German aggression against Poland | Holocaust
In September , the German army occupied the western part of Poland, while the Soviet Union occupied the eastern part on the basis of the German-Soviet Pact. The four western provinces were included in the German Reich itself, while the rest of the occupied territories formed the Generalgouvernement, headed by governor Hans Frank. The arrival of the German units in occupied Polish territory brought daily harassment of the Jewish population with it.
Jews were arbitrarily expelled from their homes, humiliated and robbed of their property. During the invasion of Poland, the German army was followed by the Einsatzgruppen task forces , essentially special forces; link in Czech , whose tasks included the carrying out of anti-Jewish policy. At this stage of the final solution , this consisted above all of humiliation, expulsion and pauperisation.
In many cases, the local German population often participated spontaneously in the persecution and humiliation of their Jewish neighbours. Synagogues were burnt down in many places. From the 8th of September on, all Jewish shops had to be marked with a Star of David by compulsory decree. From the 1st of December on, all Jews in the Generalgouvernement older than ten years of age had to wear a band with a Star of David on their right arm.
In Czech. Adolf Blum Born Of course, in some ways it can help historical understanding to focus an an iconic individual. But it can also lead to serious distortion, to an over-readiness to magnify the role of the individual in history at the expense of more complex causes of significant historical developments. The tendency is extreme in the case of Hitler.
The opposite distortion is to attribute all the evil of Nazism to Hitler. In some ways, it seems as if the impression created by the personality cult has persisted — but in reverse. Where Hitler was once seen as a superman, he is now a super-demon. Where once he was a beloved leader, he is now the iconic hate-figure. These images preclude deeper understanding of how Nazism could grip a society. At their worst, they trivialise the past and distort the present, reinforcing crude anti-German stereotypes and even skewing attitudes towards Europe through their caricaturing of Hitler and Nazism.
Primarily, as the inspiration of the most lethal and destructive war in history, and of the most terrible genocide the world has ever seen. He left behind him not just physical, but also moral, ruination such as history has never previously experienced. He represented an extreme pathology of modern society. Secondly, we do have to acknowledge that he was an extraordinary individual, however repulsive. Every now and then through the ages, history has produced a remarkable individual — someone who shapes his era and leaves behind a drastically altered society.
Another time, another place, and Hitler would have had no impact at all. What we can see is how special the conditions had to be to give Hitler his appeal, to make him the spokesman and representative for such widespread hopes and expectations, as well as fears and anxieties. At a time of comprehensive crisis of state and society, Hitler seemed to offer so many the hope of national salvation. Expectations of national rebirth were projected on to him.
We can see how time-bound these were. New forms of fascism and racial intolerance rightly appal and worry us. And future threats to world peace are unlikely to arise within Europe. The world is a very different place. The revolution of destruction that he spawned and the symbol of evil that he has become have left him with a place in history that he never imagined. Certainly, Hitler and Stalin can both be viewed as very different spearheads of grotesquely inhumane forms of utopian social engineering. It was once famously said that the Nazi past was a past that will not pass away.
And with growing distance will come shifting perspectives. After all, we devote little attention to moral condemnation of Ghenghis Khan and other horrors of more distant history. So will we come to look more favourably on Hitler in time, by-passing the enormity of his crimes? Historians are only good — sometimes - at predicting the past. But what we can do is to remind ourselves of the essential point about Hitler: he represented the most fundamental and frontal assault ever launched on all that we associate with humanity and civilisation.
Audience: Do men make history or does history make men? Very probably not. Without Hitler but with a very strongly nationalist government in Germany would there have been the final solution within eight years of that government taking office? Almost certainly not. Would there have been general European war by the end of the s?
There would have been discrimination against Jews, without the slightest doubt, legislation and so on, but there almost certainly would not have been the Holocaust. No Hitler, no Holocaust. But of course, without those conditions no Hitler. Prof Ian Kershaw: The one strategic error, the colossal strategic error that everybody will point to, I suppose, is Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in Some of the generals thought that was a mistake but nobody spoke up against it.
Nobody else was actually running a state and in charge of military tactics. What you needed were the professionals who would then look for the right retreats to better fighting position and so on. Bolsheviks were still largely seen as Russian. So the figment of imagination that he had about Russia was Russia run by Bolshevik Jews.
