The Holocaust is an event that refers to the mass genocide of approximately six million Jewish people in Nazi Germany from 1941-1945. Evidently, this was a horrific occurrence in world history and consequently faces no debate when its illegibility is questioned. Despite this, vast debate surrounds the source of the plan and how this was developed to the extermination stage. Historian, Daniel Goldhagen argues that the Holocaust was a predetermined plan by the Nazi regime and that Hitler’s intentions from as early as the 1920’s were always to systematically condition public opinion to accept mass extermination, allowing him to use war as cover to implement his ideological programme. However, functionalist historians such as Ian Kershaw would argue that the Holocaust was no more than the result of a series of failed operations to relocate German Jews and the increasing pressures on the Nazi regime. The failure of the Madagascar plan is illustrated by functionalists as the catalyst for the Holocaust and that the plan to ultimately exterminate the Jewish race was as a result of this. Extreme functionalists such as Go?tz Aly have illustrated that the origins of the holocaust exist within the lower ranks of German bureaucracy and that Hitler did not intend for mass genocide but was used as the face to catalyse it. Consequently, it is highly evident that the Holocaust was not a predetermined plan by the Nazi regime and instead gradually evolved due to a series of failures when relocating Jews within Germany.
The Holocaust cannot be considered as a predetermined plan for a number of reasons.
Moderate functionalist historians such as Browning and Noakes suggest that the phrase “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”, first used in 1939 meant until 1941 a “territorial solution”. Consequently meaning that prior to 1941 the idea of mass genocide of the Jews was not suggested and both Browning and Noakes believe that “As late as 1941, there were plans to relocate Jews to Madagascar”1. These plans to ultimately relocate the entire Jewish community within Nazi Germany were not predetermined and came as part of a series of failures in the Nazi regime; and that up until spring 1941, Franz Rademacher, head of the Jewish department of ministry and Foreign affairs, only focus for the Jewish community was mass emigration not genocide. These ’emigration plans’ later titled the ‘Madagascar plan’ ultimately involved the resettlement of the Jews in Madagascar in an attempt to remove the Jews from German civilization and ultimately existence. An idea Hitler approved, illustrating that this idea of mass genocide as a plan to later end the existence of Jews in Germany was not planned by Hitler prior to the Madagascar plan. Therefore, portraying the Madagascar plan as not only the preferred plan but up until 1941 the only plan in place by the Nazi’s for the removal of Jews in Germany. Such is the view of Richard L. Rubenstein and John K. Roth who state “Himmler, Heydrich and the RSHA wanted the Jews deported from both the Reich and the newly annexed Warthegau”.2 Thus, illustrating that the Nazi’s aim was not to kill as many Jews as they did but to instead remove them from Germany. However, this plan became unfeasible following the Germans failure to defeat the British Mediterranean Fleet who controlled the waters between mainland Europe and Madagascar. The British refused to surrender; consequently causing the Nazi’s to abandon the Madagascar plan in autumn 1940. As Rubenstein and Roth also illustrate that ” the plan had not been used as a cover; it was abandoned only when the military situation rendered it unworkable”3. Thence, due to this plan being abandoned as late as autumn 1940, this implies that this was the preferred plan and that the holocaust, which began in 1941, could not have been predetermined prior to the failure of the Madagascar plan. Rubenstein and Roth’s view support both that of Noakes and Pridham; proposing the planning of the Madagascar plan took place in 1940. Thus illustrating this as Hitler and the Nazi’s preferred plan when resolving the ‘Jewish question’. This was also the preferred plan of Himmler who stated that “I hope that the concept of Jews will be completely extinguished through the possibility of large-scale emigration of all Jews to Africa or some other colony”4 in a secret memo to Adolf Hitler on May 25th 1940. Evidently, this portrays that the Nazi’s had little plans to mass kill the Jewish race but instead wanted the mass emigration of them from Germany. Highlighting, that the predetermination of the holocaust would be invalid, as any plan involving the genocide of the Jewish race would have been facilitated many years prior to the formulation of the Madagascar plan. A plan, which within its draft proposal sent to Rademacher, stated, “a settlement on an island abroad is to be preferred to any other solution”.5 Rademacher further highlighted this as the preferred solution and Peter Longerich quotes Rademacher as saying, “The desirable solution is: all Jews out of Europe”6. Once again illustrating the Nazi plan initially did not involve the mass genocide of six million Jewish people; instead it involved the mass emigration of the Jews out of Europe, further validating the argument of Noakes that the Holocaust was not predetermined and was the result of a series of failed plans in the Nazi regime. Prior to the instalment of Hitler as chancellor in 1933 a German publicist in 1931 said, “The entire Jewish nation sooner or later must be confined to an island. This would afford the possibility of control and minimize the danger of infection.” This gained support from the German public and as illustrated by Collier and Pedley “Hitler publicly announced upon taking power until the eve of war that his ultimate goal was not the annihilation but the forced emigration of the Jews”7. Thence, showing that the Madagascar plan would have been the result of previous drawn up plans by the Nazi’s and that this would has also been Hitler’s initial plan since the early 1930’s; therefore a plan that they would have felt was logistically possible to pursue. In conjunction with Rademacher’s quotes, both illustrate the Nazi’s evident preference to a plan, which involved the mass emigration of the Jews from Europe and at no time was the use of extermination mentioned. Therefore, it is highly evident that the Holocaust was not a predetermined plan under the Nazi regime and that the Madagascar plan was in fact the predetermined option adopted by the Nazi party. This initial plan involved the mass emigration of European Jews to Madagascar but was abandoned following a change in the military situation, which resulted in its unfeasibility. Illustrating that the Nazi’s never intended to kill as many Jews as they later did in mass genocide of six million Jews from 1941-1945 known as the Holocaust.
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1 Noakes, Jeremy & Pridham, Geoffrey, Nazism 1919-1945, Liverpool University Press, 1988, p.113
2 Richard L. Rubenstein, John K. Roth, Approaches to Auschwitz, Revised Edition: The Holocaust and Its Legacy, p.164
3 Richard L. Rubenstein, John K. Roth, Approaches to Auschwitz, Revised Edition: The Holocaust and Its Legacy, p.164
6 Fritzsche, Peter, Life and Death in the Third Reich, Harvard University Press, 2009, p.189
7 Martin Collier and Phillip Pedley, Germany 1919-45, p.217