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National Socialism

National Socialism

Sources of support

Causes of Nazism

Nazi doctrine and policies

BIBLIOGRAPHY

National Socialism started as a political movement in Germany in 1919. Its official name was the “Nazionalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei” (National Socialist German Workers’ Party); it soon became popularly known as the Nazi party, and its followers were called Nazis. When Adolf Hitler joined the party, Nazism consisted of a little group of unimportant malcontents in Munich. Yet within fourteen years it became the greatest mass movement in German history, including in its ranks members of all groups of German society, from unemployed workers of the Lumpenproletariat to members of the imperial family of the Hohenzollerns and of several of the royal houses of the German states. By 1932 the Nazi vote had mounted to fourteen million; in the March 1933 election, the last in which opposing parties participated, seventeen million Germans (or 44 per cent of the electorate) freely voted for the Nazi party, not to speak of several more millions who voted for nationalist and militarist policies that were barely distinguishable from Nazi objectives. Thus well over half the German electorate voted for an antidemocratic, totalitarian, imperialistic program. After the elections, only the Social Democrats attempted to resist Nazism in the Reichstag (the Communists had not been allowed to take their seats in the Reichstag). Even the Roman Catholic (and generally democratic) Center party gave Hitler the dictatorial powers he asked for in the Reichstag on March 23, 1933. This was the only case of a modern totalitarian regime that was set up by a majority of the electorate and approved by the parliamentary body of the nation.

Once in power, the Nazi regime lived up to its promises. First, concentration camps were set up for political opponents. Very soon the political offenders were a small minority in the concentration camps; the large majority consisted not of persons who had committed a wrong but who (like the Jews) belonged to the wrong group. Later, during World War n, large numbers of civilians in the occupied countries were put into concentration camps, because they too belonged to a “wrong”social or political group.

Politically, the Nazis quickly effected complete uniformity (Gleichschaltung). All other parties, including the ultraconservatives, were liquidated within a few months of the Nazi seizure of power. Newspapers were either Nazified or, when they had an established liberal-democratic reputation, were abolished (as, for example, the Vossiche Zeitung and the Berliner Tageblatt). Education, from kindergarten to university, was put under strict party and government control, and the statesponsored Hitler Youth replaced all existing youth organizations. All labor unions, whatever their political sympathies, were outlawed and replaced by the government-sponsored Labor Front, incorporating both labor and management in one organization. The Christian churches were persecuted if they dared to resist the anti-Christian, racist policies of Nazi mass murders. Christianity was attacked as a Jewish contrivance to weaken the military spirit of the Germans, and attempts were made to substitute a new religion, “German Faith,” for Christianity. More extreme Nazis even went so far as to re-establish old Germanic, pre-Christian paganism as the only religion fit for the new Nazi Germany. Finally, even the traditional structure of the family was attacked. Children were encouraged to inform on their parents and unmarried women to breed a new Herrenrasse (master race) out of wedlock.

The Nazi regime introduced military conscription in 1935, militarized the Rhineland in 1936 in violation of treaty provisions, annexed Austria in 1938 and Czechoslovakia in 1939, and started World War n by the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. In the summer of 1940, France was vanquished, and Great Britain alone resisted the weight of Nazi power. In possession of virtually the whole European continent, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941 and declared war on the United States in December 1941.

Nazi Germany lost the war and surrendered unconditionally in 1945. Yet before going to defeat, the Nazis had accomplished one major objective: over six million European Jews—men, women, and children—were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other extermination camps specially set up for wholesale killing. This extermination of the Jews in occupied Europe was called, in official Nazi language, “the final solution of the Jewish question.”

Sources of support

Of all the social classes in Germany before 1933, the urban working class was proportionately least affected by the appeal of Nazism. Membership statistics of 1933 indicate that manual workers were substantially underrepresented in the Nazi party, whereas white-collar workers and middle-class persons were greatly overrepresented in relation to the total German population. Urban workers largely followed the Social Democratic party. Neither Communist nor Nazi attempts to win the allegiance of German urban workers for totalitarian programs succeeded before 1933. Yet, while the German urban workers did not want Nazism, they did little to resist its coming into power or its operations once it was in power. The deeply ingrained respect for authority in most Germans made resistance difficult. Moreover, the Nazis managed to abolish unemployment by embarking on a war economy from the outset, as a result of which unemployment turned into full employment and even a shortage of labor. Many workers were willing to trade the loss of individual liberty and free labor unions for the gain of full employment and social security. As a result, the mass of the German workers acquiesced in the other Nazi policies, including the policies of imperialist expansion through aggressive war. The urban workers (unlike those of other countries under Fascist rule, such as Italy) played only a very minor part in whatever resistance groups existed in Nazi Germany.

