Was German “Eliminationist Anti-Semitism” Responsible for the Holocaust?

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| | |Was German “Eliminationist Anti-Semitism” Responsible for the Holocaust? | |Issue 10 “Taking Sides: Clashing Views in World History” |

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German anti-Semitism played the main role in Holocaust and extermination of Jewish population in Europe during World War 2. There are different views on this subject among historians. Some support the fact that German society was anti-Semitic and ordinary Germans’ hatred towards Jews was the main factor in horrors of Holocaust. One of supporters of this idea is political science professor Daniel Goldhagen. He argues that German citizens were willing to commit all kinds of crimes against European Jewry during years of World War 2. In his article “The Paradigm Challenged” he emphasizes that many books were written about the Holocaust and none of them includes studies of the perpetrators; people who designed and implemented the strategies of mass extermination of Jews. Goldhagen discussed that most scholars have a very strange view on the attitude of perpetrators. In their studies most perpetrators presented as victims of the Nazi regime and social pressure of that time. They made Germans look like they had no choice, but to follow violent and unlawful orders of their leaders. In fact there was always a choice not to kill innocent people. There is no record of anybody from German military being seriously punished for not following the order to kill Jews. Despite that, ordinary German soldiers were killing Jewish people all around the Europe and the Western part of Soviet Union. Also the writers who defense German perpetrators and look for more complicated explanation of their behavior, other than just anti-Semitism, totally ignore victim’s testimonies. Letters, diaries, memories of those who lived through horrors of the Holocaust, are never used in analyzing of perpetrators’ attitudes toward them. Instead of victims’ accounts, German documentations are often used to analyze and understand perpetrators behavior. Even though German records lack any details regarding killing institutions and operations, they are used as the main source for understanding motives of German perpetrators. Professor Goldhagen looks into victims’ testimonies and draws a conclusion that the German perpetrators acted voluntarily and willingly. They were motivated by anti-Semitic views and general hatred towards Jewish population. So in Goldhagen’s opinion the main moving force of German hatred toward Jews was anti-Semitism. It was an ideology not only accepted by Nazi leaders, but also by general population of Germany. The main point that Daniel Goldhagen makes in his study on Holocaust is that anti-Semitic ideology was widespread among ordinary German population and Germans were aware of crimes committed against Jews all over the Europe. People of Germany showed no resistance of any kind against anti-Jewish laws and regulation enforced by Hitler’s supporters. This proves that they accepted the ideology of mass killings of innocent people. If most of the German population had been against the radical Nazi policies of eliminating Jews, then Holocaust would have never been possible.

There is another opinion about causes of Holocaust. Christopher R. Browning argues that even though pre-Nazi Germany was filled with anti-Semitic ideas, anti-Semitism itself was not the major ideology of most German citizens. In his article Brwoning criticizes professor Goldhagen’s ideas, and looks for more complicated causes of Holocaust than just anti-Semitic movement among ordinary Germans. Christopher R. Browning uses Iari Kershaw’s studies in which he cites Peter Merkl’s research...
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