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How Did Hitler's Final Solution Policy Come About,

3065 words - 12 pages

The Final Solution Hitler's 'Final Solution to the Jewish Question' was one of the, if not the, most terrible occurrences of the twentieth century. That it happened, that it was on a huge scale, and that Hitler played the major role in bringing it about, are accepted by most historians. The main issue which is in doubt is how the euphemistically named 'Final Solution' came about. Did Hitler always intend to 'exterminate the Jews'? Were all the men who planned and committed the atrocities merely following orders, as wass often claimed in war trials? Did Hitler start out with a concrete, step-by-step plan for the annihilation of Jews, which merely awaited the proper time to be put into action? This is an essentially two-sided debate. The two sides, which Ian Kershaw refers to as 'Intentionalists' and 'Structuralists', have different ideas of the origins of the same event. The 'Intentionalists', looking at Mein Kampf or other sources, such as Hitler's many speeches, see evidence of Hitler's desire for the physical elimination of the Jews, some as early as 1914, others not until the writing of Mein Kampf. The 'Structuralists', on the other hand, look at the haphazard nature of Nazi Jewish policy. In other words, 'Intentionalists' see Nazi anti-semitic policy as developing in stages - discrimination and emigration, deportation - to a pre-planned outcome, genocide. The 'Structuralists', on the contrary, see the progression as unplanned, with one measure only switching to another when the first failed.One major point of contention between the two interpretations is what Hitler meant in Mein Kampf and many of his speeches. Hitler frequently made use of terms such as the 'elimination' (Ausschaltung) or 'annihilation' (Ausrotung) of Jews. This cannot, however, be taken as conclusive, as the 'Intentionalist' Jäckel admits. Hitler certainly used a lot of rhetoric, and most of the words he uses, such as 'removal' or 'cleaning out', are ambiguous. According to Dawidowicz , such ambiguities were deliberately masked references to killing, understandable to insiders as such but able to be disavowed. Perhaps, but such words could, on the other hand, be meant literally, that Hitler originally wanted merely to deport all the Jews, not to slaughter them.Probably the most quoted passage in Mein Kampf, however, has few things which are ambiguous: 'If at the beginning of the war and during the war, twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corruptors of the nation had been put under poison gas … a million orderly worthwhile Germans might have been saved.' To this there is little answer, save to ask why, if this was Hitler's plan, even after the beginning of the war, Jews were not being killed and why they were at first killed by shooting (gas was developed against Russian POWs not Jews).A second point of contention has to do with Hitler's pre-War encouragement of emigration and eventually deportation of the Jews. Hitler constantly called for the emigration...

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