Anti-Semitism in Germany before and after 1933

1. For what problems were the Jews treated as scapegoats by the Nazi Party in 1929 – 33?

The Nazi Party treated the Jews as scapegoats for anything unfortunate that had happened involving Germany in the years after the outbreak of the First World War. Hitler accused the Jews of undermining the war effort, and attempting to ruin the war effort – really saying they did not show enough patriotism to be true believers in Germany.

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Among the Politicians who signed the ‘Treaty of Versailles’ there were some Jews, the most prominent of which was Walter Rathenau. Hitler therefore used these Jewish Politicians as a target to pass the blame for all of Germany’s problems and hindrances that had been due to this treaty. In reality the aforementioned politicians had to sign the treaty, because if they had not Germany would have been invaded. Due to the propaganda of the time, most German citizens thought that they were winning the war when the treaty was signed, and so were very willing to join in and blame someone for the devastation that the treaty caused them.

Hitler claimed that the new Weimar Republic was a Jewish conspiracy. This was prominently because Walter Rathenau was one of the leaders of the Weimar democracy. Therefore Hitler was saying that the feebleness of the government in 1929-33 was their fault.

Hitler also claimed that the Jews were to blame for the Wall Street crash. This was an easily believable claim because there were many Jewish bankers in New York. Hitler then accused these Jewish bankers of being responsible for the financial slump, a scheme by them to profit from. His theory was that when the world was at its knees, the Jews would loan out money and thus gain a lot of interest. He also blamed the Jews for the hyperinflation, by saying that it was the work of the ‘Jewish Bourgeois Bloodsuckers’.

Hitler further blamed the Jews for Germany’s pitiful stance in Europe as a country. He blamed it on the Jew having mongrelised the German blood. Another accusation Hitler made on the Jews was that they were responsible for communism. As Karl Marx (the man who invented Communism) had Jewish relatives, Hitler decided to accuse all Jews of being communists. Therefore Hitler implied that the Jews were responsible for all the street violence between the communists and the Nazis in 1929-33.

2. Which do you consider the more important factor in explaining anti-Semitic feeling in Germany before 1929, a or b?

There was always a dislike of Jews in European countries, as they made themselves outcasts. Germany was not an exception to this; their society had a very obvious prejudice against the Jews. England had been the first country to expel all of its Jewish population, in the reign of Edward I. Some countries forced Jews to wear special signs indicating that they were Jewish, almost as a punishment for being Jewish. Other countries rounded up their Jewish inhabitants and placed them in overcrowded ghettos. This shows that it wasn’t just Hitler who created this sudden hatred towards Jews.

Most of Europe’s population was Christian and to them the Jews were disbelievers. As Jews did not believe in Jesus, they were thus blamed for killing him. In the same way as there was a prejudice against the Turks; there was now a generalist prejudice against the Jews. They were always viewed as suspicious and often there was no reason for this – they just were.

The Jews were also traditionally moneylenders. Christians were not allowed to do this by religion, so the Jews became hated for having this advantage. People noticed that the Jews were making a profit out of others’ misery. They therefore gave the Jews a reputation as ‘misers’ – people who had a love of money. Another reason why the Jews were so hated was their will to be social outcasts, only integrating with other Jews. All over Europe there were small areas solely inhabited by Jews who refused to become part of a nation. This meant that they were never viewed as citizens of a country but just as Jews.

In 1929 the Nazis only had 2 and a half percent of the vote given, therefore their leaders would not have been very influential at that time.

Hitler lived in Vienna for a time where there were many Jews following the Russian Pogroms. He became bankrupt and in debt to Jewish moneylenders so he learned to hate the Jews, and his prejudice grew more than those around him due to his experiences. He developed very extremist views. He thought that the Jews were an inferior race who had polluted the German blood. He believed that something would have to be done to sort out the Jewish situation in Germany, and therefore tried to spread his beliefs. Hitler therefore wrote a book called ‘Mein Kampf’, which announced his hatred towards Jews and his thoughts about them. This had very little circulation before the Wall Street crash, but after the Wall Street crash, when people were willing to listen to extremist views, the circulation rose. The general history of anti-semitism across Europe and Germany helped produce Hitler’s views as expressed in ‘Mein Kampf’.

Overall I therefore think people had generally distrusted the Jews long before Hitler was even born, but he was someone with more extremist views than most, who set off the larger anti-semitic feeling in Germany.

3. Considering all the factors, which do you consider the most important factor in explaining the holocaust?

The Jews have always been disliked by Germans, even before Hitler came to power. They were separated by racial tension from the rest of Europe for a long time. The Jews suffered racial prejudices and misconceptions all over the Christian countries because they refused to fit in with the societies that they were living in.

Having been brought up in the climate of racial prejudice, Hitler’s encounters with Jews during his time in Vienna caused him to become a more extremist than the average person. The views, which Hitler developed against the Jews, were recorded by Hitler himself in ‘Mein Kampf’ – a book that he wrote whilst in prison. Hitler expressed all of his strongly extremist views in this book. One suggestion, which he made, was that the Jews should all be put on the other side of the Urals, far away from Germany. He also expressed his belief that the Jews had ruined the purity of the German blood and Aryan race through ‘mongrelisation’. Darwin’s theory of evolution gave Hitler’s views considerable respectability. When Hitler had gained power the views he expressed in ‘Mein Kampf’ were sometimes taken to be party policy. Hitler’s men carried out his views in order to gain Hitler’s favour. For example, when Goebbels was in trouble with Hitler he ordered for ‘the night of broken glass’ to be carried out. Hitler used the history of anti-semitism to make the Jews scapegoats for anything that had gone wrong in Germany since the war.

In Germany the Jews were compelled to bear the brunt for everything, and because of this some of the German people began to treat the Jews as inferiors. This corresponded with what Hitler was saying about the purity of the Aryan race. Eventually the Jews were considered so inferior that they were seen as animals, and the Germans therefore became de-sensitised to the cruelty that these ‘animals’ were treated with. The crimes against the Jews gradually became worse and worse. Hitler passed the Nuremburg laws. These laws banned Jews from being citizens and forced them to do many other things that amounted to the Jews bring seen as a lower race in Germany. Whilst conditions worsened for Jews in Germany, even those Germans who were not racists began to get used to it, and it became an everyday occurrence. Just in case, the SA were always on hand to scare and terrorise the public into ignoring the appalling acts against human rights going on in their streets.

During the earliest stages of the war there were not too many Jews for Hitler to deal with. He stated in ‘Mein Kampf’ that he intended to put them behind the Urals. However when Hitler invaded Poland he gained a huge population of this inferior race, which he had to deal with. Hitler had a problem on his hand. What should he do with all the Jews under his control? He decided to put them all into concentration camps and the Holocaust; one of the most terrible crimes of all time was started. Also, when the campaign in Russia failed things started to get worse for Hitler and he had to have even more Jews killed.

Without the long-standing prejudice against the Jews Hitler could never have used them as scapegoats for the German problems. He would never have developed his twisted hatred of the Jews as expressed in his book either. Hitler was then able to make things worse for the Jews, de-sensitising the public to the atrocities against the Jews. When everything did not go quite according to Hitler’s plans he had to get rid of the Jews and concentration camps were his solution. I therefore feel that the main factor in explaining the holocaust was Hitler’s attitude towards the Jews. However, I also believe that all of these reasons were required to provide the necessary conditions for the Holocaust to occur.

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