A Twisted Path or Straight Path?

In Kershaw’s “Hitler and the Holocaust,” the main idea posses the question of interpreting Hitler and his relation to the ‘Final Solution’.  According to Kershaw there are two types of interpretation: ‘intention’ and ‘structure’.  Intentionalists believe Hitler fully intended to eliminate the Jews by created an elaborate plan, known as the Final Solution, in which was the central goal of Hitler’s dictatorship.  In contrast, structuralists believe Hitler played a minimal role in creating the Final Solution, instead it was the bureaucracy who were unable to agree on a single idea on how to eliminate Jews, creating lots of chaos.

Looking further into the ‘structuralist’ interpretation, Yehuda Bauer, an Israeli expert on the Holocaust, argues the bureaucracy caused the twisted path leading to the ‘Final Solution.’  With Hitler playing a minimal role in the planning of the ‘Final Solution,’ it is difficult to argue there was a straight, direct path leading to the annihilation of the Jews.  The bureaucracy was unable to agree on clear objectives and the answer to the ‘Jewish Question,’ therefore creating chaos within the government .

The structuralist interpretation argues Hitler was minimally involved which raises the question as to whether or not Hitler was necessary in organizing and constructing the ‘Final Solution’, or was any individual in a dictator role capable of doing so?  Is the radicalization of the individuals and bureaucracy to blame instead?

5 thoughts on “A Twisted Path or Straight Path?

  1. In response to this question I want to look at Stargardt’s conclusion, a passage that I am still trying to wrap my head around. He brings up the comparative analysis of Italian Fascism and Nazism in an effort to define generic Fascism. As Stargardt argued, this vanishing concern with the structure of generic Fascism and movement “towards a concern for the inner meaning of social actors’ attitudes and beliefs” alienates Hitler from the Holocaust but makes it “the ultimate, rather than the exceptional, sphere of Nazi policy-making.” This notion seems to suggest that Stargardt would say that yes, the Holocaust was inevitable, to Claire’s question. However, can we actually separate Nazism from Fascism? Did Nazism possess some other unique characteristics that separated it from Italian Fascism other than a distinct ideology? Could the Holocaust have developed under Mussolini if antisemitism existed as a catalyst to his eugenic policies?

  2. The above quote is from ((Stargardt, Nicholas. “The Holocaust” In, German History since 1800 ed. Mary Fulbrook. London: St. Martin’s Press. 1997. 358.))

  3. I do not believe that any individual in a dictator role could pull the holocaust off. That said, I do believe that a small number of individuals, especially those closest to Hitler could have pulled the holocaust off if they were in power. As we have mentioned in class before, Hitler was not the hands on type of dictator. He was the type of ruler that would take the most extreme position made by his generals or his staff and put it into action. I do believe that a combination of Hitler, alongside men like Eichmann and Hoss were responsible for the Holocaust. I believe that the holocaust happened because of a strong willed leader in Hitler, as Kershaw mentions, and because of lower ranked men who shared similar with Hitler, did not waver in executing decisions.

    To Answer Gibsons question in his comment, I would say no. As we mentioned in class last week, the distinct feature that separated Italy from Germany was its inability to enforce its rules through punishment. Sure, the state urged obedience to its laws, but it did not follow through with its punishments. They were unable, on all levels, to find a way of punishing people for crimes. Sure, people might have gotten beaten up for certain things, but people in Italy were certainly not sentenced to die at a concentration camp. For that reason, I do not believe that Fascist Italy would have been capable of reaching the same heights of evil that the Nazis did.

  4. The bureaucracy is to blame. As we have discussed in class, Hitler had minimal involvement in every day affairs. His bureaucrats (Himmler and Goebbels in particular) stirred the pot of anti antisemitism through propaganda. Although Hitler did get the ball rolling with his manifesto in Mein Kampf, it is clear that the evolution of the “Final Solution” occurred because of a major cultural shift in Germany, and the involvement of other members of the Nazi Party. I am fairly convinced that Hitler did not envision the death camps of Auschwitz when writing Mein Kampf. Society took his antisemitic idea and ran with it.

  5. I believe Hitler had a very strong influence on the inner circle of Nazi leaders that spearheaded these bureaucratic movements, however, Hitler himself is not directly to blame for the entirety of the Final Solution’s goals.

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