the beginning of the holocuast Essay

Submitted By MN11001
Words: 1260
Pages: 6

The beginnings of the Holocaust, that is to say the point at which it was decided that a program of mass murder would be undertaken against Europe's 11 million Jews, has been a much debated topic among historians. Was it always the direction in which the Nazi leadership was headed, or was the final decision not made until 1941 when Operation Barbarosa was well under way? Christopher Browning, Richard Breitman and Henry Friedlander present differing views as to when the Final Solution was adopted, none of which are overwhelmingly convincing. However, it is Browning who pieces together the most concrete of opinions, as Breitman and Friedlander become bogged down in speculative and simplistic assumptions.
It is Friedlander, in his article "Step by Step: The Expansion of Murder, 1939-1941" 1, who offers a very simplistic answer as to when the Final Solution began. Friedlander factually describes the lead-up to the decision to start killing the handicapped in late 1938. However, his omission of dates and his simplistic account lead to conclusions which fail to consider the reasons behind certain events, and how their preceding events unfolded: "As the T4 killing centres closed, the murder of the Jews had commenced...in the East" 2. Consequently, his opinion that mass murder was decided on back in 1938 is contradicted by the stages of the Holocaust that preceded the killing ones. Ghettoisation, which occurred in 1939-1940, shows that murder was not always the option favoured by the Nazis. 3 Furthermore, Friedlander's attempts to connect the Final Solution to the handicapped program, in a bid to show that the Holocaust was a step by step process first started in 1938, are too simplistic. He uses his factual account of the Nazis' racial beliefs to unsuccessfully justify his contention that the two events, along with the killing of the Gypsies, were linked together in one large Final Solution. It is true that the Nazis modelled the industrialised Jewish genocide on the handicapped killings. However, the introduction of gassings and the high number of extermination camp staff with experience in T4 killing centres hardly shows the Jewish murders to be the next step in a Holocaust process - one that started with the handicapped killings.
If Friedlander is too simplistic, then Breitman, in his article "Plans for the Final Solution in Early 1941" 4, gets himself bogged down in events which leads him to draw speculative conclusions. Breitman argues that the Final Solution was finalised in early 1941, if not late 1940, well before the Germans had invaded the Soviet Union. He, like Friedlander, also believes that mass murder was seen as a partial solution to the Jewish question, along with the handicapped one, before the war began. However, Breitman's assertion that these early killings, combined with the ones committed by the Einsatzgruppen during Barbarosa, signified the long-term intentions of Hitler, fails to consider that the orders given to the killing squads initially didn't include the murder of all Jews. 5
From here, Breitman's argument lacks credibility, with its talk of secret plans and a reliance on speculative evidence. Breitman writes of Eichmann's announcement that Heydrich had already been entrusted with the 'final evacuation' of Jews in March 1941, saying this "may have referred to a general policy that was still secret" 6. Thus, he suggests something of which he has no proof. Moreover he does this constantly, asking whether Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich wouldn't have conspired over the Final Solution and kept the more 'lethal' plans for all Europe's Jews secret; again highly speculative inferences considering that the Holocaust progressed in stages.
Furthermore, Breitman uses the testimony of Viktor Brack, who he notes as having lied at his trial, to try and substantiate his claims that mass murder was always the preferred option. He admits that looking toward Goebbels or Hans Frank for evidence would be misleading, and the…