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What Was the Nature of Hitler's Anti-Semitism?

There can be no real 'debate' about Hitler's racial views. He was wrong about every single thing in every single case. In the few instances when Hitler can be found to be correct on some individual fact or inference, the explanation lies in the adage that any good lie must begin with few facts to distort. To acknowledge that any part of Hitler's 'theories' are correct is to bestow upon these misused facts a significance and justification that they--and Hitler--do not warrant. A good rule to follow: Do not be caught accepting any part of a half-lie; the parts tend to merge once you acquiesce to the dishonest exercise.

One can and should dismiss Hitlerís own explanations for his anti-Semitism. He spent countless hours speaking ill of the Jews in public and offering one spurious Ďreasoní after another. Drawn from the traditional anti-Semitic literature, Hitlerís Jew hating rhetoric boiled down to an accusation that the Jews were an infection of the human race responsible for every evil there ever was. His books--two volumes of
Mein Kampf and an unpublished third third volume--are more of the same and not to be taken seriously as a causatory rationale.

Hitler's ideas were very simplistic, and can be basically described as a sort of Survival of the Fittest and Most Ruthless. This principle is applied by Hitler not just to individuals, or even just species, but particularly to Races. He twisted and perverted Darwinist principles to manufacture an elaborate Lord Of The Rings type world-view where the 'Aryans' were the Elves, the Brits the Hobbits, the Russians the Trolls, the Jews as Ogres, etc.. It was a compelling narrative to many Germans who had grown up reading such German authors as the Brothers Grimm and attending operatic works of savage mythology by the likes of the anti-Semite Richard Wagner. But in the real world, such ideas made sub-humans of 'Races' other than those Hitler liked, and allowed his followers to convince themselves that Jews and others were not really human, so killing them was not a crime, but actually a defense of human values.

Hitler's reasons for the Holocaust are, however, only excuses and make about as much sense in proportion to the scope of the crime as those of any serial killer.

Apart from the talking points he used to delineate his anti-Semitic propaganda, the bigger and more important question is "Why." There is one understandable reason why he was an anti-Semite: It was good politics in the Germany of Hitler's day. As a young man, Hitler had watched with admiration as certain politicians utilized the Jews for political gain and expertly adopted the technique to further his own political career. Jews made up less than 1% of the German population but being the over-achievers that they are, they had succeeded in dominating certain fields, particularly scientific research--the majority of German Nobel winners were Jewish--finance, literature, and the arts. This high profile for a very small minority, reinforced by the traditional religious antipathy toward the Jews and spurious popular myths, made them a perfect scapegoat for all of Germany's problems. Thus, Hitlerís anti-Semitism had a practical benefit for Hitler the politician and was basically pragmatic. (Click 
for an analysis of Hitler's own fallacious narrative on how he came to his anti-Semitic views.)

A review of Hitlerís initial baby-steps along the path of utilizing anti-Semitic rhetoric for personal gain would incorporate the following points:

1) Hitler, being a voracious reader (by all accounts) had admitted to being familiar with anti-Semitic literature before the war.

2) He further related (and there is no good reason to doubt the accuracy or sincerity of these remarks) that he initially dismissed these anti-Semitic theories as unsophisticated and unconvincing. This is hardly surprising, either. A perusal of the type of popular pamphlet anti-Semitism of the formative years of Hitler's life reveal that his critique of it is succinct and correct.

3) He served with many 'front-line-comrades' of Jewish extraction during WW1 without ever displaying a hint of anti-Semitism. This opinionated Austrian was never one to balk at expressing of his opinions throughout his life, and it would have been very uncharacteristic for him to have hidden such views during four years of stressful military service.

4) He claims that it was the horrendous loss of WW1 that caused him to 'realize' that all those things he'd read about 'the Jews' must be true, and caused him to return to 'studying' anti-Semitism with a more experienced eye. I consider this fairly accurate; it rings true. Many depressed and thoroughly disillusioned soldiers were desperate to find a scapegoat for their defeat. Fellows like Hitler--gung-ho soldiers who gave their all and could not have fought any harder--were susceptible to the 'stab in the back' and other whining excuses put forward to explain how a virtuous and worthy Fatherland could have been so soundly defeated. "It was the Jews, you say? Could be. I've read a lot of bad things about them." Given the times and mood, it is not surprising that these poorly used fellows would formulate a conspiracy theory to explain that which they could comprehend no other way.

5) It can be no coincidence that Hitler's start on the road toward becoming a spokesman for anti-Semitism occurred at precisely the time that a billet opened in the post-war German army for an instructor in anti-Semitism. This (and spying) was perhaps the only opportunity for a soldier of little rank to stay in what was left of the Army (his home for so long). With his previous reading on the subject--remember that 'Hitler-the-quick-study' rarely forgot anything he read; his memory was near photographic--and his recent brushing up on the topic due to renewed interest, he grasped the opportunity presented to successfully extend his enlistment. A first success. Anti-Semitism was the means by which this first post-war success was achieved.

6) He found that he was good at public speaking, was able to sway a group of people to his views, and he was able to effectively 'teach' his steadily evolving views to a group. This further success reinforces his feeling--and the actuality--that this anti-Semitism gig could well be fruitful. When a person finds that they have a talent for something, and that that talent can make them popular, rich, or powerful, they will tend to use that talent to get as much of whatever they seek as they can.

7) Hitler the Spy, while infiltrating a right-wing political debating society disguised as a political party, finds that his anti-Semitic rhetoric works well in a political-civilian setting and begins to acquire bigger goals. 'How far will this success with anti-Semitic speaking get me?,' must cross his mind.

8) By the time Hitler has assumed the mantle of Drummer, his anti-Semitic act is fairly polished and his theories have been flowered with the sort of 'sophistication' he had found lacking in anti-Semitic 'thought' before he himself fine-tuned it.

9) Politicians will tell any lie they think the electorate is stupid enough to believe, and if certain lies prompt the public to donate money to--and cast votes for--a party, these lies tend to become planks in the party platform. Hitler the Politician found anti-Semitic rhetoric to be a powerful tool of self-promotion, a tool he never abandoned, even as the walls were crumbling around him.

The above demonstrates that the juxtaposition of opportunity and talent made Hitlerís adoption of anti-Semitism a good career move. Whether or not he began this career with a self-conscious cynicism, merely using anti-Semitism to further his goals, or whether--and to what degree--he started out believing the things he was saying to bigger and bigger crowds and was sincere from the beginning, is a factor that cannot possibly be determined with any certitude.

Conclusion: What can be stated as objective fact is that anti-Semitism was good for Hitler, and what was good for Hitler is all he really cared about, ultimately. This can be seen from his first political act to his last, and in all the despicable acts he committed in between. Hitler was, at the core, a very cynical and self-centered man who used everything and everyone available to further his insidious desires and fallacious beliefs. The horror is that one of these promotional instruments, carried to its logical conclusion, resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent human beings. And all for the sake of ambition.
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Featured Sites:
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