The Jewish Enemy
Excerpts from: HERF, Jeffrey (2006). The Jewish Enemy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
2—There was, of course, an abyss between Nazis propaganda that presented the Third Reich as the innocent victim of others' malice and the reality of Hitler's long-planned policy of expansion and aggression. This gap tempted contemporaries to assume that the propaganda was merely a manipulative means used by cynics who were fully aware that it reversed the chronology of events that their own aggressive plans had set in motion.
Yet some contemporary observers concluded that the Nazis believed their own paranoid logic. The literary scholar and diarist Viktor Klemperer wrote in his diary in 1944, soon after D-day: “However much I resisted it, the Jew is in every respect the center of the language of the Third Reich. Indeed of its whole view of the epoch.”
2—It was “this gigantic persecution mania, this paranoiac myth that [held] the various strands of German propaganda together.” Gombrich concluded that what characterized Nazi propaganda was “less the lie than the imposition of a paranoiac pattern on world events.”
3—Historians have amply documented what Saul Friedlander has called Hitler’s early “redemptive anti-Semitism,” which combined paranoid fantasy about an all-powerful international Jewry with promises of redeeming and saving Germany from that pernicious influence.
5—Hitler was the central, decisive historical actor driving events toward the war and the Holocaust. Yet the propaganda of the Nazis party and Nazis regime presented Hitler and Germany as merely responding to the initiatives, injustices, and threats of others. It was a propaganda that trumpeted innocence and self-righteous indignation and turned the power relations between Germany and the Jews upside down: Germany was the innocent victim; Jewry was all powerful.
5—Hitler and his leading propagandists were able to entertain completely contradictory versions of events simultaneously, one rooted in the grandiose idea of a master race and world domination, the other in the self-pitying paranoia of the innocent beleaguered victim. Grandiosity and paranoia were two poles of one fanatical ideology.
6—Like other practitioners of paranoid politics before and after, the Nazis believed they had uncovered deep secrets of modern history and politics, secrets that the great mass of humanity, mired in events, failed to grasp.
7—Radical anti-Semitism rested on the belief that the Jews were a cohesive, politically active subject—that is, a group united on a global scale by racial bonds that transcended any allegiance to nation-states. In the Nazi view, this powerful and autonomous entity, international Jewry, controlled assorted stooges and accomplices who served its evil interests.
7—If not identified and destroyed, the Nazis propagandists feared, Jewry would annihilate the German people. As a result, Hitler and his associates publicly declared on numerous occasions that they would “exterminate” Jews before the Jews could exterminate the Germans.
9—With the ensuing explosion of scholarship about the Holocaust, two scholarly communities emerged. One, composed of military historians, continued to focus on the conventional battlefield narratives of World War II, while the second examined the history of the Holocaust in more detail.
9—Dawidowicz’s phrase “the war against the Jews” still evokes in our minds specifically the mass murder of European Jewry. The time has come to reach a more inclusive understanding of “the war against the Jews,” one in which World War II plays a critical role.
9-10—When the Nazis leaders, in private conversations, office memos, or public statements, drew a connection between the Jews and World War II, they were referring to World War II and the Holocaust taken together as one apocalyptic battle. They did not limit the meaning of their war against what they called International Jewry to the Final Solution.
Instead, they viewed the Final Solution, the details of which they never discussed in public, as a necessary campaign of retaliation in the context of a broader war of defense waged against international Jewry, world Jewry, and less frequently “the Jews.” In the minds and public assertions of the Nazis leaders, they were fighting a single war that pitted Germany and its allies against a colossal international conspiracy of nonequals driven by Jewish figures working behind the scenes, while their non-Jewish accomplices, primarily the Allies, were the enemy's public façade.
The Nazis narrative attributed enormous autonomy and power to the Jews, while denying those attributes to the nominal leaders of the most powerful nations in the world, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin, whom it identified as the Jews “puppets, accomplices, stooges, and servants.”