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So Bolsheviks and Jews were one and the same thing for him. In Germany, Marxism went for him much wider than simply the Communists, and he saw it as a major, the major first step was to combat the political enemies on the Left, and those included the Social Democrats. So the first wave, tens of thousands of people put in concentration camps in the Spring of , these were in their vast numbers Communists in the first instance and then Social Democrats.
Prof Ian Kershaw: Yes, I mean there is obviously that difference. The concentration camps were absolutely horrific places, absolutely horrific places, the thirty-odd thousand people died in Dachau between and , but they were very different in their function from the extermination camps.
There were lots and lots of concentration camps by the end all over the continent, and some very big ones in Germany, but the extermination camps, Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, Majdanek, Auschwitz-Birkenau, these were very different in the function that they existed to kill people in great number, so very different from the concentration camps. As you mentioned the concentration camps were meant to be known about, it was meant to be a deterrent. So there is that, there was that difference in function, and of course the extermination camps arose at a much later stage in in the occupied parts of Poland with this now function of simply exterminating Jews and others described as, seen as indescribables.
Audience: Even with the most tyrannical of despots in history somebody can normally find something good to say about them, is there anything positive in the contribution that Hitler has made to history?
Prof Ian Kershaw: Well they always say the motorways, Autobahnen. So ultimately there is nothing that we can say was good about Hitler. Track the key events in Hitler's life, from his childhood in Austria to his suicide in the bunker in Berlin. This free course explores the Holocaust, as the destruction of European Jewry is commonly known. The mass killing represented by the Holocaust raises many questions concerning the development of European civilisation during the twentieth century.
This course, therefore, covers essential ground if you wish to understand this development. Free course. During the blitz over four hundred and fifty thousand bombs rained down on Britain - how did they shape our future? TV Programme. We invite you to discuss this subject, but remember this is a public forum. Please be polite, and avoid your passions turning into contempt for others. We may delete posts that are rude or aggressive; or edit posts containing contact details or links to other websites.
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The Role of Hitler in the "Final Solution"
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Skip to content Study with The Open University. Search for free courses, interactives, videos and more! Free Learning from The Open University. Featured content. Free courses. All content. Audio 45 mins. Presenter: Lady here. Prof Ian Kershaw: There was a possibility that Hitler was mad? Audience: Yeah. Presenter: Okay, more questions, gentleman here. Presenter: This gentlemen there in the pit. Presenter: The gentleman here in the glasses. Copyright: Walter Frentz Archive. Hitler's rise and fall: Timeline Track the key events in Hitler's life, from his childhood in Austria to his suicide in the bunker in Berlin.
Read now Hitler's rise and fall: Timeline. Article Level: 1 Introductory. Used with permission. The Holocaust This free course explores the Holocaust, as the destruction of European Jewry is commonly known. Learn more The Holocaust. Free course 12 hours Level: 3 Advanced. Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Britain During the blitz over four hundred and fifty thousand bombs rained down on Britain - how did they shape our future? TV Programme Level: 1 Introductory. Copyright information. Publication details Originally published : Monday, 25th April Last updated on : Tuesday, 18th July Leuchter and David Irving and laws against holocaust denial have been passed in 14 European countries.
The Nizkor Project , a group opposed to Holocaust denial claims, analyzes these claims for instances where the evidence used by Holocaust deniers has been altered or manufactured. However, other evidence indicates that Hitler knew about and ordered the genocide. Statements from Adolf Eichmann , Joseph Goebbels , and Heinrich Himmler also indicate that Hitler orchestrated the Holocaust and statements from Hitler himself reveal his genocidal intentions toward Jewry.
In a letter dated Hitler mentions that an "unshakable" aim of a strong national government must be "the removal of the Jews". If at the beginning of the war and during the war twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas, as happened to hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers in the field, the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain.
Today I want to be a prophet once more: if international Jewry succeeds in plunging the nations into another world war, the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth, and thereby the victory of Jewry, but the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe! Now for the first time they will not bleed other people to death, but for the first time the old Jewish law of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, will be applied.
And — world Jewry may as well know this — the further these battles [of the war] spread, the more anti-Semitism will spread.
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It will find nourishment in every prison camp and in every family when it discovers the ultimate reason for the sacrifices it has to make. And the hour will come when the most evil universal enemy of all time will be finished, as least for a thousand years. During the war, Goebbels often published articles which included Hitler's prophecy of , in he published an article entitled "The War and the Jews" which stated:. This process is of vast importance, and will have unforeseeable consequences that will require time.
