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Nazis or Nazism, officially called National Socialism (German: Nationalsozialismus), refers primarily to the totalitarian ideology and practices of the Nazi Party (National Socialist German Workers' Party, German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP) under Adolf Hitler. It also refers to the policies adopted by the government of Germany 1933 to 1945, a period in German history known as Nazi Germany or the "Third Reich".
On January 5, 1919, the party was founded as the German Workers' Party (DAP) by Anton Drexler. Hitler joined the party in September 1919, and became propaganda boss, renaming the party April 1, 1920, and becoming party leader July 29, 1921.
Nazism was not a precise, theoretically grounded ideology, or a monolithic movement, but rather a (mainly German) combination of various ideologies and groups. It consisted of a loose collection of ideas and positions: anti-parliamentarism, ethnic nationalism, racism, collectivism, eugenics, anti-Semitism, opposition to economic liberalism and political liberalism, opposition to finance capitalism, and anti-communism. As Nazism became dominant in Germany, especially after 1933, it was defined in practice as whatever was decreed by the Nazi Party and in particular by the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.
The term Nazi is derived from the first two syllables, as pronounced in German, of the official name of the German Nazi Party, the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. The Nazis rarely refered to themselves as Nazis, and instead used the official term, Nationalsozialisten (National Socialists). Nazi was a pejorative term used by opponents of the movemement, especially in Southern Germany, and mirrors the term Sozi, a common and slightly derogatory term for the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands), the Nazis' main opponents before obtaining power. When Hitler took power, the use of Nazi almost disappeared from Germany, although it was still used by opponents in Austria.
Nazi opinions, an extension of various philosophies, came together at a critical time for Germany; the nation had not only lost World War I in 1918, but had also been forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles, an intentionally devastating capitulation, and was in the midst of a period of great economic depression and instability. The Dolchstosslegende, or "stab in the back" legend, held that the war effort was sabotaged internally, suggesting a "lack of patriotism" had led to Germany's defeat (for one, the front line was off of German soil at the time of the armistice). In politics, criticism was directed at the Social Democrats and also the Weimar government (Deutsches Reich 1919-1933), which had been accused of selling out the country. The Dolchstosslegende led many to look at "non-Germans" living in Germany for potential extra-national loyalties, like the Jews, raising anti-Semitic sentiments, regarding the Judenfrage (German for the "Jewish Question"), at a time when the Völkisch movement and a desire to create a Greater Germany were strong.
Although Hitler had joined the worker's party in September 1919, and published Mein Kampf in 1925-1926 about the Aryan "master race" ("Herrenvolk"), the seminal ideas of Nazism trace back decades to previous groups and individuals, including: Schopenhauer, Guido von List, Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels, the List Society, the Germanenorden, and the Thule Society:
Nazism refers to the ideology held by the National Socialist German Workers Party and its so-called "Weltanschauung" when in power from 1933 to 1945. Free elections in 1932 under Germany's Weimar Republic made the NSDAP the largest parliamentary fraction; no similar party in any country at that time had achieved comparable electoral success. Adolf Hitler's 30 January 1933 appointment to the chancellorship and his subsequent consolidation of dictatorial power, marked the beginning of Nazi Germany. During its first year in power, the NSDAP announced the Tausendjähriges Reich ("Thousand Years' Empire") or Drittes Reich ("Third Reich", a putative successor to the Holy Roman Empire and the German Empire). The Nazi regime ended with World War II (1945), when the party was declared a criminal organisation by the victorious Allied Powers and effectively destroyed.
Since 1945, Nazism has been outlawed as a political ideology in Germany, as are forms of iconography and propaganda from the Nazi era. However, "Neo-Nazis" continue to operate in Germany and abroad. Following World War II and the Holocaust, the term "Nazi" and symbols associated with Nazism (such as the swastika) acquired extremely negative connotations in Europe and North America. Calling someone a "Nazi" or suggesting ties to Nazism is considered an insult. Many have compared opponents with Nazis to put their opponents in a negative light: a fallacy called "reductio ad Hitlerum."
In terms of ideology, Nazism has come to stand for a belief in the superiority of an Aryan master race, an abstraction of the Germanic peoples. During the time of Hitler, the Nazis advocated a strong, centralized government under the Führer and claimed to be defending Germany and the German people (including those of German ethnicity abroad) against communism and so-called Jewish subversion. Ultimately, the Nazis sought to create a largely homogenous and self-sufficient ethnic state, absorbing the ideas of Pan-Germanism and pairing them other abstract concepts, some related to social theory and even Nietzsche's übermensch.
