Home Button Library Button Archive Button Lexicon Button Search Button
D. Bankier
Hitler and the Policy-Making Process on the Jewish Question

Source: D. Bankier, in: Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 3, Number 1 (1988), pp.1-20.


Part A, B, C

Abstract
This article shows that, unlike the views put forward by functionalist historians, the active involvement of Hitler in anti-Semitic policy can be clearly discerned through a meticulous and detailed analysis of his place in the decision-making process. The anti-Semitic measures were not the implementation of plans devised by the state machinery but a faithful translation of Hitler's wishes. Hitler did not surrender to pressures to radicalise the policy on the Jewish question, neither was he a moderate. He reached temporary compromises without mitigating his determination to solve the Jewish Problem in a final way. The Jews' status in Germany was for him of utmost importance, due to his obsession with racial purity. This issue, therefore, required his personal intervention and was not let to the discretion of the state bureaucracy.
An enquiry into this topic may well begin with the question of Hitler's place in the Nazi State. The Hitler-centred, or intentionalist approach assumes that from very early on Hitler contemplated, pursued and strove to achieve his main aim: the destruction of the Jews. In this view, the various stages of the anti-Semitic policy derived directly from his unwavering intentions and the Final Solution was the result of a consistent policy, subject only to tactical deviations which he programmed and had implemented. This school stresses the autonomy of the individual will as the determinant of the course of history, giving a personalised explanation of the anti-Jewish Policy. It sees the anti-Semitic measures as integrally and organically linked to the general Nazi policy, progressively advancing towards long-range final goals out of an inner logic 1 .
Structuralist or functionalist historians, on the other hand, emphasise the unsystematic improvisation of the policy, perceived as a series of ad hoc responses of a dis-united governmental machinery with huge management problems. Although this cumbersome administration inevitably produced a radicalisation in anti-Semitic policy, the actual steps were not planned in advance, nor could they be envisaged or predicted. This line of analysis tends to disregard the personal factor, the role of the dictator and his personality in determining and conducting the policy-making process 2 . Karl Schleunes, for example, writes that in the legislation before the Nuremberg Laws, Hitler's hand appeared occasionally at crucial moments, but this hand was usually vacillating and indecisive. He concludes that Hitler's figure is a shadowy one appearing only rarely in the actual making of Jewish policy between 1933 and 1938', and the inconsistencies in the policy-making were a result of his failure to provide guidance. In his opinion, not only was there no planned, directed policy and lack of a comprehensive plan, but, he states categorically, policies were often pursued without the sanction, or indeed the knowledge of the party's central authorities. After the Nuremberg Laws, he says, instead of authority clearly established at the top, there was no authority at all. A decision making vacuum rather than a decision making authority.' 3 Martin Broszat does admit that Hitler's obsessive preoccupation with specific ideological and political principles proved to be a decisive driving force behind Nazi policy, but he shifts the analysis to functional pressures within the regime. In his opinion Hitler sanctioned pressures rather than created policy. Hans Mommsen takes the most extreme view of the functionalist scholars, asserting that the implementation of policy cannot be attributed to Hitler alone, nor to purely ideological factors, but to the fragmented decision-making process. This made for improvised bureaucratic initiatives with their own built-in momentum, promoting a dynamic and cumulative radicalisation also in anti-Semitic policy 4
The present paper will not deal with the problems raised by the Hitlerist conception, but with the conclusions of the functionalist approach.
Admittedly, functionalist historical research has convincingly demonstrated the coexistence of Hitler's monocratic position and the polycratic structure of the Third Reich. The documentary evidence shows conclusively that the regime was pervaded by a chaotic system of government as Hitler never had any conception of how to govern; upon his assumption of power he simply transferred to the helm of state the methods he had used in conducting the party. The whole system worked, however, because he personally provided the indispensable public charisma, without which his subordinates would have been powerless, while reserving for himself the ultimate decision-making on questions in which he had a paramount interest. What interested him most were foreign, military, racial and antisemitic policies and in these spheres he determined the course of action from above. In the antisemtic policy his intervention had a domino effect: one step led to another. Each step was harsher than the last and each was an outgrowth of the previous one. While one was being implemented the details of the next were being worked out and the next still was on the drawing board of his bureaucrats, who were either acting under his orders or interpreting his wishes.
Certainly, there were changes of direction and deviations in the decision-making on the Jewish question, but in order to obtain a better understanding of the apparent inconsistencies in antisemitic policy one must distinguish between Hitler's intentions and his final goals: intentions as actions taken under given circumstances, and final goals as those he believed could be achieved in the absence of external constraints. Achievement of the final goals was therefore postponed until he felt he could overcome the difficulties, brushing them aside. A look at the interaction between Hitler and his hermeneuts in the party and the bureaucracy reveals that the latter were not autonomous but worked under the pressure generated by Hitler's will.
Based on the Fuehrerprinzip , the supreme leader acted as the ideological and political originator of antisemtic measures, supplemented by men who wished to prove their diligence, efficiency and indispensability. He approved and sanctioned their work, stamping his own personal imprint on the direction the work had to take. Hitler saw his particular strength in the ability to think consistently and simplify complex problems, deciding matters of political significance and of principle. This, to him, was an integral part of the leadership process. The figure of authority had to provide inspiration and not concern himself with administration. Nor must we ignore his idiosyncrasy as a terrible simplifier', as Hugh Trevor-Roper put it 5 , his staunch aversion to writing, and his deep-rooted impatience with intricate problems. The legislative process thus never varied: Hitler was to be approached only after everyone involved had taken a position on the issue. Proposals were circulated among the pertinent offices concerned, the stumbling blocks were removed, and only then did Hitler give his sanction.
One of the salient peculiarities of the Nazi regime was the absence of using common decision-making formulas, as we know them from democratic systems. Instead we find an informal method, whereby Hitler vaguely intimated his view on a certain issue or very generally expressed the course of action to be taken. It was subsequently the task of the policy makers to interpret these “Fuehrer wishes” properly and to give them concrete and practical meaning. Although the wish was always communicated by a third party and not explicitly passed on as a Fuehrer order, it had the force of an order.
The fact that the formula “the Fuehrer's wish” was understood by everyone to mean a Fuehrer order is well documented. Dr. Werner Best testified that: from the perspective of those who received the orders, the formulas the Fuehrer wishes ( der Fuehrerwuenscht ) and the Fuehrer ordered ( der Fuehrer hatbefohl ) were perfectly synonymous… the word “wish” was used as an equivalent of “order”.' 6 This testimony is corroborated by countless examples which indicate how the terms wish and order recurred alternatively. For our purposes a few will suffice.
For instance, the minutes of the meeting of the Reich Committee for the Protection of German Blood, held on 16 June 1936, show the bureaucracy's speculative interpretation of the wish. On that occasion, Wilhelm Stuckart, Secretary of State of the Ministry of the Interior, dealing with the proposed antisemitic steps, said: I intend to give a directive which, I am convinced corresponds to the Fuehrer's will.' Later, discussing the prevention of marriages between Mischlinge and Germans he added: … in this way we shall most nearly approach the Fuehrer's will.' 7 Or, as Goering put it on 28 December 1938 when he ordered the new discriminatory actions against German Jews: Ich habe die Willensmeinung des Fuehrers in diesen Fragen klar eingeholt .' (I have obtained a clear impression of the Fuehrer's will in these questions) 8 At other times we find measures that do not translate the wish but see in it a term synonymous with Hitler's decision or order. Thus, while dealing with the expulsion of all Jews, Czechs and other foreigners from Vienna, Bormann writes that the Fuehrer wishes ( wuenscht ) to end the differentiation between Reichsdeutsche and Viennese and, a few sentences later, he calls this his decision ( Entscheidung ), and orders the expulsion. Likewise, during the discussion between Hitler, Goering and Goebbels following the Kristallnacht , Goering said The Fuehrer had expressed his wish and ordered that the economic solution also be carried through now.' 9 This one, as well as other laws or regulations, was not the implementation of a plan devised by the state machinery but a faithful translation of Hitler's wish. The bureaucrats obviously tried to excel in servile diligence and opportunism, but they could only gravitate within the strictly circumscribed orbit of their hermeneutic position. They knew perfectly well that in the Nazi scheme of things it was up to the political leader to provide the charisma and the value system, whilst the civil servants merely carried out the administrative tasks necessary to implement these ideals in practice. Naturally, they enjoyed a great deal of open-ended initiative since the whole ethos of Nazism emphasised the spirit rather than the letter of the institutions, thus giving full rein to the individual leader at all levels.
