This is a succinct analysis of the significant role myth and propaganda played in the Final Solution or Holocaust during World War II. This solution provides examples of myths, such as the one about the Demonic Jew, which were used to incite the Final Solution. In addition, this solution explains how the Nazis utilized the ideology of "The Volk" with the objective of uniting the German population under their anti-Semitic doctrines. Lastly, there is a brief explanation of role the German population played in the Final Solution.© BrainMass Inc. brainmass.com December 24, 2021, 11:23 pm ad1c9bdddf
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The Final Solution: Myth and Propaganda
According to Henry Friedlander, the meaning of Final Solution or Holocaust is the mass extermination of human beings because they belong to a biologically defined group. In this case, we are referring to the Jews. The German Nazi regime killed six million Jews, which amounted to two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe. Around one and half million were children. Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, however, did not only systematically killed Jews, but also Gypsies, homosexuals, handicapped and political opposites, like communists, socialists and soviets.
Scholars, such as Avraham Barkai, argue that the Final Solution would not have been possible without the approval of the great majority of the German population. How was it possible that millions of Germans complied with such atrocity? The answer lies in the effective use of myth and propaganda, which one must never under-estimate.
The Myth of the Demonic Jew
The Nazi regime demonized Jews through the use of myth and presented them as the embodiment of pure evil. Marvin Perry, in his book Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present, provides an excellent example of how the Nazis used myths to demonize Jews. In 1943, Helmut Schramm, a Nazi scholar, published Jewish Ritual Murders: An Historical Inquiry and it presented a collection of accounts in which Jews tortured and murdered Christian children during the performance of rituals. These strange legends originated during the Middle Ages and prevailed in the 20th century. Henrich Himmler, Reichführer of the SS, read and liked this book and distributed it among the SS and the Einsatz-kommandos (a murder unit).
The Nazis prepared and distributed propaganda against the Jews in many ways other than books. They also created posters, pamphlets, newspapers and even movies. Obviously, the propaganda against the Jews intensified during the war years. For example, three anti-Jewish movies- Jud-Süβ, Die Rothschilds and Der Ewige Jude- were presented in 1940-41 in German cinemas across the country as well as in occupied countries.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to point out that the Nazis used several myths from Christian history to incite hatred and get the German population to comply with the mass murder of the Jews. Avraham Barkai asserts that the Nazis did not invent the demonic myths of the Jews, but borrowed and adapted them from traditional stereotypes known from antiquity, and the Middle Ages to the anti-Semitic literature spread in Germany, Russia and France during the nineteenth century.
Besides the symbolic imagery of the Jews as demons, the Nazi regime popularized the doctrine of the 'volk' or Volkesgemeinschalft. According to Barkai, the 'volk' "accorded a transcendental 'essence' to a group of people, which transformed it from a solely instrumental or contractual union of individuals into a mythical, self-perpetrating organism." This doctrine was crucial to National Socialism, and Barkai also argues that Hitler's Judephobia and anti-Semitism became essential subjects of the völkish thought. Moreover, Hitler explains in Mein Kampf how he was able to convert rival völkish sects into the political Nazi Party, which attracted the majority of the German population.
Nazi propaganda concerning the 'volk' constructed a semblance of unity and solidarity among the German population regardless of class or social background, with Hitler as their Führer and the Jews as their most terrible enemies. As a result, the Nazi regime passed a series of laws that isolated the Jews from society. The Nuremberg laws of September 1935 limited full citizens rights to "pure blooded" Volksgenossen. Another example is that the Nazis ordered the Jews to wear the yellow star in September 1941.
The German Population's Role
What is more terrifying is the fact that the German people were well aware of the mass shootings by the Einsatzgruppen and the gassing at concentration camps, such as Auschwitz. Barkai points out that they knew what was happening because of soldiers' and civilians' reports. The German population's complicity cannot be denied. Notwithstanding, we must not forget that the Nazi regime effectively used the power of myth and propaganda to mobilize the German people against the Jews.
Barkai, Avraham, Volksgemeinschaft, 'Aryanization' and The Holocaust. In Final Solution: Origins and Implementation, ed. David Cesariani. London and New York: Routledge, 1996.
Friedlander, Henry, Euthanasia and The Final Solution. In Final Solution: Origins and Implementation, ed. David Cesariani. London and New York: Routledge, 1996.
Perry, Marvin and Frederick M. Schweitzer, Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
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MA in European History