However, historians often disagree on the principal interests of the Nazi Party and whether Nazism can be considered a coherent ideology. The original National Socialists claimed that there would be no program that would bind them, and that they wanted to reject any established world view. Still, as Hitler played a major role in the development of the Nazi Party from its early stages and rose to become the movement's indisputable iconographic figurehead, much of what is thought to be "Nazism" is in line with Hitler's own political beliefs - the ideology and the man continue to remain largely interchangeable in the public eye. Some dispute whether Hitler's views relate directly to those surrounding the movement; the problem is furthered by the inability of various self-proclaimed Nazis and Nazi groups to decide on a universal ideology.
Nazism and Fascism
In both popular thought and academic scholarship, Nazism is generally considered a form of Fascism - a term whose definition is itself contentious. The debate focuses mainly on comparisons of fascists movements in general with the Italian prototype, including the fascists in Germany. The idea mentioned above to reject all former ideas and ideologies like democracy, liberalism, and especially marxism (as in Ernst Nolte) make it difficult to track down a perfect definition of these two terms. However, Italian Fascists tended to believe that all elements in society should be unified through corporatism to form an "Organic State"; this meant that these Fascists often had no strong opinion on the question of race, as it was only the State and nation that mattered. German Nazism, on the other hand, emphasized the Aryan race or "Volk" principle to the point where the state simply seemed a means through which the Aryan race could realize its "true destiny." Since a debate among historians (especially Zeev Sternhell) to see each movement, or at least the German, as unique, the issue has been settled in most parts showing that there is a stronger family resemblance between the Italian and the German fascist movement than there is between democracies in Europe or the communist states of the Cold War; additionally, the crimes of the fascist movement can of course be compared, not only in numbers of casualties but also in common developments: the March on Rome of Mussolini to Hilter's response shortly after to attempt a coup d'etat himself in Munich. Also, Aryanism was not an attractive idea for Italians that had neither blond hair nor blue eyes, but still there was a strong racism and also Genocide in concentration camps long before either was in place in Germany. The philosophy that had seemed to be separating both fascisms was shown to be a result of happening in two different countries: since the king of Italy never died, unlike the Reichspräsident, the leader in Italy (Duce) was never able to gain the absolute power the leader in Germany (Führer) did, leading to Mussolini's fall. The academic challenge to separate all fascist movements has since the 1980s and early '90s been ground for a new attempt to see even more similarities.
There was no 'complete', official theory of Nazism, anywhere. Among comments on the Nazi movement, those of its leader Adolf Hitler are thought to be very influential. He claimed in his book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) that he first began to develop his views through observations he made while living in Vienna. He concluded that there was a racial, religious, and cultural hierarchy, and he placed "Aryans" at the top as the ultimate superior race, while Jews and "Gypsies" were people at the bottom. He vaguely examined and questioned the policies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where as a citizen by birth, Hitler lived during the Empire's last throes of life. He believed that its ethnic and linguistic diversity had weakened the Empire and helped to create dissension. Further, he saw democracy as a destabilizing force because it placed power in the hands of ethnic minorities who, he claimed, "weakened and destabilized" the Empire by dividing it against itself.
The Nazi state was founded upon a racially defined "German people" and principally rejected the idea of being bound by the limits of nationalism; that was only a means for attempting unlimited supremacy. In that sense, its nationalism and hyper-nationalism was tolerated to reach a world-dominating Germanic-Aryan Volksgemeinschaft. This is a central concept of Mein Kampf, symbolized by the motto Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer (one people, one empire, one leader). The Nazi relationship between the Volk and the state was called the Volksgemeinschaft ("people's community"), a late 19th or early 20th century Neologism that defined a communal duty of citizens in service to the Reich (opposed to a simple "society"). The term "National Socialism", derives from this citizen-nation relationship, whereby the term socialism is invoked and is meant to be realized through the common duty of the individuals to the German people; all actions are to be in service of the Reich. In practice, the Nazis argued, their goal was to bring forth a nation-state as the locus and embodiment of the people's collective will, bound by the Volksgemeinschaft as both an ideal and an operating instrument. In comparison, non-national socialist ideologies oppose the idea of nations. For further information on national socialism and socialism, and Nazism and fascism, see Fascism and ideology.
Nazi rationale also invested heavily in the militarist belief that great nations grow from military power and maintained order, which in turn grow "naturally" from "rational, civilized cultures". The Nazi Party appealed to German nationalists and national pride, capitalizing on irredentist and revanchist sentiments as well as aversions to various aspects of modernist thinking (though at the same time embracing other modernist ideas, e.g. admiration for engine power). Many ethnic Germans were deeply committed to the goal of creating the Greater Germany (the old dream to include German-speaking Austria) and some felt that the use of military force was necessary to achieve it.
