The Nazi party used a right-facing swastika
as their symbol and the red and black colors were said to represent Blut und Boden
(blood and soil). Black, white, and red were in fact the colors of the old North German Confederation
flag (invented by Otto von Bismarck
, based on the Prussian
colors black and white, blended with the red and white of the medieval Hanse cities
). In 1871
, with the foundation of the German Reich, the flag of the North German Confederation became the German Reichsflagge
(Reich's flag). Black, white, and red subsequently became the colors of the nationalists (e.g. during World War I
and the Weimar Republic
- "National Socialism" redirects here. For alternate meanings, see National Socialism (disambiguation).
Nazism (also called National Socialism or Hitlerism) is a type of fascist/totalitarian ideology. The term is most often used in connection with the dictatorship of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945 (the "Third Reich"). This ideology was held by the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, commonly called NSDAP or the Nazi Party), which was led by its "Führer" Adolf Hitler. Adherents of Nazism held that the German nation and the purported "Aryan" race were superior to other races. Nazism has been outlawed in modern Germany, although remnants and revivalists, known as "Neo-Nazis", continue to operate in Germany and abroad.
The term is derived from the word Nazi, which is used to label the supporters of the National Socialism. This term in turn was originally invented as tongue-in-cheek analogy to Sozi (a common and slightly pejorative abbrevetion for socialists in Germany), but became more popular and much more pejorative than the original.
According to Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler developed his political theories after carefully observing the policies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was born as a citizen of the Empire, and believed that ethnic and linguistic diversity had weakened it. Further, he saw democracy as a destabilizing force, because it placed power in the hands of ethnic minorities, who he claimed had incentives to further "weaken and destabilize" the Empire.
The Nazi rationale was heavily invested in the militarist belief that great nations grow from military power, which in turn grows "naturally" from "rational, civilized cultures." Hitler's calls appealed to disgruntled German Nationalists, eager to save face for the failure of World War I, and to salvage the militaristic nationalist mindset of that previous era. After Austria's and Germany's defeat of World War I, many Germans still had heartfelt ties to the goal of creating a greater Germany, and thought that the use of military force to achieve it was necessary.
Many placed the blame for Germany's misfortunes on those whom they perceived, in one way or another, to have sabotaged the goal of national victory. Jews and communists became the ideal scapegoats for Germans deeply invested in a German Nationalist ideology.
Hitler's Nazi theory also claimed that the Aryan race is a master race, superior to all other races, that a nation is the highest creation of a race, and great nations (literally large nations) were the creation of great races. 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 have 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.
The role of homosexuals during the Holocaust is controversial among historians. Some, like the International Committee for Holocaust Truth and authors Scott Lively and Kevin E. Abrams in The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party (ISBN 0964760932), defend the perspective that many homosexuals were involved in the inner circle of the Nazi party: Ernst Röhm of the SA (whose execution was thinly rationalized as being based on his homosexuality), Horst Wessel, Max Bielas , and others. This perspective is denounced as hateful propaganda by most homosexual associations and groups, stirring heated debates and accusations of censorship and "hate-speech" from both sides.
People of Slavic descent were also seen as subhuman, but only marginally parasitic, because they had their own land and nations, though many of them lived in German countries such as Austria, which Hitler saw as an ethnic invasion of Germanic Lebensraum by foreign populations who would have incentive to force Austria's loyalty to their lands of ethnic and cultural origin.
According to Nazism, it is an obvious mistake to permit or encourage multilingualism and multiculturalism within a nation. Fundamental to the Nazi goal was the unification of all German-speaking peoples, "unjustly" divided into different Nation States. Hitler claimed that nations that could not defend their territory did not deserve it. Slave races he thought of as less worthy to exist than "master 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. Hitler draws parallels between Lebensraum and the American ethnic cleansing and relocation policies towards the Native Americans, which he saw as key to the success of the US.
"Races without homelands," Hitler claimed, were "parasitic races," and the richer the members of a "parasitic race" are, 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 and Gypsies. Despite the popularity of Hitler and his living space doctrine, some Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS soldiers found the duty repugnant. Only a small fraction of them were actively involved in genocide.
Hitler extended his rationalizations into religious doctrine, claiming that those who agreed with and taught his "truths," were "true" or "master" religions, because they would "create mastery" by avoiding comforting lies. Those that preach love and tolerance, "in contravention to the facts," were said to be "slave" or "false" religions. The man who recognizes these "truths," Hitler continued, was said to be a "natural leader," and those who deny it were said to be "natural slaves." "Slaves," especially intelligent ones he claimed, were always attempting to hinder masters by promoting false religious and political doctrines.
The ideological roots which became German "National Socialism" were based on numerous sources in European history, drawing especially from Romantic 19th Century idealism, and from a biological misreading 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.
Hitler's theories were not only attractive to Germans. People in positions of wealth and power in other nations saw them as beneficial. Examples are Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, and Eugene Schueller, founder of L'Oréal.
