The Question of the Jewish destiny and how the Germans (Nazi) came about their final solution committing genocide has always been a debatable area of the Holocaust. There are scholars that argue that the decision to commit genocide arose “bit by bit” out of challenges and opportunities presented by Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. There are various Interpretations of “the final solution” among scholars. However, historiographical themes in the History of the Third Reich argues otherwise for the intention and the role Hitler played in initiating the murder of European Jewry, with a high degree of persistence, consistency and orderly sequence in the Nazi anti-Jewish policy, directed from a very early point to the goal of mass murder (genocide). This paper will explore how the genocide of Jews was a plan systematically implemented through the start of anti-Jewish policies.
The never-ending dilemma of conquering the Jewish problem that was set in motion by anti-semic ideologies, that originated in medieval days with the Catholic Church and State and later adopted by the Nazi regime and their Jewish Policies. Scholars have assessed the holocaust and the Nazi regime, as well as Hitler’s role that he played leading up to “the final solution” of the Jews, thus two types of views arises from scholarly research name the functionalist approach and the intentionalism approach which I will explore in the paper. Scholar like Broszat argued the Final solution was not a single Hitlerian decision, but rather arose “bit by bit” and improvised responses by local massacres to relieve pressure rather than a plan of destruction in 1941 (Marrus, 41). In Broszat’s view Hitler set out “to get rid of the Jews, and gain territory of the Reich, clear of Jews” – but without making it known specifically how he was to achieve this goal (Marrus, 41). According to functionalist views Hitler did envisage war but not a world war and the extermination of Jews and the warfare are all events that ultimately led to up to “the final solution”. According to Mommsen Hitler had little direct input in terms of the Jewish policy, not denying his hatred towards them, but blames the chaotic structure of the Nazi Regime (Marrus, 42). According to functionalists views the role Hitler played was one that stimulated murderous ravings with his speeches, but never ordered a final solution and the implementation thereof. Thus, their argument is that Hitler’s role remains hidden and emerged from improvisation, rather than deliberate planning (Marrus, 42). According to Adam a decision was made on moving forward with a wide European mass murder an order from Furhër between September and November of 1941, but no argument on mass murder being the solution from an early stand point (Marrus, 43).
However, the functionalist view was challenged and critizised by other scholars that took on what is termed an intentionalism approach to assess “the final solution”. Hillberg was one of the first scholars that to argue against functionalist view on the decision-making process of Nazi Jewish Policy which went beyond the circumstances of the key decision to kill the Jews Browning, 174). According to Hillberg the annihilation of the Jews was above all “administrative processes” or “bureaucratic destruction” and that there was no single order to kill but rather a sequence of decisions made (Browning, 174). According to Hillberg the Nazi bureaucratic was made up of four components or hierarchies, namely party, civil service, industry and military who all made up the bureaucratic machine of destruction (Browning, 174). This machine had no master plan, no blueprint but found the shortest road to the final goal with an uncanny ability to find its path.
Browning and other scholars criticized the functionalist view based on three grounds: Firstly, they challenged Adam’s notion of deportation of great masses in summer 1941, because preparations for deportation have never been discovered, and it is unlikely that serious planning for it could never have been in motion without leaving a trace of evidence in the historical record (Marrus, 44). Secondly, Brosza’s argument also been challenged for mass murders being locally initiated, not only does it seem unlikely that systematic killing of Jews from the Reich, could have been undertaken without Fuhrer’s agreement, also too little evidence of local initiatives. When final solution came into effect some officials were shocked, but they did not disagree with it they did, however reluctantly with an order given by Hitler (Marrus, 44). Strong indication that the idea did not originate with them and Thirdly Browning contends that the decision for wide European mass murder was taken in the summer of 1941 (Marrus, 45). Based on the functionalist’s approach they argued Hitler based his decision for the final solution from the disappointment of the outcome of the Russian attack, whereas Intentionalisms argue that Hitler made his decision and gave orders somewhere in the months immediately prior to the attack on the Soviet Union. Krausnick speculated that Hitler has been toying with the idea of exterminating Jews for a long time even before he made his intentions known and that he privately visualized a much more extreme solution, therefore he only tolerated the Jews during emigration for it was the only practical way at the time (Browning, 174). According to Browning Hitler’s role in “the final solution”, the making of the decision for the final solution, the degree of premeditation and the situational context and motive for a presumed decision was that he was the key decision maker, who did not just make one decision but a series of key decisions (Browning, 178).
