There are many instances in history when the Jewish community have found itself being the target of hatred and discrimination. Christians have blamed them guilty for the death of Christ, which is commonly referred to as Jewish deicide, and resented them for becoming money lenders charging interest as this goes against the principles of Christianity. They were accused for causing the Black Death in 1348, by purposefully poisoning the water wells during the Medieval and Renaissance period. Martin Luther, a German friar during the 1500’s described the Jews as being the “devil’s people”, “liars”, “bloodhounds” and “bloody and revengeful” people, stating that “[Germans] are at fault in not slaving them”.
Propaganda was largely influential as it was a form of biased media used to control the population – a feature of a Totalitarian government. After the Armistice of WWI (the agreement signed which ended the fighting on the Western front on the 11th November 1918, at 11am), German propaganda was created showing the Jewish and Communist November Criminals signing the peace treaty. It was thought that they were conspiring together to work against Germany by undermining the war effort; this became known as the Stab-in-the-Back Theory; thus creating a history of prejudicial attitudes towards the Jewish community.
It could be argued here that due to the pre-conceptions of the Jewish community which had been implanted into the minds of the German population across the 1930’s/40’s, human behaviour was not being taken to extremes in pursuit of an inhuman objective from the perspective of those holding these views. This is because the Final Solution would seem justified and rationalised as something that Germany could benefit from as a country and therefore it is not considered inhuman from their point of view.
It can be argued that the totalitarian ideology of Nazi Germany took human behaviour to extremes of evil in pursuit of an inhuman objective through Adolf Hitler’s leadership. Hitler believed that a person was a Jew if they had Jewish ancestors, regardless of whether they had changed their faith or didn’t actively practice their religion. As the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, universally known as the Nazis, Hitler could manipulate their Fascist ideology based on his beliefs, thinking very much in racial and biological terms. His input into the Ideology regarding the Jews cannot be disputed; for example, in the 25-Point Programme of Nazi ideology, Hitler states:
- “Only those of German blood may be members of the German nation.”
- “No Jew may be a member of the German nation.”
- “Only members of the German nation may vote.”
- “All non-German immigration must be stopped.”
Hitler blamed the Jews greatly for the social and economic problems that followed the armistice (such as the lack of employment) stating that “The effect of Judaism will never disappear and the poisoning of the people will not end until the cause – the Jews – are removed from our presence.”Because of this, the Germans believed that by eliminating Jews, communism and socialism (economic policies that treated people as equals) would also be eradicated due to some of the most prominent German Communists being Jewish.
Hitler conveyed the view that the German race was threatened by the Jews, as he perceived them as responsible for everything he did not like, including modern art and prostitution. Hitler’s mother was treated for breast cancer by a Jewish doctor who could not save her, and he was rejected from art school by a Jewish lecturer. He considered them to be “lazy”, contributing “little to world civilisation”, continuing to use the Jews as a scapegoat for Germany’s problems following their defeat in WWI, in addition to his subsequent joblessness and homelessness.
Hitler adopted the concept of the Aryan race from Gobinea who provies early examples of scientific racism, writing about the inequality of the human races in 1835, believing the Aryans that were healthy, pure, German blooded, and characteristically blonde-haired and blue eyed to be the master race. As the typical Jewish characteristics did not fit in with this, they were seen as inferior, unproductive and incompatible with pure blooded Germans, and therefore they were only useful as slaves and should be treated as-sub human. This agreed with Darwin’s theory of evolution and Eugenics in relation to the survival of the fittest, whereby the breeding of those deemed unfit was discouraged. This was also known as Eugenics.
Hitler’s aim was to create a Volskermeinschaft (a people’s community) in order to create what was perceived to be a perfect country at the expense of inferior races, supported by the song “Deutschland Deutschland uber alles” (“Germany, Germany above all”). His novel “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle)stressed the importance of racial purity and nationalism. This is an example of human behaviour being taken to extremes of evil in pursuit of an inhuman objective as the Jewish community are seen as inferior to the human race. Therefore the needs of pure blooded Germans are considered to be more important. This consequently promoted a solution that would eradicate the weakness in society in order for the strong to prosper, regardless of human rights. This subsequently legitimised the fulfilment of the ultimate inhuman objective – the total removal of all Jews. However, as Darwin’s theory is purely scientific, one could argue that the final solution is not an example of human behaviour being taken to extremes of evil, but is in fact only a natural part of survival instincts.
