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For the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” to be accomplished by the Nazi, proper planning was desirable, and coordination was critical among pertinent stakeholders. The final solution was a symbolic phrase by the Nazi German, which meant the mission to exterminate the Jewish people not only in German but across other states in mainland Europe in the course of the Second World War (Longerich 34). Nevertheless, as time went by and as the World War II changed dynamics, it became apparent that Hitler and his supporters wanted to murder Jews not only in Europe but also in other parts of the world: a mission which was incepted in 1942 during the Wannsee Conference, and all relevant geopolitical as well as procedural mechanisms put in place in Berlin to spearhead the heinous movement (Kosmala and Verbeeck 12). Consequently, “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was a code for murder of the Jewish ethnicity that began several years before it would culminate during the Holocaust; which would claim more than two thirds of the entire Jewish population in Europe and approximately 90 percent of the Jews in Poland (Kosmala and Verbeeck 65). Indeed, the slow but informed graduation of the Final Solution was strategically engineered by the masterminds of murder, and barely two years to the start of World War II the Jewish ethnicity was already under threat, as the Nazi regime was making all efforts possible to murder any Jew within the German jurisdiction (Longerich 456) . Because of the complicated (to the rest of the world) and the organized (to the Nazi accomplices) nature of the Holocaust, the Final Decision was both an incremental and a prolonged process, rather than an estate of extermination reached by a single decision. There are three fundamental factors which were integral to the enactment of the Holocaust during World War II; and this paper primarily analyses these elements: one, The Children's and T4 Aktion euthanasia programs, two, Operation Reinhard, and three, The Wannsee Conference.
The Children's and T4 Aktion Euthanasia Programs
4, also called T4, symbolically refers to the involuntary euthanasia done in Nazi German; hence the T4 Aktion euthanasia programs (Kurt 12). The involuntary and unjustified euthanasia as far as the law and the practice of human medicine was concerned led to the mass murder of hundreds of thousands (Kurt 78). In central Berlin was located the street of Tiergarten, and it was here that the Chancellery Department had been established to recruit, register, and train the members of the Nazi extremism who administered the T4 program as early as 1940 (Kurt 19). From the onset, when Hitler clenched power in German, he had been advocating for a pure German race, one which he called the Aryans. Therefore, people who were non-Caucasians like Jews were meant to be eliminated from mainstream German society. Furthermore, by 1939, Hitler had declared that all nonproductive people in society were not fit to be alive, because they were burdensome to the economy and culture of the country. Consequently, children with anatomical malfunctions or physiological challenges, the elderly, lame, deaf, and blind people among other physical deformations were at risk. Physicians were like this recruited and instructed to target patients with incurable disease and complicated prognosis, patients who would then be treated to what the Nazi regime termed “Mercy Death” (Longerich 34). By 1939, the Children's and T4 Aktion euthanasia programs were signed by Hitler into law, and stakeholders like Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler
and Karl Brandt
(physicians) were appointed to enforce the new statutes (Kurt 221). The programs hitherto are blueprints of the preparation for the approaching Holocaust during the WWII.
From 1939, T4 euthanasia killings had been launched, and vulnerable people in society including children, the elderly, and the Jews were being killed, and the rates of murder would only escalate as the climax of the WWII (1945) approached (Kurt 78). In Austria and German alone, approximately 300 thousand people were killed in psychiatric centers through euthanasia programs (Kurt 145). Furthermore, tens of thousands more were killed in Moravia and the Protectorate of Bohemia. The destinations under Nazi Germany in the former East German environs also suffered the ills of forced euthanasia. In fact, over time, the Nazi regime became obsessed with euthanasia killings, and the target was not only the sick people in hospital beds but also those who were medically fit and had sought asylum in churches. In most cases, the church leaders in Protestant and Catholic religious institutions cooperated with the Nazi regime to hand over the targeted groups. Nevertheless, the Holy See would warn vehemently in 1940; that extermination of people because of suspected and not only confirmed physical and mental illnesses were in controversy with the moral setting of the human culture, in dispute with the law, and against the medical practices of human medicine (Longerich 111). Unfortunately, authorities in control of the Catholic and Protestant institutions in German did not heed to the advice, and still, the prosecutions through euthanasia continued. During the Third Reich of Hitler, in 1941, Bishop Von Galen organized and led huge demonstrations against The Children's and T4 Aktion euthanasia programs in vain (Kurt 124). The euthanasia atrocities were a strategy by Nazi masterminds to shape up the geopolitical environment for the impending Holocaust.
