Persecution of Jews
How accurate is it to say that the persecution of Jews in Germany steadily increased in the years 1933-42?
The question of whether or not the persecution of Jewish race has had a steady intensification, relates closely to whether you adopt an intentionalist or structuralist viewpoint on this historical event. An intentionalist will claim that the process of persecuting Jews in Germany is a planned sequence and was outlined by the Nazi Party; they claim that the roots of Hitler’s politics was about eliminating the Jewish race from Germany and the evidence can be found in Mein Kampf. On the other hand, structuralist historians will claim that the persecution of the Jews was never planned and it was improvised all the way through to the Holocaust; furthermore, they will state that the Nazi’s did not come to power based on policies towards the Jews as the electorate was never as enthusiastic as Hitler was about this.Although it increased it was more gradual than steady, It did increase but there were times where it stopped, but it was at a very low key when not much attention was taken towards the situation. However, in 1938 when the Nazi’s had invaded Austria and Sudetenland, there was more of an increase in persecution of Jews.
In the year 1933, the Boycott of Jewish businesses and professional offices, the exclusion of Jews from civil service as well as the Quota for non-Aryan students occurred serving the purpose of isolating the Jews from the Aryan race. Reasons for such policy also have to do with the Nazi’s hatred or perhaps jealousy of many of the Jews being able to take up leading positions in the upper class society. Also, the act of isolation meant citizens would have less chances of coming into contact with the Jews thus increasing the chances of them buying into the propaganda. Furthermore, a policy was laid out preventing non-Aryans to inherit farms. Intentionalists claims can therefore be seen as an attempt of initial processes to isolate the Jews. They will also claim that events such as only allowing farms to be passed on to Aryans was for later purposes of war and the extermination of Jews thus the farms were to be safer in Aryans hands to guarantee farmers will not rebel. However, structuralists can counter such an arguments by claiming that it was plain improvisation. This is because no one would have expected the separation of Jews to result in a mass extermination.
The Nazi approach to anti-Semitism was gradualist.Indeed, for some Germans the discriminatory legislation was no more than the Jews deserved. For the more liberal minded, who found such action offensive, there was the practical problem of how to show opposition and to offer resistance. Many radical Nazi’s i.e.The SA, were keen to take immediate measures against Jewish people and their businesses, but the Party’s leadership including Hitler was worried that it could get out of hand. The SA were capable of taking it to far and attract too much attention and cause too much trouble. When the boycott was organised on 1st April 1933, the SA picketed at Jewish owned shops, cafes and businesses etc, they would be standing outside and urging people not to come in. However, the boycott was not universally accepted by the German people and it caused a lot of bad publicity abroad. The Nazi leaders developed their anti-Semitism in a more subtle way. Once the Nazi regime had established the legal basis for its dictatorship, it was legally possible to initiate an anti-jewish policy, most significantly by the creation of the Nuremberg Laws in September 1935.The Nuremberg Laws classified all non-Jewish White Europeans as Aryans. These laws deprived Jews and other non-Aryans of German citizenship and prohibited racially mixed sexual relations and marriages between Germans and Jews. On the 26 November 1935, the laws were extended to "Gypsies, Negroes or their bastard offspring" This clearly stood in contrast to the extensive civil rights that the Jews had enjoyed in Weimar Germany. The discrimination against the Jews got worse as an ongoing range of laws were introduced.
Propaganda also had an influence on the German society which makes them turn against Jews and agree with Nazis that they should be terrorised . Goebbels himself was a particularly committed anti-Semite and he used his skills as the Minister of Propaganda and Popular Enlightenment to introdrinate the German people. Goebbels used a full range of propaganda methods which was used to advance the anti-Semitic message, such as posters and signs, newspapers and the cinema. A particular aspect of anti-Semitic indoctrination was the emphasis placed on influencing the German youth. the message was obviously put across by the Hitler youth, but all schools also conformed to new revised textbooks and teaching materials, e.g tasks and exam questions.