Under the 1935 Nuremburg Laws, only people of a true German heritage could be classed as a German citizen, creating a segregation programme excluding non-Aryans. This resulted in the removal of Jewish teachers from their posts, forcing Jews to sell their businesses to pure Germans (Aryanisation), setting quotas for students and barring them from becoming doctors, dentists and judges. In addition the laws forbade intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews with those who disobeyed being punished by imprisonment. Jews were also deemed ineligible for the military service and could not be publishers or editors as Hitler and the Nazi regime required complete control for propaganda purposes.
Anne Frank wrote in her diary: “Anti-Jewish decrees followed each other in quick succession. Jews must wear a yellow star, Jews must hand in their bicycles, Jews are banned from trams and are forbidden to drive. Jews are only allowed to do their shopping between three and 5 o’clock and then only in ships which bear the placard ‘Jewish shop’. Jews must be indoors by eight o’clock and cannot even sit in their own gardens after that hour. Jews are forbidden to visit theatres, cinemas and other places of entertainment. Jews may not take part in public sports. Swimming baths, tennis courts, hockey fields, and other sports grounds are all prohibited to them. Jews may not visit Christians. Jews must go to Jewish schools and many more restrictions of a similar kind”. “That is when the suffering of us Jews really began”. The Diary can be considered a reliable primary source as it was written at the time these events happened. However, as Anne was a Jewish child in hiding, it could be argued that perhaps she lacked information or was too young to understand the truth behind these laws and their final consequences.
This is an example of human behaviour being taken to extremes of evil in pursuit of an inhuman objective as apartheid separating non-Jews from Jews had been created, resulting in the Jewish community losing everything including their basic human rights as they were considered to be sub-human; they were severely oppressed by the Nazi regime. Alternatively, it could be argued that stripping of rights and privileges were not examples of an inhuman act due to the German belief that these people were in fact sub-human. Despite this, it can only be argued that regardless of the country’s beliefs, the ideology of this time would be considered corrupt today, and by other countries at the time. Ultimately this led to inhuman objectives as the Jewish race in particular was being targeted and exterminated. All of those affected by it were human beings with friends, family, jobs, education, likes, dislikes, hobbies and lives just like any person who has ever or will ever live.
Inspired by Hitler’s theories of racial superiority and inferiority, the Nazis ordered anti-Jewish boycotts between the years 1933-39. After Jewish actors, musicians and writers were banned in Germany, burning their works became a new form of German entertainment. Book burnings were staged on special occasions such as the Fuhrer’s (Hitler’s) birthday. On the night of November 9th 1938, the Nazis carried out their first nationwide planned boycott. Supposedly the official motive for the destruction was in response to the murder of a Nazi official by a Jewish person. The SS were under strict orders: “as many Jews as possible, especially the rich ones, must be arrested. For the time being it should only be healthy men, not too old. As soon as they have been arrested they should be sent to the nearest concentration camp.”
Synagogues were destroyed and Jewish stores were vandalised. The aim was to enforce the legal and social separation of the Jews from Aryans. The Star of David was also painted on thousands of Jewish doors and windows, accompanied by signs saying “Don’t buy from the Jews” and “The Jews are our misfortune.” This night became known as Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass. 91 Jews were killed; many others were arrested and taken to concentration camps. In addition, under the Jewish Atonement Fine, the Jews were humiliatingly charged for the expenses of the damage.
This was considered to be the turning point where many members of the German Jewish community decided to flee the country. Despite this a break from Anti-Semitic acts (acts showing a hatred of Jews) within Germany was seen in 1936 as Berlin held the Olympics, during which the Nazis toned down their Anti-Jewish regime. The signs saying ‘Jews unwelcome’ were removed, and Jewish athletes were even allowed to compete. This was due to Hitler not wanting his government to be criticised by other countries. Again this is a strong example of human behaviour being taken to extremes of evil in pursuit of an inhuman objective as the Jewish race were physically attacked and humiliated. However, most interesting is that the Nazis appeared to tone down their Anti-Jewish regime as Hitler feared criticism from other countries which would suggest that deep down Hitler knew that his policies were wrong.
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