Exchanges: Nazi Germany and Wannsee Conference Essay

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Pages: 7

Jessica Singh
Professor Close
Exchanges Paper
The Holocaust: Premeditated!?
The murder of 15 to 25 million political prisoners, ethnic minorities, and especially Jewish Europeans by the Nazis stands out as the most extreme, brutal, and chilling manifestations of fascist doctrines of aggression, nationalism, racialism, and totalitarianism. The holocaust is one of the most shocking events in world history that sparked an intense debate by scholars who sought to understand how such a terrible process could have happened. Two main lines analysis characterize the debate. The first strives to understand whether the Holocaust was planned by the Nazis from the beginning or whether it developed gradually over time. The second is whether the Holocaust was a product of unique Nazi ideologies. I will be arguing that the Holocaust was planned from the beginning based on evidence from six different sources: an intentionalist view, a structuralist view, memorandums, and the Wannsee conference.
Lucy S. Dawidowicz is an advocate of the intentionalist school of Holocaust studies. This source is a section from her historiographical survey of Holocaust studies and it makes three arguments: the Holocaust was interlinked with Nazi war plans, the Nazis had planned the elimination before the war started, and the Holocaust was a unique event in world history. Dawidowicz explains how the National Socialists regarded this mass murder as nothing less than an ideological war. She explains how the mass murder represented itself as a holy war to annihilate Germany’s mortal enemy, the Jews, who were the chief antagonists to the German Aryans. She states, “In Nazi ideology the Jew was the primal adversary, the biological archenemy of the German people, whose physical presence, it was alleged, threatened the purity and even the very existence of the Aryan race. No other people, nation, or race held that status” (Exchanges 269). This quote is saying that there was a hatred towards the Jewish population and race before the war started and how there was a propensity leading to the liquidation of the Jews.
Christian Gerlach has a structuralist viewpoint, which is opposing Dawidowicz’s intentionalist view. He suggests that Hitler ordered a “final solution” (genocide of Jews) in mid-December 1941. According to Gerlach, the Wannsee Conference held in January outside of Berlin propagated Hitler’s decision. The conference was originally scheduled to organize deportations, but it turned into a blueprint for genocide. Gerlach states that Hitler was reacting to political impulses and initiatives that originated from within the administration. The Wannsee Conference was a meeting between representatives from the RSHA and state secretaries and its purpose was to discuss the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” Invitations to attend were sent out on November 29 and it was originally supposed to be held on December 9, 1941, but was held in January of 1942 meaning that “the decision to ‘exterminate the Jews in Europe’ must have been made after December 7 and before December 14, 1941” (Exchanges 271). This proves Gerlach’s theory that Hitler’s decision came later in the war. Gerlach then proceeds to talk about Hitler did not announce his decision to exterminate the Jews during his infamous speech to the Reichstag, but the next day had a meeting with extremely important leaders to which he announced the genocide of the Jewish population to go into effect.
Sven Lindqvist’s Exterminate All the Brutes is an exploration of the relationship between imperialism and the Holocaust. He seeks to understand the origins of racialism that was accompanied by the new imperialism, which he argues culminated the genocide of World War II. Lindqvist suggests that the mass murder of people was made possible by more than a century of European ideology that the extermination of other races was appropriate. Lindqvist states, “’the so-called extermination of the Jews by the