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Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution

Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution
    Book Description:

    This book is the culmination of more than three decades of meticulous historiographic research on Nazi Germany by one of the period's most distinguished historians. The volume brings together the most important and influential aspects of Ian Kershaw's research on the Holocaust for the first time. The writings are arranged in three sections-Hitler and the Final Solution, popular opinion and the Jews in Nazi Germany, and the Final Solution in historiography-and Kershaw provides an introduction and a closing section on the uniqueness of Nazism.

    Kershaw was a founding historian of the social history of the Third Reich, and he has throughout his career conducted pioneering research on the societal causes and consequences of Nazi policy. His work has brought much to light concerning the ways in which the attitudes of the German populace shaped and did not shape Nazi policy. This volume presents a comprehensive, multifaceted picture both of the destructive dynamic of the Nazi leadership and of the attitudes and behavior of ordinary Germans as the persecution of the Jews spiraled into total genocide.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14823-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    It seems, in writing this introduction, as if I am passing review over my life—certainly a good portion of my academic life. It is both a strange and disconcerting feeling. Strange, because at least the earlier pieces in this volume were written so long ago that I almost feel at times as if another hand, not my own, was at work. Disconcerting, because, were I to write those pieces now, I would certainly write them differently. How could it be otherwise? It would be odd indeed, and probably not very commendable, if a historian found nothing to alter or...

  4. I. Hitler and the Final Solution

    • 1 ‘Working towards the Führer’: Reflections on the Nature of the Hitler Dictatorship
      (pp. 29-48)

      The renewed emphasis, already visible in the mid-1980s, on the intertwined fates of the Soviet Union and Germany, especially in the Stalin and Hitler eras, has become greatly intensified in the wake of the upheavals in Eastern Europe. The sharpened focus on the atrocities of Stalinism has prompted attempts to relativise Nazi barbarism—seen as wicked, but on the whole less wicked, than that of Stalinism (and by implication of communism in general).¹ The brutal Stalinist modernising experiment is used to remove any normative links with humanising, civilising, emancipatory or democratising development from modernisation concepts and thereby to claim that...

    • 2 Ideologue and Propagandist: Hitler in Light of His Speeches, Writings and Orders, 1925–1928
      (pp. 49-59)

      The difficulty inherent in locating and assembling the scattered texts authored by Adolf Hitler is probably the principal factor that has impeded progress on their collation and publication. A full half century after the end of the Third Reich, when the present project is targeted to be completed, we will finally have a scholarly edition of Hitler’s extant speeches and writings dating from the period between his entry onto the political stage and his seizure of power on January 30, 1933.

      In perusing the now-available volumes of this important work, covering the period between the refounding of the NSDAP (National...

    • 3 Improvised Genocide? The Emergence of the ‘Final Solution’ in the ‘Warthegau’
      (pp. 60-88)

      The ‘Warthegau’—officially the ‘Reichsgau Wartheland’, with its capital in Posen (Poznań)—was the largest of three areas of western Poland¹ annexed to the German Reich after the defeat of Poland in 1939. In the genesis of the ‘Final Solution’ it plays a pivotal role. Some of the first major deportations of Jews took place from the Warthegau. The first big ghetto was established on the territory of the Warthegau, at Lodz (which the Nazis renamed Litzmannstadt). In autumn 1941, the first German Jews to be deported at the spearhead of the combing-out process of European Jewry were dispatched to...

    • 4 Hitler’s Role in the ‘Final Solution’
      (pp. 89-116)

      Hitler’s very first and last recorded political statements concerned the ‘‘Jewish Question.’’ In a letter written as early as September 1919, using biological terminology he would frequently deploy, he spoke of the activities of Jews producing ‘‘a racial tuberculosis among nations.’’ He stated emphatically that Jews were a race, not a religion. Antisemitism as a political movement, he declared, should be based on ‘‘reason,’’ not emotion, and must lead to the systematic removal of the rights of Jews. However, he concluded, the ‘‘final aim,’’ which could only be attained in a ‘‘government of national strength,’’ had to be the ‘‘removal...

  5. II. Popular Opinion and the Jews in Nazi Germany

    • 5 The ‘Everyday’ and the ‘Exceptional’: The Shaping of Popular Opinion, 1933–1939
      (pp. 119-138)

      Generalisations about attitudes of the German people towards the Nazi regime tended in the early postwar years to polarise around diametrically opposed interpretations. On the one hand—especially outside Germany—the emphasis was laid upon enthusiastic mass backing. On the other—among Germans themselves—the stress fell upon the helplessness of a population which for the most part rejected the regime but in the face of unparalleled terror and repression could do little but engage in ‘passive resistance’. Since the social history of Nazi Germany began in earnest in the 1970s—as late as thirty years after the end of...

    • 6 German Popular Opinion during the ‘Final Solution’: Information, Comprehension, Reactions
      (pp. 139-150)

      ‘‘One is left with the troublesome thought that there may not have been much resistance at all to involvement in genocide, that it is by no means foreign to man-in-society, and that many features of contemporary ‘civilized’ society encourage the easy resort to genocidal holocausts.’’ This was Leo Kuper’s concluding sentence to his chapter on the German genocide against Jews, placed in a comparative perspective in his book,Genocide. Its Political Use in the Twentieth Century.¹ I would like to bear this comment in mind in the following reflections on German popular opinion during the Third Reich, and its responses...

