Prior to the Holocaust, there had been an increasing reliance on scientific theory, such as social Darwinism, to explore differences between races and ethnic groups. Although this has now largely been discredited, Hitler and the Nazi party used pseudoscience as a way of classing certain people as Untermenschen, or people who were inferior to the Aryan German race (McKay 927). By doing this and distributing leaflets that suggested reasons why the Jewish people (and others, such as Gypsies and ethnic Polish people) were inferior, Nazi Germany created a feeling that these people were not contributing to the gene pool and therefore should be exterminated for the benefit of humankind (McKay 927).
Although there were many other reasons why the Jewish people were targeted in Nazi Germany, as well as other areas prior to the Holocaust, it is this adoption of science which is the most important reason why Jews were targeted, particularly as it was used as justification for the actions of Hitler and others.
Before the Holocaust, there was an economic depression in Germany that had led many people dissatisfied with their life and extremely poor (McKay 911). As the Germans were increasingly dissatisfied with their current government, this made way for a new leader with a positive rhetoric, which happened to be Adolf Hitler. As well as making some extremely successful economic reform, Hitler seized upon some of the anti-Semitic fears that were around at the time to make the Jewish people the reason for the economic depression (McKay 926). Combining the belief that Jews were running an “international conspiracy” (McKay 926) with the new scientific interest in evolution, Hitler created propaganda that ensured the anti-Semitic fears in Germany were justified in the people’s minds. By doing this, Hitler created a fear of Jewish people that allowed others to turn a blind eye towards his actions during the Holocaust as well as to recruit people to the Nazi ideology (McKay 927). The interest in using science to prove the inferiority of a group of people is interesting, as it is not considered to be scientific today, but Hitler used the idea of a master race (conveniently, those who were similar to himself) to back eugenic policy.
Eugenics is a pseudo-scientific idea which promotes the use of genetics to define those who are superior and to allow the destruction of those who do not fit this ideal – in the case of the Holocaust, this was many people including the Jews. By defining a very small group of individuals who are superior, Hitler was suggesting that exterminating those who did not fit the criteria would ultimately benefit the human race, allowing the development of superhumans (McKay 927). Although it was evident from history that Jewish people had actually been quite successful, like Freud (McKay 869), Hitler used the idea of a Jewish conspiracy to essentially debunk all Jewish success stories as myth and manipulation.
By doing this, he essentially painted a picture of Jewish people as sneaky, underhanded liars that were not contributing to the German economy and were even part of the reason for the economic crisis. Essentially, these individuals did not fit the criteria that would benefit the recovery of Germany, and should be exterminated to promote a flourishing Germany society. Evidently, it is a powerful way to speak to a country which needs someone to blame for their economic troubles, and combining this with Hitler’s economic success (McKay 926) it is easy to see why someone would fall for this trick. Ultimately, the idea of there being a “superior” race has been disproven by science, and the Jewish people were left to pick up the pieces after the Holocaust as a result of this ill-informed ideology.