10—Nazis Germany saw its enemy as a conspiracy of nonequals. International Jewry stood at its center, pulling the wires that controlled their stooges, the leaders of the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the United States. From the months preceding the beginning of the war in September 1939 up until Hitler's last days in the bunker in Berlin, the Nazis narrative presented World War II and the intent to exterminate European Jewry as components of a war of defense against an act of aggression launched, escalated, and then carried to a victorious conclusion by an immensely powerful international Jewish conspiracy.
12—The Nazi regime strove to assimilate extraordinary and genocidal language into a seemingly ordinary or more conventional narrative of war.
36—In the central forum of political representation, the Reichstag, Jews were significantly underrepresented. Of the 577 members of parliament elected on September 14, 1930, 17 were of Jewish origin, and of the 608 members elected on July 31, 1932, 14 were of Jewish origin. The conspiratorial nation of vast Jewish power had no factual basis.
37—By the end of 1933, 37,000 of the 525,000 Jews in Germany had already left the country. To anyone not imbued with Nazi ideology, it was obvious that the Nazi regime had launched a campaign of persecution against a small minority that had no access to the instruments necessary to wage “war” against Nazi Germany or any other nation-state.
38—The Nazis as nationalists were enemies of the Jews because “nationalism is the doctrine of blood and race,” while “the Jewish enemy and destroyer of blood-based unity, the conscious destroyer of our race.
41—Bolshevism, he said, was the Jews’ “declaration of war” against culture. It would bring about “the absolute destruction” of the accomplishments of the West in the interest of a “rootless and nomadic international clique of conspirators.”
42—This effort at unmasking was central to National Socialism's “world mission” of preventing the “international Bolshevization of the world.” Goebbels posed the Bolshevik threat as one of life and death. The Bolsheviks were openly planning the extermination of peoples and states” as well as the “destruction of the bourgeois world.”
In 1935, Goebbels accustomed his listeners to hearing the words “extermination” and “destruction” applied to the goals of the “Judo-Marxist domination by force” in Moscow. The propaganda minister asked who the “men [were] behind the effort to poison the world.” His answer was that the Bolshevik International was “in reality a Jewish International.”
Bolshevik materialism was waging a “battle against Western culture” in the interest of “international Jewry.” The Nazis wearer defending Western culture from “complete destruction.” In Nuremberg Goebbels associated National Socialism with the salvation, not the destruction, of Europe, and indeed of the West as a whole. Nazis Germany claimed the mantle of defender of the West.
The theme of the Nuremberg Party Rally of 1936 was the “World Danger of Bolshevism.” In his speech of September 9, Hitler said, “We all know that Bolshevism's goal is to exterminate (auszurotten) the existing blood and organically rooted peoples' leadership and to replace it with Jewish elements alien to the Aryan peoples.”
43—Goebbels presented Nazis Germany as a David courageously standing up to the Goliath of Jewish power. Because the Jews aimed at world domination, the struggle against them was “in the truest sense of the word a global battle.
43—In his speech at the Nuremberg Rally of September 13, 1937, Hitler returned to the supposedly dominant influence of the Jews on politics and economics.
43—He repeated his false assertion that Jews occupied “98 percent of leading positions” in the Soviet Union.
48—A memo from the German Foreign Office of January 1939, “The Jewish Question as a Factor in Foreign Policy in 1939,” described the United States as the “headquarters” of “world Jewry” and asserted that Roosevelt has surrounded himself with Jewish advisers.
51—On January 30, 1939, in his annual speech to the Reichstag and eight months before he invaded Poland, he presented what became the core Nazi narrative of the coming conflict. He accused international Jewry of planning to exterminate—that is, to kill—all the German people. Hitler was a the peak of his power and popularity in Germany at that moment.
51—Halfway through the more than two-hour Reichstag address, Hitler mentioned “the Jewish world enemy” that had been defeated “within Germany” but now confronted it from abroad.
53—By “international Jewry,” Hitler had in mind an international conspiracy operating behind the scenes and dominating government policy in the Soviet Union, England, and the United States. Invisible to those lacking the insight provided by Nazi ideology, this conspiracy was perceived by Hitler and his henchmen as the driving force of modern history.