Racism and discrimination
The Nazi racial philosophy wholly embraced Alfred Rosenberg's Aryan Invasion Theory, which traced Aryan peoples in ancient Iran invading the Indus Valley Civilization, and carrying with them great knowledge and science that had been preserved from the antediluvian world. This "antediluvian world" referred to Thule, the speculative pre-Flood/Ice Age origin of the Aryan race, and is often tied to ideas of Atlantis. Most of the leadership and the founders of the Nazi Party were made up of members of the "Thule-Gesellschaft (the Thule Society)", which romanticized the Aryan race through theology and ritual.
Hitler also claimed that a nation was the highest creation of a "race", and "great nations" (literally large nations) were the creation of homogeneous populations of "great races", working together. These nations developed cultures that naturally grew from "races" with "natural good health, and aggressive, intelligent, courageous traits". The "weakest nations", Hitler said, were those of "impure" or "mongrel races", because they had divided, quarrelling, and therefore weak cultures. Worst of all were seen to be the parasitic "Untermensch" (Subhumans), mainly Jews, but also Gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled and so called anti-socials, all of whom were considered "lebensunwertes Leben" ("Life-unworthy life") owing to their perceived deficiency and inferiority, as well as their wandering, nationless invasions ("the International Jew"). The persecution of homosexuals as part of the Holocaust has seen increasing scholarly attention since the 1990s.
According to Nazism, it is an obvious mistake to permit or encourage plurality within a nation. Fundamental to the Nazi goal was the unification of all German-speaking peoples, "unjustly" divided into different Nation States. The Nazis tried to recruit Dutch and Scandinavian men into the SS, considering them to be of superior "germanic" stock, with only limited success. In a speech to SS leaders in October 1943, Himmler stated that, "There were no great figures -- this is the tragedy of the renewal movements in Holland, in Flanders, in Norway, and in Denmark -- able to win their people over to us and lead them into the germanic political community today, according to their own political laws.... The select few who come to us, and fight in our germanic volunteer units, ... are naturally some of the most valuable members of the germanic nations. These men ... will be the old fighters of the greater germanic community."
Hitler claimed that nations that could not defend their territory did not deserve it. He thought "Slave races", like the Slavic peoples, to be less worthy to exist than "leader races". In particular, if a "master race" should require room to live ("Lebensraum"), he thought such a "race" should have the right to displace the inferior indigenous races.
"Races without homelands", Hitler proclaimed, were "parasitic races", and the richer the members of a "parasitic race" were, the more "virulent" the parasitism was thought to be. A "master race" could therefore, according to the Nazi doctrine, easily strengthen itself by eliminating "parasitic races" from its homeland. This was the given rationalization for the Nazis' later oppression and elimination of Jews, Gypsies, Czechs, Poles, the mentally and physically handicapped, homosexuals and others not belonging to these groups or categories that were part of the Holocaust. The Waffen-SS and other German soldiers (including parts of the Wehrmacht), as well as civilian paramilitary groups in occupied territories, were responsible for the deaths of an estimated eleven million men, women, and children in concentration camps, prisoner-of-war camps, labor camps, and death camps such as Auschwitz and Treblinka.
The belief in the need to purify the German race lead them to eugenics; this culminated in the involuntary euthanasia of disabled people and the compulsory sterilization of people with mental deficiencies or illnesses perceived as hereditary.
According to Nazi propaganda, the Jews thrived on fomenting division amongst Germans and amongst states. Nazi anti-Semitism was primarily racial: "the Jew is the enemy and destroyer of the purity of blood, the conscious destroyer of our race;" however, the Jews were also described as plutocrats exploiting the worker: "As socialists we are opponents of the Jews because we see in the Hebrews the incarnation of capitalism, of the misuse of the nation's goods."
An estimated 100,000 homosexuals were arrested after Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s. Of those, 50,000 were suspected to be incarcerated in concentration camps, making for 5,000 to 15,000 deaths. According to Harry Oosterhuis, the Nazis' view towards homosexuality was ambiguous, and should not be viewed in the context of "race hygiene" or eugenics. Völkisch-nationalist youth movements were long suspected to be attracting homosexuals due to the preaching of Männerbund (male bonding); in practice, Oosterhuis says, this meant that the persecution of homosexuals was more politically motivated than anything else. For example, the homosexuality of Ernst Röhm was well known at the time and basis for satire and jokes. Röhm was killed chiefly because he was perceived as a political threat, not for his sexuality.
