In 1939, the Nazi policy to eliminate the Jews had barely come into being, yet by the end of the war, they had murdered over six million Jews and countless others attempting to accomplish their ‘Final Solution’. In answering this question I am going to analyse why world war two affected the Nazi treatment of the Jews in such and extreme way, exploring how exactly it allowed it to happen. One reason for the change was that by the middle of the war years the scale of the Jewish ‘problem’ was much greater than at the start of it.
The Nazis now had many more Jews to deal with; throughout the war year, the Nazis took over more and more countries containing more and more Jews. The ‘problem’ of the Jews therefore escalated to a point where the Nazi commanders realised that the methods that they had previously used to exterminate Jews would not work on the large scale that was necessary. The mass killing method of the concentration and death camps was therefore considered a more effective method. There was no way the Nazi’s could turn back now there was no other way to go except mass extermination; at least if they got rid of all the Jews no one could come after them.
In wartime, people become desensitised to a degree to what is happening around them; they have very little feeling for the plight of others, when they themselves are going through extreme hardship and suffering the losses of their friends and family and undergoing rationing and bombing. This would have meant that the allies would not care, they were suffering why should they care. The German Jews were just the enemy like all the rest of the Germans, why should they worry about the enemy. The Germans themselves would be too worried about their own welfare thus few would pay much attention to or question the actions.
This allowed the Nazi leaders to begin much more horrific plans that they would never have gotten away with in peacetime. There are also many other reasons why Germans did not question the wartime actions of their leader and thus allowed the much worse treatment of the Jews. For a start the majority of the German people trusted Hitler, he had led them out of major economic trouble and he also had promising policies that the people liked, they trusted his judgement so when n they received reports of what was happening the could not believe it.
The overall view of the people was that the war was much more important than anything else was; this meant that those who may have been worried would not risk endangering the war effort or troubling the country by speaking out. The treatment of the Jews was also not widely discussed as the Nazis shrouded all their actions in secrecy and spread propaganda to cover their tracks. The Nazis also would have used the tool of propaganda in another way; any true reports of their actions they could claim were propaganda since in wartime propaganda and censorship are widespread.
During this time it was barely possible to know exactly what’s happening directly around you, let alone hundreds of miles away, barely anyone new the truth, although some rumours did circulate. Even if German citizens did hear about the camps then they could simply attribute it to British propaganda, no one knew reality from fiction. You couldn’t check either because there was no way of going to the camps unless you were a prisoner. Few could believe that a leader as great as Hitler could do such horrible things, it was impossible.
In reality however, Hitler did not really lead the anti-Semitic war, he was very apathetic letting his deputies do what they wanted. Himler and Heydrich were both very anti-Jewish and so the war years gave them a free range to put their plans into action. On the other hand, the allied countries would see no reason to help the Jews, although in the eyes of the Nazis they were no longer German the allies still saw them as German, the enemy, not victims After the 1941 Nazi campaign Operation Barbarossa a big ally of Germany, Russia, was lost.
This meant that the war became one without rules, no longer did the Nazis follow the code of war, and they did what they liked. This operation also changed Nazi policies because there were 3 million more Jews in the part of Russia they invaded, along with many communists who were thought to be just as bad, thus there was a greater ‘problem’ to deal with. World war Two and the Nazi war against the Jews were in opposition to each other; in trying to win the Jewish war the Nazis neglected the world war.
It seems almost like the N a good example of this was the invasion of Hungary, which ultimately caused the end of the world war, but ironically, it expanded the anti Jewish war 3. How did the Nazis try to exterminate the Jews between the years of 1939 and ’45? We have already seen in this coursework that from as soon as Hitler came into power he started targeting the Jews. We have also seen that world war two allowed the Nazis to treat the Jews much worse, culminating in their attempted eradication by means of the gas chambers.
I am going to describe in this final section of this coursework the progression of Nazi attempts to eliminate the Jews between 1939 and 1945, describing why each stage or method was replaced by the next. In September 1939, the first step was taken to exterminate the Jews; ghettos were set up in Germany; these were just a sectioned off part of a city in which all of the Jews were bound by law to live. Ghettos had been around long before Hitler but had been abolished in all countries that had used them, centuries ago.
However, the purpose of the old ghettos was quite different; the original aim of ghettos (the ones from years before the Nazi’s) was simply to separate the Jews from the rest of society, to segregate and isolate them. Hitler wanted not only, to do this; to completely control the Jews, but he also wanted to surreptitiously, put an end to the ‘Jewish problem’; the main aim of the Nazi ghettos was to kill the Jews through starvation and disease-ridden conditions this was not a clear aim though, they were not really certain how it would be achieved.
