Why the Nazis' Treatment of the Jews Change from 1939-1945

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Why the Nazis' Treatment of the Jews Change from 1939-1945

Jewish discrimination was prominent in Germany, and was vastly

spreading to nearby countries. Yet the Nazi treatment of the Jews

immensely changed during the years of World War II.

When Poland was invaded by Germany at the beginning of September,

Britain and France finally realized that Hitler would have to be

stopped. They declared war. Hitler had built up a powerful and

efficient German army. Within weeks, his policy of Blitzkrieg

(lightning war) – attacking quickly and strongly- had enabled him to

sweep across Poland.

Under cover of war, the Nazis dared to carry out acts they could never

have attempted in peacetime. On the day the war started, Hitler gave

an order for the systematic extermination of the mentally disabled.

Many of the people who took part in this ‘euthanasia’ programme for

the gassing of the mentally ill would later transfer to the programme

to exterminate all Jews.

In a speech on 30 January 1939, Hitler told the Reichstag that another

war would mean the “total annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe”.

It seemed clear that Hitler intended to massacre the Jews - but many

historians dispute this. They believe that the Nazis seriously

considered forcing all the Jews to emigrate, or to resettle in a

‘Jewish homeland’, and that the idea of physically exterminating the

Jews only gradually took over as the war went on. At a certain point,

it came to be the most practical solution to the ‘Jewish problem’. If

this is true, why did the Nazi treatment intensify, from cruel

bullying to mass extermination?

The German occupation of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union gave the

Nazis control over millions of Jews. Many of these Jews were poor and

vulnerable, and had not been particularly well integrated into the non

- Jewish society. In Eastern Europe, the Nazis began the genocide –

their large-scale and systematic campaign to destroy all Jews.

The first problem the Nazis encountered was when Germany’s surrounding

countries closed their borders because of the outbreak of war.
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