Central to Hitler's world view was the destruction of the power of the International Jewry and the creation of a racially 'pure' Germany. He wished to win the Aryan people Lebensraum.
'the result [of a world war] will not be the bolshevisation of the earth and thereby the victory of the Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe' - Hitler to the Reichstag (30th Jan 1939)
It should not be assumed that the Final Solution had been consolidated at this point. There was never a clear plan for Vernichtung (annihilation). Nazi policy was uneven and responsive rather than calculated. It was also framed in response to pressure from below. Official anti-Semitism was limited by the need to ensure economic recovery and retain the image of legality. The Jewish policy was coordinated in an ad hoc fashion.
Persecution of Germany's Jews
The start of the war led to a tightening of the restrictions on Jews. On 1st September a curfew is introduced. On 21st September Reinhard Heydrich ordered the concentration of Jews around railway junctions. All radio sets were confiscated from German Jews.
In January 1940 all ration books were to be stamped with a letter 'J' for identification purposes and to ensure they did not plan any goods banned for Jews. On 1st September 1941 all Jews are ordered to wear a Star of David badge - failure to do so would lead to immediate arrest and imprisonment.
In November 1942 a law is passed stating that Jews could no longer receive the Reich sports medal. Mass murder had already begun in the east at this point. In April 1943, Jews lose their German citizenship.
The advent of war was a crucial turning point in Nazi racial policy. The removal of Jews from Germany and the destruction of the perceived power of International Jewry was a central point of Hitler's ideology. The successful conquest of Poland in 1939 and much of Western Europe in 1940 brought millions of Jews under Nazi rule.
The concentration of Jews in specified areas began early. On 30th October 1939 Himmler orders the deportation of Jews from the parts of Poland now incorporated in the Reich into the German-occupied areas, the General Government, administered by Hans Frank. In January 1940 Jews were used for slave labour and confined to ghettos in Polish towns of Lodz, Warsaw, Lublin, Radom and Lvov.
The Final Solution to the Jewish Question was perceived by many to be a territorial one. In summer 1940, Richard Heydrich was suggesting that the 3,250,000 Jews under German control should be moved elsewhere - Madagascar is suggested by the jewish section of the Foreign Office. Hitler was openly enthusiastic about this. In reality it is a plan of annihilation - Jews are expected to either die during the journey or due to lack of sustenance on the island. The weakness of the plan was that the GB Royal Navy still controlled the high seas.
The invasion of the USSR in June 1941 further increased the number of Jews under German control. The invasion raised the suggestion of relocation to the other side of the Urals but again the plan relied on military victory. The invasion became an important reason why the Holocaust was implemented to begin with.
Hitler's driving forces were always the destruction of communism and the conquest of Lebensraum in the East. The destruction of Jews was a consequence of this policy. The invasion had brought troops into contact with Orthodox Jews, seen as sub-human by SS racial extremists. Hitler authorises the Einsatzgruppen to exterminate Jews in Russia. In eight months over 700,000 Jews had been murdered.
Even in September the Nazi regime was undecided about the fate of the Jews. Shooting Jews was not realistic any more due to the mass numbers and was proving to be messy. Deporting Jews would have to wait until guaranteed victory. Hitler dithered over the fates of Jews, seeing them as potential pawns in negotiations with the USA.
Spetember is a turning point. He changes his mind for two reasons -
In August, Stalin ordered the deportation to Siberia of 600,000 ethnic Germans who'd families had lived in the Volga for generations. A further 400,000 were to follow.
Roosevelt had ordered on 11th September 1941 that the US navy should shoot on sight at any warships considered as threatening.
The German advance slowed and Hitler realised he could not wait until 1942 to deal with the Jewish Question. After conquest, parts of Poland was divided into regions known as Gau, led by Gauleiter. All the Gauleiter, inc Himmler, were anxious to remove the Jews from their section, deporting them between one another. By late 1941 they put pressure on the gov to be allowed to deport their Jews. This prompted others such as Arthur Greiser of the Warthegau to take action towards extermination. In mid-September the order was given for deporations eastwards to happen gradually. This more extreme action prompted more requests for extermination.
In October in Lublin, the Police Chief Globocnik orders the construction of gassing facilities at Belzec for killing Jews incapable of work. In Lodz Jews are being shot and gassed in vans. In December 1941 gas vans killed 100,000 Jews of the Warthegau at Chelmno.
In October, Gestapo chief Heinrich Müller publishes orders that no Jew could now emigrate from the Reich. On 21st November, Hitler demands an 'aggressive policy'. Goebbel's propaganda continues to stir up anti-Jewish hatred. In November invitations are issued for a conference in Wannsee. Confusion persists though and 5000 German jews are shot in Lithuania,
The final turning point was the war declaration against the USA on 11th December 1941. On 12th December he addressed a gathering of Reichsleiter and Gauleiter, evoking his 'prophecy' (speech in Jan 1939). On 18th December Hitler tells Himmler that Jews are to be 'exterminated as partisans'. This could omly be seen as the authorisation for the extermination of all European Jews. It resolved any further doubt.
The ruthless enforcement from January 1942 and the huge logisitic effort required to sustain it as Germany began to lose suggests that a decisive clarification policy had been made.
The next key stepping stone on the road to the Final Solution was the Wansee Conference (20th Jan 1942). Richard Heydrich chairs. The State Secretary of the Government General Josef Bühler asked that his area should have Jews 'removed' as quickly as possible. By spring 1942, construction begins of extrermination camps at Sobibor, Belzec and Treblinka. A systematic programme had been formed. German Jews were deported to ghettos in the east and then to the aforementioned camps as well as Majdanek and Auschwitz.
The network of concentration camps spread and Oswald Pohl (SS member) wished to fully exploit the labour resource. He was in charge of the development of theWVHA, economic administration section of the SS. By 1942 he controlled 20 concentration and 165 labour camps. He envisaged them as becoming similar to gulags in the USSR. The SS employed Jewish labour in and around the concentration camps and worked them to death. IG Farben used labour near Auschwitz.
Figures for the transportation and systematic annihilation are vast. The largest extermination camp, Auschwitz, saw over 1,000,000 murders; 800,000 at Treblinka; 300,000 at Sobibor. As late as July 1944, Adolf Eichmann's priority was the transportation of Jews to their death by railway. There was little concern about how draining the Final Solution was on resources.
By the time Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz in January 1945, approximately 6 mil Jews had been murdered.
In March 1942, Goebbel's diary describes a 'fairly barbaric procedure' taking place in the east. Hitler's role was more authorising than directing with pressure coming from below - Gauleiter such as Hans frank feared that his area was becoming a 'dumping ground' for Heydrich's Jews. The Final Solution was the most disgusting example of how people had become enslaved to the idea of 'working towards the Führer', even selling their souls.