Having dealt with this controversial issue, we can now take a closer look at the difficult question of Hitler's role in the concrete measures taken on the Jewish question. Did he intervene in the decision- and policy-making? On what occasions? What was the cause and effect of his intervention, and did it change the direction of the projected policy? The decision on the Final Solution, however, is too complex an issue to be treated within the scope of this paper. We shall concentrate then, on a few select issues: Hitler vis-à-vis the party radicals and bureaucrats, Hitler's image as a moderate and his concrete interventions in antisemitic measures and legislation.
The idea to boycott Jewish stores and professionals, on 1 April 1933, was conceived on 26 March when Goebbels was called to Berchtesgaden. The party, at the time, was violently agitating for defensive action against the Jewish international inciting propaganda'. On 28 March, Hitler revealed his official stance on this issue. In the report of the cabinet meeting held the next day, he defended the idea of the boycott, arguing that he had called for it himself 10 The alternative, he suspected, was the eruption of a spontaneous people's movement of undesirable, violent form, whereas an organised and approved boycott, he concluded, would not be intolerably harsh or result in dangerous political turmoil. This representation of the origins of the boycott ostensibly attests to Hitler's vague and unspecified visualisation of the Jewish question. In this view, Hitler showed no specific initiative on the Jewish issue but reacted to, rather than orchestrated, the equivocal, imprecise and repeatedly ambiguous lines of policy which emerged from the bureaucratic offices or the party's quarters. Seen from this angle, the initiatives on antisemitic policy came from below: from the SS, the SD, the bureaucrats or other governmental or party agencies, whose personal rivalries and institutional frictions found an outlet in the Jewish question. Thus, in this particular case, functionalist scholars argue, Hitler called for a boycott in response to the radicals' demands. The thrust originated in the tempestuous outburst of political turbulence, violence and illegal actions and these forced the leader to grant post facto sanction and legitimisation in order to mitigate the popular ferment. Consequently, this argument continues, Hitler's personal role was to moderate rather than to radicalise. I must disagree, however. Hitler was neither a prisoner of forces lacking preconceived, planned goals of his own, nor carried away by events and unwilling to take decisions. He was a creator motivated by ideological obsessions, which became policy when implemented by the party activists. Is it reasonable to suppose that a man who felt himself surrounded by conspiring Jews on all sides would let their fate be decided by petty officials or Nazi hooligans?
Hitler cunningly contrived to remain aloof and in the background, but his role of stage manager of these events was carried out behind the scenes and cannot be underestimated. Helmut Genschel seems to be correct in his assessment of the boycott as a phenomenon bearing paradigmatic traits evident also in other antisemitic actions prior to Kristallnacht . These included the forward-pushing action of the propaganda, the effect of the radicals as a precipitating factor, and the effect of the restraining elements in the Nazi government and administration. Most important was the attitude of Hitler, who gave his consent to the action and discussed it with his collaborators (in this case Goebbels or Streicher), but remained in the background creating the false impression that he was “above the details” 11 Moreover, Hitler perceived the boycott as an excellent tool to channel the revolutionary fervour of the SA and other Nazi radicals. And though, at first glance, it may appear that Hitler was forced to yield to the radicals' pressures, this was not the case. The execution of the boycott was much more than a reaction to the pressures exerted upon him. Hitler did not swim with the tide he turned it. For him this was an opportunity to demonstrate his power, using the SA as an instrument of terror rather than being dominated by it and he certainly seized the chance to do so. To this end, the boycott also served a definite, symbolic political function. It was vital for him to show the determination of the new regime both to the German people and abroad; to make plain at the very beginning that the new Germany was ruled by discipline coupled with fierceness. But it served also another, twofold, purpose: to intimidate those who did not share his antisemitic policy, and to accelerate the flight of the Jews from Germany. Finally, his approval made it possible to mask the terror in a facade of legality. Abundant evidence points to the fact that although Hitler was faced by a genuinely difficult internal situation, he certainly had enough power to ignore the radicals and follow the advice of Foreign Minister von Neurath at the cabinet meeting on 31 March, if he so desired. He actually did so a year later, when militant Nazi elements of the NS-HAGO (National-Socialist Trade Commerce and Industry Organisation) attempted to stage a similar boycott between 23 March and 6 April 1934. In this instance the Fuehrer's Deputy, Rudolf Hess, warned the Gauleiters that such action was contrary to the Fuehrer's wish and it was instantly stopped 12 This stand, as we learn, was adopted not out of moderation but out of tactical consideration. In a speech to the Reichsstatthalter (Nazi r) on 23 March 1934, Hitler took a firm position against boycott attempts which, he was convinced, could endanger the import of raw material 13 Echoing Hitler, Hans Frank, the Bavarian Minister of Justice, also warned against the over-zealous National Socialists who had unleashed an antisemitic boycott in the city of Weimar the previous week. At this juncture, as in 1933, there were foreign policy considerations as well. However, whereas in the former instance Hitler found it more opportune to satisfy the radicals and demonstrate his power right at the beginning of his reign, in the latter he considered it more prudent to give priority to tactical pragmatism than to please the party radicals. They had to wait to get their share when objective circumstances would become more propitious.
This was not the only time that Hitler acted against the radical thrust, adopting a pragmatic stand. His independent policy-making manifests itself also in decisions on the department stores, a central theme in the radical agitation in the summer of 1933. At a meeting with the Minister of Economics, Kurt Schmidt, Hitler accepted Schmidt's pragmatic view and approved an additional 14.5 million RM of credit to the Jewish owned department store chain Tietz, displaying an autonomous decision in the choice between ideological purity and the needs of the moment. This step was undoubtedly, once more, a result of Hitler's talks with Schmidt on the necessity to protect Germany's economy. 14 Hitler's independence of the party's radical drives on this issue, is equally clear from his decision at the beginning of October 1934 to permit civil servants to continue shopping at Jewish department and other stores, despite the activists' agitation to prohibit this. 15 These examples aptly reflect Hitler's opportunism as a skilful tactician, waiting until the time was absolutely ripe before making his next antisemitic move. He was fully aware of the price he had to pay in the transition from the movement's agitation to governmental consolidation, and of the disparity between his final goals and their transition into the concrete political reality.
Following the Nuremberg Laws, more attempts were made to issue antisemitic laws in the economic field and it was always Hitler who made the final decision in his Fuehrerbesprechungen (Fuehrer consultations). His decisions in support of Reichsbankpraesident Hjalmar Schacht, against party pressures, again show the impact of export, foreign currency, and similar considerations on his scale of priorities.
A striking example of Hitler's unshakeable resolve despite party pressure, is the issue of pensions to Jews in Germany. As is well known, privileged Jews who were ousted from the civil service continued to receive pensions, a situation opposed by the bureaucracy and the party officials. In November 1939, for instance, Hans Pfundtner, Secretary of State of the Ministry of the Interior, proposed to Chief of the Chancellery Hans Lammers to reduce the pension payments and, some time later, a similar suggestion came from the Postal Minister who argued that since the Jews would be put in camps, or the like, during the war, their pensions would be withdrawn in any case. 16 The attempt to stop the payments received further impetus at the start of the deportations of German Jews. On 9 June 1941, Pfundtner informed Lammers of the independent initiative taken by the mayor of Berlin to stop the pension payments to Jews as of January 1942. The mayor's move was motivated by what he termed an “unbearable situation”; namely, that whereas pensions were stopped to Jews who left or were deported to the East, German Jews were still receiving their pensions from the state treasury. His action was based on two reasons: from a political vantage point he believed that at the end of the winter the Jews would be sent to the East anyhow and, out of practical considerations, he anchored his order on financial arguments - the lack of funds in time of war. 17 The mayor's aggressive initiative met with the opposition from the Ministry of Interior which asked him to rescind the order, reminding him that on 8 April 1941, as part of the discussions over the eleventh implementation ordinance to the Nuremberg Laws, which would have had a direct bearing on the pension issue, Hitler had decided not to change the status quo in this matter. His decision was aimed at avoiding complications. 18 The issue was also raised on various occasions by the party Gauleitungen . Gauleitung Baden and the Gau in Berlin deplored the fact that in their jurisdiction there were Jews still receiving pensions. Hess himself also communicated to the Ministry of Interior that party reports spoke of public bewilderment as to why Jews still received pensions. It would be desirable to clarify the matter, he added, since various governmental and party agencies incessantly requested that it be solved. Against this background the decision to put an end to the discussions of the topic becomes clear 19 In July 1942, Lammers informed the Ministry of Interior that, in accord with Bormann, all attempts to introduce changes in this matter should cease. Both thought that Hitler would not sanction the initiative taken by the mayor of Berlin 20 The issue was finally discussed in a special session devoted by Lammers and Bormann to the “Final Solution” on 2 October 1943. In his memorandum Bormann pointed out that Hitler was not willing to change his mind on the pension issue. Therefore, Bormann and Lammers ordered that all proposals to change the legislation on this matter should definitely be abandoned 21