This was also evident in Hitler’s speeches, threats and the (murderous) language he used that should be understood according to Browning as quite literally in the 1920’s even during policies of persecution in 1930’s and the plans for deportation (to Madagascar) after the war broke out, Hitler already had decisions based on more radical solutions. For example, one of Hitler’s famous speeches of 30 January 1939 where he issued a terrible warning that he would one day take over and settle the Jewish problem and, in his speech, he talks about how he has been ridiculed for being a prophet and how he was the laughing stock of Jews during his time of struggle for power (Marrus, 37). Thus, as early as the 1930’s and during his journey to obtain power he already had thoughts and decisions of the annihilation of the Jews. Which is significant to consider based on what ultimately transpired when he came into power. On the other hand, Hillgruber argued that Hitler’s “radical universal antisemitism” and drive for Lebensraum was connected in Social Darwinist ideology (Browning, 176). Social Darwinism used as scientific meaning for the Holocaust for cleaning out the inferior genetics. Therefore, the attack on the Soviet Union and conquest of Lebensraum both meant the destruction of the Jews and Hillgruber argues together they constituted ‘racial-ideological programme for National Socialism. Thus, Hitler thought when he had won in Russia he returned to destroy the rest of European Jewry to consolidate his victory.
Dawidowicz argues that in September 1939 the Fuhrer set the stage for mass murder with the attack on Poland (Marrus, 35). According to Dawidowiz the war and the annihilation of the “Jews was interdependent, because the war provided Hitler with the cover for the unchecked commission of murder. Hitler needed an arena for his operations, where morality of warfare is ‘accepted’, thus was the beginning of the “two-fold war”, on the one hand war for raw materials and empires; and on the other hand, ‘war against the Jews’ viewed as the greatest enemy of the Germans (Marrus, 35). Therefore, based on arguments already mentioned Hitler had long-term plans to set his goals in motion and the destruction of the Jews was at the centre of his plans. The question remains did he know how he would do it? perhaps not, how or in which manner precisely per say but he had plans in motion to destroy. The “how” I believe was context and location specific and systematically worked towards his goal.
At this point we can accept both views as Hitler’s role being the key decision maker in contexts, while scholars can agree on the same year of 1941 coming to a decision of the final solution, however the months are still questionable and standing within disagreement. Scholars agreed that Hitler’s decisions were related to the war, but do not agree on or certain about which aspects of the war, for example preparation for Barbarosa, Euphoria of victory or the frustration of failure (Browning, 184). In my opinion Hitler already made his decision before he obtained power as a leader, he had plans to get rid of them and this was evident in his aggressive and murderous language he used during his speeches and propaganda. Once Hitler gained power he systematically set his plan in motion, first through policies, territorial warfare, material gains, deportation and ultimately killing all Jews. Hitler was smart in his operations by giving orders, waiting for the opportune moments to set his plan in motions and using language where he doesn’t directly communicate in public what he exactly means with the Jew problem, but to some surprise when operations was in effect they soon learned just what he meant and those under his leadership followed his orders without challenging him.
Browning, Christopher. R. The Decision-Making Process. pp. 172-197
Browning, Christopher. R. (1994). The Nazi Decision to commit Murder: Three interpretations: The Euphoria of Victory and the Final Solution: Summer Fall 1941. Vol. 17. Nr. 3. pp 473-481.
Marrus, Michael. The Holocaust in History: The Final Solution. Chapter 3. pp. 31-45.