    • 7 Reactions to the Persecution of the Jews
      (pp. 151-196)

      The significance of the Jewish Question for the ‘broad mass’ of the German population in the Third Reich is a complex issue which has prompted frequent speculative generalization but little systematic exploration.¹ Alongside the apologetic, much heard in Germany since the end of the war, that the persecution of the Jews could be put down to the criminal or insane fixations of Hitler and the gangster clique of top Nazis around him in the face of widespread disapproval by the mass of Germans in so far as they knew and understood what was going on, exists the counter-generalization, much favoured...

    • 8 Popular Opinion and the Extermination of the Jews
      (pp. 197-209)

      The fate of Bavarian Jews after ‘Crystal Night’ mirrors closely that of Jews from other parts of the Reich. By the beginning of the war, following the massively accelerated emigration after the pogrom, some 10,000 Jews—less than a third of the Jewish population of 1933—remained in Bavaria (excluding the Palatinate).¹ The social isolation of these Jews was all but completed during the first war years. The physical presence of the Jew in the countryside or in small towns was now—except for certain parts of Swabia and Lower Franconia—largely a memory of the past, as the persecuted...

    • 9 German Popular Opinion and the ‘Jewish Question’, 1939–1943: Some Further Reflections
      (pp. 210-234)

      Remarkable as it may seem, little systematic work was carried out until relatively recently on analysing what seems an obviously central issue: the behaviour, attitudes, and opinion of the German non-Jewish population towards the Jews during the era of Nazi persecution: Only in the last decade or so have both Jewish and non-Jewish scholars, working within the context of a growing body of research on, and more differentiated understanding of, various facets of German society in the ‘‘Third Reich’’, systematically explored extensive but complex source materials and provided new perspectives of interpretation on the attitudes of ‘‘ordinary’’ Germans on the...

  6. III. The Final Solution in Historiography

    • 10 Hitler and the Holocaust
      (pp. 237-281)

      Explaining the Holocaust stretches the historian to the limits in the central task of providing rational explanation of complex historical developments. Simply to pose the question of how a highly cultured and economically advanced modern state could ‘carry out the systematic murder of a whole people for no reason other than that they were Jews’ suggests a scale of irrationality scarcely susceptible to historical understanding.¹ The very name ‘the Holocaust’, which acquired its specific application to the extermination of the Jews only in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when it came to be adopted (initially by Jewish writers) in...

    • 11 ‘Normality’ and Genocide: The Problem of ‘Historicization’
      (pp. 282-302)

      The problem of the so-called ‘historicization’ (‘Historisierung’) of National Socialism, a term which first entered serious discussion when advanced by Martin Broszat in an important and programmatic essay published in 1985,¹ revolved around the question of whether, nearly half a century after the collapse of the Third Reich, it was possible to treat the Nazi era in the ways that other eras of the past are treated—as ‘history’—and what new perspectives such a shift in conceptualization and method would demand. In intellectual terms, the controversy which Broszat’s article provoked raises distinctive theoretical and methodological problems, involving consideration of...

    • 12 Shifting Perspectives: Historiographical Trends in the Aftermath of Unification
      (pp. 303-340)

      By the mid 1980s, the self-image of the Federal Republic of Germany had become increasingly schizophrenic: on the one hand, the material successstory of the post-war era—prosperous, stable, highly-developed; on the other hand, doomed it seemed forever to live under the shadow of the crimes committed in Germany’s name during the Third Reich. It was little wonder that conservative politicians and publicists came to feel it more and more necessary to draw a line under the Hitler era, to emerge—as one leading politician put it—from ‘the shadows of the Third Reich’, and be proud to be Germans...

  7. IV. The Uniqueness of Nazism

    • 13 Hitler and the Uniqueness of Nazism
      (pp. 343-360)

      There was something distinctive about nazism, even compared with other brutal dictatorships. That much seems clear. A regime responsible for the most destructive war in history, leaving upwards of 50 million people dead, that perpetrated, on behalf of the most modern, economically advanced, and culturally developed country on the continent of Europe, the worst genocide yet known to mankind, has an obvious claim to singularity. But where did the uniqueness lie? Historians, political scientists and, not least, the countless victims of the nazi regime have puzzled over this question since 1945.

      One set of answers came quickly, and quite naturally,...

    • 14 War and Political Violence in Twentieth-Century Europe
      (pp. 361-380)

      The last volume of the so-called ‘New’—meanwhile fairly old—Cambridge Modern History, published in 1960, covered the years 1898 to 1945. It was entitled ‘The Era of Violence’. The title was dropped for the second edition, which appeared eight years later, and replaced by ‘The Shifting Balance of World Forces’. The editor of the revised edition, C. L. Mowat, thought that ‘the era of violence’ was appropriate for the earlier version, reflecting as it did the understandable ‘spirit of the 1950s’. But by the late 1960s this emphasis had changed. In his introduction to the new edition Professor Mowat...

  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 381-384)
  9. Index
    (pp. 385-394)