Hitler extended his rationalizations into a religious doctrine, underpinned by his criticism of traditional Catholicism. In particular, and closely related to Positive Christianity, Hitler objected to Catholicism's ungrounded and international character - that is, it did not pertain to an exclusive race and national culture. At the same time, and somewhat contradictorily, the Nazis combined elements of Germany's Lutheran community tradition with its Northern European, organic pagan past. Elements of militarism found their way into Hitler's own theology, as he preached that his was a "true" or "master" religion, because it would "create mastery" and avoid comforting lies. Those who preached love and tolerance, "in contravention to the facts", were said to be "slave" or "false" religions. The man who recognized these "truths", Hitler continued, was said to be a "natural leader", and those who denied it were said to be "natural slaves". "Slaves" - especially intelligent ones, he claimed - were always attempting to hinder their masters by promoting false religious and political doctrines.
Anti-clericalism can also be interpreted as part of Nazi ideology, simply because the new Nazi hierarchy was not about to let itself be overode by the power that the Church traditionally held. In Austria, clerics had a powerful role in politics and ultimately responded to the Vatican. Although a few exceptions exist, Christian persecution was primarily limited to those who refused to accommodate the new regime and yield to its power. The Nazis often used the church to justify their stance and included many Christian symbols in the Third Reich (Steigmann-Gall). A particularly poignant exemplar is the seen in the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Volkism was inherently hostile toward atheism: freethinkers clashed frequently with Nazis in the late 1920s and early 1930s. On taking power, Hitler banned freethought organizations and launched an "anti-godless" movement. In a 1933 speech he declared: "We have . . . undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out." This forthright hostility was far more straightforward than the Nazis’ complex, often contradictory stance toward traditional Christian faith.
Nazi thinking had an anticapitalist (and especially anti-finance capitalist) direction. The "Twenty-Five Point Programme" of the Nazi Party from 1920 listed several economic demands. Included in these demands were, "that the State shall make it its primary duty to provide a livelihood for its citizens," "the abolition of all incomes unearned by work," the ruthless confiscation of all war profits," "the nationalization of all businesses which have been formed into corporations," "profit-sharing in large enterprises," "extensive development of insurance for old-age," "land reform suitable to our national requirements," and to achieve this and other aims, "the creation of a strong central state power for the Reich." However, the degree to which the Nazis supported this programme in later years has been questioned. Several attempts were made in the 1920s to change some of the program or replace it entirely. For instance, in 1924, Gottfried Feder proposed a new 39-point program that kept some of the old planks, replaced others and added many completely new ones. Hitler refused to allow any discussion of the party programme after 1925, ostensibly on the grounds that no discussion was necessary because the programme was "inviolable" and did not need any changes. At the same time, however, Hitler never voiced public support for the programme and many historians argue that he was in fact privately opposed to it. Hitler did not mention any of the planks of the programme in his book, Mein Kampf, and only talked about it in passing as "the so-called programme of the movement".
Party spokesman Joseph Goebbels insisted in 1932 that the NSDAP was a "workers' party" and "on the side of labor and against finance". Hitler said that the Nazis were "We are socialists, we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance". However, he was clear to point out that Nazism "has nothing to do with Marxian Socialism," saying that "Marxism is anti-property; true Socialism is not." He further said that "I absolutely insist on protecting private property... we must encourage private initiative". Nevertheless, he wanted property to be regulated to make sure "benefit to the community precedes benefit to the individual". Attacks were made on what Hitler called "pluto-democracy," which was claimed to be a conspiracy by Jews to favor democratic parties in order to keep capitalism intact.
The ideological roots that became German National Socialism were based on numerous sources in European history, drawing especially from Romantic 19th century idealism, and from a biological reading of Friedrich Nietzsche's thoughts on "breeding upwards" toward the goal of an übermensch (Superhuman). Hitler was an avid reader and received ideas that were later to influence Nazism from traceable publications, such as those of the Germanenorden (Germanic Order) or the Thule Society. He also adopted many populist ideas such as limiting profits, abolishing rents and generously increasing social benefits - but only for Germans.
Nazism and the inferiority complex
The Nordic Myth has often been attributed to the reaction to an inferiority complex. Phillip Wayne Powell, in is book, Tree of Hate (1985), claimed that the Nordic Myth began to arise in 15th century Germany, when Germans resented the fact that Italians looked down on them as an inferior and unsophisticated people. In page 48, he states:
"In the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, a powerful surge of German patriotism was stimulated by the distain of Italians for German cultural inferiority and barbarism, which lead to a counterattempt by German humanists to laud German qualities."