But it can no longer be halted. It must only be guided in the right direction. In his political testament , dictated on 29 April just a day before his suicide, Hitler openly describes ordering the murder of the European Jews:. I have also made it quite plain that, if the nations of Europe are again to be regarded as mere shares to be bought and sold by these international conspirators in money and finance, then that race, Jewry, which is the real criminal of this murderous struggle, will be saddled with the responsibility.
I further left no one in doubt that this time not only would millions of children of Europe's Aryan peoples die of hunger, not only would millions of grown men suffer death, and not only hundreds of thousands of women and children be burnt and bombed to death in the towns, without the real criminal having to atone for this guilt, even if by more humane means. In a draft of an internal memorandum, dated 18 September , Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler wrote that "in principle the Fuehrer's time is no longer to be burdened with these matters;" the memorandum goes on to outline Himmler's vision, including "The delivery of anti-social elements from the execution of their sentences to the Reich Fuehrer of SS to be worked to death.
Persons under protective arrest, Jews , Gypsies , Russians and Ukrainians , Poles with more than 3-year sentences, Czechs and Germans with more than 8-year sentences according to the judgement of the Minister of Justice [Thierack]. First of all, the worst anti-social elements amongst those just mentioned are to be handed over; I shall inform the Fuhrer of this through Reichsleiter Bormann. Nevertheless, and in contrast to the T4 euthanasia program, no document written or signed by Hitler ordering the Holocaust has ever been found.
Deniers have claimed that this lack of order shows genocide was not Nazi policy. When David Irving unsuccessfully sued Deborah Lipstadt for libel , he considered that a document signed by Hitler ordering the 'Final Solution' would be the only convincing proof of Hitler's responsibility, yet was content to accuse Winston Churchill responsible for ordering the assassination of General Sikorski , despite having no documentary evidence to support this claim. Mr Justice Gray concluded that this was a double standard. Historians have documented evidence that as Germany's defeat became imminent and the Nazi leaders realized they would most likely be captured and brought to trial, great effort was made to destroy all evidence of mass extermination.
In the spring of , Heinrich Himmler ordered all traces of murdered Russian Jews and prisoners of war to be removed from occupied territories of the Soviet Union. After Blobel and his staff developed a special incineration process, destruction of evidence at Belzec and Sobibor followed in late In the infamous Posen speeches of October such as the one on October 4, Himmler explicitly referred to the extermination of the Jews of Europe and further stated that the genocide must be permanently kept secret:.
I also want to refer here very frankly to a very difficult matter. We can now very openly talk about this among ourselves, and yet we will never discuss this publicly. Just as we did not hesitate on June 30, , to perform our duty as ordered and put comrades who had failed up against the wall and execute them, we also never spoke about it, nor will we ever speak about it. Let us thank God that we had within us enough self-evident fortitude never to discuss it among us, and we never talked about it. Every one of us was horrified, and yet every one clearly understood that we would do it next time, when the order is given and when it becomes necessary.
I am now referring to the evacuation of the Jews, to the extermination of the Jewish people.
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Historian Peter Longerich states that Hitler " Critics also point out that if Hitler did sign such an order in the first place, it would have been one of the first documents to be destroyed. Many statements from the Nazis from onwards addressed the imminent extermination of the Jews. In a draft of an internal memorandum, dated October 25, , Heinrich Himmler wrote:.
As the affairs now stand, there are no objections against doing away with those Jews who are not able to work, with the Brack remedy. Joseph Goebbels had frequent discussions with Hitler about the fate of the Jews, a subject which they discussed almost every time they met, and frequently wrote about it in his personal diary.
There must be no squeamish sentimentalism about it. The Jews have deserved the catastrophe that has now overtaken them. Their destruction will go hand in hand with the destruction of our enemies. We must hasten this process with cold ruthlessness. March 27, A judgment is being visited upon the Jews that, while barbaric, is fully deserved by them. One must not be sentimental in these matters.
If we did not fight the Jews, they would destroy us. It's a life-and-death struggle between the Aryan race and the Jewish bacillus. In November , Goebbels published an article "The Jews are to blame" which returned to Hitler's prophecy of and stated that world Jewry was suffering a "gradual process of extermination". On March 13, , Goebbels wrote in his diary that the "rest of the world" should follow Germany's example in "destroying the Jews", he wrote also about how the Jews in Germany at that point had been almost totally destroyed.