The lower middle class—particularly the salariat —supplied the numerically strongest element of popular support for Nazism. Many persons in this class dreaded the prospect of joining the proletariat and looked to the Nazi movement for the saving of their traditional status and prestige. The salaried employee is jealous of Big Business, into whose higher echelons he would like to rise via the ladder of management, and he also fears Big Labor, into whose proletarian world he disdains to sink. Nazism very astutely played on these fears and anxieties by attacking both the “interest slavery of finance capitalism” and the “un-German” character of “Marxist Bolshevism.” Logically, propaganda directed against both capital and labor may seem self-contradictory, but its very inconsistency both reflected and appealed to the political confusion of the salaried class. Furthermore, Nazism promised them the identification with the “superior” Nordic master race. This racialism had a most impressive appeal to those groups of salaried persons—teachers and government employees— who were traditionally permeated with nationalist and racist ideas even before Nazism appeared.

As to the numerically less significant, but socially and economically important upper class of industrialists and big landowners, the support received from this group by the Nazi party even before 1933 was of great impact. On January 27, 1932, Hitler addressed the Industry Club in Düsseldorf, the center of Germany’s heavy industry; his success in winning over the leaders of heavy industry was impressive. Most notable among active supporters of Nazism before 1933 were such world-famous German industrial figures as Fritz Thyssen and the Krupp family. While looking down upon the Nazi leadership as a group of plebeian upstarts without the breeding and background of gentlemen, German industrialists and big landowners supported Nazism for two main reasons: first, the Nazis promised the abolition of free labor unions, and second, the industrialists understood that the remilitarization of Germany coupled with an aggressive foreign policy would be profitable for business. The support of the steel industry was particularly significant. Already during the Second Reich, the friendship between the Kaiser and the Krupp family pointed to the intimate ties between German heavy industry and militarism. The alliance between the steel industry and Nazism before 1933 was but a renewal of these historical ties between industry and a German government with an antisocialist, antidemocratic, and imperialistic policy. During World War n, German heavy industry profited from its ties with the Nazi regime, since it was the main beneficiary of the labor of millions of foreign workers deported to Germany.

Another group that was crucial in the rise of Nazism was the military, traditionally of great social importance in the fabric of German society and government. Even in strong and well-established democratic states, the professional military class tends to overestimate the virtues of discipline and national unity. Where democracy is weak, as it was in Germany during the Weimar Republic, the professional bias of the military class becomes a political menace. The top military leaders of Germany knew, before and after 1933, that a high percentage of Nazi leaders were criminals or psychopaths, yet they supported the Nazi movement as a step toward the desired militarization of Germany. Of the two greatest German military leaders of World War i, General Ludendorff and Field Marshal von Hindenburg, the former embraced Nazism in the early 1920s and the latter collaborated with it until his death in 1934. Yet it should be pointed out that, toward the end of World War II, high military leaders played an important role in attempts to overthrow the Nazi regime. These plots culminated in the attempt against Hitler’s life on July 20, 1944, an attempt that failed. It is noteworthy that the German generals did not hatch any resistance plans against Nazism when the war went well for Germany; only when defeat became a certainty did they try to save what could be saved of German power by overthrowing the Nazi regime.

In analyzing the sources of support for Nazism among the German people, the most important lesson is not which particular social group proved itself most vulnerable to the Nazi virus—although this is an important lesson and has broad political implications outside Germany as well. A phenomenon of even more general consequence is demonstrated by the success of Nazism before coming to power and its popularity among the German people: an antidemocratic, totalitarian movement can be based on mass support.

From the late seventeenth to the early twentieth century, the conventional wisdom of enlightened and liberal political thought automatically assumed that political oppression was due solely to the malevolence of a small minority of political oligarchs lording it over the mass of the “good” people. The assumption, which was hardly ever challenged, was that the mass of the people naturally desired freedom above everything else; once the obstacles to this natural desire—kings, aristocrats, men of privilege—were removed, a reign of liberty and democracy would inevitably follow. The experience of Nazism, both before and after 1933, demolished this illusion once and for all. The main reason why conventional political analysis failed to come to grips with the paradoxical phenomenon of the mass basis of modern totalitarianism lay in its exclusive concern with totalitarian leaders rather than totalitarian followers, the latter being seen merely as innocent victims of their evil leaders. In the light of the knowledge gained by modern psychology and psychoanalysis, Erich Fromm (1941) has shown the psychodynamic and sociological factors that underlie the “totalitarian flight from freedom” and that have made modern man feel isolated, powerless, and irrational. These forces are potentially operative everywhere, but in Germany their potential was most fully and most disastrously realized.

