Study of Nazi anti-Semitism refutes Hitlers apologists
NAZI ANTI-SEMITISM: FROM PREJUDICE TO THE HOLOCAUST
Just when it seemed that books about Hitler have reached a saturation point, this scholarly tome appeared. Philippe Burrins important book sheds new light on the fuehrers essential role in the annihilation of European Jewry and refutes Nazi apologists, like David Irving, who contend that Adolf Hitler cannot be implicated in the Holocaust because of the absence of a written order from him authorizing the Final Solution.
Burrin, the author also of Hitler and the Jews: The Genesis of the Holocaust and a professor of international history at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, convincingly demonstrates Hitlers pivotal role in providing the ideological direction that legitimized the murder of European Jewry. In so doing, Burrin also lends support to the argument of the intentionalists, historians who contend that Hitler planned to annihilate the Jews from the moment he became leader of the Nazi party in the early 1920s, a preoccupation that can be gleamed from his autobiography, Mein Kampf, which he wrote in 1924. As opposed to the functionalists who argue that the Holocaust was an unplanned response to the exigencies of the war Burrin writes that Hitlers obsessive hatred of the Jews was so all-encompassing that he elevated his objective of eliminating them to the same priority as gaining victory over the Allied forces.
Burrins slim volume focuses on the nature of Hitlers racial anti-Semitism which, the reader is reminded, was preceded in the decades before the rise of the Nazis by religious, political, and nationalist forms of anti-Jewish hatred in Germany. Hitler was able to combine these elements of anti-Semitism: He used Christian rhetoric when he declared on the eve of World War II that by defending myself against the Jews, I fight to defend the Lords work. He appealed to nationalist sentiment when he identified the Jews with communism, a political system that he characterized as threatening the very fabric of the German nation. Hitler combined these forms of hatred within a racist framework that identified the Jews as parasites posing a lethal threat to the racial health of the German people.
Mein Kampf, states Burrin, was the Nazi regimes Bible. He describes the autobiography as having been regarded as a reservoir of truths that were used in Nazi textbooks and promoted in public discourse. Burrin contends that Mein Kampf also served to bring together elements of the Nazi leadership in regard to the Jews. It facilitated the arrival at a consensus that there existed a special antagonism between the Germans and the Jews, a hatred portrayed in apocalyptic terms. This manifested itself before the outbreak of hostilities, when in 1939 Hitler threatened that if war were to come, it would result in the annihilation of the Jews. During the war, he reiterated this theme when he charged that the Jews were responsible for the loss of two million Germans during World War I and for the war then being fought. Thus, Hitler prepared his countrymen to accept the reports of the mass killing of Jews as a punishment they had brought upon themselves. As Burrin writes: All that was necessary was for the people to internalize a culture of resentment in which the Jews had played a role of quasi-total negativity. The result of this was to block even a minimum of fleeting compassion for their fate.
Burrin notes that from 1943 on, it was frequently expressed among the German population that the Allied bombing raids were designed to make the Nazi regime pay for the treatment it inflicted upon the Jews. That the Germans believed this, states Burrin, testifies not only to their knowledge of the mass murder of the Jews but also to their belief in the worldwide power of the Jews and the theme of the Jewish war, even if the latter had resulted from Nazi policies.
Burrin is convincing in documenting the nationwide prevalence of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, a hatred that led to the widespread condoning of Hitlers war against the Jews. The book, indeed, is also important in detailing how the power of words and ideas can result in a program of mass murder against an entire people.
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