The dictator Adolf Hitler rose to power as leader of a political party, the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP for short). Germany during this period is also referred to as Nazi Germany. Nazism was also called National Socialism (a contraction of the German Nationalsozialismus). Adherents of Nazism were called Nazis. Nazism has been outlawed in modern Germany, although tiny remnants, known as neo-nazis, continue to operate in Germany and abroad. An allied movement, historical revisionism, disseminates propaganda which denies or minimizes the holocaust and other Nazi acts, and attempts to put a positive spin on the policies of Nazi Germany and the events which occurred.
Ideological TheoryThe center of the national socialist ideology is the term of "race". The Nazis therory postulates the "Aryan" race to be superior over other "races", especially Jews and to a lesser extent Slavic people.
National Socialism classically says that a nation is the highest creation of a race. Therefore, great nations (literally large nations) are said to be the creation of great races. The theory says that great nations grow from military power. In turn, military power naturally grows from rational, civilized cultures. In turn, these cultures naturally grow from races with natural good health, and aggressive, intelligent, courageous traits.
The weakest nations are said to be those from "impure" or "mongrel" races, because they have divided, quarrelling, and therefore weak cultures.
According to the Nazis, an obvious mistake of this type was to permit or encourage multiple languages within a nation. This belief is why the German Nazis were so concerned with the unification of German-speaking peoples' territories.
Nations that cannot defend their borders were therefore said to be the creation of weak or slave races. Slave races were thought to be less worthy of existence than master races. In particular, if a "master race" should require room to live ("Lebensraum"), it was thought to have the right to take it and kill the indigenous "slave races."
Races without homelands were therefore said to be "parasitic races." The richer the members of a "parasitic race" are, the more virulent the parasitism is said to be. A "master race" could therefore, according to the Nazi doctrine, easily strengthen itself by eliminating "parasitic races" from its homeland. This is the theoretic justification for the oppression and elimination of Jews and Gypsies, a duty which most Nazis (oddly enough) found personally repugnant.
Religions that recognize and teach these "truths" were said to be "true" or "master" religions because they create mastery by avoiding comforting lies. Those that preach love and toleration, "in contravention to the facts", were said to be "slave" or "false" religions.
The man who recognizes these "truths" is said to be a "natural leader", those who deny it were said to be "natural slaves". Slaves, especially intelligent ones, were said to always attempt to hinder masters by promoting false religious and political doctrines.
According to Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler realized these "truths" by carefully observing the policies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
However, it is a misconception that Nazism was all about race - this is probably because of the bad reputation Nazism has gained after the war, and especially because of the holocaust. Ideological roots of Nazism are much deeper, and come from the romantic tradition and Nietzsche in particular.
Nazism and RomantismAccording to Bertrand Russell, Nazism comes from a different tradition than that of either liberal capitalism or communism. Thus, to understand values of Nazism, it is necessary to explore this connection, without trivializing the movement as it was in its peak years in the 30s and dismissing it as a little more than racism. It is argued by many historiographers that the antisemitic element, which does not exist in the sister fascism movement in Italy and Spain, was adopted by Hitler to gain popularity for the movement. Antisemitic prejudice was very common among the vulgar masses in Germany and it was needed to incorporate this element, as well as to play on the wounded pride of German people after the WWI in order to gain support of the masses.
But the origin of Nazism and its values come from the irrationalist tradition of romantic movement of the early 19th century. Strength, passion, lack of hypocrisy and petty utilitarianism in addition to traditional family values and devotion to community were among the things most valued by the Nazis.
Nazism and the British EmpireHitler greatly admired the British Empire, and he modeled his plans of ruling the East and enslaving Russians on the British rule of India. It is worth noting that first racist theories were developed by British intellectuals in the 19th century in order to put down the Indian people and other "savages". These methods were copied by the Nazis to a great extent.
Economic TheoryNazi economic theory concerned itself with immediate domestic concerns and separately with ideological conceptions of international economics.
Domestic economic policy was narrowly concerned with three major goals:
- elimination of unemployment
- elimination of hyperinflation
- expansion of production of consumer goods to improve middle and lower-class living standards.
Internationally, the Nazi party believed that a international banking cabal was behind the global depression of the 1930s. The control of this cabal was identified with the ethnic group known as Jews, providing another link in their ideological motivation for the destruction of that group in the holocaust. However, 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 German nation state in the 1870s, but is noted in most major histories of all European powers from the 1500s onward. In fact, some transnational corporations in the 1500 to 1800 period (the Dutch East India Company for one good example) were formed specifically to engage in warfare as a proxy for governmental involvement, as opposed to the other way around.
