If Hitler didn't exist, would the Holocaust have happened? [Moved from Story Experts]
In my story a time traveler goes back in time to kill Hitler... the story then revolves around him living the past out without Hitler. In my very limited knowledge of WWII, it seems like it still would have happened but not at that scale.
Was there a commander/general/second-in-command that would've taken the helm and went ahead with the Holocaust?
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No. Or yes. It depends on when Hitler was killed. While I could go into specifics, if certain people were not put into power by Hitler and/or certain plans were not put into motion, it would not have happened.
If Adolf were killed as a baby, then a VERY different outcome would have happened. The holocaust as it is in history would never have happened. That does not mean smaller outbreaks of terrible oppression would not have. For instance, Himmler described the camps originally as being used for "political" prisoners.
But also note that the presence of concentration camps does not determine whether a holocaust would happen. Many other countries, including Spain, have used them... Hitler was able to move a country against a particular people, whether it was his goal or not, but most ringleaders are not so successful.
P.S.-- I would also like to note how amazingly difficult it would have been to murder Hitler unless he was an infant or in prison. While it might be interesting to see how it could be done (perhaps years of being a nazi and finally being a general and being a trusted aide), it is not terribly simple.
Last edited by Nick Blaze; 03-07-2011 at 01:56 PM.
practical experience, FTW
be pretty easy when he was studying architecture and art in austria...or incredibly easy during WWI
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I think that the notion that the Holocaust wouldn't have happened without Hitler is giving in to the Nazi ideology of the superman. This is a product of Nazi propaganda, and the fact that so many people believe it shows how powerful propaganda can be, even to decent liberal minded folk. This is rather scary.
I think your story might be more interesting if you focus on the members of the Nazi party that thought Hitler was too liberal, and trying too hard to placate the Americans with his 'Show-Camps'. Many thought the Jews should not be used as slave labour, but simply exterminated, and that it was the Slarvic people that should be in the work camps. This is what fueled the Valkyrie rebellion, and not human decency - like the film suggests.
No. Jews were hated by many pretty much everywhere in the world, the same as any other religion that separates itself from the rest of the people they live with. Mormons are a good example, even Rajneesi's in Oregon much more recently.
For Hitler, who felt the jews 'sold out' Germany after WWI, in which he was gassed and temporily blinded, they were at the top of his list for retribution. Gypsies were not far behind, though I don't know his history with them.
What worked for him in dealing with them, fueled by 'mob mentality' of his friends he put into office, encouraged him to deal with all of his enemies in the same manner.
The superman Neitsche (sp) concept was a strong factor but many populations developed that egocentric stance on a national basis without thinking to come up with the holocost. (the middle east there now? some African powers within their own country?)
Japan came close in WWII, but my knowledge as to how much of that might have been inspired by Hitler's actions is weak. It would have been interesting to see the conflict between those two had the axis won in WWII. Extremely different philosophies, already successful coming head to head with everybody else out of the way?
Without deep though thought I imagine Germany would have used US manufacturing to tilt the board in their favor over a weakened Japan. Interesting that neither had much in the way of natural resources at the beginning of the war. THAT would have been factor to watch as a developing strategy.
If it wasn't Hitler then it would have been someone else. It might not have beent he Jews, but it would have been someone.
There have been many charismatic leaders who incite others to do awful things, history is full of them. The Holocaust as we know it might not have happened if Hitler had been killed, but as others have mentioned, it really depends when and how he was killed.
I think it might be interesting if someone went back, killed him, and then the Holocaust happened anyway,.
The Weimar republic was in crisis and people had lost faith in the German democratic system (for a variety of reasons). If it hadn't been Hitler and the Nazis it'd be something else fairly similar. Politicians having a go at the Jews in Germany at that period was a bit like throwing a tennis ball in a wind tunnel. Jews were increasingly persecuted (offically or unoffically) all over Europe and America. Even if it was the worst in Germany and Russia, these places were not unique by far. There's been loads of reasons offered to why this could have been.