References:

1. See for example: Gerald L. Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986); Eberhard Jaeckel, Hitlers Weltanschauung , Tuebingen: R. Wunderlich, 1969).
2. The major exponents of this position are: Karl A. Schleunes, The Twisted Road to Auschwitz (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1970); Uwe D. Adam, Judenpolitik im Dritten Reich (Duesseldorf: Droste, 1972); Hans Mommsen, The Realisation of the Unthinkable', in Gerhard Hirschfeld (Ed.), The Politics of Genocide (London: Allen & Unwin, 1986) pp. 97¯144, just to mention one of his many works; for a moderate functionalist view, see Christopher R. Browning, Fateful Months (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985); on these two schools: Saul Friedlaender, “From Anti-Semitism to Extermination”, Yad Vashem Studies 16 (1984), 1¯50.
3. Schleunes, op. cit. , pp. 131, 258¯9.
4.Martin Broszat, “Soziale Motivation und Fuehrer-Bindung des Nationalsozialismus”, Vierteljahreshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte 18 (1970), 392¯409; Mommsen, op. cit.
5. Hugh R. Trevor-Roper, “The Mind of Adolf Hitler”, Hitler's Table Talk (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1973), p. xxxi.
6. Quoted in Fleming, op. cit. , pp. 45¯6.
7. Nuremberg Document (hereafter ND), NG-289.
8. Bundesarchiv, Koblenz (hereafter BA), R 18/5519.
9. IMT 9, p. 278.
10.BA R 43 I/1460.
11.Helmut Genschel, Die Verdraengung der Juden aus der Wirtschaft im DriReich (Goettingen: Musterschmidt, 1966), p. 58.
12.Hessto Gauleiters, BA NS 6/216, cf. the note of Ministerialrat Willuhn, 26 March 1934, BA R 43 II/602; cf. Hitler's address to Reichsstatthalter on 23 March 1934 in which he supported Schacht's stand against the boycott, reported in The Jewish Chronicle , 30 March 1934.
13.Konrad Repgen (Ed.), Akten der Reichskanzlei (Boppard a/Rh.: Boldt), p. xxiii.
14.Genschel, op. cit. , p. 80.
15.Bormann to Reichsstatthalter Loepper, Dessau-Ziebigk 13 January 1933, BA NS 6/ vol 215. The question whether civil servants were allowed to shop at Jewish stores was raised again on many occasions during the turbulent months of 1935 following the instructions of the Reichsverwaltung des Deutschen Beamtenbundes (National Administration of the German Union of Civil Servants) on 7 February 1935 to refrain from buying there. These initiatives were opposed by the central authorities, influenced by economic considerations. This was the case in Westfalia, when the DAF (German Labour Front) forced civil servants to undersign a declaration that they would refrain from shopping in Jewish stores. The step brought in its wake the intervention of Hess.
16.16Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1967), p. 57.
17.The mayor based his action on the 10th clause of the 11th implementation ordinance to the Citizenship Laws, and the secret decree of the Ministry of the Interior of 3 December 1941 to stop payments to Jews who lost their citizenship due to their emigration or deportation to the East, Pfundtner to Lammers, 9 June 1941; Mayor of Berlin to Ministry of the Interior, 23 March 1942. BA R 43 II/449.
18.This step also clashed with the agency in charge to solve the Jewish question: the SD. If the state was not to pay the pensions who would care for their maintenance claimed Eichmann's office? See Heydrich's intervention on 26 February 1942 that such an action will lay a heavy burden on the Reichsvereinigung's budget. Ibid.
19. Hess to Ministry of the Interior, 23 March 1941; Bormann to Lammers, 17 July and 4 August 1943; Lammers to Ministry of the Interior, 24 July 1943, ibid.
20. Lammers to Ministry of the Interior, 20 July 1942, ibid.
21. Memorandum, FQ 6 October 1943, ibid.



Part B

In the same context, let us examine the decision not to have the Jews wear a distinguishing mark before September 1941, again despite the pressure exerted from various circles in previous years. Marking the Jews was proposed for example by Heydrich at the notorious conference at the Reich Air Ministry on 12 November 1938, but it was Hitler who opposed the measure. In Raul Hilberg's view The reason for Hitler's opposition is something of a mystery.' Hilberg surmises that the objection was rooted in aesthetic grounds. 22 But Hitler's reasons become evident from reading the protocol of the Regierungspraesidenten meeting held in November 1938. The document explicitly states that Hitler categorically rejected the proposal for two main reasons: first, he believed that marking would have made it impossible to avoid antisemitic violence, contributing to more excesses; second, marking would have made it difficult and even impossible for the Jews to shop at German stores, creating an insoluble problem as to their maintenance and reviving unnecessary violence. 23 And indeed, when the step was finally adopted, Bormann, acting on Hitler's orders, issued instructions to prevent antisemitic rioting by all means. 24 Once marking was decided upon, Hitler himself decided if, and when, to grant exceptions. The same reason, the avoidance of unnecessary agitation, underlay Hitler's order in December 1938 not to limit the Jews' freedom of movement. This had been sanctioned after the order of 28 November 1938 had made it possible to restrict the appearance of Jews in public. To ensure that the instruction would be appropriately and expediently handled, Hitler commanded that in the future everyone was to act according to this order. 25 It is clear then from the above and numerous other examples, that Hitler is not to be seen as yielding to pressures to radicalise the policy on the Jewish question. However, the positions he took are not to be interpreted as a sign of his moderation in antisemitic policy, as emerges from various scholarly works. He was never moderate in antisemitic policy. His astute sense of tactics or his readiness for temporary compromises, which did not detract from his determination to solve the Jewish problem conclusively, should not be misinterpreted as a sign of his temperance. We shall now subject this image of Hitler as a moderate, as it appears in Mommsen's and Ian Kershaw's studies, to a critical scrutiny 26

Was Hitler a moderate in anti-Semitic Policy?

