NAZI Racial Targets: The Jews

Figure 1.--The NAZIs intended to use the Slavs, after sharply reducing their numbers, as a source of Helot slave labor. The Jews were, however, slated for destruction. And the NAZIs suceeded in murdering 6 million Jews. Centuries old communities throughout Eastern Europe were completely destroyed. This touching portrait was taken by Roman Vishniac, a Russian born Jew living in Berlin who photographed Jewish communities in Eastern Europe just before the War.

German Jews

Germany until the rise of the NAZIs (1933) was one of the European countries with the richest traditions of Jewish life. It was also the European country that in the 19th century emancipated Jews and provided an environment in which Jews could prosper. It was to Germany and America that Polish and Russian Jews fled whem Tsar Alexander III unleased pogroms in the late-19th century . Today Germany is today viewed through the lens of the Holocaust. This should not obscure the long a rich tradition of the Jewish people in Germany. It is thus an irony of history that the Holocaust of the Jewish people was launched in Germany and devestated European Jewery. Jews have lived in Germany for 16 centuries, although they were driven out for several centuries. Jews moved back to Germany largey because of Tsarist pogroms in the East. As a result German Jewish tradition is largely Ashkenaz Jewery as opposed to Sephardic Jewery from Spain and Portugal.

Initial Target

The initial NAZI target was the Jews and the Communists which he devoted much of Mein Kampf excoriating. Actually the first target when Hitker seized power was the Communists and to a lesser degree the Socialists. Once they were arrested or silenced did the campaign against the Jews begin. And it needs to be pointed out that in Hitler's mind there was not difference between Jews and Communists. The term he used was Jedeo-Bolshevism. He saw Jews at the core of Communism in Germany, the Soviet Union and other countries. The Jews wre not, however, the first muder victtims in large numbers. They were handicapped German children--the hideous T-4 euthenasia program.


The NAZIs were a toxic brew of the conservative German thought with a strong Volkish traditiin and socialism. Among conservatist Gernam Volkish thought, racism had become very important elemement. And the Jews were seen as a foreign element in society. They stood out not only because they were racially different, but bcause they were successful. By any standard, be it income, academic, entertaiment, music, the Jews were a very successful minority. And unlike Jews in mamy other countries, many were well integrated into German society. It should not be thought that Germany was an anti-Semetic society. Anti-Semitism was stronger in Tsarist Russia, Poland, and France. But among conservative Germans the anti-Semrtic thread was very strong. We suspecg that it would have lead to the Holocaust, except for one factor--Adolf Hitler. It is not surprising that the would be anti-Semetic, but such a patholigicl hatred id difficult to understand. Many write about his posible Jewish ancestry. But strangely, many of his personal contacts ith Jews were positive, syh as his mother's docor abd a couple that gave him pastries when he was down and out in Vienna. We do not even know to what extend he even believes all the scientific mumbo-jumbo the NAZIs dreamed up. I supose you hate so intensely, you are willing to to accept just about anything. And thise around Hitler understoof that tghe way to crry his favor was to feed into his hate. But what much be understood about Hitler was his penchant violence and for mass murder. While the Jews were the target that id best known, they were actually a small-scale dry run for what he was planning, the murder of tens of millions of Slavs and other ethnic groups in Eastern Europe as part of Generalplan Ost.

World War II

The Jews became the primary NAZI victim nly because the Wehrmacht failed to destroy the Soviet Red Army. And thus the goal of destroying larger groups, especially Slavs could not be carried out: Generalplan Ost. The NAZIs also wanted to destroy the Balts, but doing that during the War would not have been opportune. These racial groups were condemned in part because they were deemed inferior. But inferority was not the only issue. The Slavs were cindened because their numbers and possssion of terrotory with important resources made them aanger to Germany.

