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Racism In Germany Essay Topics

Eugenics and Genocide in Nazi GermanySummary

The Holocaust was a form of genocide, which refers to the intentional, systematic extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945. By 1945 two out of every three European Jews had been killed.

The Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Europe did not happen suddenly. It was the end of a long process of anti-Semitism and the belief in the pseudo-science of eugenics. The Nazis used propaganda and terror to enforce their anti-Semitic policies. By 1938, the lives of Jews living in Germany had become intolerable. A policy of annihilation called 'The Final Solution' was planned and put into practice in Nazi-occupied parts of Europe after the Second World War broke out in 1939.

The Nazi racist ideology of a Herrenvolk ('master race') was used to justify their eugenics program aimed at weeding 'undesirable' genes from the population. The Holocaust was the consequence of this racism.

Things to consider when learning and teaching traumatic topics (should teachers and learners be able to read this?)

Teaching about genocide is traumatic for many teachers and learners alike, but it is an effective way of reinforcing the human rights embodied in the South African constitution.

  • Keep in mind that teenagers learn from watching the adults in their lives, and that includes educators. They will take their lead from watching your attitude and mood.

  • Take time for yourself, too, and try to deal with your own reactions to Social Darwinism as fully as possible.

  • Pay attention to learner's feelings.

  • Respect silence.

  • Give learners the opportunity to express their thoughts and concerns. However, the principles that underlie our whole education system include social justice, human rights and inclusivity, and learner's responses should be in line with these principles.

  • Encourage learners to ask questions.

  • Be prepared to answer your learners' questions factually, and also be prepared to say when you are not sure of an answer, and be committed to find out.

  • Dispel myths and incorrect information.

  • Use discussions to teach about non-violent ways to handle situations. For instance, teach learners how to share and take turns.

  • Teach a sense of optimism.

  • Help children explore positive ways of coping with their fears and anxieties. For example, help children maintain a sense of control by organizing activities that support building a culture of human rights.

- Adapted from: www.mentalhealth.samhsa.gov

Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany

At the time the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, there were 500 000 Jews living in Germany. They saw themselves as Germans, who differed from other Germans only in religion. Hostility towards Jews had existed for hundreds of years in Europe. Jews were often used as scapegoats when things went wrong and were blamed for no reason. Anti-Semitism was therefore not unique to Nazi Germany. The Nazis extended the ideas of Anti-Semitism and Social Darwinism that were popular in Europe at the time.

Anti-Semitism was a major part of Nazi Party ideology. The false Social Darwinist theory of a hierarchy of human beings claimed that some groups of people were born with superior talent, ability and worth. In his book Mein Kampf Hitler argued that the German 'race' was superior to all others. He wrongly described gentile (ie non-Jewish) Germans as the 'Aryan race' or 'Herrenvolk' ('master race') and believed they had a duty to control the world.

Jews were blamed for all Germany's troubles and were demonised by Nazi propaganda, even though Jews made up less than 1% of the German population. The popular stereotype and Nazi propaganda created the myth that Jews were rich, when in fact Jews were not particularly wealthy. In Poland, for example, 3 million out of 3.3 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, more than 50% of them lived in poverty.

How did Hitler take away the rights of the people of Germany?

Anti-Jewish Nazi laws and decrees

Hitler wanted to make Nazi Germany Judenrein (free of Jews). In the early years, the policy of Judenrein did not include genocide. Rather, anti-Jewish oppressive measures were slowly introduced to exclude Jews from all aspects of German life. Anti-Semitic laws went hand in hand with state violence and terror. By 1939, discriminatory laws and decrees grew longer and longer and included the following:

  • Jewish businesses were boycotted

  • All Jews had to wear a yellow Star of David badge to make them easy to identify

  • Jews were dismissed from the civil service

  • Jews were expelled from all schools and universities

  • Jews were stripped of all citizenship rights

  • Marriage or sexual relations between Jews and 'Aryans' was forbidden

  • Jews were forbidden in certain places (for example, Jews were forced to sit on separate benches, were not permitted to use public facilities, travel on trams, or attend opera, theatre or cinema, were not admitted to restaurants, hotels, shops or hospitals)

  • In some places bakeries would not sell bread to Jews

  • After June 1938, the Nazis began the systematic expropriation of Jewish property

Not only Jews

Jews were the main targets of genocide. But the following people were also considered 'inferior' and 'undesirable', and were sterilized, sent to concentration camps or killed:

How did his racial policy lead to persecution and genocide?