Fodor, M. W. claimed in "The nation" (1936):
"No race has suffered so much from an inferiority complex as has the German. National Socialism was a kind of Coué method of converting the inferiority complex, at least temporarily, into a feeling of superiority".
Variants of Nazism and Hitlerism abroad
Nazism as a doctrine is far from being homogeneous and can indeed be divided into various sub-ideologies. During the 20s and 30s, there were two dominant NSDAP factions. There were the followers of Otto Strasser, the so-called Strasserites and the followers of Adolf Hitler or what could be termed Hitlerites. The Strasserite faction eventually fell afoul of Hitler, when Otto Strasser was expelled from the party in 1930, and his attempt to create an oppositional 'left-block' in the form of the Black Front failed. The remainder of the faction, which was to be found mainly in the ranks of the SA, was purged in the Night of the Long Knives, which also saw the murder of Gregor Strasser, Otto's brother. After this point, the Hitlerite faction became dominant. In the post war era, Strasserism has enjoyed something of a revival with many neo-Nazi groups openly proclaiming themselves to be 'Strasserite'. Whether they genuinely eschew Hitlerism in favour of Strasserism, or whether they simply think that by distancing Nazism from Hitler they can somehow make the ideology more acceptable is a matter of intense debate however.
Hitler's theories were not only attractive to Germans: people in positions of wealth and power in other nations are said to have seen them as beneficial. Examples are Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, and Eugene Schueller, founder of L'Oréal. Nevertheless, the support for these theories was highest among the general population of Germany.
Key elements of the Nazi ideology
Other new elements
Nazism and romanticism
According to Bertrand Russell, Nazism would come from a different tradition than that of either Liberalism or Marxism. Thus, to understand values of Nazism, it would be necessary to explore this connection, without trivializing the movement as it was in its peak years in the 1930s and dismissing it as little more than racism.
Anti-Semitism was shown to be a handy tool for Nazis to gain support, mainly due to the popular Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Personal accounts by August Kubizek, Hitler's childhood friend, have varied, offering ambiguous claims that anti-Semitism did and did not date back to Hitler's youth. One reason is the higher Jewish community in Austria and Germany because Germany had been a haven for many Jews over the years, including influential families such as the Rothschilds, although World War I and the Dolchstosslegende ended that legacy. Anti-Judaism had already been widely transformed into anti-Semitism before 1914 due to the new Europe-wide post-Darwin theory of racism. Historians universally accept that Nazism's mass acceptance depended upon nationalistic appeals and fear against "unnormal people" (which also could include xenophobia and anti-Semitism) and a patriotic flattery toward the wounded collective pride of defeated World War I veterans. Early support for the Nazis, displayed in various parades, came from the old conservative order that was the military.
Many see strong connections to the values of Nazism and the anti-rationalist tradition of the romantic movement of the early 19th century in response to the Enlightenment. Strength, passion, frank declarations of feelings, and deep devotion to family and community were valued by the Nazis though first expressed by many Romantic artists, musicians, and writers. German romanticism in particular expressed these values. For instance, Hitler identified closely with the music of Richard Wagner, who harbored anti-Semitic views as the author of Das Judenthum in der Musik. Some claim that he was one of Hitler's role models, a comment of Kubizek's that is also disputed. Nevertheless, Wagner's most important operas of the Ring cycle express Aryanist ideals, and contain what some people interpret as anti-Semitic caricatures. Hitler admired Wagner's widow and visited Bayreuth Festival regularly.
The idealization of tradition, folklore, classical thought, leadership (as exemplified by Frederick the Great), their rejection of the liberalism of the Weimar Republic, and calling the German state the "Third Reich" (which traces back to the medieval First Reich and the pre-Weimar Second Reich) has led many to regard the Nazis as reactionary.
Nazism and mysticism
Nazi mysticism is a term used to describe a philosophical undercurrent of Nazism that denotes the combination of Nazism with occultism, esotericism, cryptohistory, and/or the paranormal. The esoteric Thule Society and Germanenorden were secret societies that, while only a small part of the Völkisch movement, led into the Nazi party.
Dietrich Eckart, a member of Thule, actually coached Hitler on his public speaking skills, and while Hitler has not been shown to have been a member of Thule, he received support from the group. Hitler later dedicated Mein Kampf to Eckart.
Heinrich Himmler showed a strong interest in such matters, although as Steigmann-Gall points out, Hitler and many of his key associates attended Christian services.
