Germany Special Report

     It is because factors other than exterminationist antisemitism shaped the Germans’ actions that the character of the interaction of the various influences, including strategic and material constraints, needs to be understood. This, as was detailed earlier, can be seen at the policy level in the evolution of the Germans’ eliminationist policies into exterminationist ones as the opportunities and constraints became more favorable for a “final solution.”

     Whatever the constancy of Hitler’s and other leading Nazis’ eliminationist ideals was, the Germans’ anti-Jewish intentions and policy had three distinct phases. Each was characterized by different practical opportunities for “solving” the “Jewish Problem” that derived – this was true both of the possibilities and the constraints – from Germany’s geostrategic situation, namely from its position on the European continent and its relations with other countries.

     The first phase lasted from 1933 until the outbreak of the war. The Germans implemented the utterly radical policies of turning the Jews into socially dead beings and of forcing most of them to flee from their homes and country. They did so by perpetrating ceaseless verbal and sporadic yet ferocious physical violence upon Jews, by depriving them of civil and legal protections and rights, and by progressively excluding them from virtually all spheres of social, economic, and cultural life. At a time when most of Europe’s Jews were beyond the Germans’ reach - rendering a lethal “solution” to the “Jewish Problem” unfeasible - and when a comparatively weak Germany was pursuing dangerous foreign policy goals and arming in preparation for the coming war, these were the most final “solutions” that were practicable, the only ones that they could prudentially adopt.

     The second phase lasted from the beginning of the war until early 1941. The conquest of Poland and then of France and the prospective defeat or peace with Britain created new opportunities for the Germans, yet fundamental constraints remained. They now had over two million, not mere hundreds of thousands, of European Jews under their control, so they could entertain some “solution” to the “Jewish Problem” more effective than anything possible while Germany remained confined to its 1939 borders. . . .

      Under these more propitious circumstances, the Nazis contemplated more radical “solutions"- bloodless equivalents of genocide. They began to explore the possibility of removing this good portion of all of European Jewry living under their dominion to some god-forsaken territory, where they could discard, immure, and leave the Jews to wither and expire. In November 1939, at a meeting devoted to expulsions, Hans Frank, the German Governor of Poland, expressed the underlying exterminationist motive that was already operative in and constitutive of the relocation schemes: “. . . We won’t waste much more time on the Jews. It’s great to get to grips with the Jewish race at last. The more that die the better. “During this second phase, the Germans pursued the most radical “solutions” that were practicable and prudent. Their proto-genocidal policies for handling Jews within their dominion gave a new lethality to their Jewish policies. Their bloodlessly genocidal eliminationist “solution” of vast deportations, however, did prove to be chimerical – the only major German initiative against the Jews that did – but to no great disappointment on the part of the Nazi leadership, for the impending conquest of the Soviet Union rendered such deportations undesirable, by offering them at last the opportunity for a truly final and irrevocable “solution.”

     The third phase began with the planning of the attack on the Soviet Union and the invasion itself. It was only during this phase that killing the Jews whom the Germans could actually reach would prove to be, from their hallucinatory perspective, an effective and not a counterproductive policy. It was only then that a “final solution” by systematic killing was practical. It was only then that the Germans no longer had major political and military constraints hindering them from pursuing such a policy....[End Text]

Copyright© 1996, 1997 by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. , New York, NY

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