Although for obvious reasons of image Hitler sometimes tried to appear as a moderate, it was in fact Hitler and not others who initiated radical measures. He, whom Schleunes describes as being uninformed, in fact controlled the entire process. Admiral Erich Raeder put it concisely in his memo:

When information or rumours arose about radical measures of the Party and the Gestapo, one could come to the conclusion by the conduct of the Fuehrer that such measures were not ordered by the Fuehrer himself. …In the course of future years, I gradually came to the conclusion that the Fuehrer himself always leaned toward the more radical solution without letting on outwardly' 27

Hitler's utterance of 25 October 1941 sheds further light on his manner of dealing with various matters:

I have numerous accounts to settle, about which I cannot think today. But that does not mean that I forget them. I write them down. The time will come to bring out the big book. Even with regard to the Jews, I have found myself remaining inactive. There is no sense in adding uselessly to the difficulties of the moment. One acts more shrewdly when one bides one's time' 28

This sounds as if he was explaining to his special guests that evening, Himmler and Heydrich, why he had waited so long to begin the extermination of the Jews.
From the early stages of his rule, foreign policy considerations played a crucial role in the character of his decision-making, as is clear from his statement to the Reichsstatthalter in July 1933: To broach the Jewish problem again would mean to cause an uproar again in the whole world.' 29 A few months later in another Reichsstatthalter conference on 28 September 1933, he pointedly alluded to the political considerations impeding his antisemitic policy. Speaking of Germany's foreign policy problems and the damage caused to the country by the handling of the Jewish question, he made it patently clear that his strategy was not characterised by the absence of long-term goals, but by his flexibility in their pursuit and by his ability to decide priorities. Regarding the Jewish question we cannot yield,' he said.

We would have liked to have achieved a step-by-step aggravation in the treatment of German Jewry. First, to create a citizenship law and from then on, to treat the Jews increasingly worse. However, the Jews are influential abroad and we should not provide them with anti-German propaganda material' 30

He cited the example of the German girl who was accused of having relations with a Jew and had her plait cut off. The event had received wide publicity in the foreign press, damaging Germany's image. As further illustration of the foreign pressure, he mentioned the 139 complaints of attacks against its citizens presented by the Soviet Union. 31 These precautions held sway even at the beginning of the war, when deciding the policy towards Polish Jewry. Heydrich's address to the Einsatzgruppen on 15 September 1939, on the Jewish problem in Poland, furnishes a most instructive example of the decision-making process in Nazi Germany: Whenever policy proposals are related to important questions of foreign policy, Himmler brings them to Hitler because only he can decide on them.' 32 Nor can Hitler be seen as a moderate on those occasions when he rejected the use of brute force. His disapproval of physical violence in the form of pogroms already appeared in his earliest political writing of 1919. It stemmed not from his moderate position but, on the contrary, from his preference for a much more radical solution: the irrevocable and total removal of the Jews. His “scientific”, as opposed to emotional, antisemitism, was clearly understood by the Jewish department of the SD, which also (certainly not out of moderation) opposed Streicher's vulgar antisemitism. Party officials like Ministerialdirektor Sommer from the office of the Fuehrer's deputy plainly realised that the implementation of temporary tactical measures prior to the total removal of the Jews did not mean moderation. At a meeting on 29 September 1936, while preparing a conference on Jewish policy, he pointed out:

From the point of view of the party program, the Jewish question can be seen as solved only when not a single Jew remains in Germany and this final goal ( Endziel ) is well established. The present solution however, is to be seen only as a partial solution towards this end and the steps will be determined by measure and tempo.' 33

Sommer was faithfully paraphrasing Hitler's views.
Hitler evinced perseverance and an inflexible resolve in pursuing ideological aims, coupled with an obsession for taking advantage of every opportunity and a sense of timing, rather than of moderation. He tactfully adopted a pragmatic attitude and was prepared to wait for the propitious moment for every decision. This becomes apparent from an analysis of a concrete example: the preliminary work on the fifth implementation ordinance of the Nuremberg Laws regarding the ousting of Jewish lawyers. When, on 23 September 1938, Minister of Justice Franz Guertner wrote to Hitler to deal with the ordinance and sign it, he nevertheless refrained from publicising his sanction but, again, not out of moderation or disinterest. The remarks on the document made in the Fuehrer's office on the eve of his decision to agree to the Munich conference, show that Hitler had no desire to publicise the ordinance at that stage, fearing a deterioration in Germany's image in the already tensituation at the height of the German-Czechoslovakian crisis. 34 Hitler might also have been in the background of an analogous attitude adopted by the SS following Goering's 28 December 1938 decree. Goering, acting on Hitler's wish, ordered that train sleepers and restaurants be barred to Jews. To avoid any negative reaction the decree could have unleashed abroad, it was not announced publicly, but transmitted by the SS only to the Jewish representative body, the Reichsvertretung , on 13 February 1939. 35
Without a doubt, Hitler believed that final goals should not subordinate practical policy-making even when the policy seemed to settle for compromise or contradict the goals themselves. He knew that the needs of the reality shaped by the consolidation of the system and the institutionalisation of the regime necessarily led to a compromise between Nazi ideology and its goals. He made this point clear in dealing with the criticism levelled at his antisemitic line in a speech to the party leadership at the end of April 1937. In this address, he expounded at length on the guidelines of the new regime, making it absolutely plain that only the leader was entitled to decide when to implement one policy or another. A newspaper article demanding that Jewish shops be marked elicited a caustic reaction from him: As a matter of principle, in the party there are no demands… of whom does he [the journalist] demand? Who can decide on this question? I alone… the question of marking has been studied for some years, and it is clear that one day it will be decided; the final aim of our policy is entirely clear to every one of us.' 36 And, as we shall see below, he indeed decided in the discussions on the marking of Jewish shops.
Hitler is also depicted as a moderate during the turbulent months of the spring and summer of 1935 when an antisemitic wave swept over Germany. Kershaw, for example, argues that this so-called “ antisemitische Welle ” (antisemitic wave) bears the stamp of another instance of party agitation in which Hitler was uninvolved. 37 These events, however, can be viewed from a different angle. To begin with, as we have already seen, his decisions were vital on any matter that could have international implications. Since he knew that agitation had a direct effect on Germany's foreign relations and would bring in its wake a slew of complaints from foreign legations about the maltreatment of their citizens, no propaganda campaign could be launched without his orders. We can infer this, for example, from Hess' 19 March 1934 prohibition against all anti-Jewish propaganda for the projected boycott of the NS-H before the Easter sale. He made it plain that no such campaign could be launched without Hitler's prior instruction. 38 Once the antisemitic crusade started, however, it acquired a momentum of its own, creating the impression that the radicals dominated the political arena. But, Hitler was actually behind them. Not only was he the prime mover, but he was also skilful enough to make it look as though others were responsible for the action. His reasons for starting the campaign may have been varied: he believed the antisemitic movement would have a positive effect on the low morale of the middle class as conveyed in various Gestapo and Party reports. 39 And apart from its instrumental role in implementing the antisemitic principles of the Nazi ideology and program, the campaign could certainly be used by the regime to deflect attention from its internal problems and stir the population out of political apathy.
The Jewish question performed another function, in addition to being an instrument of political integration to raise public morale. It was used as a tool of incitement by party organisations. That Hitler was fully informed of the potential damage to Germany's interests, and yet chose not to reject the violence this time, is a well documented fact. This is apparent from the correspondence on the issue of antisemitic sign-boards in the files of the party chancellery. When, in April 1935, Bormann asked about Hitler's stand on the antisemitic sign-boards he received an unequivocal answer from Hitler's adjutant, Fritz Wiedemann: Hitler knows what is going on and is averse to prohibiting their display. 40 Similarly, the President of the German Olympic Committee, Oswald Lewald, repeatedly complained to the Reich authorities about the sign-boards banning Jews. His letters mentioned the local Kreisleiter's antisemitic agitation, creating a highly excited atmosphere in Garmisch. Although Hitler was again told about the damage this might cause both the Olympic winter games and summer games, Lewald learned he did not retract his decision in support of the local party leader. Only when the issue became extremely serious did he change his attitude, first empowering Hess to deal with it and later prohibiting it himself, as we read in an order given on 3 December by the Ministry of the Interior. 41 Here, without going into detail, suffice it to note that, during the war, as well, it was Hitler who stood behind the antisemitic propaganda actions launched by his Minister of Propaganda. In his diary, Goebbels writes that the Jewish problem was raised at Hitler's orders during both the spring and autumn of 1943. 42 The propaganda was presumably intensified in these months to reinforce the faith in Nazism which could have been undermined by the spreading rumours of the extermination of the Jews. Similarly, Goebbels noted on 10 September 1943 that Hitler wanted an exhaustive treatment of the Jewish question in the propaganda, adding that in the Fuehrer's view the fight against Judaism and Bolshevism were the best propaganda horses they had in stud'. 43 The same concern for Germany's image during the Olympic Games led Hitler to forbid expressly any antisemitic riots following the killing of Wilhelm Gustloff, the leader of the Swiss Nazi party, by the Jewish student David Frankfurter. As is known, immediately after the news of the killing became public knowledge, party activists launched a spontaneous retaliatory campaign against German Jewry. It was Hitler who vigorously ripped these initiatives in the bud, again, not out of moderation but of political expediency. 44
In other cases, which he deemed secondary or marginal, he simply put off his decision, believing that deterministic forces were bound to solve matters through organic Evolution. This was characteristic of Hitler, who saw himself as the interpreting agent of predictable forces, a trait which developed into the habit of announcing intentions in the form of prophecies. Such was the case when Himmler brought to his attention a situation report from the Bavarian Political Police on 28 March 1934, stating that the Bavarian Officers Association had adopted a stand unacceptable in a National Socialist State. Officers who were members of both the Association and the Union of Veterans faced a dilemma: the veterans union was barred to Jews while the Association decided to let the Jews stay if they had joined within the first three years of its existence. Himmler asked whether he should tell the Association to expel the Jews or, alternatively, dissolve it because of its attitude. Hitler decided to do neither, pointing out that the question of the Jewish members would find its solution in time. 45

