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Rosie asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

What was the reason for the holocaust?

I just watched the boy in the stripped pajamas and it struck me that although I learned about the history of the Holocaust in school I don't really understand it. Can anyone simplify the explanation as to how this horrific event took place and why? It seems so unimaginable and yet it is happened.

16 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
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    The Holocaust was the culmination of many factors; economic, political, cultural, and war. Since it is not an easy question answered-There have been entire books and classes on this topic alone, I'm going to list some of these things in a very simplistic way. There is not a main cause, but the convergence of events that made the Holocaust possible.

    1. 19th Century divisions: Regional, Religious, Class

    2. Otto Von Bismarck used negative integration as a way of unifying Germany at the turn of the century- that is creating a common enemy (to him it was Catholics) to unify groups. This was essentially creating an in group and an out group (something to recognize later)

    3. Late and rapid industrialization of Germany, deepening these divisions (especially class) creating a focus of a modern v. traditional Germany.

    4. WWI- With industrialization and a prosperous economy Germany had high hopes for victory. Kaiser Wilhelm's propaganda about Germany's position in the war was an outright lie. Germany had lost many battles, had little resources left, and lost most of its man power by 1916. However, in Germany the headlines read "Victory is near"

    5. VERY sudden armistice, military leaders knew the only way Germany would survive would be to surrender unconditionally and immediately. When news broke in the cities that Germany surrendered people were shocked! Troops were still in enemy territories and did not have any idea that they were loosing,

    6. This led to rumors that the Troops had been stabbed in the back by Jewish Bolsheviks (common German opinion was that being Jewish and a Bolshevik was one and the same since some of the leaders of the Bolshevik revolution were Jewish- as a whole they are not)

    7. Treaty of Versailles- Germany taken for everything it had left including dignity

    8. Crash of 1929 US- affects the European economy but Germany is hit by hyper inflation the hardest and money becomes worthless (By the end of 1923 the German price level was 1,260,000,000,000 times what it had been at the start of World War I).

    These are the events that make Germany conducive to a totalitarian regime and a Dictator like Hitler. Hitler, however, did not gain popularity because of his anti-Semitic views or racial policy. He gained a following as a charismatic leader that could rebuild Germany back to greatness.

    9. Lebensraum - Living space, Hitler believed that in order for Germany to return to greatness, they needed to take back the territory lost in the Treaty of Versailles and create more living space for the Nordic German Race- which excluded Jews. Hitler’s racial ideologies were known when he became popular- but those were ideologies that were wide spread at the time, especially after the loss of WWI, military leaders and right wing conservatives were among those who were the most anti-Semitic.

    10. Hitler’s public works programs worked- they ameliorated many of the hardships people faced; the same way FDR’s New Deal helped in the short term. But once he became chancellor in 1933 he began small steps in persecuting the Jews- and people didn’t stop him because those laws helped them make more money or grow their business.

    11. While it was publically known that Hitler and the Nazis wanted to rid Germany of the Jews it was not known that systematic murder would become the method. It is still debated by scholars in the field whether or not it was even Hitler's initial intention.

    12. As WWII carried on and forced deportation was not working fast enough (I know this is sick, this is just the views of Nazi leaders, not mine!), they decided to move toward a more efficient and less tolling way of getting rid of the Jews, and by 1942 the Nazis had gained enough power and under the cover of war it was easy to set up a system of mass extermination.

    I think you also have to think about the flaws in human nature, in a time of crisis people tend to make choices that go against their morals and valuse. Think of it this way:

    If there are three drug stores on a German Street and 2 get shut down because they are owned by Jews, your business goes up and you might be able to afford 3 meals a day for you and your family. What do you do? Would you fight against this new policy because it is morally wrong?

