It is said that Hitler’s fanatical hatred for the Jews stems from the time he spent in Vienna as a young man, where he failed to be accepted into the Academy of Fine Arts school, twice. He wanted to pursue a career in Art to express his creative talents of painting and drawing, however from his rejection of Arts school, he focused his interests on other studies. He became interested in politics and often read anti-Semitic articles in the daily newspaper. Hostility towards Jews, dates to ancient times, perhaps to the beginning of Jewish history.
From the days of the Bible until the Roman Empire, Jews were criticized and sometimes punished for their efforts to remain a separate social and religious group – one that refused to adopt the values and the way of life of the non-Jewish societies in which it lived. As his thinking developed through his own studies, Hitler randomly picked up information on philosophy, politics and religion. He thought the Jews were the main cause of all the wrong in the world. When asked to explain his situation of having very little money and living a hand to mouth existence, he blamed the Jews, priests and social democrats.
But in reality, he was a failure and the focus of all his studies became an exciting discovery. By 1900,anti-semitic ideas were becoming more frequent and generally more acceptable. Jews became the reason for the discontent and disorientation felt by many people resulting in the rapid industrialisation and urbanization that took place. It is said that in the late nineteenth century, the racial theories of social Darwinsim presented anti-Semitism in a more intellectual vein.
Hitler also took a dislike to other minority groups defined as vagabonds, gypsies, beggars, prostitutes, alcoholics, eccentrics, the work-shy and juvenile delinquents. Thousands were sent to concentration camps and forced to wear badges that marked them out as being enemies of the state. The Nazis were keen to stress the biological origins of anti social behaviour. They were “unworthy people” who needed to be removed from society in the interests of the community. When Hitler came to power, he enforced certain rules and policies that clearly demonstrated his dislike to Jews.
On April 1 1933, he ordered a boycott of Jewish shops, doctors lecturers and lawyers. Jews were banned from government jobs under the ‘Law for the restoration of the professional civil service’ and were forbidden to join the army from May 1935. From September 1935, the first of the ‘Nuremburg laws’ were passed, the law for the protection of German blood and honour prohibited marriages between Jews and non Jews, which meant that any sexual relations between Jews and non Jews outside of a marriage was a criminal offence which could result in imprisonment.
The ‘Reich Citizenship Law’ removed the rights of Jews as German citizens, meaning Jews could not vote making them feel like guests in their own county. During this time Jews suffered greatly under Hitlers power and many took the opportunity to leave the country in 1936 when Germany hosted the Olympic games. The persecution did lead to the emigration of nearly 150,000 people in which 30% were Jews between 1933 and 1938. The Jews that remained in Germany didn’t want to leave their personal property and possessions that they have worked hard for, and stayed in hope that Hitler would change.
Their assumptions couldn’t have been more mistaken as the process of Aryanisation only continued to worsen when more drastic measures were taken to force Jews to leave Germany. Hitler’s treatment towards the Jews even went as far as organizing a vast assault on Jewish property, which involved many homes, shops and synagogues destroyed. This outrageous event was called ‘Kristallnacht’ (crystal night or night of broken glass) as so many windows were significantly smashed that night. During Kristallnacht, over 100 Jews were killed and 20,000 sent to concentration camps and were made to pay one billion schmarks for the damage.
After this, a decree was made that excluded Jews from German economic life which meant that Jews were banned from shops, trades and businesses, universities cinemas and sports facilities. In order for Hitler to achieve his Volksgemeinschaft, he wanted only healthy Aryans committed to the state, so this therefore lead to the persecution of gypsies, homosexuals, religious sects, the mentally ill and the workshy. Hitler tried to place the blame on the Jews themselves for the happenings of Kristallnacht saying that they provoked the attacks and increased the campaign against them.
He also wanted to make it seem as if the events were just a random outburst of anti-Jewish activity by the Germans and not the Nazi party. The war had an increasing effect on anti-Semitic policy, increasing the number of Jews within German controlled territory and provoking a brutalization of life that reduced objections to mass murder. By winter 1941 an estimated 700,00 Jews had been killed, mainly in unsystematic mass shootings. The SS then decided gassing` was more efficient. In January 1942 at the Wannsee Conference, Nazi policy was coordinated and the ‘Final Solution’ was made which led to the extermination of over five million Jews.
Below shows pictures of the damage to homes during Kristallnacht and men at a concentration camp. Many historians have debated in the past what exact role Hitler played during this time. Some suggest that the holocaust happened as Hitler willed it while others would argue that the final solution came to be implemented as a result of inner momentum within the regime, a result of the chaotic nature of the government in which various institutions and individuals improvised a policy out of the chaotic military and human situation in eastern Europe by the end of 1941.
J. Hiden, makes the following statement regarding Hitlers treatment to the Jews, ‘The persecution of hundreds of thousands of Germans by the Hitler regime serves to illustrate the dissent and non conformity must have been widespread. Resistance defined as an organized and sustained attempt to destroy the government, was not’. It can’t be proved that Hitler himself gave the order for the final solution however it is clear that he approved off the decision.