53—Hitler’s “prophecy” of January 30, 1939, postulated an existing historical subject called international Jewry, a threat as real to him and the rest of the Nazi elite as the nation-states of the Soviet Union, Britain, France and the United States. For the Nazis it was Jewry, present both “inside and outside Europe,” that had as its war aim the extermination of the German people.
93—Operation Barbarossa came as a total surprise to Stalin, who had steadfastly refused to believe the tidal wave of reports from his own and foreign intelligence services accurately predicting the coming invasion.
93—In the first weeks and months of the invasion, Soviet armed forces were so badly prepared that by fall 1941 more than three million soldiers had been taken prisoner. Nothing in Stalin's actions before the German attack or in the course of events in summer and fall 1941 supported the Nazi claim of an imminent Soviet attack.
These facts caused no problem for the regime's anti-Semitic interpretation of the course of events and did not deter Hitler—or, consequently, Goebbels and Dietrich—from repeating the falsehood that the Nazi attack was an example of preventive war.
At his Minister's Conference on June 21, 1941, Goebbels noted, “National Socialism started a movement in the struggle against Bolshevism.” That struggle had been set aside for two years, until Hitler “unmasked the treachery of the Bolshevik rulers.” Goebbels said: “National Socialism and the German people are reverting to the principles that first impelled them—the struggle against plutocracy and Bolshevism.”
95—In his Minister's Conference on June 24, Goebbels said that Germany's propaganda task lay in “uncovering the English–Russian conspiracy.” He saw Churchill's BBC speech two days earlier as “the best proof” of the existence of that conspiracy. The following day Goebbels told his staff that “the old well-known front of capitalism and Bolshevism now reemerged in foreign policy, “as Britain and the United States indicated support for the Soviet Union.
German propaganda should exploit existing anticommunist sentiment in Western Europe and the United States. On June 25, a confidential directive to the press from the Propaganda Ministry instructed its readers that the German invasion was no “isolated battle” but instead represented the uniting of all European peoples against Bolshevism and should be mentioned in connection with the war against England.
The treasonous cooperation of Jewish plutocracy with the Bolsheviks should always be mentioned. In his editorial in Das Reich, “Die alte Front” (The Old Front), on June 26, 1941, Goebbels focused on the formation of the anti-Hitler coalition between Great Britain and the Soviet Union.
95—Given Nazis claims about “Jewish Bolshevism,” it is important to take note of the actual Jews in Soviet political life. Drawing on data gathered at the annual party congresses of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the historian Benjamin Pinkus has assessed the statistical and organizational representation of Jews within the power institutions of the party—the Central Committee, Politburo, Secretariat, and government bureaucracies. He concludes that there was “no historical basis” for claims that the Bolshevik regime was the work of the Jews.
96—As of 1917, roughly 1,000, or about 5%, of the 23,000 members of the Bolshevik party were Jewish.
96—The party census of 1922 showed 19,564 Jewish members, 5.21 percent of the total. By 1927, the 49,627 Jewish members comprised 4.34 percent of all party members. Pinkus estimated the percentage of Jewish members of the party in 1940 at 4.3 percent or less.
96—Nazi propaganda about Jewish domination of the Soviet regime had no basis in reality. It was a complete fantasy.
99—Jewish rule in Moscow was “the absolute ideal of the Jews” seeking “world domination resting on exploitation and terror.” The defeat of the Western plutocrats would be “no less but no more a defeat of Jewry” than would the defeat of Bolshevism. That was why two such seemingly distinct systems “stuck together through thick and thin” and that was why “they both hated a single enemy,” Nazi Germany and its emerging Volksgemeinschaft. In propaganda and policy, Nazism was returning to its core beliefs.
99—On July 21, 1941, the party Reich Propaganda Directorate (RPL) Office of Enlightenment and Speaker Information Materials distributed a pamphlet entitled Germany Has Entered the Fight to the Finish with the Jewish-Bolshevik System of Murder, to guide local Nazi party speakers, propagandists, and officials in relevant propaganda offices around the country.
