The Three Horseman of the Holocaust: Anti-Semitism, East European Empire, Aryan Folk Community

William W. Hagen

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern German History

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199237395
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 The Three Horseman of the Holocaust: Anti-Semitism, East European Empire, Aryan Folk Community

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  • Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing


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This article traces the three main issues which dominated Hitler's regime in Germany during the Holocaust. Two interpretive traditions have, since Hitler's day, commanded scholarly efforts to understand the Holocaust. One emphasizes ideas, recounting the intellectual history of anti-Semitism and the aims and political actions of those gripped by its poisoned talons. Paired with this approach is the conviction that history is made by human beings' conscious choice: beliefs inspire purposive behaviour seeking their realization. Historical actors are aware of their actions and responsible for them. In Holocaust historiography, this widespread understanding of history and human behaviour has yielded the ‘intentionalist’ argument. This holds that anti-Semitic ideology of a uniquely aggressive type flourished in late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Germany; and the anti-Jewish policies (Judenpolitik) of Hitler's ‘Third Reich’ led, if perhaps by a ‘twisted path’, to a mass murder which the Nazis' anti-Semitic ideas, and the dictator Hitler's in particular, authorized and even commanded.

Keywords: horsemen; Holocaust; anti-Semitism; Holocaust historiograohy

Article.  11580 words. 

Subjects: History ; Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing

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