Causes of Nazism

Many interpretations of the nature of Nazism have either gone back too far into ancient history or have confined themselves too much to the immediate past. Whatever characteristics the Germanic peoples may have possessed in the days of Tacitus, there have been too many historical changes since then to deduce Nazism from German antiquity. Similarly, a movement of such farreaching impact on the whole world can hardly be adequately explained by such specific recent events as the Versailles Treaty of 1919 or the economic depression of 1929-1932. Defeat in war does not necessarily end in a totalitarian nihilism of the Nazi type, as is evidenced by Germany’s own defeat in World War n, which did not again produce Nazism. Similarly, the impact of the depression has been exaggerated, if it is to serve as the main cause of explaining the rise and triumph of Nazism. There is no doubt that the inflation of the early 1920s and the depression that began in 1929 had a deleterious effect on German democratic institutions. But economic depression is, in itself, no necessary general cause of fascist totalitarianism. There is a relation between economic depression and accelerated social change, but it is of a different kind: like war, economic depressions do not create new major social and political trends, but tend to accelerate the rate of development of existing trends. In fundamentally democratic nations (like the United States, Australia, New Zealand, or the countries of northwestern Europe), the depression of 1929 produced neither fascism nor communism but advanced the cause of democracy on the economic, social, political, and cultural fronts. Conversely, where the roots of democracy are frail and where the dominant social attitude is strongly suffused with authoritarian elements, a depression may easily accelerate such authoritarian trends, as happened not only in Germany in the 1930s but also in Japan, Brazil, Poland, and other nations.

Closely related to the depression theory as the major cause of Nazism is the essentially Marxian interpretation of Nazism as the logical outgrowth of monopoly capitalism. While it cannot be denied that monopolistic capitalism was a major force in German life from the time of the establishment of the Second Reich in 1870 and that on the whole its political influence was harmful to the development of a liberal society and a democratic government, this theory cannot explain why monopoly capitalism produced Nazism in Germany and not in Britain and the United States. In purely economic terms, the depression in these major citadels of world capitalism in the early 1930s was not substantially different from that in Germany. The differentiating factor was not the relative degree of the severity of economic crisis but the difference in political ideas and institutions that circumscribed the behavior of political decision makers.

If Nazism was more than a reaction to the German defeat in World War I or to the depression, it can be explained only by the persistence of a powerful antiliberal tradition—perhaps the dominant German tradition—in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Hegel, Adam Müller, Paul de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn, Heinrich von Treitschke, and Moeller van den Bruck are but a few of the more important figures in the development of a social philosophy that opposed the concepts of power, authoritarianism, nationalism, racism, and imperialism to the ideas of natural law, liberty, universalism, equality, and peace. Romanticism was, from the beginning of the nineteenth century onward, perhaps the single strongest movement in German thought. Whereas in other countries (like France and England) romanticism was largely confined to the literary imagination as a protest against the limiting tradition of the measure and orderliness of classicism, in Germany it became a systematic philosophy with elaborate and coherent views on man, society, law, and the state.

The German Romantics, in their theory of the state, put forward an organistic conception based on blood and community, in which the individual occupied a relatively minor role; and they rejected the Western liberal theory of the state based on a social contract, in which the individual had natural rights preceding the state. In economics, the German Romantics assailed the free-market economy of capitalism as “soulless egotism” and urged the revival of the medieval closed economy regulated in every detail by the community. The most typical German Romantics, like Adam Müller, did not attack this or that particular point of the Western tradition in ethics, politics, and economics. They fought, instead, against the humanistic and rational Western tradition as a whole.

There is not a single element in the Nazi doctrine as developed by its leaders and apologists that does not have a long—and frequently dominant—tradition in the century and a half preceding the rise of Nazism. It is true that such ideas were not expressed only in Germany. Count de Gobineau expressed racist theories in France, around the middle of the nineteenth century, and Carlyle expressed antiliberal and racist doctrines in England in the second half of the same century. Yet the important thing is that such prophets of authoritarianism and racialism did not obtain significant followings in their native countries, whereas their writings became enormously popular in Germany. The case of Houston Stewart Chamberlain is even more indicative of this phenomenon. Born an Englishman, he settled in Germany and became a German citizen. His Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899) became one of the most popular books in pre-Nazi Germany, yet made no impact on his native country. From anti-Semitism to imperialism, there is little in the Nazi doctrine that cannot be found in Chamberlain’s writings.

