Why Did Adolf Hitler Hate Jewish People?
The bulk of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party’s outlook toward life were primarily fueled by anti-Semitism. In the following paragraphs, we delve deep and explore events in Hitler’s life that fueled the Führer’s hatred of Jews. But first, here is a concise look at antisemitism in a pre-WWI Europe.
Background of Anti-Semitism in Europe
Hatred of Jews was not born during Hitler’s era. Neither was Hitler the inventor of that hate. Since time immemorial, Jews across Europe and other parts of the world have been brutally discriminated and oppressed in the harshest of ways. It was either because of envy or sheer disgust. Many ancient societies that perpetuated the hate claimed that Jewish people were unable to conform culturally or religiously to the society that they found themselves in.
In the Dark Ages, Jews were persecuted simply because of their religious beliefs. Anger and frustration were usually aimed at them for every slight ill that befell the community. For example, the Jews were used as scapegoat when the Black Plague engulfed large parts of Europe, decimating one-third of Europe’s population. They were falsely accused of poisoning drinking wells.
Many Jews had to be always on a constant alert, looking behind their shoulders. Some had to quickly denounce their faith in order to save their very lives or in order to secure a right to citizenship.
Fast forward to the nineteenth century where the hatred of Jews took on a different turn. In Germany, for example, hatred of the Jews did not primarily stem from their religious beliefs; instead, it came from the perception that the Jews were of different race than the rest of the population. So, regardless of whether a Jew changed faiths by converting to Christianity, the person could still not shake off the discrimination that was aimed at him or her.
In Russia, anti-Semitism was very rife around the later part of the 19th century. There were anti-Jewish riots all across the Russian Empire. The riots were called pogroms. Between 1918 and 1921, about 30-70 thousand Jews were either killed or left homeless. Owing to the unwarranted fear and distrust for Jews in Europe, many of them were confined to live in the ghettos.
Now that it has been established that anti-Semitism had always been rife in Europe, the question that begs answering is: At what point in time did Hitler come into contact with anti-Semitism? And how did his antisemitic ideologies lead to the death of millions and millions of Jews.
Source of Adolf Hitler’s Hatred for the Jews
Hitler’s path towards full hatred of the Jews was a long and arduous one. At least that is according to his book, Mein Kampf – a 1925 autobiographical manifesto that spews out full-blown antisemitic and fascist ideas.
It all started during his time in Vienna, Austria, where he worked as painter from 1907 to 1913. But even at that time he still hadn’t yet become a full-fledged anti-Semite. The fact of the matter is that Hitler did business with a number of Jews in Vienna. Back then, the city of Vienna had quite a large Jewish population. For example, Samuel Morgenstern – a prolific buyer of Hitler’s paintings – was actually a Jew.
Amidst the confusion that was going in his mind, Hitler is believed to have despised the little Jewish roots that he had. Hitler would go on to make sure that all those rumors of his Jewish descent were effectively quashed.
It was also rumored that Hitler in 1907 employed the services of a Jewish physician, Eduard Bloch, to care for his ill mother, Klara Hitler. Klara was suffering from breast cancer. In spite of all the unconventional techniques Bloch used to treat Klara, she still passed away in a very painful manner. Some historians have stated that this incident marked the beginning of Hitler’s hate for Jews. Surprisingly, Hitler did not bear any grudges against Dr. Bloch. He even helped save Bloch’s life, allowing him to immigrate peacefully to the United States.
It is also likely that the trauma that he had to endure during WWII was what went on to mess up his bearings.
Another explanation for Hitler’s hate for the Jews lies in the unverified story that he got infected with a venereal disease from a Jewish prostitute.
In his early 20s, Adolf Hitler took a strong liking to Austrian politicians that were ultra-nationalists. He loved the ideas of nationalists such as Georg Ritter von Schönerer and Karl Lueger. The former campaigned tirelessly for the admission of German-speaking areas of Austria-Hungary into the German empire. Additionally, Schönerer strongly argued that Jews should not be given full rights in German.
Then in Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, several praises were showered on Karl Lueger – a Viennese mayor who used Antisemitism to further enhance his political career. He even described the Viennese mayor as the “the greatest German mayor of all time”. Much of the anti-Semitic language that Hitler used in his monstrous years might have been influenced by the likes of Luegar.
Impact of First World War on Hitler’s thinking
Prior to the breakout of the First World War, Hitler’s career and personal life were in utter shambles. His work as a painter was going nowhere; and at some point in time, the future dictator was very much full of self-hate and disgust. Around that same time, he had been rejected by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. He claimed that his rejection was because the panel members were Jews. Hence, his hatred for the Jews became even more intense.