I recommend the "Eichman in Jerusalem" aka "The Banality of Evil" by Hannah Arendt.
Here's a facoid. The Nazi movement/party grew from the Thule Society. This society was initially not anti-Semitic, but as the movement grew in popularity it became increasingly anti-semitic, because that's what people wanted. It's founder was kicked out for that reason alone. It's comforting to see the holocaust as a top down thing, because then we can blame Hitler and everybody else is morally in the clear. But this is a lot more complicated than that which goes to the roots of human behaviour and fears at the time. It's almost impossible to point fingers at any one group or people. It was the zeitgeist.
If Hitler had been killed during the war there is good reasons to speculate that the holocaust would have been stopped purely for economic reasons. It was expensive and took resources desperately needed to fight the war. Unlike what many think, the holocaust was only a financial loss for Germany. That's how market economy works. If you remove a segment from the market, everybody loses, even if you redistribute the assets from the removed segment. This is what happend to Uganda when Idi Amin kicked out the Indians. The holocaust made Germany weaker in every sense and it's likely that there were plenty of anti-semitic Germans at the top who realised this.
Rather than killing him, it would perhaps have been more useful to have seen that the Papal plot to have the army take over in 1941 worked out.
Originally Posted by Noir
A German Army working for the Pope (even a pope as anti-semitic as Pius the XII) almost certainly would not have sent millions of people to death camps or even starved 3 million Russian POWs to death. Plus with the help of the Pope, Germany could have easily taken over the world and imposed a kinder, gentler post-Colonial world by 1950.
It's odd that the only evidence for Pope Pius's anti-Hitler plot comes from an anti-Pope Pius book (well, who isn't anti Pius the XII?) called (oddly enough) Hitler's Pope:
There's only one way to know for sure: take your time machine back and murder him before he got into politics.
How come you are writing a story about Hitler if you have very limited knowledge of WWII?
practical experience, FTW
Weeeeell, the holocaust is not one simple thing that came out of nothing. It was not something that Adolf one decided one day over coffee with the guys.
Originally Posted by Noir
What you have to keep in mind is that Jews, gypsies, tattare, homosexuals, and all the other groups murdered in the camps were universally reviled. Not just by the Nazis. Not just in Germany. All over europe, less in some areas, most in the east.
Google the concept of POGROM and GHETTO. For hundreds of years throughout the entire continent jews were forced to live in specific areas and subject to specific laws. And every once in a while crowds of upstanding decent citizens would descend on them to assault, lynch and plunder them.
This was not something that ended with the middle ages. My grandfather once remarked that the area in the city of Lund where my mother grew up, "Nöden", was the poorest district in town, where only travellers, jews and "Those honest people that could not afford better" lived.
Google EUGENICS and RACIAL HYGIENE. The holocaust was not motivated by hate, it was thought throughout Europe that weeding out the misfits would produce a stronger people. Jews were believed to be of an inferior race and should therefore not be allowed to procreate.
The idea of concentration camps was to separate men and women. and then use them as labor for the good of society.
Note that none if this started with the nazis, nor did it end with the nazis. Swedens forced sterilization program of "unfit" people didn't end until 1976. The US was the first to start a compulsory sterilization program in 1907 and it did not end until 1983, with the last actual sterilization in 1981.
If you wonder what that has to do with anything, the groups that were forcibly sterilized were homosexuals (ironically enough), roma, travellers, atheists, jews, "troublemakers", "promiscious persons", groups that were later systematically murdered.
"Human heredity and Racial Hygiene" by Erwin Baur, Eugen Fischer, and Fritz Lenz was the name of a book that Hitler read in prison and which impressed him incredibly. I recommend that, and The SS-state by Eugen Kogon.
The holocaust background is a convoluted and foul web of authoritarianism, fascism, pseudoscientific rationalization, racism and greed.
