Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany Discuss the purpose anti-Semitism served for the Nazis. What form did it take once they were in power? The anti-Semitic philosophy of the Nazi party played a significant role in their rise to power during the 1930’s. Economic and political conditions in Germany between 1918 and 1933 played a major role in the creation of a climate that made Nazism appeal to the German population. There was widespread unemployment and economic misery and following the trend of German history since the end of the 18th century, the German people turned towards nationalism. The Nazi party captured the nationalistic fervor of the country.
The “spiritualism” and doctrines of Nazism struck a “reminiscent chord” in German tradition and cultural life. National Socialism, an essentially German movement was influenced by trends from other countries, especially Italy, Russia and the United States. Russian monarchist emigres, who hovered close to the Nazi party during its early Munich Days, espoused beliefs that were additional fuel for the Nazi party’s own anti-Semitism. Henry Ford’s book ‘The International Jew’ also had a great influence on the members of the Nazi party. Baldur Von Shirach, a former Nazi youth leader, told a psychologist, “You have no idea what a great influence this book had on the thinking of the German youth..I read Henry Ford’s book ‘The International Jewry’..and became anti-Semitic.” (Pinson, K 1966:487).
It is not that anti-Semitism did not exist within Germany. ‘Der nationale Sozialismus’ (1st ed., Munich, 1920; 2nd ed., 1992), written by Rudolf Jung of Troppau, contained heavy anti-Semitic views and was considered to be one of, if not the most, authoritative presentations of national-socialist doctrine. Another example of anti-Semitism lies in the writings of Deitrich Eckart, whose weekly ‘Auf gut Deutsch’ (first issue, December 7, 1918) came to be regarded as the first paper of the Nazi movement. It is widely considered that this racial doctrine was the crux of the entire Nazi movement. Indeed, it was the main focus of their propaganda.
The Nazi party set the Jews up as enemies and blamed them for all of Germany’s troubles. The Jews became the scapegoat of the movement. They were held responsible for anything and everything that worked counter to the Nazi ideal, and anti-Semitism became the pivot of the whole totalitarian structure of the Third Reich. It also served as the vehicle not only for the consolidation of power at home, but as the instrument of Nazi policy that was used to stir up discontent abroad and a means of gaining support in all parts of the world. Anti-Semitism was already existent, and in some ways, deeply rooted in the western world.
It provided an excellent tool with which the Nazis could galvanize and diffuse pro-Nazi sentiment. The Nazi slogan “Without a solution of the Jewish problem there is no mankind” found sympathetic ears among unscrupulous malcontents in many countries (Pinson, K 1966:493). The Nazi propaganda machine utilized scandal-sheet journalism with screaming headlines in black and red ink and pornographic cartoons. This form of propaganda is most evident in Julius Streicher’s ‘Sturmer’, which was displayed in every town and village in Germany and was in the placed in the paths of all who passed through the main thoroughfares. Streicher also published children’s books like ‘Der Giftpilz’ which was saturated with anti-Semitism and preached that “the Jew is the devil in human form” (Pinson, K 1966:494).
Through this anti-Semitic propaganda the Nazi’s preached the doctrine of eugenics and put much emphasis on ‘racial purity’. This drew upon the nationalism that was so abundant in German society and the mission of the German state was described as gathering and preserving the “most valuable of the original racial elements and gradually and securely bring them up to the dominant position in the state..the state must place race as the central point of the life of the community and must safeguard the preservation of its purity.”(Hitler, A 1925). The Nazi party used the works of Chamberlain and Wagner to leave a deep impression of racialism and paganism on the German mind and unfortunately the historical bias in mainstream German culture and tradition made Nazism acceptable and popular in German life. Support for the Nazi party increased between 1928 and 1933, when the party first started showing signs of popularity. Over the next few years the party’s support expanded. As the party’s following increased, it started to manipulate Germany into becoming a totalitarian police state.
