Is anti-semitism a sufficient explanation for the Holocaust?
The “final solution” meant the systematic elimination of millions of Jews and other undesirables in Germany and the occupied and conquered territories. Obviously anti-Semitism was very important since millions of Jews were murdered in this act of Genocide. However other factors are also important in understanding how such a large-scale act of racial hatred can be possible in a European country such as Germany. To establish whether anti-Semitism was sufficient enough in understanding the holocaust one must look at both the world wars, the development of ideology, ‘aryanization’, persecution and opposition to the regime and finally history as the source of anti-semitism. The wars are important in understanding reasons for the Holocaust because they changed the circumstances drastically and had significant impact on making the holocaust possible. Firstly the outcome of the First World War is important in understanding whether anti-Semitism is a sufficient explanation for the holocaust. The Treaty of Versailles signed in 1919 had meant that Germany lost a lot of territory to the allies such as the Polish Corridor and all overseas colonies. The war guilt clause also meant that Germany took the blame for the war. However Hitler did not believe this to be acceptable and even blamed the outcome of the treaty on the Jews somewhat justifying the later extermination of the Jews. Hitler wanted living space for the Germans in the policy of lebensraum and gaining the territories that were lost in the treaty of Versailles would provide this. Therefore the Second World War can be portrayed as an outcome of the first. Hitler’s idea that territory lost was Germany’s and lebensraum meant that foreign policy became one of expansionism that helped initiate the Second World War. Moreover the Second World War meant that the holocaust was made directly more possible. Probably more significant, and most important, in understanding whether anti-Semitism is a sufficient explanation for the Holocaust is the Second World War. The war meant that world opinion was less important and privacy was easier. Therefore the building of concentration and death camps became easier and genocide was made more possible. Moreover the war accelerated the need for the resolution of the ‘Jewish question’ since, for one reason, more Jews were becoming under German rule. For instance after Germany conquered Poland the amount of Jews escalated under the Third Reich’s rule from no longer a few hundred thousand but to more than two and a half million1. Since more Jewish people were now under the Third Reich the problem escalated. At first deportation, such as the plans to deport Jews to Madagascar, was the most likely solution. However it seems that such plans were not sufficient enough in regards to economic and military goals. It was not until spring 1941 that plans begun for the ‘biological extermination’ of the Jews in which those unable to work would be allowed to die and those who were able were to be deported2. Since these plans failed and other plans similar, such as further plans for deportation, became less possible coupled with the continuation of war the Jews became more and more of a burden for the Third Reich. As the war continued more Jews became part of this burden and the problem escalated. It cost to keep them alive and as more money was needed for the war effort keeping them was perhaps not sufficient. Deportation was also costly and harder as the Jewish population in the Third Reich increased. Therefore extermination may have become the only option and if the war had not existed then deportation or other means may have been a more viable, and humane, option. The war also meant escalated brutality towards the Jews. It can be said that the war on the eastern front, or Operation Barbarossa, was the turning point in increased violence towards the Jews thus...
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