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In his book The Origins of the Final Solution, Christopher R. Browning writes that enthusiasm for Hitler's regime in the 1930s increased with what was perceived as the return of "political order, the return of economic prosperity, and the revival of national grandeur." But, writes Browning, "[t]here was no similar popular acclamation for the persecution of German Jews." The Jews were "increasingly isolated and deprived of their rights and property by a succession of legal and administrative measures." He adds,
As of 1938, aside from a minority of [Nazi] party activists, most Germans were not yet ready or willing to visit physical violence upon their Jewish neighbors but neither were they interested in coming to their defense.
This changed with war. Browning writes of the commencement of Hitler's "racial empire building, first in Poland but above all on Soviet territory" and a decision to exterminate the Jews of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. He concludes,
Once underway on Soviet territory, this ultimate of Final Solution beckoned to the Nazi regime as a solution for the rest of Europe's Jews as well. Already in the midst of committing mass murder against millions of Jews on Soviet territory, "ordinary" Germans would not shrink from implementing Hitler's Final Solution for the Jews of Europe as well.
In short, the genocide committed by Germany went hand in hand with war and territorial expansion.
(Christopher R. Browning is the Peter Graham Professor of History at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. His book has 180 pages of notes and 434 pages of text.)
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