“Don’t be misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus,” (Hitler, 1920)
“Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews.”
Background: Even as the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and the Vatican were busy hustling prominent (Vatican) and/or” useful” (America and her “allies”) Nazi war criminals out of harms way and safe from the Nuremberg trials, the International Military Tribunal was seeking answers as to how the Final Solution, the eradication of all Jews, everywhere, came to be German state policy. Why wouldGermany, even as the war was clearly lost, turn its full fury on its only possible victory, the Holocaust? Hitler never hid his intention to annihilate the Jewish People, not in 1945 and not in 1920. Yet many historians, Jewish and not, have decided that, absent a written order by Hitler, an absent blueprint for annihilation, that the Holocaust was a sort of “accident”: What to do with the millions of Jews falling into German hands living in the conquered territories?
The problem with this popular historical hypothesis is that it designates the Wannsee Conference (1942), or Aktion Reinhardt, code name for the extermination of Polish Jewry (later, 1942), or Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia (June, 1941), as the beginning of the Final Solution, with motives ranging from “too many Jews” to revenge for the assassination of Reinhardt Heydrich. Such “nails” to hang its inception on detract from the true significance and danger of the Final Solution, the endlösung to the West’s millennia-long Jewish Problem.
The intention to murder each and every Jew within reach was understood by National Socialism’s highest leadership to be state policy from before Hitler’s 1932 electoral victory. His intentions were a matter of pubic record at least since his earliest writings. Only the actual means to carry out his intention was still to be developed. If his writings reflect a graduated series of “non-lethal” proposals such as emigration, extrusion and resettlement these are no more than “diplomatic” cover, misdirection to deflect attention from his true plan.
The Wannsee Conference’s principal task was not to establish policy for the Final Solution, but to expedite it by rational distribution of tasks and lines of communication In fact Heydrich’s Einzatsgruppen had already been begun massacring Jewish following the 1939 invasion of Poland.
It is one thing to intend a program of extermination, another to advertise it. So it is not surprising that a written order from the Fuehrer has not been discovered, that before Wannsee little on official stationary exists as “blueprint” for the Holocaust. But Hitler was far less cautious in the decade before becoming Germany’s Führer.
In his 1920 speech to the NSDAP:
“Don’t be misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus… This Jewish contamination will not subside, this poisoning of the nation will not end, until the carrier himself, the Jew, has been banished from our midst.”
Mein Kampf, dictated while in a Munich jail, introduces “an asphyxiating gas” to murder Jews. And in his 1922 interview with the journalist Josef Hell he boasted,
“Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows – at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example – as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit. As soon as they have been untied, the next batch will be strung up, and so on down the line, until the last Jew in Munich has been exterminated. Other cities will follow suit, precisely in this fashion, until all Germany has been completely cleansed of Jews.”
When, ten years later, he actually became Führer and had the full machinery of the state at his disposal his speeches again, no written notes exist) grow increasingly international in scope. In his 1933 speech to the NSDAP in Wilhelmshaven he already hints at a global Final Solution involving all willing or conquered Western countries:
“Only when this Jewish bacillus infecting the life of peoples has been removed can one hope to establish a co-operation amongst the nations which shall be built up on a lasting understanding.”
Hitler may or not have been the “mad man” his emotional speeches suggest; he was a magnetic orator. He understood that the technological means, domestic support and international acquiescence to his plans would take time to achieve. He set out to carefully and gradually prepare the ground.
From the start Nazi propaganda characterized painted German Jewry according to previously hidden but familiar medieval stereotypes abundantly present in Western culture. By 1935 the ground had been prepared to exclude German Jews from state and Volk: the Nuremburg Laws stripped German Jews of citizenship. By 1938 the Party was confident enough to launch Krystallnacht, a two-day long pogrom that encompassed Germany,Austria and the Sudetenland. More than a hundred Jews were murdered; tens of thousands arrested and sent to concentration camps.
Before and after the Krystallnacht pogrom German antisemitism was blatant, but so also was it in the United States. Regarding his intention to “exterminate all Jews and everywhere,” I represented Hitler’s pre-Auschwitz steps as “misdirection.” Yet some Jews did manage to take advantage of “emigration;” others were forced out of the Reich into neighboring territory. Certainly these steps removed them from the immediate lethal reach ofGermany?
