The following is an essay I wrote for my Holocaust and Memory class regarding the rise of Nazism.
23 March 2018:
The rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party ultimately could not have occurred without preconditions to the Interwar Era as well as the occurrence of appeasement in global politics.
According to Doris L. Bergen, some of the necessary preconditions to the Holocaust include the ability of civilians to believe the profiling of certain groups of society as enemies as morally correct. In order for this to be possible, a historic prejudice must exist. Bergen writes that said historic prejudices were built on and expanded on to create an environment in which extreme oppression would be deemed acceptable. Hostilities and prejudices became murder with just three components: the existence of corrupt leadership, political will, and the exploitation of popular beliefs. The corrupt leadership and political will existed in Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Regime, and the exploitation of popular historic beliefs was present in the whole of European society.
According to Bergen, Jews in Europe have been subject to anti-Semitism within Europe as a whole since the days of Jesus, when the Jews were blamed for his death. This rhetoric of the Jews as traitors and evil doers carried over into later centuries as the Jews were used as scapegoats for the Bubonic Plague, were expelled from Spain, and were criticized by Enlightenment thinkers; such events still carried momentum in the 1900s, contributing to the hatred of the greater Jewish population right before and during the Holocaust. Nazis channeled mild prejudices into outright hatred and discrimination through manipulating and exploiting prejudices that the general population were already familiar with from the past, from historic Europe (the idea that the Jews killed Christ, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, etc.). The Nazis used these prejudices as fuel in political arenas and campaigns, forming laws around these oppressive ideas, expanding them into tangible hatred. This tangible hatred was then easily used as a rallying point for murder, and thus, for the rise of Hitler and the Nazis as a totalitarian regime of terror and death.
A further precondition that was needed in order for Hitler and the Nazis to gain momentum was World War I, according to Bergen. Bergen holds that The Great War (World War I) did have impact in terms of preconditions to the rise of Nazism, though did not directly lead to the Holocaust, as mainstream historical arguments suggest. These arguments dictate that the Germans attempted a nationalistic regimen to restore honor to their country following their humiliation by France in France’s effort to create peace, that because the French required the Germans to pay extremely high reparations, the German economy was essentially in ruins, prompting the German people to turn to Hitler as the leader to save and unify them, and prompting the nation to turn against the Jews as a scapegoat. Bergen refutes these mainstream historical arguments by pointing out that the suing for peace was a decision made by German military leaders, and that the reparations Germany had to pay were hardly crushing. Instead of the mainstream arguments, Bergen instead offers that World War I contributed to the rise of Nazism more discreetly and subtly. Bergen asserts that many Germans would not accept the fact that Germany lost the war fairly, and went on to find a group of people to blame for Germany’s losing the War. Along these lines of subtle progression of German hostilities towards certain groups, the environment of scapegoating was started up once again, and Jews and others were being blamed for Germany’s loss. Furthermore, some Germans believed, as a result of World War I, that it was solely in warfare a man could prove his masculinity- the belief that force was the most strong element in the world. This glamorization of violence sparked a new culture that remained a precondition for World World II. Without World War I, the Nazis would not have seen such a steady rise to power and influence over Germany, and eventually, over much of Europe. Preconditions were by no means the only factor in the rise of Nazism and of Hitler, however; lack of direct and immediate action on part of international powers in situations of crisis also had impact in this matter.
The road to appeasement was one on which the Nazis traveled to embark on their crusade of death and destruction following their rise to power. Nanking was one instance in which appeasement is exemplified, historically. Very little was done to help the Chinese being brutalized and killed besides an acknowledgement of the crimes occurring by various nations, the United States included. No nation reached out a helping hand for the dying Chinese trying to cling to life. This sentiment of acknowledgement but no action was one common during the Interwar Period, especially when it comes to oppression of Jewish peoples in Europe at the time before the War. The Nazis observed the lack of action on part of the greater powers of the world and realized that unrestricted murder was indeed possible without the interference of other nations.
These notions on part of the Nazi Regime and Hitler were solidified in the Munich Agreement of 1938. Great Britain and Germany interacted in what is known as a classic example of appeasement; Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time, signed an agreement in Munich detailing that the British were not going to take action to punish or incriminate the Germans for annexing Austria and Czechoslovakia, so as long as the German government did not continue on their path of conquering. The German government did not heed the word of Chamberlain, thus showing that Germany took advantage of the appeasement that they knew could not affect their rule. It is impossible to say what could have been had appeasement not been a reality of the times, but one can conclusively determine that appeasement allowed the Nazi Regime to continue their reign and ultimately allowed them the ability to create the conditions of the Holocaust.
No academic argumentative essay will ever be able to cohesively and effectively explain the complete reasoning behind the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party, nor will any essay written in a school setting be able to definitively isolate the exact causes and circumstances of the Holocaust. However, due to lack of action on part of international nations as well as preconditions in place before and during the Interwar period, one can decisively assert that historical prejudices, World War I, the Rape of Nanking, and the Munich Agreement all contributed significantly to the success of the influence of the Nazi Party and their leader, Adolf Hitler.
Bergen, Doris L. War & Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009. Print.
Here you will find specifically academic pieces, such as essays I have completed for school that are related to the pursuit of justice.