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.
Adolf Hitler did not live a very long life, but during his time he caused such a great deal of death and destruction that his actions still have an effect on the world nearly 50 years later. People ask what could’ve happen to this small sickly boy during his childhood that would’ve led him do such horrible things? For Adolf it might have been society, rejection from his father, failure as an artist or was he born to hate?
Adolf was born in Braunau, Austria in 1889. His father, Alois was a minor customs official, and his mother was a peasant girl. Adolf attended elementary school for four years and entered secondary school at the age of eleven. Adolf’s dreams of becoming an artist did not match the government official job his father wanted him to have. These fights over what he wanted to be, lead Adolf to lose interest in getting good grades and dropped out at the age of sixteen.
When his father died Adolf roamed the streets of Linz dreaming of his future as an artist. He attended a great deal of operas and loved the musical work by Robert Wagner.
At 18, Hitler tried to enter the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna but was rejected twice. His failure put a great deal of frustration on him. He saw himself as an artist who was rejected by “stupid” teachers. Adolf later moved to Vienna to find a way to make a living.
Hitler would rather do odd jobs such as shoveling snow, or beating rugs instead of getting a regular job. Since he had no set income he was forced to move into the ghettos and became somewhat of a bum. He finally got a job painting postcards and advertisements. He had little money still, and spent most his time reading and thinking about what he read.
While Hitler was in Vienna, he learned things which he later used to destroy the world. He learned that the finest thing for man to do was to conquer foreign countries, and that peace is a bad thing because it makes man weak. He was also convinced that Germans are the master race, even though he himself was Austrian. Hitler also took part in political ideas which were later used in Germany. He believed a political party must know how to use terror. He also discovered the value of appearance in politics. He thought only a man who could attract masses of people by his eloquence could succeed in politics. Hitler later became the greatest public speaker in Europe.
In Vienna Hitler also learned of his hatred for Jews. “Wherever I went I began to see Jews, and the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity. I grew sick to the stomach, I began to hate them. I became anti-Semitic.”(1) In the spring of 1913 Hitler left for Munich, Germany at the age of 24. He left Vienna to get away from the mixture of races and to escape the military that he had to serve in with Jews.
The First World War in 1914 was Hitler’s chance to let go of his frustrating childhood. Hitler proved to be a brave soldier and was wounded twice and decorated twice for bravery with the Iron Cross. Hitler, like many other Germans didn’t believe they were defeated by Great Britain and the U.S. in 1918. They thought they had been stabbed in the back by the Jewish slackers. After the war Hitler found himself unemployed once again and began looking for a place in politics because he felt he could do something for the country. Shortly after Hitler returned to the army and was assigned to spy on political parties which the generals thought were communist, socialist, or pacifists. Hitler was ordered to investigate a small political group called the German Worker’s party. The next day he received an invitation to join the group. He decided after two days of questioning himself that he should join. After enrolling, Hitler later made it the largest political party in Germany, and became known as the Nazi Party. In 1921, the two years after he joined the party, he became the Fuhrer which is the leader of the Nazi Party. By 1923, Hitler believed he was strong enough to try and conquer Germany. He planned a revolt in Munich to bring down the German republic and then to make himself the dictator of Germany.
Hitler couldn’t have had this revolt at a better time because Germany was in an economic crisis. The businesses and mines of Germany were closed down because the government didn’t pay the reparation payments which were written in the Treaty of Versailles.
Hitler felt it was time to overthrow the German Republic because the German people were looking for new hopes and a new leader to help them through their times of trouble.
Hitler and his troops stormed into a political rally and began shouting. Hitler tried to make the leaders join him but they wouldn’t. The police arrived and broke it up. Hitler was thrown in jail for his attempt to overthrow the government, but only served nine months of his 5-year sentence. While in jail Hitler wrote Mein Kampf (my struggles). In this book he wrote the plans for taking over Germany.
During the German depression the economy of West Germany wasn’t getting any better, but Hitler’s chance to gain political power was. In 1930, Hitler told the German people that Germany would not pay the reparations and would tear up the Treaty of Versailles. He also made promises of getting businesses back on their feet. Nazi popularity grew and in 1933 Hitler was made Chancellor. It took only one year before Hitler was made the dictator of Germany. He quickly outlawed all political parities and made the Nazi way the new form of government.
