Both Nicholas Stargardt’s “The Holocaust” and Ian Kershaw’s “Hitler and the Holocaust,” address the various interpretations surrounding Hitler and his ideology, and how (and to what extent) this translated into the “Final Solution,” the mass extermination of the Jewish people in the name of achieving an ideal race. The two main categories of classification for scholars studying this topic include “intentionalist” versus “structuralist” responses.
Also referred by Kershaw as “Hitlerism,” intentionalists believe that Hitler was at the forefront of anti-Semitic ideology and its execution. Scholars argue that Hitler had always possessed the specific desire to exterminate the Jewish population, and that the policy changes implemented by the Nazi Party were all purposeful in achieving that end goal. They cite evidence such as Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as well as personal anecdotes from his life to demonstrate the presence of these desires as early as 1918. In contrast, structuralists assert that to place the blame solely on Hitler and his desires is too simplistic, and that there is a need for greater analysis. They argue that Hitler may not have possessed the specific idea of mass extermination, citing his use of common vague phrases such as “getting rid of the Jews.” However, structuralists believe that policies implemented as a result of vague directions by Hitler, as well as the subsequent actions of the lower bureaucrats within the Nazi system are what instigated the “Final Solution”.
The structuralist approach suggests that the haphazard and unplanned shaping of Nazi policies towards Jews resulted in the implementation of the “Final Solution.” After reading about Hitler’s leadership style and reflecting on the structuralist versus intentionalist theories, can we consider the Holocaust an event that would have happened inevitably?