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National Socialism (common short form Nazism, German: Nationalsozialismus) was the ideology practiced by the Nazi Party and Nazi Germany.[1][2][3][4] It is a unique variety of fascism that incorporates biological racism and antisemitism.[5] Nazism was founded out of elements of the far-right racist v lkisch German nationalist movement and the violent anti-communist Freikorps paramilitary culture that fought against the uprisings of communist revolutionaries in post-World War I Germany.[6] The ideology was developed first by Anton Drexler and then Adolf Hitler as a means to draw workers away from communism and into v lkisch nationalism.[7] Initially Nazi political strategy focused on anti-big business, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist rhetoric, though such aspects were later downplayed in the 1930s to gain the support from industrial owners for the Nazis; the focus shifting to anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist themes.[8] Nazism promoted political violence, militarism, and war, it conceived of politics as being a "battle", and the Nazis utilized their paramilitary organization, the Sturmabteilung (SA) for violent attacks upon their opponents, particularly communists, Jews, and social democrats.[9] Hitler and the Nazis openly promoted German territorial expansionism into Eastern Europe to be Lebensraum ("living space") for German settlers and assimilation of Germanic peoples into Germans that would result in the creation of a "Greater Germanic Realm of the German Nation".[10]

Nazism advocated the supremacy of the claimed Aryan master race over all other races.[11] Nazis viewed the progress of humanity as depending on the Aryans and believed that it could maintain its dominance only if it retained its purity and instinct for self-preservation.[12] They claimed that Jews were the greatest threat to the Aryan race.[13] They considered Jews a parasitic race that attached itself to various ideologies and movements to secure its self-preservation, such as capitalism, the Enlightenment, industrialisation, liberalism, Marxism, democracy, and trade unionism.[13] To maintain the purity and strength of the Aryan race, the Nazis sought to exterminate Jews, Romani, and the physically and mentally disabled.[14] Other groups deemed "degenerate" and "asocial" who were not targeted for extermination, but received exclusionary treatment by the Nazi state, included: homosexuals, blacks, Jehovah's Witnesses and political opponents.[14]

Nazism promoted an economic system that supported a stratified economy with classes based on merit and talent while rejecting universal egalitarianism, retaining private property, freedom of contract, and promoted the creation of national solidarity that would transcend class distinction.[15][16] Hitler claimed that unconditional equality of opportunity for all able racially-sound Aryan German males in Germany was the essence of the socialism of German National Socialism.[17] This was known as v lkisch equality that officially ascribed collective racial equality of opportunity, equality before the law, and full legal rights to able people of Aryan blood but deliberately excluded people outside of this definition who were regarded as inferior and rejected the conception of universal human equality.[18] The Nazis criminalized strikes by employees and lockouts by employers for being contrary to national unity and the state took over the approval process of setting wage and salary levels.[19]

The Nazis were presented by Hitler and other proponents and viewed by some scholars as being neither left-wing nor right-wing but politically syncretic.[20][21][22][23] Hitler in Mein Kampf directly attacked both left-wing and right-wing politics in Germany, he accused the political left of committing treason against Germany when left-wing politicians signed the Treaty of Versailles, he accused the political right as deserving equal reproach as the left, for being cowards in allowing the disarmament of Germany as stipulated by Versailles.[24] However major elements of Nazism have been deemed as clearly far-right, such as its goals of the right of claimed superior people to dominate while purging society of claimed inferior elements.[25]



The full title of Adolf Hitler's party was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers' Party). The term Nazi was an "acronym formed from the first syllable of NAtional and the second syllable of SoZIalist. Such terms, usually formed from the initial letters or syllables of successive parts of compound names, were popular in the Third Reich. Another typical example was Gestapo for Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police)."[26]

Position in the political spectrum

F hrer Adolf Hitler (first from left side), Hermann G ring (second from left side), Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels (third from left side), Rudolf Hess (fourth from left side). monarchist]] German National People's Party (DNVP), during the Nazi-DNVP alliance in the Harzburg Front. A majority of scholars identify Nazism in practice as being a far right form of politics.[27] Far right themes exist in Nazism, including the goal of both Nazism as well as fascism in general, to promote the right of superior people to dominate while purging society of claimed inferior elements; and particularly in the case of Nazism, genocide of people deemed to be inferior.[25] However Nazism was officially presented by Hitler and other proponents as being neither left-wing nor right-wing but syncretic.[28][29] Hitler in Mein Kampf directly attacked both left-wing and right-wing politics in Germany, saying: "Today our left-wing politicians in particular are constantly insisting that their craven-hearted and obsequious foreign policy necessarily results from the disarmament of Germany, whereas the truth is that this is the policy of traitors [...] But the politicians of the Right deserve exactly the same reproach. It was through their miserable cowardice that those ruffians of Jews who came into power in 1918 were able to rob the nation of its arms."[30]

