Bryan Caplan  

Why Hitler Chose the Jews

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A reader sent me an excerpt from a fascinating interview with Hitler (by one Major Josef Hell) on why he singled out the Jews for extermination:

When I now broached the question of what the source of his so strongly felt hatred for the Jews was, and why he wanted to destroy this so undeniably intelligent race - a race to which the Germans and all other Aryans, if not the entire world, owed an incalculable debt in virtually all fields of art and knowledge, research and economics - Hitler suddenly calmed down and gave this unexpectedly sober and almost dispassionate explanation:
It is manifestly clear and has been proven in practice and by the facts of all revolutions that a struggle for ideals, for improvements of any kind whatsoever, absolutely must be supplemented with a struggle against some social class or caste.

My object is to create first-rate revolutionary upheavals, regardless of what methods and means I have to use in the process. Earlier revolutions were directed either against the peasants, or the nobility and the clergy, or against dynasties and their network of vassals, but in no case has revolution succeeded without the presence of a lightning rod that could conduct and channel the odium of the general masses.

With this very thing in mind I scanned the revolutionary events of history and put the question to myself against which racial element in Germany can I unleash my propaganda of hate with the greatest prospects of success? I had to find the right kind of victim, and especially one against whom the struggle would make sense, materially speaking. I can assure you that I examined every possible and thinkable solution to this problem, and, weighing every imaginable factor, I came to the conclusion that a campaign against the Jews would be as popular as it would be successful.

In short, Hitler's take on internal hate-mongering directly parallels Göring's take on external hate-mongering.

The lingering mystery in my mind is how people like Hitler could occasionally admit their true strategy without undercutting their public pronouncements. Perhaps that's the reason why Mein Kampf was so poorly written?


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COMMENTS (14 to date)
liberty writes:

The media was not nearly so extensive then. Even now, people are good at talking their way around things, but then a little propaganda could wipe out one interview very easily.

Felix writes:

Spoof alert?

This quote's wording makes it seem like a viral marketing thing for "Liberal Fascism". Notice that the words and rhythm are those that commonly come from "progressives."

"Struggle", "revolution...", "hate", "social classes", "general masses", "victim".

It also has an artificial, edited feel. The setup - the transition from the gushing praise of an "undeniably intelligent race" to the "suddenly calmed down", "sober" images - sounds like something that was not part of the interview, but was added later as spin.

FrankD writes:

Ahh, like always, Hitlers views are refreshing. He hit the nail right on the head

Sisyphus writes:

Felix, the link goes to the Nizkor Project, which at least appears to be legitimate.

Why are you surprised that Hitler may have revealed his true motivations and yet still succeeded? Politicians in countries around the world spin various facts and arguments to achieve other goals, like splitting the opposing party's base or encouraging some part of their party's base.

I am in no way comparing Clinton and his administration to Hitler in terms of moral choices, but Clinton's administration was quite capable of telling the media how they wanted to spin a story, then spinning the story that way, and getting coverage that included both the spin and quotes about the spin the Clinton administration wanted that somehow still achieved the desired effect of the spin. The same techniques have been used by Republican administrations, too, as well European and other democratic leaders. It goes to show that even telling people how you are manipulating them will not prevent them from being manipulated.

Felix writes:

Sisyphus, yes, I followed the link and assumed that it was, indeed, "real" and not a plant. But the whole thing is so ... oddly worded that reading it is a bit like reading something with atrocious grammar. The meaning is swamped by the package.

The word choices may have been the translator's. And, in the days before personal recorders the artificial sounding lead-in to the quote may have been the expected interview write-up style. Hitler 's words got a good deal of audio-to-text cleanup, at the least.

The effect of all this is that it just seems "off" and unreliable.

Rich writes:

I had the same reaction as Felix. It seems suspicious. (But I acknowledge that I would have that reaction to anything that challenged my priors.) Does the interview go on to explain why he would want to "create first-rate revolutionary upheavals" in the first place?

Consider a criminological take on the question. In some cases, the crime is chosen before the victim (e.g., robbery). In other cases, the victim is chosen before the crime (e.g., retribution). I think Felix and I assumed that National Socialism was the latter; the interview argues for the former. That is a big leap.

Zoran Lazarevic writes:

You can see the interview on Google books: page 28 of Hitler and the Final Solution By Gerald Fleming

Thomas writes:

The fact that you are surprised that Hitler spoke like a revolutionary indicates why we need books like Liberal Fascism.

Pedant writes:

You can get Thomas Sowell's "Are Jews Generic?" here. Amy Chua's "World on Fire" is also informative on the subject.

Ricky writes:

Read Alice Miller's book "For Your Own Good", she has a large section on why Hitler chose the Jews.

Felix writes:

Rich, I was neither surprised nor not surprised by the gist of the thing. The package around the essential point just seemed a bit too ... too.

For instance, here's a rewrite of the interview that covers the gist but comes across differently because the package is different:

More that 11 years before he was elected in a landslide as Germany's political leader, Adolf Hitler had this to say about why his party made a special point of considering Jews among their political enemies:

"I firmly believe that to achieve a disruptive political change that moves society toward an ideal, those who spearhead the change must contrast themselves against some social class, caste or group. I gave long and deep consideration of what group would serve this role most effectively for our cause."

Etc. etc.

The interesting part of the "gist" to me is the "manifestly clear" part - that there must be class or caste, etc. Is this clear and "proven in practice"? If so, what are the implications? If not, what's an example?

Adam Ricketson writes:

I disagree with this interpretation:

...why he singled out the Jews for extermination

They weren't "singled out" for exterminations. Other groups, such as Gypsies were also the target of death-camp genocide, while other nationalities were subject to semi-genocidal policies. I think this only indicates why he singled them out as a propaganda focus.

Pedant writes:

I meant to link here.

Russ Birdran writes:

The interview with Hitler probably as true as his diaries.

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