Practice Exam Question, A Level History

by Ben Alford

‘The Final Solution evolved because of the chaotic nature of the Nazi Regime in the years 1939–42.’ How far do you agree with this opinion?  (30)

Tip: pick apart events and decisions leading to the Holocaust and argue, argue, argue – do they support the interpretation in the question, or not?

Possible interpretations of how the Final Solution evolved…look for examples that back up each, especially in the years 1939-42, but perhaps earlier also.

  • ‘Intentionalist’ explanation: Final Solution (i.e. industrialised mass murder) evolved in line with Hitler’s ideology and plans, under his clear direction.
  • ‘Functionalist/ Structuralist’ explanation: Final Solution evolved in line with Hitler’s ideology, however it came about as a result of competition and chaos within the Nazi Regime.
  • Ian Kershaw: Final Solution evolved as a result of competition and chaos in the Nazi Regime to ‘Work towards the Fuhrer’ and make Hitler’s ideology and plans come true.


Comments from the exam board;

This question targets the much debated issue of the inception of the Holocaust. It can be argued that the mass murder evolved from competing organisations and agendas and even circumstances.


Look for comment on Himmler and the Generalplan Ost, the clashes between the Governor of Poland, Hans Frank, and Himmler, the initiatives of Goebbels in 1941 to worsen the position of Jews in Germany, the decision of Hitler in October 1941 to authorise the deportation of Jews from Germany, the mass murders in the Baltic States, the Wannsee conference in January 1942 and the onset of industrial mass murder in 1942. Some have argued for the key decisions being made in the autumn of 1941 but more recently Adam Tooze has argued that the key figures were Himmler and Herbert Backe, responsible for food supplies, in 1942.


At Level 2 there will probably be an essentially descriptive approach but at Level 3, candidates should begin to debate the proposition and examine the chaotic nature of governmental structures, probably producing a rather one-sided case.


At Level 4 there should be a real debate about the causes of the recourse to planned genocide, showing a real awareness of possible different perspectives, including both the stated factor, the chaotic nature of governmental structures, and other possible explanations such as the intentionalist view that Hitler blamed the Jews for the war and was determined to exact revenge as promised in the speech of 1939.


At Level 5 there will be a sustained evaluative argument precisely supported with telling detail drawn from the whole period of the war.

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