Motivations Behind The Holocaust :

German Nationalism And Economic Growth

What was the role of nationalism in Germany before the war?

German nationalism that began to develop before World War II was a major motivation behind many individuals who joined the Nazi Party. Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party, used his profound oratory skills to manipulate the German people into following his regime’s propaganda.  The people were looking for something to improve the economic situation caused by the depression.  The Nazi Party had a great propensity to purvey “mythical nationalist beliefs”; in 1933, they began deliberately blaming the Jewish population for the economic disparity in Germany (van Evera, pg. 8).  The fact that the Jewish population was targeted as scapegoats would now be seen as blatant prohibited discrimination; however, the Nazis persuasively qualified their argument.  The Nazis told people to blame the Jews because many Jewish citizens were still wealthy while everyone else was monetarily suffering, using economic inequalities to agitate relations between groups. This began to fuel the anti-semitism that the Nazi Party endorsed.   Another reason to blame the Jewish, as advertised by the Nazi party, was their collective refusal to fight in World War I, argued to have caused ergonomic depression in Germany.  In a state of ubiquitous anxiety, the once disjointed Germans unified under a government that provided comfort and security, a new state that would take control and help Germany become a rising hegemonic power. This newfound nationalism was built around a common enemy: the Jewish people. The people were blinded by these newly instilled nationalist beliefs, coerced by their superiors to believe that the Nazi way was the right way. The government was telling the people to represent and preserve national interest first and foremost.  Simultaneously, the people were told that the Jewish citizens were threatening this national security.  Some perpetrators knew exactly what evil they were doing during the Holocaust; on the other hand, other individuals were just nationalistic pawns of the Nazi Party that were so programmed to operate for the state and its interests. The binary dichotomy of victim and perpetrator is problematic because these traditional, distint roles assume that one cannot overlap the other. The Holocaust happened in large part because an over-powering government took advantage of a weak people who just wanted to be provided with directon during a time of disparity. The people followed their government whole-heartedly because their faith in their previous government, the government where they had lost their possessions and valuables, had been compromised.

Above: These are examples of Nazi propaganda preceding and during World War II. Their purpose was to muster war effort from the people and encourage nationalistic values. Each of the posters has the Nazi flag and a dominant masculine figure, symbolizing strength.

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Why did Hitler choose economic growth over moral imperialism? Why didn't the people question the morality of his plans?

Economic growth was a strong motivation to join the Nazi Party. The decision to identify with a political party is based on their ability to define and provide for the public’s needs and if the positive incentives outweigh the costs (Anheier, 2000). Due to the widespread suffering caused by the Great Depression, the political and socioeconomic climate of Germany was ripe for a new government to take direction and rebuild its state’s power. The people were looking for someone to blame, a way to recover and a way to forge ahead from the economic crisis at hand. Throughout history, states have pursued either moral imperialism or economic science as means to move forward and gain political and economic power (Sytsma, 2002). Regardless of the campaign chosen, a sacrifice needs to be made: the observance of strict moral imperialism is often superficial because humans are by nature conscious of their position or rank in relation to others; on the other hand, economic science is usually motivated by “erroneous or purely disordered desires” that reduce the significance of moral decisions and protecting humanity. The promise of new wealth by the Nazi Party was responding to the people’s demands. They wanted to expand their power across other territories, eventually looking to achieve world domination. Many but not all individuals were blinded by the economic incentive to affiliate themselves with a rising power.

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