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Genocide and the Holocaust (October 2023): Origins

By Claudene Sproles


Anti-Jewish sentiment had been present in Europe for centuries with Jews often targeted as scapegoats for society’s ills. However, post–World War I Germany elevated anti-Semitism to a new level. The country found itself in political, economic, and social chaos after the war. Emerging from this chaos, Adolf Hitler and his political party, the National Socialists or Nazis, offered a solution to make Germany great again. Hitler first laid out his anti-Semitic political ideology in his manifesto Mein Kampf. His dystopian vision and hate-filled rhetoric ultimately led to the extermination of approximately eleven million people. Hermann Beck discusses the early anti-Semitic violence during the Nazis’ rise to power in his book Before the Holocaust. Christopher R. Browning and Jürgen Matthaüs trace the transformation of Nazi ideology during World War II from the liquidation of the ghettos to the ultimate mass extermination in The Origins of the Final Solution.

Once the Nazis were firmly in power, their persecution of the Jews escalated. They passed several anti-Jewish laws, known as the Nuremberg Laws, which forbade Jews from participating in many aspects of German society. These laws stripped Jews of their German citizenship, forbade them from marrying non-Jews, and barred them from civil and legal service. In his book Holocaust, Peter Longerich explains the implementation of Nazi policy and political strategy in preparation for complete Aryan racial dominance.

Works Cited