He began the reign as dictator by abolishing the freedom of speech, and he persecuted Christian churches and made trouble with the Jews. He ordered the murders of many Germans who did not agree with his ways, and had others carted to concentration camps where they were slaughtered. He also began to arm Germany secretly against the Peace Treaty and to get ready for aggressive war. After Hitler had full power of all political functions he gave himself the title, Fuhrer and Reich’s Chancellor. He also became commander in chief of the armed forces. Hitler began threatening Austria and got Herr Schuschnigg to sign Austria over to German control. Hitler also did the same to Czechoslovakia. He followed that by taking Belgium and Holland for naval and air warfare. Hitler shortly after set an alliance with Italy and a deal that would keep Russia out of any war that involved Germany. This deal with Russia was set up so that when Hitler took Poland the land would be divided with Stalin. It also allowed Hitler to launch the second world war. He planned to attack Poland on August 26, 1939 at 4:30 p.m.
However, on August 25, Britain and Poland signed a pact for mutual assistance. So now Hitler would have to deal with Great Britain, and to make this worse Mussolini said that if Hitler attacked Poland, Italy would not join him in war despite their treaty. Hitler was forced to postpone his attack for September 1, 1939 at 4:45 a.m.
On the 1st of September Hitler sent U-30 subs to attack the British liner Athena. Without any warning they killed 1,400 passengers, 120 of whom were Americans, in cold blood and World War II began. In the Spring of 1940, Hitler’s armies conquered Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and the Netherlands. He finished his victories with the defeat of France in 1940. He knew he could not defeat England so set out to attack Russia, but before he did he took Yugoslavia and Greece. German forces moved into Russia but could not defend themselves against Moscow and Leningrad. Hitler refused to let his army retreat from the battle field and let them slowly die out in Stalingrad. IN 1944 American and British forces landed in Normandy to try and put an end to what Hitler was doing.
It wasn’t bad enough that Hitler was conquering foreign countries and trying to rule the world, but he also began showing his hatred toward the different races. This is the part of the war he caused that might have affected the world the most.
Captive people were made slaves of the German Master Race, and all the Jews and many slaves were to be exterminated.
“The Polish generation must cease to exist! However cruel this may sound, they must be exterminated. Also all representatives on the Polish intelligentsia (intellectuals) are to be exterminated. This sounds cruel, but such is the law of life.”(2)
Seven and one-half million foreign civilians were forced to work as slave labor workers in Germany. Many of them were beaten, half starved, given houses not fit for cattle to live in, and forced to work morning and night. Millions more were placed in concentration camps, where most of them died or were put to death. The worst of all treatment was saved for the Jews, for Hitler was determined to make Europe Jew-free. Out of Europe’s 100,000’s of Jews killed around a quarter were massacred in gas chambers and their bodies burned in specially made furnaces. Another three-quarter of a million Jews were put to death by machine guns of Special Tasks Forces.
On July 20, 1944, an attempt to kill Hitler with a bomb in a briefcase failed. Before this attempt a group of army officials also made a number of attempts to kill Hitler in 1943.
At the end of August in 1944 Generals of the German army knew there was no way they could win. Hitler’s remaining allies were all lost. Finland gave up, Bulgaria withdrew from the war, and Romania was defeated by the Russians, who were now allies with Britain and the states.
In the west, General Eisenhower’s armies took France and then headed toward the German border. On January 30,1945 Albert Spear, Chief of Armament Productions told Hitler that the war was over and lost. After hearing this horrible news Hitler became a nervous wreck and began saying he was going to destroy the land he had led to a catastrophe. “If the war is lost, the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue a most primitive existence. On the contrary it will be better to destroy ourselves because their nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong to the stronger eastern nations. Besides those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have been killed.”(3)
After troops took over Berlin Hitler blamed the Jews for starting the war and placed them responsible for the deaths on the battlefields, and bombed towns, and also for the massacre of millions of Jews.
On April 30 at 2:30 p.m. the body of Adolf Hitler was found on a sofa dripping blood from where he shot himself in the mouth. At his side was his wife, Eva Braun. She had swallowed poison.
With one gun shot in the mouth ended the life of the person who was responsible for millions of deaths. Hitler took the easy way out and did not get to see the effects he caused on the world. He left towns diminished to rubble, families torn apart, and possibly worst of all the deaths of millions and millions of innocent people to the effect that he gained nothing from all of this.
1. Shirer – pg. 9
2. Shirer – pg. 138
3. Shirer – pg. 162-163
Joshua Rubenstein (1982) Adolf Hitler, Franklin Watts New York, London, Toronto, Sydney An Impact Biography
William L. Shirer (1965) The Rise and Fall ofAdolf Hitler, Random House New York
Burton H. Wolfe (1970) Hitler and the Nazis, Longmans Canada by Longmans Canada Limited, Toronto
Filed Under: European History, People, War, World War 2 (WW2)