Mobilising Hate: why the German people bought into the Holocaust

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Rioters: Hitler and other Nazi leaders at a rally in Germany, circa 1934 - Universal History Archive
On November 8, 1942, on the eve of the 19th anniversary of the failed Beer Hall Putsch, Adolf Hitler delivered an infamous speech to his most fanatical supporters at the Löwenbräukeller in Munich. After circumnavigating the Allied leaders—show-off Winston Churchill and “half-Jew” Franklin D. Roosevelt—he declared that both were mere puppets of the real enemy: “the international Jew.” He had warned the Jews that the consequence of starting a global conflict would be their annihilation, but they had laughed in his face. "You're not laughing now," said Hitler to thunderous applause. "And those who are won't be for much longer."

Martin Davidson begins Hitler's 1942 speech for two reasons: it came just as the industrial slaughter of European Jews was at its peak, with more than three million men, women and children gassed and shot that year; and Hitler's willingness to speak so openly to ordinary Germans about what was happening - he used the term "annihilation" three times in a sentence - was because he knew he had convinced them enough that his malice towards was more than justified for the Jews: they had humiliated Germany at the end of the First World War and were now getting their compensation.

Davidson is the grandson of lifelong Nazi Bruno Langbehn - the subject of his previous book - and a veteran documentary filmmaker. Two films he recently made for German television about the final stages of the Third Reich provided the starting point for this book-length exploration of how the Holocaust "was conceived, designed, pursued, and carried out with full awareness, by men and women, with political ambitions wouldn't settle for anything less." Not only did these people hate, “they mobilized hate,” hence the title of the book.

The usual key moments are there: the humiliation of defeat in World War I and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles (both of which Hitler blamed the Jews); Hitler's imprisonment after the Beer Hall Putsch (when he was writing Mein Kampf); and the economic collapse of the late 1920s, which pitted ordinary Germans against the Weimar Republic, Kristallnacht, and so on.

But Davidson adds important details, such as Hitler's fascination with biopolitics (the study of the strength and value of a nation's ethnic identity) and geopolitics (how to translate that national strength into power and hegemony). “Only among the Jews,” writes Davidson, “did bio and geo combine; making them more dangerous than (mere) enemies of racial hygiene, who could be dealt with with strict eugenic police. And far more dangerous than any single rival European power that could be taken down with ruthless Realpolitik.”
The story goes on

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