Using more modern nomenclature, it is possible to say that the Nazi Party was against transnational corporations power vis-a-vis that of the nation state. This basic anti-corporate stance is shared with many mainstream center-left political parties, as well as otherwise totally opposed anarchist political groups.
It is important to note that the Nazi Party's conception of international economics was very limited. As the National Socialist in the name NSDAP suggests, the party's primary motivation was to incorporate previously international resources into the Reich by force, rather than by trade (compare to the international socialism as practiced by the Soviet Union and the COMECON trade organization). This made international economic theory a supporting factor in the political ideology rather than a core plank of the platform as it is in most modern political parties.
In a economic sense, Nazism and Fascism are related. Nazism may be considered a subset of Fascism, with all Nazis being Fascists, but not all Fascists being Nazis. Nazism shares many economic features with Fascism, featuring complete government control of finance and investment (allocation of credit), industry, and agriculture. Yet in both of these systems, corporate power and market based systems for providing price information still existed.
Rather than the state requiring goods from industrial enterprises and allocating raw materials required for their production (as in socialist / communist systems), the state paid for these goods. This allows price to play an essential role in providing information as to relative scarcity of materials, or the capital requirements in technology or labor (including education, as in skilled labor) inputs to produce a manufactured good. Additionally, the unionist (strictly speaking, syndicalist) veneer placed on corporate labor relations was another major point of agreement. Both the German and Italian fascist political parties began as unionist labor movements, and grew into totalitarian dictatorships. This idea was maintained throughout their time in power, with state control used as a means to eliminate the assumed conflict between management labor relations.
EffectsThese theories were used to justify a totalitarian political agenda of racial hatred and suppression using all the means of the state, and suppressing dissent. These include:
- The Holocaust
- Ethnic nationalism, including the notion of Germans' status as the Herrenvolk ("master race") and Übermensch
- Racism, including Anti-Semitism
- eugenics- to purify the master race
- euthanasia- to implement eugenics
- The leader principle (Führerprinzip), a key element of fascist ideology in which the ruler is deemed to embody the political movement and the nation.
Backlash EffectsPerhaps the primary intellectual effect has been that Nazi doctrines completely discredited any attempt to use biology to explain or influence social issues, for at least two generations after Nazi Germany's brief existence.
People and HistoryThe most prominent Nazi was Adolf Hitler, who ruled Germany from 30 January 1933 until his suicide on 30 April 1945, led Germany into World War II, and oversaw the murder of over 20 million people. Under Hitler, ethnic nationalism and racism were joined together through an ideology of militarism to serve his goals.
After the war, many prominent Nazis were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials.
The Nazi symbol is the clockwise swastika.
Nazism and ReligionThe relationship between Nazism and Christianity can only be described as complex -- and controversial, since most modern writers wish to dissociate their own views from Nazism as much as possible.
Hitler and other Nazi leaders clearly made use of Christian symbolism and emotion in propagandizing the overwhelmingly Christian German public, but it remains a matter of controversy whether Hitler believed himself a Christian. Some Christian writers have sought to typify Hitler as an atheist or occultist -- even a Satanist -- whereas non-Christian writers have emphasized Nazism's outward use of Christian doctrine, regardless of what its inner-party mythology may have been.
The Nazi Party's relations with the Catholic Church are yet more fraught. Many Catholic priests and leaders vociferously opposed Nazism on the grounds of its incompatibility with Christian morals. As with many political opponents, many of these priests were sentenced in the concentration camps for their opposition. Nevertheless, the Church hierarchy represented by Pope Pius XII remained largely silent on the issue, and allegations of the Pope's complicity are today commonplace.
Nazism and FascismNazism is often (but incorrectly) used interchangeably with Fascism. While Nazism employed stylistic elements of Fascism, the only serious similarities between the two were dictatorship, territorial irredentism, and basic economic theory. For example, Benito Mussolini, the founder of fascism, did not embrace anti-Semitism until seduced by his alliance with Hitler, whereas Nazism had been explicitly racialist from its inception. Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, often termed a fascist by his largely Communist opposition, could perhaps be described as a reactionary Catholic monarchist who adopted little of fascism but its style.
Toward the end of the 20th century, Neo-Nazi movements have arisen in a number of countries, including the United States of America and several European nations. Neo-Nazism can include any group or organization that exhibits an ideological link to Nazism. It is frequently associated with the skinhead youth subculture. Some fringe political parties, such as the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party, have also adopted Nazi ideas.
- History of Germany
- doublespeak (for a discussion of the semantic implications of words such as Nazi).