The holocaust is one of the saddest tragedies in human history. The event was a result of the various policies formulated and implemented by the Nazi Party in Germany.1 Some of those plans were intended to create a society of what the authorities referred to as a pure race. As such, elements (including parts of the population) that were considered to be blemishes on the race were to be eliminated. The development led to many deaths among the Jews, who were affected significantly by these policies.
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The current paper is written against this background. In the paper, the author examines the holocaust on the basis of whether or not its occurrence could have been avoided. Schweizer is a figure of authority in this field. The scholar argues that the event was a result of the racial imperialism championed by the Nazi Party in the country.2 In line with this, the author of the current paper examines Nazism and the policies the party propagated as the leaders advanced the concepts of racial imperialism.
The author of the current paper holds the opinion that racial imperialism was the main factor behind the holocaust. It is a fact that long term planning for ‘asocial’ and other races were made by the Nazi regime. However, even if these discussions were never held, the deep rooted race ideology characterising the Nazi party would have led to the same conclusions that resulted in the holocaust. The eugenics programmes of Nazi Germany show that many people shared in this perspective of breeding a better society. The barbarism of war just created a channel to make the transition, which culminated into the holocaust. Adolf Hitler and his cronies supported this ideology and other anti-Semitism sentiments. Spero supports the historical roots of these sentiments. Spero states that, “The so-called modern anti-semitism of the nineteenth century rose on ancient foundations”.3
As such, Hitler was just taking on something that was already ongoing. On ascending to power, the leaders executed their initial plan of exterminating the Jews. The holocaust was inevitable. The only question was when and how to make the killings a social acceptable norm in the society.
Nazism and the Nazi Party
Nazism is regarded as a political ideology that was practiced in Germany in the 20th century. It is also referred to as National Socialism.4 According to Schweizer, Nazism was not restricted to the Nazi Party.5 On the contrary, the policies that defined this concept were practiced by in other countries in Europe. The ideology was especially popular in countries with a populous ethnic German community. One can draw parallels between Nazism and other political schools of thought, such as fascism. Both are criticised as extreme forms of political and social management. Nazism concept is best understood from the theories of Darwinism and racial hierarchy.
The Nazi Party advanced the opinion that the adherents came from a superior race. According to Schweizer, these people believed that they were part of the Aryan race, which was superior to all other ethnic groups in the region.6 In terms of preferred economic systems, Nazism was totally against materialism. Schweizer points out that the Nazis did not buy into capitalism and communism, which they tied to the Jews.
The policies of the Nazi Party were tailored to whip up anti-Semitic sentiments among the populace. However, Schweizer cites the Jewish influence in Europe as some of the reasons why the general public bought into the anti-Semitic sentiments.7 With respect to the racial supremacy advocated for by the leaders, the Nazis were not comfortable with the idea of power resting in the hands of an ‘inferior’ race. Ceteris peribus, which are acts of aggression against Semites, were bound to occur.
The horrors experienced during the holocaust are indications of the fact that the actions of a given group of people are largely informed by their political inclinations. Some scholars hold that the deep seated hatred for the Jews was the major cause of the acts of terror committed by the Nazi regime. The chronology of events that led up to the holocaust will be outlined in this paper.8 The critical analysis of these events will reveal that the situation was inevitable.
Factors Leading to the Holocaust
The occurrence of a particular event is brought about by a number of factors. In light of the thesis statement outlined for this paper, it is apparent that the inevitability of the holocaust was a result of the belief that the Nazis were superior to other races. To this end, Nazism is regarded as a contributing factor to the unfortunate historical event.9 The element of racial imperialism is regarded as yet another factor that brought about the holocaust. The inevitability of this occurrence is justified on the basis of these two factors.