Not, obviously, “extrusion,” since that mostly forced them into Poland,Germany’s first target of invasion. As for the “problem” of the émigrés, I will return to this at the end. The other supposed “humane” final solution is superficially more problematic for annihilation as Final Solution since it purports to create self-governing Jewish reservations.Madagascar, a large and remote island off the coast of Africa at the time a possession of Colonial France never materialized.
Nisko, the second, was part of the Generalgouvernement, on the border separating the German and Soviet zones of Poland. In terms of this discussion, Nisko was surrounded by slave labor camps the purpose of which was to work Jews to death.Auschwitz, it should be recalled, also had a slave labor facility built by and housing the massive IG Farben conglomerate. And those Jews not “selected” for death by labor were selected for death by Zyklon-B.
Put simply the program of, “self-governing Jewish reservations” appearing, and today posing a problem to historians (and ammunition for deniers) were meant as nothing more than massive extermination centers.
Whatever else Hitler was, he was a skilled politician. By allowing Jews to emigrate he forced the “democracies,” and particularly his loudest critic Franklin Roosevelt, to “put up or shut up. And by refusing to provide refuge for those on behalf of whom he protested the president was as early as 1938 already exposed as passively complicity, a future “unindicted co-conspirator” in the murder of six million Jews: the Holocaust.
Hitler had for years used American eugenics as example for Germany. Had not the US pioneered forced sterilization as birth control of the Unfit, pioneered also the “lethal [gas] chamber” to “euthanize” the Unfit? The US Supreme Court set the legal example for German law in its infamous 1927 ruling justified by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes:
“It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.”
So it came as no surprise that America also would fulfill Hitler’s expectation by not accepting Jews seeking refuge from German persecution. And that refusal would further legitimize Germany’s own antisemitic policies. As Hitler wrote admiringly in 1928 about the racist 1924 US Congressional Immigration Restriction Act:
“That the American Union itself feels itself to be a Nordic German State… [is clear] from the manner in which it allots immigration quotas to European nations. [Aryans such as] Scandinavians… Englishmen, and finally Germans…”
By forcing Roosevelt to publicly deny refuge to Jews Hitler trapped him into demonstrating that there was little difference between American and German antisemitism, confirmed by statistics of American attitudes at the time.
Summary: There were several medial steps between 1933, when Hitler took office and made antisemitism state policy, and 1939 when the SS began to systematically massacre Jews. Holocaust Deniers and many Holocaust historians, Jewish and not point to “emigration,” “extrusion” and “Jewish reservations” as serious efforts by Germany to achieve a non-lethal “solution” to the Jewish Problem. I suggest these steps were in service of deception to buy time for Germany to prepare the German public and the world, to develop the technology needed to carry through its real policy of mass murder. It may be unsatisfying that no written order by Hitler, that no documentary “blueprint” for the Final Solution exists. But this absence was consistent with German awareness that their purpose was beyond not-Nazis to comprehend and, as Himmler said in Poznan,
“It should be discussed amongst us, and yet, nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public.”
One question remains unanswered. If the plan was to exterminate all Jews, why would some be encouraged to leave Germany, and Germany’s reach? A partial response was already suggested: it forced the “democracies” into sheepish silence and passive complicity which also reassured the Germans that they were not alone in their antisemitism. This, in turn, prepared them for their country’s endlösung, the extermination program itself. In a single diplomatic coup Hitler prepared Germany and Western society for their respective roles in the Final Solution.
But this does not yet explain why Hitler would risk losing control over those Jews that did manage to find refuge beyond Germany’s reach. And the answer is again not difficult. Hitler was, if anything, supremely confident in himself and Germany to achieve his goals in the coming war:
“Hitler did not want [did not plan for] a war with either Britain or the United States… [he] hoped that the United States, militarily unprepared and officially neutral, would not intervene before he won his, necessarily short, European war.”
In fact Hitler considered Britain and America natural allies of Germany, related by blood and, as demonstrated by their eugenic approach to racial purity, ideology. The problem resulted from being caught unawares by Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Bound by verbal assurance Hitler felt obligated to support Germany’s ally and also declare war on the United States.
Hitler planned on a quick continental victory and, had he succeeded (something Churchill and Roosevelt considered possible well into 1942), even those few Jews who did manage to “escape” to the United States would, along with American Jewry, have been returned to reach.
The Final Solution would have been final.