Hitler's intervention in antisemitic measures

The marking of Jewish stores, a measure that became law on 14 June 1938, embodied in the third implementation ordinance pursuant to the Law of Reich Citizenship, also bears his stamp. It is a striking example of how Hitler waited for the appropriate moment to implement a particular idea, which served as motivation for antisemitic policy. The timing was carefully chosen even though there had been suggestions to implement the measure earlier. Let us examine Hitler's involvement in the question of marking Jewish stores.
Right at the beginning of Nazi rule, various Nazi organisations such as the Kampfbund des gewerblichen Mittelstandes (Fighting Union of the Industrial Middle Class) and the Selbsthilfearbeitsgemeinschaft der SA (Self-Help Work Associatioof the SA), produced posters with typical Nazi symbols: the rising sun with a swastika and a watchful German eagle bearing the inscription “German business”, to mark German stores. In time, the pressure to distinguish between Jewish and Aryan businesses mounted, as we find in the letter of Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick to Schacht dated 23 September 1935, which refers to the demands of large sectors of the public to differentiate between German and Jewish shops. 46 A memorandum from the Ministry of Economy also considered the marking of stores. In principle, however, it was decided that, for the time being, it was impossible to mark Aryan stores and Jewish ones should therefore be marked instead. And yet, despite these suggestions, the stores remained unmarked. The minutes of the conference of party and state officials on 29 September 1936, that dealt with the question and means of marking, tell why. The measure had not been adopted until then because Hitler had not approved it and nothing could be done without receiving the green light from him. 47
Hitler also brought his personal authority to bear in issues regarded as vital to German interests such as the Aryanization policy. Some instances even saw his direct intervention. As part of the rearmament policy, for example, he personally approved the steps to Aryanize the huge weapons factory Simson in Suhl (Thuringia), owned by Artur Simson. 48 He also intervened in the Aryanization policy when foreign citizens were involved, eliciting the protest of their respective governments against the application of the law to their nationals. Following the reports on this from the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior, Lammers asked Hitler whether Jews of foreign nationality were to be treated as Jews or as foreigners. Hitler refused to give a general answer as was proposed by Hess. Instead he said that in principle Jews of foreign nationality should be treated as Jews, since the Jewish problem as a racial problem was independent of nationality. But, he added, differential treatment could be enforced if foreign policy interests were involved. 49
Just how fundamental the Jewish issue was for him, is revealed by his profound interest in and close attention to trifling details of Germany's Jewish policy. It is common knowledge that his pragmatic approach was accompanied by an aversion to routine work, as illustrated by his instructions to Lammers in 1933 that he was not to be bothered with details. Nevertheless, the archival evidence suggests that the bureaucrats knew perfectly well that there were issues on which he was to be kept fully informed, which required his personal intervention, and which were not to be left to their discretion. Any attempt, therefore, to present Hitler's lack of interest in routine as evidence of a lack of interest in the subject matter as such, is totally misleading. He found time to deal with details even when he was deeply preoccupied with the most important state affairs. Thus, during the Russian pincer attack on the Stalingrad front, he intervened to raise the pension payments to the widow of the director of the State Pictures Gallery in Dresden, from 395 to 600 RM. 50 Similarly, while his army was being driven back half way from the Don to the Dnieper, he was concerned with posthumously promoting Professor Kurt Kluge of the Berlin State School of Art to a full professorship, in order to increase his widow's income. 51

References:

22 Hilberg, op. cit. , p. 120, n. 72.
23 BA R 18/5519.
24 ND, NG-1672; Hilberg, op. cit. , p. 121.
25 Adam, op. cit. , p. 263.
26 Mommsen, op. cit. , p. 106; Ian Kershaw, The Nazi Dictatorship (London: Edward Arnold, 1985), p. 92.
27 Quoted in Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (Cleveland & New York: Meridian Books, 1969), p. 375, n. 89.
28 Hitler's Table Talk 1941¯44 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1973), p. 90.
29 BA R 43 II/1392.
30 Ibid. On these considerations of foreign policy, see for example: von Neurath to Hindenburg 19 June 1933, informing him on the progressive isolation of Germany due to its antisemitic policy. He also informed Hitler on this situation, Document Neurath-11, IMT 40 p. 465. cf. the numerous complaints in the files of the Foreign Ministry (hereafter AA): (complaints of Switzerland, AA, Inland II A/B 327/2; Greece, 306/8; Poland, 320/3; Rumania, 321/3; Czechoslovakia, 302/1, 332/1; Austria, 315/2; Sweden, 325/2 and many others.
31 Amtchef und EG Besprechung on 14 September 1939, Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte , Munich, MA 433/728513¯4.
32 Ernst Deuerlein, “Hitlers Eintritt in die Politik und die Reichswehr”, Vierteljahreshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte 7 (1959), 177¯227.
33 BA R 18/5514.
34 BA R 43 II/598.
35 Daily report signed by Herbert Hagen of SD II-112, 10 February 1939, BA R 58/992. On previous pressures exerted by party circles to segregate Jews in trains, see for example: Gauleitung Hessen-Nassau, 19 September 1938, Hessisches Hauptarchiv , Wiesbaden 483/5967; cf. Lagebericht SD Worms, June/July 1939, ibid. 483/5543. cf. Ministry of Transport to Railroad Main Administration, 30 August 1935, AA, Inland II A/B 39/3.
36 Hildegard von Kotze and Helmut Krausnick (Eds.), Es spricht der Fuehrer (Guetersloh: S. Mohn, 1966), pp. 147 ff.
37 Kershaw, op. cit. , p. 93.
38 Hess, 19 March 1934, Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine , Paris, CXLV-519; Dieckloff of the Foreign Office revealed that this step was the result of the talks of von Neurath, Schmidt and Schacht with Hitler, William E. Dodd, Ambassador Dodd's Diary (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1941), entry of 24 May 1935.
39 Stimmung und Lagebericht des Gauleiters GrohÈ , March 1935, BA NS 22/vorl. 583; see also the reports of many Gestapo stations for April 1935 such as: Duesseldorf, BA R 58/1131; Hannover, Kassel, Koblenz, BA R 58/1132, Stettin, Institut fuer Marxismus und Leninismus/Zentrales Parteiarchiv , Berlin (DDR), St 3/97.
40 Wiedemann to Bormann, 30 April 1935, BA NS 10/550.
41 Lewald to Ministry of the Interior, 14 May 1935, BA R 43 II/729; see also Hess to Ministry of the Interior, 7 June 1935, ibid.
42 Louis P. Lochner (Ed.), The Goebbels Diaries (New York: Award Books, 1974), p. 375.
43 10 September 1943, BA NS 18/225. cf. Hitler's statement on the value of antisemitism in his foreign policy's propaganda, ADAP D 4, p. 293.
44 Monatsbericht des Regierungspraesidenten , Ansbach 7 March 1936, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Abt. II, Geheimes Staatsarchiv , Munich, MA 106 690.
45 Himmler to Hitler, 22 November 1934, Archives of the Leo Baeck Institute, New York, Kreuzberger files, AR 7183, Box 10 folder 3.
46 BA R 18/5513 and the files in BA R 18/5502, 5509; cf. NS, NG 3940, NG 4029.
47 BA R 18/5514.
48 Genschel, op. cit. , p. 102.
49 Lammers to Hess, 21 July 1938, ND, NG 1526.
50 Bormann to Lammers, 7 December 1942, BA R 43 II/450.
51 Bormann to Lammers, 11 April 1943, ibid.



