Post World War I Germany saw difficult times. Germans were searching for a reason to blame someone for their problems and extremist groups such as the Nazis provided a focus for the German people. Some historians will argue that extreme nationalism was the cause of the Holocaust because of the power of the Nazi party. While a large part of this is true, Germany's anguish after World War I sent people looking for reasons to blame someone or something for their burdens, Germany's humiliation after World
War I, its dire economic situation, and antisemitism all came together to cause the Holocaust.
Germany's embarrassment after losing World War I was one of the major reasons for the cause of the Holocaust. After Germany's defeat in World War I, Germans found it hard to believe they had lost the war. The Treaty of Versailles was a document that officially ended military actions against Germany. Germans did not like this treaty because their government would have to pay other countries for their economic losses. Germany also lost all of its colonies overseas. It had to give back provinces to France, Belgium, and Denmark. France got German coal mines and Gdansk, now a city in Poland, became a "free city." Poland gained most of Western Prussia and Germany's Rhineland was demilitarized, although allied troops occupied it for fifteen years after the war. The Treaty also solely held Germany responsible for the War in a "war guilt" cause, which greatly upset the Germans. When the German government saw the treaty, they heavily opposed it!, however they had to accept it. Germany's new republican government ratified it in 1919. Germany's defeat in the war and the provisions in the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending the war, greatly outraged the German people. Germany had lost everything, the economy was in a decline and there was an extremely high unemployment rate. The Germans wanted to restore their nation to its former greatness. They wanted to complete this task of restoration in a very short amount of time. German citizens also started looking for a reason for their defeat. A new political party called the National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazis, began its climb by bringing back old prejudices and blaming the Jews for Germany's defeat in the first World War. These were some of the factors that came together to cause the rise of Hitler's Third Reich and the slaughter of twelve million innocent people in the Holocaust.
Germany's bad economy in the 1920's and 30's was a factor for the cause of the Holocaust and the Rise of the Third Reich. After the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, Germany owed other nations money for their economic losses during World War I. This made Germany very poor in the early twenties. In 1923, inflation reached its climax in Germany which made the German Mark lose its value and virtually wiped out the middle class. The German economy was so bad that cartoons were drawn depicting middle class Germans carting around their few possessions and money in wheel barrows. Middle class citizens became more susceptible to appeals from extremist groups such as the Nazis which came about in the years following World War I because they had provided a focus for Germany's problems. Less than three years after German's economy had somewhat stabilized, it went in to a severe economic depression along with the rest of the Western world in 1929. During the years of economic depression the Weimar Republic, who ruled Germany from 1919 to 1933, was criticized for not being able to deal with Germany's problems effectively and efficiently. The Communist and the National Socialist Parties were supported by most of the German voters by 1933 because of Germany's economic problems.
Antisemitism was by far the biggest factor for the cause of the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party were behind this antisemitism campaign. When Hitler and the Nazi party gained power, they made antisemitism an official government policy. Germans were looking for a quick way out of their problems and, by listening to Hitler, they believed they found a quick way out. His reason was the Jews, and Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany's economic problems and its defeat in World War I. Hitler blamed the Jews because, he said that the Jews were not German and he had developed a hate towards the Jews as he grew older. Hitler was bringing back old prejudices. Hitler used propaganda to get Germans thinking that the Jews were the ones responsible for Germany's problems. In his book Mein Kampf Hitler wrote, "All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to". Propaganda that was spread over Germany was very antisemetic and crude. Antisemetic papers, writings, and games against the Jews were quickly spread throughout Germany by Hitler. Nazi propaganda even stooped down to the level of young children. A Nazi propagandist, Julius Streicher, published among other things, antisemetic storybooks for young children which portrayed Jews as shameful, sneaky, ugly scoundrels and Aryans as proud strong and handsome masters. The German government stripped Jews of their citizenship and took their property from them. Hitler's policy of antisemitism in the German government and his ability to effectively spread propaganda throughout Germany and Europe in the 1930's caused Germans to begin to hate the Jews.
Germany's discontent after losing World War I, its economic depression, and the spread of antisemitism and propaganda throughout Germany made Germans more susceptible to the pleas of extremist groups such as the Nazis. This caused the uprising of Hitler's Third Reich which was responsible for the extermination of roughly six million Jews and six million people of other races or beliefs to which Hitler was opposed. Because of the severity of Germany's problems after the first World War, all Hitler
had to do was link them together and tell the Germans that the Jews were responsible for everything bad in Germany. All the Germans had to do was believe him and they did just that.
May 28, 2014
Hitler and the Holocaust Essay
Germany is a beautiful European country known for its sustainability, fast cars, beer and delicious sausage. It is hard to believe that over seventy years ago, it was a completely different nation. The streets of Munich today do not tell the tale of the holocaust and WWII of the past. Once a city left in ruins, Munich and the rest of Germany have been transformed into a place of gorgeous architecture, advanced public transportation and a comparable social scene. It is easy to understand why Hitler chose Munich as his place of business due to its beauty and fun beer gardens. Germany was the victim of a cruel and corrupt political party formerly known as the Nazis. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party gained an immense amount of power in such a short span of time. In this essay I will talk about three reasons why Hitler and the Nazi party gained and sustained so much power for so long. Hitler was able to gain and sustain his power that resulted in the holocaust by taking advantage of Germany’s weakness after the First World War, speaking out against the Jewish population, propagating his political party and creating fear in the Germans through violence all across the country.
Hitler was able to win the German people’s hearts because they agreed with his anti-Treaty of Versailles ideals and post-WWI plans to restore Germany. After Germany lost World War I in 1918, the country became very distressed from post-war punishment. The Treaty of Versailles took away Germany’s right to form a defending military. Also, Germany was indebted to many states such as France, Great Britain and the United States. On top of losing their military and money, the Germans lost a great deal of land. The German national identity was torn because the monarchy was
forced to end its reign, the church was dying in morale and the military was severely weakened. Without these three important powers, the new government quickly became very unstable. Many political parties such as the communists, socialists and nationalists were fighting for political power. In 1923 a political act of violence occurred at the wall of the war memorial, Feldherrnhalle. This deadly fight was called the Beer hall Putsch in which opposing political parties fought in a deadly scene where several Nazi officials lost their lives. A year later, Hitler made his public debut when he was put on trial for the Beer hall Putsch. His ideas, such as restoring Germany to its rightful place of power, reached the public and gained attention to the Nazi party. From 1924 to 1933, Hitler and his Nazi party gained increasing popularity in election votes. The majority of the population agreed with Hitler that breaking the Treaty of Versailles and rebuilding the military would finally restore Germany’s rightful place in the world. I argue that Hitler was able to come to power because Germany was at a very vulnerable place in history due to the loss of WWI. Hitler devised a practical platform that ensured to the Germans that he would rebuild strength back into the government and put the country back on the map as a major world power.
Hitler also gained popularity and sustained his power by voicing his anti-Semitist beliefs. The Jewish people seemed to own much of the wealth in the country even though they were the minority religion. On page 129 of In the Garden of Beasts, Dodd discusses with Neurath about the “Jewish problem:” “’You know, of course,’ Dodd said, ‘That we have difficulty now and then in the United States with Jews who had gotten too much of a hold on certain departments of intellectual and business life’” (Larson). Around 98% of the population was either Catholic or Protestant, so the tensions and anger surrounding Jewish proliferation was not limited to just Nazi belief. This religious group of people did not match the ideal German identity. In fact, the Jewish population was known for being persecuted in history several times by non-Jewish supporters. It makes sense to me that the Germans were jealous of their religious opposites. The majority of Germans were having economic troubles and the small majority that were Jewish were profiting with their businesses. Therefore, Hitler stripped the rights of the Jewish people by forcing them out of their homes and creating Jewish ghettos in order to group them into one impoverished area. They had lost just about everything including their businesses and personal belongings. To add insult to injury, the Jewish people did not have much, if any, foreign support. The United States did not want to take on the challenge of providing a haven for the Jewish because they were facing the largest economic depression in U.S. history. Opening their arms to the depressed victims would mean taking away job opportunities for U.S. citizens, which was already at an all-time low. On top of it, the United States was unsure what the Nazi party was really up to. Hitler was able to intercept any mail, telegrams and phone calls to foreign countries. President Roosevelt had a hard time providing a suitable U.S. Ambassador to live in Germany let alone figuring out any information. Before he hired Dodd as ambassador, all news about Germany was mainly positive with only one or two representatives describing negative occurrences. The United States took these allegations very lightly. When word of Hitler’s madness and military buildup became known, Europe proved to be unhelpful. The British prime minister even gave up Czechoslovakia to Germany in order to create peace in Europe. As Hitler began to build his empire, he included slave occupation centers known as concentration camps. Without foreign intervention, the holocaust was allowed to initiate. These camps began as working places for prisoners, which were mainly opposing political parties and not yet the Jewish people. World War II then started when Hitler declared war on Poland in 1941. It took Hitler only a week to capture the country. Poland was a country that contained an even larger Jewish population just east of Germany. Hitler began moving the Jewish people from the ghettos and into the concentration camps where they were worked to death. What began the mass genocide was when Hitler declared war on the U.S.S.R. Not long after, the United States joined the war efforts and finally Germany started losing power and the war. Knowing that the war was going to end soon, the Nazi party decided that this was the time they needed to exterminate the Jewish people. The heads of the Nazi party met and decided upon the “Final Solution” or the extermination of the Jews. As many Jewish people were rallied up as possible into the concentration camps from 1943-1944 and put to death by gas chambers or hard work and starvation. It is possible that the German population was aware of what might have been happening in these concentration camps, but news of these deaths were kept very secret. Many neighbors and friends of the victims in the holocaust did not know the whereabouts of their Jewish friends. This made the holocaust the largest genocide in the history of mankind.