Key elements of the Nazi ideology
Nazism and romanticism
According to Bertrand Russell, Nazism comes from a different tradition from 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 1930s and dismissing it as a little more than racism.
Many historiographers say that the anti-Semitic element, which does not exist in the sister fascism movements in Italy and Spain, was adopted by Hitler to gain popularity for the movement, as Anti-Semitic prejudice was very common among the masses in the German Empire at that time. It is claimed that mass acceptance required anti-Semitism, as well as flattery of the wounded pride of German people after the defeat of WWI. Others see anti-Semitism as central to Hitler's Weltanschauung (World view).
Many see strong connections to the values of Nazism and the irrationalist tradition of the romantic movement of the early 19th century. Strength, passion, lack of hypocrisy, utilitarianism, traditional family values, and devotion to community were valued by the Nazis and first expressed by many Romantic artists, musicians, and writers, as well as the Nazi elite, the ancient Greek habit of same-sex relations between the military and young boys praised notably in Plato's works, and favored by German sensualists such as Röhm, Bielas and Wessel. German romanticism in particular expressed these values. For instance, Hitler identified closely with the music of Richard Wagner (a noted anti-Semite, author of Das Judenthum in der Musik, and idol to the young Hitler). Wagner's most important operas, the Ring cycle, express Aryanist ideals, contain what some people interpret as anti-Semitic caricatures, and celebrate traditional Norse Aryan folklore and values.
The idealisation of tradition, folklore, classical thought, the leadership of Frederick the Great, their rejection of the liberalism of the Weimar Republic and the decision to call the German state the Third Reich (which hearkens back to the medieval First Reich and the pre-Weimar Second Reich) has led many to regard the Nazis as reactionary.
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 1918-1919 Munich Soviet and the 1919 Spartacist uprising in Berlin were both manifestations of this. The Freikorps, a loosely organised 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.
Capitalists and conservatives in Germany feared that a takeover by the Communists was inevitable and did not trust the democratic parties of the Weimar Republic to be able to resist a communist revolution. Increasing numbers of capitalists began looking to the nationalist movements as a bulwark against Bolshevism. 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 which had destabilised 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 and the 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 (the lumpenproletariat). The Nazi's use of socialist rhetoric appealed to disaffection with capitalism while presenting a political and economic model that divested "socialism" of any elements which were dangerous to capitalism, such as the concept of class struggle, "the dictatorship of the proletariat" or worker control of the means of production.
Support of anti-Communists for Fascism and Nazism
Various 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. Among these supporters in the 1920s and early 1930s was the Conservative Party in Britain. 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. Some contemporary commentators suggested that these parties did in fact still support the Nazis.
Nazism and Anglo-Saxons
Hitler admired the British Empire as a shining example of expansionist Nordic genius. Racist theories had been developed in Britain and elsewhere during the 19th century to justify European imperial power. Nordicism and Aryanism arose from these developments. Especially important was the idea that North Europeans represented the highest branch of the Aryan peoples, who had in ancient times extended into India and created Indian culture (see Aryan invasion theory). Such Racist imperialist theories justified the idea that some races were innately superior, born to rule, while others were parasitic or inferior "savages." These concepts were often copied by the Nazis.
Similarly, 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, as war approached, his view of the United States became more negative and he believed that Germany would have an easy victory over the United States precisely because the United States, in his later estimation, had become a mongrel nation.
Nazi economic practice concerned itself with immediate domestic issues 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.
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. However, as this production was primarily consumptive rather than productive (make-work projects, expansion of the war-fighting machine, initiation of conscription to remove working age males from the labor force), inflationary pressures began to rear their head again, although not to the highs of the Weimar Republic. These economic pressures, combined with the war-fighting machine created in the expansion (and concomitant pressures for its use), has led some to conclude that a European war was inevitable. (See Causes of war.)
Some economists argue that the expansion of the German economy between 1933 and 1936 was not the result of the Nazi party, but rather the consequence of economic policies of the late Weimar Republic which had begun to have an effect. In addition, it has been pointed out that while it is often popularly believed that the Nazis ended hyperinflation, that the end of hyperinflation preceded the Nazis by several years.
Internationally, the Nazi party believed that an 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 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.
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 an economic sense, Nazism and Fascism are related. 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.
These theories were used to justify a totalitarian political agenda of racial hatred and suppression using all the means of the state, and suppressing dissent.
Like other fascist regimes, the Nazi regime emphasized anti-communism and the leader principle (Führerprinzip), a key element of fascist ideology in which the ruler is deemed to embody the political movement and the nation. Unlike other fascist ideologies, Nazism was virulently racist. Some of the manifestations of Nazi racism were:
Anti-clericalism was also part of Nazi ideology, although it was never acted on as the Nazis often used the church to justify their stance and included many Christian symbols in the Third Reich.
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.
