Holocaust intentionalism and Holocaust functionalism

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Holocaust intentionalism argues that the Holocaust was intended and ordered by Adolf Hitler, while Holocaust functionalism argues that the Holocaust started due to lower German officials starting genocidal killings on their own initiative and without orders. There are also various combinations of these two views. Both views and their combinations are politically correct, do not doubt the existence of any of the alleged Holocaust crimes, and are not considered to be "Holocaust denialism".

Holocaust intentionalism

Holocaust intentionalism was the only mainstream view until around 1970. It was thus the view established as a "fact" at all the major Holocaust trials.

Related is that, ""At the Irving-Lipstadt libel trial it was conceded by Lipstadt’s team of anti-revisionist Holocaust experts that prior to 1941 there was no Nazi policy to exterminate Jewry. Justice Gray noted: “It is common ground between the parties [Irving and Lipstadt’s team of Holocaust experts] that, until the latter part of 1941, the solution to the Jewish question which Hitler preferred was their mass deportation.” The anti-revisionist experts at the Irving-Lipstadt libel trial further admitted: “…that in the 1930s Hitler should not be understood to have been speaking in a genocidal terms.”"[1]

Holocaust functionalism

Holocaust functionlists around 1970 started making arguments such as Einsatzgruppen commanders having started the genocidal killings on their own initiative. Later, during the Holocaust trials, they lied about this and claimed the existence of superior orders, in order to receive reduced punishments.

Holocaust revisionist arguments on the lack of a documented Hitler order (see Holocaust documentary evidence) and other revisionist research have been argued to have influenced this.[2]

One combination of the intentionalist and functionalist views is that Hitler somewhat later in the war approved of these not ordered initial genocidal killings by the Einsatzgruppen and allowed the expansion of the Holocaust from Eastern Europe to all of Europe. An often claimed date for this "delayed" Hitler order is on 12 December 1941, at a Reich Chancellery meeting. See Alleged statements by Hitler on the Holocaust: Goebbels's diary.

Functionalist views have become increasingly popular. Possible explanations for this include that:

  • Such views often present the Holocaust as an inevitable consequence of the "functioning" of National Socialist Germany and National Socialism. This has effects such as increasing German collective guilt.
  • Such views may provide a partial answer to the lack of an order by Hitler ordering the Holocaust (see Holocaust documentary evidence).
  • Such views and their criticisms of Holocaust intentionalism are one of the few forms of "debates" allowed within the mainstream, as many other forms of criticisms and debates are labeled as "Holocaust denial", and thus are dangerous or illegal to discuss.

However, Holocaust functionalism arguably creates new problems for the politically correct view(s):

  • It casts doubt on much of what was earlier established as "facts". This includes what was established at all the major Holocaust trials and the "confessions" of many of the most prominent Holocaust confessors, who attempted the superior orders defense or otherwise claimed the existence of an always intended and centrally planned and ordered Holocaust.
  • It implies, for example, that Hermann Göring was falsely convicted at the International Military Tribunal for allegedly having ordered Reinhard Heydrich to implement the Holocaust on 31 July 1941, since functionalists allege that Hitler made the decision to kill all Jews at a later date (or not at all). See Hermann Göring: 31 July 1941 directive.
  • German officials are claimed to on their own initiative and without orders to have started genocidal killings, despite unauthorized killings not being lawful and possibly being considered murder under German law. See also World War II German punishments for mistreatment of Jews.
  • Such Germans officials would also have risked being charged with the severe offence of sabotaging or obstructing the war effort by killing many able workers (a critical needed resource during the war) and enabling enemy anti-German propaganda.
  • The German military and bureaucracy were well-known for their discipline and strict adherence to orders.
  • Such German officials would have risked after war being charged with war crimes. If they acted on the own initiative without orders, then they could not use the superior orders defense. (There is a somewhat similar problem with Holocaust intentionalism. German officials are supposed to have received oral only orders ordering genocidal killings. Without written orders such German officials would have no evidence of the existence of superior orders. Holocaust revisionists have argued that this is unlikely to have been accepted, because of the risk of later war crimes trials.)

Descriptions aimed at the general public

Holocaust functionalism is now very popular in politically correct "scholarly" descriptions, but descriptions aimed at the general public often give the impression that intentionalism is the only politically correct view.

See also


  1. In Defense of Holocaust Revisionism: A Response to Shermer and Grobman's Denying History http://www.vho.org/tr/2002/1/tr09denyhist.html
  2. From Revisionism to Holocaust Denial - David Irving as a Case Study* http://www.fpp.co.uk/Irving/biographical/Roni_Stauber.html