To what degree did the role of anti-Semitism play in the persecution and extermination of Jews during the Holocaust?
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It was estimated that six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. The blame was placed on the Nazi party. It was a political party spearheaded by Hitler and other like-minded leaders who wanted to rule Europe but at the same time, paranoid about the Jewish problem. The Jewish problem by the way is a persistent belief that the Jews are to be blamed as to why Germans in particular and Europeans in general were unable to achieve their destiny.
It is understandable why the Nazi party must be condemned as the guilty party but a closer examination of the Holocaust requires another explanation as to why the persecution and mass murder of the Jews were tolerated not only in Germany but in many parts of Europe. If one will consider the Christian heritage of much of Europe, the more illogical it seems that a once obscure German political party was able to orchestrate the murder of six million Jews without opposition within Germany and other neighboring countries. It was not a simple task to create Ghettos and then create a systematic means of deporting the Jews from key cities of Germany, Poland, and Austria among others.
The concentration camp at Auschwitz – said to be the symbol of the Holocaust – is another major example that the extermination of the Jews was not an ordinary undertaking. It required months of planning as well as the collaboration of many Germans. It is not enough to simply blame everything on the Nazi party and Hitler. The hatred and the paranoia did not come from party ideology but from a deep-seated anti-Semitism that was prevalent in Europe from the Medieval Ages up to the 20th century. According to historians there are four major root causes of anti-Semitism and these are listed as follows: a) religious; b) racial; c) economic; and d) political.
The religious root can be traced back to the first millennium AD when the adherents of Christianity blamed the Jews as to why Jesus Christ was crucified. A quick glance at the New Testament Christian Bible will reveal that it was not only the Jews who crucified the Jews but also the Romans; therefore both Gentile and Jew should be blamed for that event. But apparently many European Christians did not see it that way. This led to another pervasive belief that the Jews are a distinct people – racially speaking – and that there is something about them that made them stand out in a negative way.
Yet even if the Jews were considered odd there is not enough reason to murder millions of Jews. The third root cause for hatred is economics. The Jews succeeded as bankers, managers of estates, as entrepreneurs and became some of the shrewdest financial leaders in Europe. Many people resented this fact. Aside from envy due to their wealth, the Jews were also considered a problematic race when it came to politics. There were rumors that they are working to undermine the political order in Europe. Considering all four root causes of anti-Semitism in Europe it is easy to understand why so many people hated them and why it was easy for the Nazi party to perpetuate their idea that the Jewish race must be eradicated from the face of the earth.
A deep-seated anti-Semitic mindset is the only rationale explanation to a mind-boggling event – the Holocaust. Using anti-Semitic thought as a framework to understand the mass murder of Jews makes it easier to understand why the Germans under the control of Hitler went to all the trouble of transporting hundreds of thousands into concentration camps, building gas chambers and killing Jews – men, women, and children – using hazardous chemicals that were supposed to be used for exterminating vermin. The cruelty as well as the systematic way that the killings were made can only be explained by anti-Semitism. This is not the work of one man, but a whole nation filled with hate.
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Compare and contrast the Armenian Genocide to the Holocaust in terms of causes, methods, and outcomes. Aside from the numbers of people killed, which do you think was worse in terms of considering how cruel and “inhumane” people can be?
In the case of the Armenian genocide, it was a conflict between the Turkish people and the Armenians who occupied the borders separating Turkey and Russia. Comparing the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide the latter is much simpler in terms of cause, method, and outcome. The Holocaust is the direct result of anti-Semitism, it was perpetuated since the early history of the Christian religion. The root cause of the Armenian genocide was simply political; the Armenians were blamed for the decline of Turkey and were considered as an internal weakness that could plunge the Turkish government further down the drain. Considering that they inhabit the lands separating Turkey from its major enemy the Russians, it was understandable why the Turks wanted them all dead.
Exterminating the Armenians was considered as a strategic move to strengthen their defense against their enemies and at the same time as a form of payback because the Armenians were blamed as to why Turkey lost some of its territories in the Balkan Wars. The unstable political climate in Turkey in the late 19th century gave rise to a group of politicians that could not imagine a Turkish nation wherein Turks will be forced to live in peace with Armenians. Just like the Nazis, the Turkish government used the cover of a world war to execute their plans.
Comparing the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide in terms of methodology, one can say that the solution for the Armenian problem was easy to understand and easy to carry out whereas the Nazi party’s solution to the Jewish problem was very complicated. For instance, the Armenian soldiers and their officers who used to be under the Turkish army were disarmed and then executed. Ordinary Armenians were also summarily executed using firearms. The community leaders were rounded up and imprisoned and many were killed afterwards. Able bodied Armenian males were asked to report on the presumption that they will be given work yet when they stepped forward they were imprisoned or massacred.
The rest of the population that escaped the massacre were deported to a far away province and along the way many died from the inhumane treatment they received from the Turkish army. The Armenian genocide and the extermination of the Jews were similar in the early phase. The Jews and the Armenians were summarily executed by their enemies and those who did not die from a gunshot wound were deported. But in the case of the Jews the Nazi party went to the trouble of establishing concentration camps that contained gas chambers designed to kill thousands of Jews in a cost-effective manner.
The aftermath of the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust also differed significantly. In the case of the Holocaust the whole world knew about what happened in the concentration camps, in the Ghettos, in the railways etc. But in the case of the Armenians only a few countries were aware that there was a time when the Armenians were about to be wiped out from this earth. There were many war criminals in Nazi Germany who were brought to justice but in the Armenian debacle one can argue that there are many who are still crying out for justice. The whole world knew about the Holocaust but when it comes to the Armenian genocide, it seems that mankind has forgotten the hundreds of thousands of Armenians were massacred.
Comparing the two systematic destruction of one culturally distinct people group, it can be said that it was in the Holocaust where one can see more cruelty in terms of the methods used and the outcome. There were six million Jews killed compared to an estimated 1 million Armenians believed to have perished in World War I. The use of the gas chambers and a chemical agent intended for eradicating vermin goes to show that the Nazis treated Jews lower than animals and they were intent on destroying every single one of them.