Academic level – Undergraduate 3-4
Type of paper – Research paper
Topic Title – Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust
The paper should focus on a specific issue and support a thesis or main argument.
It should be at least THREE pages long, typed and double- spaced, with at least THREE reference sources (each cited at least once in the paper).
The Holocaust was undeniably one of the most horrible atrocities in human history, traumatizing many nations and leaving long-lasting damages for decades after the war. Historians and ordinary citizens rightfully link this crime to the political leadership of Adolf Hitler. As the head of Nazi Germany and the Nazi Party, he influenced and approved many political decisions that led to the Holocaust. Thus, Hitler is responsible for the Holocaust, even though his choices also reflected pre-existing historical trends.
One may identify diverse evidence of Hitler’s decisive role in the Holocaust. That is visible in his immense powers and personal views. Although Hitler was not technically the president of Nazi Germany, he enjoyed supreme and unchallenged power over the country. He was the head of Nazi Germany’s army and, thus, responsible for its crimes against the civilian population. In 1933, Hitler gained the right to freely pass legislation at his own discretion without consulting the parliament (University of Kentucky). Thus, he could quickly implement any policies and facilitate any war crimes deemed necessary with little or no prior notice. While the parliament and various government officials could make their own decisions, they could never defy Hitler’s wishes directly. For that reason, it is safe to say that the Holocaust could have never happened without Hitler’s support.
Hitler made many political decisions that enabled or directly incentivized the extermination of Jews in Germany and occupied nations. Notably, in 1939, Hitler authorized the Aktion T4 program for euthanizing individuals deemed unworthy of the right to life. T4 did not target Jews directly, focusing on the terminally ill and patients of psychiatric hospitals. Nevertheless, it established the precedent of government-sponsored mass killings of civilians. It employed many similar methods of killing, including gas chambers (Remington 2023). Hitler eventually extended these practices to Jews by authorizing Operation Barbarossa, which involved not only the occupation of the Soviet Union but also the extermination of Jews residing there. Hitler took another step toward the Holocaust by promoting and approving the infamous Final Solution, which triggered the incarceration and execution of Jews and other targeted minorities across Europe.
Hitler also played a major role in spreading anti-Semitic propaganda and conspiracy theories, which justified the Holocaust and popularized its idea among German elites and citizens. That is visible in Hitler’s long history of hateful statements and proposals targeting Jews throughout his entire political career. He even perceived states, laws, and ethics as Jewish falsehoods that distorted the objective reality (Delman 2015). For that reason, Hitler favored the idea of eradicating Jews and, by extension, all the corruption they allegedly created. In January 1939, Hitler delivered a speech in Reichstag and openly acknowledged the possibility of the extermination of all Jews in case of another war. Such radical political statements undeniably helped marginalize and dehumanize Jews in the eyes of the German public. In this context, the Nuremberg laws approved by Hitler also served as an ideological prelude to the Holocaust because they constructed the image of a Jew as inferior and disposable.
Certainly, Hitler was not the only perpetrator of the Holocaust, even in the political realm. Many figures in the Nazi Party supported, complemented, or enforced this policy. It would be unfair to overlook the role of such Nazi leaders as Heinrich Himmler, who headed the SS and, thus, managed concentration camps. His lieutenant, Adolf Eichmann, used his knowledge of Jewish organizations to facilitate the deportation and killing of Jews across occupied Europe. Meanwhile, Joseph Goebbels was a well-known anti-Semite and Nazi propagandist who supported Hitler’s most radical policies (University of Kentucky). Hitler’s efforts would never cause so many deaths without enthusiastic support and assistance provided by these individuals and their subordinates. It is also crucial to remember that Nazi officials sometimes competed for Hitler’s approval and tried to prove their loyalty, which could incentivize a more brutal implementation of the Holocaust.
Lastly, it is worth remembering that Hitler’s dedication to the Holocaust (and, most likely, his anti-Semitic views) reflected long-established political and social views in Germany and elsewhere. Hatred and distrust toward Jews had been widespread in Europe for centuries and remained popular during the 1930s (Delman 2015). Hence, the perception of Jews as aliens and oppressors, who manipulated and exploited society, was not a radically new idea for most Germans. The Nazi leaders weaponized such sentiments in addition to dissatisfaction with the outcomes of WW1 and the Great Depression. Hitler’s anti-Semitism was undeniably much more radical and prone to conspiracy theories that exaggerated the Jews’ global power. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that Hitler’s extreme views could have developed without previous exposure to a more mainstream anti-Semitism.
In conclusion, while Hitler’s leadership shaped the Holocaust, other Nazi leaders and political trends in contemporary Germany also played a major role. Hitler indeed enjoyed vast and unchallenged powers and eagerly used them to exterminate Jews. However, one must not ignore the contribution of other Nazi officials who supported or even encouraged more radical policies. Strong social acceptance of anti-Semitism in Germany also helped Hitler gain power and implement the Final Solution virtually unopposed.
Delman, Edward. “Understanding Hitler’s Anti-Semitism.” The Atlantic. Last modified September 8, 2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/hitler-holocaust-antisemitism-timothy-snyder/404260/
Remington, Alexander M. Life Unworthy of Life’ Aktion T4: The First Nazi Genocide. Last modified 2023, https://cupola.gettysburg.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2142&context=student_scholarship
University of Kentucky. Nazi Leadership and the Holocaust. Accessed August 7, 2023. https://history.as.uky.edu/nazi-leadership-and-holocaust