Terror and violence was a lot more violent and more radical than anything else. The SA, as the radical left wing of the Nazis, took advantage of their power at local level to use violence against Jews, e.g damage of property, intimidation and physical attacks. This was the start of the increase for Jews being persecuted in Germany, trying to make the rest of the German society see the Jews for how Hitler really see them. However, after the Night of the long Knives in sporadic for two probable reasons. First, in 1936 there was a distinct decline in the anti-Semitic campaign because of the Berlin Olympics, which in fact Jews were not welcomed. By 1936 the Nazi government had been in power for four years, so that a number of the 430 anti-Jewish laws finally decreed by the Hitlerian government were already in force. Alone in 1933, the first year of Nazi rule, it was decreed that all Jews were dismissed from all government jobs, that no Jew could practice medicine, dentistry or the law. In addition, laws were made prohibiting Jews from serving as jurors; prohibiting Jews from employment as tax consultants; and, most important, depriving Jews of German citizenship no matter how many generations may have been born in Germany. During the Olympics, which began on August 1, 1936, all anti-Jewish signs and propaganda was removed from German buildings. Since 1933, every store and every public building such as libraries had displayed signs that read, “Juden unerwünscht”, meaning Jews not welcome. Except for the two weeks of the Olympics, Nazi newspapers were plastered all over the walls in German cities. Schacht had continued to express worries about the implications of anti-Semitic action for the economy (although he resigned in 1937) However, the events of 1938 were on a different scale, this was the turning point. First, the union with Austria in March 1939 resulted, in the following month, in thousands of attacks on the 200,00 Jews of Vienna. Secondly, on 9-10 November 1938 there was a sudden violent pogrom against the Jews, which became known as ‘Night of the Crystal Glass’ (Kristallnacht). Kristallnacht started in Berlin and spread throughout Germany and dramatic effects; the destruction of numerous Jewish homes and 100 deaths, attacks on 10,000 Jewish shops and businesses, the burning down of 200 synagogues and the deportation of 20,000 to concentration camps. Goebbels had hoped that the anti-Semitic actions might also win Hitler’s favour. It should be noted that much of the anti-Semitic legislation came in the months after the pogrom. Reasons why it all became so violent and radical was because, the Nazis were trying so hard to get the Germany society to agree with them and see the Jews for how they really are, they had to try and get their point across, and also by being so violent with the Jews it made them realise that they were not welcome and were not wanted part of their society and wanted them to be gotten rid of.
In the face of increasing legal repression and physical violence, many Jews fled Germany. Until October 1941, German policy officially encouraged Jewish emigration. Gradually, however, the Nazis sought to deprive Jews fleeing Germany of their property by levying an increasingly heavy emigration tax and by restricting the amount of money that could be transferred abroad from German banks. A number of Jews had decided to leave Germany voluntarily, as they knew what was coming for them and had to try and leave as quick as they could and to live a better life and not be discriminated but wherever they moved, they ended up going through tough times. However, many Jews with influence, high reputation or sufficient wealth could find the means to leave. The most popular destination were Palestine, Britain and the USA. However, form 1938 a new dimension to anti-Semitism developed-forced emigration, Jewish Emigration was established in Vienna, overseen by Adolf Eichmann. Within six months Eichmann had forced the emigration of 45,000 and the scheme was seen as such a success that, in january 1939, Goring was promoted to create the Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration run by Heydrich and Eichmann.Nazi persecution led to about half of the Jewish population leaving before war. Technically, the Jews had voluntarily emigrate but they were forced to leave behind all their belongings. Given the circumstances, the remainder decided to take their chances and stay in Germany rather than lose their homes and all their possessions. Despite the range of anti-Semitic measures of 1933-9 , it is difficult to claim that the Nazis had pursued a planned overall policy to deal with ‘the Jewish question’. However, on one point it is very clear the year 1938 marked an undoubted ‘radicalisation’ of Nazi anti-Semitism.
At the time it was inconceivable to imagine that the Holocaust was possible. The suggestion that millions would be systematically exterminated would have defied belief. It is an event in modern European history that even now seems almost beyond rational comprehension, although it had a terrifying logic to it. yet, the unbelievable did happen and it required not only the actions o a ‘criminal’ minority but also the passivity of the ‘innocent’ majority. In Germany the moral dimension has helped to make this historical debate a particularly impassioned one. By genocide, the murder of hostages, reprisal raids, forced labor, "euthanasia," starvation, exposure, medical experiments, and terror bombing, and in the concentration and death camps, the Nazis murdered from 15,003,000 to 31,595,000 people, most likely 20,946,000 men, women, handicapped, aged, sick, prisoners of war, forced laborers, camp inmates, critics, homosexuals, Jews, Slavs, Serbs, Germans, Czechs, Italians, Poles, French, Ukrainians, and many others. Among them 1,000,000 were children under eighteen years of age. And none of these monstrous figures even include civilian and military combat or war-deaths.
