“In 1932, the prospects of most German workers were decidedly grim.
The small financial and psychological improvement Germany achieved
after World War I was wiped out by a world economic depression.
German industries were reeling and sinking into debt. Jobs were
scarce. Laid-off factory workers milled about in the streets and
jammed the beer halls.
“In the midst of this financially troubled time, Adolf Hitler and
his National Socialist German Workers’ Party rose to power. To the
unemployed, Hitler offered jobs in his storm trooper (SA) corps and
the vision of full employment in the factories and businesses. To
industrialists and businessmen, he and his party offered a refuge
from the growing power of the Communist Party. To those still
stinging from World War I’s humiliating defeat and the terms of the
surrender, he promised to restore Germany to its status as a world
power and to make it the most powerful nation on earth. To this
dizzying vision of Aryan grandeur, Hitler added one more element:
an abiding hatred of Jews.
“Hitler’s rabid antisemitism was not a sideshow designed to attract
believers and distract others from the main event – his insatiable
desire for power and world dominance. On the contrary, racism was
at the heart of Nazi ideology. The supremacy of the Aryan race went
hand in hand with the restoration of Germany to world power. Hitler
railed against the Jews. To him, they were vile, subhuman, filth,
vermin, “a cancer on the body of the nation.” He called on the
populace to wage war against them.<2>
“Prewar Germany listened. In January 1933, Hitler was appointed
Chancellor of Germany. He then moved quickly to consolidate his
power and stifle any opposition. Using the pretense that he was
protecting the nation from an imminet Communist menace, Hitler
rammed through a series of emergency decrees. These decrees
suspended all fundamental freedoms of speech, press, and assembly
and gave the government the power to search without a warrant and
generally take whatever measures were needed to restore public
“Strong-armed squads of brown-shirted storm troopers roamed the
streets with official impunity. They viciously beat Jews grabbed at
random off the streets, claiming that they were rounding up
“subversive elements.” Those who initially fell into this category
were not only Jews, but also political opponents (Communists and
Social Democrats) and anyone – journalists, writers, dissenting
clergy – protesting the new regime. By March 1933, a scant two
months after Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor, the prisons could
no longer hold the thousands arrested for “preventive” safety
measures. That same month the first concentration camp at Dachau, a
town not far from Munich, was set up. Others followed quickly. By
the summer of 1933, there were ten or more camps and detention
centers housing over 25,000 people.<3>” (Fogelman, 21-23)
<2> Dawidowicz, L. (1986). The war against the Jews 1933-1945.
New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Dawidowicz’s view
that Hitler’s hatred of the Jews was his central and most
compelling belief – one that dominated his actions even to
the detrement of the military war – is one that I share.
<3> Ibid., p. 75.
Fogelman, Eva. Conscience & Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the
Holocaust. New York: Anchor Books, 1994
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: The Political Climate