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The Holocaust and the Cold War - Essay Example

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The Holocaust and the Cold War

Early German nationalism originated out of the political effort to unify the German states into a cohesive nation state and the ideology which supported this political program. The ideology was a quite mystical doctrine, deriving from Herder, Fichte, Hegel, according to which, the German nation is a super-organism with a 'will' and 'spirit' of its own, and the German citizen is someone not at all free as to will and rights, but merely a cell or component part of the state organism and subject to its super-ordinate 'will'. Hegel, Herder and Fichte's thesis that a nation is defined by its culture and principally its language, provided the theoretical and ideological foundation for the typical German nationalist view, that all German-speaking people and the land upon which they reside form a metaphysical whole, an organic nation, destined to become a unified and sovereign German state (Blaut, p.58).
The original German doctrine acquired a strong flavor of expansive nationalism with the addition of Ratzel's theory of Lebensraum, 'living space', during the Bismarck era. According to this theory, the German national organism, like all other organisms, has the inherent need, and therefore, the inherent moral right, to grow and thus to expand (Blaut, p.35). This theory of Lebensraum found its practical expression and fulfillment beyond the Bismarckian era into that of Nazi Germany.

On January 30, 1933; an Austrian born German, by faith a Catholic, was declared Chancellor of Germany by President Hindenburg, with the support of the Conservatives and the Army, in an entirely constitutional manner. That fateful day, when Adolf Hitler was sworn in at 5 p.m., the German people imposed upon themselves and upon the world a Nazi tyranny, the kind of which had never before been experienced anywhere on earth. As he stood on the balcony of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, the huge crowd below felicitated him as their Fuhrer, their Leader and their Messiah, who would make the German nation and its people greater than any other nation or any other race in the world.

Only fifteen years back, he was almost a non-entity. He had enlisted in the army and had to be hospitalized after being almost blinded by gas in Wervik, near Flanders in Belgium. It was there on November 10, 1918, a dreary and dark autumn Sunday that Hitler sank into the depth of his ordeals in hearing about what he termed as "the greatest villainy of the century." (Shirer, p.52) The local pastor, "a reverend old gentleman" who came to the hospital to make an important announcement, informed them that the "Great War" had ended. Germany had lost the First World War, the Kaiser and all the German princes had abdicated and Germany had become a Republic. (Vrerkhem p.3&4) Germany would have to obey the terms laid down in the Armistice and would also have to bear the heavy burdens of the war. This historic event shaped Hitler's own future and the future of Germany. He tried to glean some information about the events that led to the Armistice and what he learnt only hardened him against the Marxists and the Jews. He could not forgive the Marxists for what he considered as their betrayal of Emperor William II who had for the first time extended his hand of friendship towards them. (This however is in contradiction with his later action. It is believed that at least till May 1919 he associated himself with socialist ...Show more

Summary

The Holocaust and the Cold War had one feature, at least, in common: annihilation of difference and dissidence. In both, nationalism was the instrument which was used to underline and justify annihilation. Nationalism is a force that can be appropriated in different ways…
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