What events in a person’s life can cause him to hate? What can twist a person’s mind to view a human as less than human? What can drive a person over the brink of madness to commit genocide?
The Holocaust was not the first genocide attempted against the Jewish people. The history of the Diaspora has many examples of attempts to eliminate the “Jewish Problem.” However, the Holocaust was unique due to its organized and intentional approach to destroy the entire Jewish race. By the end of World War II, nearly two thirds of Europe’s Jewish population had been wiped out leaving a small remainder of the Jewish culture that had existed throughout Europe for nearly 2000 years (Hitler and the Holocaust 6). However, the Jews were never a true economic, military or political threat to the Germans, except in their own minds. For the Germans of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the “Jewish question” was a compilation of false perceptions, stereotypes and delusions from many sources.
While many attempts have been made, it is difficult to trace Hitler’s virulent anti-Semitism to his early childhood. By most accounts, the achievements of Hitler’s early childhood were unspectacular. He was a mediocre student, yet remained in school though age 16, but failed go get a normal diploma. However, among his early interest were German military victories in the late 1800s as well as stories of the American Wild West. These interests may have been an indication of Hitler’s ultimate path. There has been speculation that Hitler’s hatred for Jews derived from the fact that his mother died of cancer while under the care of a Jewish doctor. However, this view has been discredited by some of Hitler’s early writing where he referred fondly to that doctor. Others speculate that Hitler was insecure with his own ancestry since he thought that his paternal grandfather had a Jewish father. This was proven to be false (Giblin 47).
After leaving school, Hitler thought he was too good for regular work and attempted to become a famous artist. In 1907 he moved to Vienna, the capital of Austria-Hungry where his initial hatred of Jews began to develop. Here, he was twice denied admission to the Academy of Fine Arts because his pictures were not good enough. He blamed his lack of admission on Jewish intellectuals who held important positions in the Academy (http://majorityrights.com/index.php/weblog/comments/why_hitler_hated_jews/). Hitler then sank into poverty and gave up all hope. However, he would not go back to Linz, the town of his childhood, because to do this would be to admit he was a failure(Connolly 9), The only thing he could do to make money was to paint pictures of Vienna, Austtria which he then sold.
While living in Vienna, Hitler also developed a hate towards socialists and communists. He objected to their claims that “all men were equal.” Instead, he believed in a superior Aryan race meant to rule over all other races. He also linked communism to Jews, believing that Jews were the behind this form of government. During this time, Jews were a twelfth of the population of Vienna, and many of them were successful. He believed Jewish successes were a result of their cunning and deceitful nature and that they plotted to cheat people through business
( Connolly11). He eventually convinced himself that every big problem was caused by the Jews.
In 1913 Hitler moved to Munich, Germany, where he continued to paint and sell his art much like he did in Vienna. He lived comfortably there, and later stated this was “the happiest and by far the most contented [time] of my life” (Giblin 16). This contentment did not last long, because in 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungry was assassinated and WWI broke out. Germany joined forces with Austria, and together they declared war on Russia. This made Hitler proud to be a resident of Germany and was when Hitler really started to develop a strong sense of nationalism.
After WWI broke out Hitler proudly joined the Bavarian army. He served as a message runner, running across battle fields while under fire. In 1916 during a battle along the Somme River Hitler was hit with an exploding fragment from an exploding shell, and was sent to a military hospital. Upon release he was to report to a battalion stationed in Munich. Hitler was disturbed by what he saw in Munich, the city was in complete poverty, the morale was terrible, and everyone was miserable. Hitler sought an explanation for the decline spirit, and wealth, what he concluded was that this was the fault of the Jews. In Mein Kampf he stated “I was amazed at this plethora of warriors of the chosen people and could not help but compare them with their rare representatives at the front.” (Giblin 20) He went on to state “Here the Jewish people had become really ‘indispensable.’ The spider was slowly beginning to suck the blood out of the people’s pores. Through the war corporations, they had found an instrument with which, little by little, to finish off the national free economy.” (Giblin 21) “Hitler’s conclusions were far from the truth but unfortunately they were shared by many.” People were looking for a scapegoat whom they could blame, the losses at the front lines and the decline in living conditions at home. Since the Jews were already the subject of hatred the blame fell on them
By the end of the war Hitler was badly wounded, and lay in a hospital bed temporarily blinded by poison gas. Hitler heard the news of Germany’s defeat hear in the hospital and was outraged by Germany’s humiliation. He could not believe the countrie he had come to love and be proud of was defeated in war. . He reasoned that the loss of the war was the fault of the politicians who believed in democracy, of Socialists and Communists and of course the Jews( Connolly15). He also believed that Jews had a strong hand in the acts and beliefs of Socialists and Communists which made his anger against them grow stronger.
(post war Munich)
While much of Hitler’s early life experiences played an important role in shaping his ultimate destiny, many of Hitler’s early ideas were shaped, not only by his own personal experience, but by his iews of history and its manifestations in his time. Hitler read many books on German and world history. His world views, and Germany’s role in the world, were specifically influenced by several historical figures, among them being Georg von Schonerer, Karl Leuger and the German composer Richard Wagner.
Von Schonerer was a leading German nationalist in Austria who advocated the Anschluss, i.e. the union of Austria and Germany into one German Reich. Von Schoenerer voiced hatred for a variety of ethnic and religious groups who he felt threatened German supremacy. He specifically focused his hatred on the Jews. In 1885, he proclaimed anti- Semitism the greatest achievement of that century. Hitler fully adopted von Schonerer’s ethnic ant- Semitism, rooted in blood and race, along with his hatred for the Jewish Press and Jewish led social democracy. As a youth in Linz, Hitler learned to identify with von Schoenerer’s German cult of the Fuehrer (leader) and adopted his greeting of “Heil.”
Anti-Semitism was not the creation of Adolf Hitler. It has been a constant theme throughout the Diaspora and, unfortunately, some if its roots can be traced to the New Testament. German anti-Semitism can be found in the writings of the Protestant reformer, Martin Luther who demonized the Jews in his 1543 writing “Concerning Jews and Their Lies.” He categorized Jews as “damned” and “rejected” people and advised “German rulers to set Jewish houses of worship on fire, break down their homes, deprive them of prayer books, forbid their Rabbis to teachâ€¦and confiscate their passports and traveling privileges.” Luther further advised German rulers to seize the property of the Jews and to “drive them out of the country for all time.” (Ibid-pg 13)
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