In the main, the Ghettos were established in Eastern European countries, for example that at, Lodz, Warsaw, Vilna, Riga and Minsk there were many in Poland in particular since the Nazis had recently begun to occupy it and here there were ten times as many Jews on whom to implement their plans. The eastern European countries especially Poland were considered polluted by inferior blood anyway, (that of the Slavs along with many Jews), so the Nazis had no qualms about using them for the purpose of a ‘racial dustbin’ placing the Jews here kept them well away from the superior areas such as Germany.
Life in the Ghetto’s was miserable. Behind the tall, broken glass topped and barbed wire covered walls life was unutterably hard. Conditions were filthy, and had very poor sanitation. Extreme overcrowding forced many people to share a room; and rooms were not allocated to people anyway. It was a largely uncontrolled situation, with the Jews organising themselves in the best way they could. Disease was widespread and staying warm was very difficult during the harsh cold winters without adequate warm clothes and heating fuel.
Food was in such short supply that many people slowly starved to death. The weakness of the Ghetto inhabitants also meant that many of them died from diseases that are normally easily treatable such as influenza, measles, and pneumonia; without medical care, they perished. At first, Jews were allowed out during the day to work and this allowed some to earn money with which they could buy food from local vendors who upped their prices to make money out of the poor situation that the Jews were in. Slowly though, the Nazis stopped allowing this and sealed off the ghettos completely.
This meant that in many cases the only way of getting sufficient food was through the black market. People would slowly work through first their money, then their belongings and then even their clothes simply so that they could pay the extortionate prices of food in order to survive. The Nazis saw the opportunity of making use of this desperation and said they would give the Jews who did manual, heavy labour for them extra food, people in the hardest jobs got more food. This meant that the Jews would work themselves to death simply trying to survive.
When it came to the dissolving of the Ghettos the Nazis also exploited the hunger of the Jews to get them to report for deportation of their own free will, promising food to all those who volunteered. At one time, Jews in Warsaw who volunteered for deportation were given 6. 6 pounds (3 kg) of bread and 2. 2 pounds (1 kg) of jam. Life in the Ghettos was killing Jews as the Nazis had intended, the trouble however in their eyes was that it was not killing them fast enough and not on the extensive scale they had hoped for. There were also other significant problems with the Ghetto system.
The Ghettos were in the middle of cities, they were right in the public eye, ordinary German citizens could see exactly what was going on, this was a problem since the eradication of the Jewish needed to be kept secret in case information got out and the rest of the world discovered what was going on. They believed therefore that the concentration camps were a better solution since they were out in essentially the middle of nowhere with only small villages nearby, for example Treblinka was only a tiny village, little more than a hamlet.
Another problem related to the fact that Ghettos were in the middle of cities, was that they were surrounded by populated areas. This meant that the diseases which developed within a Ghetto due to the poor sanitation conditions was easily transmitted to the population outside the Ghetto so as well as killing those in them the Ghettos began killing those outside them as well, the ordinary citizens. In addition, the Ghettos were taking a long time to kill their populations.
The Nazis wanted to complete their plan to eradicate the Jews before the war finished in order to avoid the international community from finding out about it; the war would provide them a good cover as long as their plan was completed before the end of it. They were running out of time if they wanted to complete their plans under the cover of the war, it was starting to go badly for them; they didn’t have much time left. The Nazis needed a methodical killing method to get rid of the Jews quickly and thoroughly leaving no evidence of their deeds, this was the concentration camps.
All of the Ghettos were eventually dissolved, and the Jews murdered, most of them being taken to the death camps. The Ghettos began to be dissolved around the time when the ‘Final Solution’ of concentration camps was planned. The Nazis did however use another method to exterminate the Jews before they used the Concentration and death camps; this was the Einsatzgruppen. The Einsatzgruppen was actually in full usage at the end of when the Ghettos were; they were set up in June 1941. Either Jews were dealt with by the Einsatzgruppen or they were transported to the ghettos.
The Einsatzgruppen (killing squads) were a specialised branch of the SS, controlled by the head of the SS Heinrich Himler. They followed behind the ordinary army after they invaded and gathered up those who they considered undesirables and shot them in ditches. This extermination method was greatly used in 1941 when the Nazis invaded soviet territories and the Baltic state. The SS dispatched the Einsatzgruppen who were ordered to kill all Jews on the spot. Three thousand Einsatzgruppen men massacred about 300,000 soviet Jews. Overall, the Einsatzgruppen murdered about 1. million people these were political enemies, communists and Jews. The Einsatzgruppen worked effectively in that they were efficient at killing all those who need to be killed but this method did have major problems. For a start, there was a serious problem on a human level. There was a very large workload for the Einsatzgruppen, and it was highly disorganised. The men who had to go round massacring people quite obviously began to suffer psychologically after some time of doing it since they not only had to kill men but after a short time they began murdering women and children as well.