When questioned by interrogators if orders for the extermination of Jews were delegated in writing by Himmler, Adolf Eichmann states:. I never saw a written order, Herr Hauptmann. Critics state that Eichmann gives a virtually identical account of this in his memoirs, and state that it is also asserted that Eichmann never even asked for a written order, on the basis that "Hitler's wish as expressed through Himmler and Heydrich was good enough for him". At a conference in discussing the Jewish Question, Alfred Rosenberg said:. Some six million Jews still live in the East, and this question can only be solved by a biological extermination of the whole of Jewry in Europe.
The Jewish Question will only be solved for Germany when the last Jew has left German territory, and for Europe when not a single Jew stands on the European continent as far as the Urals And to this end it is necessary to force them beyond the Urals or otherwise bring about their eradication.
Congruent with the evidence that shows Hitler was responsible for the order to kill Jews, there is also evidence that shows he was made aware of the process. I am currently talking about the " evacuation of the Jews", the extermination of the Jewish people. It is one of those things that is easily said. In addition to the Posen speeches, studies have shown that the mass of ordinary Germans at the time knew about the existence of the death and concentration camps: .
Hitler exterminated the Jews of Europe. But he did not do so alone. The task was so enormous, complex, time-consuming, and mentally and economically demanding that it took the best efforts of millions of Germans… All spheres of life in Germany actively participated: Businessmen, policemen, bankers, doctors, lawyers, soldiers, railroad and factory workers, chemists, pharmacists, foremen, production managers, economists, manufacturers, jewelers, diplomats, civil servants, propagandists, film makers and film stars, professors, teachers, politicians, mayors, party members, construction experts, art dealers, architects, landlords, janitors, truck drivers, clerks, industrialists, scientists, generals, and even shopkeepers—all were essential cogs in the machinery that accomplished the final solution.
There have been claims by Holocaust deniers that the gas chambers which mainstream historians believe were for the massacre of civilians never existed, but rather that the structures identified as gas chambers actually served other purposes. These other purposes include cadaver storage , delousing , and disinfection. A similar argument is sometimes used that claims cyanide gas and carbon monoxide was not used to murder Jews and other victims,   and that a gas chamber at Auschwitz was built after the war to show tourists. Leuchter , a paper stating that no traces of cyanide were found when he examined samples taken from one of the Auschwitz gas chambers in This is often cited as evidence that gas was not used in the chambers, as no trace amounts remain.
The control samples tested negative, while cyanide residue was found in high concentrations in the delousing chambers, and lower concentrations in the homicidal gas chambers. This is consistent with the amounts required to kill lice and humans. The search for cyanide in the bricks of buildings said to be gas chambers was important, because the pesticide Zyklon B would generate such a residue.
This was the gas most often cited as the instrument of death for prisoners in the gas chambers, supported by both testimony and evidence collected of Nazi policy. Another claim made by Holocaust deniers is that there were no specially-constructed vents in the gas chambers through which Zyklon B could be released. Deniers have said for years that physical evidence is lacking because they have seen no holes in the roof of the Birkenau gas chamber where the Zyklon was poured in. In some of the gas chambers the Zyklon B was poured in through the roof, while in others it was thrown in through the windows.
The roof was dynamited at war's end, and today lies broken in pieces, but three of the four original holes were positively identified in a recent paper. Their location in the concrete matches with eyewitness testimony, aerial photos from , and a ground photo from The physical evidence shows unmistakably that the Zyklon holes were cast into the concrete when the building was constructed.
Leuchter's comment that the camp was "untouched" has been dismissed as nonsense by the Holocaust scholar Robert Jan van Pelt , who explains that the absence of most of the would-be rubble from the crematoria is because the local Polish population returning to the area after the war rebuilt farmhouses to the west with bricks salvaged from rubble in the camp area including from the Birkenau crematoria.
Another piece of evidence Holocaust deniers frequently question is what happened to the ash after the bodies were cremated. The amount of ash produced in the cremation of a person is about a shoebox full, if done in a proper crematorium. However, eyewitness testimonies documented by Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews describe the burning process used in Treblinka , Sobibor , and Belzec to have carried out in multiple open-air grills where stacks of bodies were burned on top of metal bars.