99-100—Second, officials and party speakers were to present the war as part of Germany's “great struggle for freedom,” which must destroy “a conspiracy among Jews, democrats, Bolsheviks, and reactionaries.”
100-101—Operation Barbarossa represented a return to orthodoxy in two ways. It brought a renewal both of Nazism's the long-standing hatred of “Jewish Bolshevism” and of its argument that an international Jewish plot against Germany was evident in the unfolding events of the war. The pamphlet described Bolshevism as “a system of Jewish criminals and their accomplices whose purpose is the exploitation and enslavement of humanity.
England's decision to ally with the Soviet Union was “a new piece of evidence of the absolute identity of plutocracy and Bolshevism.” Speakers needed to answer the “oft-posed question”—How it is possible that very wealthy English plutocrats and the moneybag dynasties of America are going hand in hand with the (supposedly) anti-capitalist Soviet power holders, for Moscow's victory would mean the end of these wealthy people and strata. Nazi propaganda directly addressed this central paradox of the war with the assertion:
Plutocracy and Bolshevism have one master, the Jews! The answer to this question (why the Soviets, British, and Americans were allied) is found in the idea that both plutocracy and Bolshevism are led by a power whose representatives shape the fate of the people in the same way in all three countries and subject them to its will. That power is international Jewry.
101—Bolshevism and Marxism, founded by “Karl Marx-Mordechai” were the Jews' instrument to achieve the goal of world domination:
This system of chaos, extermination and terror was conceived and led by Jews. It is the action of the Jewish race. Through subversion and propaganda, world Jewry attempts to gather the uprooted and racially inferior elements of all peoples together in order to lead an extermination battle [Vernichtungskampf] [destruction/making into a nothing struggle] against everything positive, against native customs and the nation, against religion and culture, against order and morals. The goal is the introduction of chaos through world revolution and the establishment of a Jewish state under Jewish leadership.
110—Not only did the Jews want the war. The wall newspaper accustomed the reader or viewer to the idea that “world Jewry” was, through its proxies, conducting the war against Germany, so Germany would conduct a war against Jewry until it was “exterminated.”
109-110—The pace at which anti-Semitic messages appeared in Word of the Week wall newspapers series quickened. An edition of summer or fall 1941, “Die Juden haben den Krieg gewollt!” (“The Jews Wanted the War!”) focused on England and the Jews and drew murderous implications from the editors' interpretation of the origins of the war. In bold yellow letters against a blue background, the text made striking assertions. Not only did the Jews want the war. The wall newspaper accustomed the reader or viewer to the idea that “world Jewry” was, through its proxies, conducting the war against Germany, so Germany would conduct a war against Jewry until it was “exterminated”:
In order to subject the world to domination by Jewish money and blood, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, as instruments of world Jewry, have opted for war. They have received war in return! The German army has already delivered decisive blows against its enemies and will not rest until it has achieved final victory and the Jew has been exterminated. Now the richly deserved fate of Jewry will be pitilessly realized. It will perish according to its own law, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” along with those who do its business. Mr. Churchill belongs in the family tree!
122—[From Goebbels’s essay “Die Juden sind Schuld,” (The Jews are Guilty)]:
In this historical dispute every Jew is our enemy, whether he vegetates in a Polish ghetto or scrapes out his parasitic existence in Berlin or Hamburg or blows war trumpets in New York or Washington. Owing to their birth and race, all Jews belong to an international conspiracy against National Socialist Germany. They wish for its defeat and annihilation and do everything in their power to help to bring it about.
129—Among the millions of Germans who walked past this wall newspaper in that second week of December 1941…For those immersed in the Nazi context, it could also convey the impression of a complex, well-researched and compelling casual explanation of why it was that three of the most powerful countries in the world were at war with Nazi Germany. Surely not all the names could be fictional. Surely some part of this conspiracy must exist. The Propaganda Ministry had not pulled Bernard Baruch and Lazar Kaganovich out of thin air. Of course, to people outside Nazi Germany the wall newspaper would have appeared, as it appears today, to be crackpot realism based on a combination of mental derangement, political fantasy, unjustified hatred, pathetically erroneous casual connections, and inferences—all of which amounted to a sick grotesque falsification.
