One of the reasons behind Adolf Hitler’s decision to begin another world war and persecute the Jews at the same time may be his overconfidence. After establishing the Third Reich, Hitler monopolized political power in Germany for several years, and by 1938 almost no one could openly resist the Nazis (Orlow, 2018). The Führer was convinced that he needed to surround himself with “unquestioning and sycophantic men” in order to achieve his goals (Orlow, 2018, p. 200). Hitler managed to take control of the armed forces and placed one of his devoted followers in the leading position of the military powers (Orlow, 2018). Prior to the collapse of the Third Reich, the country had been governed solely by Hitler and his Nazi proponents (Orlow, 2018). As Adolf Hitler was spreading his influence across Germany, he became more assured of his ability to conquer the world.
Hitler was the main agent of the Nazi ideology and was confirmed that other nations must follow his lead. According to Orlow (2018), Hitler was obsessed with subjecting the European continent to the Nazi regime. In 1937, the Führer believed that Germany had military advantages over France and Great Britain due to specifics of rearmament programs and was convinced that it was time to begin his conquest (Orlow, 2018). Furthermore, the Nazis chose Austria as their first objective because the country’s political state was not stable, and its people were similar to Germans in terms of language and culture (Orlow, 2018). Moreover, many people in Austria, especially the younger population, supported the Nazi regime that promised financial growth (Orlow, 2018). As Hitler took control over Austria, Germany increased its political, diplomatic, and economic forces (Orlow, 2018). While hiding his ambitions to rule over European countries, the Führer was strengthening Germany’s forces and preparing to attack neighboring territories (Orlow, 2018). Hitler committed himself and the followers of his ideology to world war because the dictator was determined to govern other nations and was sure that Germany had accumulated enough power.
At the same time, one of Hitler’s priorities was the persecution of the Jews. Orlow (2018) states that the Holocaust, “the systematic program of genocide,” was “an essential part” of the Nazi’s conquest (p. 220). During the earlier years of the Third Reich, the Nazis enacted policies that discriminated against the Jews in terms of occupation, marriage, and citizenship (Orlow, 2018). The government initiated and facilitated violence against Jewish people and their businesses, but the Nazis also relied on the Jews when it served the regime’s purposes (Orlow, 2018). However, the organized planning for the Holocaust began in 1939 and concentrated on the “ghettoization of Europe’s Jews” (Orlow, 2018, p. 222). Historians debate whether the timing of the Holocaust and World War II were always linked or if the genocide emanated gradually from a combination of factors (Orlow, 2018). One can argue that Hitler decided to prioritize the destruction of the Jews during the war because his beliefs did not allow for the Jewish people to exist in the territories the Nazis began occupying.
Adolf Hitler’s opinions regarding the war and the genocide are reflected in his book Mein Kampf. According to Orlow (2018), the autobiography represents Führer’s worldview concerning foreign policy, and Hitler’s ideas were based on “twin foundations: race and space” (p. 178). In particular, when Hitler referred to the matters of race, he perceived the solution to be the elimination of Jewish people from Germany and all of Europe (Orlow, 2018). Notably, it is unclear whether Hitler meant that the Jews should emigrate or be physically exterminated, although, in practice, the dictator focused on the latter option (Orlow, 2018). Furthermore, when Hitler addressed space, he implied that Germany needed “living space” and could obtain new territories by evading Eastern Europe and Russia (Orlow, 2018, p. 178). Consequently, one can assume that Hitler had intentionally planned to persecute the Jews during the world war to accomplish his foreign policy goals.
Hitler’s decision to pursue the two diverse goals at the same time contributed to Germany’s defeat in World War II. Each step of the Nazis’ forces from 1938 was outlined by Hitler and initially demonstrated the Führer’s approach to balance-of-power politics (Orlow, 2018). The Nazis succeeded in some significant battles, but Hitler’s plans started failing by the end of 1941 (Orlow, 2018). In 1942, Hitler probably realized that Germany could not win the war, and the Nazis decided to concentrate on the extermination of the Jews (Orlow, 2018). As a result, the Führer sought to gain time for the Holocaust and prioritized transporting Jewish people between camps over delivering supplies for the troops (Orlow, 2018). The Nazi army received the last written command from Hitler in 1943, and the document reflected “illusion and wishful thinking” (Orlow, 2018, p. 229). While the dictator could not realistically assess the resources of his country and those of the opponents, the Germans started disengaging from the Nazi regime (Orlow, 2018). Hitler’s determination to simultaneously lead the war and persecute the Jews was one of the primary factors behind Germany’s failure.
Orlow, D. (2018). A history of modern Germany: 1871 to present (8th ed.). Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.