1919 Hitler

1919 Hitler

‘Anti-Semitism as a political movement cannot and should not be determined by emotional factors, but rather by a realization of the facts. And these are: First, Jewry is clearly a racial and not a religious group. [..] All that which is for men a source of higher life- be it religion, society or democracy- is for the Jew merely a means to an end, namely the satisfaction of his lust for power and money. His actions will lead to racial tuberculosis of peoples.

Hence it follows: anti-Semitism based on purely emotional grounds will find its ultimate expression in the form of programs (which are capricious and thus not truly effective). Rational anti-Semitism, however, must pursue a systematic, legal campaign against the Jews, by revocation of the special privileges they enjoy in contrast to the other foreigners living among us. But the final objective must be the complete removal of Jews [die Entfernung der Juden ueberhaupt].’’


Write a text critique of the above excerpt of a letter written by Hitler to Adolf Gemlich, 16th of September 1919.

This letter was written by Hitler to Adolf Gemlich in 1919. At this time Hitler was already feeling his way toward a political career; four days before responding to Gemlich he had paid his first visit to the German Workers’ Party. It is important to recognize the contextual back ground in which this letter was conceived. In the letter to Gemlich he appears anxious to establish his credentials as a knowledgeable and sober anti-Semite[1]. This is a personal letter however it is also a clearly written well argument designed to impress.  This letter is Hitler’s first explicitly political writing. The impact of the letter impressed his Reichswehr superiors so much that he soon gained a reputation among radical rightist and socially respectable nationalist conservative groups as a man who could help inoculate the masses against revolution and whose anti-Semitic rhetoric could help discredit the democratic Weimar Republic. The letter may thus be seen as the launching of his political career[2].

Hitler’s rhetoric here is quite tame when in comparison with some of his later writings[3], stressing the need for a “rational” and “scientific” anti-Semitism. Hitler is keen to stress that his stance is not an irrational one. ‘Anti-Semitism as a political movement cannot and should not be determined by emotional factors, but rather by a realization of the facts’. By using the word ‘scientific’ he has implied that great studies and rational debate has occurred in which they have found that the ‘Jew is clearly a racial and not a religious group’. He goes on to argue that ‘Rational anti-Semitism, however, must pursue a systematic, legal campaign against the Jews.’ By using the words ‘systematic’ and ‘legal’ he has implied a certain amount of order and justice will prevail in the campaign against the Jew. We can see that this ‘legal campaign took the form of the Nuremburg race laws of 1935. In a nut shell these laws were an attempt to roll back the whole process of emancipation which had occurred during the 19th century. In a sense we can trace the origin of these racial laws back to the very beginning of his political career via this letter and other documentation.

There are several statements in this letter which deserve greater examination; however I wish to focus this essay on the final piece of the letter. Historians have interpreted the letter’s call for the “irrevocable removal [Entfernung]” of the Jews from German life as a prefiguring of the Holocaust. Huge amount of debate has grown around this statement. From this debate two theories have been developed; the intensionalist theory versus the structural/ functionalist one. Essentially this debate is around trying to explain the Holocaust. At this point I feel it is important to stress that the Holocaust did not only involve the persecution of the Jewish community gypsy’s the handicapped and the mentally ill were also targeted, however for the purposes of this paper I will be referring only to the persecution of the Jews. The intensionalist historians argue that there had been a blue print of the Holocaust from the very earlier on. Once the Nazi’s were in power, the rest followed from the logic of their ideology[4]. It various from one historian to the other upon how far back this ‘blueprint goes’. They argue that ‘The Final Solution’ was a pre-ordained as the language in Hitler’s Mein Kampf could not have resulted in anything other than the complete genocide.  However did Hitler mean getting rid of the Jews by other means such as deportation or by somehow removing their influence. At this point perhaps it would have been too fantastic to imagine a situation where he would have been in a position to do that. However perhaps by 1939 where the Nuremburg laws had been enacted, and the vision of an Aryan Germany wouldn’t have seemed so unobtainable. To counter this argument we need to look only to Mein Kampf, where he say’s ‘during my struggle I made many prophecies today I will be a prophet again’[5]. I quote these because I wish to show that Hitler had an unshakable fate in himself that one day he could not only lead Germany out of economic crises but that he could ‘achieve a solution of the Jewish problem’. This again would in fact tie in quite nicely with the intesionalist theory.

