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‘Extermination/Ausrottung’

Meanings, Ambiguities and Intentions in German Antisemitism and the Holocaust, 1800–1945
  • Paul Lawrence Rose
Chapter

Abstract

The crucial problem of the continuity of German antisemitism from its 19th- century forms and contexts into the Nazi species and the Holocaust has, one might speculate, been confused by a great deal of recent writing on the subject.1 On the one hand, there has been the Goldhagen tendency to simplify the whole matter by drawing crudely superficial continuities between German 19th-century antisemitic rhetoric and 20th-century Nazi antisemitic policy; on the other hand, there have been the more sophisticated attempts to insist on a complete separation between Nazi antisemitism and what went before, as well as to deconstruct the traditional view that the Holocaust was the product of an intention dating back to the Nazi ideas of the early 1920s. The same goes for one of the fundamentally important issues in evaluating German antisemitism: Just how ‘German’ was German antisemitism? To what degree did it differ from other antisemitisms? Was there something specific and unique about German antisemitism that enabled it to produce the Holocaust? Here again, one finds a polemical split between those who find genocidal elements in other European antisemitisms, and those who suspect that there was indeed something special about German — or should one say Austrian and German? — antisemitism that made it capable of conceiving an antisemitic project of the immensity of the Holocaust and then carrying it out. I myself am inclined to this last view, but I do not think that it can stand unqualified. Other critical factors besides antisemitism must be taken into account if we are to understand in a historically valid way why it was that Germany was the state which implemented the Holocaust.

Keywords

Jewish Identity German Culture Professional Historian Jewish Question Racial Hygiene 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    See the informative analysis by M. Marrus, ‘Reflections on the the Historiography of the Holocaust’, in Journal of Modern History, LXVI (1994): 92–116, which takes the story up to just before the appearance of Goldhagen’s book. It may be supplemented in part by W.W. Hagen, ‘Before the “Final Solution”: Toward a Comparative Analysis of Political Anti-Semitism in Interwar German and Poland’, ibid., LXVIII (1996): 351–81, especially pp.362–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    See the extended illustration of this syndrome in P.L. Rose, Heisenberg and the Nazi Atomic Bomb Project. A Study in German Culture (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998). The angry reception of some of the argument of this book is interesting in its own right.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    I would like to draw attention to two previous illustrations of this approach which came belatedly to my knowledge. In their admirable analysis of early 19th century exterminationist fantasies R. Erb and W. Bergmann, Die Nachtseite der Judenemanzipation (Berlin: Metropol Verlag, 1989), pp.62f, the authors properly observe that they do not wish to draw an unbroken causal connection from these fantasies to the Nazi Final Solution, yet ‘once developed, representational complexes of ideas are not bounded by the context in which they originally emerged, but hold a potential to become actualized and politically exploitable in changed contextual constellations. Societies in which these words become culturally normalized thereby accept a measure of their original aggressivity that in times of crisis renders new societies hopelessly defenceless against more radical policies.’ (The German is rather abstract, but its meaning is important in a concrete way.)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Despite its flaws, D. Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners (New York: Random House, 1996), has the merit of drawing attention back to Germany as the source of the historical problem of the Holocaust. I fear, however, that in citing my book Revolutionary Antisemitism in Germany from Kant to Wagner (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990) — he was unaware of the Afterword concerning the Holocaust in the second edition with changed main title, German Question/Jewish Question…. (Princeton, 1994), Mr Goldhagen has rather misunderstood the history of German antisemitism as I see it. There are certainly, I would agree, uniquely dangerous peculiarities of German antisemitism as well as continuities between the ‘eliminationalist’ (or as I call them ‘destructions!’) antisemitisms of the 19th and 20th centuries; but they are, in my opinion, not quite as direct and uncomplicated as he takes them to be. This inadequate conceptual framework seems to me to be responsible for the well-known shortcomings of Mr Goldhagen’s work, e.g. its failure to account for the role of other antisemitisms in the Holocaust, or to explain the differences between German culture before and after 1945.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    A promising start was made to constructing an emotional history of antisemitism by T. W. Adorno et al., The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper, 1950), even though its data are rooted in American culture and the approach is lacking in historical and cultural contexts.Google Scholar
