Hitler committed one of the greatest atrocities in history; he needed a strong motivating force to accomplish this. In this report, it shall be argued that Hitler killed the Jews for political reasons. He used them as scapegoats, and thus shielded himself from taking responsibility for the economic and political problems in his country.
The Jews as a convenient scapegoat
Hitler led Germany at a time when it had emerged from the First World War. The country was confronted with a series of challenges. Its people were filled with frustration and fear, and their leader needed to provide a clear explanation or solution for their problems. The Jews were the perfect scapegoat because they were a single target group (Curtis, 1987). After the First World War, most of the Germans were grappling with unemployment. In fact, approximately forty percent of the population at the time fell in this category. Inflation had skyrocketed; estimates indicate that triple digit figures were prevalent in the nation.
Hitler decided that if he could eliminate the Jews from the landscape, then the unemployment problem would cease to exist. He used this method as a devious scheme to get himself out of the economic mess that his country was confronted with. The truth of the matter was that Germany was a debt ridden nation. The high levels of poverty prevalent in this part of the world were created by the unwise decisions of its leaders. Hitler could not admit this because undoing those mistakes would be too difficult for him. He needed an easier route and a defenseless entity to achieve his goals.
However, even though the Jews were the major target of Hitler’s killings, it is essential to note that certain conditions made them the ideal scapegoat. The Jews were an industrious group of people. Most of them lived comfortably, even in those tough economic conditions. They had businesses that thrived and were financially stable. Their culture was such that it placed a great amount of value on achievement and self improvement. This meant that many Jews were relatively successful in commerce and finance. Additionally, many members of the German population came to them for personal loans when they needed funds for their businesses or other personal needs. Therefore, other non-Jews felt that the Jews were a suspicious group. They envied their positions, and thus believed Hitler when he identified them as the source of all their problems (Goldhagen, 1996).
Many of the Jews participated in the banking system and the masses affirmed that it was their involvement in the financial system that led to their economic crisis. The Jews were demonized in the early twentieth century. The Germans thought of the Jews as capitalist exploiters who were out to serve only their own interests. When the Nazis combined these sentiments with arguments about biological and racial superiority, it seemed plausible to eliminate them from the country. The latter thoughts had become common at the time.
Hitler did not create the Germanic hatred of Jews. These sentiments already existed; he only fuelled them and rechanneled them towards his political cause. He made the Germans believe that the Jews possessed a corrupting effect, and had to be eradicated at all costs. He used this hatred, suspicion and envy of the minority group to rally support for his underlying needs. Hitler had a great need for power, and the Jews would be his major platform for achieving these aims (Resnick, 1991). This authoritarian was willing to use any means necessary to satisfy his quest. The Jews were a handy group for getting him what he needed.
This strategy is not uncommon in the political scene. Many authoritarian governments often use easily identifiable entities as scapegoats for their mistakes. The Jews were a homogenous and minority group. Their religion did not require them to convert non members, so they continued to be a small and separate unit. Such qualities made them an easy target for this dictatorial leader. Many Germans supported the inhumane discrimination of Germanic Jews because they were quite desperate for an end to their political crisis.
Hitler appeared to be a strong and visionary leader to them. They sincerely believed that he would get them out of their predicament. They needed to agree with his assertions in order for this to happen. If any of them sympathized with the Jews, then they would essentially be rejecting Hitler’s regime. Few of them wanted to do that, hence explaining why most of them accepted his discrimination of the Jews either passively or actively. It was because of this high level of allegiance that Hitler and his party came up with a plan to exterminate the Jews. The plan was the result of an ideological arrangement that would be approved by millions of people who owed an allegiance to him (Friedlander, 1997).
There was a myth in Germany that all Jews had colluded with capitalists and communists; therefore, they needed to be destroyed. Hitler and the Nazis spread these rumors and contributed to the hatred of the Jews. Furthermore, Hitler claimed that Jewish capitalists from allied countries in the First World War had supported the war through their finances. The conspiracy theory grew to enormous proportions when Hitler assumed power because he even asserted that the Jewish capitalists were planning to take over the world. It is interesting that even though Hitler made these arguments, he still called the Jews parasites.
This leader used every angle to blame the Jews for the sorry state of affairs in his country. Political conspiracies on Jewish participation in socialism, liberalism, capitalism, communism, and many other ideologies fueled the fire that eventually led to their death. The Nazis released several newspaper articles that apportioned blame to the Jews for the spread of communism in Europe. Eastern European countries were regarded as victims of this Jewish conspiracy.
Hitler painted the Jews as invaders who were bent on transforming Germany for the worse through their dangerous policies. This leader also claimed that his country did not need democracy in any way. He asserted that it would be destructive and corrupted the nation. To him, the Jews had invented this phenomenon and needed to be eliminated before they corrupted the nation even further. Hitler was quite clever, in this regard, because he directed all the problems of German society towards one direction; the Jews.
Exterminating the Jews could also provide a short term benefit to the Nazis. When Hitler’s followers killed the Jews, they confiscated their homes, material possessions, land and money. In fact, this new surplus served as a temporary source of enrichment to the Third Reich. Hitler spearheaded the death of Jews because this would cool down his follower’s tempers. By taking their family treasures, the Nazis and Aryan populations would get temporary reprieve from the economic conditions of post-war Germany.
Hitler realized that the military challenges that took place in the First World War needed some sort of explanation, and the Jews were an easy way out for him (Bankier, 2000). He identified this group as the source of their problems in the war. Furthermore, the disgruntled soldiers who came from the war needed someone to blame for their failures in the war. Many of them argued that they had been stabbed in the back by people at home, and the Jews were the main part of this group.
Mass murder was a tool for dealing with the political struggles in Germany at the time. The Germans were confronted with serious economic and political issues. They needed someone to get them out of their mess and Hitler seemed like the plausible option. However, Hitler could not solve all these challenges. He, therefore, opted for a scapegoat through the Jews. He took advantage of the inherent suspicion and dislike of the Jewish population by blaming them for all of Germany’s problems. Their extermination would temporarily deal with these challenges and would fulfill Germans’ need for revenge.
Hitler killed the Jews in order to secure his political interests; therefore, the group was indeed a scapegoat. Once the group was identified, he would not have to account for the military failures of the Germanic soldiers in the war, the high poverty levels as well as the high levels of unemployment in his country. Hitler preyed upon the hatred that already existed for the Jews. For a group to serve as a scapegoat, the population must already dislike or hate it, and this was the case in early twentieth century Germany.
Bankier, D. (2000). Probing the Depths of German Anti-Semitism: German Society and the persecution of the Jews, 1933-1941. NY: Routledge.
Curtis, M. (1987). The irrationality of anti-Semitism. Rutgers University: Rutgers University press.
Friedlander, S. (1997). Nazi Germany and the Jews: The years of persecution, 1933-1939. NY: Prentice.
Goldhagen, D. (1996). Hitler’s willing executioners: ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. NY: McGrawhill.
Resnick, A. (1991). The Holocaust. San Diego: Lucent Books.