Nazism and communism emerged as two serious contenders for power in Germany after the First World War, particularly as the Weimar Republic became increasingly unstable. What became the Nazi movement arose out of resistance to the Bolshevik-inspired insurgencies that occurred in Germany in the aftermath of the First World War. The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused a great deal of excitement and interest in the Leninist version of Marxism and caused many socialists to adopt revolutionary principles. The Spartacist uprising in Berlin and the Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919 were both manifestations of this. The Freikorps, a loosely organized paramilitary group (essentially a militia of former World War I soldiers) was used to crush both these uprisings and many leaders of the Freikorps, including Ernst Röhm, later became leaders in the Nazi party. After Mussolini's Fascists took power in Italy in 1922, fascism presented itself as a realistic option for opposing "Communism", particularly given Mussolini's success in crushing the Communist and anarchist movements that had destabilized Italy with a wave of strikes and factory occupations after the First World War. Fascist parties formed in numerous European countries.
Many historians, such as Ian Kershaw and Joachim Fest, argue that Hitler's Nazis were one of numerous nationalist and increasingly fascistic groups that existed in Germany and contended for leadership of the anti-Communist movement and, eventually, of the German state. Further, they assert that fascism and its German variant, National Socialism, became the successful challengers to Communism because they were able to both appeal to the establishment as a bulwark against Bolshevism and appeal to the working class base, particularly the growing underclass of unemployed and unemployable and growingly impoverished middle class elements who were becoming declassed (denounced as the lumpenproletariat). The Nazis' use of pro-labor rhetoric appealed to those disaffected with capitalism by promoting the limiting of profits, the abolishing of rents and the increasing of social benefits (only for Germans) while simultaneously presenting a political and economic model that divested "Soviet socialism" of elements that were dangerous to capitalism, such as the concept of class struggle, "the dictatorship of the proletariat" or worker control of the means of production. Thus, Nazism's populism, anti-communism and anti-capitalism helped it become more powerful and popular than traditional conservative parties, like the DNVP. For the above reasons, particularly the fact that Nazis and Communists fought each other (often violently) during most of their existence, Nazism and Communism are commonly seen as opposite extremes on the political spectrum. However, this view is not without its challengers. A number of political theorists and economists, primarily those associated with the Austrian school, argue that Nazism, Soviet Communism and other totalitarian ideologies share a common underpinning in collectivism.
The simplicity of Nazi rhetoric, campaigns, and ideology also made its conservative allies underestimate its strength, and its ability to govern or even to last as a political party. Michael Mann defined fascism as a "transcendent and cleansing nation statism through paramilitarism", with "transcendent" meaning that the all classes were to be abolished in order for a new, organic and pure people: all classes are abolished by transition, all "others" (an estimated two-thirds of the German population alone ).
Support of anti-Communists for Fascism and Nazism
Various far right-wing politicians and political parties in Europe welcomed the rise of fascism and the Nazis out of an intense aversion towards Communism. According to them, Hitler was the savior of Western civilization and of capitalism against Bolshevism. During the later 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis were supported by the Falange movement in Spain, and by political and military figures who would form the government of Vichy France. A Legion of French Volunteers against Bolshevism (LVF) and other anti-Soviet fighting formations were formed.
The British Conservative party and the right-wing parties in France appeased the Nazi regime in the mid- and late-1930s, even though they had begun to criticise its totalitarianism and in Britain especially, Nazi Germany's policies towards the Jews. However, Britain (from 1931 onwards under an overwhelmingly Conservative government) had appeased pre-Nazi Germany. Important reasons behind this appeasement included, first, the erroneous assumption that Hitler had no desire to precipitate another world war, and second, when the rebirth of the German military could no longer be ignored, a well-founded concern that neither Britain nor France was yet ready to fight an all-out war against Germany. In addition, some have argued that Nazi Germany was assisted in its development to create a front to counter early Bolshevik ambitions.
In 1936, Nazi Germany and Japan entered into the Anti-Comintern Pact, aimed directly at countering Soviet foreign policy. This later became the basis for the Tripartite Pact with Italy, the foundation of the Axis powers. The three nations were united in their rabid opposition to communism, as well as their militaristic, racist regimes, but they failed to coordinate their military efforts effectively.
In his early years Hitler also greatly admired the United States of America. In Mein Kampf, he praised the United States for its race-based anti-immigration laws and for the subordination of the "inferior" black population. According to Hitler, America was a successful nation because it kept itself "pure" of "lesser races". However, his view of the United States became more negative as time passed. In his later estimations, the United States was becoming a mongrel nation, calling it "half Judaised, half Negrified".
