Mental Health.

Intentionalism versus Functionalism:   Thoughts on the Nature of the Debate on the Origins of the ‘Final Solution’

      The Nazi regime’s so-called ‘Final Solution’ was implemented to systematically annihilate the European Jews.   After the end of the Second World War, it was established that six million Jews had been deported and murdered by factory methods (gassed, shot, starved, worked to death) under the programme of this ‘Final Solution’.[1]   The efforts of historians to make sense of this appalling, deliberate and violent destruction of human life have been hampered by two main difficulties.   The first is of a practical nature:   Many aspects of the genesis of the Final Solution have been obscured by the destruction of pertinent files, (mainly by the Nazi Security Police) and by the misleading phrasing of the extant documents.[2]   The second difficulty is more abstract:   In an historical analysis of the genocide, historians of National Socialism are confronted with the question not only of how they can provide a rational explanation of the inhumane phenomenon, but whether such a rational explanation can possibly exist.   These difficulties have led to a diversity of often conflicting interpretations of the Final Solution.   Moreover, these conflicting interpretations have been coupled with a heated debate about the fundamental purpose of historical writing, the methods of interpretation, and the moral and historical responsibility of historians in general.
      Most interpretations of the origins of the Final Solution fall into either the so-called intentionalist or the functionalist school of thought.   ‘Intentionalism’ refers to the position of those historians who argue that the self-conscious decisions made by Hitler and his immediate followers were decisive to the National Socialist rule.   In their view, an indisputable continuity exists between Hitler’s anti-Semitic writings in Mein Kampf, and the Nazi racial policies that were pursued by Germany both...