131—On December 11, 1941, Hitler declared war on the United States in a speech to the Reichstag broadcast over German radio and printed in full in the German press. He spoke for almost ninety minutes and reached a crescendo of hatred in his attack on Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Jews around him. His central point was that “a single man,” Roosevelt, “and the forces driving him” were the cause of World War II. “The brain trust that the new American president must serve consists of the members of the same people we fought in Germany as a parasitic appearance o humanity and which we began to push out of (German) public life.”
131-132—Anti-Semitism was at the center of Hitler's attack on Roosevelt. “We know what powers stand behind Roosevelt. It is the eternal Jew who thinks his time has come to inflict on us what we shudder to see and must experience in Soviet Russia.” It was, he continued, “Franklin Roosevelt's and the Jews' intention to destroy one state after another.”
The war was a matter of the “existence or nonexistence” of nations. If given the opportunity, Roosevelt and the Jews “would now exterminate National Socialist Germany.” The United States under Roosevelt was striving for unlimited world domination” and would deny Germany, Italy, and Japan the necessities of national survival.
For the “National Socialists,” he continued, it was “no surprise that the Anglo-Saxon Jewish capitalist world [found] itself in a common front with Bolshevism.” This was the anti-Nazi coalition of the Weimar era projected on to a world stage.”
132-133—[Goebbels]: “As the German people again has sacrificed 160,000 dead in the eastern campaign, so the originators of this conflict must pay [for these deaths] with their own lives.” Hitler again gave the war a casual and inherent, not a contingent or accidental, connection with his intent to exterminate the Jews. As the numbers of German soldiers dying in battle and of German civilians dying in Allied bombings increased, the more the Nazi leadership stressed the supposed connections between an international Jewish conspiracy, the anti-Hitler coalition of the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States, the death and suffering of the German people, and the consequent necessity of carrying out Hitler's prophecy. Nazi propaganda pointed its accusing finger at the Jews as the party guilty for every German death and injury. In so doing, propaganda provided a personal reason to “retaliate” against the Jews. In this way, for millions of Germans, the abstract slogan “The Jews are guilty” assumed direct emotional significance. For those who accepted this logic, Jew hatred would deepen as the numbers of Germans killed and wounded increased. The paranoid projections of Nazi propaganda seemed to emerge in actual experience. The more the Allies turned the tide against the German armed forces, the more Nazi propagandists asserted that the Jews were guilty and would pay for it.
143-144—The first and most widely noted [broadcast] he made on January 30, 1942…Hitler continued, “They hate us, and so we therefore must hate them.” He then turned his attention to Jews and said: “We are clear that the war can come to and end only either with the extermination of the Aryan peoples or with the disappearance of the Jews from Europe … And the further this struggle expands, the more anti-Semitism will spread … It will find support in every prison camp, in every family that finally understands the cause of its suffering. The hour will come when the most evil world enemy of all time at least in the last thousand years will be finished off.”
152—Genocide was the Nazis’ response to international Jewry, which they perceived as a unified historically active, and above all political subject that was waging war against Germany.
152-153—The Nazis viewed Jewry as a political subject as real as and yet more powerful than the governments of the anti-Hitler coalition. This attack on the Jews as a political subject was fully in evidence in Hitler’s third major rhetorical assault on them of April 1942, in a speech to the Reichstag, meeting in what turned out to be its last session. Its final act was to make Hitler’s will the law, unanimously and without discussion.
Parts of the speech, which was broadcast infull on the radio, were excerpted on the front page of Die Judenfrage.
