Adolf Hitler

In today’s readings: The Speech of April 12th, 1921, Mein Kampf, and The 25 Points of 1920, Adolf Hitler expressed many of the tenets of his political ideology, which was still in its fledgling stage. In this National Socialist ideology Hitler rejected both leftist and rightist ideologies alike. He stated, “the condition which must precede every act is the will and the courage to speak the truth-and that we do not see today in either the Right or in the Left.” Hitler despised capitalism because he believed that the Jews were able to harness it as a tool to oppress the German population through economic means. He also detested socialism and Marxism because he associated these movements with the Bolshevik-Jewish led Russia, and believed that it would lead Germany to “complete destruction-to Bolshevism.” Hitler advocated a political philosophy where the German peoples were to put the “nation” above everything else in degree of importance, and secondly to bolster the strength of this “nation” by being “social” and acting in the best interest of the community at large; Hence the term National Socialism.

Compared to the Hitler’s popular conceptions, I believe that the aforementioned documents expressed both similarities and differences. Hitler is well known for his demonization of the Jewish peoples, and this component was present in the various examples of anti-Semitic rhetoric. Hitler’s ideology created a binary opposition where there existed only the “victory of the Aryan or annihilation of the Aryan and victory of the Jew.” In his mind it was either one or the other, with no room for compromise. While he was professedly anti-Semitic, he did not yet advocate violence against this population. In these writings his principal aim was to distance the “pure-blooded” Germans from their Jewish counterparts. It was not until later, particularly with Hitler’s mandate of the Final Solution, that he garnered the reputation as a heinous, bloodthirsty, maniacal mass-murderer.

Intentionalist v. Structuralist and the Final Solution

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?