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The Holocaust History Project.
The Holocaust History Project.

 Are The Jews Central To The Holocaust?

By Gordon McFee

The first research in the late 1940s and early 1950s focused on the Jewishness of the Holocaust. Called the "Final Solution" by the Germans, it was the object of two pivotal studies, both of which had the Jews at the center of their treatment. The first was The Final Solution by Gerald Reitlinger and the second The Destruction of the European Jews by Raul Hilberg. Most major studies since have had the same focus: Lucy Dawidowicz (The War Against the Jews; Leni Yahil (The Holocaust); Hilberg (Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders); Daniel Goldhagen (Hitler's Willing Executioners); Martin Gilbert (The Holocaust); Arad et al (Documents on the Holocaust); Yitzak Arad (Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps) and so on.

Modern research has begun to deal more extensively with the suffering of other victims of the Nazi genocide. For example, homosexuals, Gypsies, prisoners of war, Russians, Poles, Catholic priests, Jehovah's Witnesses and others were more or less systematically murdered as the Holocaust continued. By the end of the war, as many as 6 million of these people had been killed, along with between 5 and 6 million Jews.

Does the focus on the Jewishness of the Holocaust take away from or minimize the suffering of the millions of non-Jews who were persecuted? Do the Jews, unintentionally perhaps, try to keep all the suffering for themselves? No. On the other hand, does the Holocaust have a particularly crucial and central Jewish element, even though millions of others died? Simply put, the answer is yes. The Holocaust, from its conception to its implementation had a distinctly Jewish aspect to it and, arguably without this Jewish aspect, there would have been no Holocaust. Most of the non-Jewish people would not have been killed because the killing machinery would not have been put into operation.

In this context, two points need to be examined: the particularly Jewish aspect of the Holocaust and the fact that this neither minimizes nor trivializes the suffering of others.

The Jewishness Of The Holocaust

Faithful to Hitler, the Nazis picked out and specifically targeted the Jews, and they did this from the very beginning -- the Nazi Party Program of February 19201 to the very end Hitler's Testament of April 29, 1945.2 In fact, Hitler had written a letter to a Herr Gemlich in 1919 in which he called for the removal of the Jews if he ever took power.

Exactly when Hitler's eliminationist hatred of the Jews took form in his mind is still a matter of debate. Some accounts have him violently antisemitic when he still lived in Linz.3 Others equate it to his experiences in Vienna,4or to his gassing experience at the end of World War I,5 still others believe the antisemitism took on its virulent form in the early 1920s under the influence of Houston Stewart Chamberlain6 and Dietrich Eckart.7

In Mein Kampf, there are dozens of passages that vilify and demonize the Jews. A couple of examples suffice.

Was there any excrement, any shamelessness in any form, above all in cultural life, in which at least one Jew would not have been involved? As soon as one even carefully cut into such an abscess, one found, like maggots in a decaying body, often blinded by the sudden light, a kike.8

If we had at the beginning of, and during the war, subjected 12 or 15,000 of these Hebrew corrupters of the people to poison gas, as hundreds of thousands of our best German workers from all strata and occupations had to endure, then millions of victims of the Front would not have been in vain.9

The Nazis harassed and brutalized the Jews throughout the 1920s during the "struggle for power." Speech after speech painted the Jews as Germany's "misfortune" and prophesied a time of reckoning.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the Jews were their very first target. The infamous boycott against Jewish businesses took place in April 1933 and the first laws against the Jews were enacted as early as on April 7, 1933.10 Jews were progressively erased from almost every facet of German life.11 The Nuremberg Laws, passed in 1935, further tightened the noose, depriving the Jews of almost every remaining right and freedom.12 This culminated in the bloodiest pogrom to date the Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) in November 1938. Over 100 Jews were murdered and a "fine" was levied against the Jews in excess of 1 billion RM.

By the outbreak of World War II, actions taken against the Jews included marking them13 and ghettoizing them.14 By the time of the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the decision had been taken to kill the eastern European Jews by shooting them where they were found (http://www.holocaust-history.org/hitler-final-solution/) and by the end of the year at the latest, the decision was taken to kill all European Jews. (http://www.holocaust-history.org/ december-12-1941/).

The one common thread throughout this "process of destruction," as Hilberg calls it, was the Jews. The Communists were often explicitly targeted as well, but the Nazis believed that Communism was a creature of the Jews in any event. The expression often used was "Jews and other undesirables," and the Jews were almost always the first group targeted in any initiative. There is no doubt that they were the focal point from beginning to end.

The Germans set up an office on the "Jewish Question" under the direction of Adolf Eichmann -- the infamous Bureau IV B 4. The name used for the ultimate killing action was "the Final Solution of the Jewish Question," Others were drawn in -- with horrific results -- but the key object and common thread was always the Jews.

There are thousands of captured documents dealing with the killing actions. Almost every one of them deals with the Jews and there are almost no documents that deal with another target that do not also address the Jews. The Einsatzgruppen reports almost always separate out the Jews from the other people shot, going so far as to break down the Jews by age and gender (http://www.holocaust-history.org/ intro-einsatz).15 And the Report 51, submitted by Himmler to Hitler in 1943, breaks down the victims into a variety of categories (bandits, partisans, etc.), but only lists the Jews as "Jews executed."16

Finally, the Korherr Report is entitled "The Final Solution of the European Jewish Question: A statistical report,"17 and once again, addresses virtually only the Jews.

Hitler said before the outbreak of the war that if there were another war, he would annihilate the Jews.18 He said during the war that he was in the process of annihilating the Jews.19 And he said in his Testament that he had done exactly what he had said he would do.20

The ultimate aim and the primary target never varied. Others were murdered in the course of the Final Solution, e.g. Gypsies, Russian POWs, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and so on, but the first and constant target was always the Jews. The Final Solution was intended for the Jews, was about the Jews and chiefly affected the Jews. There is no denying that, without the Jews, there is no Final Solution.