The Nazi Party and Nazism
As already mentioned, Nazism is a political ideology developed by members of the Nazi Party. Gregor is of the opinion that the founders of the philosophy sought to create some sense of nationalism around the socialist practices of the time.10 Nazism was born out of the ideas that the party wanted to use to counter an earlier doctrine referred to as “Volksgemeischaft”. The early movement was intended to blend Marxism and Socialism. However, National Socialism was advanced with the intent to abolish some ‘unfair’ practices of the Volksgemeischaft. Such inequalities included, among others, the class struggle witnessed in the country.
The Nazi Party was founded in 1919 as the German Workers’ Party. The main philosophy of the union was anti-Semitism and German nationalism. According to Diner, the anti-Semitism was first evident in 1920. It was made apparent by the leaders’ push for the formation of a ‘Greater Germany’.11 Part of the requirements for the creation of the entity was that no Jew would be granted citizenship in the new country. When Adolf Hitler took over the leadership of the party, he sought to broaden its appeal to members of the public. The anti-Semitism and anti-communism sentiments became the core philosophies of the party.
Part of the activities of the union included a purge of groups or people who did not subscribe to its fundamentals. The groups that were targeted included the Jews, perceived political opponents, and any other entity that was described as ‘undesirable’.12The leadership of Germany and the Nazi Party was consolidated under Hitler upon the death of President Hinderburg. The regime brutally crushed any political dissidents and persons declared as enemies of the state. The move led to the holocaust where swathes of Jews were killed.
The acts of terror committed against the Jews were not an abrupt occurrence. Stackleberg and Krukones point out that the Nazi Party had indoctrinated its adherents with the idea that they were a superior race.13 The eugenics programs implemented by the Nazis are a clear indication of the fact that many people supported the creation of a ‘pure’ society. The barbaric nature of the war created way for the holocaust. Hitler and other central figures of the Nazi party supported this movement. As a result, the holocaust became inescapable part of the German history. The leaders made efforts to ensure that their campaigns were socially acceptable.
There are a number of scholars who indicate that the intolerance of the Nazi Party set the stage for the acts of terror committed against the Jews and other minority groups in the country. Stackleberg and Winkle, for instance, indicate that even after the war and the defeat of the Nazi, pockets of individuals who harboured the idea that they were superior to others remained.14 Given the existence of such belief systems, individuals who perceived themselves to be above others were motivated to commit atrocities against their ‘enemies’. Such are the grounds on which Nazism is considered as a factor that led to the holocaust.
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Human nature dictates that individuals feel good when they are exalted above others. They can achieve this status by fighting to get into leadership positions or other areas of significant authority. The Nazi Party had succeeded in whipping up nationalist emotions among the citizens. Consequently, an aggravated assault on individuals who were considered to be enemies of the state was expected. Stackelberg and Winkle indicate that the Hitler regime had succeeded in making Germans believe in the need to exterminate Jews and other elements that advanced communism and capitalism.
The notion of racial imperialism is derived from the Darwinian theories picked up by the Nazi Party. As already mentioned in this paper, the Nazis believed that theirs was a better and highly advanced race. Perry, Berg, and Krukones point out that the German Nazis drew their political ideologies from the European notions of racism and imperialism.15 The same was evident in the scramble for Africa by the Europeans. Across the entire European continent, there was the understanding that the native race was above the rest. The racial superiority complex was more pronounced in the Nazi Party than in other areas of the European political landscape.
The idea of being better than others was perhaps a justification for the atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jews during the holocaust. Baranowski points out that the whole of Europe was characterised by incidences of violence.16 Colonisation of Africa and the destruction of the Ottoman Empire are indications of other ‘evils’ committed by the Europeans. In all these cases, the atrocities were justified along the lines of Europeans being superior to other races.17 To this end, the holocaust was seen as similar to other acts of violence committed against other races. The same supports the idea that the holocaust was bound to occur.
In the mid 19th century, racial ideologies had expanded to as far as America. A historical analysis reveals that the philosophies bordering on imperialism were deeply engraved in the European culture. Considering the political ideals of the Nazi Party, it is apparent that racism was a core element of this movement. As such, racial imperialism is seen as a norm among the Nazis.18 The occurrence of the holocaust was just one of the many acts of aggression that were premeditated against the Jews.
