The Holocaust which is known as a systematic extermination of Jews by Nazi Germany during the World War II is undoubtedly one of the greatest tragedies in the history of humanity. Doris Bergen, an American professor of Holocaust Studies, in her book War and genocide: A concise history of Holocaust claims that the Nazi program of Holocaust should be viewed in the context of the whole war and Nazi ideology in general because it is inseparable from them.
The Holocaust can be regarded as an inextricable, but unjustifiable part of the World War II which was possible only under the conditions of the war time, but was rooted rather in the Nazi ideology of advancing the so-called Aryan race and killing the “undesirable” people than the actual war strategies.
Growth and Systematization: Oversees War and Terror
The discussion of the Holocaust cannot be separated from the context of the World War II because the Nazi ideology of advancing the Aryans and murdering the undesirable people became one of the top reasons for the beginning of the war, and the systematized genocide of millions of Jews in Europe became possible only in the context of warfare.
Bergen (2003) noted that the Holocaust can be regarded as a significant part of “the Nazi quest for race and space” (p. X). This quest consisted of two main components, including those of “attack on people deemed to be undesirable and advancement of those considered Aryan” (Bergen, 2003, p. 107). Grant (2003) noted that the Nazis attempted to use the legal means for eliminating Jews from the territory of Germany, using the racial origin as the dominant principle for the mass massacre (p. 20).
Another influential factor is the extension of the German boundaries in the course of war because around 95% of the Jews assassinated between 1939 and 1945 lived outside Germany’s prewar boundaries. Bergen (2003) noted that the war “did not alter the goals of the German leaders but did transform what it was possible for them to achieve” (p. 141).
War and invasion delivered into Nazi German hands the Jews of eastern and southeastern Europe that is, Poland, Ukraine, Belorussia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece and elsewhere over and above the minor Jewish populations of the west such as those found in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Simultaneously, war especially the Nazi war of total destruction to Germany’s east, exponentially escalated the numbers and variety of victims as atrocious plan of persecution, expulsion and massacre, bloated on bloodshed, commanded and formed even more rivals. Immense homicide of non-Jews were also part of the Nazi German war attempt, a battle instigated for the interrelated objective of race and opportunity, the so-called racial cleansing and territorial extension.
Warfare provided killers with the necessary screen for hiding and justifying the mass massacre. During the warfare, carnage was put on a normal footing and acute even genocidal measures could be justified with recognizable arguments attributing to the necessity to defend the native country.
Thus, the Holocaust would be impossible but for the conditions of the World War II, but the murderous actions were explained and justified not by the warfare itself, but rather by the Nazi ideology of advancing the Aryan race. Equally, the objective was not Jews alone but also the mentally and bodily disabled, that became the aspiration of the extensively standardized murder in Nazi Germany under the euphemistically branded Euthanasia program.
Genocide of non-Jews population
Though Jews occupied the center of the Nazi philosophy of race and space, the fates of millions of European Jews who have become the victims of the Holocaust were similar to those of other ethnic groups and even disable citizens of Germany. The fact that Nazis killed their handicapped compatriots clearly demonstrates that the mass genocide cannot be regarded as a justifiable part of the World War II.
The Nazi racial policy was outlined in Hitler’s work Mein Kampf, but the dictator still needed the support of his people for maintaining the murderous actions. Claiming the well-being of an individual can be sacrificed for the sake of the so-called collective good, Nazis defined the categories of undesirable people who had to be attacked for advancing the Aryans. On the one hand, the silence of the majority of Germans can be explained with their decreased empathy towards human suffering which was caused by the warfare.
On the other hand, the protests of some Germans, especially those of relatives of the killed disabled turned out to be ineffective. For instance, when some doctors refused to participate in the T4 program (the program of experimenting and killing of handicapped Germans), their protests remained almost unnoticed. Bergen (2003) noted that “it was not problem to find enough ambitious professionals to keep the program running smoothly” (p. 127).
The conflict allowed the German government to build up a pace of revolution both locally and externally, while cracking down the opponents and other assailants. The German government went further on to forbid all civil gatherings and watching media. The groups detained during Nazi rule augmented, those breaching the orders of the government could face apprehension and potential persecution.
War send abroad the Nazi approach of judgment, for instance prejudice of Jews, employed Nazi practices such as split up, and conquer in new territories. The pre WW II victory of Hitler’s rule, for example the seizure of Austria and the capture of the Sudetenland in 1938 had assisted to bring a number of reluctant Germans in action. Germany’s impressive military victories in 1939 and 1940 turned out to be even more successful.