Nazi economic practice concerned itself with immediate domestic issues and separately with ideological conceptions of international economics.
Domestic economic policy was narrowly concerned with four major goals to eliminate Germany's issues:
All of these policy goals were intended to address the perceived shortcomings of the Weimar Republic and to solidify domestic support for the party. In this, the party was very successful. Between 1933 and 1936 the German GNP increased by an average annual rate of 9.5 percent, and the rate for industry alone rose by 17.2 percent.
This expansion propelled the German economy out of a deep depression and into full employment in less than four years. Public consumption during the same period increased by 18.7%, while private consumption increased by 3.6% annually. According to the historian Richard Evans, prior to the outbreak of war the German "economy had recovered from the Depression faster than its counterparts in other countries. Germany's foreign debt had been stabilized, interest rates had fallen to half their 1932 level, the stock exchange had recovered from the Depression, the gross national product had risen by 81 per cent over the same period.... Inflation and unemployment had been conquered."
Some economists argue that the expansion of the German economy between 1933 and 1936 was not the result of measures adopted by the Nazi Party, but rather the consequence of economic policies of the prior Weimar Republic, which had begun to have an effect on factors such as unemployment. However, it was the policies of Nazi Germany that restored national confidence, arguably the key ingredient to any successful economic policy.
German marriages increased from about 511,000 in 1932 to 611,000 in 1936, while births rose from 921,000 births in 1932 to 1,280,000 in 1936. Suicides committed by young people under 20 dropped by 80% between 1933 and 1939.
Internationally, the Nazi Party believed that an international banking cabal was behind the global depression of the 1930s. Control of this cabal, which had grown to a position where it controlled both Europe and the United States, was identified with an elite and powerful group of Jews. However, a number of people believed that this was part of an ongoing plot by the Jewish people, as a whole, to achieve global domination. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which began its circulation in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, were said to have confirmed this, already showing "evidence" that the Bolshevik takeover in Russia was in accordance with one of the protocols. Broadly speaking, the existence of large international banking or merchant banking organizations was well known at this time. Many of these banking organizations were able to exert influence upon nation states by extension or withholding of credit. This influence is not limited to the small states that preceded the creation of the German Empire as a nation state in the 1870s, but is noted in most major histories of all European powers from the 16th century onward. Nevertheless, after the Great Depression, this libelous and unverified manuscript took on an important role in Nazi Germany, thus providing another link in the Nazis ideological motivation for the destruction of that group in the Holocaust.
Additionally, many companies blindly dealt with the Third Reich. Many know that the Volkswagen was a Nazi project. Opel employed Jewish slave labour to run their industrial plants. Additionally, Daimler-Benz used POWs as slaves to run their industrial plants. Other companies that dealt with the Third Reich -- many of which claim not to have known the truth of what the Nazis were doing (some had in fact lost control of their German branches when Hitler was in power) -- were: BMW, Krupp (made gas chambers), Bayer (as a small part of the enormous IG Farben chemistry monopoly), and Hugo Boss (designed the SS uniforms, admitted to this in 1997). There has also been some controversy whether IBM had dealt with the Nazis to create a cataloguing system, which the Nazis were to use to file information on those who they killed.
Backlash and Societal Effects
Perhaps the primary intellectual effect has been that Nazi doctrines discredited the attempt to use biology to explain or influence social issues, for at least two generations after Nazi Germany's brief existence. However, in the 21st century there has been a renewed interest in the debate of nature versus nurture as well as ethnic and racial genetics.
The Nazi descendants have been mute in the post-war democracies, with some exceptions, when interviewed by psychologists and historians. In Norway, a group of descendants have taken the official stigmatizing appellation "War children" in order to break the silence and to protest against the continuous demonization of their families. Some historical revisionists disseminate propaganda that minimizes the Holocaust and other Nazi acts in order to remove the stigma attached to National Socialism. Often, attempts are also made to put a positive spin on the policies of the Nazi regime. Under these circumstances, research on the topic can raise high emotions when it fails to be precise in the analysis and to present proof of emotionalized themes.
Adolf Hitler: Hitler was more than just the leader of Nazi Germany: in 1919, Adolf Hitler joined the workers' party before it was the "Nazi Party": On January 5, 1919, the party had been founded in Munich as the German Workers' Party (German Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) by Anton Drexler, a Munich locksmith. Working undercover for the German army, Corporal Hitler joined the Party in mid September 1919, became propaganda boss (Propagandachef), renaming the party on April 1, 1920, and became party leader on July 29, 1921. Adolf Hitler ruled Nazi Germany from January 30, 1933 until his suicide on April 30, 1945, leading the German Reich throughout World War II.