Conversely, there was also, before the rise of Nazism, a liberal and humanistic tradition in Germany, characterized by such lofty figures as Lessing, Kant, Humboldt, and Goethe. Yet this tradition never became dominant and was more influential in the academy than in the councils of policy makers. In 1848 and in 1918, the liberal elements of German society started a new orientation toward Western ideals in government and society, but in both cases the authoritarian and militaristic elements in German life squelched such attempts through violence and terror.

Nazi doctrine and policies

Nazi doctrine and policy were, however, more than a mere revival of traditional antiliberal ideas and institutions in German life. In Nazism, these antiliberal attitudes and institutions were carried to their extreme. Whereas philosophical and political romantic thought in Germany had reacted against the excesses of rationalism, Nazi ideologists, like Alfred Rosenberg, rejected the principle of Western rationalism itself, charging, for example, that Socrates was the first “Social Democrat” in Europe and the originator of the disease of rationalism, because he established the principle of trying to settle vital issues through argument and debate. Similarly, whereas in the pre-Nazi German intellectual tradition particular points of Christianity were criticized or assailed, official Nazi ideology rejected Christianity in toto as a devilish Jewish plot to weaken Germanic vigor and military manliness. In addition, Nazism had the dynamic of a popular mass movement, whereas antidemocratic and antiliberal ideas and policies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries still recognized some restraints of traditional religion and morality. The tragedy of pre-Nazi German politics lay in the fact that the masses were sufficiently drawn into politics to become highly conscious of political programs and movements, but not sufficiently involved to build up a sustained democratic experience. In this sense, Nazism was the response of a politically “semiliterate” people: not illiterate enough to stay out of politics and not literate enough to have learned the important lessons of politics through self-government.

The potentially dangerous tendencies in pre-Nazi German ideas and policies were carried forward to the most extreme point of nihilism, rejecting all traditional Western moral and religious concepts about the nature of man and his inalienable dignity as a human personality. This nihilism came out most clearly in the use of terror and murder as an official state policy of extreme totalitarianism. Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers were more than incidental phenomena in the total process of Nazism. They were of its very essence, for it was in those camps that man was destroyed as a moral being and reduced to a mere number, tattooed on his body. Such camps were not set up primarily to punish ordinary or political criminals. Most of its victims, such as the Jews, were not even accused of having done anything wrong. The purpose of the concentration and extermination camps was to show to the entire population under Nazi control that every person was potentially an inmate, since personal guilt had little or nothing to do with such a punishment. The ultimate purpose of such camps was to demonstrate that man’s soul, his dignity, and his self-respect can be reduced to dirt and ashes, and that no one was exempt from such fate if it so pleased the Nazi rulers. If killing had been the main objective of the camps, such killing could have been accomplished with more efficiency and without the suffering and the degradation that accompanied it. In the scheme of Nazi totalitarian nihilism, the degradation of man was not the incidental by-product of murder, but murder was the by-product of the systematic process of degradation. The aim of Nazi nihilism was to transform a human into a nonhuman and to restrict the quality of being human to those who were acceptable to the Nazi rulers.

This policy was also carried out in foreign affairs. Thus, when Czechoslovakia was taken over in 1939, Nazi legislation referred to its population as Germans and “other inhabitants.” In the eyes of the Nazis, the Czechs were not merely defeated by superior German arms but had ceased to exist as a nation, just as the inmate of a concentration or extermination camp was nothing more than a number in the files, without any human personality or individuality. Nazi plans for the Poles and Russians were the same: not only to conquer them militarily but to transform both nations into “nonnations,” slaves of the higher German Kultur. Eventually, a similar fate was also foreseen for the other nations to be subdued and then destroyed as national entities.

Historically, Nazism may have left two important legacies. First, it is conceivable that the experience of Nazism has irretrievably destroyed the authoritarian, antidemocratic, antiliberal, and militaristic tradition in German society, because Nazism demonstrated to what extent the potential of that tradition could be realized in destroying the very foundations of civilization. Second, Nazism has left a broader legacy for all mankind. Whatever psychological malformation of behavior occurs in one human being may potentially occur in any other. The same applies to whole nations. The lesson of Nazism is not only how low Germans could fall, but how far any nation can fall once critical rationalism, moral restraints, and constitutional government have been substantially weakened or destroyed.

William Ebenstein

[Directly related are the entriesAnti-Semitism; Dictatorship; Fascism; Totalitarianism. Other relevant material may be found inMilitarism; Nationalism; Personality, Political; Radicalism; and in the biographies ofSchmittandTreitschke.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baumont, Maurice (editor) 1955 The Third Reich. A study published under the auspices of the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies, with the assistance of UNESCO. New York: Praeger. → Written by 28 European and American scholars, this massive volume of 900 pages is characterized by a broad variety of viewpoints and a wealth of material on the background and record of Nazism.

