To study history means that one must come to terms that it is ridden with evils, most against groups of human beings. Between the late 1930s and mid-1940s, one of the worst examples of a Genocide in history had taken place in Europe. The Holocaust saw Nazi's in Germany slaughtering around six million Jews and an overall total of almost eleven million human beings. The use of gas chambers and experiments to torture and kill these innocent lives were used to both mentally and physically wipe out a race of people. The Nazi Germans had many reasons, some clear and some complex to understand, in acting in the matter they did towards the Jews. Through different perspectives and testimonies, the culture of anti-Semitism, fear of superiors, and nationalism in Germany were all driving motivations of the perpetrators of the Holocaust. This analysis could thus help in understanding why more genocides and crimes against humanity occur to this day. The study of the Holocaust sees anti-Semitism as one of the greatest motives behind why the Nazi killed so many Jews.
The hatred towards Jews stems from Adolph Hitler and his beliefs of what was wrong with Germany. He and many that followed him,associated the Jews with economic hard times and foreign oppressors, although they did not pose an actual threat to anyone (Niewyk 194). They forced the Jewish people to wear yellow stars to not be able to hide their identity, were herded into ghettos, and eventually shipped off to concentration camps with the intention to be killed. The Jews were not seen as humans but rather as outsiders that needed to be done away with in order to have the Germans rise and make society right again. Many Nazi officers were made to believe that, Jews were viewed as enemies of modernity and could never be truly part of what Nazi Germany was becoming (Jones 235). Germany, with the Nazis leading, could only see themselves going in a certain direction and revamping their economic and social climates. It was to be believed that the Jews were going to hinder this progression and action needed to be taken before they took over.
The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 stripped away the rights of Jews and added more fuel that this race was inferior to the Nazi Germans (Jones 236). No longer was it just a group of people oppressing another group of people, but with laws and a whole country were behind them in progressing along. By taking away of rights and livelihood, the Nazi revealed that anti-Semitism was rooted in every discussion that was made towards the Jews. Anti-Semitism was only the tipping point in the motivations of the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Fear played an important role in the operations of Nazi Germany and in how they carried out their plans. Many of the guards and assistants of concentration camps felt pressured to commit the killings or to construct the places where Jews may be killed. This was due to the fact that some felt that if they did not comply with their superiors, they may be kicked out or meet their own deaths. The chain of command was not only something to be abided in Nazi society, but was used as a tool for getting subordinates to do actions that they may not morally want to do. Karl Schultze, an engineer of crematoriums, expressed that he,was afraid of losing my position and of possible arrest if he did not build these deadly structures (Handout).
He was not only afraid of the Nazi superiors, but fearful of going against his country and what he believed and stood for. It could even be said that some guards and workers could have been victims themselves, as they were made to have no choices in what the horrors that were going on. This fear was used in order for Nazis of higher ranks to have tasks completed, even if they were cruel and unimaginably. They made it seem that if you were not with the Nazis, then you would also become an enemy against the German state. Unfortunately, nationalism also played a role in the Nazi's perpetrator's actions during the Holocaust. Nationalism is having pride in one's country, whether it is through one's ideas and beliefs or through someone's actions. It may seem that having pride in one country would be a positive attribute, however, it has been used to manipulate mass amounts of people to think that something may be right when it is not. The Nazi's in Germany were able to systematically kill so many Jews due to using nationalism to motivate others to commit monstrous tasks. Engineer Fritz Sander testified that, I saw it as my duty to apply specialist knowledge in this way to help Germany win the war, when discussing the building of bigger crematoriums (Handout).
Similarly, when testifying, SS Wilhelm Bahr explained that I only had orders to pour in the gas and I do not know anything about it (Handout). Engineers like Sander and Nazi officers like Bahr were some of many who followed blindly by whatever Nazi superiors told them. They did so as they believed they were doing what was good for the country and did not see a reason to question anything. This became an excuse to not face the fact that they were killing innocent people in order to appease a dictator, Adolph Hitler. Many knew what harm they were doing, but looked the other way as it wasn't a good enough reason to stop. Many saw that these,ordinary Germans easily became genocidal killers and did so even though they did not have to (Jones 251). Although the Nazi gave very little choice on what certain things they had people doing, some of these men could have morally realized and stopped and hopefully escaped. But the pressure from superiors and the fear of going against the country made men turn the other way and carry on, as if nothing evil was going on.
Nationalism could be an extremely manipulative way to get people to do what they want and that is exactly what the Nazis did. The Nazi Doctors were some of the evilest and cruel perpetrators of the Holocaust. These doctors would perform experiments on prisoners in the concentration camps and had no regard as to who they were experimenting with. Many of these doctors did not see the Jews as real humans, but rather as objects to tinker with. Robert Lifton explained that They [the SS doctors] did their work just as someone who goes to an office goes about his work, making what they did seem normal (Handout). These doctors almost seemed to separate themselves, from the people they were in the concentration camps and the people outside of it. By normalizing what they were doing, it made it seem as if they were not bothered by the fact that they were mutilating and killing Jews (Handout). These doctors were also being asked to do these horrific things and if they didn't comply, they might face consequences like anyone else who goes against the superiors of the Nazis. Isabella Leitner, a survivor of Nazi Dr. Mengle, stated that you would never suspect the evilhe was the genius of death when describing how Dr. Mengle came off before the torture (Handout). These doctors came off as normal people, yet turned towards cruel and unimaginable actions to experiment and ultimately bring death to the Jewish people. Nationalism played a huge role in the psychology of the Nazi doctors. Many of these doctors were conducting experiments for the betterment of society and hopes to help with the war. Through this reasoning, many were blind to realize what damage they were doing, as they only wanted to complete their tasks and help the country.
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