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  1. The Germans and The Holocaust

  2. 1938-45

  3. During the 1930s the National Socialists had introduced a series of measures that removed the civil rights of Jews. Their aim was to eliminate Jews from everyday life, though this programme had a mixed impact on the population. It was accompanied by an intensive propaganda campaign that sought to portray the Jews as the embodiment of evil. Historian Saul Friedlander suggests that by the end of the 1930s the majority of the German people had been transformed into passive ‘onlookers’ rather than ‘activists’ and had come to accept the ‘Nazis’ persecution of the Jews.

  4. A successful foreign policy had meant that Hitler’s personal popularity rose, while the purge of the conservatives among the top military commanders reduced the danger of an army coup. To use historian Ian Kershaw’s phrase, Hitler’s ‘charismatic dominance’ of the German people had begun and would not end until 1945.

  5. The Euthanasia Programme

  6. The first mass victims of the Nazi desire to create a master race were not the Jews, but the mentally and physically handicapped. On I September 1939 Hitler authorised the start of a secret programme of ‘mercy killing’, headed by an SS officer in the Chancellery, Philip Bouhler, and a medical expert, Dr. Brandt. The order carried Hitler’s signature and therefore directly linked his name to what followed. The document coincided with the outbreak of the war, so in Hitler’s own mind the great racial struggle had begun. The programme was given the code name Aktion T4 after the offices where Bouhler and Brandt were based (4 Tiergartenstrasse in Berlin). In all, 70,000 handicapped people were gassed by SS personnel with the help of prominent medical experts.

  7. During the war this programme was extended to 150,000 'unproductive consumers of food'. As historian Michael Burleigh has shown, euthanasia and eugenics had a long tradition in Germany and were advocated in the 1920s by many genuinely humane figures. But it was the Nazi government that put theory into practice by creating a regime obsessed with racial purity. In 1934 special 'Eugenic Courts' were established to allow the sterilisation of 350,000 examples of 'dead-weight life'.

  8. Few of the medical experts were motivated by blood lust; many saw an opportunity to further their careers. Their contribution was as essential to the Holocaust as that of the bureaucrats at German railways who organised transport. The order of 1 September 1939, was eventually replaced in the spring of 1940 with the Law on the Treatment of Community Aliens. The ultimate aim of the programme was a Volkskörper purged of the genetically feeble. Aktion T4 experts were eventually sent to the East, where their expertise made a vital contribution to the extermination programme.

  9. Genocide

  10. Historians have searched but have so far failed to find a decree that directly links Hitler to the Holocaust. Nevertheless, the three most important actors – Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich – obviously appreciated that they were committing the foulest of crimes as they attempted to conceal their precise roles. The extermination programme fitted in with the Weltanschanung of the most radical of the radicals, Hitler himself. From the moment that German armies drove eastwards into Poland in September 1939, a series of steps were taken that led to the establishment of the death camps. Henry Friedlander feels that the euthanasia programme provided the blueprint, but on this occasion the authorisation came from ‘verbal’ orders.

  11. In Poland special SS mobile units (Einsatzgruppen) rounded up Jews and cleared psychiatric institutions, without any legal restraint. By the spring of 1941, 365,000 people, mostly Jews, had been rounded up and sent to the General Gouvernement of Poland under Hans Frank. A policy of ghettoisation began to take shape where Jews were herded into sealed-off areas in Warsaw and Lodz. Here, fed on the poorest of diets, the Jews were forced to work for the regime.

  12. Operation Barbarossa, Hitler's - attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, marked the final settling of scores with the two enemies of Germany, the Jews and the Bolsheviks. Before the offensive began, a 'General Plan East' was drawn up that fulfilled Hitler's wildest flights of fantasy. Lebensraum in Russia would secure the future of the German people, who would provide a new ruling élite. In total and anticipated 31-51 million 'racial' aliens would be moved to make way 20 January 1942. This sought to bring together all elements of the Holocaust to co-ordinate their activities and for Heydrich to assert his authority over the whole process. Throughout 1942 a series of killing facilities was constructed on the advice of Aktion T4 experts at Auschwitz (January), Sobibor (April) and Treblinka (July).

  13. Within Germany the condition of the Jewish community steadily deteriorated. By law all Jews wore yellow stars, and a curfew was imposed permitting Jews to go out on the streets only between 4 and 5 p.m. The regime tried to hide its crimes from the rest of the world. The Red Cross was shown the ‘model’ ghetto at Theresienstadt in Bohemia while the killing took place in the East. But stories of atrocities soon filtered back home from soldiers on leave, and anyone travelling by rail could see the arrests and deportations to the East by cattle truck. It is true that 1,400 Berlin Jews were saved by sympathetic Germans, but the majority of the population hardly lifted a finger. Research has shown that the state’s terror apparatus, especially the Gestapo, left the majority of Germans alone and concentrated on the regime’s racial enemies.

  14. Conclusion

  15. The Holocaust is hard to explain. The Nazis did not work to any blueprint, and a direct link between Mein Kampf and subsequent events in unclear. During the 1930s Hitler’s main concern was to establish himself in power, and his anti-Semitism reemerged later. It is also important to distinguish between a hard core of National Socialists, for whom war against the Jews was essential, and the remaining population, who tended to demonstrate indifference. This helps explain some of the early measures introduced by the regime and challenges Goldhagen’s argument that Germans were inherently anti-Semitic.

  16. No single ‘Hitler decree’ to begin the final solution has been found, nor is this likely. The eugenic intent of the government, the gradual stripping of civil rights from the Jews in the 1930s and the race war that began in 1941 all led to the murderous logic of the death camps. (Modern History Review, Volume 12, Number 2, November 2000)

  1. Определите, являются ли следующие высказывания истинными или ложными. (True/False)

  1. 1. Hitler was popular with the German people. 2. The first mass victims were physically and mentally handicapped. 3. Euthanasia and eugenics were put into practice in Germany in the 1920s. 4. There are many decrees that directly link Hitler to the Holocaust. 5. By law all Jews wore yellow stars. 6. 1,400 Berlin Jews were saved by sympathetic Austrians.

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  1. Письменно ответьте на следующие вопросы:

  1. 1. What is the essence of “mercy killing”? How was it carried out in Germany? 2. What was the essence of a “General Plan East”? 3. What were the outcomes of the Wannsee Conference? 4. What was the condition of the Jewish community within Germany?

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