There were factions in the Nazi Party, both conservative and radical.[31] The conservative Nazi Hermann G ring urged Hitler to conciliate with capitalists and reactionaries.[31] Other prominent conservative Nazis included Heinrich Himmler, who was more conservative than G ring; and Reinhard Heydrich.[32] The radical Nazi Joseph Goebbels hated capitalism, viewing it as having Jews at its core and stressed the need for the party to emphasize both a proletarian and national character, these views were shared by Otto Strasser who later left the Nazi Party in the belief that Hitler had betrayed the party's socialist goals by allegedly endorsing capitalism.[31] Large segments of the Party staunchly supported its official socialist, revolutionary, and anti-capitalist positions and expected both a social and economic revolution upon the Party gaining power in Germany in 1933.[33] Of the million members of the SA, many were committed to the Party's official socialist program.[33] The leader of the Party's paramilitary organization the SA, Ernst R hm, supported a "second revolution" (the "first revolution" being the Nazis' seizure of power) that would entrench the Party's official socialist program and demanded the replacement of the nonpolitical German army with a Nazi-led army.[33]

Prior to becoming an anti-Semite and a Nazi, Adolf Hitler had previously served the Bavarian Soviet Republic from 1918 to 1919 where Hitler was elected Deputy Battalion Representative of his communist-led battalion and attended the funeral of communist Kurt Eisner - who was a German Jew - where Hitler wore a black mourning armband on one arm and a red communist armband on his other arm.[34] Hitler's later political beliefs had not yet solidified, then he was a supporter of the idea of a classless society and was an anti-monarchist.[34] Hitler concealed his association with the communist regime in Bavaria and that he was not then an anti-Semite, in Mein Kampf Hitler never mentioned his service with the Bavarian Soviet Republic, and claimed that he became an anti-Semite in 1913 in Vienna when in fact he was not an anti-Semite at that time.[35] Hitler's political views massively altered in response to the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919, and it was then that he became an anti-Semitic German nationalist.[35] As a Nazi, Hitler both in public and in private, opposed capitalism, Hitler regarded capitalism as having Jewish origins and accused capitalism of holding nations ransom in the interests of a parasitic cosmopolitan rentier class.[36] However Hitler tactically took a pragmatic in-between position between the conservative and radical factions, in that he accepted private property and allowed capitalist private enterprises to exist as long as they obeyed the goals of the Nazi state but if a capitalist private enterprise resisted Nazi goals, he sought to destroy it.[31] Upon the Nazis achieving power, R hm's SA began attacks against individuals deemed to be associated with conservative reaction, without Hitler's authorization to do so.[37] Hitler saw R hm's independent actions as violating and possibly threatening his leadership, as well as jeopardizing the regime by alienating the conservative President Paul von Hindenburg and the conservative-oriented German army.[38] This resulted in Hitler purging R hm and other radical members of the SA.[38]

Though opposed to communism as an ideology, Hitler admired the Soviet Union's leader Joseph Stalin and Stalinism.[39] Hitler on numerous occasions publicly praised Stalin and he positively reviewed Stalinism as seeking to purify the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of Jewish influences, noting the purging of Jewish communists such as Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Karl Radek.[40] Hitler believed that Soviet Bolshevism under Stalin was transforming into a form of Nazism and said in 1934:

While Hitler always intended to eventually bring Germany into territorial expansionist conflict against the Soviet Union to gain Lebensraum ("living space"), Hitler supported a temporary strategic alliance between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to form a common anti-liberal front to crush liberal democracies particularly France.[39]

Ideological origins

German nationalism and antisemitism

Phillip Wayne Powell writes that "in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, a powerful surge of German patriotism was stimulated by the disdain of Italians for German cultural inferiority and barbarism, which led to a counter-attempt, by German humanists, to laud German qualities."[41] M.W. Fodor wrote in The Nation in 1936, "No race has suffered so much from an inferiority complex as has the German. National Socialism was a kind of Cou method of converting the inferiority complex, at least temporarily, into a feeling of superiority".[42] stock market crash]] of 1873 One of the most significant ideological influences on the Nazis came from the German nationalist Johann Gottlieb Fichte, whose works Hitler read, and who was recognized by other Nazi members including Dietrich Eckart and Arnold Fanck.[43] In Speeches to the German Nation (1808), written amid Napoleonic France's occupation of Berlin, Fichte called for a German national revolution against the French occupiers, making passionate public speeches, arming his students for battle against the French, and stressing the need of action by the German nation to free itself.[44]