Butler, Rohan D’olier (1941) 1942 The Roots of National Socialism (1783-1933). New York: Dutton.

Chamberlain, Houston Stewart (1899) 1910 Foundations of the Nineteenth Century. New York and London: John Lane. → First published in German.

Cohen, Elie A. (1952) 1954 Human Behaviour in the Concentration Camp. London: Cape. → First published in Dutch with a summary in English.

Dicks, Henry V. 1950 Personality Traits and National Socialist Ideology. Human Relations 3:111-154.

Ebenstein, William 1943 The Nazi State. New York: Farrar.

Fromm, Erich (1941) 1960 Escape From Freedom. New York: Holt.

Gerth, Hans 1940 The Nazi Party: Its Leadership and Composition. American Journal of Sociology 45:517-541.

Hilberg, Raul 1961 The Destruction of the European Jews. Chicago: Quadrangle Books; London: W. H. Allen.

Mosse, George L. 1964 The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich. New York: Grosset.

Neumann, Franz Leopold (1942) 1963 Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism, 1933-1944. 2d ed. New York: Octagon Books.

Rauschning, Hermann (1938) 1940 The Revolution of Nihilism: Warning to the West. New York: Alliance Book Corporation; London: Heinemann. → First published in German at Zurich. The London edition was published as Germany’s Revolution of Destruction.

Shirer, William L. 1960 The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Taylor, Telford 1952 Sword and Swastika: Generals and Nazis in the Third Reich. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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Nazism

Nazism

ORIGINS

RISE AND TRIUMPH TO 1933

THE NAZI SEIZURE OF POWER

NAZISM AND WAR

DEFEAT AND AFTERMATH

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Nazism is a convenient abbreviation for the ideology of National Socialism, which flourished, principally in Germany, in the period 1920 to 1945. In this context, National meant nationalist, and Socialism a doctrine that preached equality between all members of the nation. The National Socialist German Workers Party was founded on January 5, 1919, in Munich, Bavaria, as the German Workers Party. Its official program, adopted on February 24, 1920, signaled the change of name and announced its aims: uniting all ethnic Germans in a single state; acquiring new land, or living space, for Germans to rule; revoking the 1919 peace settlement that had reduced Germanys territory, restricted its armed forces in size and equipment, and imposed a huge financial penalty on Germany; replacing democratic institutions by a dictatorship; and denying Jewish Germans fundamental civil rights.

ORIGINS

The Nazis synthesized a variety of strands of extremist political thought that had developed in Germany and Austria in the late nineteenth century. Racist anti-Semitism had evolved out of old traditions of Christian anti-Semitism during the economic depression of the 1870s, as demagogues drew upon new racial theories to argue that supposedly Jewish characteristics were racially inherited, independently of religious adherence. In this view, the Jews were a parasitic, conspiratorial race that undermined German civilization. In the 1890s extreme nationalists in Germany began to argue that the unification of the country achieved in 1871 under Otto von Bismarck (18151898) was incomplete. These pan-Germans demanded the annexation of other German-speaking areas of Europe and the conquest of a colonial empire both within Europe and without. At the same time, Social Darwinists and eugenicists in Germany began to argue that the German, Aryan, race had to be strengthened for this task by improvements in health, an increase in the birth rate (which was starting to decline), and the eliminationby forced sterilization or even killingof the weak, the criminal, the hereditarily unfit, and the disabled.

These ideas were brought together in 1919 by Adolf Hitler (18891945), a former frontline soldier born in Austria. Hitler believed, like other ultranationalists, that Germanys defeat in World War I had been caused by Jewish-led revolutionaries within Germany who had administered a stab in the back to the supposedly undefeated German armies. For Hitler, war and revolution legitimized the use of violence for political ends. The threat of communism, seen by the Nazis as part of the worldwide Jewish conspiracy against Germany, justified for them the use of extreme force in the defense of German racial interests. In 1920 members of the Nazi movement founded a paramilitary wing, which by 1924 had become the Stormtrooper Organization. It was designed to inflict maximum violence on the Nazis opponents. By the mid-1920s the Nazi movement had adopted the leadership principle by which the commands of Hitler, known as the Führer (Leader), were transmitted down through the ranks and had to be obeyed without question.

