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Hitler’s intentions for Jews

LAURENCE REES: To what extent can we say that, at least in Hitler’s mind, there was always an intention to kill the Jews and that he was simply waiting for the moment?

DAVID CESARANI: I think Hitler had a murderous personality in the sense that he had no conception of the value of human life. It’s hard to say why not, but he could order individuals and groups to be slaughtered without any compunction at all, he simply did not feel any compassion for most human beings. In that sense I think that when he talked about murdering Jews, destroying the Jews, a part of him fantasised about their biological eradication and their murder.

LAURENCE REES: From the very beginning, from the early 1920s?

DAVID CESARANI: Yes, but I think that it was a murderous fantasy. If all of the Jews had emigrated from Germany before 1939; if it had been possible to deport Jews from the German spheres of influence - the territories that they conquered - to Madagascar or Siberia, I think that probably would have sufficed for Hitler. I think he wanted to break the power of the Jews, I think he probably had some kind of benchmark of what would have indicated that their power had been broken.  If, let us speculate, the German armies had got to Moscow in the Autumn of 1941, if the Communist apparatus had broken down, if the Soviet Union had collapsed, I think to Hitler that would have signified a very significant breaking of Jewish power, and then that would have made it possible to have the Jews deported, dumped in Siberia, and I think that probably for the moment that would have been enough for him.

Of course, Jewish power was still residing in Washington. The great showdown with America would have come and either militarily or politically Hitler might have prevailed over America and, again, I think that would have indicated to him that the Jews power had been broken, removing that cosmological and biological threat. And if the Jews were out of sight I think they would have been out of mind as well. But all the evidence is that as long as Jews were present within the Nazi sphere of influence, within Hitler’s grasp, and as long as he thought that they were a threat, he believed they had to be destroyed and that their power had to be broken.

And if that had to be done, and if it could be done by actually murdering them, then so be it. He had no compunction about that. But let’s remember, he had no compunction about murdering his political enemies, and this is what sets Hitler apart from most other political leaders except for Stalin. It’s very difficult to find other political leaders in the 20th Century who saw the solution to the political problem as being not just the murder of an individual political leader, or even a significant group, but entire ethnic groups, entire peoples and nations. And this is something that really sets Hitler and Stalin apart, that they could conceive of destroying a nation, wiping it out biologically, and feel absolutely no compunction about that, even though it involved killing men, women, children and babies. They simply did not feel what most human beings feel at the thought of killing another human being.