Fichte's nationalism was populist and opposed to traditional elites, and spoke of the need of a "People's War" (Volkskrieg), putting forward concepts much like those the Nazis adopted.[44] Fichte promoted German exceptionalism and stressed the need for the German nation to be purified. This priority included purging the German language of French words, a policy that the Nazis undertook upon rising to power.[44] Fichte was anti-Semitic and accused Jews in Germany of having been, and inevitably continuing to be a "state within a state" in Germany that was a threat to German national unity.[44] Fichte promoted two options to address this: the first was the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine to impel the Jews to leave Europe.[45] The other option was violence against Jews, saying that the goal would be "To cut off all their heads in one night, and set new ones on their shoulders, which should not contain a single Jewish idea".[46]

Beginning in the 1870s, German v lkisch nationalism began to adopt anti-Semitic and racist themes and was adopted by a number of radical right political movements.[47] V lkisch nationalism denounced soulless materialism, individualism, and secularized urban industrial society, while advocating a "superior" society based on ethnic German "folk" culture and way of life, based upon German "blood".[48] It also denounced foreigners, foreign ideas and declared that Jews, national minorities, Catholics, and Freemasons were "traitors to the nation" and unworthy of inclusion in the German Volk.[49] V lkisch nationalism saw the world in terms of natural law and romanticism, viewed societies as organic, it extolled the virtues of rural life, condemned the neglect of tradition and decay of morals, denounced the destruction of the natural environment, and condemned "cosmopolitan" cultures such as Jews and Romani.[50] German Jewish veterans organization]] in response to accusations of lack of patriotism. Inscription on the tomb: "12,000 Jewish soldiers died on the field of honor for the fatherland." Prominent historical figures of such v lkisch nationalism include Eugen Diederichs, Paul de Lagarde, and Julius Langbehn.[50] Radical anti-Semitism was promoted by these figures. De Lagarde called the Jews a "bacillus, the carrier of decay...who pollute every national culture...and destroy all faith with their materialistic liberalism" and he called for the extermination of the Jews.[51] Langbehn called for a war of annihilation of the Jews and Langbehn's genocidal policies were published by the Nazis and given to soldiers on the front during World War II.[51]

However during the era of Imperial Germany, v lkisch nationalism was overshadowed by both Prussian patriotism and the federalist tradition of various states within Imperial Germany.[52] The events of World War I including the end of the Prussian monarchy in Germany, resulted in a surge of revolutionary v lkisch nationalism.[53] The Nazis supported such revolutionary v lkisch nationalist policies.[52]

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (1912) was an anti-Semitic forgery created by police of the Russian Empire. Anti-Semites believed it was real and the Protocol surged in popularity after World War I.[54] The Protocols claimed that there was a secret international Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.[55] Hitler had been introduced to The Protocols by Alfred Rosenberg, and from 1920 onward Hitler focused his attacks on claiming that Judaism and Marxism were directly connected and that Jews and Bolsheviks were one and the same and that Marxism was a Jewish ideology.[56] Hitler believed that The Protocols were authentic.[57]

The Nazis claimed that their ideology was influenced by the leadership and policies of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the founder of the German Empire.[58] The Nazis declared that they were dedicated to continuing the process of creating a unified German nation state that Bismarck had begun and desired to achieve.[59] The Nazis claimed that Bismarck was unable to complete German national unification because of Jewish infiltration of the German parliament, and that their abolition of parliament ended the obstacle to unification.[58] While Hitler was supportive of Bismarck's creation of the German Empire, he was critical of Bismarck's moderate domestic policies.[60] On the issue of Bismarck's support of a Kleindeutschland ("Lesser Germany", excluding Austria) versus the pan-German Gro deutschland ("Greater Germany") of the Nazis, Hitler claimed that Bismarck's attainment of Kleindeutschland was the "highest achievement" that Bismarck could have achieved "within the limits possible of that time".[61] In Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler presented himself as a "second Bismarck".[61]

Aryan superiority

The concept of the Aryan race that the Nazis used stems from racial theories asserting that Europeans are the descendants of Indo-Iranian settlers, people of ancient India and ancient Persia.[62] Proponents of this theory based their assertion on the similarity of European words and their meaning to those of Indo-Iranian languages.[62] Johann Gottfried Herder argued that the Germanic peoples held close racial connections with the ancient Indians and ancient Persians, who he claimed were advanced peoples possessing a great capacity for wisdom, nobility, restraint, and science.[62] Contemporaries of Herder utilized the concept of the Aryan race to draw a distinction between what they deemed "high and noble" Aryan culture versus that of "parasitic" Semitic culture.[62]