  6. More contextually focused is S.L. Gilman, The Jew’s Body (New York: Routledge, 1991), which suggests new avenues of conceiving such a history.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Q. Skinner, ‘Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas’, in History and Theory 8 (1969): 3–53; idem, ‘Motives, Intentions and the Interpretation of Texts’, in New Literary History 3 (1972): 393–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cf. P.L. Rose, Bodin and the Great God of Nature. The Moral and Religious Universe of a Judaiser (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1980), chapter 1, for further methodological discussion (particularly on the importance of personality and sensibility which are virtually absent from Skinner’s approach), and chapter 8 for an analysis of Bodin’s own use of historical prophecy.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    The affective context can be social as well as individual. See, for instance, the brilliantly provocative book of the social anthropologist Alan Dundes, Life is Like a Chicken-Coop Ladder. A Portrait of German Culture Through Folklore (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984). Though, as the author recognizes, the book is rather reductionist in its monothematic, it enlarges our understanding of the relationship between German culture and the Holocaust.Google Scholar
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    See F. Heer, God’s First Love, translated (New York: Weybright and Talley, 1967), pp.208–15.Google Scholar
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    P.L. Rose, German Question/Jewish Question. Revolutionary Antisemitism in Germany from Kant to Wagner, 2nd. edn. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994). See Marrus, ‘Reflections’, p.96.Google Scholar
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    J.G. Fichte, Beiträge zur Berichtigung der Urtheile des Publicums über die französische Revolution (1793), ed. R. Schottky (Hamburg: F. Meiner, 1973), pp.114ff: ‘in einer Nacht ihnen allen die Köpfe abzuschneiden und andere aufzusetzen, in denen auch nicht eine jüdische Idee steckt’.Google Scholar
  13. 11.
    J. Fries, Über die Gefährdung des Wohlstandes und Charakters der Deutschen durch die Juden (Heidelberg, 1816), pp.9–16. See Rose, German Question, pp.34f, 124f, 129f E. Sterling, Judenhass. Die Anfänge des politischen Antisemitismus 1815–1850 (Frankfurt: Europäische Verlags-anstalt, 1969), p.147.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    One is, of course, aware that there are difficulties in using artistic works as historical evidence. But these have been countered in a brilliant essay of 1996 by Barry Millington in what strikes me as the best available discussion of this and other methodological problems relating to the interaction between Wagner’s operas and his political and social ideas. B. Millington, ‘Wagner Washes Whiter’, The Musical Times, December 1996, pp.5–8; and idem, ‘Nuremberg Trial’, Cambridge Opera Journal, III, 1991, 247–260. See also the many solutions to the central problem of using artistic evidence proposed skilfully byGoogle Scholar
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    Cosima Wagner, Die Tagebücher (Munich: R.Piper, 1976), II, 852 (18 December 1881).Google Scholar
  17. 25.
    P. de Lagarde, ‘Juden und Indogermanen’, in his Mittheilungen, Göttingen, 1887 (reprint, Osnabrück: Zeller Verlag, 1982), II, p.339; andGoogle Scholar
  18. AA Lagarde, Schriften für das deutsche Volk. II: Ausgewählte Schriften, ed. P. Fischer, 2nd edn. (Munich: J.F. Lehmann, 1934), p.239. (‘Bazillus’ is also used to describe the Jews in a manuscript of 1890, ibidem, p.107).Google Scholar
  19. F. Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair. A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1974), p.63, refers to the distribution by the German army in 1944 of an edition containing Lagarde’s ‘demand for murder’, as Stern puts it (Lagarde, Ich mahne und künde [Breslau, 1944], pp.57–63, ‘Die Judenfrage’). It is certainly difficult to imagine the Wehrmacht readers in the midst of war making a nice discrimination between the metaphorical and physical meanings of Ausrottung. Google Scholar
  20. 26.
    E. Dühring, Die Judenfrage als Racen-, Sitten- und Culturfrage, 2nd. edn. (Karlsruhe, 1881), pp.116, 156fGoogle Scholar
  21. 29.
    Sache, leben und Feinde, 2nd edn. (Leipzig, 1903), pp.283, 288, 412, 508. In the 1881 edition of his Die Judenfrage, p.61, Dühring remarks that ‘kennt er (der Deutsche) alsdann den Sitz der Krankheitsstoffe, die ihn schädigen, so zögert er nicht, mit den modernsten Mitteln der Desinfection einzugreifen’, but he is here explicitly speaking of the ‘Infection der Geistesluft’, and not ‘physically’ (for once…). For a strong — and I think correct — view that in his writings after 1880 Dühring intended a physical exterminationist solution, see B. Mogge, Rhetorik des Hasses. Eugen Dühring und die Genese seines antisemitischen Wortschatzes (Neuss: Gesellschaft für Buchdruckerei, 1977), p.121.Google Scholar
  22. 30.
    K. Paasch, Eine Jüdisch-Deutsche Gesandschaft und ihre Helfer (Leipzig, 1891), Vorwort, p.xxxvii; Theil III, pp.252–3. Cf. Antisemiten-Spiegel (Danzig, 1892), p.300;Google Scholar
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  24. 31.
    Resolution No. 3 of the Deutsch-Soziale Reformpartei at Hamburg, September, 1899, reprinted in W. Mommsen, Deutsche Parteiprogramme (Munich: Isar Verlag, 1960), pp.83f.Google Scholar
  25. 32.
    Goebbels in Der Angriff 28 January 1929, quoted by E. Goldhagen, ‘The Mad Count. A Forgotten Portent of the Holocaust’, Midstream XXII (February 1976), 61–3.Google Scholar
  26. For reports of Pückler’s actions, see Im Deutschen Reich. Zeitschrift des Centralvereins deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens, February 1899, pp.103–4; Mitteilungen des Vereins zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus (Berlin), 17 September 1902, pp.289–90; 29 June 1904, p.201; 6 May 1904, pp. 141–3; 7 December 1904, p.389; 16 August 1905, pp.259–60; 23 August 1905, pp.268–9; 4 July 1906, pp.201–2; 22 July 1908. Cf. I. Schorsch, Jewish Reactions to German Anti-Semitism, 1870–1914 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972), pp. 128–9.Google Scholar
  27. R.S. Levy, The Downfall of the Anti-Semitic Political Parties in Imperial Germany (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975), pp.209, 298.Google Scholar
  28. 36.
    U. Lohalm, Völkischer Radikalismus (Hamburg: Leibnitz-Verlag, 1970), pp.42–3.Google Scholar
  29. R. Chickering, We Men Who Feel Most German. A Cultural Study of the Pan-German League 1886–1914 (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1984), p.287.Google Scholar
  30. 37.
    E. Zechlin, Die deutsche Politik und die Juden im Ersten Weltkrieg (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1969), pp.46–8.Google Scholar
  31. On the kaiser’s antisemitism, see J.C.G. Röhl, The Kaiser and his Court: Wilhelm II and the Government of Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), ch. 8, especially p.207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 38.
    H.S. Chamberlain, Neue Kriegsaufsätze (Munich, 1915), pp.87–90, quoted by Röhl, Kaiser and his Court, p.207.Google Scholar
  33. 43.
    Schlieffen to Bülow, 23 November 1904, quoted in H. Drechsler, Let Us Die Fighting (London: Zed Press, 1980), p.163.Google Scholar
  34. J.-B. Gewald, Herero Heroes (Oxford, OH: Ohio University Press, 1999), pp. 169–75 (on extermination orders).Google Scholar
  35. For the slaughter, see e.g., H. Bley, South-West Africa under German Rule 1894–1914 (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1971), pp. 149–69. The eyewitness testimony in the British/Union of South Africa Report on the Natives of South-West Africa and Their Treatment by Germany (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1918), pp.55–67, are quite horrifying in their depiction of German behaviour. (Despite attempts to discredit the veracity of the Report, these testimonies seem to me quite authentic).Google Scholar
  36. 45.
    J. Swan, ‘The Final Solution in South West Africa’,in MHQ. The Quarterly Journal of Military History 3 (1991): 36–55.Google Scholar
  37. B. Müller-Hill, Murderous Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), p.8.Google Scholar
  38. 47.
    See V.N. Dadrian, German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide. A Review of the Historical Evidence of German Complicity (Cambridge, MA: Blue Crane Books, 1996), especially pp.114–121.Google Scholar
  39. 49.
    S. Esh, ‘Designs for Anti-Jewish Policy in Germany up to the Nazi Rule’, Yad Vashem Studies 6 (1967), pp.83–120.Google Scholar
  40. 50.
    Nuremberg Document PS-3663, not printed in the Proceedings, but available in Y. Arad et al., Documents on the Holocaust, transl. (Lincoln NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1999), pp.173ffGoogle Scholar
  41. 51.
    E. Jäckel and A. Kuhn, Hitler. Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905–1924 (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1980), pp.89–90 (henceforth HSA). Google Scholar
  42. 54.
    Quoted in G. Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984), p.17.Google Scholar
  43. 56.
    Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. R. Manheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1943), pp. 169, 651, 679. On the evolution of Hitler’s exterminationism, see E. Jäckel, Hitler’s World View, transl. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), pp.47–66. This is an excellent analysis, though it tends to assume (pp.50–52, 57) that before 1924 Hitler understood elimination to refer to expulsion, whereas after then he believed in extinction and extermination (i.e. murder), while continuing to use the old exterminatory terminology. I would argue, however, that Hitler always had a physical extermination in mind as well as a violent expulsion.Google Scholar
  44. 57.
    W. Jochmann, ‘Die Ausbreitung des Antisemitismus’, in Deutsches Judentum in Krieg und Revolution 1916–1923, ed. W.E. Mosse (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1971), pp.450, 471–2.Google Scholar
  45. 62.
    Quoted in G. Aly, Endlösung (Frankfurt: S. Fischer Verlag, 1995), p. 11. I have some reservations about accepting this post-war reported remark as entirely authentic, but it might well reflect Heydrich’s humouring of Himmler’s view in 1940. I would, however, disagree with Aly’s thesis (p. 12) that Heydrich and the others began to plan the physical murder of the Jews only in the spring of 1941. That would be true only as regards logistics.Google Scholar
  46. 63.
    H. Krausnick, ‘Denkschrift Himmlers über die Behandlung der Fremdvölkischen im Osten (Mai 1940)’, in Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte V (1957), 194–8.Google Scholar
  47. 64.
    Heinrich Himmler, Geheimreden 1933 bis 1945, ed. B.F. Smith and A.F. Peterson (Frankfurt: Propyläen Verlag, 1974, pp.169–70. The speech of 4 October 1943 (‘We have exterminated a bacterium’) and others are very similar in argument (ibidem, pp.200–205).Google Scholar
  48. 65.
    S. Perel, Europa, Europa, transl. (New York: Wiley, 1996), pp.134, 180, 191. Perel was hiding his Jewish identity at the academy.Google Scholar
  49. 68.
    See W. Welzig (ed.), Wörterbuch der Redensarten. Zu der von Karl Kraus 1899 bis 1936 herausgegebenen Zeitschrift ‘Die Fackel’ (Vienna: Verlag der Öst. Akad. d. Wissenschaften, 1999);Google Scholar
  50. and the critical review by Edward Timms, ‘Draining the Swamp’, in the Times Literary Supplement, 4 February 2000, 7.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Paul Lawrence Rose

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