Last edited by KQ800; 03-07-2011 at 07:20 PM.
Reason: I spell like a blind monkey!
practical experience, FTW
One way to prevent the Holocaust would be to have a negotiated peace between Britain and Germany before America could enter the war; then you probably wouldn't see the same level of economic pain in Germany that lead to the Nazis becoming so popular. Unfortunately that's likely to be hard for a time traveller to pull off.
That said, the ideas of eugenics and death camps for unpopular minorities seem to have been popular among left-wing intellectuals at the time, particularly in Britain (I seem to remember Bernard Shaw talked openly about gassing those who wouldn't go along with his socialist programs). So perhaps something similar would have happened elsewhere.
Another thing to consider - at that point in history, Communism and Fascism were the two big ideas, both of them with powerful movements behind them, and both of them ended up taking over more countries than Germany. Many people felt they had to pick one, and there were a lot of organizations, movements, propaganda efforts, and strong emotions around it all. There's a thick biography of the Mitford sisters that gives a good cultural overview of how it all went (upper class UK sisters with the full range of individual political opinions, including apolitical).
Hitler was popular among some British upper class supporters who were more afraid of Communism (which threatened to destroy their way of life, and traditional control of their societies). To the point of being a sex symbol.
And the German High Command seems to have supported the Ottoman mass killings of Armenians, and possibly gotten some ideas from them (Germany was very involved in that region, built the train system)...
I don't think you can lift one man out of history and change everything, there are always so many long term forces and factors involved. Strong leaders are vital and influential, and removing one would seriously alter history, but I don't know if you could say it would completely prevent something like the Holocaust.
Originally Posted by KQ800
But I believe the Holocaust as we know it would not have happened without Hitler. You have to remember (know) that Hitler was by all accounts quite charismatic in person and he spent years building his inner circle, his platform. Add to that the times and his oratory skills and he was the match to tinder.
It's the time machine thing. And even Quintin Terrantino has thought of
Originally Posted by waylander
altering history and killing Hitler, so it is certifiably almost a total cliche.
So why not see if it might be a useful thing a time machine could do?
Very interesting hypotheses.
Holocausts have happened with other populations in other places and they have been horrific, just not 6 million people dead horrific. The exact same holocaust might not have happened.
Other interesting scenarios...
What if Hitler was born in the USA instead of Germany ? (or any other country)
What if Hitler had nurturing,loving, supportive parents and grew up feeling cherished?
What if Hitler was born in the 21st century?
Actually, you've got the order of things reversed. Jewish segregation in Europe before the 20th Century was imposed by the Christians, not created by the Jews. Jews might have used their own butcher shops and graveyards, but it was the Christians who created the ghettoes, built the walls, and instituted Jewish "Jim Crow" laws.
Originally Posted by PorterStarrByrd
The wave of anti-Semitism that swept Europe in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries was actually a reaction to Jewish assimilation, not Jewish separatism. This was particularly true in France after its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and in a united Germany under the Kaiser.
As has been stated above, the basic ideas and social problems that fed into fascism (eugenics, anti-semitism, the depression) were already there. You have to remember that Hitler wasn't the brains of the Nazi movement - he was the mouthpiece.
There's a possibility that without his talent as a public speaker, the Nazis wouldn't have gained that kind of momentum, but maybe it would just have taken them longer. Also, I'm pretty sure they'd have found somebody else. Once in power, maybe they'd have approached things differently. Maybe they'd have stuck to their original deportation plans for the Jews instead of killing everybody. Hard to tell.
Your protagonist would have to kill Hitler early, preferrably before the attempted putsch in 1923. This lead to his imprisonment, where he wrote Mein Kampf, and also contributed to the mythical figure he became. After that, killing him would have made him a martyr. And duriing the war, killing him would probably even helped the Germany win the war because according to some strategists, it was Hitler's WWI mind, along with his delusion that he could take on all sides at once, that hindered Germany's efforts.