Notions of white supremacy and Aryan racial superiority combined in the nineteenth century, with white supremacists maintaining that white people were members of an Aryan "master race" that is superior to all other races, and particularly superior to the Semitic race, which they associated with "cultural sterility".[62] Arthur de Gobineau, a French racial theorist and aristocrat, blamed the fall of the ancien r gime in France on racial degeneracy caused by racial intermixing, which he argued destroyed the purity of the Aryan race.[63] Gobineau's theories, which attracted a strong following in Germany,[63] emphasized the existence of an irreconcilable polarity between Aryan and Jewish cultures.[62]

Aryan mysticism claimed that Christianity originated in Aryan religious tradition and that Jews had usurped the legend from Aryans.[62] Houston Stewart Chamberlain, an English proponent of racial theory, supported notions of Germanic supremacy and anti-Semitism in Germany.[64] Chamberlain's work, Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899) praised Germanic peoples for their creativity and idealism while asserting that the Germanic spirit was threatened by a "Jewish" spirit of selfishness and materialism.[64] Chamberlain used his thesis to promote monarchical conservatism while denouncing democracy, liberalism, and socialism.[63] The book became popular, especially in Germany.[63] Chamberlain stressed the need of a nation to maintain racial purity in order to prevent degeneration, and argued that racial intermingling with Jews should never be permitted.[63] In 1923, Chamberlain met Hitler, whom he admired as a leader of the rebirth of the free spirit.[65]

Racial policy interpretations from science

Nazism's racial policy positions were also developed from the views of important biologists of the 19th century, including French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and the father of genetics, German botanist Gregor Mendel. Lamarckism was an important influence on Nazism.[66] In particular the variant developed by Ernst Haeckel, was utilized by the Nazis.[67] Unlike Darwinian theory, Lamarckian theory officially ranked races in a hierarchy of evolution from apes while Darwinian theory did not grade races in a hierarchy of higher or lower evolution from apes, simply categorizing humans as a whole of all as having progressed in evolution from apes.[68] Many Lamarckians viewed "lower" races as having been exposed to debilitating conditions for too long for any significant "improvement" of their condition in the near future.[69] Haeckel utilized Lamarckian theory to describe the existence of interracial struggle and put races on a hierarchy of evolution, ranging from being wholly human to subhuman.[66]

Mendelism was supported by the Nazis and also mainstream eugenics proponents at the time were Mendelian.[70] Mendelian theory of inheritance declared that genetic traits and attributes were passed from one generation to another.[70] Proponents of eugenics used Mendelian inheritance theory to demonstrate the transfer of biological illness and impairments from parents to children, including mental disability; others also utilized Mendelian theory to demonstrate the inheritance of social traits, with racialists claiming a racial nature of certain general traits such as inventiveness or criminal behaviour.[71]

Response to World War I

During World War I, sociologist Johann Plenge spoke of the rise of a "National Socialism" in Germany within what he termed the "ideas of 1914" that were a declaration of war against the "ideas of 1789" the French Revolution.[72] According to Plenge, the "ideas of 1789" that included rights of man, democracy, individualism and liberalism were being rejected in favour of "the ideas of 1914" that included "German values" of duty, discipline, law, and order.[72] Plenge believed that ethnic solidarity (volksgemeinschaft) would replace class division and that "racial comrades" would unite to create a socialist society in the struggle of "proletarian" Germany against "capitalist" Britain.[72] He believed that the "Spirit of 1914" manifested itself in the concept of the "People's League of National Socialism".[73] This National Socialism was a form of state socialism that rejected the "idea of boundless freedom" and promoted an economy that would serve the whole of Germany under the leadership of the state.[73] This National Socialism was opposed to capitalism due to the components that were against "the national interest" of Germany, but insisted that National Socialism would strive for greater efficiency in the economy.[73] Plenge advocated an authoritarian rational ruling elite to develop National Socialism through a hierarchical technocratic state.[74]

Plenge's arguments at the time were recognized by a diverse group of people as an important argument in favour of social justice promoted within a strong state, including: right-wing Social Democrats Konrad Haenisch, Heinrich Cunow, Paul Lench and Kurt Schumacher; Conservative Revolutionaries including Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and Max Hildebert Boehm; and Nazis including Ernst Krieck, Gottfried Feder and Eduard Stadtler.[74] Plenge's ideas formed the basis of Nazism.[72]

