Janice O’Brien 2007 Self-Directed paper

Due Tuesday May 21,

History/Sociology

Events that made the Holocaust Possible:

The Holocaust, arguably one of the most horrific events in the history of mankind, a representation of the hatred that can bring men to treat other men as less than human, was a culmination of many historical events. The inhumanity of the holocaust is what frightens us, and we as members of the human race campaign for awareness and remembrance, to prevent history from repeating itself. However, the people who committed the crimes of the holocaust were mere victims of human nature and tumultuous times. To prevent another holocaust, we must understand the origin of the World War II holocaust and the events that led up to it. The first origins of the holocaust were created from the end of World War I 21 years before World War II erupted. Ironically, the Great War was the “War to end all Wars” because it was assumed that in the resolution of this war world peace would prevail. Instead, seeds of many wars to come were planted, and the holocaust was too created from the post-war policies. Included in the Treaty of Versailles that ended the first World War was a section called the War Guilt Clause which blamed Germany for the entire war. Germany also lost much of its land, which was divided among the winning countries, was forced to pay for war reparations, which ruined Germany’s economy, and was forced to limit the size of its military. The German people felt stabbed in the back and blamed the economic and political chaos that followed these decisions on the foreign leaders who had written the Treaty of Versailles as well as many other individuals. The economy fell out, and in an attempt to keep the money flowing, the German government ordered the mass printing of paper money, a plan which backfired as the paper money was worthless in such large quantities.

As mandated by the Treaty of Versailles, Germany’s government rearranged itself into an unstable democratic republic nicknamed the Weimar Republic. The economic chaos led to the evolution of literally hundreds of political parties, all at extremes with one another, and each claiming to have the solution to Germany’s problems. Unlike modern day America, which runs on a 2-party system (democrat and republican) where a majority vote is 51% or more, a majority vote in the Weimar Republic was approximately 26%, so laws could be passed that were unsatisfactory to the majority of the people, but passed because they technically had a majority in the government. The governmental structure had many flaws that allowed Hitler to rise to power. The Chancellor held too much power while the President held not enough, and the Reichstag, the equivalent of parliament, was a tumult of hundreds of political parties. The government was inefficient and impotent. The German people held to the stab in the back theory, blaming the Marxists, French, Treaty of Versailles, and especially the Jews, many of whom were bankers during the war and stopped funding the war for economic interests. By 1919 Germany was economically, socially, and politically unstable. The government sent spies to infiltrate small political parties and keep them in check. One of these spies was Adolf Hitler, a proud German who hated any form of democratic rule, claiming that it promoted individualism, not nationalism. Hitler infiltrated the German Worker’s Party in 1919 in Munich. He soon became a member of the party and the party grew in popularity. Hitler also discovered fascism, an ideology created by Mussolini, and translated it to National Socialism, or Nazism. Nazism appealed to the German people who felt stabbed in the back, claiming a return to tradition. In Nazism, all power is given to a dictator who acts in the interest of the nation. Although to Americans this idea of a dictator seems treasonous, to the German people, this was a return to their traditional ways of kings. Nazism appealed to the emotions of the people, rather than to their minds, because it promoted a unity within

a tumultuous country, pledged morals and values that few had seen since before the start of the first world war. Hitler rose to power through a series of unfortunate events. The government recognized the young leader as a potential threat, and in an attempt to keep its friends close, but its enemies closer, the government appointed Hitler to the position of chancellor. The death of the president, Von Hindenberg, gave Hitler the chance to seize power of the entire government. The Reichstag voted to give Hitler total power in an attempt to make the government more efficient, and Hitler intended to capitalize on that. By 1935 Hitler had renewed Germany. He had restored political stability and removed any potential threats to his power, restored the German military to its preWWI prestige, resumed military production, increased employment to nearly 100%, restored the economy and German pride and nationalism. With the German people now on his side, Hitler began his attack on the Jews. Germans did not appreciate the Jews, and with this new surge of nationalism, the threat of outsiders caused tensions to grow. Hitler took advantage of this and passed several laws called the Nuremburg laws. These laws decreed that it was illegal to be anything but a Nazi and if you belonged to any other political party, you could convert or be sent to a concentration camp. They also began by slowly encouraging the German people to act more and more resentful towards Jews. The first laws were not even laws. Hitler simply asked the Germans to boycott Jewish stores for a few days. Next came the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, which deemed it illegal for any Germans to marry non-Germans. Each person in Germany was required to have their heritage recorded, and if they were descended from a Jewish ancestor, they too were considered Jewish. The Reich Citizenship Law prevented any non-Germans from being considered citizens. Slowly but surely, the German people were growing increasingly suspicious of the Jews. Soon the Nazis forced the Jews to carry identification with them, and they had to wear a Star of David on their clothing at all times. Not far later all Jewish families

were moved from their homes into ghettoes separated from the Germans. The Hitler Youth and all school children were taught how to distinguish a Jew based on facial features. From an early age the indoctrination of the German children held its ground and the children hated Jews as much as Hitler did. When the Jewish families were deported from the ghettoes into concentration camps, the Germans did not say a word. German people never stepped up or stopped the Nazis from continuing their extermination of the Jews because they were fully loyal to the party that had brought them peace out of complete chaos, and because Hitler had capitalized on the German’s early dislike for Jews and encouraged people to separate the Jews. In small increments, from a simple boycott to the concentration camps, Hitler made the German people hate Jews just a little more every time. By the end, the ugly side of human nature was revealed, but too late for millions of innocent civilians.