Understanding Industrialized Murder

Authored by Daniel A. Murphy and Daniel T. Murphy


The Holocaust was an industrial-scale elimination of six million Jews, organized and enabled by institutions including the bureaucracy, military and political organizations.[1]  “Industrialized” is the key word.  To understand industrialized murder in the context of the holocaust in Europe, it is necessary to view the event through two dimensions: (a) How mass murder was managed and engineered, and (b) How mass murder was socially implemented.


The final solution in Europe was managed and engineered by the bureaucracies, the military, and multiple elements of the population.  It was not the work of soldiers alone. The effort included ordinary educated Germans such as doctors, businessmen and lawyers cooperating in using technology and administrative methods to carry out murder – Surprisingly, in a civilized western country.

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”  Albert Einstein.

In her book, The War Against the Jews, Lucy Dawidowicz discusses the complex political and administrative policies that were used in using Germany’s trains, army and other industrial capabilities to commit mass murder. Extermination was a political solution to the Jewish question, and the political solution would count on the cooperation of multiple state bureaucracies.[2]

According to Dawidowicz, Nazi policy stated that the final solution had precedence over all other state matters.  Resources were often allocated to operations in the war against the Jews rather than the war on the front lines.  The military often stepped aside to allow those resources, including staff, trains and other transportation resources to be used for the final solution.[3]

Besides administrative hurdles, industrialized murder also has its technical hurdles. Germany was able to take advantage of the fact that it was a highly industrialized nation.  The country had already developed poison gasses and had created sophisticated railways that could be utilized.  In fact, final solution architect Heinrich Himmler strategically picked the location of Auschwitz for one of the first death camps, because of its access to railway systems, and its distance from German cities, to protect the German people from having knowledge of the crime.[4] The many moving parts of this complex system allowed the Nazis to kill nearly six million Jews.


One of the reasons that the Nazi government was able to commit mass murder was because it had been historically emotionally acceptable by Christians long before the 1940s.  To understand the German social mindset during these years, we must dig deeper than the policies of institutions of the time.  History is where we find the human side of the holocaust.  History is where we can begin understand how the component of race, religion, psychology, lies, justice, and morality intertwined to allow mass murder to occur.

It is important to understand that anti-Semitism was not limited to Germany.  It was pan-European.  In his book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Daniel Goldhagen discusses how anti-Semitism ran rampant in Europe throughout its history.  The Roman Catholic Church especially, with its totalitarian aspirations in medieval times, painted Jews as an enemies of a church and demons of humanity.  The Catholic Church as well as the protestant churches condemned Jews through hateful rhetoric and lies, using the harshest of words labeling them “Christ killers.”[5]

Germany, a predominantly Catholic and Protestant country was a Christian state.  So, how could a Christian state have committed such evil?  Goldhagen tries to explain how Christians could kill Jews so cynically, and find delight in the process. In a chapter titled Explaining the Perpetrator’s Actions: Assessing the Competing Explanations, heclaims that some Germans viewed Jews as demons, and that in killing them, the people were exacting their revenge for what had fallen upon their country as a result of the previous world war.[6]  Goldhagen believes these Christians replaced their morality with hatred.  They felt moral in killing Jews, and believed they were exercising justice.

In his book, The Destruction of the European Jews, Raul Hilberg elaborates further on the psychological problems of implementing social murder.  He describes the German bureaucracy’s problem in preventing its soldiers from becoming “savages or neurotics” while committing the mass murders.[7]  Ironically, to reduce the social trauma to the perpetrators of the violence, Nazi leaders opted to engineer more complex killing devices – Crematoria to replace pistols.


Industrialized murder has two dimensions – A “hard” dimension where murder is managed and engineered, and a “soft” dimension where murder was socially allowed.  While historians have varying points of view on the holocaust, all seem to be in agreement that there was a breakdown in the moral culture of the German people, creating a social environment where mass murder could take place.  In the words of Daniel Goldhagen, “Ordinary Germans” became “Hitler’s willing executioners.”[8] And, the social environment enabled the management and engineering of mass murder.

Copyright 2012 Daniel A. Murphy


Dawidowicz, Lucy S. The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977. Print

Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah. Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Knopf, 1996. Print.

Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985. Print.

[1] Class notes, 9/05/2012.

[2] Dawidowicz, Lucy S, The War against the Jews: 1933-1935, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977. Print, p 130.

[3] Dawidowicz, p 140.

[4] Dawidowicz, p 130.

[5] Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, New York: Knopf, 1996, p 152.

[6] Goldhagen, p 153.

[7] Hillberg, Raul, The Destruction of the European Jews, New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985, p 274.

[8] Goldhagen, cover.