The Final Solution

In 1941 the Nazis changed their Anti-Semitic policy to systematic annihilation, which they called the 'final solution to the Jewish question.' They decided to murder every Jewish man, woman and child in Europe. A group of policemen called Einsatzgruppen became special mobile killing squads. Men, women and children were rounded up and shot by firing squads into mass graves. But shooting by firing squads was inefficient and too personal for the killers.

Mass 'extermination' by gas was planned as it was an efficient and cost effective method of murdering large numbers of Jews, and the construction of special killing centres began in the second half of 1941.

Six  'Death Camps' were established - all were situated in Poland. Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, were constructed for the purpose of killing. Reinhard Heydrich (second in command to Himmler in the SS) co-ordinated the activities of all Nazi government structures to implement the 'Final Solution'. Gas vans and gas chambers were constructed at the death camps. Zyklon B gas was used. The Nazis kept meticulous records of their plans and activities associated with the annihilation of the Jews.

The implementation of the 'Final Solution' required Jews from all over Nazi-occupied Europe to be transported by rail to the death camps in Poland. Jews were told that they would be 'resettled'. In reality, they were taken to one of the six death camps. Hundreds of thousands of people were crammed into sealed cattle trucks or open wagons, sometimes spending days without food, water or sanitation.  People arrived sick, dehydrated and starving.  Many died-en-route.

By 1945 two out of every three European Jews had been killed.

Read a book about the Holocaust

Many books have been written about the Holocaust. One book, which you may find interesting, is The Diary of Anne Frank. Anne Frank was a Jewish girl born in Germany in 1929. Her family fled to Holland to escape the Nazis where they were helped and hid for two years, were betrayed and sent to different concentration camps. Anne died in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in 1945 at the age of 16, just before the war ended. You can read more about her legacy on The Anne Frank Centre website http://www.annefrank.com/

The Freedom Writers Diary is the inspiring modern, true story of an idealistic American teacher named Erin Gruwell. Her students were referred to by other staff members as teenagers who were 'unteachable and at-risk'. Her class was a diverse mix of teenagers many of whom had grown up in rough neighborhoods in California. Erin intercepted a racial caricature of one of the African-American students that was circulating in the classroom. She angrily compared it to the Nazi caricatures of Jews during the Holocaust. Erin Gruwell was appalled to discover that many of her students had never heard of the Holocaust. Read the book or see the movie to find out how these teenagers' lives changed.

Always use specific historical examples to support your arguments.

Study Questions


Compare the roles of Germany and Japan during World War II. Generally speaking, were their aggressions fundamentally similar or fundamentally different?

The respective roles of Germany and Japan in the initiation and escalation of World War II seem similar on the surface—a combination of economic ambition and racist ideology. However, the countries’ root motivations and the ways in which they were expressed were fundamentally different.

Both Germany and Japan engaged in large-scale territorial conquests in the years leading up to World War II. Hitler and other Nazi officials in Germany advocated the concept of lebensraum, the natural “living space” required by what they considered the racially superior German people. Under this doctrine, Hitler claimed openly that German territory needed to be expanded through conquest of surrounding nations. Though some of Japan’s leaders held similar beliefs in the racial superiority of the Japanese people, they also had concrete motivations for territorial expansion: Japan’s population was growing too large for the confines of the Japanese islands, and colonial holdings in Asia were arguably becoming necessary to feed and clothe the Japanese people.