Oswald Spengler, a German cultural philosopher, was a major influence on Nazism, although after 1933 Spengler became alienated from Nazism and later condemned by the Nazis for criticizing Hitler.[75] Spengler's views were also popular amongst Italian Fascists, including Benito Mussolini.[76] Spengler's book The Decline of the West (1918) written during the final months of World War I in which he addressed the claim of decadence of modern European civilization that he claimed was caused by atomizing and irreligious individualization and cosmopolitanism.[75] In Decline of the West, Spengler's major thesis was that a law of historical development of cultures existed involving a cycle of birth, maturity, aging, and death when it reaches its final form of civilization.[77] Upon reaching the point of civilization, a culture will lose its creative capacity and succumb to decadence until the emergence of "barbarians" create a new epoch.[77] Spengler considered the Western world as having succumbed to decadence of intellect, money, cosmopolitan urban life, irreligious life, atomized individualization, and the end of biological fertility as well as "spiritual" fertility.[77] He believed that the "young" German nation as an imperial power would inherit the legacy of Ancient Rome and lead a restoration of value in "blood" and instinct, while the ideals of rationalism would be revealed as absurd.[77]

In Preussentum und Sozialismus ("Prussiandom and Socialism", 1919), Spengler described socialism outside of a class conflict perspective and said "The meaning of socialism is that life is controlled not by the opposition between rich and poor, but by the rank that achievement and talent bestow. That is our freedom, freedom from the economic despotism of the individual."[78] Spengler utilized the anti-English ideas addressed by Plenge and Sombart during World War I that condemned English liberalism and English parliamentarianism while advocating a national socialism that was free from Marxism that would connect the individual to the state through corporative organization.[75] Spengler claimed that socialistic Prussian characteristics existed across Germany that included creativity, discipline, concern for the greater good, productivity, and self-sacrifice.[79] Spengler's definition of socialism did not advocate change in property relations.[78]

Spengler denounced Marxism for seeking to train the proletariat to "expropriate the expropriator", the capitalist, and then to let them live a life of leisure on this expropriation.[80] He claimed that "Marxism is the capitalism of the working class" and not true socialism.[80] True socialism according to Spengler would be in the form of corporatism, stating that "local corporate bodies organized according to the importance of each occupation to the people as a whole; higher representation in stages up to a supreme council of the state; mandates revocable at any time; no organized parties, no professional politicians, no periodic elections."[81] In Preussentum und Sozialismus Spengler prescribed war as a necessity, saying "War is the eternal form of higher human existence and states exist for war: they are the expression of the will to war."[82] Spengler's conception of socialism and a number of his political views were shared by the Nazis as well as the Conservative Revolutionary movement.[78]


"stab-in-the-back" legend]], which blamed Jews for Germany's defeat in World War I.

On 5 January 1919, the locksmith Anton Drexler, and five other men, founded the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (DAP German Workers' Party), the predecessor of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP National Socialist German Workers' Party).[83][84] In July 1919, the Reichswehr intelligence department despatched Corporal Adolf Hitler, as a Verbindungsmann (police spy) to infiltrate and subvert the DAP. His oratory so impressed the DAP members, they asked him to join the party, and, in September 1919, the police spy Hitler became the party's propagandist.[83][85] On 24 February 1920, the DAP was renamed the National Socialist German Workers' Party, against Hitler's preferred "Social Revolutionary Party" name.[83] Later, in consolidating his control of the NSDAP, Hitler ousted Drexler from the party and assumed leadership on 29 July 1921.[83]