I hate to break it to people who said no, but there had been holocausts already against the Jews by the Catholic Church. Hitler's is just the most well known and the most efficient. It would have happened again until something as absurd as THE Holocaust happened.
practical experience, FTW
Only if they did it early.
Originally Posted by Max Vaehling
Once Hitler declared war on America I'd say they were pretty much doomed... America had far too much production capacity and was essentially immune to attack from Germany so long as they were throwing most of their effort into fighting the Soviet Union. Once America entered the war Britain knew it could hold out, thereby holding down Nazi troops in France which could have been used in Russia, and large amounts of US hardware was soon on its way to support Stalin.
While Hitler did stupid things after that point, Nazi defeat was really just a matter of time.
Hitler was just the front man. If it hadn't been him it would have been someone else, worse or better, but comparable. The holocaust and WWII were caused by long standing historical grievances and the excessive reparation payments Germany had to pay after WWI.
So bumping off Hitler would not have hindered Holocaust number 73? I'm not so sure holocausts are like pressure in a nozzle; they probably have some historical contigency (after all if in your theory they are modulated, then one modulator could be Hitler or his absence).
Originally Posted by PrincessofPersia
Also, I'm not so sure that the traditional antisemitism of the Church (or of Christianity or of The Gospel of John or other olde antisemitic conconctions) is really exactly the same thing as whatever propelled the holocausts of the 1940s.
Of course it depends on when you kill Hitler. Kill him in 1940 and you might save some victims of the Holocaust, because it is possible the new regime wouldn't put as much emphasis on the death camps (the whole thing seriously hindered Germany's war efforts by diverting manpower and resources). But by that time it was an established policy of the Third Reich and had a momentum of its own. It also depends upon who ended up in charge.
Goring for example was no ideologue. He went along with killing Jews because the Fuhrer wanted it done, but other than the chance to loot Jewish property didn't seem to care very much otherwise. For Himmler, though, it was a raison d'etre (Himmler was also a major league weirdo who would have had to be very lucky to keep power if he'd managed to grab the top spot). More than one alternate history has suggested things might have gone much worse for both Allies and the victims of the Holocaust had Reinhard Heydrich ended up in power, a man with the ruthless efficiency of Goring but the fanaticism of Himmler. The Allies were so worried about him they authorized his assassination in 1942. The town where he was killed was murdered and every single building destroyed.
But in many ways the Nazis were a symptom of what was wrong with Germany at the time, including the fact that Germans simply did not believe they'd been defeated in the first World War. Rather than accept such a thing, they fastened upon the notion they were betrayed by an internal enemy. One should remember that none of the officials who signed the German Armistice at the end of WWI escaped being murdered. And for that matter the only reason the Nazi Party got as many votes as it did was that so many voters liked what they were hearing.
Methinks one of the few things that could have prevented the Holocaust (to a large degree) would be if the Allies had lost the first World War--which almost happened.
But once the Nazis were in power, some form of the Holocaust was virtually inevitable. At least IMHO.
I agree to an extent David. I think the Allies could have won without setting the stage for WWII by simply not enacting such harsh reparations on Germany after the war. Note that in the second war the allies actually worked to re-build Germany and the German people were grateful, eventually becoming some of the strongest allies of their former enemies.
All too true. But what sets the Nazi Holocaust is the planning, the industrial-scale methodical extermination machine for which Adolf Hitler was the central instigator. He was Chairman, and put in place Heinrich Himmler, to be CEO of the operation. And Himmler was damn good at his job.
Originally Posted by KQ800
I can't really come up with a truly parallel instance of this kind of thing, at this level, in human history. Certainly there were despots like Stalin who actually are accountable for even greater numbers of murders, but none that I know of so efficiently organized an effort to single out particular groups of people as fodder for the machine.
So, no, I don't buy into the idea that "if it hadn't been Hitler, it would have been someone else." Not for the concept and structure of the execution industry that was established.