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AS History Essay on the Persecution of the Jews

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Introduction

AS History - Essay on the Persecution of the Jews To what extent is it accurate to say that the persecution of the Jews in Germany steadily intensified in the years 1933-42? The question of whether or not the persecution of the Jewish race has had a steady intensification relates closely to whether you adopt an intentionalist or structuralist view point on this historical event. An intentionalist will claim that the process of persecuting Jews in Germany is a planned sequence and was outlined by the Nazi Party; they claim that the roots of Hitler's politics was about eliminating the Jewish race from Germany and that evidence can be found in Mein Kampf. On the other hand, structuralist historians will claim that the persecution of the Jews was never planned and it was improvised all the way through to the Holocaust; furthermore, they will state that the Nazi's did not come to power based on policies towards the Jews as the electorate was never as enthusiastic as Hitler was about this. In the year 1933, the Boycott of Jewish businesses and professional offices, the exclusion of Jews from civil service as well as the Quota for non-Aryan students occurred serving the purpose of isolating the Jews from the Aryan race. Reasons for such a policy also have to do with the Nazi's hatred or perhaps jealousy of many of the Jews being able to take up leading positions in the upper class society whilst they only made up of 1% of the German population. ...read more.

Middle

Thus the Nuremberg Laws served the purpose of political manoeuvring instead of a process contributing to the Holocaust. Furthermore, the Munich Olympics which occurred a year after the Nuremberg Laws lead to a reduction in anti-Semitic activities. Again, it can be claimed that this was yet another improvisation on Hitler's behalf as he was wary not to offend world opinion. This meant that the process of persecution was not gradual. Kristallnacht in the year 1938 was perhaps the most radical persecution of Jews before the war started; it involves the use of violence on Jewish businesses and synagogues. Although the official claim was that Nazi was not involved, intentionalist will claim that the Nazis were the ones behind the scene provoking violence and intimidation against the Jews. This would be a step up from the separation process to the physical violence on the Jews. This claim is attacked by structuralists who believe Kristallnacht was yet another spontaneous outburst. Firstly, it is claimed that Kristallnacht was simply a result of the killing of a German diplomat in Paris by a Jew. However, there is a more political reason behind this which involved internal disputes in the Nazi party. Joseph Goebbels had fallen out of favour with Hitler and in attempt to regain Hitler's approval, Goebbels worked towards Hitler by supporting extreme action against the Jews; this was known as cumulative radicalisation. ...read more.

Conclusion

Furthermore, it is argued that there lacked strong opposition against the Nazi regime which meant the majority of Germans agreed with Hitler's decisions including those involving the Jews. The structuralists will state that the Germans voted the Nazis due in to the terrible economic status and their need for an identity. Therefore, they ignored the Nazi's position on the Jews or treated it with minimal belief that the Nazi's would one day take such actions against the Jews as stated in Mein Kampf. Furthermore, the reason for the lack of popular revolt was due to the fear of the Gestapo and SS. To conclude, I believe the claim that the persecution of the Jews in Germany steadily intensified in the years 1933-42 has little accuracy. The Nazis was a populist party that came to power due to Hitler's strong abilities in taking advantage of political opportunities; and as the governing party of a dictatorial regime they, as structuralist scholars such as Finkelstein's suggest, conducted its actions with much improvisation. The nature of populism involves the ability to respond spontaneously to ever changing circumstances and it was a series of such events which lead the Nazis into conducting the Holocaust. Furthermore, historians often attempt to look for patterns in history whilst ignoring external factors and events as well as political issues and the struggle for power. Kristallnacht is an excellent example of such a mistake as it occurred for a very spontaneous and political reason instead of a strategic and well planned one. ...read more.

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