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Was Nazi Germany built on consent or coercion of the population? Show more Show less
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By 1934, Hitler considered the National Socialist revolution in Germany to be complete. Yet, although powerful in his own right, Hitler could not have executed such a successful ascent in Germany political life alone. Thus, was Hitler's successful rise and Nazi Germany's infamous future built on the consent or coercion of its citizens?

Coercion Show more Show less

No one would have willingly consented to the Nazis' implementation of power, rather, the Nazis relied on the coercion of its citizens through a variety of methods.
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The citizens of Germany were effectively forced into supporting Nazism

Examples of Nazi coercion are rampant throughout German society in the 1930s and 40s. Such occurrences only grew as the end of World War II approached.

The Argument

In looking to the implementation of the Nazi T4 Euthanasia program— otherwise known as the opening test run for the Holocaust— it becomes remarkably clear that Nazi Germany was based on the coercion of its citizens. In other words, as this Euthanasia program first looked to kill children with incurable diseases, physical impairments, and mental disabilities, it never once relied on the consent of their own parents. Instead, upon taking their child to a physician, they would be entered into a national database. Eventually, they would come to be rehomed in an institution and systematically murdered via starvation, lethal injection, or gassing.[1] Moreover, doctors who participated in reporting their patients were not only cash incentivized, but they were also presented with pseudoscientific reports that supported eugenics; they were likewise pushed to consider these victims in terms of economic productivity. Thus, by these standards, these young children (and later men and women) were regarded to live "burdensome lives" and to be "useless eaters." Therefore it is clear that these physicians were not born murderers, rather, they were molded by the regime to be just that.[2] Furthermore, assuming that all within Nazi Germany were fervent supporters is inconsistent with archival evidence. Instead, there is great reason to believe that some even quietly disapproved of National Socialism. This is significant as such a conclusion should lead one to ask, why criticisms and disapproval of the Nazi German government were not openly stated. Well, simply put, a compelling answer is found in coercion.[3]

Counter arguments

Although the T4 programs operated without the consent of parents, it was dependent on the consent of doctors and nurses. In other words, only doctors who consented to such ideas participated—and although it was nowhere near a large percentage of German physicians, it was enough to bring the program to fruition. Thus, pressure from colleagues would be minuscule. Moreover, claiming that due to cash incentivizes and eugenic studies these doctors were coerced into participating is problematic, to say the least. Such remarks are apologetic and reject the accountability of these same people who— for a bigger paycheck— aided in the murder of 35,000 innocent people. These men were not coerced into supporting such an endeavor, they simply consented in order to see their wallets grow thicker.[4] Looking outside the medical field, the Catholic church clearly did not consent to these "mercy killings." Instead, Count Clemens August von Galen, the bishop of Munster, loudly challenged the regime over this issue claiming that it was the duty of Christians to oppose the taking of human life even if holding such a belief would cost them their lives.[2] This example is important as it demonstrates that individuals who did not consent to these murders could, in fact, choose to not passively (or actively) participate.[3]

Proponents

Premises

[P1] Parents and Guardians show no sign of consent in the T4 killings. [P2] Although responsible for reporting, doctors are also largely coerced into supporting and participating in the T4 programs. [P3] Assuming that everyone in Nazi Germany supported the Nazis is problematic as it looks over clear evidence suggesting that was not the case.

Rejecting the premises

[P1] Just because cash was offered to German doctors does not mean that these individuals were coerced. Instead, they chose money over human lives. [P2] Catholic Church act as an example of consent over coercion.

References

  1. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/background-and-overview-of-the-nazi-euthanasia-t-4-program
  2. https://www.britannica.com/event/T4-Program
  3. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/euthanasia-program
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aktion_T4#:~:text=In%20all%2C%20about%2035%2C000%20people,in%20T4%20operations%20that%20year.
This page was last edited on Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 04:12 UTC