he wrote: “Among them there was a great movement, quite extensive in Vienna, which came out sharply in confirmation of the national character of the Jews: this was the Zionists” (Hitler, 1939). Hitler convinced his followers and a great number of German people regarding the true nature of the Jews and he wrote:
The cleanliness of this people, moral and otherwise, I must say, is a point in itself. By their very exterior you could tell that these were no lovers of water, and, to your distress, you often knew it with your eyes closed. Later I often grew sick to my stomach from the smell of these caftan-wearers. Added to this, there was their unclean dress and their generally unheroic appearance (Hitler, 1939, p.1).
Hitler made an exclamation point when he wrote in the Mein Kampf that Jews are not Germans (Hitler, 1939, p.1). Hitler’s patriotism led him to formulate a belief system that encouraged his supporters to destroy the status quo (Wistrich, 2001). The status quo of that period was comprised of the corrupt and weak politicians of Germany and its allies (Hitler, 1939). Hitler was particularly concerned with the fact that the Jews were able to intermarry with the members of the Aryan race giving them qualities that would have been lacking if they were unable to intermarry with the German people (Hitler, 1939).
Hitler proposed a new government, a new nation, a new beginning where all the citizens of the new German nation are from Aryan stock (Wistrich, 2001). Hitler believed that the eradication of the Jews would purify the German race. A nation populated by people from the Aryan race can be a powerful force in the planet. Hitler believed that in this manner he can build a mighty army that can rule the whole of Europe and even the world (Hitler, 1939). It is therefore crucial to implement the first phase of his plan and that is to remove every trace of Jewish blood in Germany.
Mass murder was a tool for dealing with the political struggles in Germany during those turbulent times in German history. The Germans were confronted with serious economic and political issues. They needed someone to get them out poverty and hopelessness. Hitler presented himself as a savior to the German people. However, Hitler could not solve all these challenges. He, therefore, created a villain. He said that the German people should blame the Jews for their sufferings. Hitler convinced his followers that the extermination of the Jews would solve their problems. Hitler killed the Jews in order to secure his political interests.
Bartov, O. (2003). Germany’s war and the holocaust. New York: Cornell University Press.
Bauer, Y. (2002). A history of the holocaust. New York: Franklin Watts.
Bosworth, R. (1994). Explaining Auschwitz and Hiroshima. New York: Routledge.
Grenville, J. (2011). A history of the world from the twentieth to the twenty-first century. New York: Routledge.
Hitler, A. (1939). Mein Kampf. Web.
Keegan, J. (1998). The first world war. New York: Random House.
Wistrich, R. (2001). Hitler and the Holocaust. New York: The Modern Library.