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Anti-Semitism was widespread in Europe at the time Hitler came to power Much of this anti-Semitism was rooted first in religious beliefs that arose more than 1500 years before Hitler came to power and second on political beliefs often cynically exploited for political gain Though it was not accepted by everyone this existing anti-Semitism was common and provided a receptive audience for Hitlers anti-Semitic claims Hitler did not just exploit the existing anti-Semitism in Germany he changed it and built on it until it became an all-consuming obsession both for himself and for the rest of the National Socialist leadership The most significant difference between traditional anti-Semitism and the philosophy of the Nazis was that the basis for the anti-Semitism was distorted and changed Previous anti-Semitism had been based upon religious convictions - primarily on the questionable fact that Jews were responsible for the execution of Jesus - and political attacks to exclude Jews from the rest of societyAlthough he exploited this religious anti-Semitism Hitler and the other Nazi leaders who were opposed to traditional religions found another basis for their hatred of the Jews They relied on the theories of eugenics and social Darwinism which were then common in Europe and transformed them into race science They also used the political expression of anti-Semitism coupled with the myth of the Aryans This myth had developed in Europe the last part of the 19th century According to Hitlers philosophy the Germanic peoples called Aryans were superior to all other races and had the right to rule over them Hitler and the other Nazis claimed that other races such as the Slavs and the Poles were inferior species fit only to serve Aryan man The Jews were even lower than the Slavs Hitler believed that Aryans were the builders of civilization while Jews were parasites fit only for extermination This racism had a political agenda as well Hitler blamed the Jews for the loss of
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