Open Book History

The Establishment of State Destruction: Hitler’s Connection to the Mass Murder of the Holocaust


When the Holocaust is mentioned, Hitler is the first name which comes to mind. The question then is always regarding the methods in which he led men to murder millions of innocent Jews and minority groups, but the answer may not lie with Adolf Hitler, but within the chaos and statelessness that he created in his newly occupied countries. In his book Black Earth, this is Timothy Snyder’s central argument. In places such as Poland and Austria, the chaos created due to statelessness caused friction not only among the Germans, Jews, and minorities but within the social communities of the countries as well. So if some of the blame falls on the chaos of statelessness, what was Hitler’s connection to the Holocaust and how did he succeed in gaining the trust and cooperation of non-German nations? According to Snyder, the answer lies in the lack of proper government, propaganda and the induced chaos both in the German state and elsewhere caused by Hitler and the Nazi regime. This lawlessness created a primal environment for “lawful” crime and anti semitism, fanning the fire that Hitler had been building for over a decade.

Hitler’s motive was very clear; rid the world of the “poison” that was the Jewish population. Beyond Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, political prisoners, and anyone else who opposed his ideology was sent to the ghettos, imprisoned or sent to work camps such as Auschwitz. This belief system is seen clearly in Hitler’s memoir, Mein Kampf in which he lays out his ideology for the German nation. “The consequence of this racial purity, universally valid in nature, is not only the sharp outward delimitation of the various races but their uniform character within themselves”.[1] Through the use of Mein Kampf, speeches and propaganda, Hitler succeeded in spreading antisemitism in Western Europe and beyond. He was the bug in the ear of millions of people and when it came time for him to invade various countries in Europe, the seed of anti-jewish propaganda and ideology had already been sown thus making Hitler’s policies more effective in his occupied countries now without an established government.

Hitler established power in newly occupied states by first disabling and discrediting established political parties such as the Social Democrats in Austria. In his book Black Earth, Timothy Snyder addresses this, “The Nazi’s were the largest party in Austria and never won an election [] with the Social Democrats humiliated and Hitler’s model in display [] the Nazi’s could challenge the Austrian authoritarian regime”.[2] By undermining the established governments and political parties in states such as Austria, Hitler created mass chaos within them. With thousands of people disillusioned by the sudden change in policies, and/or elimination of established policies within these Countries, Hitler created a breeding ground for riot and revolution. Due to the popular notion of anti-Semitism at this time as well as the growing Nazi party in places such as Austria, Hitler succeeded in causing rifts in political parties and ideologies, subsequently stirring up many different kinds of emotions in the social community. The newfound panic and instinct for survival caused many to resort to antisemitism and to participate in Jew Hunts and acts of aggression towards Jews in the newly lawless state.

Along with the use of propaganda and statelessness, another aspect of Hitler’s manipulation was gaining cooperation from certain states for fear of invasion and the need to protect state sovereignty and borders. Snyder points out that in France after the passage of the “Jewish Statute” any Jew who was not a citizen of France was to be removed. Snyder goes onto say that, “Jews without French citizenship were ten times more likely to be deported to Auschwitz than were Jews with French citizenship”.[3] Although this policy differed from Hitler’s German policy of total racial cleansing, the occupied French government as well as other countries such as Bulgaria, were generally concerned about the millions of Jews fleeing Germany into their countries. The Jewish Statute was a way to “collaborate” with the Germans without sending millions of their Jewish citizens to die in the death camps.[4] It was in this way Hitler intimidated certain states into carrying out his ideologies without ever lifting a finger to them. This also plays into what Snyder calls “Puppet States” in which “all the citizens of the prior state (lose) the protection of the previous regime during the transition”.[5] This means that upon occupation, Hitler had free rein over the state and its citizens. The German state had the authority to decide who would be granted citizenship and who would not. This also created social classes, superior versus inferior people, within the occupied state. Not only did this give Germany the upper hand when making selections for deportations of Jews and members of other minorities who were to be sent to death or work camps, but it also created tension within the individual communities of the state. This state of lawlessness granted a warrant to handle matters however one saw fit. Snyder argues, “the puppets that arose from the wreckage of other states closely resemble the zone of lawlessness where the Holocaust took place”.[6] Hitler’s stateless chaos not only created the perfect environment for him to carry out his Final Solution but it fueled communal hatred as well. Hitler’s encouragement of antisemitism and separation of the people was a ticking time bomb that often ended in one-on-one crime and discrimination. In the Soviet Union, this was very prevalent as the conditions under Stalin left citizens hungry and homeless. With overpopulation, limited food and living space, citizens in occupied states resorted to antisemitism as a way to ensure themselves food and shelter. This was the case for many countries at this time, especially those under Nazi occupation.

Although the phenomenon of statelessness in no way excuses Hitler’s actions during the Holocaust, it does serve to explain why thousands of good people resorted to joining him. The need for shelter, food, and fear of invasion were all motivating factors in Hitler’s somewhat successful campaign for Eastern Europe. Based on the demeanor of Hitler’s rule and the fact that Germany, as well as his occupied countries, were unorganized due to statelessness, it is not perceived that the outcomes and attitudes of the people affected by his invasions were part of Hitler’s “master plan”, but rather a side effect of his ill-prepared and unkempt leadership. However, his book, Mein Kampf, and his speeches proved to be successful and deliberate propaganda before and throughout the first World War.




[1] Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. (Berlin): Franz Eher Nachfolger, 1925. (353).

[2] Snyder, Timothy. Black Earth. (New York): Tim Duggan Books, 2015. (80).

[3] Snyder, Timothy. Black Earth.( New York): Tim Duggan Books, 2015. (248).

[4] Snyder, Timothy. Black Earth. (New York): Tim Duggan Books, 2015. (246).

[5] Snyder, Timothy. Black Earth. (New York): Tim Duggan Books, 2015. (226).

[6] Snyder, Timothy. Black Earth. (New York): Tim Duggan Books, 2015. (226).

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