The Holocaust

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Could the Holocaust have been avoided and how?

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Yes, the Holocaust could have been avoided, or at the very least, ended with international cooperation before 1945.

In order to understand the history of the Holocaust, one must study the writings of Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, as well as the history of Germany before and after World War I. While Germany was reeling from its losses of World War I, a veteran named Adolf Hitler was gaining notoriety for his passionate speeches about how Germany could once again return to its former glory as a powerful European nation. As Hitler gained a following and became a political voice to be reckoned with, he penned and declared his support for national socialism (Nazism), as well as his hatred and prejudiced views of Jews. His plans for the future of both Germany and Jews were clearly outlined in Mein Kampf; however, far too many Germans and international leaders failed to read, nor take seriously, Hitler's mad claims.

If German social, political, and religious leaders had stopped the rise of Hitler as a legitimate political candidate during the 1920s and early 1930s, Hitler would not have had the opportunity to seize more and more power, culminating with his tyrannical control during the 1930s. Unfortunately, Hitler was an incredibly effective, impassioned speaker, and he moved crowds to emotional frenzies, which resulted in unbridled loyalty to the leader and his party. Therefore, the impetus was upon the German leaders of the 1920s to shut him down and dispel his message of violence, racism, and pure hatred of a group of people. However, as Germany was in economic despair and ruin after World War I and facing stiff penalties under the Treaty of Versailles, Hitler seized the opportunity to gain momentum as a rising leader who offered hope to many (non-Jewish) Germans.

One must understand that Hitler's vision for a world without Jews was clear and was not hidden. Therefore, all world leaders of the 1920s and early 30s were should have placed pressure on Germany to keep Hitler from any powerful political position. However, world leaders were also distracted by putting measures in place in Europe, specifically in Germany, to keep peace and put Europe back together again after WWI. Therefore, many leaders did not take Hitler's rise to power seriously as it occurred, nor did they take decisive action to quell his increasing loyal following.

Once World War II began, the systematic procedure of discrimination, pogroms, and mass murder of Jews began in Germany and in camps outside Germany. Again, once world leaders could have united to stop the Holocaust by concentrating military campains around destroying these camps and freeing its captives, as many camps did not have overwhelming German forces protecting each one. While easier said than done, if Allied forces had united and concentrated focus upon stopping the Holocaust, many more generations of Jews would be alive today.

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I will say that the Holocaust could have been avoided.  Americans were aware of human rights abuses as early as 1935 in Germany.  When the American ambassador at the time spoke out against the harassment of Jews, he was initially told that it was not government-sanctioned.  However, over time, the German government became less apologetic for its actions.  During the 1930s, the United States and the world at large did not worry itself over perceived human rights violations the way that it does in 2017.  If the United States and other Western powers had spoken up against these violations, it would have been unique for that time period.  

Following World War I, the Allied powers, particularly Britain and France, punished Germany harshly for WWI, and this led to the rise of Hitler and, eventually, the Holocaust.  Hitler was able to tie the fall of Germany to the Jews; throughout history, Jews have been blamed for other disasters, such as the Black Plague.  Hitler was only one of a long list of anti-Jewish speakers who spoke to long-standing stereotypes.  Perhaps if Germany had been treated less harshly—and had there been more of an effort to rebuild the German (and European) economy after World War I—then the people would have potentially not needed a scapegoat.  

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The Holocaust could certainly have been avoided.  It was definitely not inevitable in the same way that, for example, we might say that the American Civil War was inevitable.  Here are three ways in which the Holocaust could have been avoided.

First, the Holocaust could have been avoided if the Allies had been less harsh on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles.  If the Allies had not been so harsh, the German people would have been less angry at the world.  If they had been less angry, they would have been much less likely to turn to radical political parties like the Nazi Party.  If the Nazis had not come to power, the Holocaust would surely not have happened.

Second, the Holocaust could have been avoided if the French and British had not engaged in appeasement in the time before Hitler had rebuilt the German military.  Hitler came to power in 1933.  In late 1936, he sent the German military back into the Rhineland.  This was a direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles.  At that point, the French and the British would have been justified in using military force to make Hitler remove those troops.  If they had, Hitler might have lost popularity in Germany.  He would have been exposed as a reckless gambler who could not prevent the Allies from telling Germany what to do.  In 1936, the German military was much too weak to have dominated France and England, so the Allies could have easily repelled the German threat.  By doing this, they would have humiliated Hitler and probably caused him to lose credibility in Germany.  This would have prevented the Nazis from becoming powerful enough to carry out the Holocaust.

Finally, the Holocaust could have been prevented by better moral decisions on the part of German leaders and people.  Hitler could not have carried out the Holocaust by himself.  If his higher subordinates had pushed back against his wishes, he would have had to back down.  The Holocaust came about because of the decisions of various people, all acting of their own free will.  If they had been better people with more moral fiber, they would have made different choices and the Holocaust would not have happened.

These are three possible ways in which the Holocaust could have been prevented/avoided. 

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