Sunday, 10 February 2008
10:50:16 PM (GMT)
One of the foundations of Hitler's and the NSDAP's social policies was the concept
of racial hygiene. It was based on the ideas of Arthur de Gobineau, eugenics, and
social Darwinism. Applied to human beings, "survival of the fittest" was interpreted
as requiring racial purity and killing off "life unworthy of life." The first
were children with physical and developmental disabilities; those killings occurred
.in a program dubbed Action T4. After a public outcry, Hitler made a show of
ending this program, but the killings in fact continued.
Between 1939 and 1945, the SS, assisted by collaborationist governments and recruits
from occupied countries, systematically killed somewhere between 11 and 14 million
people, including about six million Jews, in concentration camps, ghettos and
mass executions, or through less systematic methods elsewhere. Besides being gassed
to death, many also died as a result of starvation and disease while working as
slave labourers (sometimes benefiting private German companies in the process,
because of the low cost of such labour). Along with Jews, non-Jewish Poles (over
three million casualties), alleged communists or political opposition, members of
resistance groups, Catholic and Protestant opponents, homosexuals, Roma, the
physically handicapped and mentally retarded, Soviet prisoners of war (possibly as
many as three million), Jehovah's Witnesses, anti-Nazi clergy, trade unionists, and
psychiatric patients were killed. One of the biggest centres of mass-killing was the
extermination camp complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Hitler never visited the
concentration camps and did not speak publicly about the killing in precise terms.
The massacres that led to the Holocaust (the Endl&sung der jüdischen Frage or
Solution of the Jewish Question") were planned and ordered by leading Nazis, with
Himmler playing a key role. While no specific order from Hitler authorizing the mass
killing of the Jews has surfaced, there is documentation showing that he approved
Einsatzgruppen, killing squads that followed the German army through Poland and
Russia, and that he was kept well informed about their activities. The evidence also
suggests that in the fall of 1941 Himmler and Hitler decided upon mass extermination
by gassing. During interrogations by Soviet intelligence officers declassified over
fifty years later, Hitler's valet Heinz Linge and his military aide Otto Gunsche
said Hitler had "pored over the first blueprints of gas chambers."
To make for smoother cooperation in the implementation of this "Final Solution", the
Wannsee conference was held near Berlin on 20 January 1942, with fifteen senior
officials participating, led by Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann. The records of
this meeting provide the clearest evidence of planning for the Holocaust. On 22
February, Hitler was recorded saying to his associates, "we shall regain our health
only by eliminating the Jews"
Founder and leader of the Nazi Party, Reich Chancellor and guiding spirit of the
Third Reich from 1933 to 1945, Head of State and Supreme Commander of the Armed
Forces, Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria, on 20 April 1889. The son
of a fifty-two-year-old Austrian customs official, Alois Schickelgruber Hitler, and
his third wife, a young peasant girl, Klara Poelzl, both from the backwoods of lower
Austria, the young Hitler was a resentful, discontented child. Moody, lazy, of
unstable temperament, he was deeply hostile towards his strict, authoritarian father
and strongly attached to his indulgent, hard-working mother, whose death from cancer
in December 1908 was a shattering blow to the adolescent Hitler.
After spending four years in the Realschule in Linz, he left school at the age of
sixteen with dreams of becoming a painter. In October 1907, the provincial,
middle-class boy left home for Vienna, where he was to remain until 1913 leading a
bohemian, vagabond existence. Embittered at his rejection by the Viennese Academy of
Fine Arts, he was to spend "five years of misery and woe" in Vienna as he later
recalled, adopting a view of life which changed very little in the ensuing years,
shaped as it was by a pathological hatred of Jews and Marxists, liberalism and the
cosmopolitan Habsburg monarchy.
Existing from hand to mouth on occasional odd jobs and the hawking of sketches in
low taverns, the young Hitler compensated for the frustrations of a lonely
bachelor's life in miserable male hostels by political harangues in cheap cafes to
anyone who would listen and indulging in grandiose dreams of a Greater Germany.
