ABSTRACT

In many – though not all – twentieth century genocides, the permissive socio-political environment that provided the ideational underpinning of extermination was historically centred on a specific target group. In the case of the Holocaust, the environment in Germany was marked by a history of formal legal restrictions that separated Jews from Germans, antipathy toward Jews that was at first religiously based and later focused on Jews as ethnically or “racially” different from Germans, and a history of authoritarian statist responses to real and perceived societal conflicts. These trends were not, however, specific to pre-war Germany. They were found to a greater or lesser degree in many other European societies. That this permissive environment with regard to European Jewry, and a tendency toward authoritarian responses to societal conflicts, existed beyond Germany’s borders helps to account for why several occupied countries during the Second World War explicitly or tacitly acquiesced to the Nazis’ “final solution of the Jewish Question.”