Did you know that Adolf Hitler, whom a certain type of Indian admires, did not want to murder the millions of Jews that he ultimately ended up killing anyway? Initially, he only wanted to drive all Jews out of Germany and build the pure German blood/Aryan nation of his dreams. He tried many ways to frighten the Jews into voluntarily leaving Germany. He began in July 1933, almost as soon as he rose to power, by stripping naturalised German Jews of their citizenship and civil rights, setting up the basis for deporting Jewish immigrants. Meanwhile, his Nazi Party carried out targeted violence against all Jews, Hitler himself ordered a national boycott of their businesses and barred them from the civil service and from practising in the courts.
Well, you could not blame him for doing what he had promised to do. After all, in Mein Kampf, the Nazi Party’s Ghoshana Patra, he had promised to build a Volksgemeinschaft (People’s Community) based on the German/Aryan race – bringing together all Germans and Germanic people in other countries while racially cleansing Germany of Jews by stripping them of their citizenship and civil rights. And the German people had voted for him.
But merely stripping Jewish immigrants of citizenship rights was not enough for the Nazi cadres. They felt that Hitler was not fulfilling his promise to eliminate all Jews from Germany. The German economy was still in the doldrums and in the first two years of his reign, Hitler had not been able to do much about it. The Sturmabteilung (SA), the Nazi Party’s own paramilitary, began to itch, and wanted to take out the German youth’s frustration on Jews. The Gestapo, Hitler’s secret police, reported to him in early 1935 that the Nazi Party’s rank and file planned to set in motion a solution to the “Jewish Problem” from below, which the government would then be forced to follow if it wanted to stay in power.
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Hitler was thus forced to make the agenda to strip all Jews of citizenship and civil rights the top agenda. But the Nazi violence and campaign against Jews was impacting the German economy badly. There was rising international criticism of Germany. Hitler wanted desperately to ratchet up the action against the Jews to satisfy the Nazi rank and file, but he was also worried that doing so violently and visibly would result in the 1936 Olympics being shifted out of Germany. That would be a blow to his prestige.
Hitler therefore ordered a stop to all “individual actions” (you know, the mob lynching types) against the Jews, even threatening to punish cadres that disobeyed, but instructed his officials to draw up legislation that would be tough enough on the Jews to satisfy his fanatic cadres and followers. Hitler had mounted a tiger by promising to eliminate Jews from German society, and he could not get off it without being eaten himself. He decided to bring in what we now know as the Nuremberg Laws.
Two laws were brought in. One, we may call, in contemporary parlance, the ‘Love Jihad’ law. The Nazis called it the “Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour.” It barred Germans from marrying Jews, from extramarital intercourse with Jews, and Jewish households from employing German females below the age of 45.
The second law, the Reich Citizenship Law, proclaimed that only those of German blood were citizens of the Reich, the Jews (and later the nomadic Romanis and others of non-German races) were only ‘Subjects of the State’ without citizenship rights. To the Nazi mind, it must have sounded like ‘Reasonable Classification.’
(As the second RSS Sarsangchalak MS Golwalkar wrote in ‘We, or Our Nationhood Defined’, “The non-Hindu peoples in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no ideas but those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture…or may stay in this country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment – not even citizen’s rights”).
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Yet, the Nazi fanatics were not satisfied, because they had not been able to remove Jews completely from Germany. The violence, the boycott, the persecution of Jews continued. In 1940, Nazi officials came up with the ‘Madagascar Plan’.
France was about to fall to the Nazis. Madagascar was then a French colony. The Germans wanted France to hand over Madagascar to them as part of the terms of surrender. The Nazi regime released a memorandum stating that a million Jews would be relocated to Madagascar every year for four years, and the island would be administered as a police state by the Schutzstaffel (the dreaded SS).
That plan did not work, partly because the British naval blockade denied Germany access to Madagascar. Then, when Hitler started to move on the Soviet Union, SS chief Heinrich Himmler proposed a plan to deport the entire Jewish population of Europe to the Soviet Union, confident that Germany would soon be in control of the Russian empire. By 1942, however, it became clear to the Germans that none of these plans would work. The Nazis then decided on the ‘Final Solution’ — to eliminate all Jews under their control at the time at extermination camps across occupied Poland.
Thus goes a lesson from 20th century history in how a government and a society went from denying citizenship to immigrants of a certain race or religion to exterminating millions of them who were its own citizens – some 6 million Jews — by shooting or gassing them.
It is nobody’s case that the history of the Holocaust could repeat itself in all its gory detail in the 21st century, and certainly not in the land of Gandhi, Nehru and Sardar Patel, or of the ordinary liberal-minded Hindu. But it is important for all of us — individuals, governments and societies — to be aware of the slippery slopes we may unwittingly step on to if we are not aware of what’s come before.