The goals which engineered the Children's and T4 Aktion euthanasia programs are similar to the objectives that the Nazi regime cited for justifying the Holocaust, and thus the former was a means to achieving the latter. For instance, the compassion to reduce suffering for the children, the elderly, and the sick, the need to reduce pressure for healthcare services on the Germany economy, the urge to cleanse the society and achieve an Aryan race, and the desire to de-escalate the welfare budget were some of the reasons that justified the perpetrators of the Children's and T4 Aktion euthanasia programs (Kurt 59) . In 1941, Aktion T4 practices were officially declared illegal by the international community and concerned parties of human rights (Kosmala and Verbeeck 12). Nevertheless, the Aktion T4 culture was still embraced and practiced by Nazi physicians until the end of the WWII in 1945, when the Axis powers lost it to the Allied forces (Kosmala and Verbeeck 176). From 1939 when the Aktion T4 practices began officially, up to 100 thousand beds had been emptied in general medical facilities and specialized psychiatric centers. Eventually, because of the insightful lessons derived from Aktion T4 killings, new technology was developed by Nazi, Named “Operation Reinhard,” which meant the regime would kill many people by use of poisonous gases rather than euthanasia (Longerich 67). It, therefore, appears based on evidence that Hitler and the proponents of his harsh policies were organized and coordinated on how to achieve the Holocaust. The Children's and T4 Aktion euthanasia programs killed over 200 thousand people in German and approximately 100 thousand others in mainland Europe.
Commonly tagged as Operation Reinhardt, the Operation Reinhard was a program founded by Nazi German to primarily organize, internalize, and accomplish the mission of exterminating Jews in Poland in the course of the WWII (Black 53). Operation Reinhard thrived on the strategically located camps for mass murder through poisonous gassing, well-coordinated efforts by Nazi forces, hence a reflection on the plans of the Hitler squad on enforcing the Holocaust. Gas chambers were built in specific locations like Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec; purposefully meant for implementing the Operation Reinhard. Zyklon B gas was the principal agent used for mass killings in Operation Reinhard, and it was an agricultural chemical imported by the ministry of agriculture under Nazi German to thwart suspicion conceal the primary mission for this killer agent.
The Children's and T4 Aktion euthanasia programs claimed the lives of tens of thousands of innocent people, a situation which compelled hundreds of thousands to flee and settle in isolated groups. Those on the run included Jews, other vulnerable groups like children, women, and the elderly, as well as political dissidents, and Nazi forces would follow them up to force them into brutal labor, leading to thousands of deaths (Black 12). The inhuman treatment had begun as early as 1933, and because the Hitler regime had a vision of finding the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, concentration camps had been built already for this purpose. Because Hitler wanted to eliminate all Jews, the two million Jews in Poland connecting German to Russia were a primary target. One of the generals of Hitler named Reinhard Heydrich would come up with the code “Operation Reinhard” that entailed gassing to death of millions in concentration camps.
The mission of Operation Reinhard was diverse in approach, hence deadly enough to prepare the world unknowingly for the impending Holocaust. The first goal was to kill the two million Jews of Poland, and consequently, they were transported in the guise of being resettled by the German government when in reality they were being taken to gassing camps. At least 2500 people were killed in every 24 hours during Operation Reinhard (Black 68). The second objective was to exploit the Jewish people who had special skills in different fields like law, medicine, engineering, education, and religion so that the Nazi had free and easily accessible labor to facilitate their mass murder. Thirdly, Operation Reinhard would lay the platform for the government to steal resources and wealth that belonged to the Jew who was being taken to gassing camps, and fourth the natural resources like would be seized by Nazi regime in Poland and the vulnerable neighborhoods (Black 17). Therefore, the primary reason for Operation Reinhard was to capture, incarcerate, torture, and kill the Jewish people in a slow manner, which would turn out as significant according to the Nazi plans, by the time the Holocaust unfolded.