Part C

Little wonder then, that even minute details concerning what he perceived to be his avowed eternal enemy, the Jews, were brought to his attention. Thus, he was kept abreast of cases entailing race defilement. In April 1943, the Ministry of Justice informed him that a Jewish woman had been punished for selling her milk to a nursing home to feed German children 52 , and of the case of Leo Katzenberger, head of the Jewish community in Nuremberg, who was accused of Rassenschande. 53 When a Jew was allegedly mixed up in crimes against the war economy, the information was passed on to him, prompting his 2&Mac253; years for hoarding eggs. He was delivered to the Gestapo and executed under direct instructions from Hitler. 54 Furthermore, his profound interest in all matters concerning Jews served as a guideline for state policy on the Jewish question, as evidenced by the initiative to erect a monument to the victims of WWI, which was to include Jewish names. The controversy began when the Kreisleiter in Unna proposed to build the monument and an army officer suggested that it contain the names on the monument 55 and this decision led the Ministry of Propaganda to issue a decree several months later that no new memorials were to bear the names of fallen Jews. 56 Hitler's position was subsequently embodied in the February 1939 ordinance on the matter. 57
The issue of the status of the Mischlinge leaves no doubt as to the extent of Hitler's involvement with petty details when the topic interested him. For Hitler, the question of the status of Germans of partial Jewish descent was indisputably of paramount importance because of his obsession with racial purity. The ferreting out of Mischlinge in the party ranks was much stricter than that demanded by state law, and the expulsions from the NSDAP embraced Mischlinge even up to the fifth degree. Excellence prior to 1933 and a small degree of Jewish blood permitted Mischlinge to remain in the Nazi party, but only Hitler could grant exemptions. 58 Hitler repeatedly complained that the treatment of Mischlinge and their equalisation was being handled too soft-heartedly. In the future, he stated, he would make exceptions only in special cases: when the involved had been unaware of his Jewish ancestry, for example, and had been active in the party for years. All applications for exemptions had to go through Hitler, and by 1942 some 340 Jews had been equalised with Mischlinge of the first degree. He also granted the status of Half-Jews to some 3000 people considered Jews by legal fiction. 59 This is plain from the decree dated 1 April 1944 in which he states that on this matter I have reserved the right of decision for myself', and all applications shall be submitted personally to me'. 60 The exemptions on divorce and marriage involving Mischlinge were another prerogative exclusive to Hitler, as Bormann put it, nur der Fuehrer entscheiden koenne ' (only the Fuehrer can decide). Small wonder then, that he personally intervened in the case of Ms. Kohler and Mr. Engelsing. After “scientifically” examining their Aryan physiognomy against their photographs, he refused to permit the marriage. 61 Even the question of the numerical composition of the committee granting marriage permits, and the site of its deliberations, required Hitler's decision. 62
Hitler was also the one to decide if civil servants and party members were to remain in their posts when there were suspicions of Jewish ancestry. Typical of this state of affairs was the case of Reinhard Sunkel, a Ministerialdirektor in the Ministry of Education. On 3 August 1938, Hess told Lammers that the Minister of Education considered Sunkel to be a suitable candidate for the Board of Governors of the University of Greifswald. However, since Hitler had previously made a “personal decision” ( persoenliche Entscheidung ) refusing to grant Sunkel the post of Governor of the University of Berlin, the question was, what would Hitler's position be now. The case could not be decided by either Hess or Bormann, through whose offices it passed, but had to be presented to Hitler. Although he was the Fuehrer's deputy, Hess made it absolutely clear that he could not decide whether Sunkel should be employed in public service. This question, he said, required Hitler's “direct decision” ( unmittelbare Entscheidung ). Following inquiries into Sunkel's Aryan ancestry, Hitler decided not to nominate him as Governor. He nonetheless let him stay in public service, though not at a post that would highlight his origins. Out of the same considerations, he agreed some years later to send him as Landesrat to the provincial administration of Schleswig Holstein. 63
In other similar cases Hitler took a different stand, allowing a civil servant to remain at his post, or a party member to be promoted, despite his Jewish origins. Two such instances will serve as illustrations. On 14 October 1936, Lammers informed Bormann of Hitler's decision that Oberregierungsrat Dr. Hans von Dohnanyi, a Mischling of the second degree and personal advisor to the Minister of Justice, should in no way be inconvenienced because of his grandfather's racial origin, but was to be treated as a German in every respect. 64 He reached a similar decision regarding Wilhelm Metz, a member of the NSDAP since 1930, leaving him in the party. Years later, when the Minister of the Interior wished to nominate Metz for Polizeipraesident in Oppeln, he inevitably had to consult Hitler first. After the ensuing enquiry, he was informed that Hitler agreed to the proposed nomination. 65

On this issue, his decisions had the force of law, as can be seen from the various attempts made by party leaders to discriminate against Mischlinge . The matter of the Mischling Heinz Gaertner of Dresden Buehlau, who fell in battle, provides an apt test case. His children, Mischlinge of the third degree, complained that the party office in Saxony refused to grant the widow child support, in flagrant contradiction to prevailing regulations. Besides, the plea argued the population condemned the discrimination against war orphans who were Germans according to the Nuremberg Laws. When the case reached Bormann's office, he reprimanded Gauleiter Martin Mutschmann, making it clear that Hitler, who received similar cases regarding Mischlinge , had explicitly decided that the state laws be followed, and these were not to be changed by an individual Gauleiter or Reichsstatthalter. 66 The profound interest, personal concern and involvement shown by Hitler with respect to the status of the Mischlinge in Germany, rested on racist belief that all Mischlinge were a menace and that the complete assimilation of foreign blood was impossible. Families', he argued, - even if they have but a minute quantity of Jewish blood in their veins - produced regularly, generation by generation, at least one pure Jew.' 67 For this reason, applications of equalisation were processed by the Ministry of Interior and all potential approvals had to be referred to Hitler. Hitler's decision was then sent to the Mischling . For this reason too, on 20 February 1944, Hitler expressly ordered that all Mischlinge cases be dealt with by Bormann and submitted to him for final approval. 68 As we have seen, the personal intervention engendered by his racial beliefs could yet lead him at time to contradict his own principle.
Hitler's personal interest was also necessary when according to the racial legislation a number of Mischlinge received a different racial classification than that corresponding to their biological condition. In all these cases, Hitler's personal decision was required to clarify the status of the individual concerned. This was true also of mixed marriages involving Mischlinge, a matter on which Hitler definitely declared that the decisions I kept for myself' ( deren Entscheidung ich mir herbehalten habe ). 69 Hitler decided the position of Mischlinge in state offices, and concomitantly ruled that Mischlinge of the fdegree serving in the bureaucracy were not entitled to medals and honors. Following the attempt on his life on 20 July, his obsession with Jewish influence grew so strong that he ordered that civil servants who were Mischlinge , or who were married to Jews or Mischlinge , could no longer hold high governmental office even if their partners had previously been equalised with Aryans. This new regulation affected a whole range of people in important posts, including an ambassador and a high official in the Ministry of Churches. 70 Against this background, the drafting of Mischlinge into the armed forces was obviously of great interest to him. In another contradictory intervention, he equalised some 260 officers or their wives who were Mischlinge of the first degree 71 , while saying in his table talk that he was convinced that Germany would harm herself by accepting Mischlinge into the army and exemptions should therefore be reduced to a minimum. A Fuehrererlass (Fuehrer decree) of 8 April 1940 declared that only Hitler could grant permits to Mischlinge to serve in the army. The same motive underlay his order that a second-degree female Mischling required his permission to marry if the groom was in active service. 72