RISE AND TRIUMPH TO 1933

Nazism owed a good deal to the example and inspiration of Italian Fascism, from which it borrowed the Fascist salute, the cult of the leader, the use of violence, the glorification of youth, and the relegation of women to the primary function of childbearing. Imitating Benito Mussolinis mythical March on Rome in 1922, which had led to the appointment of the Italian Fascist leader as Italys prime minister, Hitler staged a putsch in the Bavarian capital, Munich, on November 9, 1923, the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1918 German Revolution. He marched on the city center with the intention of taking it over and then marching on the German capital, Berlin, but he had failed to win the support of the army, the police, or business and political elites, and the putsch was dispelled in a hail of gunfire. Hitler was tried for treason and briefly imprisoned.

On his release, Hitler reorganized the Nazi movement and gained new supporters. The movement now focused on winning votes. In the national election of 1928, however, it won only 2.6 percent of the vote. In 1929 the Wall Street crash caused the withdrawal of U.S. loans to German businesses, leading to bank failures and bankruptcies on a huge scale. By July 1932 over a third of the German workforce was unemployed. Those without jobs flocked to the Communist Party, which rapidly increased in strength. Alarmed, the middle classes turned to the Nazis, who seemed the only party ruthless enough to stop a revolution. Campaigning with ceaseless energy, the Nazis also won over many first-time voters, many previously unorganized workers, and numerous Protestant peasants. In the elections of July 1932 the Nazis won 37.4 percent of the vote, becoming Germanys largest party. Only the Catholic Centre Party, the Social Democrats, and the Communists retained significant electoral support in the face of the Nazis popularity.

THE NAZI SEIZURE OF POWER

By this time, democratic government in Germany had collapsed under the strain of social conflict during the Depression, and the country was being led by a succession of men who wanted to destroy the democratic system and impose authoritarian rule in order to defeat the Communists and revive Germanys international fortunes. But they needed popular support. On January 20, 1933, the Nazis were co-opted into a national government headed by Hitler but with a majority of non-Nazi conservatives who hoped to use them for their own ends.

Over the following months Hitler outmaneuvered them completely. On February 28, 1933, following the burning down of the Reichstag (the national parliament building), Hitler persuaded President Paul von Hindenburg to issue a decree suspending civil liberties. Thousands of Communists were arrested and thrown into hastily erected concentration camps, where they were soon joined by many Social Democrats and trade unionists. On March 23, 1933, Hitler persuaded members of the Reichstag by a mixture of threats and promises to pass the Enabling Law, which allowed the cabinet to pass laws without parliamentary or presidential approval. Murder and intimidation forced the remaining political parties to dissolve themselves by the summer of that same year.

NAZISM AND WAR

Hitler called his state the Third Reich, connecting it to the First Reich (the Holy Roman Empire ), founded by Charlemagne in the year 800 and lasting a thousand years, and the Second Reich (the German Empire ), founded by Bismarck in 1871. Many new laws were introduced, making opposition a capital offense, coordinating the media under the new propaganda ministry, dismissing political opponents and dissenters, and above all, depriving Jewish Germans of their rights and their livelihoods. Hitler began immediately preparing Germany for a war of conquest in the east. In 1936 German troops marched into the Rhineland, an area established as a demilitarized zone by the 1919 peace settlement. In March 1938 Germany annexed the German-speaking state of Austria. Then, in September 1938, using the threat of war, Hitler secured an international agreement to annex the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia. In March 1939 German troops marched into the rest of the country, making it clear to all that the Nazis were aiming not just to revise the peace settlement, but also to conquer eastern Europe and achieve European domination. When the German army invaded Poland in September 1939, Britain and France declared war.

Nazism had sought before 1939 to drive German Jews out of the country to prevent a repeat of the stab-in-the-back of 1918. After invading Poland, the Nazi administration forced the countrys large Jewish population into ghettos, where many starved. Following the invasion of the Soviet Union, further emigration of Jews from Germany was banned. The Nazi belief in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy to undermine Germany culminated in the conviction that the United Stateswhich entered the war informally in summer 1941 with its decision to supply Germanys enemies with raw materials and armamentswas working with the Soviet Union and Britain to destroy the Third Reich.

By the end of 1941 the decision had been made to transport all European Jews to specially created camps in the occupied parts of eastern Europe where they would be killed, thus inaugurating what later became known as the Holocaust. Many people thought to be undermining the German war effort or the values of Nazismincluding homosexuals, gypsies, Jehovahs Witnesses, African Germans, petty criminals, and asocialswere also exterminated. In addition, up to 200,000 German inmates of mental hospitals and institutions were killed, nearly half of them by gassing, the rest by starvation or lethal injections. Finally, a General Plan for the East envisaged the death by starvation of up to 30 million Slavs, and as a start, at least 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war were left to die of hunger and disease in German camps.