The promotion of racial supremacist ideals among the Nazi was inspired by the party’s claim to the Aryan race. The doctrines supporting the alleged superiority of the Aryans advocated for ‘racial hygiene’. At the height of the Nazi regime, this sanitisation was achieved through forced sterilisation.19 According to Lower, the Nazis came up with a mechanism of exterminating elements regarded as sub-human.20 Such activities were carried out to ensure that ethnic Germans retained their superior genes. In light of this, it becomes obvious that the holocaust could not be avoided.
The racial imperialism propagated by the Nazis specified the groups of people targeted for extermination. In addition to the Jews, there were other groups that bore the brunt of the Nazi brutality. Lower indicates that homosexuals, Russians, Poles, the disabled, and Gypsies were also considered to belong to an inferior race.21 The attempted annihilation of these ‘lesser’ groups was legitimised through legislations.
The Nazi regime established a race for the ethnic Germans. The new group was referred to as the Aryan Master Race. Lower argues that based on the assumptions that they belonged to a higher group than other people, the Nazis came up with a system of grading races. The grading system followed the two extremes of belonging to Ayran and non-Aryan races. The Germans, English, Dutch, and Scandinavians were at the top of this Aryan race.22 Persecution of the Jews and people of colour was carried out since they had no German blood. In addition, it was believed that they lacked a sense of entitlement. To many Germans, the holocaust was a means through which the so called sub-humans were to be eliminated from the society.
Qualifying the Inevitability of the Holocaust
The factors outlined in this paper indicate that the resentments against the Jews were brought about by the various ideologies propagated through Nazism. In addition to the racial imperialism and other schools of thought held by the Nazis, the holocaust is largely associated with anti-Semitic sentiments. According to Stackleberg and Winkle, anti-Semitism was not a creation of the Nazis.23 Antipathy against Jews can be traced back to the times when the Romans invaded Judea and plundered the temple. The attacks on the Ottoman Empire forced the Jews to occupy pockets of Europe as a minority group. Spero supports this assertion when they say that “after the destruction of the national framework, (…) the Jews found themselves a minority, albeit among other minorities, in a multinational empire”.24 It was easy to alienate and discriminate this group as a minority.
Anti-Semitism was also experienced during the crusades. At the time, Christians exhibited intolerance towards people from other religions. Jews are some of the groups targeted in these crusades.25 The Nazis were merely enhancing the anti-Semitism beliefs they had inherited from the preceding empires and governments. In any society, the majority often prefers to be in control of the resources. However, in cases where the minority group is in control of elements of power, the majority are consumed by envy. In the case of the Jews, their economic success was one of the reasons why the Nazis hated them.26 The racial hatred against the Jews from time immemorial pre-empted the holocaust.
The holocaust was an inevitable occurrence owing to the military might of the German regime. Adolf Hitler had a ruthless army that carried out ethnic cleansing. With the help of the anti-Semitism feelings mentioned earlier in this paper, the military power was enough to execute a ruthless onslaught against the Jews during the holocaust.27 The years leading up to the Second World War were characterised by conflicts. The aggression by the British against the Germans, for example, triggered a number of chain events that led to the holocaust.28 The development justifies the assertion that the event (the holocaust) could not be avoided.
Whenever there are cultural and religious differences in a society, intolerance is bound to occur. The environment in Nazi-led Germany was full of intolerance towards the Jews as already discussed in this report. Morgan and Pollock shed more light on this by mentioning that the holocaust was advanced on the basis of the two elements.29 The Jews were perceived to subscribe to an alien religion. Consequently, it became necessary to ‘purge’ the Great Germany of elements that do not conform to the cultural and religious requirements of the society. The holocaust was expected given the Nazi’s intolerance of the materialist way of life exhibited by the Jews. The Jewish culture was obviously not in conflict with that of the Nazis. The situation laid the grounds for an all-out attack on the Jews, which led to the holocaust.
