… The hypothesis that German anti-Semitism was the real reason for the Holocaust has been rightly criticized by urging a comparison with the First World War. At that time anti-Semitism was just as strong in Germany but no organized genocide resulted. And why no Holocaust in the other anti-Semitic countries‹Poland, Russia and other parts of Europe? The argument that in the Weimar Republic unemployment and poverty caused immense general frustration that was discharged via the mass murder of the Jews is hardly convincing, given that Hitler was quickly successful in getting unemployment under control.
There must have been other factors at play which have hitherto been ignored, factors going some way to explaining why the Holocaust happened in Germany and why it happened at this particular time rather than another. In my view, one possible operative factor is the destructive child-rearing style practiced widely on infants around the turn of the century in Germany, a style I have no hesitation in referring to as a universal abuse of infants.
Of course children in other countries have been and still are mistreated in the name of upbringing or care giving, but hardly as babies and hardly with the systematic thoroughness characteristic of the Prussian pedagogy. In the two generations before Hitler’s rise to power, the implementation of this method was brought to a high degree of perfection in Germany. With this foundation to build on, Hitler finally achieved what he wanted: “My ideal of education is hard. Whatever is weak must be hammered away. In the fortresses of my militant order a generation of young people will grow to strike fear into the heart of the world. Violent, masterful, unafraid, cruel youth is what I want. Young people must be all that. They must withstand pain. There must be nothing weak or tender about them. The free-magnificent predator must flash from their eyes again. I want them strong and beautiful…That way I can fashion things anew.” This education program revolving on the extermination of everything life-giving was the forerunner of Hitler’s plans for the extermination of an entire nation. Indeed it was the prerequisite for the ultimate success of his designs.
The numerous and widely-read tracts by Dr. Daniel Gottlieb Moritz Schreber, the inventor of the Schrebergärten (the German world for small allotments) are of major interest here. Some of them ran to as many as 40 editions, and their central concern was to instruct parents in the systematic upbringing of infants from the very first day of life. Many people motivated by what they thought to be the best of intentions complied with the advice given them by Schreber and other authors about how best to raise their children if they wanted to make them into model subjects of the German Reich. They did this without even remotely suspecting that they were exposing their children to a systematic form of torture with long-term effects. Germany sayings and catch-phrases like “Praise be to the things that make us tough” and “What doesn’t kill us will strengthen us,” still to be heard from educationists of the old school, probably originated in this period.
Morton Schatzman, who quotes highly enlightening passages from Schreber’s writings, is of the opinion that here we are in the presence not of child-raising methods but of systematic instruction in child persecution. One of Schreber’s convictions is that when babies cry they should be made to desist by the use of “physically perceptible admonitions,” assuring his readers that “such a procedure is only necessary once, or at the most twice, and then one is master of the child for all time. From then on, one look, one single threatening gesture will suffice to subjugate the child.” Above all, the newborn child should be drilled from the very first day to obey and to refrain from crying. …