These grills were operated by burning piles of wood underneath. Cremation in the open at the Reinhard death camps Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec was discussed at Nuremberg on the 7th April by Georg Konrad Morgen , SS judge and lawyer who investigated crimes committed in Nazi concentration camps. He stated: "The whole thing was like an assembly line. At the last stop they reached a big room, and were told that this was the bath. When the last one was in, the doors were shut and the gas was let into the room.
As soon as death taken place in sic , the ventilators were started. When the air was breathable, the doors were opened, and the Jewish workers removed the bodies. By means of a special process which Wirth had invented, they were burned in the open air without the use of fuel. There is well-documented evidence that other ash was used as fertilizer in nearby fields. Another argument used by Holocaust deniers is that testimony on the gas chambers is unreliable.
Functionalism versus intentionalism
The Institute for Historical Review is one of the organizations which make this assertion. In the words of the IHR:. Isn't Zyklon-B explosive? Highly so. The Nizkor Project and other sources have stated that the minimal concentration of Zyklon-B to be explosive is 56, parts per million, while the amount used to kill a human is parts per million, as is evidenced in " The Merck Index " and the " CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics ". In fact, the Nazis' own documentation stated "Danger of explosion: 75 grams of HCN in 1 cubic meter of air.
Normal application approx. The court declared the statement that "Jews were gassed to death at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland during the summer of " was a fact. The figure of "six million" which refers only to Jewish victims, and is larger when counting the other ethnic, religious, and minority groups targeted for extinction is often minimized by such claims to a figure of only 1 million deaths, [ by whom?
Deniers claim that these documents are based on Soviet propaganda, primarily from Ilya Ehrenburg 's Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee , and are therefore unreliable. Complicating the matter is that various instances have been reported where the death tolls of particular death camps were claimed to be overstated. These claims vary in verifiability and objectivity. A much-quoted instance of disputing the toll is the "Breitbard Document" actually a paper by Aaron Breitbart ,  which describes a commemorative plaque at Auschwitz to the victims that died there, which read, Four million people suffered and died here at the hands of the Nazi murderers between the years and In , a new plaque replaced the old one.
It now says, May this place where the Nazis assassinated 1,, men, women and children, a majority of them Jews from diverse European countries, be forever for mankind a cry of despair and of warning. The lower numbers are due to the fact that the Soviets "purposely overstated the number of non-Jewish casualties at Auschwitz-Birkenau," according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Holocaust deniers insist that the number of Jews killed therefore be lowered by at least 2. However, the plaque had never been used as an accurate historical source by mainstream historians. Proctor has criticized such claims stating "[this] oddity has been exploited by Holocaust deniers but is simply a remarkable coincidence and nothing more".
Holocaust deniers misrepresent and omit information contained in ICRC reports that contradict their claims. Harwood disputed the notion that homicidal gas chambers were disguised as shower facilities by citing references in the report where ICRC officials inspected bathing facilities. He used their responses to argue that showers functioned as showers and were not part of a killing installation.
However this is considered misrepresentation by critics, as the passage Harwood cited is in reference to Allied camps for civilians in Egypt and thus had nothing to do with Nazi concentration camps. Harwood also claimed that Die Tat , a Swiss tabloid newspaper, published statistics that concluded the number of people who died in Nazi prisons and camps from to based on ICRC statistics was ",, not all of whom were Jews". As well as in personal correspondence, the ICRC has also addressed this misrepresentation by several other means.
The figures cited by the author of the booklet are based upon statistics falsely attributed to us, evidently for the purpose of giving them credibility, despite the fact that we never publish information of this kind. Similarly, Harwood wrote that the June 4, edition of Baseler Nachrichten , another Swiss newspaper, reported that "a maximum of only one and a half million Jews could be numbered as casualties. One Holocaust denial argument is the comparison of the population of Jews before and after the Holocaust. They state that the World Almanac gives the world Jewish population as 15,,, while the World Almanac gives the world Jewish population as 15,, They therefore claim that either the figures are wrong, or the Holocaust, meaning the deaths of millions of Jews, cannot have happened to any extent similar to the claimed 6 million.
Ken McVay writes:. Only in are postwar estimates employed, the figures given are for estimates made in A year or two lag seems to be common for various other population estimates given by the World Almanac.