The Holocaust was a terrible event in the history of civilization. Nazi racial ideology stressed the descent of the German people from the Aryan race, an Indo-European language group. They described the history of civilization as the struggle between the superior Aryan race and the inferior but powerful Semites. Thesis The main causes of the Holocaust were the policy of the Nazis and their racist ideology, the personal vision of Adolf Hitler, and xenophobia, which led to genocide and mass murders of Jews and the Slavic population.
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After the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazis, the goal of the Nazis was to murder every individual of Jewish origin, which the Nazis defined as anyone with a trace of Jewish “blood” dating back two to three generations. before the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Germany legally excluded Jews from the rest of society and justified this action by representing the Jews as a threat to the collective health of the German nation (Bauer and Keren 98).
The compelling was this belief that Adolf Hitler compromised the German war effort to achieve it. The construction of the death camps and the rerouting of trains to camps such as Auschwitz in times of severe wartime shortages testify to the priority that the Germans placed on the murder of European Jewry (Dwork and Pelt 205). Nazi propaganda including the educational curriculum used in the Hitler Youth, schoolbooks, articles, and films heated racial envy and promulgated far-reaching racial hygiene policies.
New schoolbooks, for example, introduced the cost of racial hygiene in mathematical problems that asked, for example, how many new houses at 15,000 marks apiece can be built for the construction of an asylum that costs 6 million marks (Bauer and Keren 108). The implication, of course, was that Germany would be better off using its capital to build homes for those who contributed to society than for expenditures on the unproductive elements that utilized limited resources. Through such lessons, German youth were subtly indoctrinated to accept the premises behind the genocidal euthanasia program that Germany introduced at the start of World War II (Dwork and Pelt 202).
Holocaust historians are divided on the question as to whether the plan to murder the Jews of Europe was Hitler’s objective from the moment he became the leader of the National Socialist movement or whether the opportunity to implement the Final Solution presented itself as a functional response to the exigency of World War II (Dwork and Pelt 207). Throughout the war, the Germans ruled over more than 5 million Jews, about one-third of all Jews at that time.
It was impossible during wartime to continue the policy of crowding Jews in ghettos in preparation for resettling them on “reservations” such as the 1939 proposal to move Jews to the Lublin district in Poland (Nisko Plan) or the 1940 plan to move them to the French colony of Madagascar. Unable to remove Jews from Europe, Germany turned to mass murder to solve its “Jewish problem” (Bauer and Keren 47). “To the Nazis, the “Jewish problem” was a problem of cosmic importance. Human survival itself depended on the fate of the 17 million Jews inhabiting the country” (Bauer and Keren 99).
The decision to pursue a “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem” followed Germany’s failure to resettle the Jews outside German-occupied Europe. The unwillingness of the Allied governments to liberalize their immigration laws hastened the Nazis’ move to a policy of extermination. During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Einsatzgrüppen killed Jews through mass shootings and even employed mobile vans as gas chambers using carbon monoxide to kill their victims.
But given a large number of Jews targeted for annihilation, such methods of killing were too expensive and inefficient to achieve the desired result. The killing process also had a psychologically traumatizing effect on the perpetrators (Dwork and Pelt 239). Efficiently murdering large numbers of Jews required expertise and techniques found in industrial factories. Annihilation camps such as Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor became factories of death where the techniques of industrial engineering were applied to genocide (Bauer and Keren 199). Following the conference, the plan to annihilate the Jews of Europe intensified.
The ghettos, which the Germans had viewed as a temporary location for Jews until they could be resettled to the Nisko region of Madagascar, now became warehouses for a different kind of resettlement. The Germans appointed Jewish councils in each ghetto to maintain law and order and fill the daily quota of Jews who were to be sent by train to the death camps. Historians such as Raul Hilberg and the late Hannah Arendt have accused the Jewish councils of complicity in the annihilation of European Jewry because they cooperated with the Germans.