The post-war crises of Weimar Germany (1919 33) consolidated Nazism as an ideology: military defeat in the First World War (1914 18), capitulation with the Treaty of Versailles, economic depression, and the consequent societal instability. In exploiting, and excusing, the military defeat, Nazism proffered the political Dolchstosslegende ("Legend of the Dagger-stab in the Back") [86] claiming that the Imperial German war effort was internally sabotaged, by Jews, socialists, and Bolsheviks. Proposing that, because the Reichwehrs defeat did not occur in Germany, the sabotage included a lack of patriotism among their political antagonists, specifically the Social Democrats and the Ebert Government, whom the Nazis accused of treason. Using the "stab in the back" legend, the Nazis accused German Jews, and other populaces it considered non-German, of possessing extra-national loyalties, thereby exacerbating German anti-semitism about the Judenfrage (the Jewish Question), the perennial far right political canard popular when the ethnic V lkisch movement and their politics of Romantic nationalism for establishing a Gro deutschland were strong.[87][88] The seminal ideas of Nazism originated in the German cultural past of the V lkisch (folk) movement and the superstitions of Ariosophy, an occultism that proposed the Germanic peoples as the purest examples of the Aryan race, whose cultures feature runic symbols and the swastika. From among the Ariosophs, only the Thule-Gesellschaft (Thule Society) in Munich, features in the origin of Nazism; they sponsored the DAP.[83] Fascism was a major influence on Nazism. The seizure of power by Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini in the March on Rome in 1922 drew admiration by Hitler who less than a month after the March had begun to model himself and the Nazi Party upon Mussolini and the Fascists.[89] After the March on Rome, Hitler presented the Nazis as a German fascism.[90][91] The Nazis attempted a "March on Berlin" modelled upon the March on Rome that resulted in the failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in November 1923.[92] Although Hitler strongly admired Mussolini and fascism, other Nazis especially more radical Nazis such as Gregor Strasser, Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler rejected Italian Fascism, accusing it of being too conservative or capitalist.[93] Alfred Rosenberg condemned Italian Fascism for being racially confused and having influences from philo-Semitism.[94] Strasser criticized the policy of F hrerprinzip as being created by Mussolini, and considered its presence in Nazism as a foreign import.[95] Throughout the relationship between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, a number of lower-ranking Nazis scornfully viewed fascism as a conservative movement that lacked a full revolutionary potential.[95]


Greater Germany in 1943, including annexed or occupied territories of other countries The Nazis advocated a strong, central government under the F hrer, for defending Germany and the German nation, the Volk, against communism and Jewish subversion. To the end of establishing Gro deutschland (Greater Germany), the German peoples must acquire Lebensraum (living space) from Russia.[96] Europe, with pre-WW2 borders, showing the extension of Generalplan Ost, i.e., the massive depopulation and ethnic cleansing within German Lebensraum. Hitler, the F hrer of Nazi Germany The original National Socialists, the 1919 German Workers' Party (DAP) said there would be no program binding upon them, thus rejecting any Weltanschauung. Nonetheless, when Adolf Hitler assumed command of its successor, the Nazi Party, political substance of Nazism concorded with his political beliefs  man and idea as political entity, the F hrer.

Hitler had concluded that ethnic and linguistic diversity had weakened the Austro Hungarian Empire, and had resulted in contemporary political dissent. He disliked democracy because it allowed political power to ethnic minorities and to liberal political parties, who "weakened and destabilized" the empire with internal division. Hitler's cultural, historical, and political beliefs were tempered in combat during World War I; by Germany's loss of the war, and by the Bolsheviks' successful October Revolution of 1917 that installed Marxist communism in Russia. From 1920 to 1923, Hitler formulated his ideology, then published it in 1925 26, as Mein Kampf, a two-volume, biography and political manifesto.[97]

During the 1920s and 1930s, Nazism was ideologically heterogeneous, comprising two sub-ideologies, those of Otto Strasser and of Hitler. As leftists, the Strasserites fell afoul of Hitler, who expelled Otto Strasser from the Nazi Party when he failed to establish the Black Front, an oppositional, anti-capitalist bloc, in 1930. Though Hitler for "tactical" reasons had rhetorically declared a 1920 party platform with socialist platitudes "unshakable," actually "many paragraphs of the party program were obviously merely a demagogic appeal to the mood of the lower classes at a time when they were in bad straits and were sympathetic to radical and even socialist slogans...Point 11, for example...Point 12...nationalization...Point 16...communalization.... put in at the insistence of Drexler and Feder, who apparently really believed in the 'socialism' of National Socialism."[98] In actual practice, such points were mere slogans, "most of them forgotten by the time the party came to power.... the Nazi leader himself was later to be embarrassed when reminded of some of them."[98] Historian Conan Fischer argues that the Nazis were sincere in their use of the adjective socialist, which the saw as inseparable from the adjective national, and meant it as a socialism of the master race, rather than the socialism of the "underprivileged and oppressed seeking justice and equal rights."[99]

The conflicting philosophies of leading Nazis of the early years were visible at times: in 1930 "Strasser, Feder and Frick introduced a bill in the Reichstag on behalf of the Nazi Party calling for (interest rate limits, expropriation of large bank-holdings)... and the nationalization of the big banks.... Hitler was horrified; this was not only Bolshevism, it was financial suicide for the party."[100] Many Strasserites who remained in the Nazi Party, mostly in the Sturmabteilung (SA), were assassinated in the Night of the Long Knives purge.