The Functionalist historians would argue that there hadn’t been a ‘solution to the Jewish problem’. These historians say that the Holocaust was evolving in a gradual process which came about due to the functioning of the third Reich and in connection with how the war was developing and many of the decisions relating to the ‘Jewish question’. This functionalist theory leads us on to another theory that the final solution was in fact a process of cumulative rationalization. This argument argues that there was no single command from Hitler, but the Holocaust was a result of initiative instigated from below, but that initiative was not only consent but encouraged by higher powers. Connected to this debate is the question of how do we characterize the Third Reich? It is an almost universally held that Adolf Hitler was the Holocausts prime mover. Most would agree with Milton Himmelfarb who entitled his book ‘no Hitler no Holocaust[6]’. Regardless of the extent of Hitler’s control it is certain that he could not have accomplished it alone.  However how much control did Hitler possess? Was the third Reich a monocracy where one Adolf Hitler controlled all, or in fact was in a far more complex structure which had several power centers? If this was the case then this begs the question if we subscribe to this model, what role did Hitler play in this structure? This question however I must regretfully leave for a later paper, but it does leave us something to consider when analyzing the significance of this letter with relation to the intensionalist versus factionalist debate. The important point here is that if there were in fact several power centers that would mean that Hitler could not have realistically been speaking of mass genocide in 1919 when this letter was conceived.

Many historians argue that it is clear from the context and from later statements that, at this point, Hitler meant segregation or expulsion rather than systematic liquidation. At this point for Hitler ‘revocation of the special privileges’ was his main objective. For many historians including myself the intensionalist debate provides an all too easy answer. For these Historians, the sole blame of the Holocaust rests at Hitler’s door. By doing so admonishes the several thousand other Nazi’s who willingly participated in the mass murder of over six million Jews. One must not forget that Hitler wrote this letter to impress a superior, and as such it is highly probable that he would have tried to make a great impression. I don’t believe that we are ever going to be able to put the debate surrounding the holocaust to bed, it is far too complex and the study of psychology is not an exact science. Also several discussions were held at senior level during the war to discuss how to actually go about the extermination? Before the war the Nazis considered mass exportation of Jews. The island of Madagascar was seriously considered[7]. Heydrich called the Madagascar Plan a “territorial final solution”; it was a remote location, and the island’s unfavorable conditions would hasten deaths. There is no reason to assume that the SS would have behaved any different in Madagascar than in the death camps[8]. Once the mass killing of Jews began in 1941, however, resettlement planning was abandoned. Palestine was the only location to which any Nazi relocation plan succeeded in producing significant results. This resulted in the transfer of about 60,000 German Jews from Germany to Palestine, up until the outbreak of World War II[9]. The debate is ongoing the Nuremburg race laws were the coming together of such a legal campaign seen as result of the above statement. It is very questionable wheater or not Hitler could have conceived the holocaust at this juncture of his political career. The debate is ongoing and unless new evidence emerges this debate will continue well into the foreseeable future.
























Mitchell, Joseph R., and Helen Buss. Mitchell. The Holocaust: Readings & Interpretations. [Guilford, Conn.?]: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, 2001. Print.

Welch, David. The Third Reich Politics and Propaganda. London: Routledge, 2002. Print.

Lindemann, Albert S. Anti-semitism before the Holocaust. Harlow, England: Longman, 2000. Print.

“Adolf Hitler’s First Anti-Semitic Writing.” Jewish Virtual Library – Homepage. Web. 27 Jan. 2011. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/Adolf_Hitler’s_First_Antisemitic_Writing.html>.

“Mein Kampf: Nation and Race.” Hitler Historical Museum. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. <http://www.hitler.org/writings/Mein_Kampf/mkv1ch11.html&gt;.

Rosenberg, Jennifer. “Madagascar Plan.” 20th Century History. Web. 31 Jan. 2011.      <http://history1900s.about.com/od/holocaust/a/madagascarplan.htm&gt;.

[1] “Adolf Hitler’s First Anti-Semitic Writing.” Jewish Virtual Library.

[2]  ibid.

[3] “Adolf Hitler’s First Anti-Semitic Writing.” Jewish Virtual Library

[4] Mitchell, Joseph R., and Helen Buss. Mitchell. The Holocaust: Readings & Interpretation, P207.

[5] Mein Kampf: Nation and Race.” Hitler Historical Museum.

[6] Mitchell, Joseph R., and Helen Buss. Mitchell. The Holocaust: Readings & Interpretation, P3.

[7] Mitchell, Joseph R., and Helen Buss. Mitchell. The Holocaust: Readings & Interpretation, P207.

[8] Mitchell, Joseph R., and Helen Buss. Mitchell. The Holocaust: Readings & Interpretation, P208.

[9] Rosenberg, Jennifer. “Madagascar Plan.” 20th Century History.


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