The truth is that there is no one answer to why the Holocaust started. The Holocaust was a slow process at first, and it is one that was made up of many different factors. All of them came together to create a series of horrible atrocities, the likes of which had never been seen before – and must never happen again.
Throughout Europe, there had been many centuries of anti-Jewish sentiments. Many people felt that Jews were inferior for religious reasons. There was also a long history of Jewish people serving as moneylenders, a profession that was widely banned for non-Jews in Europe. Throughout much of European history, violent outbursts had happened in which Jews would be killed by mobs or their homes burned.
By the early 1900s, outbreaks of violence were beginning to wane, but the overall feeling of fear and suspicion remained. Unfortunately, the arrival of the new century saw many horrible events befall the people of Europe which racists such as those in the Nazi Party could blame on the Jewish people.
Nazis were willing to claim that virtually anything was the fault of the Jews. The Holocaust can be said to have really begun when soldiers returning from World War I began spreading rumors saying that Jewish collaborators had “stabbed them in the back” during the war. Nazi propagandists took these stories and brought them together into a propaganda campaign that convinced many people that Jews were the enemies of Germany.
In order to foster greater power over the people of Germany, Hitler continued to build on these and other “legends.” His supporters, such as Alfred Rosenberg, spread the idea that Jews and Germans were of a different “race” and that the Jewish race was inferior. They used the cover of new scientific ideas such as genetics to give these racist ideas the cover of respectability. However, their ideas were anything but scientific.
At first, the Holocaust was not characterized by violence, but by slow oppression and a narrowing of rights. Jews gradually lost the right to travel freely, to operate their businesses, to hold public office, and so on. The violence of the Holocaust began with mob violence that consisted, to a large extent, of ordinary Germans attacking Jewish citizens. Perhaps it can be said that the reason the Holocaust started was because these “average” people allowed themselves to be swayed and baited -- only after this was the Nazi Party able to institutionalize violence against Jews.
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