In the 1970s through to the early 80s two theoretical approaches emerged into the study of the holocaust. The Intentionalists, who believed that the Holocaust was a planned event and that as Dictator Hitler had total control over the ideological framework that culminated in the extermination of millions of Jews. This group use Hitler's speeches and writings, particularly Mein Kampf to support this hypothesis. It is the presumption that only Hitler had sufficient authority to have issued the 'orders'.
The second group, the Structuralists, contend though that it was Hitler's indecisiveness and lack of clear direction to his subordinates that led to the Holocaust, combined with the power structure and the power struggles between his subordinates that led to the Holocaust.
Through my own research I have concluded that it is most likely a combination of the two, in that while the holocaust was not specifically planned the climate was created through for example, propaganda and the Nuremberg Laws to the extent that in the end the mass exterminations became an inevitability.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler uses the word 'vernichtung' when talking of how the Jews should be dealt with and claimed that the outcome of WW1 would have been different had 10-15000 'leading hebrews' been exposed to poison gas instead of men like him (Hitler was hospitalised towards the end of the war due blindnes to exposure to gas, although evidence suggests that his blindness may have been hysterical).
'Vernichtung' can mean extermination, destruction or eradication and it is unclear which meaning he intended. However it is known that he was heavily influenced by the writings of Wilhelm Marr and Eugen Doehring, who wrote of the Jews as a 'bacilli' on the German people. In a letter to his friend Adolf Gemlich in 1919 he wrote that ' the final aim must be the uncompromising removal of the Jews altogether'.
Hitler's early writings demonstrate a growing interest in a racially pure German, he called for the enforced sterilisation of alcoholics, criminals, mentally infirm and the syphilitic amongst others, however consistently his speeches speak of the 'Juda as the Plague of the world.'
Therefore while we cannot confirm that Hitler intended to murder the jews we can ascertain that he intended to rid Germany of them. As we are unable to ascertain from Hitler speeches and writings a clear intention it is perhaps fair to assume that there were those in the internal power structure of the Party that may have been similarly confused.
The Leadership Principle
In my opinion o other single factor explains more clearly how it is possible for the holocaust and other genocides and atrocities to have occured without there being any clear direction from Hitler than the 'Leadership Principle' or Fuhrerprinzip.
A leadership principle would be the way leadership is performed within an organisation. Or as itself the principle that people themselves should take the lead.
Do not manage the case, lead the people.
Do not solve the problems of the staff, but train them to solve the problems themselves.
Permit staff space for decision making
Give staff the opportunity to take pride in their work. Let them present the results themselves.
In case of failures, do not search for the guilty party, but investigate together with the staff causes of failures
Be an example by living the principles of the enterprise, become a Master of the Leadership principles.
Or as Hermann Goering described it during his examination by Justice Jackson at Nuremberg;
' In the Leadership Principle we sought to reverse the direction, that is,.the authority existed at the top and passed downwards, while the responsibility began at the bottom and passed upwards.'
He further explains the reasoning behind the introduction of this system
I consider the Leadership Principle necessary because the system which previously existed, and which we called parliamentary or democratic, had brought Germany to the verge of ruin. I might perhaps in this connection remind you that your own President Roosevelt, as far as I can recall-I do not want to quote it word for word-declared, "Certain peoples in Europe have forsaken democracy, not because they did not wish for democracy as such, but because democracy had brought forth men who were too weak to give their people work and bread, and to satisfy them. For this reason the peoples have abandoned this system and the men belonging to it." There is much truth in that statement. This system had brought ruin by mismanagement and according to my own opinion, only an organization made up of a strong, clearly defined leadership hierarchy could restore order again. But, let it be understood, not against the will of the people, but only when the people, having in the course of time, and by means of a series of elections, grown stronger and stronger, had expressed their wish to entrust their destiny to the
We find when examining the evidence that there is very little record from Hitler of orders being issued, certainly not in writing. However, according to the Leadership Principle it can be argued that Hitler's speeches which spoke of the Vernichtung of the Jews could have been interpreted as intent by his subordinates and acted upon. That is, the Jews must go is the order from Hitler, the means by which this is acheived is the subordinates responsibility to fulfill. At later date I hope to recount instances where this principle can be clearly seen in the actions of both Party members and the SS.