Others have argued that the councils had little choice; had they not undertaken this responsibility, the Germans would have made life even more brutal for the Jews trapped in the ghettos. Whatever the case, the ghettos expedited the process of mass murder (Bauer and Keren 98).
The main effects and consequences of the Holocaust were divided society and racial envy, mass murders, and ghettoes. Critics admit that it is impossible to calculate with accuracy the number of those killed by the Germans in the death camps (Niewyk 99).
Various historians have given different estimates of the number of Jews killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust, which range between 4 million and 7 million. One study of the Nazi genocide estimates that of the 9,797,840 Jews in German-dominated Europe, the Germans massacred approximately 5,291,000 or 54 percent of the Jews within their reach, including more than 1.5 million children under the age of eighteen. For any Jews living in 1939 in soon-to-be-Germanoccupied Europe, there was a better than even chance that they would die a violent death. Jews were not the only targets of the Germans (Niewyk 98).
They also killed an estimated 10,547,000 Slavs, which included millions of Poles, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, and Soviet prisoners of war. Others whom the Nazis marked for death included the gypsies, and about 5,000 homosexuals of an estimated million Himmler believed resided in Germany (Smith 289). These numbers suggest that the Nazi genocide was far-reaching in its preoccupation with the creation of a master race and that although the Jews composed the primary category of people designated by the Nazis for extermination, there were many such categories. From the perspective of the sheer numbers of those killed as a consequence of German policy, this was certainly the result of the regime’s racial ideology (Smith 281).
Slavs, like the Jews, were considered inferior by the Nazis, and it is probable that eventually most would be killed. But during the war years, the Nazis called for physically removing millions of Slavs in eastern Europe to resettle Baltic Germans and others of the Aryan stock in their place. The policy also called for the execution of the Slavic elites, including the professional classes, the political leadership, and intellectuals.
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The majority of Slavs were to be consigned to forced labor characterized by starvation rations, lack of medical care, and the deportation of millions to Siberia once the Soviet Union was conquered (Smith 289). That millions would eventually die as a result of this policy was consistent with the Nazi goal of creating vast spaces in eastern Europe that would serve as the new home for a growing German population (Niewyk 299).
By 1940, the Nazi plan called for the resettlement of 100 million slaves in Poland, the Ukraine, and Russia, for slave labor, and the elimination of everyone else. The Slavic peoples were viewed as inferior but not as devils, and their immediate fate was not driven by the same ideology as that of the Jews (Bauer and Keren 196). The Nuremberg Trial was a historical first and established the principle that wars of aggression in any form are forbidden (Dwork and Pelt 100). The Nazi leaders were found guilty of engaging in a criminal conspiracy and participation in a criminal organization, the National Socialist Party. The testimony given at Nuremberg presented the world with the full horror of what soon was to be described as the Holocaust. Recognizing that racism can lead to genocide, many Jews were involved in the civil rights movement following World War II.
In sum, the Holocaust was caused by ideological policies which helped Hitler to unit the nation and raise its national spirit and uniqueness. Rather, it is to suggest that the Nazi objective regarding the Jews was different from that directed toward other groups and that the purpose for killing Jews was unprecedented in history. Auschwitz, Treblinka, and the other extermination camps were built primarily to murder Jews. They would not have been built to annihilate Poles, gypsies (their numbers were too small to warrant an infrastructure committed to mass murder, although Gypsies were killed in large numbers in Auschwitz), or any of the other targeted groups, and it is the creation of these factories of death that gives the Holocaust its unique characteristic. The Nazis passed hundreds of laws that resulted in the removal of Jews from German society.
Bauer, Y., Keren, N. A History of the Holocaust. Franklin Watts; Revised edition, 2002.
Dwork, D., Pelt, van R. Holocaust: A History. W. W. Norton & Company, 2003.
Niewyk, D. The Holocaust: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.
Smith, L. Voices of the Holocaust. Penguin (Non-Classics), 2002.