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Hitler and the Holocaust

Alan Farmer assesses the personal responsibility of the Führer

On 30 April 1945 Adolf Hitler committed suicide in the bunker beneath the Chancellery in Berlin. From November 1945 until October 1946 over a score of the chief Nazis who had escaped death in the last few days of the war faced trial at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity. Let’s for a moment suspend disbelief. Let’s suppose that Hitler had not taken his life but had instead been taken alive by Russian troops in the last days of the war. Let’s suppose that he too faced trial at Nuremberg. Leaving aside his responsibility for causing the Second World War, what would his defence have been with regard to the Holocaust?

Hitler’s Defence

Hitler’s defence lawyers would have had a difficult task. They could not have pleaded insanity: Hitler, consistently (and brutally) rational, was not mad. Nor could they put him in the witness box. Had they done so, he would most certainly have incriminated himself. Far from denying the Holocaust, he would have accepted full responsibility for it. In his last political testament in April 1945 he claimed with pride that the extermination of the Jews was his legacy to the world. What now seems totally illogical and evil seemed to Hitler logical and good. 

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