Hitler was able to keep his power as Prime Minister despite popular belief that he was a madman with his use of propaganda. Hindenburg had run out of options for choosing a suitable prime minister and figured Hitler may be on to something. His advanced ability to deliver a persuasive speech and his use of propaganda made Hitler a favorable leader in the public eye. He created rally grounds in order to boost the Nazi morale in his people. His trademark swastika was a well-known symbol placed everywhere in Germany to remind the public who their superior was. Having to heil to Hitler every time a person passed the Feldherrnhalle wall and were found in Hitler’s presence was a show of propaganda that was equivalent to brainwashing. Hitler even created a mustache style that even school kids today recognize. The Nazis constructed stone buildings and walls that made Germany look much more intimidating. With these tactics of propagating the Nazi party, Hitler was able to install a new sense of German identity which in turn kept him in power.
Hitler’s use of violence and brutality created fear among the minds of every German person. One example that scared the public to pieces was the infamous purge. It all started when the German government was questioning Hitler’s loyalty to them due to his pseudo-military supporters; the storm troopers. In April 1934, Hitler had many men killed in order to depress the storm troopers’ power and any attempt of rebellion. Hundreds of people died although reports claimed much less. Hitler’s long-time friend and head of the SA, Röhm, was violently killed to make a point. This oversized massacre proved Hitler to be very ruthless. Despite Hitler’s insane reaction, Hindenburg saw this act as a sign of loyalty to the German military and praised Hitler for his doing so. As said by the foreign press chief of the National Socialist party, Ernst Hanfstaengl, “My leader, Adolf Hitler, had to act and he acted thus always. Hitler has proven himself never greater, never more human, than in the last forty-eight hours” (Larson, pp. 317). The purge not only placed Hitler on the good side of German government, but at the same time instilled much more fear in Germans all over the country. If Hitler could sentence even his good friend to death for crossing him, then the public felt that no one could cross Hitler and live to tell the tale. In addition to Hitler gaining trust and loyalty in the government, months later in August of 1934, Hindenburg died of natural causes. The country was in need of a new president, so Hitler excitably stepped up to the challenge. It was against the German law to have a prime minister double as a president since it gave too much power to one person. Therefore, Hitler decided to place an election to the people to see if he should take on the double power. Due to many of the opposing parties’ incarceration and the Jewish people depleted of their rights, Hitler won 90% of the vote. I argue that his unanimous win was not due to his large range of supporters, but because of the mass amount of fearful citizens that were scared to vote against him. I also believe that fear was what allowed the holocaust to happen as well. Germans were too fearful of punishment if they acted out to stop the persecution of the Jews.
Although Hitler takes the blame for the holocaust, it was not a one man show. With the help of his Nazi party and the ignorance of outside help, many innocent people lost their lives based on racism and hatred. Hitler was able to rise to power by manipulating Germany’s weakness after the First World War. His anti-Semitic opinions and blame placed on the Jews were already of popular belief in Germany. This helped Hitler sustain power and create the holocaust. Propaganda led Hitler to gain even more power and convince the Germans to join his party. The Nazis were able to create fear across the country with violence and brutality. It is hard to say where we would be in our history today without the events of the holocaust. Genocide still happens today but hopefully we can work together to stop history from repeating itself through learning what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again.
Larson, Erik (2011-05-10). In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.