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The events that led up to the holocaust in germany

In addition, usually a combination of motivations and pressures were in play. For the Holocaust as other periods of history, most scholars are wary of monocausal explanations. Antisemitism and Support for Nazism Cultural explanations focus on values, beliefs, and prejudices, particularly antisemitism of various forms, including Nazi antisemitism. Within Nazi Germany, everyone did not support Nazism or the Nazi regime to the same degree and to the extent suggested by iconic photographs and film footage of Nazi-staged spectacles.

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Enough enthusiasts could always be found to stage enormous public shows of support such as the annual Nazi Party rallies. On a day to day basis, the Nazi regime only needed most people to obey the law, try to stay out of trouble, and promote their own interests as best they could under the current circumstances.

Nazi propaganda and changing norms and laws did erode older, pre-Nazi ties to Christian teachings or leftist, anti-Nazi political beliefsespecially in the absence of the public expression of opposing views under the Nazi dictatorship. Still, those who espoused extreme antisemitic views remained a minority.

Thus the limited support of ordinary Germans for the national boycott of Jewish businesses of April 1, 1933, for example, and the shocked response of many Germans to the unprecedented violence and destruction of the Kristallnacht pogroms of November 9—10, 1938.

In German-occupied countries, the need to prove loyalty to new German masters, particularly if one had previously cooperated with Soviet occupiers, provided many individuals with powerful motivation to collaborate. Toward the end of the war, as German defeat seemed imminent, opportunism and the drive for self-preservation again rose to the fore: Generally, the course of the war proved critical in shaping the choices of individuals at all levels of German and European societies: Social-Psychological Explanations Let us look more fully at some of these explanations already alluded to earlier in the discussion.

Certainly fear for the consequences—if not physical harm than sanctions of some other kind—rose to the fore in various situations and at certain times—say, in the early months of Nazi rule characterized by terror to eliminate political opposition and during the war and occupation, especially in eastern Europe directly ruled by the Germans.

Focusing too much on fear, however, obscures and oversimplifies the more complicated dynamic behind the choices ordinary people made with regard to the persecution, then killing of Jews.

Overemphasizing fear belies the range of complicit behaviors discussed above.

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Doing so also ignores the political reality that even within Nazi Germany, leaders were sensitive to public opinion. This was true of ordinary people who may have had little or only superficial relations with individual Jews and of the traditional elites with more influence—Church, university, military, and business leaders. From the beginning of Nazi rule and the fateful years leading up to them, these leaders failed to speak out against hateful speech, violence, and after 1933, legal measures that progressively stripped German Jews of their rights.

For example, mindful of popular opinion, German authorities did not harm or punish the non-Jewish wives of Jewish men when the women publicly protested the pending deportation of their loved ones in Berlin on February 27, 1943.

That protests in these two cases aimed at specific actions or policies and not the regime itself was significant. Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl, Christian Probst, and other members of the resistance group were tried and executed as traitors to the Fatherland. In his book Ordinary Men, Christopher Browning analyzes the factors that turned most men of one police battalion into first-time, then hardened killers. A similar dynamic may have been at play for the less studied eastern European collaborators who participated in the German-led shootings; only a few opted out of the face-to-face killing of men, women, and children to serve as guards or in other capacities.

Gain came in many forms and dimensions.

The systematic plunder of Jewish assets in Germany and German-occupied Europe by agents of the Nazi regime has been well documented. It included businesses bought at less than fair market or reduced competition because of the liquidation of Jewish-owned businesses.

In Nazi Germany the property taken from the Jews following their deportation was distributed through public auctions, the proceeds of which accrued to state finance offices. Goods could then be sold off little by little in exchange for food. This strategy became a matter of life-and-death for Jews, but the temptations for their helpers were great. The war demoralized people who were decent and honest all their lives, and now without any scruples they appropriated for themselves Jewish property.

In the majority of cases, almost 95 percent, they did not return either possessions or goods, excusing themselves that this was done by the Germans through theft, etc. In Lithuania, locals who participated in mass shootings got the first cut of property, usually housing, then auctioned off household belongings to the wider population, in this way spreading complicity.


The Germans sensed very well that among the Poles not everyone is against the extermination of the Jews and, moreover, that among them are such who will aid in this as the price of inheriting the remainder of Jewish belongings.

However, it is not in order to assure us that we can count on her in time of need. Since we are made to feel that for her we are as living corpses, who is worthy of inheriting our things, especially bedding? Probably only she, who has known us for so many years and is fond of us. She leaves very surprised and angry because in order not to be bothered by her anymore, we gave her a black skirt. Some, taking them, promise that in the worst of situations they will receive and hide the owners.

Examples of this abound not only in communities in Germany where police became distressed at the number of denunciations, often false, provided by those with ulterior motives revenge as well as the desire to reduce business competitionbut elsewhere in Europe.

Members of police, paramilitary, or military unit are trained to follow established chains of command. The shocks were not real but the subjects did not know that. In their opinion, this provides stronger motivation than coercion. In Nazi Germany, the socialization, including political indoctrination, of young people became a priority for the regime, reflected in the Nazification of education and as of 1939, compulsory membership in Hitler Youth.

Their attitudes and beliefs are in flux, which may make it even harder, even if one has moral qualms, to resist the lead of others—dominant peers or older authority figures. Young people may have a greater tendency to act on impulse or get caught up in the moment.

Their limited knowledge and life experiences can affect their perspective and judgment in a way that when they are older and wiser, may stir regret. Such developmental issues made youth particularly vulnerable to exploitation by the Nazis and their collaborators. Thus one reason for the necessity of change is self-protection.

If they view the victims as good human beings, bystanders will experience empathy. As the victims suffer, so will they suffer.

To protect ourselves, we distance ourselves from victims. Passive bystanders will also further devalue victims, beyond the cultural devaluation that characterizes their society, and come to see them as deserving their fate.

Bystanders can avoid turning against the victims if they identify with the victims, if they help them or resist the system that harms them, if they see the perpetrators as responsible and turn against them.

However, without support from likeminded others, this is extremely difficult. Not all such helpers were saint-like individuals motivated by altruistic or religious feelings. For some poor people simply getting the money the victims provided for their room and board became a form of survival during hard times and was worth the risk taken. Some farmers in countries such as France and Netherlands who faced labor shortages welcomed the placement by resistance groups of Jewish teens who could work for them in exchange for room and board.

Some were able to overlook them to serve their own material interests or as part of anti-Nazi resistance efforts. Also, that all forms of antisemitism were not alike bears repeating: Jews with the best chance of surviving were those who had contacts who were not Jewish.