In Vienna he acquired his first education in politics by studying the demagogic
techniques of the popular Christian-social Mayor, Karl Lueger, and picked up the
stereotyped, obsessive anti-Semitism with its brutal, violent sexual connotations
and concern with the "purity of blood" that remained with him to the end of his
career. From crackpot racial theorists like the defrocked monk, Lanz von Liebenfels,
and the Austrian Pan-German leader, Georg von Schoenerer, the young Hitler learned
discern in the "Eternal Jew" the symbol and cause of all chaos, corruption and
destruction in culture, politics and the economy. The press, prostitution, syphilis,
capitalism, Marxism, democracy and pacifism--all were so many means which "the Jew"
exploited in his conspiracy to undermine the German nation and the purity of the
creative Aryan race.
In May 1913 Hitler left Vienna for Munich and, when war broke out in August 1914, he
joined the Sixteenth Bavarian Infantry Regiment, serving as a despatch runner.
proved an able, courageous soldier, receiving the Iron Cross (First Class) for
bravery, but did not rise above the rank of Lance Corporal. Twice wounded, he was
badly gassed four weeks before the end of the war and spent three months
recuperating in a hospital in Pomerania. Temporarily blinded and driven to impotent
rage by the abortive November 1918 revolution in Germany as well as the military
defeat, Hitler, once restored, was convinced that fate had chosen him to rescue a
humiliated nation from the shackles of the Versailles Treaty, from Bolsheviks and
Assigned by the Reichswehr in the summer of 1919 to "educational" duties which
consisted largely of spying on political parties in the overheated atmosphere of
post-revolutionary Munich, Hitler was sent to investigate a small nationalistic
group of idealists, the German Workers' Party. On 16 September 1919 he entered the
Party (which had approximately forty members), soon changed its name to the National
Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) and had imposed himself as its Chairman by
Hitler discovered a powerful talent for oratory as well as giving the new Party its
symbol — the swastika — and its greeting "Heil!." His hoarse, grating voice, for
the bombastic, humourless, histrionic content of his speeches, dominated audiences
dint of his tone of impassioned conviction and gift for self-dramatization. By
November 1921 Hitler was recognized as Fuhrer of a movement which had 3,000 members,
and boosted his personal power by organizing strong- arm squads to keep order at his
meetings and break up those of his opponents. Out of these squads grew the storm
troopers (SA) organized by Captain Ernst R&hm and Hitler's black-shirted personal
bodyguard, the Schutzstaffel (SS).
Hitler focused his propaganda against the Versailles Treaty, the "November
criminals," the Marxists and the visible, internal enemy No. 1, the "Jew," who was
responsible for all Germany's domestic problems. In the twenty-five-point programme
of the NSDAP announced on 24 February 1920, the exclusion of the Jews from the Volk
community, the myth of Aryan race supremacy and extreme nationalism were combined
with "socialistic" ideas of profit-sharing and nationalization inspired by
ideologues like Gottfried Feder. Hitler's first written utterance on political
questions dating from this period emphasized that what he called "the anti-Semitism
of reason" must lead "to the systematic combating and elimination of Jewish
privileges. Its ultimate goal must implacably be the total removal of the Jews."
By November 1923 Hitler was convinced that the Weimar Republic was on the verge of
collapse and, together with General Ludendorff and local nationalist groups, sought
to overthrow the Bavarian government in Munich. Bursting into a beer-hall in Munich
and firing his pistol into the ceiling, he shouted out that he was heading a new
provisional government which would carry through a revolution against "Red Berlin."
Hitler and Ludendorff then marched through Munich at the head of 3,000 men, only to
be met by police fire which left sixteen dead and brought the attempted putsch to an
ignominious end. Hitler was arrested and tried on 26 February 1924, succeeding in
turning the tables on his accusers with a confident, propagandist speech which ended
with the prophecy: "Pronounce us guilty a thousand times over: the goddess of the
eternal court of history will smile and tear to pieces the State Prosecutor's
submission and the court's verdict for she acquits us." Sentenced to five years'
imprisonment in Landsberg fortress, Hitler was released after only nine months
during which he dictated Mein Kampf (My Struggle) to his loyal follower, Rudolf
Hess. Subsequently the "bible" of the Nazi Party, this crude, half-baked hotchpotch
of primitive Social Darwinism, racial myth, anti-Semitism and lebensraum fantasy had
sold over five million copies by 1939 and been translated into eleven languages.