To minimize or trivialize the "Jewishness" of the Final Solution is to seriously understate, if not, unintentionally perhaps, deny its essence. This does not mean that the suffering of other groups is to be ignored; on the contrary, it was terrible. But without the Holocaust, without the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question", the others live. The term "holocaust" was coined to describe the uniquely Jewish aspect of the Final Solution. It does not seek to negate the suffering of the other victims.

Albert Speer put it well:

The hatred of the Jews was Hitler's driving force and central point, perhaps even the only element that moved him. The German people, German greatness, the Reich, all that meant nothing to him in the final analysis. Thus, the closing sentence of his Testament sought to commit us Germans to a merciless hatred of the Jews after the apocalyptic downfall. I was present in the Reichstag session of January 30, 1939 when Hitler guaranteed that, in the event of another war, the Jews, not the Germans, would be exterminated. This sentence was said with such certainty that I would never have doubted his intent of carrying through with it.21

It should be remembered that the centrality of the Jews in the Holocaust in no way lessens the killing of others. The Gypsies were marked for extermination in the same way as the Jews were and suffered terribly. (http://www.holocaust-history.org/ questions/gypsies.shtml)22 The testimony of Otto Ohlendorf at Nuremberg on this is chilling:

US prosecutor J. Heath: And what was the story with the Gypsies? I believe you have no idea how many Gypsies your commando killed?
Ohlendorf: No, I don't know.
Ohlendorf:There was no difference between the Gypsies and the Jews. The same order applied to both of them.23


  1. 4.Only "folkish" comrades can be state citizens. "Folkish" comrades can only be those of German blood, regardless of their religion. No Jew can therefore be a "folkish comrade".

  2. "I have also left no doubt that, if the nations of Europe are again to be regarded as mere shares to be bought and sold by those international money and finance conspirators, then that race, Jewry, which is the real guilty party in this murderous struggle, will be saddled with the responsibility. I also made it clear that this time, not only would millions of children of European Aryan races starve, not only would millions of grown men meet their death, and not only would millions of women and children be burned or bombed to death in the cities, but that the real culprit would atone for his guilt, even if by more humane means." Adolf Hitler, Testament, April 29, 1945. See also Note 19 below.

  3. Kubizek The Young Hitler I Knew

  4. One of the wildly popular authors in Austria at this time was Lanz von Liebenfals, whose journal Ostara postulated a blond, blue-eyed master race - the Aryans - which was in perpetual danger from a parasitic subhuman race - the Jews. Liebenfals' influence can be seen in some of the more perverted imagery in Mein Kampf and in Julius Streicher's Der Stuermer.

  5. See Ron Rosenbaum, Explaining Hitler, pages xliv-xlv, 376-377

  6. Chamberlain's Grundlagen des 19. Jahrhunderts (Foundations of the 19th Century) [1899] postulated a superior Aryan race of "creators" and an inferior parasitic race - the Jews. It was wildly popular at the beginning of the 20th Century.

  7. Eckart was an early mentor of Hitler's to the extent that he was one of people to whom Mein Kampf was dedicated. He co-wrote with Hitler Von Moses bis zum Bolschewismus: Zwiegespraeche zwischen Adolf Hitler und mir (From Moses to Bolshevism: Dialogues between Adolf Hitler and me) which painted a particularly repulsive picture of Jews.

  8. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Volume I, page 61

  9. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Volume II, page 772

  10. "The Law for the restoration of the Civil Service"; Krausnick et al. Anatomie des SS-Staates, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich, 1999, page 574

  11. Raul Hilberg, Die Vernichtung der europäischen Juden, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1990, Volume 1, pages 85-163

  12. Hilberg, ibid., pages 73-84. Krausnick op cit., pages 579-585

  13. Obligation to have Jewish names, forbidden to fly the Reich flag, obligation to wear the Star of David. Hilberg, op cit., pages 184-186

  14. Gerald Reitlinger, Die Endlösung: Hitlers Versuch der Ausrottung der Juden Europas 1933-1945, Colloquium Verlag, Berlin, 1992, pages 59-79. See also the Jäger Report, reproduced in Klee, Dressen and Riess, The Good Old Days, The Free Press, New York, 1991, pages 46-54

  15. Hilberg, op cit., Volume 2, pages 332-350

  16. Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1984, pages 3, 110, 129

  17. Fleming, op cit. page 139

  18. "Jewry will have to adapt itself to respectable constructive activity as other peoples do, or it will sooner or later succumb to a crisis of unimaginable proportions.

    If international finance Jewry in and outside Europe should succeed in once again plunging the nations into a world war, then the result will not be the victory of Jewry, but rather the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"

    Reichstag Speech, January 30, 1939

  19. "You will recall still that meeting of the Reichstag in which I declared: If Jewry perchance imagines that it can bring about an international world war for the annihilation of the European races, then the consequence will be not the annihilation of the European races, but on the contrary, it will be the annihilation of Jewry in Europe. I was always laughed at as a prophet. Of those who laughed then, countless ones no longer laugh today, and those who still laugh now will perhaps in a while no longer do so." Reichstag Speech, November 8, 1942

  20. See note 2 above.

  21. Sworn Affidavit, June 1977

  22. Other information on this is in Robert N. Proctor Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the NazisHarvard University Press; 1988; Martin Gilbert The Holocaust Henry Holt; 1985.

    One of the better sites on this subject in the Internet is:

  23. Testimony of Ohlendorf at Nuremberg, Text 46, S. 115. [German edition] Translation by author

Last modified: March 10, 2009
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