German nationalist of all kinds including many who repeatedly had voted against Hitler celebrated with him at the devastation of Poland and the triumph over France. To German nationals these achievements seemed to justify old wishes for vengeance and to lawful German violence.
Warfare provided a cover for mass massacre and made possible the training of many experienced killers, commencing in Poland. The battle trapped the victims of Nazism inside Europe, making them even more susceptible. After September 1939, it became exceedingly tricky for Jews to move out of Europe. War equipped Nazi propagandists to present attacks on blameless civilians of all ages as if they were protective procedures necessary to defend the German nation from its rivals.
On 22 June 1941, German military raided the Soviet Union. The invasion was given the code name Operation Barbarossa. With this step, Hitler’s military crossed the ultimate line to what he called a war of annihilation. Fighting in Soviet Union was tremendously bloody.
The German attack on the Soviet Union was not warfare of troops against troops or army against army. It was a war targeting full devastation of the Soviet Union, arrest of land, colonization, enslavement, and assassination of people. In short, the main objective of Germans was establishment of a new order in Europe (Bergen, 2003, p. 145).
The Peak of Genocide
By the end of 1942, the Germans were marching towards their fourth year of war. At least in the short term their conquests shielded them from much of the grief and adversity that war brings. Similarly, it was not true for the people they subjugated. The damaging of Poland financially, politically and communally became even more horrible as the poles tolerated year after year of crush and occupation.
The Nazi German hand may had been less heavy in Western Europe but there too, in occupied Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and France, adversity and depression continued to build up. Meanwhile, in Balkans and the Soviet territories in 1941, the German occupation practices produced an ever-escalating rule of horror (Bergen, 2003, p. 161).
It was not just the typical dynamic of war that served to multiply human anguish as World War II went on. The Nazi ideologies of spatial growth and racial sanitization meant that more and more murder was itself a direct ambition of the German warfare endeavor.
The more Hitler’s territory extended its reach and consolidate its hold on subject lands and people’s, the more its forces sought to demolish those it considered rivals; Jews primarily, but also slaves and others defined as unnecessary (Bergen, 2003, p. 161). Therefore, 1942 and 1943, the years when German power in Europe reached its height, were also the climax of killings.
One point is so noticeable it is frequently not stated that is, Hitler and the Nazi intended to prevail in the war since Hitler supposed that the war would not purely overcome the foes militarily; it would develop a new order.
German designers developed in much more detail the practical meaning of their concept of Lebensraum, living space in a significant memo called General Plan East. Sketched in 1941, that document detailed the Nazi objective for Eastern Europe. One of its prime authors was a young historian called Theodor Schielder. After the conflict, Schielder pursued a flourishing academic career in West Germany. His friends later on revealed his ideologies after his death.
Hitler and other initiators considered slave labor a way to maintain the German home front glad. They did not want to launch procedures that might have been unpopular with many Germans, for instance, employing huge numbers of German women into industrial unit work or curtailing supplies of food and consumer goods. After all, Hitler and others like him still supposed that discontent at home had led to German loss in the last war.
Therefore, they brought in millions of people they considered not reusable and utilized them to waging a war of eradication as comfortable as possible for the German people. The Germans also brought under control agricultural produce in the areas they controlled, leading to food emergencies and hunger among the people left behind. They took over any industrial production had not been relinquished by the Soviet Army as it fed in 1941.
Berenbaum & Peck (2002) noted that the war against the Soviet Union was represented with the “symbiosis between ideology and strategy” (p. 280). In the name of combating partisans, German forces destroyed every part of villages, often together with many of the people who lived in there. Public executions, torment, rape and sexual slavery were all widespread happenings in the occupied east (Bergen, 2003, p. 134).
In general, it can be concluded that the history of the Holocaust as one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the humanity cannot be separated from the history of the World War II in general, but cannot be justified with the warfare.
The mass massacre and horrifying anti-humane experiments which were conducted with Jews, other ethnicities and even disabled Germans had nothing in common with the war strategies, but were rather rooted in the Nazi ideology of advancing the Aryan race and killing the undesirable people. The Holocaust is undoubtedly unjustifiable and should become an important lesson for the humanity.
Berenbaum, M. & Peck, A. (2002). The Holocaust and history: The unknown, the unknown, the disputed and the reexamined. Bllomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Bergen D. (2003). War and Genocide: a concise history of the Holocaust. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Grant, G. (2003).Holocaust: In the name of the fuehrer. New York, NY: Trafford Publishing.