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, "Nazi children", in order to break the silence and to protest against the continuous demonization of their families. Some historical revisionists disseminate propaganda which minimizes the Holocaust and other Nazi acts, and attempts to put a positive spin on the policies of the Nazi regime and the events which occurred under it.
These revisionists are often, however, either aligned with, or in the employ of, neo-Nazis, and this fact itself often casts suspicion on their beliefs.
People and history
Hitler walking out of Brown House after 1930 elections
The most prominent Nazi was Adolf Hitler, who ruled Nazi Germany from 30 January 1933 until his suicide on 30 April 1945, led the German Reich into World War II. 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.
A few scattered people, mostly not from Germany, converted to Nazism during or after World War II and contributed to further development of the ideology, especially in a spiritual or esoteric direction: Savitri Devi of India, Miguel Serrano of Chile, George Lincoln Rockwell of the United States.
Nazism in relation to other concepts
See the article Nazism in relation to other concepts for Nazism's relation to:
The role of the nation
Nazi sacred symbol
– the swastika
or gamma cross
The Nazi symbol is the right-facing swastika
The Nazi state was founded upon a racially-defined "German Volk". 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 - a concept that defined a communal duty of citizens in service to the Reich. The term "National Socialism," arguably derives from this citizen-nation relationship, whereby the term socialism is invoked (socialism is traditionally defined as "the public ownership over the means of production") and is meant to be realized through the communal duty of the Volk to the Reich or German nation, the collective cause for which production is presumably in service of. The Reich, in turn, was a virulently nationalist ideology, a tendency which decisively defined its organizational thrust and overall immediate and long-term aims. In practice, the Nazis argued, this notion served 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, geared to serve the interests of the German people.
In comparison, many socialist ideologies oppose the idea of nations, which they see as artificial divisions that support the status quo and oppression. They argue that one crucial consequence of national divisions is that they lead to wars of aggression, waged for the interest of the ruling class.
Factors which promoted the success of Nazism
An important question about National Socialism is that of which factors promoted its success, not only in Germany, but also in other European countries (in the 1930s and early 1940s Nazi-type movements could be found in Sweden, Britain, Italy, Spain and even in the US) in the twenties and thirties of the last century? These factors may have included:
- Economic devastation all over Europe after WWI
- Lack of orientation of many people after the breakdown of monarchy in many European countries.
- A perception that there was a disproportionate number of Jews in the German bourgeoisie (or upper class).
- Perceived Jewish involvement in WWI of war profiteering
- Appeal of socialism or socialist rhetoric to the German working class
- Humiliation of Germany at the Treaty of Versailles
- Rejection of Communism (particularly redistribution of wealth ) and the perception that socialism and Communism were Jewish-inspired and Jewish -led movements; hence the Nazi use of the term Judeo-Bolshevik
- Hatred of the Jews
- The Wall Street Crash of 1929
Nazi / Third Reich terminology in popular culture
The multiple atrocities and extremist 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), "uber/ueber" (from Übermensch, superior person, Aryan as opposite to Untermensch) or "Hitler". The terms are used to describe any people or behaviours that are viewed as thuggish, overly authoritarian, or extremist.
In the context of the Western World, Nazi or fascist is also sometimes used by (generally Left-wing) opposition to malign political groups (such as the French Front National) advocating restrictive measures on immigration, or strong law enforcement powers.
Critics of Israel have recently taken to using comparisons with the Nazis in describing its treatment of Palestinians, particularly with regards to Israel's separation barrier on the West Bank. Some regard this usage as antisemitic.
The terms are also used to describe anyone or anything seen as strict or doctrinaire. Phrases like "Grammar Nazi", "Feminazi", "Open Source Nazi", and "ubergeek" 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.
It can also be found that German-sounding or German-looking spellings of English words are used to claim superiority in some area, or to create some impression of power or brutality. For example, to give English words a German touch, the letter 'C' is often replaced by 'K', like "kool" or "kommandos". A well known example of "germanization" of names are the names of heavy metal bands like Mötley Crüe, or MOTÖRHEAD. See Heavy metal umlaut.
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".
As, especially after World War II, Nazism became for many of its followers a spiritual path akin to a religion, it naturally had some sites of pilgrimage, which one might call "holy sites". Savitri Devi visited many of them during her pilgrimage in 1953.
- Berchtesgaden, home of the Berghof.
- Braunau am Inn, birthplace of Adolf Hitler.
- Leonding, where the parents of Adolf Hitler were buried.
- Linz, where Hitler went to school.
- Feldherrnhalle, site of, the end of, the failed Munich Putsch
- Landsberg am Lech , where Hitler was imprisoned.
- Nuremberg, site of the enormous Nazi rallies.
- Wewelsburg, headquarters of the SS.
Devi also visited some sites, as part of her pilgrimage, not directly connected to Nazism, but of Germanic spiritual, or German national significance:
For earlier National Socialist movements which merged with Nazism see:
For modern Nazism see: