The willingness to blame Jews for Germany's troubles, making them "arch enemies of Germany." The nation was itself reduced to an abstract essence, threatened by its enemies and in need of sacred renewal and purification, through blood sacrifice if necessary. One's identity as a German, as the Nazis defined it, crowded out other possible roles. As the embodiment of this "holy, divine Reich," the Fuhrer, and not the doctors, was responsible for all that happened in the camps. Yet "even the Fuhrer could be painted as 'helpless': because the Jew's evil forced the Fuhrer to act or make war on him."
So nefarious was this hidden enemy - the Jew - that he or she was quickly seen to be responsible for every conceivable social ill, real or imagined. "Jews -- or the concept of 'the Jew' -- were equated with every form of death-associated degeneracy and decomposition, including homosexuality, urban confusion, liberalism, capitalism, and Marxism." The demonization of the Jews was complete. Armed with such an ideology, the German malefactors - both before and after the War - could justify anything. This genocidal attitude toward Germany's perceived enemies was an integral part of what it meant to be German. Taylor said as much in the 1961 Preface of his, The Course of German History, "It was no more a mistake for the German people to end up with Hitler than it is an accident when a river flows into the sea."
The idea was readily embraced by many German historians in the 1970s and 1980s. Under the name of the Sonderweg, or "Special Way," it alluded to the "inevitability" of the German path that lead to the Second World War, and the Holocaust.
There can hardly be a better excuse for one's own evil actions than to claim that one was forced to them by some irresistible outside force - the "Identity Frame" has its uses.
The Injustice and Identity Frames notwithstanding, there are those revisionist historians who have sought other explanations for the collapse of Humanistic Civilization in Germany during the period of Nazi ascendancy. Taylor has already mentioned the god-like awe in which the devoted Nazi held his or her Fuhrer. Hitler was pushed down the path of carnage and destruction by the irresistible force of the Jewish menace, but in taking that path, he would end up the savior of the German race.
The idea that the German People were simply looking for a "savior" can have as many serious implications for us today, as it did for those living during the time of Nazi rule. What human being does not hope for a better life? Surely, any movement that purports to work toward such ends cannot be wholly evil? German historians, such as Ernst Nolte, have expounded the view that,
National Socialism was a justified, if excessively radical, response to the greater menace of Soviet communism. Indeed, the collapse of communism meant to Nolte that at least the "rational core" of National Socialism has been vindicated by history. National Socialism was the only realistic alternative, he claimed, to communism, a movement that pre-dated fascism and surpassed it in destructive intent.
Hitler, though perhaps subject to an excess of zeal, was nonetheless, fighting the good fight - if we are to believe Herr Nolte. In a curious perversion of history, Adolf Hitler beomes, in the eyes of Nolte, and those like him, a sort of German Moses leading his people out of the bondage of socialism... well, or at least, the threat of socialism. In fact, the mere suggestion of such a revisionist "savior philosophy" as the explanation behind the Nazi-mania is itself evidence of support for that particular human predilection. Dogged by the horrors of Nazism, the Holocaust, and the Second World War, many modern Germans, historians and non-historians alike, would prefer some more benign explanation for what happened than, say, rampant German nationalism, or flaws in the German national character, or an overly barbaric response to a perceived "enemy-within." However, just as Hitler had his non-German followers during the time of Nazi hegemony, so too does he have his apologists in the current world community. In keeping with the idea that Hitler was some kind of savior, they attempt to deny the very existence of the Nazi atrocities.
One of the first of these "revisionists" was David Irving, who joined the ranks of the deniers some years ago but started as an apologist of leading National Socialists, including the "Fuhrer" himself. He researched archives and found historical material that had been neglected until then.... Irving, Hoggan, and others use the sources to suit their purposes, ironically the same tactic they criticized their predecessors for using -- they refer to documents that seem to support their theses and neglect those that contradict their assertions.... For instance, Irving argues that in National Socialist rhetoric, ausrotten and Endlsung (final solution) did not mean the extermination but merely the expulsion of Jews.
Clearly, the historical revisionism of Nazism, its rise and effects, has numerous supporters. All begin by reacting to the enormity of the crime, but each responds in a way suited to his or her particular goals. For some the horror of what happened must be explained as the inevitable outcome of circumstances to which all peoples would have responded in a similar fashion. For others the horrors of the Hitler years demand a "bunker mentality," wherein the German people felt themselves - rightly or wrongly - the victims of perceived Jewish aggression. Lastly, there are those who see no horror at all, but only lies. For these people, Hitler was a savior whose designs were thwarted, in his own time, by the Western Powers, and their allies the Jews and Communists, and whose memory - even now - is being besmirched by nasty, and entirely fabricated, propaganda. The belief that the Germans, alone among all peoples of the world, were specially geared toward perpetrating the horrors of Nazism is almost certainly too extreme a viewpoint. It maximizes the awfulness of what occurred but at the price of making all the rest of think that it can never happen again, simply because we are not Germans living in the world between the wars. At the same time, the numerous theories and bald-faced "facts" that attempt to remove any human responsibility for these events - and even attempt to wipe away the events themselves - go much too far in the opposite direction. In fact, many go so far as to become to tools for the recreation of the very horror the existence of which they claim to have "disproved." Nazism should and must be studied so as to prevent such terrible things from ever happening again, but it must be studied honestly, and without fear of facing the darkness that too often lurks beneath the surface of human interactions. Forget what happened, and we run the risk of it happening again.
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Stackelberg, Roderick. Hitler's Germany: Origins, Interpretations, Legacies. London: Routledge, 1999.
David F. Crew, Nazism and German Society, 1933-1945 (London: Routledge, 1994), 43.
History Unfolds, 1918-1933," in The Nazi Revolution: Germany's Guilt or Germany's Fate? ed. John L. Snell (Boston D.C. Heath, 1959), 19.
Peter Fritzsche, Germans into Nazis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 18.
Peter Fritzsche, Germans into Nazis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 20.
Sally Marks, "2 1918 and After," in The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered: A.J.P. Taylor and the Historians ed. Gordon Martel (London: Routledge, 1999), 14.
Sally Marks, "2 1918 and After," in The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered: A.J.P. Taylor and the Historians ed. Gordon Martel (London: Routledge, 1999), 16.
James M. Jasper, The Art of Moral Protest: Culture, Biography, and Creativity in Social Movements (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 355.
J.B. Bosworth, Explaining Auschwitz and Hiroshima: History Writing and the Second…