Certainly one of the greatest tragedies of human history, much has been done to uncover the complexity of the Holocaust. While many facts remain clear within a historical context, countless others involve the intricacy of the human psyche and must be evaluated among a variety of factors. The necessary considerations for understanding this complexity involve a careful examination of the historical, ideological, sociological, psychological, and political aspects enveloping the Holocaust. This paper will seek to briefly incorporate all of these concerns in order to better understand the events that led up to the horrifying phenomenon we know as the Holocaust.
Anti-Semitism has certainly enjoyed a long and complex history that through the ages has taken many diverse forms. The earliest forms existed in Medieval Europe primarily due to the influence of the Catholic Church. Here we see the most extreme form of religious anti-Semitism with the Jews, regarded as a religious sect, being blamed for the persecution and murder of Jesus, whom the Christians regarded as their savior. The Protestant Revolution brought no relief to the Jews in terms of tolerance since many of these "new" Christians were exposed to the writings of Martin Luther and his extreme anti-Semitic ideology. Even during the Enlightenment in Western Europe, Jews were still viewed as religious outsiders and confined to limited access within the social realm. As this anti-Semitic legacy evolved throughout Europe there came with it an increased notion of nationalism and Jews, always viewed as religious outsiders, were soon being regarded as a nation of outsiders.
[...] Philippe Burrin describes Hitler's ideology as following: “This anti-Semitism of Hitler's combined all the three variants of modern anti-Semitism: Christian anti-Semitism through Hitler's ‘Christian rhetoric' defending myself against the Jew, I fight to defend the Lord's work'); national anti-Semitism, through his presentation of a Germany under mortal threat from the foreign presence and antinational behavior of the Jews; and racist anti-Semitism, of course, for this provided the general framework. This was, in short, a particularity successful example of syncretism, capable of branching out in every direction and producing an at least superficial consensus.” Burrin argues that Hitler's anti-Semitism relied on an apocalyptic schema—a purely secular version, but no less cosmic in terms of its significance. [...]
[...] Among these are “name calling”—that is, identifying the Jews as the enemies of Germany and an “alien nation”; “glittering generalities,” which deals with bolstering the ego of German brotherhood and the Volk with quasi-scientific “biological mythology,” as well as “card stacking” which under or overemphasizes various ideas in order to gain credibility. Yourman points to a section of Mein Kampf in which Hitler states Propaganda does not have to seek objectively for the truth so far as it favors an opponent but exclusively has to serve our interests” (156) Obviously, the techniques identified here work in a variety of situations and viewed alone have been the basis for many to argue that the German people were thus tricked and had no way of knowing Hitler's ultimate goals. [...]
[...] Ultimately, the combination of mild censoring (i.e. “Final Solution,” death camps, etc.) on behalf of the Propaganda Ministry and the indifference of the citizens of Germany due to the disconnect with the Jews allowed the Holocaust to transpire. When word got to the people that the Nazi's were murdering the insane there were genuine humanitarian objections; when crosses were removed from classrooms there was a moral outcry; however, rumors about mass killings of Jews did little to induce strong reactions. [...]
[...] All the evils of society, all the problems in the world, and all impending violence became projected onto the Jews through Hitler's sleight of hand technique. This made-up notion provided a causal and inherent connection between Hitler's “Final Solution” and World War II. (Herf, 68) Since the Jews bore the guilt of starting the war, they deserved any retaliation efforts undertaken by Hitler—an attempted complete justification of the Holocaust through reversal and projection techniques. In Hitler's view, the Nazi war existed not on two fronts—internal and external—but rather as a single unified war against international Jewry. [...]
[...] Though, as previously stated, anti-Semitism existed in many forms throughout Germany prior to Hitler's campaign, it still remains a huge leap between anti-Semitics motivated by personal interests on the social level and the ultimate result of Hitler's political action that we know as the Holocaust. What then, bridged the gap between intolerance towards Jews, which existed in some form or another all over the world, and ultimate acceptance of Hitler's execution plan? This question is one that is constantly debated as new theories of social psychology develop and there exist no easy answers. [...]
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