chapter  3
12 Pages

HITLER, NAZIS, GERMANS, AND JEWS

The German government that undertook the systematic mass killing of Europe’s Jews was dominated by the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party, led by Adolf Hitler. Historians of Germany continue to debate whether the Third Reich is best understood as Hitler’s personal creation, as a product of programmes generated out of the broader ideas and goals of the Nazi party, or as the outcome of historical developments, within Germany or beyond, whose origins predate the Nazi period. The same questions animate academic discussions about the origins of the Holocaust. In 1996 Daniel Goldhagen aroused great controversy among scholars with his statement that the idea of killing Jews had been ‘immanent in the conversation of German society’ for over a century (Goldhagen, 1996: 449). To his mind, Hitler and the Nazi party were not central to the development among the German people of the notion that Jews were dangerous enemies who deserved to die; that notion, he claimed, was an integral part of modern German culture.