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Defense Documents

Hitler's Role in the Persuection of the Jews by the Nazi Regime: Electronic Version, by Heinz Peter Longerich

Table of Contents
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1. General remarks about Hitler`s Antisemitic terminology

1.1An account of Hitler's role in the genesis of the final solution is complicated by the fact that the dictator avoided the use of explicit written directives relating to the murder of the Jews. When he came to speak on this subject he used expressions which, to say the least, leave a certain amount of room for interpretation. The meaning of the key words describing the aims of Nazi anti-Jewish policy changed over the years when antisemitic policy became more and more radicalized. There is no meaning to these terms independent of the time factor. To translate these terms properly, one has to take the reality of antisemitic policy into account. When the same vocabulary was used to describe Nazi aims towards other groups, the meaning might have been be completely different. As far as the fate of the Jews is concerned, formulations such as annihilation (Vernichtung), extirpation (Ausrottung), final solution (Endlösung) removal (Entfernung), resettlement (Umsiedlung), evacuation (Evakuierung) etc. were used by Hitler and leading National Socialists from mid 1941 onwards increasingly - and from Spring 1942 definitely - as camouflage for mass murder.
1.2Before this time, the very same vocabulary was used by Hitler and leading Nazis in a different sense. As will be described in more detail in this report, an interpretation has to take into account the different stages of anti-Jewish policy. During the 1920's and up to the mid 1930's, the main aim of Nazi anti-Jewish policy was to undermine the legal and economic situation of the German Jews so as to force them to emigrate. The Jews would disappear from the vantage point of the Nazis from German public life and later on, from German territory. When the Nazis used the term annihilation (Vernichtung) during these early years, they referred on the one hand to the planned destruction of the alleged dominant position of the Jewish minority in German society. From the context of the relevant texts, however, it is obvious, on the other hand, that this term had a vaguely defined violent and even murderous component, by which Hitler and the Nazis signified their main goal - which   was the "removal of the Jews". In a cautious interpretation of this terminology, it would not be exaggerated to describe the meaning of annihilation here as ambiguous. The perspective of mass murder was already present here. In conclusion, one has to say, that during this period (the 1920's end the first half of the 1930's), the Nazis saw in the "final solution" a potentially violent "removal" of Jews from German public live and German soil.
1.3At the end of the 1930's, the Nazis intensified the pressure for emigration or expulsion. During this period, terms like "removal" (Entfernung) or "final solution" (Endlösung) revealed an inconsistency with the notion of a further existence of a Jewish minority in Germany. The violent aspect of anti-Jewish policy became more and more significant. In the last year before the outbreak of the Second World War the term extermination pointed clearly to the possiblility of genocide.
1.4Between the outbreak of war in Summer 1939 and the middle of 1941, the Nazis were looking for a so called "territorial solution" of the Jewish problem, i.e. they were planning to deport the Jews to a territory on the periphery of their empire where there were insufficient means to subsist and where they would perish. Technically the terms resettlement (Umsiedlung) or evacuation (Evakuierung) meant a kind of geographical relocation but one cannot disregard the fact that this vocabulary increasingly offered the perspective of the physical end of the Jews in Europe. The term "final solution" was used in this period in the same way.
1.5Between the summer of 1941 and the spring of 1942 the meaning of this vocabulary changed. It was now increasingly used as a synonym for systematic mass murder. However, even in this period - particularly between Autumn of 1941 and Spring 1942 - this terminology can in some cases still be ambivalent. For an interpretation each phrase has to be analysed in its historical context. In particular, in a period in which one Jewish minority after another was being included in the process of systematic mass murder, one has to determine which Jewish minority was indicated by each of the relevant phrases.
1.6One cannot exclude the possibility that, for example, up to May or even June 1942, i.e. during the has when preparations for the systematic murder of European Jews were well underway, Hitler and the leading organisers of the murderous programme might have occasionally mentioned "alternative" murderous programmes for a "final solution"; they might, even at this stage, have referred to the earlier plan to deport Jews (particularly those from Western Europe, who before the summer of 1942 had not been included in the programme of systematic mass murder) to other areas than occupied Poland and to kill them or let them perish. These "alternative" considerations should be interpreted as a kind of reluctance by Hitler and members of the leading circle of Nazis, fully to articulate the consequences of the decision to kill millions of people, a decision which in fact had already been made and implemented at this point.
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