The hidden powers who drove England in 1914 into World War I were Jews. The power that paralyzed us in that war and finally forced us to surrender, with the slogan that Germany may no longer carry its flag home in victory, was a Jewish one. Jews instigate the revolution [of 1918-19] and thereby robbed us of any further ability to resist. Since 1939, Jews have maneuvered the British Empire into its most dangerous crisis. Jews were the carriers of the Bolshevik infection that once threatened to annihilate Europe. They were also at the same time, however, the warmongers among the plutocrats. A circle of Jews, acting only on the basis of Jewish-capitalistic perspectives, has driven America, against all its real interests, into this war. President Roosevelt, in a demonstration of his own lack of ability, has an intellectual brain trust whose leading men I don’t have to mention by name: it is made up only of Jews.
153—Hitler continued by saying that anti-Semitism explained what at first seemed “incomprehensible”—namely, the alliance between the Soviet Union and the Western democracies. “Jewish capitalism” had joined forces with the Bolshevik state dominated by the Jews to fight against have-not nations like Germany and Japan seeking only freedom and independence.
207-208—On May 5, 1943, the party's Reich Propaganda Directory sent a directive, “The Jewish Question as a Domestic and Foreign Policy Weapon.” It asserted that it was “dangerous and false” to allow the Jewish question to disappear from public consciousness after that issue had been “solved in Germany,” because it had emerged even more powerfully abroad. “For this war is a war of Jews against Germany and its allies. Just as the domestic struggle ended with the anti-Semitic revolution in Germany so this war must end with an anti-Semitic world revolution.”
208—Every German must know that everything he or she must endure—the discomforts, restrictions, extra hours at work, bloody terror toward women and children, and the bloody losses on the field of battle—is to be tracked back to the Jews. In every meeting, the following points must be treated:
That the international Jew wanted this war, occupies the most important economic positions among the all the enemy peoples and countries, and ruthlessly uses his power to drive the peoples in to war.
211-212—In a speech to Nazi Gauleiters on May 8, , Hitler stressed that anti-Semitism must again, as in the early years of the party, be at the core of Nazi “cultural offensives.” He hoped that it would spread in England, especially in the Tory party. He repeated his view that the Jews dominated both Bolshevism and western plutocracy, and that the war was a matter of “extermination or of being exterminated.
252—Summer 1944 was devastating for the German armies on both the eastern and the western fronts. From June through October an average of more than 7,200 soldiers died every day. From the time of the invasion of Normandy [June 6, 1944] to the end of October 1944, 1,082,197 German soldiers died in battle. The figures for monthly deaths are as follows: June, 182,178; July, 215, 013; August, 348,960; September, 151,957; and October, 184,089. In all of 1944, 244,891 of those deaths took place on the western front, and 1,232,946 on the eastern front.
Whereas German deaths between 1941 and 1943 on the western front had not exceeded 3 percent of the total from all fronts, in 1944 the figure jumped to about 14 percent. Yet even in the months following D-day, about 68.5 percent of all German battlefield deaths occurred on the eastern front as a Soviet blitzkrieg in response devastated the retreating Wehrmacht.
253—October 1, 1944. By then about 3,700,000 German soldiers had died, countless more had been wounded, hundreds of thousands of civilians had died in bombing raids, and many of Germany's major cities stood to varying degrees in rubble.
255—Who drives the Russians, English, and Americans into the fire and sacrifices masses of foreign lives in a hopeless struggle against the German people? The Jews!
256—Yet more than 450,000 German soldiers died in battle in January 1945 alone, while civilians continued to perish under Allied bombings of German cities. Now Hitler's dire predictions of national extermination may have seemed to many in Germany like a statement about the actual unfolding apocalypse.
German propaganda countered Allied efforts to distinguish between the Nazi government and the German people by pointing to the sinister fate the enemy had in store for all Germans. Only continued obedience to Hitler could stave off the bloodthirsty arbitrariness of the plutocratic-Bolshevik criminal clique.
259—1.4 million German soldiers died in battle between January 1, 1945, and the end of the war on May 8; more than 370,000 died in the last five weeks of the war. More than 500,000 German and Russian soldiers and German civilians died in the Battle of Berlin alone, in the last three weeks of the war.
261—[Hitler] then offered a striking blend of religious and secular themes. As the enemy armies stormed the Reich, he said, “international Jewry froths at the mouth as the driver behind the scenes. It does not want peace until it has realized its satanic goal of the destruction of the world.
