Both Stargardt and Kershaw discuss Hitler’s leadership style. Each specifically discusses Hitler’s leadership as it relates to the extermination of the Jewish population in Germany, or the Final Solution. Kershaw discusses Hitler’s leadership style as a bottom-up approach. Stargardt similarly argues that Hitler relied on local leaders to implement his policies.
It is commonly known that Hitler had his inner-circle of advisors whom he relied on for advice and implementation. However, both articles brought up the racial issue that was central to Hitler’s regime. To orchestrate something as large as the Holocaust, mass organization was necessary.
Stargardt has a section of his article titled “The Racial Paradigm” in which he addressed the complexity of race during the Holocaust. He argued that although political decisions were made within the inner-circle, the majority of participation came from middle class lobbyists. Stargardt’s claim is logical, as mass participation had to occur in order for society’s perception to change.
This brings up the subject of societal consciousness. Although there was mass participation, was society aware of the bottom-up format of government, or were they still under the impression that this was solely Hitler’s doing?
I think the population was inclined to think that it was Hitlers doing. I do not think the population would have been able to know about the ideologies of Hosss, Eichmann or Gerbals because Hitler was the one giving speeches, promoting youth groups, etc.. I think that they were under the impression that he was the only one doing it. If we look at the mass rallies Hitler hosted, we can see that Hitler becomes the center of attention because he is the one leading the mass rallies. Everyone at the rallies looked and listened to him to see how Germany was going to move forward.
Society as a whole cannot plead ignorance when it comes to the evolution of the “Final Solution”. German citizens tacitly complied with the “Final Solution” in every way imaginable. In another article by Ian Kershaw that I used for my first historiography paper, he goes into detail about how Goebbels came to Hitler with demands from the public regarding a way to identify Jewish people to the naked eye. This resulted in one of the most iconic symbols of the “Final Solution”: the yellow star of David. The public demanded identification, and they got it from Goebbels. This proves that the German people knew that a “bottom up” form of government existed in Germany.
I agree with horanp in that German citizens complied with policies that allowed the Final Solution the take shape. I also did my historiography paper on the extent to which Hitler was involved in the development on the Final Solution. In one of the articles I read for the paper, Mommsen addresses the issues of the increasingly radical laws against the Jews. He argued that the general public widely accepted laws against things such as intermarriage and race classifications. Furthermore, these discriminatory ideas were already existing within Germany society at the time (Mommsen “The Realization of the Unthinkable, 102-105). While I would not identify myself as solely a structuralist, with little backlash against such laws, it provided the platform for increasingly radical policies to develop. I somewhat disagree with Henry on the point that German citizens looked to Hitler to move them forward. I would argue that while many did look to him, a great deal of human agency within German society still occurred. This is evident in Hitler’s concern over public opinion (Stargardt, The Holocaust, 346).
The Nazi citizenry had been heavily conditioned by propaganda and unified under anti-semitic rhetoric. That being said, an individual look at the conscience of an SS officer will most likely reveal emotional damage, illuminating the fact that even the most hardened of Hitler’s followers understood the inhumanity. In a system so heavily bureaucratic and de-centralized, I find it difficult to believe everyone believe Hitler was the sole cause.