Why was the decision to carry out the 'Final Solution' made in 1941?

Authors Avatar

Why was the decision to carry out the ’Final Solution’ made in 1941?

‘If it had not been for the terrible events that unfolded between 1933 and 1945, the Jews of Europe would, in all probability have continued to live as they had for nearly a millennium.’  The ‘Final Solution’ is the term used for the murder of between 5 million and six million Jews during the Second World War. These Jews were citizens of every pre-war state in Europe and defined by the German Nuremberg Laws of 1935 as any person with one Jewish grandparent. Many were Jews only by the Nazi definition; in their own eyes they were Germans, Frenchmen, Belgians, Dutchmen, Italians and so on. A number of them had been practicing Christians for several generations. To understand why the ‘Final Solution’ happened in 1941 it is important to understand that it was not the first and only solution considered, thus, a brief summary of events and previous solutions will be outlined. A number of theories that attempt to explain the ‘Final Solution’ of 1941, such as antisematism, a totalitarian dictator that manipulated his subjects, the timing of the Second World War, xenophobia and opportunism and a look at the views of Intentionalists and Functionalists will be discussed.

When Hitler came to power in 1933 the Jews, under German control, numbered just over half a million. Hitler and his Nazi Party aimed to create a Germany in which the German Jews would be set apart from their fellow-Germans, and denied their place in German life and culture. This first solution of what the Nazis called the ‘Jewish Question’ was to make hundreds of municipalities ‘Jew-free’. Jewish families were expelled from villages and small towns into larger towns and cities inside Germany.

Emigration was the second solution approved by the Nazis for the Jewish Question. From 1933 until the outbreak of war in 1939, the German government permitted, and even encouraged, emigration. Emigration depended not only on the German willingness to let Jews leave but also on the willingness of other countries to take them in. By the summer of 1938, with the contemplation of war, as emigration increased many countries adopted laws restricting Jewish immigration. Another problem for the Jews who left Germany was that they could not know which countries would remain safe. For example, the Jews who found refuge in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands could not know that these countries would, eventually, be overrun by Germany.

With the outbreak of war on September 1, 1939, the Germans conquered western Poland and a further million and a half Jews came under German rule. No long-term plans existed for the Jews of Poland, who made up the largest Jewish population within the borders of the Reich. During the winter of 1939 and the early months of 1940 a third solution emerged to be applied to the Jews of Poland. From the spring of 1940 Jews throughout German-occupied and annexed Poland were driven out of their homes and sent to specially designated areas, known as ghettos, which were too small for their numbers and often lacked adequate sanitary facilities.

Join now!

The German victories in Western Europe, by 1941, brought more and more Jews from Norway, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Luxemburg, Belgium and Greece under German rule. In June 1941 the German Army invaded the Soviet Union, immediately following the troops were special killing squads or Einsatzgruppen, whose orders were to murder Jews in every locality. This was the fourth 'solution' after expulsion, emigration, and ghettoization. It led, within six months, to the murder of as many as a million Jews.

By October 1941 each of the four 'solutions’ so far put into practice were still in effect. In ...

This is a preview of the whole essay