NAZI Charges

The Jews were singled out by the NAZIs. The NAZIs picked up on all the centuries old traditional anti-Semetic charges, but added a new psesudo scientific sheen to them. Traditional anti-Semitism was inadequate for NAZI purposes because it was largely religious and NAZI thought and goals were hardly religuous. In fact one NAZI goal was to aboloish Christinity and replace it with a new NAZI state religion. Thus a pseudo scientific support for anti-Semitism to justify it. Not only were they deemed to be inferior, but they were accused of carry diseases and other hereditary defects. The NAZIs charged that the Jews corupted society. They were charged with corupting society. The fact that Jews made many impressive cintributions tonGerman society, far out of proportion t their numbers was a problem. The NAZI ansawer was to label ecerying they touched as degenerate. This includec huge contributions in academic, art, law, meducine, music, and science. Ironicaly on of the most impressive Jewish achievements was in nuclear physics and included on of the greatest scientists of all time Albert Einstein. Their work was labeled 'Jewish physics'. Hirler in effect disarmed Germany in the one areas that would have enabled him to win the war. Successful Jews were seen as cheating hard working Germans like wirkers and farmers, explining why they did so well. They were accused of lusting after German women and taking advntage of inncent young women. They were accued of abusing children. They were also accused of cultural pollution and degenerate art. Jews were depicted as avoiding physical labor and living off the work of others. And in afdotion to all that the racial commponent emerged. In n era before DNA was evn knwn, the NAZIs made also sorts of genectic, heritary argiments. Jews were accused of carrying diseases and of polluting Aryan racial stock. Academic researchers soon learned tht a sure fire way of getting government funding was research tht ould turn up some scientific justification for anti-Jewish policies. And no researcher was left in any doubt about how the Government expected the results of such research should turn out.

Initial Goal

The first Jews to be victimized by the NAZIs were the German Jews. Hitler and the NAZI's first approach to what they termed "the Jewish question" was to drive then out of Germany, of course first stealing their possessions. A steady stream of harsh, discriminatory laws, assaults by SA Stormtroopers, random arrests and murders were designed to isolate German Jews, steal their property, and hound then out of the country. Many Jews did leave. Many more would have, but had trouble finding countries willing to accept impoverished immigrants. The NAZIs had planned forced expulsions, but this was complicated again by the unwillingness of other countries to accept German Jews.

World War II

Large numbers of German Jews managed to escape Germany. The advance of the German Wehrmacht, however, brought even larger numbers of Jews under NAZI control. Many European countries had substantial Jewish populations. But for historical reasons the largest number of Jews were located in Poland and the westen Sviet Union, especially Belarus and the Ukraine, And thusfter working hard to expel Jews fron the reuch for 6 years, Hitler found he now controlled ten times more Jews than he started with. And as he thought he had won or was about to win the War, he was no longer thinking about expelling the Jews to other countries. As he behan ghinking about controling Europe abd eventually the world, it did not make sense to expel them to other countries that he controlled or would soon control.

The Desicision to Kill

NAZI authorities debated for a while what to do with these Jews. There is no evidence that this debate had any affect on Hitler's thinking. There is considerable evidence that Hitler consistently chose the most radical approach when presented with alternatives, a predilection that career minded men like Himmler and Heydrich played upon. Ultimately the NAZI goal was to destroy Jews, Jews of all ages. Other racial groups like the Slavs could be used for slave labor once they were reduced in numbers. The Jews, however, had to be destroyed. Even during the War when they represented a useful labor source to support the war effort, the decision was made to kill them. Here there was difference of opinion within the NAZI establishment. Some wanted to exploit their labor. The decision was ultimately made by Hitler, presumably in discussions with Heydrich and Himmler that the Jews were to be killed, regardless of potential value as slave labor even for the war effort.

The Killing Process

The NAZK killing began in large numbers as part of Barbarossa (June 1941). Then as specially designed death camps came on line, the killing process began on an industrial basis. NAZI occupation authorities and cooperative national authorities like Vichy pursued policies in 1940 and 41 was to strip Jews of their property and concentrate them so they were readily available for transport to the death camps. Jews were thus killed in horrifying numbers where ever the German Wehrmacht advanced. Only a few occupied countries resisted the Germans. While it was European Jews who were killed, the Holocaust was a template for the fate of Jews wherever the Wehrmacht advanced. Had the NAZIs won the War, Jews all over the world would have ultimately been added to the Holocaust. This may have also been extended to part Jews--the Mischlings.

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Created: 5:16 AM 4/24/2010
Spell checked: 8:48 PM 10/11/2013
Last updated: 7:40 PM 2/15/2017