German Nazis: Though Nazi Party membership was carefully regulated (and even closed off at a certain point), many non-affiliated citizens of the Nazi State described themselves as dedicated Nazis. After the war, the most prominent Nazis were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials, where 21 were executed. Party members - even those who were ordinary citizens - experienced a post-war "purge" where they were stripped of property, assets and often forced to abandon their positions. As part of Nazi Germany, Austria also experienced denazification, though this process occurred to a smaller degree only much later.
Foreign-Born: During and prior to World War II, there were a number of people outside of the German Reich who became adherents to the Nazi ideology. Some foreign born ethnic Germans had ventured from their homelands to become citizens of the Nazi State in the pre-war years. This was particularly the case around São Paulo, where people had left in the thousands despite the fact that, at the same time, efforts were being made to draw the Germany-born population into the region.
Nazi Supporters: Other Nazi supporters, such as William Joyce and the "Lord Haw Haw" cast, took flight from Britain, especially after the downfall of the British Union of Fascists. Similarly, parties supportive of the Nazis had failed to influence their own countries. Some people in the German-American Bund were incarcerated during the war, as were potential Nazi supporters in the U.S.
Post-war Nazis: George Lincoln Rockwell, a former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, became a prominent Nazi in the 1950s and formed the American Nazi Party. Some became admirers or sympathized with the plight of Nazi Germany because they saw it as the defender of Oswald Spengler's "West". From this point of view, the Nazi State was brought to its knees trying to solidify a self-sufficient Europe and ward of the influence of the Soviet Union and the United States, political and otherwise. Spenglerians such as Francis Parker Yockey supported this view, and his magnum opus, Imperium, has sold over twenty thousand copies since 1948. Essentially, Yockey was convinced that Nazi Germany was a step towards Spengler's Imperium, and during the Cold War, Yockey dedicated his life to promoting a general European rebellion against the overlordship of both the Soviet Union and the United States.
Esoteric Nazis: Others were fascinated by National Socialist philosophy in a spiritual or esoteric direction, including: Savitri Devi of France, Julius Evola of Italy, and Miguel Serrano of Chile.
Factors that promoted the success of Nazism
An important question about Nazism is the factors that promoted its success in Germany. These factors may have included:
Nazi/Third Reich terminology in popular culture
See main article, Hitler in popular culture.
The multiple atrocities and racist ideology that the Nazis followed have made them notorious in popular discourse as well as history. The term "Nazi" has become a genericised term of abuse. So have other Third Reich terms like "Führer" (often spelled "fuhrer" or less often, but more correctly, "fuehrer" in English-speaking countries), "Fascist", "Gestapo" (short for Geheime Staatspolizei, or Secret State Police in English) or "Hitler". The terms are used to describe any people or behaviours that are viewed as thuggish, overly authoritarian, or extremist.
The terms are also used to describe anyone or anything seen as strict or doctrinaire. Phrases like "grammar nazi", "Feminazi", "Open Source Nazi", and "parking [enforcement] Nazis", are examples of those in use in the USA. These uses are offensive to some, as the controversy in the popular press over the Seinfeld "Soup Nazi" episode indicates, but still the terms are used so frequently as to inspire "Godwin's law".
More innocent terms, like "fashion police", also bear some resemblance to Nazi terminology (Gestapo, Secret State Police) as well as references to Police states in general.
Another similar effect can be observed in the usage of typefaces. Some people strongly associate the blackletter typefaces (e.g. fraktur or schwabacher) with Nazi propaganda (although the typeface is much older, and its usage, ironically, was banned by government order in 1941). A less strong association can be observed with the Futura typeface, which today is sometimes described as "germanic" and "muscular".
In popular culture such as films like the Indiana Jones series, Nazis are often considered to be ideal villains whom the heroes can battle without mercy.
Dr. Cube from Kaiju Big Battel is depicted as a Nazi plastic surgeon gone mad.
Video game website IGN declared Nazis to be the most memorable video game villains ever.
Nazism, both before and after World War II, was a quasi-religion to its followers, and like many world religions, Nazism had its own venerated locations or sites, as opposed to Holocaust sites. National socialist Savitri Devi visited many of the Nazi sites during a tour of the sites circa 1953:
Devi also visited some sites, not directly connected to Nazism, but perceived to be of spiritual or German-national significance:
Related Adolf Hitler and Nazis
Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler: Chapters Below.
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