DEFEAT AND AFTERMATH

Nazisms ambition for the racial reordering of Europe could not be fulfilled. The combined strength of the Soviet Union, the British Empire, and the United States inflicted total defeat on Germany, many of whose towns and cities had been destroyed by bombing by the time peace was signed on May 8, 1945. Hitler and many other leading Nazis committed suicide. The others were tried for war crimes by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, setting an important precedent. Many were found guilty and executed or sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.

There was no serious resistance to the Allied occupation of Germany; Nazisms support, dependent on the charismatic force of Hitler and seduced by the belief that might is right, vanished when Hitler died and Germany was defeated. The genocidal crimes of Nazism were widely publicized. Since 1945, neo-Nazism has everywhere been a fringe, extremist movement, despite gaining some support in times of economic depression, and neo-Nazis have been forced to deny the reality of the Holocaust, even while claiming that Jews have too much influence in the modern world. Neo-Nazi movements are illegal in many countries, and the major focus of racist extremism today is against racial minorities in postcolonial Europe. White supremacists in the United States and neo-Nazis in Eastern Europe often express admiration for Hitler, but they have to confront the fact that Nazism led to the extermination of millions of Slavs and other Europeans.

SEE ALSO Anti-Semitism; Aryans; Authoritarianism; Civilizations, Clash of; Concentration Camps; Ethnocentrism; Eugenics; Fascism; Genocide; Great Depression; Hitler, Adolf; Holocaust, The; Mussolini, Benito; Nationalism and Nationality; Personality, Cult of; Racism; Totalitarianism; White Supremacy; World War I; World War II

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Burleigh, Michael, and Wolfgang Wipperman. 1991. The Racial State: Germany 19331945. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Evans, Richard J. 2003. The Coming of the Third Reich. New York: Penguin.

Evans, Richard J. 2005. The Third Reich in Power. New York: Penguin.

Evans, Richard J. 2008. The Third Reich at War. New York: Penguin.

Kershaw, Ian. 2000. The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation. 4th ed. London: Arnold.

Kershaw, Ian. 2002. Hitler. 2 vols. New York: Penguin.

Richard J. Evans

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"Nazism." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved May 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/nazism

National Socialism

National Socialism or Nazism, doctrines and policies of the National Socialist German Workers' party, which ruled Germany under Adolf Hitler from 1933 to 1945. In German the party name was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP); members were first called Nazis as a derisive abbreviation.

The Rise of the Party

After World War I a number of extremist political groups arose in Germany, including the minuscule German Workers' party, whose spokesman was Gottfried Feder. Its program combined socialist economic ideas with rabid nationalism and opposition to democracy. The party early attracted a few disoriented war veterans, including Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, and Hitler. After 1920 Hitler led the party; its name was changed, and he reorganized and reoriented it, stamping it with his own personality.

By demagogic appeals to latent hatred and violence, through anti-Semitism, anti-Communist diatribes, and attacks on the Treaty of Versailles, the party gained a considerable following. Its inner councils were swelled by such frustrated intellectuals as P. J. Goebbels, and by the element of riffraff typified by Julius Streicher, while its public adherents were heavily drawn from the depressed lower middle class. Hitler minimized the socialist features of the program. National Socialism made its appeal not to an economic class but rather to the insecure and power-hungry elements of society.

Ideology

Nazi ideology drew on the racist doctrines of the comte de Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, on the nationalism of Heinrich von Treitschke, and on the hero-cult of Friedrich Nietzsche, often transforming the ideas of these thinkers. Nazi dogma, partly articulated by Hitler in Mein Kampf, was elaborated by the fanatical Alfred Rosenberg. Vague and mystical, it was not a system of well-defined principles but rather a glorification of prejudice and myth with elements of nihilism. Its mainstays were the doctrines of racial inequality and of adherence to the leader, or Führer; its constant theme was nationalist expansion.

According to Nazi dogma, races could be scientifically classified as superior and inferior. The highest racial type was the Nordic, or Germanic, type of the "Aryan" race, while blacks and Jews were at the bottom of the racial ladder. Intermarriage contributed to the deterioration of the superior race, and the Jews, knowing this, had furthered prostitution and seduction to defile the Germans. Consequently only small islands of the pure remained, but it was their destiny to govern their inferiors and, through scientific breeding, to extend the "master race" and limit inferior races.

The Nazis accused Jews of obstructing the conquering path of the "master race." Marxism, international finance, and Freemasonry were all said to be Jewish devices created to dominate the world. Even Christianity was denounced by Rosenberg as a Jewish creation, but Hitler hedged on this point. International Jewry was blamed for the humiliation of Germany in the Treaty of Versailles (1919), and German Jewry was accused of betraying Germany in World War I.

