The Holocaust: Intentionalist vs. Functionalist Debate

Who is to blame for the Holocaust ? This article looks at the intentionalist versus the functionalist viewpoint.

The Holocaust: Intentionalist vs. Functionalist Debate

Dec 30, 2010
Tasha Kelley

Adolf Hitler – Istituto Nazionale Luce at Commons Wikimedia
Adolf Hitler – Istituto Nazionale Luce at Commons Wikimedia

Who is to blame for the Holocaust? This article looks at the intentionalist versus the functionalist viewpoint.

Two schools of thought have evolved regarding the origins of the Holocaust that question the reasons behind the development of the Final Solution. The intentionalists have argued that it was Hitler’s intention from the very beginning to rid Europe of the entire Jewish race. This policy developed from the periphery of Nazi power; structure saw death as the essential decisive action towards removal and elimination. The functionalists contend that after numerous failed attempts to remove Jews from Germany through forced emigration and due to logistical problems of deportation, the Final Solution was an unexpected situation.

From the very beginnings of Hitler’s rise to politics, his racial policies centered upon a pure Nordic race that would become the supreme life force of all nations. His National Socialistic views permitted him to view the world racially in terms of maintaining racial and genetic purity among Aryan people. As a result of these beliefs, Hitler had preached of forming a state bureaucracy that is purely Judenrein or “Jew free”.
Intentionalists View

Intentionalists argue that he intentionally deprived Jews of their privileges, socially and economically isolating them from all aspects of German life to further his anti-Semitism policy. Although he did not formally write a “Final Solution”, Hitler wrote that “The final goal, however, must steadfastly remain the removal of the Jews altogether.” (ADL, 2001) In one speech he even stated, “This struggle will not end with annihilation of Aryan mankind, but with the extermination of the Jewish people of Europe.” (ADL, 2001)
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These statements lead one to believe that the final solution was a means of preserving the Aryan race by means of removing racial (Jews, Gypsies and other non-Aryans) and ideological (communists and disabled) enemies from the German nation. Through supreme dictatorship and masterful organizational skills, Hitler maneuvered an entire society to embark on his murderous creed to annihilate all European Jewry.
Functionalists View

The functionalists however dismiss the role of supreme dictatorship and contend that different organizations (i.e. wartime economy, Nazis, Hitler) acted independently to achieve the final solution. Different groups were moved by their anti-Semitism views, which compelled them to reluctantly choose another resolution.

The Final Solution was a resulting action of failed emigration, consequences of slave labor, and large numbers of Jewish deportees rather than Hitler’s premeditated intention. His initial actions such as the Magadascar Plan did not call for the extermination of Jews. He used sterilization methods, as seen with the disabled, as a means of preventing what he termed “genetic deviants”. When these methods became unsuitable and resettlement failed, he opted to choose a final solution.
Read on

National Socialism and the Holocaust
The Longest Hatred – Origins of the Holocaust
A Chaotic Nazi State

My Thoughts

After researching the topic, I believe the Final Solution was both an intentional and a fundamental decision made by Hitler and the Nazis to maintain racial purity while destroying the Jews of Europe. Hitler’s true intention was to destroy the Jewish race. The Final Solution is an expression of Hitler’s racial ideology to maintain and preserve the racial inheritance of German society.

Regardless of whether or not his intentions were stated at the beginning or as an outcome of the war, his priority was to annihilate the Jewish race. In the end, his venomous hatred murdered a large percentage of Jews while leaving a lasting impression upon human civilizations. Who is to blame? Hitler deserves the blame. Indeed, he is to blame.

ADL (2001) “Holocaust Denial”. (Retrieved on 12/30/2010)

Davidowicz, LucyS. (1975) The War Against the Jews. New York: Bantam Books

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The Holocaust: Intentionalist vs. Functionalist Debate

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