    Source(s): Graduate Student in Holocaust History
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  • 4 years ago

    I certainly don't think the holocaust should be forgotten anymore than the carnage of the first world war should be forgotten or 9/11 should be forgotten However, when events like 9/11 or the holocaust become used as a justification for tolerating all kinds of otherwise unacceptable behaviour, then the benefit of remembering is tempered by the ongoing damage caused EDIT I wish I went to a school like yours where thinking is allowed and encouraged EDIT 2****** Ok reasons *TO FORGET* - not my opinion really but here goes Israel has been allowed to "get away with" attrocious treatment of palestinians and others, has (arguably) committed war crimes, used phosphorous weapons on civillian populations and engaged in "collective punishment" of populations which is a breach of International Law. Its also the only country in the world that is allowed to re-draw its borders at will and occupy lands without any real censure. Were the holocaust forgotten, Israel might have to behave in a more normal manner and people would be less afraid to condemn some of their actions and Israel may work harder to have more normal relations with the rest of the world and some of the problems in the middle east would be eased. If every nationality or race that suffered a holocaust were to be allowed to behave like Israel then Armenia would still be at war with turkey,the gypsies would have their own state created somewhere, Darfur would be being propped up by American Aid, and so on Making "allowances " or exceptions for every group that has ever suffered persecution leads to even further injustice and persecution Hows That for a counterpoint ??- it has some truth but is (in my view) exagerated

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  • 1 decade ago

    Well, it could be the terrible economy the world was in at the time, but that wouldn't be right. Not fully, anyway. After World War 1, Germany was not allowed to have an army and had most of their rights taken away. Germany was basically just waiting for an uprising. Hitler served in World War 1 and was temporarily blinded by the chemical warfare, but that is irrelevant, just thought I might share that. It might have made him angry, but I doubt that would want him to kill people. Okay, he had a vision of a perfect race, blonde hair, blue eyes. He thought they were the perfect people and wanted to rid the world of anyone who wasn't like that. Easiest solution? Start a revolution in Germany, become their leader, and massacre anyone who wasn't like that. Also, he wanted to continue the German expansion of Europe which began in the Medieval times. Germany was low on resources, and they had decided to move west. Hitler wanted to continue this. Judaism was large in that part of Europe, so they would be most effected. He also went after Gays, Polish, and others, but the Jews were his primary target. How he got into power was his charismatic speeches talking about German Rights and Westward expansion. He used the symbol from a branch of Christianity, the Swastika, to bring more people in. How he killed them was through trickery, how he got such a large army was through their media. And in the end, he was responsible for more than 7 million deaths. This is the simplified version of what happened, but really, if you want to understand it, you should not go for the simplified version, it makes his crimes seem less.. Terrible. If you hear about it in it's full extent, you will hear of crimes so unbelievable, it'll sound like it's coming from a story of the ancient times, when such things happened commonly and are thought to be exaggerations. Well, the fact that this is not an exaggeration makes you rethink history, donnit?

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Hitler used the Jews as a scapegoat. He convinced the German people to blame their own problems on the Jews, thus simultaneously absolving non-Jews of any responsibility for social problems and fostering a sense of self-superiority among the Aryan Germans. Of course, once he convinced everyone the Jews were evil, he had to move forward on that theme, which naturally led to ordering their deaths.

    Whether Hitler himself was very anti-Semitic or just thought the Jews were an easy target; we'll probably never know.

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  • 1 decade ago

    The holocaust was caused by Hitler, who was trying to rid Germany of non-Germans. He believed that a nation with one nationality would be successful. There was also a lot of antisemitism (Anti-Jewish) in Germany because Jews were fairly successful when the terrible economy in Germany caused a lot of working-class people to suffer.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    well you sort of have to feel sorry for the Jews. all throughout history, the Jews have been hated for example in the story of moses, the Jews were kept as slaves by the egyptians.

    also, after christianity took hold, the Jews were killed because they didn't accept Jesus as the Son of God.

    so when you think of the history of Jews, there has always been turmoil and war.

    this becomes important when we talk about the holocaust because Hitler wanted power. now, the easiest way to get power is to make a common enemy, and given the history of Jews, they were the easiest target. homosexuals and gypsies were also targeted because they were considered 'anti-christian'.

    now, before Hitler was elected chancellor (or whatever he was) of Germany, he wrote a book, describing how you could kill a race and how the Jews were 'bad'. this was already discussed above by Inga and as said, the book is called mein kamph.

    so basically, when Hitler came to power, he wanted to make Germany the ruler of the world, like the USA is now (sorry if that offends anyone but i'm actually from australia and am just saying it how it is) and to do this he united the people to hate and despise the Jews as a whole.

