The Holocaust was a dark event in German history when Jews were subjected to mass murder during the Second World War (1939-1945) under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. The Nazi Party was able to assume absolute power in Germany because of the propaganda of Hitler and his close associates that emphasized the superiority of the German race over all other races. The book Mein Kampf was one of the pieces he wrote during this period to popularize his ideology in the German society and to justify his plan to eliminate Jews from the society.
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This document provides an important insight into German society and how it became possible for Jews to be slaughtered in mass without any major public outcry among Germans. It explains how the leadership had convinced the society to hate and embrace extremism. The main purpose of this paper is to analyze a set of documents in order to explore how they provide modern audiences with an insight into the society in which they were written and the attempt of certain figures to change this society. The study will focus on the Holocaust by looking at the attitude towards religion, politics, cultural life, and nationality in Germany during this period.
The book was written by Adolf Hitler, who was the Nazi leader and the ruler of Germany during the period of the Holocaust. Hitler planned and executed one of the worst massacres that targeted the Jewish community, not because of what they had done but what he believed they stood for in the German society. He was an overambitious man who was keen on conquering the world and getting rid of the people he believed were inferior within the German society. He single-handedly made the Second World War come to pass (Lewy 42).
In modern society, it is not easy to imagine that the German community would be indifferent to the senseless murders of innocent people primarily because of their race. However, a review of documents written at that period may help in explaining why the Holocaust was possible in the society that was increasingly getting civilized. Hitler’s book provides a unique insight into the mind of the very person who planned and supervised the executions.
Attitudes about Religion
According to Junginger, Germany has always been a highly religious country, and Christianity is the most popular belief among its citizens (25). The biblical accounts that blamed the Pharisees and Jews in general for the death of Jesus have caused a constraint in the relationship between Christians and Jews (Lewy 89).
During the period preceding the Holocaust, the political class and some religious leaders keen on spreading hate against Jews used the argument that they betrayed and finally killed Christ. Hitler states, “Due to his own original special nature, the Jew cannot possess a religious institution, if for no other reason because he lacks idealism in any form” (360). The statement demonstrates the fact that although the society was religious, the tension between one religion and another was common.
According to Junginger, unlike other dictators of his time who came to power through a coup, Adolf Hitler was democratically elected to the position of power (34). He was an articulate politician who knew how to appeal to his people based on what was worrying them the most. He realized that Jews had dominated the financial sector of the country, and his advisers warned him that they could not be trusted, especially at a time when the country was going to war (Junginger 56).
He had to find ways of vilifying them, and propaganda was the best tool he knew how to use other than guns. Hitler told his people that the Jew was not the victim but the aggressor, who attacks anyone perceived to be an enemy (363). He paints the Jew as a person who is ready to fight anyone not willing to embrace their beliefs. Hitler goes further and notes, “Slowly fear of the Marxist weapon of Jewry descends like a nightmare on the mind and soul of decent people” (364).
After creating a platform for hatred, he instills fear in his people by warning them that if they do not deal with Jews, they will always face the eminent danger of extermination. He manipulated the minds of the society so much that by the time he started the mass killings of Jews, he was viewed as a savior getting rid of dangerous elements in the society (Lewy 67). The majority of society never questioned his acts after that.
Intellectual and Cultural Life
The intellectual and cultural life in German society is also depicted in this document. Hitler, as a political leader in the country, had to be an intellectual, and that is exactly what he tried to achieve when writing this book. He was keen on championing his narrative that would justify his radical decisions and actions before and during the Holocaust. Hitler argues that the Aryans were the only people who developed influential culture (358). This statement shows that during this time, the society had strong regard towards a lifestyle strongly rooted in a given culture.
In this book, there is a deliberate attempt to paint Jews as someone lacking in culture and virtues that define civilized people. Hitler states, “If Jews were alone in the world, they would stifle in filth, they would try to get ahead of one another in the hate-filled struggle and exterminate one another” (358). He argues that their lack of culture makes them vicious and able to destroy one of their own for socio-economic benefits.
The message is supposed to be a warning to German society. He is reminding them that if these people can kill their own for socio-economic gains, it is unimaginable what they could do to others. He then reminds them that they still have an opportunity to rid themselves of these vicious people to have a normal peaceful society. Hitler tells Germans that the strong must dominate the weak when there is an opportunity to do so (353).
The book demonstrates that during the time of the Holocaust, nationality was a highly valued factor among people. Having a sense of belonging strongly depended on whether one was a citizen of the country or not. The political class in the German society was keen on reminding people that Jews were not the citizens of their country, hence they were not welcome. Hitler states, “Thus the Jew of all times has lived in the states of other people, and therefore formed his own state, which to be sure, habitually sailed under the disguise of the religious community” (359). He was warning his people that if they do not uproot Jews, then they will form their own nation within Germany.
They would manipulate the locals to the extent that Germans would become second-class citizens if appropriate measures were not taken. Society easily believed him because it could see that Jews had already dominated the financial sector. He then told the society that the German race should remain pure and not contaminated by other inferior races. Hitler says, “The consequence of this racial purity, universally valid in nature, is not only the sharp outward delimitation of the various races but their uniform character” (353). A perfect ground for the Holocaust had been set, and it was almost impossible for those who listened and believed in his statement to be merciful to Jews during mass murders.
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The book Mein Kampf provides an insight into the mind of Adolf Hitler, a man whom modern history has classified as one of the worst dictators of all times. Other than pushing the world into a global war, he engineered the Holocaust that led to the extermination of millions of Jews. The book enables its readers to understand German society before and during the Holocaust. One gets to understand why it was possible for the government to annihilate a section of the society with ease in a community that was religious and embracing civilization. People were easily radicalized because of the socio-economic and political events in the country at that time. They believed that Jews posed a serious threat to the existence of the German community.
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Houngton Mifflin Company, 1943.
Junginger, Horst. The Scientification of the Jewish Question in Nazi Germany. BRILL, 2017.
Lewy, Guenter. Harmful and Undesirable: Book Censorship in Nazi Germany. Oxford University Press, 2016.