265—For the Nazi leadership and many millions of its followers, there were not two distinct events, World War II on the one hand and the Final Solution on the other. Rather, the war against the Jews was in their minds synonymous with World War II—that is, the war against the leading powers of the anti-Hitler coalition, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States.
266—The interweaving of the extraordinary language of genocide with the more ordinary and conventional narrative of warfare was a central feature of Nazism's anti-Semitic propaganda.
267—The Nazis presented the most extraordinary of historical events—indeed, one that was unique—the Holocaust, as an ordinary consequence of the logic of war.
269—Since the formulation of the concept of ideology during the French Revolution, political sophistication in modern politics has meant looking beyond manifest statements for their latent or real meaning and viewing ideas as instruments used for other purposes. This rationalist bias prevented observers across the political spectrum from seeing Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda as anything more than a revolting bundle of rationalizations opportunistically seized upon by base and evil men.
Despite the vast literature on Nazis Germany, World War II, and the Holocaust, the rationalist bias about human motivation has persisted, reinforced by the positivism of the social sciences and challenges to intellectual and cultural history within the discipline of history. Resistance to grasping the power and impact of nonrational and irrational currents in Nazis Germany has been considerable.
Pages 269-270—The Nazis leadership pushed to the extreme the widespread human capacity for delusion and belief in illusions. The assumption that these men did not believe these fantasies relies on an optimistic view of the power of human rationality, justified neither by the events of modern history nor by our now widespread awareness of the role of nonrational forces in human experience.
The weight of evidence leads to the conclusion that members of the Nazis leadership viewed the world in the way that they said they did, and supplied a narrative of events that seemed to offer an iron-clad explanation of them as well as justification for uniting ideology and practice in war and mass murder.
Page 270—From the diplomacy of expansion in the 1930's to the wars of aggression begun between 1939 and 1941 and then the Holocaust. Hitler's policies drove events forward. In these same years, Nazis propaganda asserted that precisely the opposite was the case, and that Nazis Germany was merely responding to threats and actual attacks launched against it by others.
Nazis propaganda presented more paranoia than grandiosity, more assertions of outraged innocence than blueprints for Aryan world domination. This is true even of the infamous prophecy of January 30, 1939, by Hitler. Knowing he was planning to unleash a war as soon as possible, he ordered his propagandists to assert that exactly the opposite was taking place—namely, that international Jewry was about to launch and implement a war of extermination against Germany and the Germans.
Pages 270-271—Hitler's violation of the elementary logic of chronology and cause and effect was so flagrant that it was and remains tempting to view his assertions as cynical tools that would work to convince only the most naïve of fanatics. Mutually contradictory though they were, grandiose visions of world domination by a master race coexisted with the paranoia of the righteously indignant innocent victim.
If sheer repetition, in public and private contexts, can be taken as proof of belief, then it appears that Hitler, Goebbels, Dietrich, their staffs, and an undetermined percentage of German listeners and readers believed that an international Jewish conspiracy was the driving force behind the anti-Hitler coalition in World War II. If they regarded this aspect of their own propaganda with cynicism, they did not leave much trace of that skepticism behind.
Yet the sources point to the presence of true believers. They certainly acted as if the Final Solution was Nazi Germany's punishment of the Jews, whom the Nazis found guilty of starting and prolonging World War II. Sincerity of belief was a secondary matter.
As E.H. Gombrich put it, the myth of an all-powerful enveloping conspiracy “becomes self-confirming. Once you are entrapped in this illusionary universe it will become reality for if you fight everybody, everybody will fight you, and the less mercy you show, the more you commit your side to a fight to the finish. When you have been caught in this vicious circle there really is no escape.
271—[Hitler and Goebbels] called their own institution the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and propaganda. Heirs to an age of suspicion of all ideologies, they were modernists of a crackpot sort who believed they had discovered the real truth lurking hidden behind the scenes. They believed that they understood the way the world really worked better than did the masses mired in contingency and trapped by common sense.