Nazi expansionism was linked to race in the geopolitical theories of Karl Haushofer; from the degenerate Slavs in particular the Germans would wrest Lebensraum [living space]. The ruling "master race" itself was to be organized into an authoritarian pyramid, at the apex of which stood the infallible Führer. Strength and discipline were deified by the Nazis, and democracy was spurned as a depraved form of government that protected the weak and mediocre.

Organization

Nazi ideology probably gave less strength to the movement than did its well-organized party structure. From Communism Hitler borrowed the cell system, and from Italian Fascism he took the uniformed party militia. The mass of the militia was the brown-shirted SA, the Sturmabteilung [storm troops]. The elite was the black-uniformed SS, the Schutzstaffel [security echelon], under Heinrich Himmler. The party had its own salute (the raised arm and the words Heil Hitler!), symbol (the swastika), and anthem (the Horst Wessel Lied). The military trappings and mass demonstrations of the Nazis attracted many followers. For the coming to power of National Socialism and the history of Germany under its rule, see Germany.

Nazi Rule

After ousting the left wing of the party, represented by Gregor Strasser, Hitler, once in power, secured his position by the "Blood Purge" (June, 1934) of SA leader Ernst Roehm and others who might challenge him. Loyal Nazis were placed in positions of authority within the government and eventually came to control it. A corporative state was established in which labor lost all rights and was even regimented in its recreation by the "Strength through Joy" movement. Youth, schools, and the press came under repressive control. The books of "undesirable" authors were repeatedly burned.

Germany was divided into party districts; the Gauleiter [district leader] in effect superseded the state government. The judicial system was reorganized, and special courts were established to deal with political offenses. Nazi ideology was enthroned as national law, and Nazi methods replaced rational legal procedure. Anti-Semitic legislation (the Nuremberg Laws) forbade intermarriage with Jews, deprived Jews of civil rights, and barred them from professions. Other laws similarly barred Communists.

A German Christian Church was set up to control Protestant churches; its chief opponent, Martin Niemoeller, was arrested. The Gestapo (see secret police) tracked down political opponents, Jews, and other undesirables; their internment in concentration camps was often a prelude to their murder, particularly in the case of the Jews after the start of World War II. Medical "experiments," some of them conducted to prevent the reproduction of Jews and "misfits," maimed thousands more.

Nazism in Other Countries

In the period of German expansion the Nazis found many adherents outside Germany. In Austria the inclusion in the government of Nazi leader Seyss-Inquart speeded Austrian annexation, and in Czechoslovakia the Sudete German party (see Sudetes) aided the absorption of that country by Germany. The party of Jacques Doriot in France, the Rexists in Belgium, the Iron Guard in Romania, the Hungarian National Socialists, the Croatian Ustachi, and the German-American Bund in the United States were all affiliated to some extent with the Nazis.

In World War II the Nazis imposed their system and dogma on Europe by force. Millions of Jews, Russians, Poles, and others were interned and exterminated; millions more were used for forced labor. Only the collapse of Germany's military might prevented the utter annihilation of the Jews and the complete subjugation of Europe. With the Allied victory National Socialism was outlawed in Germany.

Bibliography

See H. Rauschning, The Revolution of Nihilism (tr. 1939); F. Neumann, Behemoth (2d ed. 1944, repr. 1963); E. Kogon, The Theory and Practice of Hell (tr. 1950, repr. 1972); W. L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960); J. C. Fest, The Face of the Third Reich (tr. 1970); K. D. Bracher, The German Dictatorship (tr. by J. Steinberg, 1970); A. Speer, Inside the Third Reich (tr. 1970); D. Orlov, The History of the Nazi Party: 1933–1945 (1973); F. Weinstein, The Dynamics of Nazism (1980); W. D. Smith, The Ideological Origins of Nazi Imperialism (1989); K. von Klemperer, German Resistance against Hitler (1992); S. Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews (2 vol., 1997–2007); M. Burleigh, The Third Reich (2000); R. Overy, Interrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, 1945 (2001); R. J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (2004) and The Third Reich in Power (2005); G. Aly, Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State (2007).

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national socialism

national socialism (Nazism) Doctrine of the National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) Party, 1921–45. It was biologically racist (believing that the ‘Aryan’ race was superior to others; see eugenics), anti-Semitic, nationalistic, anti-communist, anti-democratic and anti-intellectual. It placed power before justice and the interests of the state before the individual. These beliefs were stated by the party's leader, Adolf Hitler, in his book Mein Kampf (1925). See also fascism; nationalism

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Nazism

Nazism: see National Socialism.

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National Socialism

National Socialism See FASCISM.

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Nazism

Nazism See National Socialism

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Nazism

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