Why did the Holocaust Happen?
Today, the problem of studying the Holocaust is the problem of the recognition of its uniqueness as a historical phenomenon of a universal scale. Before World War II, all conflicts in the history of genocide were based on religious conflicts: mass extermination of people took place on religious grounds. In the twentieth century, religious motives ceased to play a decisive role in determining the group identity of people. The Holocaust was one of the acts of mass destruction of people on a national basis. However, in order to commit this crime, huge masses of people, such as accomplices and witnesses of the genocide, had to be prepared for it. Thus, the Holocaust has become one of the most significant historical and social phenomena of the twentieth century because the Nazis carried out genocide on an unprecedented scale driven by a racist ideology that considered Jews parasites deserving only extermination.
To begin, it is important to mention that the Holocaust is a phenomenon that is extremely important for the understanding of such concepts as the national state, western civilization, modern bureaucratic society, as well as human nature. Hayes (2015) stated that it was a deliberate mass destruction of millions of innocent civilians. According to Black (2016), there are at least four reasons why the Holocaust cannot be reduced to another manifestation of anti-Semitism:
- the extermination of the Jews was carried out within the framework of the law, and the legal system was an instrument of pressure;
- the persecution and extermination of the Jews was thought of as the political task of the country, and for this purpose all the levers of power were lent;
- Jews were killed not for their cultural dissimilarity or their faith, but for the very fact of their existence. This means that all Jews were to be exterminated, not just the Jewish spirit ;
- contrary to Christian theology, the Jews ceased to be considered a symbol of evil, its incarnation, and therefore they had to disappear.
The mass death of the peaceful Jewish population in Nazi-occupied territory during the Second World War has no analogues in the history of wars. It did not depend on hostilities, was not associated with deportations from the front-line zone or with massive bombardments of peaceful cities. It was a separate and independent operation, which turned out to be easier and more convenient to carry out in the conditions of war, with minimal intervention of forces from inside and outside, and which could be disguised and covered with a curtain of military necessity. However, according to Himka & Michlic (2013), an additional fact should be noted: in Hitler’s documents related to the extermination of the Jews and in justifying the decision on it, there is no trace of argumentation that this extermination is supposedly necessary for successful warfare.
The combination of racism and anti-Semitism (to be more precise, chauvinism) led to the emergence of a new historical phenomenon – racist anti-Semitism, distinguished by its particular intransigence and uncompromising attitude towards Jews. From the point of view of Nazism, the Jew was at the same time the personification of both communism (as the founder and bearer of communist ideology) and capitalism (as the main bearer of bourgeois haggling ). Thus, National Socialism has found an object of hatred in accordance with its dual name, setting the Jew as a target for national and class hatred. The Nazis turned anti-Semitism into an export item, which diplomats and other representatives of Germany abroad were engaged in (it helped to unite the fascist parties in other countries).
Thus, several signs can determine the uniqueness of the Holocaust and its phenomenality as a historical and social phenomenon (characteristic only for a certain period of the twentieth century). For the first time in history, the destruction of the civilian population was of such a global nature. This was conditioned by the combination of Nazi ideology with German pedantry and modern technological advances, which made it possible to create special technical devices for the accelerated mass destruction of people. Moreover, the Holocaust had a place because ideology, which was based on racial theory, became a political force that could set in motion powerful state mechanisms and influenced the entire course of world history.