Why did Hitler hate Jews, and why did he want to banish or destroy them?

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Hitler's hatred of the Jews was clearly pathological, but it was also political. By portraying the Jews as racially inferior and scapegoats for everything that had gone wrong in Germany in the twentieth century, he was tapping into a strain of anti-Semitism that had tragically deep roots in European history. For centuries, many (but not all) Jewish people had been viewed as outsiders in central Europe, set apart from Christians by their religion and their customs. From time to time, leaders would engage in brutal pogroms, or systemized attempts to either dislocate or otherwise oppress and persecute Jewish populations within their borders. These pogroms often enjoyed considerable popular support among Europeans, especially in times of crisis. Hitler's hatred of the Jews grafted this strain of anti-Semitism onto a new, pseudo-scientific theory of race. He, like many people around the Western world, believed that race was the defining characteristic of nationhood and that racial conflict was the driving force behind history. He also believed that Germanic peoples, which he called "Aryans," were the purest and highest form of humanity, and he painted the Jews as the opposite, the lowest form. Yet he also claimed, as did anti-Semites around the world, that the Jews had been responsible, through their supposed manipulation of global markets, for both World War One and the Great Depression. So the Jews, for Hitler, were the embodiment of evil and of racial debasement (which were the same thing in his mind) and he based his rise to power in no small part upon the ascent of Aryan nationhood, a development that inevitably involved, in his mind, the final destruction of the Jews. So Hitler's brand of anti-Semitism was both old and tragically new--it combined ancient hatred with modern crackpot theories and sought to explain, under its own warped terms, the events of the twentieth century. That Hitler's hatreds, which were never exactly disguised, received such popular support among Germans, is one of the most chilling aspects of his rise to power.

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