, 32 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
Why did the Nazis kill off the Jews?

(A thread.)
One of the key incentives at play was most definitely the ability to loot. Both $ & jobs. Given to Germans, the Nazi leadership. And their allies. $ and jobs especially valued in time of depression. And war.

(See above image summarizing “Hitler’s Beneficiaries”)
Worth noting:

This is a rather different story than those commonly given.

Most explanations for Nazi anti-semitism and genocide (and other genocides) invokes persistent and deep rooted animus, dehumanization, and stab in the back (or other scapegoat) myths.
It’s not that those explanations are “wrong.” Dehumanization is crucial for any genocide. Scapegoat myths are pervasive in history. And mistreatment of easily defined out group members, as Jews have often been, is near universal.

But these are mere proximate explanations.
They beg the question of why Germans felt particularly anti-Semitic then. Why scapegoat myths are so readily believed. Why the Nazi propagandists chose to dehumanize the Jews and the dehumanization was so popular and effective.
After all, our degree of animus, or ability to tolerate and integrate outsiders isn’t a fixed part of human nature. It varies tremendously, across time and culture. Even notoriously within Germany, anti-semitism while never gone, has waxed and waned.
Financial incentives were used by the Nazis to motivate people to rat on Jewish neighbors. Jobs were dependent both on compliance w/ race laws but also pledges to adhere and defend them.
Military and political enablers were granted Jewish homes when the Jews were kicked out. And many locals joined in on the looting (and notoriously would kill Jews who tried to return and reclaim after the war).
And of course we all know about the looted art. Like the klimt painting portrayed in “women in gold.”
Similar dynamics were also apparent in the Rwandan genocide, where neighbors, after killing their neighbor, would take their plot of land.
Of course other incentives were also at play, especially after the Nazis had tremendous power, such as the ability to threaten violence to anybody who aids Jews, or loss of jobs to anyone who doesn’t pledge allegiance to the hateful creeds
And scapegoating offers valuable plausible deniability for one’s own, one’s military or one’s economy’s, past failings.
Of course the Nazis were also, if not primarily, motivated by hateful ideology fueled by hateful rhetoric. Which many seem to have genuinely felt. Doubtful they were consciously thinking about the financial incentives.
But that doesn’t mean these incentives didn’t play an integral role. Integral EVEN IN the hateful ideologies and rhetoric

Eg in determining whether their hateful speeches and ideological stances weren’t readily accepted and positively reinforced.
Hate that was especially popular among rural Germans desperately in need of jobs and money in the depression years, while and where the Nazi numbers increased most sharply.
Perhaps not unlike the popularity (and ultimate driver?) of trump’s hate filled antics and anti-liberal speeches his base eats up.

(For an astute discussion of that, see this and other great threads by Teri Kanefirld: )
To conclude:

Emotions like hate and ideologies like Nazi scapegoating and race theories were crucial.

But to understand those, it doesn’t suffice to posit an evolved psychology or fixed aspects of human nature. Or help to take these as given or as explanations in themselves.
Rather to understand emotions and ideologies that play a role in history and politics, like anti-semitism and nazism, we have to look at the incentive structure at play.

And for the Nazis, looting of Jewish wealth and jobs, was an integral part of the incentive to genocide

Minor Addendum:

One of the most shocking things about this grotesque episode of history: is how completely human instincts, like empathy, were overridden. How little constraint they offered on the Nazi machine.
Likewise, how little constraint past western ideals, like liberty and equality, democracy and human rights, constraint the rise and spread of Nazi ideologies.
This is perhaps the most shocking part of that era to our understanding of humanity, empathy, and what we might have thought of as the “self-evident” truth of our liberal ideals.
Why learning about the Nazis doesn’t just shock and terrify every school child who learns of it, but breaks the mental model of human psychology and sociology of most adults who think about it.
To me this aspects, the part that least well fits into our schemes of how emotions and ideals work. Is precisely what ought to tell us our current mental models are off.
Off how?

IMO off in that innate empathy and morals are not a strong constraint (unfortunately) but a highly malleable part of our psychology. Able to be all too easily twisted by the incentive structure. Offering all but minimal pushback.
And likewise for our ideologies. We think of our motions of rights and liberty and equality as driven by logic and truth, and self evident, at least once discovered.
But that’s hard to jibe w/ how easily they were discarded by the Nazis. And how easy it was to develop a new system of morals and ideals that seemed just as logical and self-evident to them.

When the incentive structure demanded it.
Again demonstrating the power of incentives to, almost w/o constraint and pushback, from logic, evidence or past beliefs, to twist and shape our ideologies.

Even turning much of “enlighhtened” Europe into ideological Nazis.

Further addendum:

Why then? Why Eastern Europe hardest hit? What about the deep roots of anti-Semitic ideology? And Hitler’s seemingly genuine belief in such?

(Some important questions raised to my initial thread and my tentative responses.)
Why Eastern Europe specifically? Weren’t Jews in Hungary in fact poorer? But the Danes were the ones spared?

(See this tweet and subsequent.)

But doesn’t my argument leave out fact Hitler was genuine ideologue? And these idealogies have deep roots in Europe/Germany?

(See this and subsequent tweets.)

And now more on the costs and benefits of genocide

(Answering “was it really worth it? How much did the Nazis actually extract? What did it cost them?):

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