If he was so punctilious with respect to the civil service and the army, it is hardly surprising that he was even stricter regarding membership in the Nazi party, which was meant to be a bastion of racial purity. All cases were dealt with individually, although he issued the general instruction that the offspring of political leaders were not to marry Mischlinge even if the latter had received equal status to Germans. 73 Whenever an ambiguous matter prompted bureaucrats to initiate measures, they met with a typical response: wait until Hitler will express himself in the case. Thus, when the Minister of Education tries to establish regulations on the status of the Mischlinge in higher education, Lammers told him that he and Bormann had agreed that the question of Mischlinge of the first degree had to be treated “ dilatorisch ”, and he should avoid regulations that could be considered conclusive until Hitler's decision. 74
This concern not to let over-zealous bureaucrats resort to their own initiative is understandable, in view of the large number of ambiguous cases which could have led to a public discussion of the fate of the Jews during the war. Hitler was not oblivious to the fact that such a discussion could involve tens of thousands of families. For, according to the census of 1939, there were some 72,000 Mischlinge of the first degree, some 39,000 of the second degree and tens of thousands of higher degrees. And if, as we have shown, his concern over the Mischlinge was so obsessive, it is impossible to assume that his interest in the full Jews would be only marginal. Nor can it be assumed that he would leave antisemitic policy with the bureaucrats and content himself with signing their proposals, and, as Mommsen puts it, relate to the Jews just with chiliastic visions coupled with demagogic rhetoric. It is informative, in this regard, to trace Hitler's fingerprints in the major anti-Jewish legislation, the Nuremberg Laws and some of their implementation ordinances.

Hitler's role in anti-Jewish legislation

To begin with, Hitler was not detached from the preparation of the Nuremberg Laws. These laws were extremely important to his subsequent antisemitic policy and it can hardly be supposed that they emerged out of mere chance as depicted by most functionalists. The function of the Racial Laws was not simply symbolic, for they not only dramatised the exclusion of Jews from German society, but also served another twofold objective. They provided the rationalisation and legitimisation for the campaign of antisemitic riots and arrests, which characterised the summer of 1935, and at the same time they put an end to the instability created by the riots. 75 Certainly, the bureaucrats (who else?) worked on the formulation of the Nuremberg Laws and their implementation ordinances, but this does not mean that they determined the form that these took.
The documentary evidence shows that Hitler did not simply seize upon every suggestion submitted to him, and we know that there were alternative drafts. When he decided to accept one, he did so on the basis of his own distinctive ideas on the Jewish question. Kershaw, expounding the thesis of the impersonal character of Nazi policy, argues that Hitler was vague and elusive on the question of how to define a Jew, leaving it to the Ministry of the Interior and the party to decide. 76 However, the fact is that they were merely to formulate drafts for Hitler to decide. This is clear from his involvement in the formulation of the first implementation ordinance to the Nuremberg Laws, which legally defined a Jew. As we learn from the available documents, the first implementation ordinances to the Nuremberg Laws were reshaped to conform with Hitler's views and only then submitted to him for his signature. 77 Moreover, he went into smallest details. Thus, for example, Lammers told Frick that Hitler had decided to change the formulation of the second paragraph of the sixth article of the first ordinance. 78
On the issue of the segregation of Jewish children, it was Hitler who ordered that the drafting of a law on Jewish schools be stopped. 79 It was he, too, who decided the matter of the employment of German maids with foreign citizenship by Jews. This question had remained unsolved in the third clause of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour, which forbade the employment of German women under 45 in Jewish households. His intervention in the legislation is obvious from the memorandum of the meeting on 24 August 1936. It ends with the clear-cut statement: … considering the interest manifested by the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor on this issue, as stated by Lammers in his letter dated 22 December 1935, the Reich's chancellery should decide whether German maids of foreign citizenship are exempted or not.' And indeed Hitler decided on the basis of political calculations: at one point he rejected the draft of the Ministry of the Interior, and accepted another when the international situation and the German labour market changed. 80

When on June 1936 Himmler spoke of German names to Hitler, the latter mentioned that Jews should not be called Siegfried or Thusnelda. This utterance sufficed to initiate the legislation on the matter. A few months later, immediately after the Olympic games, Bormann ordered Frick to begin drafting a law, adding the word Jude to Jewish surnames. This, as is well known, culminated in the addition, in 1938, of the names Israel and Sara to all names of German Jews. 81
A most instructive example of Hitler's direct intervention in the antisemitic Legislation in 1936-38, when, according to Schleunes, he was not involved at all, is the process that led to the fourth implementation ordinance pursuant to the Law of Citizenship. Issued on 25 July 1938, the ordinance prohibited all Jewish doctors from providing medical services to Aryans. When the topic was raised in the cabinet session on 7 November 1933, there were some 4000 Jewish doctors in Germany out of a total of 55,000. Hitler rejected the idea of ousting Jewish doctors without launching a comprehensive propaganda campaign beforehand, thereby showing neither moderation nor inconsistency but the skill of a political actor who waits for the appropriate moment to make his entrance. 82 He returned to the subject i1937 following a conversation with Reichsarztfuehrer (Party Health Chief) Gerhard Wagner on 14 June. When Wagner spoke of the need to bar all Jewish doctors from medical practice, Hitler replied that he considered this step most necessary and urgent. The issue, he added, was much more important than the removal of Jews from civil service, and he commissioned Lammers to prepare the legal basis for the measure. When Wagner mentioned the financial consequences of such a step, which he estimated at some 10 million RM, Hitler replied that the matter was of such importance, that no financial consshould pose a barrier and the state must cover all expenses. 83
This was not simply a reaction to Wagner's initiative, as it may appear at first glance. The very fact that Pfundtner was ordered to meet Hitler to receive the exact instructions, before the bureaucrats put the legislature machinery into motion, clearly shows that the initiative came from Hitler and none other. He intervened in the bureaucratic process to impose his will and set the pace, when he asked Pfundtner, as Interior Ministry files reveal, to come to Berchtesgaden on 1 September 1937 to discuss various issues, including the question of Jewish doctors. Pfundtner was confidentially instructed to come alone because, as he was told by Lammers, Hitler did not yet want others involved in the matter. 84 Only after the preliminary discussions did Hitler give the green light to the state machinery to start rolling. On 18 December 1937, Staatssekretaer Pfundtner was able to inform Lammers that a draft was being prepared for the fourth implementation ordinance. But the matter was still not left to the discretion of the bureaucrats. While they worked on the exclusion of related professions, we again find Hitler's direct involvement. It was he who decided that the law should limit itself exclusively to Jewish doctors. 85 Kurt Blome, who was in charge of the preparations, ordered that the legislation on other medical professions be dropped until further notice from the Fuehrer. So crucial did Hitler view the issue that Hess asked Lammers to show the draft to Hitler, even though he was certainly preoccupied with the Austrian affair at the time. When the draft was finally ready, it was circulated among all concerned and signed by Hitler. 86
The birth of the eleventh implementation ordinance to the Nuremberg Laws was equally typical of the nature of the policy-making on the Jewish question and of Hitler's role in it. From December 1940 on, representatives of various state and party agencies began discussing the eleventh implementation ordinance, which was aimed at revoking the citizenship of German Jews. The Nazi regime became concerned with this matter in the process of regulating citizenship in the expanded Nazi State. As a result of the territorial expansion, the Nazi empire included millions of people who, by the Nazi race categories, had kindred blood but belonged to other Volk and could not therefore have the same rights as Germans. In the future, the plan was to grant citizenship exclusively to German nationals and make this status available to foreigners only after meticulous racial selection. The rest were to be Staatsangehoerige . It would have been equally paradoxical to declare the Jews State protectees since this would have placed the racially related alien nations and the racially alien Jews on the same level. 87 Therefore, in order to avoid these paradoxes, the Ministry of the Interior proposed to revoke the citizenship of all Jews living in Germany and abroad, declaring them stateless. Considering the urgency of the matter and the Foreign Office's wish to promulgate the law simultaneous with the announcement of American aid to England, the bureaucrats were pressed to decide on the matter quickly. At this point, the issue was referred to Hitler. On 27 December 1940, Lammers informed Frick that his suggestion to make the Jews protectees of the German Reich had been firmly rejected by Hitler. Hitler had ordered instead that only the citizenship of Jews living abroad be revoked and their property confiscated. The reason for his moderation, as compared to the more extreme proposal of the bureaucrats, is revealed in Lammers' correspondence to Bormann. Lammers confided that Hitler took issue with the draft prepared by the Ministry of the Interior, because he thought that after the war there would no Jews in Germany anyhow, and because he was fully aware of the complications the proposal would create for the “privileged” mixed marriages. Deportations would cause unrest among the German relatives. This case also exemplifies the difference between the leader and the bureaucrat in the Nazi State. The bureaucrat was concerned with the legal issue of measures such as deportation being taken against citizens. He suggested, therefore, that the Jews be deprived of their citizenship and then be deported as foreigners. Hitler was much more practical and characteristically simplified the matter. Once Hitler's decision was received, the open questions of the eleventh ordinance of implementation were discussed on 1 October 1941, and the ordinance was eventually issued on 25 November 1941. 88
In summation, the present study has shown that Hitler's active involvement can be seen clearly though a meticulous and detailed analysis of his place in the decision-making process. The functionalist views that the elimination of the Jews was a vague, ideological imperative, that Hitler took little part in the formulation of policy, and that his chief role was to set the vicious tone and provide sanction and legitimisation for initiatives which came mostly from others, are thus highly disputable. In this author's view, Hitler's ideology was an undeniably powerful factor in the shaping of Nazi antisemitic policy and the relationship between ideology and policy was one of interaction. It was a two-way process in which the policy-making was subjected to the dual influence of theoretical conceptions on the one hand, and practical considerations on the other.
Hitler was not the prisoner of forces, but rather their creator. He was not unwilling to take decisions, but he was led by ideological obsessions which became policy when implemented by his bureaucrats. On crucial issues, he dominated the decision-making process. He was, as Allan Bullock puts it, a mixture of calculation and fanaticism 89 , with a preconceived goal: the total removal of all Jews. He conceived, initiated and directed the entire process which, once it started, took on a momentum of its own, a self-propelling force advanced by party officials and bureaucrats. Without any doubt, the latter were Hitler's tools and not independent figures.

