I have taught units on Holocaust literature for years, and yet still don't feel like I have a concise explanation that I can give students for why Hitler wanted to exterminate all of the Jews.
Can anyone help me to explain?
My sense of Hitler's skewed view stems from his personal sense of insecurity, the abuse he suffered at the hands of his overly harsh father, and true mental illness.
Hilter's dream of creating a super-race seems ironic to me because Hitler was not a blonde-haired, blue-eyed example of "purity" himself, and yet he believed he could create a super-race by achieving racial purity.
Hitler's desire to be an artist was never realized, a grave disappointment to him. He traveled about, painting to make money; the economy was bad, and people competed strongly for jobs. Disappointment, financial struggles, etc., can push people over the edge, and Hitler may have been radically close to that edge to begin with. Hitler was becoming enamored with the socialist society in Austria, and research indicates that his hatred for the Jews began to intensify at this time. Perhaps it also came from things he heard growing up. Besides the Jews, Hitler targeted anyone else he felt would do damage to the "gene pool" he hoped to create. His ethnic cleansing included the Romanians (gypsies), Catholics, homosexuals, political dissenters, etc.
One thing is sure: when dealing with mental illness, nothing makes sense because the mentally ill do not see things the way the rest of the world does: they have a different reality and their own set of rules. It is amazing and horrifying that one man was able to lead a nation to kill so many innocent people.
I think we make a mistake when we attribute the Holocaust to Hitler alone. As his been pointed out in earlier posts, anti-Semitism was ubiquitous in Europe. At an early age, Hitler was exposed to anti-Semitic literature. He was a great fan of the music of Richard Wagner who was an unrepentant anti-Semite. As a teenager, he often read a publication somewhat pornographic in nature known as Ostara, which was anti-Semitic in nature. Hitler was first and last a product of his time. No one man, no matter how charismatic, could have generated enough support for such a horrible project. Those who worked with him were as anti-Semitic as he, and were the product of anti-Semitic parents.
The main problem in Europe with the Jews is that they were first of all not Christian, and secondly insisted on preserving their own religious identity in dress, diet, and custom. They were always "outsiders," and scorned/despised accordingly.
For those interested, an excellent source to discuss Hitler's anti-Semitism and the Fuerherprinzep, read R.G.L. Waite's The Psychopathic God.
Finding a rational explanation for madness is perhaps an impossible task, but Hitler's perverted exercise of political power is more understandable in its perpetration of evil.
Making the Jews scapegoats served a political purpose; it provided a "reason" for all of Germany's woes and directed post-World War I public fear and frustration toward a single target. Exterminating Jews also enriched the Third Reich financially; businesses and private assets were confiscated. Land, homes, and possessions were appropriated by the Nazis. This greed was carried to the most obscene extreme when gold teeth and fillings were "harvested" from the Jewish dead. Even now, some German families are locating and recovering family treasures once stolen by the Nazis.
No single, simple explanation can explain Hitler's determination to eradicate the Jewish people. It was a perfect storm of madness, hatred, political power, and naked greed.
I think Amy has a very valid point here, and this is something that has been going on everywhere and I guess will continue to go on. Leaders, politicians, just about everyone who wants to gain a following but can't solve the problems that their followers may have, find this an easy way out. Find a scape goat. Preferably a relatively smaller group and one that is better off. Place the burden of all the misery on that group. And that's it.
The members whom you want to join your following feel you have redeemed them of their problems and provided a solution which they had never thought of. You have your following and they have something to do, even if it isn't something that is going to help them in any way.
Hitler used the Jews as a target for the anger of the disenfranchised masses of Germany. He repeatedly told them that the Jews were the reason that Germany had economic problems and why there wasn't enough food. He had cartoons drawn to portray them in ugly ways to reinforce his ideas...it was very 1984 like...all to get rid of a people whom he looked down upon for various reasons--some of which are listed above.
I don't know that any of us have the exact reason Hitler did it. While I recognize Hitler's military and leadership prowess (and even his genius), I lean toward the fact that this man was a crazy sociopath.
I think others have provided plenty of reasonable (there's an irony related to a Hitler discussion) explanations. However, it would probably make this more meaningful if you left this open to your students. Let them lead the discussion on why people "pick" on others, "look down" on others, even hate others. Guide them in making the connection of how these attitudes and perceptions can rapidly get out of control if left unchecked.
Was not the Jews lack of nationality and their claim to a separate race that was part of the issue? As such, Jews were, in Hitler's eyes, a threat, as they could never become fully involved in the national spirit that he was working so hard to stoke up. The fact that Jews had a claim to a shared heritage and identity that superceded any claim to belonging to a country made them a threat.
