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Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions

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Discussion Questions

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  1. Discussion Questions • How ‘modern’ was the Nazi state? • How do categories of race and sex intersect when studying population policies enacted under the Third Reich?

  2. Eugenics • Eugenics = ‘good birth’; widespread in western societies from late 19thC (i.e. not German-specific) • ‘Ideal’ racial stock often equated to middle-class • ‘Dangerous’ classes of lumpenproletariat • Note cultural stereotypes rather than scientific criteria ‘Inferior Hereditary Material Penetrates a Village’: lone mother, illegitimate children, drinking fathers, mental illness & prison

  3. Pronatalism • NS settlement schemes demanded a high birth rate • Depression discouraged large families; cf pre-1914 statistics disappointing • Positive eugenics: incentive schemes such as marriage loans, mothers’ crosses • Lebensborn (Well of Life): SS scheme to promote Aryan births out of wedlock • Anti-natalism? (Gisela Bock): several hundred thousand women sterilised Above: Mother’s Cross; below: ‘The nation’s military strength is safeguarded by hereditarily healthy, child-rich families’

  4. Attacks on Civilians • Law for Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring (July 1933): approx. 2 million people sterilized • T-4 Program • Sexual Deviancy

  5. Euthanasia • Financial savings on mentally handicapped • Killings in sanatoria • ‘T4’ programme under Viktor Brack experiments with gas vans • Bishop Galen of Münster leads Catholic opposition (euthanasia becomes clandestine from 1941) • Key text: Michael Burleigh, Death and Deliverance Victor Brack, architect of the ‘T4’ euthanasia programme Bishop Galen of Muenster, outspoken critic of euthanasia

  6. ‘Asocials’ • Racial theory of hereditary illnesses (criminality, alcoholism), rendering sufferers ‘unfit for community’ • ‘Workshy’ & prostitutes targeted from 1936 on, becoming significant proportion of concentration camp population ‘This is how it would end.’

  7. Roma and Sinti gypsies • Sinti & Roma labelled workshy • Ethnographic studies of gypsies as Indo-European migrants • Proportionally as many gypsies died in Holocaust as Jews Gypsies await their fate at Belzec camp

  8. Homosexuals • Especially male homosexuals targeted as failing their reproductive duties • 1936 para. 175 of Penal Code outlaws homosexuality • Homosexuals incarcerated in concentration camps with pink triangle NS chart alleging that one homosexual man can ‘contaminate’ 28 others; note the pseudo-scientific diagram

  9. Antisemitism • Religious antisemitism, dating back to medieval period • Economic antisemitism: emancipation of Jewish Germans post-1871 coincided with economic depression • Biological antisemitism: Social Darwinism; organicist view of body politic; Jews as parasites ‘contaminating’ Aryan blood

  10. Assimilation Rejected 1933 April Boycott of Jewish Businesses

  11. Nuremberg Race Laws

  12. The Jewish ‘World Conspiracy’ Jewish ‘capitalist oppressor’ ‘Bolshevism is Jewry’ Jewish ‘bolshevik commissar’ (PoW photo, 1941)

  13. Kristallnacht, 9 Nov. 1938 Passers-by view the shattered glass of a shopfront attacked on Kristallnacht

  14. The SS and Jewish Policy • From 1939 SS tasked with Jewish policy • Emigration schemes (Madagascar, Urals) • ‘Jew-free’ Reich leads to ghettoisation in General Government, but ‘cumulative radicalisation’ (Mommsen) between competing agencies Reinhard Heydrich, Security Service leader Adolf Eichmann, head of Jewish desk at Reich Security Head Office

  15. The decision for the Final Solution • Autumn 1941 (Operation Barbarossa): elation of victory or realisation of defeat? • First tests of gas chambers at Auschwitz on Soviet PoWs • January 1942: conference at Wannsee (Berlin) decides on European-wide programme of mass murder, using mechanised techniques

  16. The Holocaust • 55,000 Jews from the Łódz ghetto & 5000 Gypsies gassed in mobile gas chambers in the winter of 1941-42. • 200,000 killed in death camps at Chelmno, Treblinka & Belzec in August 1942. • By Dec. 1942 500,000 had been gassed at Belzec alone. • Jews & Gypsies from all over Europe transported to Auschwitz from spring 1942 onwards. • Estimated that around 1,600,000 murdered at Auschwitz alone, c.300,000 of which were not Jews. • ‘Medical’ experiments conducted on camp inmates. • Around 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust, plus hundreds of thousands of others – Gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill etc. Jewish deaths in the Holocaust, showing percentage of the population killed in each country Source: H. Schulze, Germany: A New History (1998)

  17. Models of radicalisation • Intentionalists: top-down models based on a Fuehrer order (lack of written evidence?) • Incremental, step-by-step radicalisation, & ‘war against the Jews’ (Lucy Dawidowicz) • Functionalists: polycratic, competing bureaucracies radicalise from below (Martin Broszat); ‘working towards the Fuehrer’ (Ian Kershaw)

  18. Holocaust: Height of Modernity? • Pseudo-scientific justification derived from rational Enlightenment ‘perfectibility of mankind’ • Use of ‘factories of death’, but also compartmentalisation of killing process enabled distancing from murder • Increasing ‘economisation’ of the Holocaust to justify it in war effort (Aly & Heim) • Key commentators: Zygmunt Bauman

  19. Holocaust: height of barbarism? • Daniel Goldhagen: focus on the ‘trigger pullers’ • Need to explain sadistic nature of violence • ‘Eliminationist antisemitism’ too simplistic? • Cf Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men, who cites peer pressure, careerism, but also psychological need to conform to authority Police Reserve Battalion 101, stationed in occupied Poland