References:

52 ND, NG 1656.
53 ND, NG 5170; cf. Hilberg, op. cit. , pp. 110¯11.
54 ND, NG 287.
55 Gauleitung Westfalen Sued to Wiedemann, 8 August 1935, BA NS 10/550e.
56 Decree of October 1935, Joseph Walk (Ed.), Das Sonderrecht fuer die Juden im NS-Staat , (Heidelberg: C. F. Mueller, 1981), II, p. 34.
57 Ibid. , III, p. 140.
58 For example the case of party member Mansfeld who was allowed to stay in the party despite his Jewish grandfather. See Wiedemann, 23 October 1936, BA NS 10/223. cf. the circular of the Ministry of the Interior on the matter, 26 July 1937, R 18/5645.
59 On what he considered a tender-hearted treatment of Mischlinge; see his address to the highest Reich officials on 20 July 1942, NS, NG 4819. On the equalisation see: NS, NG 2586 and NG 2982.
60 BA R 43 II/1648, cf. BA R 55/711.
61 Hess to Ministry of the Interior, 28 June 1937, BA NS 10/1153b.
62 Ministry of Interior, 9 December 1935, BA R 18/5514.
63 See the correspondence: Hess to Lammers 3 August 1938, Bormann to Ministry of the Interior, 12 October 1938; Hitler's decision mentioned in Lammers to Hess, 2 November 1938, BA R 43 II/939a.
64 Lammers to Bormann, 1 November 1938, BA R 43 II/1145b.
65 Ministry of the Interior to Lammers, 13 January 1939, and Hitler's response, 1 February 1939, R 43 II/1136b.
66 Bormann to Mutschmann, BA R 2/31097.
67 Hitler's Table Talk , op. cit. , p. 545.
68 BA R 43 II/1648; cf. BA R 55/711 and ND, NG 998.
69 On Mischlinge policy, BA R 43 II/941; BA NS 19/199; AA Inland II/g 177, 179.
70 Bormann to Lammers, 2 November 1944, BA R 43 II/599.
71 Stuckart to Himmler, September 1942 ND, NG 2982.
72 BA NS 10/338.
73 Adjudantur der Wehrmacht Major Engel to OKW, 2 November 1943, BA R2/31097.
74 Lammers to Ministry of the Interior, 18 February 1942, R 43 II/941.
75 On the Nuremberg Laws see: Lothar Gruchmann, “Blutschutzgesetz” und Justiz. Zur Entstehung und Auswirkung des Nuernberger Gesetzes vom 15. September 1935', Vierteljahreshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte 31 (1983), 418-442; Otto D. Kulk, “Die Nuernberger Rassengesetze und die deutsche Bevoelkerung im Lichte Geheimer NS-Lage und Stimmungsberichte”, ibid. , 32 (1984), 582-624.
76 Kershaw, op. cit. , p. 94.
77 Stuckardt to Pfundtner, 7 November 1935, BA R 18/5514.
78 I find it difficult to agree with Mommsen's interpretation that Bormann persuaded Hitler to issue a secret instruction on the first ordinance, Mommsen, op. cit., p. 105. The document, if we both refer to the same one, does not mention Bormann, but says that Hitler indicated to Lammers to tell Frick to introduce a specific change. See: Lammers to Frick, 20 February 1936, BA R 43 II/1555.
79 Lammers to Minister of Education, 30 September 1936, ND, NG 1256.
80 Memorandumof the meeting held on 24 August 1936, BA R 18/5514; Ministof the Interior's circular, 23 February 1937, ibid. On Hitler's personal intervention in this issue, Ministry of the Interior, 25 May 1938, ND, NG 347.
81 Adam, op. cit. , pp. 156-7.
82 Idem, ibid. , p. 67.
83 BA, R 43 II/733.
84 Lammers to Pfundtner, 21 August 1937, BA R 18/5516.
85 Pfundtner to Lammers, 24 January 1938, ibid.
86 Hess to Lammers, 17 March 1938; Pfundtner to Lammers, 11 June 1938, ibid.
87 The Reich Citizenship Law of September 1935 stated that only Germans or those people with related blood could be citizens of the Reich. German Jews lost their rights due to this law which made them Staatsangehoerige (state subjects) whereas the “Aryan” Germans were declared Reichsbuerger (citizens of the Reich); On the background of this period and the population problems, see most recently: Christopher R. Browning, “Nazi Resettlement Policy and the Search for a Solution to the Jewish Question, 1939-1941” German Studies Review 10 (1986), 497-519.
88 On the arduous preparations of the 11th ordinance see among the many documents the circulars of the Ministry of the Interior of 3 January and 19 March 1941; Hess to Ministry of the Interior, 24 March 1941, files in BA R 43 II/136a; AA, Inland II A/B 121/2, Hitler's rejection of the revocation of citizenship in BA R 2/511; Hitler's decision to limit the revocation of citizenship to Jews living abroad: Lammers to Ministry of the Interior, 7 June and 27 September 1941, BA R 18/5519.
89 Allan Bullock, Hitler, A Study in Tyranny (London: Pelican Books, 1969).





Back to the top