Functionalism–intentionalism debate  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The functionalism–intentionalism debate is a historiographical debate about the origins of the Holocaust as well as most aspects of the Third Reich, such as foreign policy. The debate on the origins of the Holocaust centres on essentially two questions:

  • Was there a master plan on the part of Adolf Hitler to launch the Holocaust? Intentionalists argue there was such a plan, while functionalists argue there was not.
  • Did the initiative for the Holocaust come from above with orders from Adolf Hitler or from below within the ranks of the German bureaucracy? Although neither side disputes the reality of the Holocaust, nor is there serious dispute over the premise that Hitler (as Führer) was personally responsible for encouraging the anti-Semitism that allowed the Holocaust to take place, intentionalists argue the initiative came from above, while functionalists contend it came from lower ranks within the bureaucracy.

The terms were coined in a 1981 essay by the British Marxist historian Timothy Mason. Notable functionalists have included Timothy Mason, Raul Hilberg, Karl Schleunes, Christopher Browning, Hans Mommsen, Martin Broszat, Götz Aly, Yehuda Bauer and Zygmunt Bauman. Notable intentionalists have included Gerald Fleming, Karl Dietrich Bracher, Andreas Hillgruber, Klaus Hildebrand, Eberhard Jäckel, Gerhard Weinberg, Walter Laqueur, Saul Friedländer, Richard Breitman, Lucy Dawidowicz and Daniel Jonah Goldhagen.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Functionalism–intentionalism debate" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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