Why did the Nazis persecute the Jews?

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From the late 1870s, traditional, 'religious' anti-Jewish attitudes were supplemented by new, secular, racist antisemitic stereotypes and by conspiracy theories.

A whole web of conspiracy theories was woven round the Jews. In many countries they were seen as the embodiment of everything 'modern' - large cities, the media, independent, critical thought, liberalism and socialism. So, not surprsingly, hostility towards the Jews were tended to be particularly attractive to some people who were having difficulty adapting to the modern world - for example, the lower reaches of the aristocracy and craftsmen no longer able to compete with industrial production
  1. Many in Germany refused to believe that Germany had actually been defeated in World War 1 and instead subscribed to a conspiracy theory nicknamed the 'stab-in-the-back legend'. This claimed that Germany had been done down on the home front by assorted liberals, socialists and by Bolshevists (Communists) - and by "the Jews".
  2. In Germany before World War 1 the Jews had been widely associated with liberalism. In the wake of the Russian Revolution of November 1917 they came to be widely associated with Bolshevism (Communism). In the 1920s this was widely taken for granted, not only in Germany but also in the U.S., Britain and France, for example.
  3. In some extreme right wing circles there was talk about a supposed 'Judeo-Bolshevist conspiracy'. Hitler himself saw the Jews as the 'biological root' and the 'carriers' of Bolshevism. This conspiracy theory seems to have been particularly popular among some of those who fled from Russia to Germany in 1918-20. The influence of these people from Russia, which had a long tradition of antisemitism, should not be underrated. (See link below).
  4. The Nazis also claimed that the Jews were actively encouraging cultural and moral decline and homosexuality
  5. Hitler saw it as his mission in life to rid the world of Communism and to establish a vast German empire in Europe.
  6. In Germany, it was probably the maliciously constructed link between defeat in World War 1 (1914-1918) and the Jews that proved most explosive. Jews had not been prominent in the 1918 German Revolution, except in Bavaria, and there had been no 'stab-in-the-back', either. The German army was retreating, and fast, when Germany asked for an armistice - and it wasn't Jews who asked for an armistice or signed the Treaty of Versailles. Antisemitism in Germany was particularly strong in Bavaria, and Hitler found his rantings against Jews brought him wild applause in the beer-halls of Bavaria.
  7. Hitler also used the Jews as a scapegoat to blame for Germany's defeat in World War 1 and for Germany economic problems, especially the Great Depression.
  8. The Jews were viewed by Hitler as racially inferior. He wanted to create a "master race." In that there would be no room for "undesirables."

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The Jews were targeted by the Nazis because Hitler believed that they were an inferior race. He convinced others of the same belief and many Jews were rounded up into concentration camps and killed in order to try and eradicate them.
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