Nazi militarism was based upon the belief that great nations grow from military power which maintains their position in the world pecking-order. The Nazi Party exploited irredentist and revanchist sentiments, and cultural aversions to aspects of Modernism, (despite the Reich embracing many elements of modernism in the shape of modern technology). The regime combined nationalism and militarism as necessary ingredients for establishing Gro deutschland (Greater Germany).

Social class

In 1922, Adolf Hitler discredited other nationalist and racialist political parties as disconnected from the mass populace, especially lower- and working-class young people:

Despite many working-class supporters and members, the appeal of the Nazi Party to the working class was neither true nor effective, because its politics mostly appealed to the middle class, as a stabilizing, pro-business political party, not a revolutionary workers' party.[101][101] Moreover, the financial collapse of the white collar middle-class of the 1920s figures much in their strong support of Nazism, thus the great percentage of declared middle-class support for the Nazis.[101] In the poor country that was the Weimar Republic of the early 1930s, the Nazi Party realised their socialist policies with food and shelter for the unemployed and the homeless later recruited to the Brownshirt Sturmabteilung (SA Storm Detachment).[101]

Sex and gender

Nazi ideology advocated excluding women from political involvement and confining them to the spheres of "Kinder, K che, Kirche" (Children, Kitchen, Church). Many women voted in favour of the Nazi Party, but once in power, the party introduced legislation that limited women's legal rights. Women's organizations and associations that had been permitted before the Nazi regime were banned, and the Nazi Party set up its own women's organizations.

Some women participated in Nazi war crimes, including the operation of concentration camps, and were convicted after World War II. Gertrud Scholtz-Klink had much influence as the head of the NS-Frauenschaft, the women's wing of the Nazi Party. Magda Goebbels, the wife of Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels, was on friendly terms with Adolf Hitler and was known as "the First Lady of the Reich". She often attended Nazi Party events, providing a feminine face to the regime.

Opposition to homosexuality

Homophobia: Berlin Memorial to Homosexual Victims of the Holocaust; Totgeschlagen Totgeschwiegen (Struck Dead Hushed Up) Initially, Adolf Hitler had protected Ernst R hm the homosexual leader of the Sturmabteilung (SA) from Nazis who considered his homosexuality a violation of the Party's anti-homosexual policy. In late February 1933, as the influence of R hm diminished, the Nazi Party purged the homophile clubs, where gay, lesbian and bisexual Berliners congregated. It also outlawed academic and pornographic sexual publications.

In March 1933, Kurt Hiller, organizer of the Institut f r Sexualwissenschaft (Institute of Sex Research), was imprisoned to a concentration camp. On 6 May 1933, Hitler Youth members attacked the institute and publicly burned its books, journals and other documents. They also seized the institute's rosters of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender patients.

When R hm proved to be a politically viable challenger to Hitler's leadership of the Nazi Party, Hitler ordered that he be assassinated in 1934, along with other Nazi political opponents. This purge became known as the Night of the Long Knives. To suppress outrage in the SA ranks, the Nazi leaders justified R hm's killing on the basis that he was homosexual.

Schutzstaffel (SS) Chief Heinrich Himmler, initially a supporter of R hm, defended him against charges of homosexuality, arguing that they were the fabrications of a Jewish character assassination conspiracy. After the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler promoted Himmler, who then zealously suppressed homosexuality, saying: "We must exterminate these people root and branch ... the homosexual must be eliminated."[102] In 1936, Himmler established the "Reichszentrale zur Bek mpfung der Homosexualit t und Abtreibung" ("Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion").[103] The Nazis officially declared that homosexuality was contrary to "wholesome popular sentiment", identifying gay men as "defilers of German blood". The Nazi r gime incarcerated some 100,000 homosexuals during the 1930s.[104] As concentration camp prisoners, homosexual men were forced to wear pink triangle badges.[105][106]

Nazi anti-homosexual laws did not persecute lesbians as much because the Nazis considered female homosexuals easier to persuade or to compel to conformity with the heterosexual mores of patriarchy. Nonetheless, the Nazis considered lesbians to be a cultural threat to family values, and officially identified them as anti-social. Concentration camp prisoners who were lesbian were forced to wear black triangle badges.

Racial policy

Leipzig, 1932]]) depicts German war hero Karl von M ller as an exemplar Nordic type of the Herrenvolk. A wagon piled high with corpses outside the crematorium in Buchenwald concentration camp. The Nazis sought the extermination of the Jewish people through the genocide known as the Holocaust. Free Arabian Legion]] of the German Army in Greece, September 1943. Caucasian]] ethnic groups (Alexiev 1982:33)." Haj Amin al-Husayni meeting with Adolf Hitler in December 1941.

