To What extent was Adolf Hitler personally responsible for the Holocaust between 1934 and 1942.
There can be no doubt that Hitler's behaviour throughout his political career, from the end of the First World War, until the end of the Second World War was characterised by radical anti-Semitism. In one way or another, Hitler wished to put an end to the existence of Jews with in the living space of the German people, and this objective was carried a very high priority in his political practice. Of course Hitler's anti-Semitic stance cannot by itself explain the persecution and murder of the European Jews by the Nazi regime. An investigation into the extent to which Hitler was involved in the Holocaust must take into account both his own central role and also the role that other factors played which eventually led to the Final Solution.
Historians writing after World War 2 focused on Hitler and the nature of his dictatorship. Hitler was portrayed as a leader who dictated events and who established an ascendancy over all who came into contact with him, even though they might disagree with his decisions. He was seen as master in the Third Reich. Gradually, historical research has shown this idea to need revision. Far from seeing him as master, historians wrote of a man remote from public affairs. The debate centres on the philosophical argument of the role of the individual in shaping the course of history.
Commentators of the Third Reich have tended to get divided into two 'schools' of thought. Intentionalists and structuralists. Intentionalists see Hitler as central to the regime and certain developments would not have happened without his authority. They believe Hitler personally authorised the Final Solution sometime in the summer of 1941 believing Russia to be near defeat. Historians like Ian Kershaw have argued that as Fuhrer, Hitler had three important functions to preform. To integrate the many different and antagonistic groups, to mobilise the...