Problem: Lack of Mental Effort
The Jewish feminist anarchist Emma Goldman wrote, "it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think," and when we think, we understand. The Holocaust then serves as a lesson to all of us as to the dangers of a condemning mindset. These dangers are clearly represented by the persecution of the Jewish race at the hands of the Nazis during the Great Depression and World War II. The Nazis, seeking a solution to Germany's economic problems, blamed the Jews for the loss of World War I and the nation's economic depression. The Nazis then condemned the Jews through the Nuremberg Laws and ultimately, the concentration camps. Instead of thinking and understanding Germany's plight and the history of Jewish Germans, the Nazis quickly condemned six million people to death. But can we just condemn Nazis for their actions? No, because if we condemn the Nazis, then the purpose the Holocaust serves in history will be pointless. We can not condemn the Nazis, even though they are responsible for the persecution of millions of Jews, but instead, we must use the lesson of the Holocaust to then think and seek to fully comprehend the factors that lead Germany down the road of Nazism. And we must not stop there. The lesson of the Holocaust must be applied to solve many of the problems in the world today. By remembering the Holocaust, we can then do our best to break free from a mindset where we condemn anything that is abnormal or scary and, instead, seek to understand anything and everything.
There is no doubt that the Nazis are responsible for the deaths of six million Jews. Even though their actions are completely wrong, we can not condemn the Nazis for their actions because once we think and understand all the factors the led to the Holocaust, we find that the Nazis are not entirely at fault. We must then examine the two major factors that lead to the Holocaust. The first major factor is the rise of the Nazi Party. The second factor is the widespread anti-Semitism that lead to the persecution of Jews.
As we all know, the Nazi Party overthrew the Weimar Republic and seized power in Germany on 30 January, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression. The Great Depression affected Germany tremendously due to the harsh economic conditions forced on it by the Treaty of Versailles. As the German Foreign Minister puts it, "a whole nation is called upon to sign its own proscription, yea, even its own death warrant." The Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to pay large sums of war reparations to the Allies, secede some of its most productive pieces of land, secede its overseas colonies, all this after losing 1,600,000 of its population in the first World War. All of Germany's profits and produce was sent as reparations and Germany's economy was unable to recover. The German people had low moral and were without food or jobs. And it was because of this situation that the Nazi Party, with Hitler's inspiring speeches, was able to seize control of Germany. By understanding the history of Germany and the Nazi Party, we find that there are many factors that lead Germany to the Holocaust. Georges Clemenceau, David Lloyd George, and Woodrow Wilson are partly responsible for imposing the harsh conditions on Germany. The irresponsible traders on Wall Street are also responsible because they caused the Great Depression. And lastly, the German people are also responsible for allowing the Nazi Party to gain power. With this many factors leading to the Holocaust, it is hard to then place all fault on the Nazi Party.
The persecution of Jews could not have happened if the Nazis and its followers were not anti-Semites. Anti-Semitism spread as more and more Germans bought and read Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. As Hitler and the Nazi Party grew more and more powerful, their followers then had to adopt their anti-Semitic views in order to show support. Soon, this widespread anti-Semitism lead to acts like Kristallnacht, the Nuremberg Laws, and eventually, the Holocaust. But we must seek to understand why anti-Semitism became so prominent in order to prevent similar incidences in the present. The loss of the First World War and Great Depression affected Germany greatly, leaving many of its citizens demoralized and desperate; enough even to listen to Hitler. And so these desperate citizens adopted his anti-Semitic ways out of desperation. But then why was Hitler and anti-Semite? One of the people Hitler admired was Henry Ford, who was in fact an anti-Semite himself. Ford's book, The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem, influenced Hitler greatly when he wrote Mein Kampf and is also very influential among neo-Nazis and white supremacists today. And so we now understand that anti-Semitism does not pertain to Nazi Germany exclusively because anti-Semitism has been around for centuries, appearing in texts of Christianity and Islam. So we can not blame the Germans for anti-Semitism. They were desperate, and in need of a scapegoat, anti-Semitism just happened to be available, especially with Hitler rapidly gaining power. By using the lesson of the Holocaust, we find that anti-Semitism did not appear in Germany because Germans hated Jews, but because the Germans were desperate and Hitler was their to provide hope. We also can not blame Hitler for his anti-Semitism too, for their were also many things that influenced his beliefs.
By using the lesson of the Holocaust, and simply seeking to understand rather than to outright condemn the Nazis, we learn there was a complex set of events that lead Germany down the road of Nazism. In fact there are many situations around the world where people still condemn rather than understand, with disastrous effects. Post September 11 anti-Arab sentiments in the United States is one example. Rather than understanding that Osama bin Laden is an extremist and that a very high percentage of the Muslim population disagree with his views, United States citizens chose to condemn all Muslims, resulting in a rise of hate crimes against Muslims. Around the world, we condemn criminals and incarcerate them in prisons, yet crime still persists. Rather than seeking to understand all the factors that contribute towards crime and working to remove these factors, we isolate the victims of these factors at the cost of people's money. So, by condemning the Nazis, we are simply walking down the road towards another Holocaust. That is not to say we should forgive the Nazis because they are ultimately responsible for the deaths of six million, but rather by understanding them, we have a better chance at preventing a similar incidence from happening.
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"Post 9/11 Hate Crimes." Global Ministries - General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church. 26 Apr. 2009 .
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