Hitler shared the views of many of his contemporaries (read up on eugenics if you want to find some of those contemporaries, but count Woodrow Wilson as one of them) that certain races were superior to others. Hitler believed that cleansing Germany of the undesireable races would help them to return to glory.
This depends on what level you are talking about this -- why he said he wanted to kill Jews or what his "real" reasons were.
What Hitler talked about was the idea that Jews were a kind of subhuman who could only destroy civilizations. He believed in a three-part categorization of human beings. Aryans, at the top, were the only ones able to create civilizations. They were called "culture-creating" people. The next category was "culture-bearing" people like Latins and some Asians -- they could maintain a culture once it was created but could not make their own. Finally, there were "culture-destroying" people like blacks and Jews. They would destroy cultures out of incompetence and malice and greed.
Hitler believed that Germany had become infested with too many Jews and that was why it was no longer able to hold its "rightful" dominant place in the world. This is why he wanted to get rid of Jews.
Here's a link to a part of Mein Kampf where he talks about this.
The relevant portion begins
If we were to divide mankind into three groups, the foundersof culture, the bearers of culture, the destroyers of culture, only the Aryan could be considered as the representative of the first group.
Now... as far as why he would believe such a thing... that's beyond me. I don't do psychological analysis of historical figures, though many people are happy to try.
Here is a video on the subject:
There are actually many theories as to why he wanted to kill the Jews. Some people say it's because a Jew abused his mother. Others say that it's because a Jewish doctor accidentally overdosed and killed his mother. However, other people also say that he blamed the Jews for Germany's loss in World War 1, but I think that is just a cover he made to convince the people that the Jews were evil people.
Something not discussed because of the contrevarsy is that Hitler knew that the jews were not who they claimed to be. JEWS... They were a caucasian people, not Semetic people. Hitler did research and made documentaries about the idegenous people's of africa holding the "customs" they hold. He also was a white supremacist, in which drove him to find out why they were keeping the heritage or customs of "oriental negroes". But, he showed documentaries about how the semetic lineage was traced back to the oriental negroes, the afro asiatic(hebrew) people who were TAKEN to west africa to be deported as slaves. Hametic people's help capture and sell the Shemetic people's. My references are the books The Nazis World War II pg. 132, From Babylon to Timbuktu, Nature Knows No Color Line, and the Dictionary under the words hebrew, Afro-asiatic, Semetic, and etc... Also the bible in Revelation 2:9. Am I anti-semetic? No!!! Hitler was not a great man but he did show his people the truth about who the people who called themselves jews were and who the true descendants of the tribe of Judah were. This, your students will never accept and you could lose your job for teaching this information. But you can either help or harm some people. It truly are a people in this world that have been stripped of everything they know and are ignorant to the fact of where they came from causing them to act in an ignorant state of manner.
Hitler thought the Jews were a threat because they were taking over the good jobs and were very successful. They were a very populated community. Hitler worried that they might over power the government so he wanted to destroy them in any way possible.
The Jews were one of the largest minority groups in Germany that were not only financially successful, but also disproportionately well-represented. They remained largely a separate community, refusing to assimilate but still retaining much influence in society due to their wealth and standing. Anti-Semitic sentiments, which were already present in German society, was thus taken to a higher level. Hitler consistently viewed the Jews as a cosmopolitan diaspora that were the parasites of society and a potent force that refused to integrate into the societies they lived in. He believed that they would in turn manipulate governments into waging war against Germany since it was in their interests to do so. Thus, he saw it as necessary that Jews be made to pay the price by destroying them through whatever means possible.
It's easy to fall into the trap that Adolf Hitler was a "monster" and speculate why one could be so cruel. While I do believe Hitler was a sociopath to a certain degree, I don't feel it can be explained by genetics or upbringing. Many view him as the origin of the mindset of the Nazis, but I veiw him as a pawn, or maybe a knight. The old adage of "follow the money" should be used here. Where was Hitler getting his funding? Primarily his money came from the German bank which was controlled by the Rothchilds. The Rothschilds also owned the German news agencies during both World Wars and thus controlled the flow of "information" to Germans and the outside world.
The first instinct is to discount Rothschilds involvement to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust as being utterly absurd due to their being Jewish. While their Jewish lineage is in question (see Russian Khazars), they are intimately linked to many wars and often funding both sides. Among these are the French Revolution, War of 1812, American Civil War (tharted by Lincoln and Tsar of Russia), Bolshevik Revolution, both World Wars, etc., etc. The Rothschilds are more than opportunistic, they are manipulative tirants with more control over the world than many want to believe.
This video is very revealing into the Rothschild involvement in US History.