This meant that valuable labour was wasted. This method also is not efficient on an economic level since for each man woman or child you have to use at least one bullet. When massacring hundreds of thousands of people this way you are wasting tons of bullets, a lot of resources are going to waste when they could be of better use elsewhere especially on the battlefields of the World War. In addition, the moving around of the Einsatzgruppen made the unsound economically since to do this they needed more resources than ordinary army squads did.
Although the wide usage of concentration camps only began during the Second World War, the Nazis actually started some of the camps almost as soon as they came into power in 1933. During the 1930s, six major camps were established, these were Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Flossenberg, Mauthausen, and, Ravensbreck which was for women only. At the beginning of the Nazi rule, however the concentration camps were mainly for political undesirables and troublemakers and were really just used to keep people out of the way.
Konzetrazionslager, as the Nazis called the camps, took over from the Einsatzgruppen and ghettos, which were no longer considered practical, as I have already explained, and were used to work people to death doing pointless manual labour. In June 1941 the Wannsee conference was held, it was here that the Nazis decided on a final solution, this was the death camps; special concentration camps with mass extermination facilities, namely the Gas chambers.
After the conference, in January 1942 the extermination camps at Chelmno (Kulmhof), Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Maidanek, and Auschwitz-Birkenau, were established in which at least 3 million Jews were murdered. There were different methods used to kill the Jews in these camps, some used gas vans some used a mixture of gassing and shooting and some like the infamous Auschwitz used solely gas chambers. Gas chambers were simply large, sealed off rooms with openings through which gas could enter.
These openings were often disguised as showerheads; the people going into them were stripped and told they were going to have a shower. After the gassing was complete, the bodies were stripped of anything left of any use, for example, gold teeth were removed and melted down this was using the bodies much more constructively than the Einsatzgruppen and the ‘products’ such as hair could be used in the war effort. Prisoners were then forced to work taking the bodies to large pits be buried or in the case of Auschwitz, large incinerators.
The method of gassing was very efficient in the job it was set out for; one small canister of gas could kill hundreds of people and there was no direct involvement of the soldiers in the killing or in the clearing of the bodies. There was a special group of prisoners to do this, the Sonderkommando, made up of male prisoners who had to do all the really dirty work, clearing bodies etc they to were then killed to avoid the spreading of information to the inmates.
Therefore, unlike with the Einsatzgruppen this way meant there were few psychological problems in the nazi men. The gas chambers were also cost effective; thousands of bullets were not wasted like with the Einsatzgruppen. In the Concentration camps without the mass extermination facilities, the inmates were put to work doing dangerous jobs such as building V-2 rockets and working in chemical factories some were put through medical experimentation. Any who got too weak or were unable to work for another reason would have been shot or killed by lethal injection.
The camps fulfilled the intentions of the Nazi leaders, they killed many people, and so in many ways they did what was intended, they, replaced the previous elimination methods with something that could kill on a scale beyond any that had previously been seen. This is demonstrated by the fact that the Concentration and extermination camps killed more than six million people, mainly Jews, whereas an estimated 2 million died in ghettos by starvation and disease, or were executed by mobile Einsatzgruppen. Many aspects of the concentration camps made them much better that any other method of exterminating the Jews.
They were out in the countryside so citizens did not see what went on, they were easily accessible from the ghettos and occupied countries because they were situated on existing railway lines or otherwise new ones were built specifically for that purpose. They also felt that they made the best use of their resources. In actuality in terms of using resources, the Concentration camps were worse than other methods. This is because the camps needed many men to control the prisoners even though all useful parts of the bodies were kept and people worked until they died.
In that the concentration camps took men away from the fighting of the world war, they may have led partially to the loss of the war. However, the concentration camps were only really used since the end of the war was expected and the Nazis wanted to kill the Jews before this. This desire was so strong, that when the Russians and Americans neared the gates of the camps the Nazis made the prisoners go on a death march back to Germany to both cover their tracks and kill more of the prisoners.
This was therefore a vicious circle of sorts; in aiming to finish the ‘Final Solution’ before the end of the war, they only hurried the end of the war. In conclusion, although we might say that one method replaced another, this is not strictly true. Whilst the other methods were still in use the next one was already in practice but to a different degree, either as an alternative or as the next step for the most ‘Undesirable’ of individuals, only taking over fully when the previous method was found not to be working sufficiently well to justify its continued use.
Although the Nazis wished to find the most efficient way to exterminate the Jews, ironically the method that they finally opted for, the concentration and death camps probably had a hand in their downfall. Really when it came down to it the Nazis did not think rationally at all, they let their wish to eliminate the Jews overtake their logic and sabotaged their own interests in doing so.