German Participation and the Holocaust
German participation in the Holocaust was the result of three main reasons. The first main reason the German citizens allowed themselves to be involved in the Nazi regime was the economic standing of Germany at the end of World War I, and the status of the economy leading up to World War II. The second reason German citizens allowed themselves to participate in the Holocaust was due in large part to the fact that Hitler was an extremely charismatic leader who could easily coerce people to do as he said. The final cause for German citizens to be involved in Hitler’s movement was the role that the industries in Germany allowed themselves to play with Hitler at the helm of the country. The following will discuss these points in depth in an effort to explain one of the most horrific tragedies in the history of the world began with the efforts of just one country.
The economic standpoint of Germany after World War I was bleak and the country was being pushed into a massive economic downturn. After World War I ended, most of Europe was in shambles and the general consensus among the Allied countries was that it was Germany’s fault. The Treaty of Versailles states: “The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.” (1) The guilt of World War I was being forced heavily upon Germany, which left a bitter taste in not only the German government’s mouth but also in those mouths of Germany’s citizens. Germany continued to have economic problems after World War I because of the amount of reparations the country was forced to pay. In the Treaty of Versailles it states, “The Allied and Associated Governments, however, require, and Germany undertakes, that she will make compensation for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allied and Associated Powers and to their property during the period of the belligerency of each as an Allied or Associated Power against Germany by such aggression by land, by sea and from the air, and in general all damage as defined in Annex l hereto.” (2) This total amounted to be approximately $33 billion United States dollars, or 133 billion gold marks. This was money that Germany did not have at the time, and this ruling forced Germany into a deep pit of debt, one which they would not be able to climb out of until World War II.
This massive debt forced Germany into a state of depression, because the country could not come up with the appropriate funds to free itself from the dismal economic state in which it found itself. To make matters even worse, the worth of the German mark plummeted when this downturn occurred. According to Richard Evans, “Before the war, the dollar had been worth just over 4 paper marks on the exchange in Berlin. By December 1918, it took nearly twice as many marks to buy a US dollar. The rate continued to decline to just over 12 marks to the dollar in April 1919 and 47 by the end of the year.” (3)
The blame that Germany acquired in the aftermath of World War I was destructive to not only the German government but to the German military as well. The military services after World War I were greatly reduced. After the Treaty of Versailles was signed, Germany’s military was reduced to no more than 100,000 troops. The German military was also not allowed to have any submarines, limited tank divisions, and a small air force. On top of the economic and military issues, the Treaty of Versailles also took away much of the land that Germany had before the war. Some of this land went to Austria and France, amounting to almost a tenth of pre-World War I German lands. All of these economic, military, and physical reasons made...
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