For Its Unintended Purposes: Modernity as a Weapon of the Holocaust and the Third Reich

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For Its Unintended Purposes: Modernity as a Weapon of the Holocaust and the Third Reich
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    For Its Unintended Purposes: Modernity as a Weapon of the Holocaust and the Third Reich  by Andrew Shaffer The Holocaust and Its Cultural Meanings II Dr. Annamaria Oral-Bukowska June 28, 2013  Shaffer 2  Modernity is often associated with progress and advancement, seen in most instances as a good thing. Indeed in many cases, modernization has made beneficial contributions to societies. However, in each innovation there is the potential for it to be used improperly or for it to create destruction (i.e. - the car and automobile deaths). This Janus face of modernity was best exemplified by its use under the Third Reich, and, more specifically, its use during the Holocaust. Most people know that trains, guns, gas chambers, euthanasia, disease, and medical experiments were some of the means the Third Reich used to eliminate the ‘unfit’ populations of Europe. Government was also involved in the killings, when bureaucrats “could destroy a whole 1  people by sitting at their desk” and signing a paper. The common thread, and forgotten silent 2 killer in all this, was modernity. Arguably, modernity was the most lethal weapon the Third Reich had at its disposal. Without it, the likelihood of the Holocaust would have decreased drastically. 3  The pervading policies and theories of the Third Reich laid the foundation for their actions. Foremost among them was the scientific theory of eugenics. Eugenics is “a science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or  breed.” This was the starting point for Hitler and the Nazi’s belief that the superior race was the 4 Aryans. Correspondingly, the idea of the Volk arose in Germany alongside eugenics. The Including: Jews, Gypsies, the disabled, homosexuals, Jehovah’s witnesses, communists, and Soviet POWS. 1  Bauman,  Modernity and the Holocaust, 24. Note, Bauman attributes this quote to Hilberg’s, The Destruction of the 2  European Jews, 1024. Author opinion. 3  “Eugenics - definition,” Merriam-Webster, accessed June 25, 2013, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ 4 eugenics.  Shaffer 3 German people made up the Volk - “one biological body.” Anything that was deemed as 5 “unhealthy” needed to be removed. Thus, the Volk entity superseded the individual. The Volk 6 was so important to the Nazis that the state controlled it. With the state in control of the Volk, Hitler in power, and eugenics at their side, the Nazi  party was able to then use bureaucracy and law to meet their sinister aims. The lawyers of the nation created several laws to keep the Volk healthy, and eliminate the ‘problems’ of German society. On July 14, 1933, the Law for Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring (‘Sterilization Law’) was passed. The law enabled “forced sterilization” of people: “who 78 ‘suffered’ from any of nine conditions...feeblemindedness, schizophrenia, manic-depressive disorder, genetic epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea (a fatal form of dementia), genetic blindness, genetic deafness, severe physical deformity, and chronic alcoholism.” 9  Other laws to eliminate societies ‘worst’ included: the Marital Health Law (October 1935), and the Nuremberg Laws (September 15, 1935) - which included the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor. The Marital Health Law was focused on raising the birth rate in Germany. The law “banned unions between the ‘hereditarily healthy’ and persons deemed genetically unfit.” While the previous two laws (Sterilization and Marital Health) focused 10  primarily on German citizens, the Nuremberg Laws focused on Jews. “Sterilization in Nazi Germany,” Education: 20th Century History, accessed June 22, 2013, http:// 5 history1900s.about.com/od/holocaust/a/sterilization.htm. Ibid. 6  Ibid. 7  Ibid. 8  “The Biological State: Nazi Racial Hygiene, 1933-1939,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, last 9 modified June 10, 2013, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007057. Ibid. 10  Shaffer 4  The Nuremberg Laws defined, excluded, and marked the Jews. Most importantly for the Aryan race to grow, the Nuremberg Laws prevented Jews from “marrying or having sexual relations with persons of ‘German or related blood.’” Furthermore, marriage was again 11 subjected to the scrutiny of the state through the Law for the Protection of the Hereditary Health of the German People. In this case, a “certificate of fitness” was required for marriage. It also 12 denied marriage certificates to any people who were ill (hereditary or contagious) or violating  Nuremberg Laws - a Jew marrying a German. 13  Further Nazi racial law was seen in the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor. The law had several sections and parts, but most importantly to the Volk and the ‘superior race’ were sections one and two. Section one did not allow for marriage between Jews and German citizens. If such marriages occurred, even abroad, they were voided. Section two  prohibited sexual relations between Jews and Germans. 14  The aforementioned laws were byproducts of Nazi racial policy (and eugenics), and a highly bureaucratized state. In the case of the Nuremberg Laws, the Reich Minister of the Interior was in charge of enforcing the law. They became the enforcer by agreement between the Deputy Fuhrer and the Reich Minister of Justice. Thus, many offices and bureaucrats had their 15 hands involved in sterilization, racial, and minority laws - all for the supposed benefit of the German race and the Third Reich. “The Nuremberg Race Laws,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, accessed June 25, 2013, http:// 11 www.ushmm.org/outreach/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007695. Ibid. 12  Ibid. 13  “Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor,” Jewish Virtual Library, accessed June 25, 2013, 14 http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/nurmlaw2.html. Ibid. 15  Shaffer 5  It is very important to note that the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring and the Marital Health Law targeted ethnic Germans. Now that the law was established, the Third Reich had to find a way to ‘cleanse’ the ‘unfit’ of the Volk. Solutions for the Nazis were simple to find. They took on three differing mechanisms to rid Germany of their ‘unfit.’ The techniques included: sterilization, euthanasia, and gassing and cremation. In essence, the so-called ‘worst’ of the German populace became the trial grounds for the Holocaust. The first modern form of cleansing the Third Reich used was sterilization. The Germans took the example of sterilization from other nations. A prime example was the United States, which had sterilization laws in “half its states by the 1920s which included forced sterilization of the criminal insane as well as others.” Like the laws and other aspects of the Third Reich, the 16  process to sterilize a citizen was highly bureaucratized. Patients with any of the nine qualifying illnesses had to be registered by a physician to a 17 health officer. The doctor also had to file paperwork, a petition, for said patients’ sterilization. Such petitions were then evaluated by a three person panel in the Hereditary Health Courts. In most cases, the panel included two doctors and a judge. Decisions of the court were made based upon the petitions. In some instances, to show an “aura of due process” testimonies were 18 allowed; however, the patient was not needed in court for a ruling to be made. The decision to sterilize the patient was made in the vast majority of cases. At that point, the petitioning doctor “Sterilization in Nazi Germany,” Education: 20th Century History, accessed June 22, 2013, http:// 16 www.history1900s.about.com/od/holocaust/a/sterilization.htm. Feeblemindedeness, schizophrenia, manic-depressive disorder, genetic epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea (a fatal form 17 of dementia), genetic blindness, genetic deafness, severe physical deformity, and chronic alcoholism - as previously mentioned. “The Biological State: Nazi Racial Hygiene, 1933-1939,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, last 18 modified June 10, 2013, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007057.
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