The Wannsee Conference
Done in 1942, the Wannsee Conference materialized in Wannsee in Berlin and was exclusively attended by members of the Schutzstaffel and the senior leaders of the Nazi regime (Jasch and Christoph 245). Because the Children's and T4 Aktion euthanasia programs and Operation Reinhard were successfully on course, the Nazi regime felt that increased awareness among the Nazi policy proponents was essential to fasten the trail toward the Holocaust. Consequently, the Wannsee Conference was meant to notify other relevant stakeholders about the urge of “the Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” and the desire for cooperation to accomplish the mission effectively (Jasch and Christoph 97). The meeting put abreast all government departments and senior officials who were central in decision making. Nazi diplomats from abroad and within the country, those in interior ministries and defense establishments were informed to cooperate and facilitate the mass immigration of Jews from across Europe to Poland, where they would be captured under the coercion of government relocation and finally locked up in concentration camps to be gassed (Jasch and Christoph 25). Therefore, necessary strategies to overcome resistance and make the process a success were discussed at the meeting.
Because the phrase Final Solution was a code name for exterminating Jews and the vulnerable in society, the rest of the world was kept in darkness at least for the period within which the Wannsee Conference happened. Furthermore, the stakeholders discussed different means of murder, including gassing, liquidation, and death by torture and hunger (Jasch and Christoph 351). Indeed, the conference was not meant to launch the start of the Jew killings, because already people were being murdered by the Nazi forces. However, the Wannsee conference was a platform for the leadership to reveal their mission to strategic non-Nazi administrators and seek their support in the quest for the Final Solution (Jasch and Christoph 332). No single leader objected to the Nazi leadership policy on Jewish extermination in the meeting, and hence the mission went unopposed.
From the unfolding that dragged the world unknowingly toward the Holocaust as seen in pro-Nazi Children's and T4 Aktion euthanasia programs, Operation Reinhard, and the Wannsee Conference; it appears that the Holocaust was a well-planned experience and not just a one-time decision. On the one hand, the Holocaust was planned before 1939. On the other, the Holocaust evolved throughout World War II in response to changing circumstances. Throughout his reign, Hitler had a mission to achieve a pure German society. A society which he called the “Aryan,” meaning a perfect Caucasian ethnicity without Jews, the elderly, people with physical and mental deformities, as well as children who had no potential to become significant people in society. From the year he captured political power (1933 January), Hitler had a mission to bring a Holocaust to reality. The Children's and T4 Aktion euthanasia programs began on mild practices and would graduate into a full-blown mission by 1939, and by 1942 hundreds of thousands of people had been killed. By the end of the Third Reich, Hitler had killed millions of Jews plus other vulnerable members of the society. Furthermore, the construction of concentration camps which were used as torture centers for the Jewish people was a clear show that the Holocaust was planned before 1939 because it is these camps that would be used as gas chambers during the Holocaust. On the contrary, the plans for the Holocaust evolved, and new strategies were put in place to facilitate the process. Therefore, the course of the WWII shaped the nature of the Holocaust. The war was used as a cover to cloud the mass killings engineered by the Nazi forces. Operation Reinhard is a clear manifestation that the WWII and the Holocaust were interdependent. Furthermore, the Wannsee Conference is an indicator that the curse of war created a need for the evolution of the Holocaust plans to fit the circumstances. Therefore, the Holocaust was both planned before 1939, and it was also shaped by the unfolding on the battlefield.
Black, Peter. “Foot Soldiers of the Final Solution: The Trawniki Training Camp and Operation Reinhard.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 25.1 (2011): 1–99. Web.
Jasch, Hans-Christian, and Kreutzmüller Christoph. The Participants The Men of the Wannsee Conference - Google Books. Berghahn Books, 2017 ISBN 1785336347, 9781785336348, 2017. Web.
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Kurt, Gerstein. The Nazi Slaughter of the Disabled The Euthanasia Program T4 - Kurt Gerstein - Google Books. Ed. Stephen R. Pastore. Grand Mal Press, 2017 ISBN 1937727718, 9781937727710, 2017. Web.
Longerich, Peter. Holocaust : The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews. OUP Oxford, 2010 ISBN 0192804367, 9780192804365, 2010. Web.
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