When discussing Adolf Hitler, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, most historians downplay the role of Nazi ideology, according to the keynote speaker at the 29th annual Holocaust Conference at Millersville University.
Robert Gellately, a Florida State University history professor, said he strongly disagrees with this stance and believes that the ideology provided the underlying rationalization and was the driving force behind the Holocaust.
Gellately spoke Wednesday night to about 100 people at Lehr Room, Gordinier Conference Center, on the subject, "Hitler, Anti-Communism and the Holocaust."
Gellately said when Hitler returned from World War I he was trained as an anti-Bolshevik speaker.
His rejection of communism was reinforced by what he saw in the Bolshevik Revolution - internationalism, emphasis on class conflict and seizure of property.
Hitler, instead, wanted an authoritarian dictatorship based on consensus, Gellately said.
Toward that end, Hitler drew anti-Bolshevism and anti-Semitism into a toxic mix, he said, and enticed people to believe conspiracy theories that Jews were behind the international push for communism.
Gellately quoted a letter Hitler wrote in 1919, in which he said he wanted to rid the world of Jews, but the German people were too soft to accept pogroms.
When he wrote his autobiography, "Mein Kampf," in 1933, Gellately said it was filled with his ideologies of rabid nationalism, a drive for expanded living space in the East and anti-Semitism and anti-Bolshevism.
Once in power, Hitler and the Nazi party struck first at communism with camps designed to hold communists.
"These camps were popular," Gellately said.
In 1936, Hitler announced his four-year plan to get Germany ready for war - ready to attack the Bolsheviks.
"He made no secrets of his plans," Gellately said.
He said Hitler told his countrymen that, should Germany lose the war, it would be infinitely worse for them than it was after the last war. It would mean the annihilation of the German people.
"His representation of war was that it was absolutely necessary to stop Bolshevism and Jews," Gellately said.
In his speech on the anniversary of his appointment as chancellor, Hitler said the Jews were the "real world enemy."
Hitler's speech assumed Jews were responsible for World War I and that another world war arranged by the international Jews would result in the Bolshevization of the world.
Attacking that idea, Hitler announced the end would not be a victory for Jews, but the ultimate destruction of the Jewish race in Europe.
Gellately said this "ominous prophecy" was a metaphor for solving the Jewish problem.
Hitler meant this prophecy to be turned into reality with the establishment of the Third Reich and the will for mass murder to grow, he said.
Although Hitler issued no written or verbal orders, he required his subordinate leaders to "act as he would wish … to take 95 percent of the decisions in my place."
Which they did.
By September 1941, "the time for the final solution was ripe," Gellately said.
By this time, "the intent to kill all Jews became thinkable."
• Gellately teaches a variety of courses at Florida State University, including the comparative history of genocide; the comparative study of European dictatorships; the Holocaust; and home fronts in the Second World War. He also is the author or editor of eight books. His latest book, written in 2007, is "Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe."