The Causes of the Holocaust Post World War I Germany saw difficult times. Germans were searching for a reason to blame someone for their problems and extremist groups such as the Nazis provided a focus for the German people. Some historians will argue that extreme nationalism was the cause of the Holocaust because of the power of the Nazi party. While a large part of this is true, Germany’s anguish after World War I sent people looking for reasons to blame someone or something for their burdens, Germany’s humiliation after World War I, its dire economic situation, and antisemitism all came together to cause the Holocaust. Germany’s embarrassment after losing World War I was one of the major reasons for the cause of the Holocaust.
After Germany’s defeat in World War I, Germans found it hard to believe they had lost the war. The Treaty of Versailles was a document that officially ended military actions against Germany (Craig 424). Germans did not like this treaty because their government would have to pay other countries for their economic losses (Allen 57). Germany also lost all of its colonies overseas. It had to give back provinces to France, Belgium, and Denmark.
France got German coal mines and Gda sk, now a city in Poland, became a “free city.” Poland gained most of Western Prussia and Germany’s Rhineland was demilitarized, although allied troops occupied it for fifteen years after the war (Shirer 59). The Treaty also solely held Germany responsible for the War in a “war guilt” clause which greatly upset the Germans. When the German government saw the treaty, they heavily opposed i! t; however they had to accept it. Germany’s new republican government ratified it in 1919. Germany’s defeat in the war and the provisions in the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending the war, greatly outraged the German people. Germany had lost everything, the economy was in a decline and there was an extremely high unemployment rate.
The Germans wanted to restore their nation to its former greatness (Hashoah 28). They wanted to complete this task of restoration in a very short amount of time. German citizens also started looking for a reason for their defeat. A new political party called the National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazis, began its climb by bringing back old prejudices and blaming the Jews for Germany’s defeat in the first World War. These were some of the factors that came together to cause the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich and the slaughter of twelve million innocent people in the Holocaust. Germany’s bad economy in the 1920’s and 30’s was a factor for the cause of the Holocaust and the Rise of the Third Reich. After the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, Germany owed other nations money for their economic losses during World War I.
This made Germany very poor in the early twenties. In 1923, inflation reached its climax in Germany which made the German Mark lose its value and virtually wiped out the middle class. The German economy was so bad that cartoons were drawn depicting middle class Germans carting around their few possessions and money in wheel barrows. Middle class citizens became more susceptible to appeals from extremist groups such as the Nazis which came about in the years following World War I because they had provided a focus for Germany’s problems. Less than three years after German’s economy had somewhat stabilized, it went in to a severe economic depression along with the rest of the Western world in 1929.
During the years of econom! ic depression the Weimar Republic, who ruled Germany from 1919 to 1933, was criticized for not being able to deal with Germany’s problems effectively and efficiently. The Communist and the National Socialist Parties were supported by most of the German voters by 1933 because of Germany’s economic problems (Shirer 258). Antisemitism was by far the biggest factor for the cause of the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party were behind this antisemitism campaign. When Hitler and the Nazi party gained power, they made antisemitism an official government policy.
Germans were looking for a quick way out of their problems and, by listening to Hitler, they believed they found a quick way out. His reason was the Jews, and Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany’s economic problems and its defeat in World War I. Hitler blamed the Jews because, he said that the Jews were not German and he had developed a hate towards the Jews as he grew older. Hitler was bringing back old prejudices. Hitler used propaganda to get Germans thinking that the Jews were the ones responsible for Germany’s problems.
In his book Mein Kampf Hitler wrote, “All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to” (Cr! aig 546). Propaganda that was spread over Germany was very antisemetic and crude. Antisemetic papers, writings, and games against the Jews were quickly spread throughout Germany by Hitler. Nazi propaganda even stooped down to the level of young children. A Nazi propagandist, Julius Streicher, published among other things, antisemetic storybooks for young children which portrayed Jews as shameful, sneaky, ugly scoundrels and Aryans as proud strong and handsome masters (Hashoah 31).
The German government stripped Jews of their citizenship and took their property from them. Hitler’s policy of antisemitism in the German government and his ability to effectively spread propaganda throughout Germany and Europe in the 1930’s caused Germans to begin to hate the Jews. Germany’s discontent after losing World War I, its economic depression, and the spread of antisemitism and propaganda throughout Germany made Germans more susceptible to the pleas of extremist groups such as the Nazis. This caused the uprising of Hitler’s Third Reich which was responsible for the extermination of roughly six million Jews and six million people of other races or beliefs to which Hitler was opposed. Because of the severity of Germany’s problems after the first World War, all Hitler had to do was link them together and tell the Germans that the Jews were responsible for everything bad in Germany.
All the Germans had to do was believe him and they did just that. BIBLIOGRAPHY Allen, William. The Nazi Seizure of Power. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1965. Craig, Gordon. Germany 1866-1945.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. Hashoah, Beit. Museam of Tolerance. Santa Barbara: Albion Publishing Group, 1993. Shirer, William.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Touchstone, 1990. Switzer, Ellen. How Democracy Failed. New York: Atheneum, 1975.