Germany’s victory over Poland in autumn 1939 meant that the Nazis inherited responsibility for an estimated three millions Jews. Why did the Nazis end up killing six million Jews? This question is difficult to answer. Some historians believe that the Nazis had planned the extermination of the Jews since their takeover of power in 1933. Other historians believe that the extermination of the Jews was a result of a specific historical context, and thus not originally planned for. However, it turns out that the Nazis never did have a plan, they just took action and Hitler never had a plan thought threw, Hitler had to be very calm and careful around the situation.
After occupying Poland in 1939, he policy of forced emigration became untenable for the Nazi regime. It was simply unrealistic to make more than 3 million Polish Jews emigrate. This led to ambitious Nazi plans for a solution to the ‘Jewish Question’. However, plans to ‘resettle’ so many people placed such a great strain on food supplies and the transportation system that, in the short term, the Nazi leadership in Poland were compelled to create a number of Jewish ghettos, e.g. Warsaw, Krakow and Lublin. The invasion of Russia in summer 1941 marked a decisive development. From that time, it was seen as a racial war launched by the SS Einsatzgruppen that moved in behind the advancing armies. These four ‘Action Units’ were responsible for rounding up local Jews and murdering them by mass shootings. The mass murders began in connection with the war of extermination against the Soviet Union, which began on 22 June 1941. The bloody process clearly raised the practical implications for the Nazi ;leadership of finding a ‘Final Solution’ to the Jewish question, but was too expensive. Nevertheless, there remains uncertainty and debate over when exactly it was decided to launch the genocide of the Jews. Options were probably being considered during autumn 1941, but it was only agreed as a result of the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942. In course of 1942, a number of camps were developed into mass extermination centres in Poland, most notably Auschwitz, Sobibor and Treblinka, which were run by the Death’s Head Units of the Waffen SS. Most of the Polish Jews were cleared from their ghettos and then ‘transported’ by train in appalling conditions to their death in gas chambers. It is believed that, of the original three million Polish Jews, only 4000 survived the war. In 1943-4 Jews from all over Europe were deported to face a similar fate - so that by 1945 it is estimated that six million European Jews had been murdered.
In addition to the Jews, the Gypsies were also subject to racial persecution and became victims of Nazi genocide. The Gypsies had been viewed as ‘outsiders’ throughout European history for several clear reasons. They were non-Christian and they had their own Romany customs and dialect, they were non-white because they had originated from India in the late medieval period and their ‘traveller’ lifestyle with no regular employment was resented. By 1933 it is believed that the number of Gypsies in Germany was about 25,000-30-000, and they, too, were beginning to suffer from the gradualist policy of Nazi discrimination. Gypsies were defined exactly like the Jews as ‘infallibly of alien blood’ according to the Nuremburg Laws of 1935. Himmler issued the 1938, a directive titled ‘The Struggle against the Gypsy Plague’, which ordered the registration of Gypsies in racial terms. Straight after the outbreak of the war, Gypsies were deported from Germany to Poland - and their movements were severely controlled in working camps. Notoriously, in January 1940, the first case of mass murder through gassing was committed by the Nazis against Gypsy children at Buchenwald. The Gypsies during the war were the focus of ever increasing repression and violence but there was no real, systematic Nazi policy of extermination until the end of 1942.
To conclude, the issue of the Holocaust remains one of the most fundamental controversies in history. For some historians Hitler remains the key, as he was committed to extermination of the Jews at an early stage in his political career. It is argued that this was followed by the consistent gradualist policy, which led logically from the persecution of 1933 to the gates of Auschwitz. It is the simplest form these historians suggest that the Holocaust happened because hItler willed it, which is true he wanted to get rid of all Jews and non human people. On the other hand, other historians have rejected the idea of a long-term plan for mass extermination . Instead, they have suggested that the ‘Final Solution’ came to be implemented as a result of the chaotic nature of the government during the war. As a result, various institutions and individuals improvised a policy to deal with the military and human situation in eastern Europe by the end of 1941.