Hitler and the Jews topics discussion


Ian Kershaw is a highly recognized professor of history and historian. He has also managed to compose a two-volume bibliography of Hitler, something that has made him widely considered as an authority on the issue. According to the opening statement on the jacket of the book Hitler, the Germans and the Final solution, this collection of articles brings together the most influential and essential aspects of research of the author on the Holocaust of that period. The titles of the four sections of the book show the topics that the author deals with as, Hitler and the final solution, the final solution in historiography, popular opinion and the Jews in Nazi German and the uniqueness of Nazism. This paper will, therefore, use these sections of the book, and the arguments the authors make to come up with a discussion of the issues surrounding the relationship Hitler had with the Jews.

The author defines the final solution to the issue of Jews as, ‘the systematic (Nazi) attempt to exterminate the whole of European Jewry…’ (Kershaw 60). It is clear that this is the traditional view of the issue, the view that most mainstream historians agree with today. The author goes ahead and points out that there were three main questions surrounding this final solution. These questions are when and how the decision came about to exterminate Jews. The second question had to do with what role did Hitler play in creating and implementing this mass murder policy. The third question enquired whether the final solution followed any single order from an established program or whether it evolved haphazardly over time.

After asking these questions, the author argues that ‘the deficiencies and ambiguities of the evidence, enhanced by the language of euphemism and camouflage used by Nazis even among themselves when dealing with the extermination of the Jews, mean that absolute certainty these complex questions cannot be achieved…’ (Kershaw 61).  Generally, the author is arguing that there is room for doubt in relation to the answers many mainstream historians have provided for these questions.

Two camps are evident today of orthodox historians on the issue of the final solution, these two camps are the internationalists who argue that Hitler assumed power with the intention of murdering all Jews and implemented coherent and unbroken policies to achieve this goal. The other camp is that of functionalists who argue that the decision of the Nazis to exterminate all Jews did not originate with the policies and the decisions of Hitler alone, but evolved in an improvised and incremental fashion (Lipstadt 23). On these two schools of thought, Kershaw argues that one would have to neither explanation of the final solution offers a fully satisfactory answer. He further points out that the vagaries of the policy against Jews both in the period of war and before the war, out of which the solution resulted, belie any idea of a program or plan (Kershaw 269). This is to mean that the two theories do not hold any solid truth about the Holocaust and that before the war and in the period of war, there was not official, solid program or plan to kill all Jews.

One of the major agreed- on dogmas of the traditional story of the Holocaust is that Hitler, who was the leader of the National Socialist, personally commanded that all Jews living in Europe exterminated. Nonetheless, the author acknowledges that a written statement by the leader that commands the killing of the Jews was never found. He further notes that research and studies on the issue had in many ways moved away from the different theories about the exact date of the decision by Hitler on the final solution by implying that Hitler did not make the decision (Kershaw  96- 97). The author even throws more doubt in the minds of the reader on the traditional view of the role Hitler played in the killing of Jews when he argues that the evidence on which this belief is based is unsatisfactory and fragmented. He indicates that is almost certain given the unsatisfactory and fragmented evidence that all trials to develop a precise moment when the leader decided to launch the decision will meet numerous objections (Kershaw 100). He, therefore, concludes that it is almost impossible to separate a specific, single Fuhrer order for the decision in an extermination policy that developed in a radicalization process lasting for more than a year.

Much of the book is filled with attempts of the author to explore and understand the theories of a number of mainstream historians on the issue of the Final Solution. He argues that these historians have inferred distinct interpretations of the decision from the same sources or evidence, indicating that the sources on which the interpretations of the scholars are based on are essential. It is clear that he believes that their source or evidence is extremely weak or non- existent. The contends, therefore, that the interpretations of these scholars lie on the balance of probabilities (Kershaw 256- 57). He argues that the post-war testimonies given in court by some of the officers about the existence of an order from the leader to kill Jews are false (Kershaw 258).

Therefore, after the author exposes the reader to these conflicting arguments, the issue that comes forth is what the nature of the order for the final solution was. The author points out that it is almost impossible to come up with an answer by claiming that, ‘the nature and the form of the Fuhrer order, and whether it amounted to an initiative by Hitler himself or was any more than the granting of approval to a suggestion… is impossible to establish (Kershaw 259).

However, amidst all the uncertainty and doubt the author manages to introduce his readers into the traditional view of the decision that made it possible to the mass murder of Jews, he makes an argument that is supposed ‘absolutely true’. He argues that the final solution was fully blown by March of 1942. This is to mean that the Nazi plan to totally exterminate Jews was in full operation by March of 1942. Nevertheless, the evidence one of the mainstream historians on the Holocaust puts forth refutes this supposedly ‘true’ statement. Jeff Herf argues that in seventh of March 1942, the National Socialist propaganda minister conversed about an extensive memo related to the final solution decision regarding the Jews.

According to this historian, the document referred to the more than 11 million Jews in Europe whom the Nazis had to concentrate in the East, and in due course be send to an island after the war. According to the memo, Europe would not be peaceful until the Nazis excluded all Jews from Europe. The government would address certain questions that arose from the issue of half-Jews, spouses, relatives according to the memo. According to the historian, ‘the situation is now ready to introduce a definitive solution to the Jewish question. Later generations will no longer have the energy… it is important that we proceed radically and thoroughly (Herf 146). The historian admits that the passage contradicts the holocaust story believed by traditional historians. It does not speak of a decision to kill Jews, but to deport them to a place outside Europe after the war ends. This evidence, which the historian derived from Joseph Goebbels’s diary, defies the claims of Kershaw that alleged orders or policy to eliminate Jews was in Operation in 1942.

It is clear that the author accepts the traditional view of the Jewish Holocaust when he acknowledges the presence and the use of gas chambers for the mass murder of Jews. However, despite the fact that he agrees with this fact, he provides evidence that points out to uncertainties of some of the testimonies to the utilization of gas chambers (Kershaw 109). The author seems to refute the idea that homicidal gas chambers were utilized at Charkov because it is now clear that they were never present. More importantly, the author substantiates what Arno Mayer, another mainstream historian admitted in n1988 that, ‘sources for the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable…’ (Mayer 362). It is clear, however, from the book that Hitler was not fond of Jews, ‘they ought to be isolated in remote camps where they could no longer infect the healthy body of the public…’ (Irving 509).

It is also clear from the above paragraphs that Hitler had a large role to play in the extermination and the mass murder of Jews in the 1940s. Though there are contradicting interpretations of this role, different historians point clearly to his participation in the war that saw thousands of Jews dead.

Work cited

Herf, Jeffrey. The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust.         German: Belknap Press, 2006. Print.

Irving, David. Hitler’s War: 1942-1949. New York: PAPERMAC, 1977. Print.

Kershaw, I. Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution. New Haven: Yale University Press,         2008, Print.

Lipstadt, Deborah. History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving. New York: Harper-        Collins, 2005.             Print.

Mayer, Arno. Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? The “Final Solution” in History. New York:       Pantheon, 1988. Print.

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