Dachau, the first concentration camp was opened in March, 1933. The victimization of the Jews widened. On April 1, 1933 the Nazi party initiated its ‘solution’ of the all-important Jewish problem. It began with a boycott of Jewish shops in Berlin. The liquidation of German Jewry was then carried out in a series of steps that now seems tame in comparison to the eventual and ‘final solution’ of the Jewish problem. While still allowed some degree of freedom in the economic sphere, Jews were dismissed from cultural and political positions.
In Sept 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were introduced. The Nazi party claimed that the laws were “for the protection of the racial purity of the state”, but those laws reduced German Jews to second-class citizens. They were stripped of all political and civic rights and privileges. November 1938 saw the intensification of the campaign against the Jews. Until that time the repression had been mainly political, but the Nazi party took the hatred of Jews to new depths. It was at this time that Nazi anti-Semitism took on all forms of terror and violence.
On November 10th (later given the name ‘kristellnacht’) the Nazi Gestapo, claiming to be acting in retaliation for the assassination of a German Official in Paris by a young Jewish lad, ordered a series of “spontaneous” outbreaks against Jews throughout Germany. Members of the S.A. and SS began looting Jewish shops, rounding up Jews for arrest and carrying out acts of vandalism and violence against them. This period of anti-Semitic terrorism resulted in the murder of 36 Jews and 36 others were injured. As well, 191 synagogues were burned with 76 of them completely destroyed.
The physical damage resulting from this act was so great that Goering complained that the insurance money that would have to be paid would wreck havoc with his economic program. The persecution of the Jews continued beyond this singular act and many Jews were forced to flee to other countries. By the outbreak of the war in 1939, only 285,000 out of the 690,000 Jews in Austria and Germany were left. The rest had emigrated to other countries. The Jews that remained, the majority being old or married to non-Jews, soon became part of the mass extermination that followed. The ‘final solution’ of the ‘Jewish question’ was announced to a group of government officials gathered at a villa on the shore of the Wannsee, near Berlin.
This meeting, that took place on the 10th of January 1942, was to become known as the Wannsee conference. Ten days after this conference Hitler announced that “the result of this war will be the complete annihilation of the Jews”. The herding of the Jews into ghettos, and the deportations to camps followed. An elaborate system had been constructed to enable the Holocaust to take place. Thousands of ‘Germans’ were identified as having Jewish blood and were later rounded up.
The rounding up of the Jews was carried out with great speed. In 1942, 265,000 people identified as Jews were deported from Warsaw. Early methods of extermination practiced by the Nazis involved the shooting and burying of Jews in mass graves. However, their methods became more depraved and sophisticated as time went on. By 1941, Zyklon B, a form of prussic acid, was being used at the camp at Auschwitz to gas prisoners. Elsewhere Jews were gassed by exhaust fumes from diesel engines.
The Nazi extermination machine was so effective that the camp known as Auschwitz-Birkenau, at its peak, was capable of gassing and cremating almost 24,000 bodies per day. By the end of World War Two over six million Jews had been exterminated by the Nazi regime and it was only the end of the war that brought the genocide of the Jewish race to a halt. In the final analysis, the evidence proves that anti-Semitism played a pivotal role in the rise to power of the Nazi regime. It allowed the Jews to be used as a scapegoat for Germany’s problems. The Nazis anti-Semitic views and doctrine of eugenics also became acceptable and popular with the German people. Once, in power, the Nazis pushed anti-Semitism to new depths with the physical and political persecution of the Jews.
This in itself evolved into the genocide and depravity. Anti-Semitism was a political bandwagon for the Nazis to ride to power on and that once, in power, the Nazis took anti-Semitism to the point of genocide. BIBLIOGRAPHY Hitler, A 1928 Mein Kampf. Great Britain: Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd. Pinson, K.S. 1966 Modern Germany: Its History And Civilization.
New York: The Macmillan Company. Speer, A 1970 Inside The Third Reich. New York: The Macmillan Company.