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< Back to question Who is responsible for the Holocaust? Show more Show less

Across German-occupied Europe, Nazi German collaborators proved successful in their destruction of two-thirds of European Jewry: systematically murdering six million Jews and five million non-Jews. But, who is truly culpable for this mass murder of eleven million people?

Hitler and his henchmen were culpable for the events of the Holocaust Show more Show less

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Hitler and his henchmen were responsible

Hitler could not have singlehandedly carried out the Holocaust. It was a huge bureaucratic and logistical task that required planning and instigation that was carried out by many top Nazi Party officials.
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Proponents


Context

The Holocaust is one of the most horrific events in history. Under the orders of the Nazi Regime, the Holocaust, also known as the Final Solution, ultimately saw almost two thirds of the entire Jewish population of Europe murdered. The aftermath of the Holocaust reverberates around the world today, and there have been constant efforts to educate the public in order to ensure that a similar event never occurs again. There remains debate, however, as to where the blame for the Holocaust ultimately lies. It has been argued by some that ultimately blame must lie with Hitler and his henchmen. Although all his henchmen were complicit, some of the people most actively involved in the planning and execution of the Holocaust include Himmler, Heydrich and Eichmann.

The Argument

Hitler had a clear vision for the fate of the Jews in Germany and his conquered European lands. In this sense, the blame for the Holocaust lies with him. He was, however, dependant on his Henchmen to plot and carry out his deadly plan for the European Jews. The blame for the Holocaust therefore also lies with Hitler's Henchmen, figures such as Heydrich, Himmler and Eichmann, who were vital in planning in great detail, the demise of nearly six millions Jews. Hitler's opinion on the Jewish population of Europe was well documented even before the war. In his infamous Reichstag speech on January 30th 1939, before the war, he raged that, ''If the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!''[1] Despite Hitler's deadly intentions, however, he did not have a concrete plan as to how to achieve his murderous aim. In this, he was assisted by, amongst others, Eichmann, Heydrich and Himmler. It is clear that Hitler was fully aware of the ongoing Holocaust, and issued orders and authorisation for its continuation. In the infamous Reichs Chancellery meeting in December 1941, although no documents survive, Goebbels wrote in his diary ‘’Regarding the Jewish Question, the Führer has decided to make a clean sweep. He prophesied to the Jews that, if they yet again brought about a world war, they would experience their own annihilation. That was not just a phrase. The world war is here, and the annihilation of the Jews must be the necessary consequence.’’[2]. This is crucial as it shows Hitler's drive to press ahead with the Holocaust, and implicates him fully. The detailed planning and execution of this evil aim, however, was carried out by his henchmen. The infamous Wannsee Conference took place on January 20, 1942, and although Hitler was not present, it is clear from the Reichs Chancellery meeting that his henchmen were acting under his orders. The Wannsee Conference is generally seen as the turning point towards mechanised mass murder in the Holocaust, with detailed transportation plans drawn up and the logistics of the operation confirmed. One of the men responsible for the Wannsee Conference was Reinhard Heydrich, often described as the architect of the final solution. He was entrusted with drawing up plans by Nazi official Göring, who wrote an infamous note to Heydrich that stated ''I further charge you with submitting to me promptly an overall plan of the preliminary organizational, practical, and financial measures for the execution of the intended final solution of the Jewish question.''[3] In this way, the Final Solution became Heydrich's project, and Heydrich was instrumental in gathering Hitler's henchmen together for the Wannsee Conference, in which the gruesome plans for the acceleration of the Holocaust were detailed and drawn up. The conference is seen as the turning point in which the present Nazi henchmen would clearly understand their roles in the subsequent slaughter.[4] Another key henchman present at the Wannsee Conference was Adolf Eichmann. Although Eichmann was later to claim ‘I was not a responsible leader and do not feel myself guilty',[5] Eichmann was vital in drawing up plans for the transportation of the European Jews to their death. He is often described as the 'chief executioner'[6] in the Holocaust.

Counter arguments

Premises

[P1] Hitler's plan for the European Jewish population is clear from his writings and speeches. [P2] Hitler made his continued approval of the Holocaust clear in the Reich's Chancellory Meeting. [P3] Hitler's henchmen convened at Wannsee to plot the logistics of the continuing Holocaust. [P4] Therefore Hitler and his henchmen are responsible for the Holocaust.

Rejecting the premises


References

  1. https://web.archive.org/web/20080314131150/http://holocaust-history.org/der-ewige-jude/hitler-19390130.shtml
  2. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/first-moments-hitlers-final-solution-180961387/
  3. https://die-quellen-sprechen.de/03-196.html
  4. https://www.thoughtco.com/reinhard-heydrich-4583853
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/27/eichmann-claimed-he-was-a-mere-instrument-in-holocaust-appeal-reveals
  6. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Eichmann

This page was last edited on Monday, 24 Aug 2020 at 08:48 UTC