History (Western Civilization): historians have tended to agree with Walter Laquer when he wrote that “It is easy to claim that everyone should have known what would happen once Fascism came to power Custom Essay

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This is an exam essay about: Explaining the Holocaust. For many years, historians have tended to agree with Walter Laquer when he wrote that “It is easy to claim that everyone should have known what would happen once Fascism came to power. But such an approach is ahistorical. There was no precedent in recent European history for the murderous character of German National Socialism and for this reason most contemporaries were caught unprepared”. However, this view has been challenged strongly, most recently by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in his best-selling book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners. He has written that “not economic hardship, not the coercive means of a totalitarian state, not social psychological pressure, not invariable psychological propensities, but ideas about Jews that were pervasive in Germany and had been for decades induced ordinary Germans to kill systematically and without pity”. In other words, Laquer is arguing that even Germans who supported the Nazis were not expecting what the reality of the Holocaust turned out to be; Goldhagen, on the other hand, is arguing that Nazism simply permitted deep seated ideas and beliefs to be acted on, and that all Germans became (as his title suggests) willing participants in the Holocaust.

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Explaining the Holocaust. For many years, historians have tended to agree with Walter Laquer when he wrote that It is easy to claim that everyone should have known what would happen once Fascism came to power. But such an approach is ahistorical. There was no precedent in recent European history for the murderous character of German National Socialism and for this reason most contemporaries were caught unprepared. However, this view has been challenged strongly, most recently by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in his best-selling book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners. He has written that not economic hardship, not the coercive means of a totalitarian state, not social psychological pressure, not invariable psychological propensities, but ideas about Jews that were pervasive in Germany and had been for decades induced ordinary Germans to kill systematically and without pity. In other words, Laquer is arguing that even Germans who supported the Nazis were not expecting what the reality of the Holocaust turned out to be; Goldhagen, on the other hand, is arguing that Nazism simply permitted deep seated ideas and beliefs to be acted on, and that all Germans became (as his title suggests) willing participants in the Holocaust.
Which of these arguments is closer to the historical reality as you understand it? Was the Holocaust something that no one could have foreseen (except perhaps for Hitler’s inner circle), or was it just the natural conclusion to tendencies present in German history long before Hitler arrived on the scene? Whichever approach you take, provide at least six specific historical examples to support your thesis.

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