Also, Japan’s economic problems were far more severe than Germany’s. Although the German people were indeed humiliated by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, Germany actually ended up not paying the bulk of the economic reparations that the treaty demanded. Rather, Hitler channeled the German people’s resentment to fuel his own schemes. Japan, however, though a victor in World War I, suffered when the United States and several European nations imposed high tariffs and blocked industrial imports. As a result, many Japanese people began to believe that whites were hostile to the idea of a developed non-white nation.

In response, Japan’s leaders asserted the superiority of their people and tried to change Japan into a colonial power itself, rather than a colonial subject. They therefore invaded and attempted to “develop” other Asian countries, including China and Korea. However, though Japanese policies in these countries were sometimes brutal, and often motivated by ideas of racial superiority, they were a far cry from the overtly genocidal goals of the Nazi death camps.

Ultimately, whereas Japan’s racist ideology and territorial ambitions grew as a result of real economic problems and Western exclusion, Hitler used Germany’s alleged economic woes and residual resentment from the Treaty of Versailles to promote his own racist ideas and premeditated plan to expand Germany’s borders.


Consider the role of technology during World War II. Did it fundamentally affect the outcome of the war? If so, how? If not, why not?

World War II saw the new application of many new technologies by military forces on all sides of the conflict, and some of them had a profound impact on the war. The airplane in particular became a fundamental instrument of war and changed the way many battles were fought. Much the same may be said of the aircraft carrier, which became crucial to the United States after so many of its battleships were lost at Pearl Harbor. As a result of these developments, the Battle of Britain in 1940 marked the first time in history when air power alone determined the course of a major battle, and the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942 was the first naval battle in history fought exclusively in the air, by carrier-based planes. Both sides also realized the effectiveness of radar as a way of warning against approaching enemy planes. Germany experimented with new missile technologies as well as both jet- and rocket-powered aircraft, but none of these projects was perfected in time to change the outcome of the war.

Although the majority of these new technologies had an effect on the war, they generally were created by one side in response to similar technologies being developed by the other side—the net effect of which was to balance out the new power these technologies offered. The notable exception was the atomic bomb, which the United States developed in secret from 1942 to 1945 and which Japan had no way to counter at the time. Indeed, Japan declared its surrender just days after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Even today, however, historians debate whether the atomic bomb changed the outcome of the war, as Japan may have been already very close to surrendering.


Explain Germany’s mistakes in Russia and the ways in which they affected the outcome of the war.

Most historians concur that Hitler’s decision to invade the Soviet Union was one of the primary causes of Germany’s ultimate defeat. By invading the USSR, Germany made essentially the same mistake that Japan made by expanding so far across the Pacific. The huge expanse of the Soviet Union and the vast distances between its major cities required an enormous German invasion force. Despite this geographical challenge, Hitler assumed that Operation Barbarossa would take only six months, expecting Russia to capitulate rapidly after the shock of Germany’s initial, devastating attack. When events transpired differently, the German forces were faced with an enormous challenge, as their forces were dispersed and poorly equipped to deal with the brutal Russian winter. Russian soldiers and civilians, conversely, had plenty of room to retreat east when necessary, which caused the pursuing Germans to extend their supply lines so far that they were unable to maintain them. It was under these conditions that the Germans had to fight the massive battles of Stalingrad and Kursk. After the Germans lost both of these battles, they were no longer capable of maintaining their position and were forced to retreat to the west. Within a matter of months, the pursuing Red Army had pushed the Germans back through eastern Europe and toward a last stand on their home turf, which was the beginning of the end of the Nazi empire.

Suggested Essay Topics

1. How and why was Germany allowed to annex Austria and the Sudetenland? Was there any justification for Britain and France’s policy of appeasement?

2. Discuss the role that Italy played in World War II. How did the nation become involved in the conflict? How did its participation affect the direction of the war and Germany’s fortunes?

3. Discuss the issues surrounding the United States’ decision to use atomic bombs against Japan. What motives were behind this action, and what arguments have been made against it?

4. Explain how the situation in Europe immediately following the fall of Germany led directly to the Cold War. In your opinion, should the Western Allies have acted to oppose Soviet domination of Eastern Europe?

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