When WWI broke out, Hitler figured he could reinvent himself by partaking in the war. And he was extremely successful at doing just that. With a clear purpose and brim-full of energy, Hitler joined the German army. Aged 25 by then, he served his country as Germany fought against France, Great Britain, and Russia in WWI. And if we were to go by the award that he received for his exploits during the war, we could say that he fought with some modicum of bravery.
By November 1918, Germany was putting pen to paper and accepting all the demands made on them by the Britain and her allies. Hitler, who had sustained some amount of injuries during WWI, was absolutely distraught when he received news of his beloved Germany surrendering. All the sacrifices he had made during the war were all gone.
It is unclear which one hurt Hitler more: the pain he felt from the poison gas explosion in Belgium or the turmoil that he felt deep in his soul due to Germany’s surrender after WWI.
Such feelings were also influenced by the propaganda spread by a defeated German army. According to some senior German army officers, the Jews and communists in Germany were the ones that stabbed the country in the back. Messages of these sorts were what Hitler latched on to for the rest of his life.
Post World War I
For most budding radical nationalists like Adolf Hitler, Germany’s capitulation, as well as the manner in which the country handled it was an absolute disgrace. Hitler spent years brooding over the defeat.
Unable to make sense of the whole thing, he inched closer and closer to radical groups. He believed that Germany’s political and economic downfall were the making of Jews, Social Democrats, and communists elements in Germany.
For some reason, Hitler had turned a blind eye to the fact that over 100,000 German and Austrian Jews fought for Germany in WWI.
Just as it had been in the past, the ultra-nationalist Germans picked the Jews as the scapegoats. A flurry of attacks was aimed at the Jewish community in Germany. All of these, as well as other factors, culminated in the removal of the German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm shortly after WWI. There were sporadic clashes between the right and left wings.
While all these were happening, Hitler committed himself to perfecting his physical appearance as well as his oratory skills. Soon, he found himself engaged fully in the works of the German Workers’ Party – a party that would later blossom into the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP or the Nazi Party).
Hitler and his Nazi party members became a constant nightmare to those that the party thought were communist or Bolsheviks infiltrated elements from the Soviet Union.
The NSDAP worked very hard to instill the “Aryan” pride in a post-WWI Germany. They aimed their anger and hate towards big businesses, banks, bourgeois and capitalists.
Hitler had gone on record to say that he was not in favor of mindless attacks on the Jews. Rather, his goal, according to him, was “anti-Semitism of the mind”. However, less than a decade down the line, he was neck deep in “aryanization” of Germany – that is, the mindless extermination of Jews and “impure” races across Europe.
By 1921, Hitler was at the helm of his Workers’ Party. The party relied heavily on denigrating the Jews, calling them cancerous to Germany. He placed Germany’s entire problem at the door step of the Jew, comparing the presence of the Jew in the society to that of a disease. Hence, he consistently called on the extermination of them from the country.
Adolf Hitler was also the brain behind pseudo-scientific racist theories that justified the removal of Jews and Marxist from the country. The Nazi Party claimed that the ‘true blood’, i.e. the Aryan race, was one with no physical or mental frailties. According to the Nazis, an Aryan was tall, blue-eyed and blond. By the 1930s, Hitler’s goal was to keep “racially undesirable” Germans out of Germany. The NSDAP tagged German political dissidents, physically or mentally challenged people, and foreign races as “unfit” (Fremdvölkische).
The years leading up to World War II
Hitler wholeheartedly believed that only the true Aryan master race – the true Germans – should be allowed to stay in Germany. As descendants of the ancient Trojans themselves, he came to believe that it was his duty to restore Germany to a place that they once were.
It was not just the Jews that were on the receiving end of Hitler’s radical aryanization programs. Other races such as the Romani, Poles, and Slavs, found themselves persecuted by the Nazi Party. Armed with the passage of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, the Nazi Party had businesses owned by Jews shut down; Jews in the civil service were dismissed; Jews’ were stripped off their property rights; and they were denied other basic human rights because the government considered them non-Aryans (not ‘pure blood’).
In Hitler’s mind, the ills conducted by his regime (the Third Reich) was necessary in order to “cleanse” the German society. Homosexuals, Africans, and Jehovah Witnesses had to flee Hitler’s “racial purity” and eugenics program in search for safe havens across the world.
In the nutshell, Hitler perfected the act of exploiting the economic frustration and anti-Semitic sentiments that were present all across post-WWI Europe. He then used this as his fuel to stride his way into power. In his sick attempt to rid the world off the ‘impure races’, he systematically caused the deaths of about 6 million Jews, as well as many more deaths during WWII.