The holocaust was inescapable in the years leading up to the Second World War. The main reason behind the occurrence of the horrific event was the anti-Semitism feelings that existed in the region. It is noted that religious imperialism was fuelled by the anti-Semitism doctrines advanced by the Nazi Party.30 The sentiments were supported by the conflicts that prevailed at the time. As a result, a major aggression against perceived sub-humans was inevitable. Further research on the inevitability of the holocaust is required. Addressing this topic in an insightful manner will go a long way in preventing the occurrence of similar incidences in the future.
S. Baranowski, Nazi Empire: German Colonialism and Imperialism from Bismarck to Hitler (New York, 2010). Web.
J. Bendersky, A History of Nazi Germany (second edition, London, 2000). Web.
D. Diner, Beyond the Conceivable: Studies on Germany, Nazism, and the Holocaust (California, 2000). Web.
R. Geary, Hitler and Nazism (second edition, London, 2000). Web.
N. Gregor, Nazism (Oxford, 2000). Web.
K. Kwiet & J. Matthaus, Contemporary Responses to the Holocaust (Westport, 2004). Web.
W. Lower, ‘Nazi Empire: German Colonialism and Imperialism from Bismarck to Hitler by Shelley Baranowski (Review)’, Journal of World History 24:2 (2013), pp.474-77. Web.
M. Morgan & B. Pollock, The Philosopher as Witness: Fackenheim and Responses to the Holocaust (Albany, 2009). Web.
M. Perry, M. Berg & J. Krukones, Sources of European History: Since 1900 (second edition, Boston, 2010). Web.
S. Schweber & G. Ladson-Billings, Making Sense of the Holocaust: Lessons from Classroom Practice (New York, 2004). Web.
K. Schweizer, ‘Nazism, the Wehrmacht and Collective Memory’, The European Legacy 17:3 (2012), pp.393-98. Web.
S. Sheehan, The Holocaust (Mankato, 2007). Web.
S. Spero, Holocaust and Return to Zion: A Study in Jewish Philosophy of History (Hoboken, 2000). Web.
R. Stackelberg & S. Winkle, The Nazi Germany Sourcebook: An Anthology of Texts (London, 2002). Web.
- K. Schweizer, ‘Nazism, the Wehrmacht and Collective Memory’, The European Legacy 17:3 (2012), pp.393-98.
- S. Spero, Holocaust and Return to Zion: A Study in Jewish Philosophy of History (Hoboken, 2000), p. 270.
- Ibid, p.394.
- N. Gregor, Nazism (Oxford, 2000).
- D. Diner, Beyond the Conceivable: Studies on Germany, Nazism, and the Holocaust (California, 2000).
- R. Geary, Hitler and Nazism (second edition, London, 2000).
- R. Stackelberg & S. Winkle, The Nazi Germany Sourcebook: An Anthology of Texts (London, 2002).
- M. Perry, M. Berg & J. Krukones, Sources of European History since 1900 (second edition, Boston, 2010).
- S. Baranowski, Nazi Empire: German Colonialism and Imperialism from Bismarck to Hitler (New York, 2010).
- J. Bendersky, A History of Nazi Germany (second edition, London, 2000).
- W. Lower, ‘Nazi Empire: German Colonialism and Imperialism from Bismarck to Hitler by Shelley Baranowski’, Journal of World History 24:2 (2013), pp.474-77.
- R. Stackelberg & S. Winkle, The Nazi Germany Sourcebook (London, 2002).
- S. Spero, Holocaust and Return to Zion: A Study in Jewish Philosophy of History (Hoboken, 2000), p. 267.
- S. Schweber & G. Ladson-Billings, Making Sense of the Holocaust: Lessons from Classroom Practice. (New York, 2004).
- K. Kwiet & J. Matthaus, Contemporary Responses to the Holocaust (Westport, 2004).
- S. Sheehan, The Holocaust (Mankato, 2007).
- M. Morgan & B. Pollock, The Philosopher as Witness: Fackenheim and Responses to the Holocaust. (Albany, 2008).