    In Hitler's 'plan' for the Jews, there is said to be four stages.

    Stage 1 was to identify the Jews. in 1935 the nuremburg laws were passed which said that all Jews had to wear an arm band with the star of david and that female jews had to add Sarah to their names and male Jews were to add Isreal. (this was only for Jews over the age of 10)

    Stage 2 was to segregate Jews. it was arranged that ghettos would be built in the poorest part of cities and Jews would be sent there with only the belongins they could carry. the ghettos were often cramped and unhygenic.

    Stage 3 was to concentrate the Jews. this is where special camps were designed so that Jews could work for Germany. during the war, Jews were worked hard to build infrastructure and to produce ammunition. in these concentration camps, child Jews were blasted with radiation to make them sterile, Jews were put into high pressure chambers to see what would happen to pilots who had to eject from aircraft and twins were tested on to see how a mother can carry more than one embryo in the womb.

    Stage 4 is sometimes refferred to as the final solution and it was the extermination of Jews. this is where the death camps were formed and Jews were put into gas chambers to be killed.

    this final stage is what most people connect to with the word holocaust, however, the holocaust took place over a decade and before war was even declared. because there were four stages in the destruction of jews, people found it hard to 'draw the line' and thus, it went unnoticed and not thought of.

    i mean, if you think about it, you have your leader who is a celebrated war hero from the Great War telling you that the reason why Germany (your homeland) isn't as powerful as USA is because of the Jews then you will start to segregate them, especially if they're wearing arm bands which say that they're inferior. you then think, well i dont want to be living with these people, so its easy to get ghettos to be built to keep those 'disgusting' Jews away. well, the ghettos get full, and they really are an eyesore to our beautiful city, so we need to get all these Jews away, into the country. Oh! and while theyre there they can work for nothing because thats all they deserve and we can get rich! finally, the camps got full, and Nazis were able to kill the Jews off without anyone noticing.

    OK, so I know my answer isn't short and to the point, but you did ask a question which has alot to do with it. you asked how it was that the holocaust could occur without people asking questions and it is that it was done in such a way that people could understand and think of as reasonalble. As to the why, well the main reason is that Hitler wanted to unite the masses and giveing them a common enemy worked well. Hitler just had to say that the Jews were the reason as to why the economy was failing and everyone would side against them.

    hope this helped, i tried to keep it simple


    Source(s): did the holocaust in school and its an interesting part of history. ive also been lucky enough to travel overseas and see the ghettos and death camps and i've picked stuff up from various different sources
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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    In REALLY simple terms, the world's economy wasn't doing so well at the time, and the Germans needed someone to blame it on. This caused Hitler and his radical ideas to rise to power and put his "final solution" into effect, which was mass genocide of all Jews.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Hitler wanted to get rid of all the undesirables. He wanted a "perfect & pure" world. The Great Depression was all the excuse he needed to get it all started and used the Jews as the primary scapegoat.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Hitler was an insane lunatic who wanted all the jews killed, along with everyone who was not his picture perfect image of blonde hair & blue eyes...he was nuts. He had his army put them into concentration camps...I actually worked with a woman a few years ago (she has since passed on) that still had her number tattooed on her wrist from the camp she was in in Poland

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  • 1 decade ago

    the jewish community was small and under represented. they were poor.

    several jewish men began to come together and invented a 'middle man' economy by obtaining monopolies on services (or just knew enough people) that they would have people pay them to find other people for them. (ex: sam knows alot of shoe makers, so I could pay him a little bit to find me the best/cheapest shoe maker around) they became incredibly wealthy and successful doing this, without having to use much of their own talents/do much work.

    this effectively collapsed germanys economy, much like the american economy now.

    hitler wanted to fix the economy, save the country, etc etc. he decided that the best way to fix the economy that the jewish community had (with many many other factors) ruined was to eliminate the jews.

    so he pretty much did...

    coincidently, if he thought the economy was bad, look what happened to it after world war two!

    Source(s): ehh i read mein kampf and payed attention in high school.
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