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Was German ‘Eliminationist Anti Semitism” Responsible For The Holocaust?

976 words - 4 pages

“Was German ‘Eliminationist Anti-Semitism” Responsible for the Holocaust?” is a fascinating and somewhat discouraging debate that explores the question of whether German anti-Semitism, instilled within citizens outside of the Nazi Party, played a vast role in the extermination of Jews during the Holocaust . Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, author of “The Paradigm Challenged,” believes that it did; and argues quite convincingly that ordinary German citizens were duplicitous either by their actions or inactions due to the deep-seeded nature of anti-Semitic sentiment in the country. On the other hand, Christopher R. Browning, who has extensively researched the Holocaust, argues that the arguments of Goldhagen leaves out significant dynamics which were prevalent throughout most of Western and Eastern Europe during this period of history.
Goldhagen presents his argument in a manner indicative of a person on the defensive; who seems hard-pressed at convincing the reader that anti-Semitic sentiments throughout Germany plays a key role in the genocide . The tenor of his presentation is quite rushed, yet this is somewhat understandable because his presentation is also quite authoritative and is filled with a remarkable amount of information that begs further consideration of its readers. Goldhagen challenges what he argues as being the prevailing views of historians concerning who is ultimately responsible for the atrocities that happened to German Jews in Nazi Germany. He sees the predominant theory as almost apologetic in terms of the German people’s role while questioning the integrity of past research into the subject of the Holocaust. He rails against the assertion by many historians that most Germans were also victims of the circumstances eventually forced upon them by the Nazi regime, “It denies moral agency and assent of the perpetrators and holds that they were compelled to act by forces external to them, such as terror, bureaucratic strictures and modes of behaving, the logic of the system, or social psychological pressure.”
Goldhagen presents a compelling argument, one that demands us to look at the actions of the German people at the time in a manner that has not been done before: to view the issues from the experiences of German Jews . Goldhagen argues that little attention has been paid to the experiences of the Jews at the hands of the German citizenry, stories alleged to be equal in brutality. Surprisingly, Browning has no response for this except to say that the brutality towards German Jews was not an exception; it was prevalent throughout Europe and elsewhere . Browning posits that anti-Semitic sentiments in Germany was symptomatic throughout the world and should not be limited in its scope for the purposes of understanding the Holocaust. He also points that atrocities perpetrated during this period of history was not reserved for the Jewish people alone and they were not carried out by only German citizens . His too is a compelling argument,...

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