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Who was responsible for the Holocaust?

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Introduction

Who was responsible for the Holocaust? One of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century is undoubtedly the mass annihilation of the Jews in the Holocaust, with over six million being killed between 1939 and 1945. The killings did not start immediately as the process of elimination was gradual, in April 1933 Hitler introduced a one-day national boycott of Jewish shops and businesses, but the boycott failed to gain the support of the population as many Germans were either sympathetic or indifferent towards the Jews. Though this was to change as the Nazi regime tightened its repressive grip. It was after Kristallnacht in November 1938 where the violence towards the Jews escalated dramatically and soon Jews were being transported to concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Maidnek. Over two million Jews were murdered in Auschwitz and a further 1.3 million in Maidnek. After the Second World War many historians assumed that Hitler was entirely responsible for the Holocaust as well as everything else that happened in Germany, as Jane Jenkins says: "Hitler was portrayed as a leader who dictated events and who established an ascendancy over all who came into contact with him". But as more and more historical research showed, this view needed revision and now historians are divided into two main schools of thought: the intentionalist school and the functionalist school. ...read more.

Middle

These individuals have since become known as his 'willing executioners', as a result of their preparedness by any means to please Hitler, regardless of the morality of their actions. The main perpetrators of Hitler's 'wish' were Heydrich, Himmler and Goering who not only established early concentration camps for political prisoners but also continued with hostile actions against the Jews. Goring in particular was a radical fanatic whose ideas were perhaps encouraged by Hitler's own such views. Goring was in charge of the Aryanisation programme and personally suggested the elimination of Jews from the economy and society completely. Heydrich too, wanted a place in the Fuhrer's eye as a powerful force and as Head of Reich Main Security Office he used his power to order the ghettocisation of Polish Jews and the appointment of Jewish coincels. Himmler, also as Head of Gestapo and the SS organised the mass murder of Jews and even extended the range of those who could be incarcerated. It has been said that had it not been for the power given to such individuals by Hitler, their extreme views would perhaps not have become reality. Hitler was evidently used by his men to justify their actions, which they could not have done without his approval. His men used Hitler to legitimise their actions, rationalising mass murder as an act of loyalty to the Fuhrer. ...read more.

Conclusion

While Hitler was the ideological and political author of the Holocaust, his dream was turned into reality by Himmler, Heydrich and the SS. Recently discovered documents by German Historian Christian Gerlach have strengthen this view and is confirmation that a clear decision was taken by Hitler. The first unearthed document is a diary entry by the Nazi propaganda chief, Joseph Gobbels, which clearly says that if a world war is declared then the "annihilation of the Jews must be the necessary consequence". The validity of the source has been attacked by American historian R. Browning as he says that the source is unreliable due to the fact that Gobbels was distanced from Jewish affairs after November 1938. But the discovery of a document written by the Reichsfuhrer of the SS, Hedrich Himmler, after a meeting with Hitler strengthens the first source. The document is simply a note written on the 18 December 1941 which says that the Jews were "to be exterminated like partisans". Both of these sources show that Hitler gave the order for the 'final solution'. Hitler played a pivotal role in bringing about the Holocaust, his personality, leadership and ideology shaped the Third Reich. His racist dogma was the critical engine of the Nazi state. Anti-Semitism in Germany as a whole may have been a necessary condition for the Holocaust but it was not a sufficient one. In the end it was Hitler who made the difference, without no Hitler there would have been no Holocaust. Sakib Ershad ...read more.

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