Hitler viewed race as being in a hierarchy, and spoke of the "aristocratic idea of nature" in which there existed an inequality of races where the superior and higher values of the Aryan race was the basis of all civilization.[107] Through struggle and proper "breeding", the "strong" would subdue the "weak" and rise to dominance.[107] Nazi policy since 1920 emphasized that only people of "German blood" could be considered German citizens while no one of Jewish descent could be a German citizen.[108] To maintain the purity and strength of the Aryan race, the Nazis sought to exterminate Jews, Romani, and the physically and mentally disabled.[14] Other groups deemed "degenerate" and "asocial" who were not targeted for extermination, but received exclusionary treatment by the Nazi state, included: homosexuals, blacks, Jehovah's Witnesses and political opponents.[14] The number of German blacks was low, but there were some instances of them being enlisted within Nazi organisations like the Hitler Youth and later the Wehrmacht.[109]

The racist subject of Nazism is Das Volk, the German people living under continual cultural attack by Judeo-Bolshevism, who must unite under Nazi Party leadership, and, per the spartan nationalist tenets of Nazism: be stoic, self-disciplined and self-sacrificing until victory.[110] Adolf Hitler's political biography, Mein Kampf formulates the Weltanschauung of Nazism with the ideologic trinity of: history as a struggle for world supremacy among the human races, conquered only by a master race, the Herrenvolk; the decisive, autocratic F hrerprinzip (leader principle); and anti-Semitism targeting the Jews as the universal source of socio-cultural and economic discord.

The Jewish Bolshevism conspiracy theory derives from anti-Semitism and anti-communism; Adolf Hitler claimed to have first developed his worldview from living and observing Viennese life from 1907 to 1913, concluding that the Austro Hungarian Empire comprised racial, religious, and cultural hierarchies; per his interpretations, atop were the "Aryans", the ultimate, white master race, whilst Jews and Gypsies were at bottom.[96]

However, recent research strongly suggests that Hitler's virulent antisemitism was mostly a post war development, product of influences from the Russian civil war and that in his Vienna years it played little part in his thinking.[111] The idea of the Russian roots of Nazism has been explored by Walter Laqueur[112] and more recently filled out in much more detail by Michael Kellogg[113] from archive material only available since the fall of communism. Aufbau Vereinigung was a organisation of White Russian migr s and early National Socialists which exerted a critical influence upon Hitler and Nazi ideology in the years before the Hitler Ludendorff putsch in 1923.

Fundamental to Nazism is the unification of every German tribe that was "unjustly" divided among different nation states The racialist philosophy of Nazism derived from the seminal white supremacist works of: the French Arthur de Gobineau (An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races); the Briton Houston Stewart Chamberlain (The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century); and of the American Madison Grant (The Passing of The Great Race: or, The Racial Basis of European History).

Their ideas were synthesized by the Reichstag Secretary, Alfred Rosenberg, in The Myth of the Twentieth Century, a pseudoscientific treatise proposing that: "[F]rom a northern centre of creation which, without postulating an actual submerged Atlantic continent, we may call Atlantis, swarms of warriors once fanned out, in obedience to the ever-renewed and incarnate Nordic longing for distance to conquer and space to shape".[114] According to Terrence Ball and Richard Bellamy, The Myth of the Twentieth Century is the second-most important book to Nazism, after Mein Kampf.[115] Sketch plan of Treblinka extermination camp. Between the years 1942 and 1943, more than 850,000 Jews were murdered there and only 54 survived. In establishing Nazi German racial superiority, Adolf Hitler defined "the Nation" as the highest creation of a race, and that that great nations were the creations 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". Whereas the weakest nations were those of "impure" or "mongrel races", because they were disunited. Hitler claimed that lowest races were the parasitic Untermenschen (subhumans), principally the Jews, who were living lebensunwertes Leben ("life-unworthy life") owing to racial inferiority, and their wandering, nationless invasions of greater nations, such as Germany thus, either permitting or encouraging national plurality is an obvious mistake.

Hitler declared that racial conflict against Jews was necessary to save Germany from suffering under them and dispensed concerns about such conflict being inhumane or an injustice, saying:

We may be inhumane, but if we rescue Germany we have achieved the greatest deed in the world. We may work injustice, but if we rescue Germany then we have removed the greatest injustice in the world. We may be immoral, but if our people is rescued we have opened the way for morality.[116]

During World War II, when faced with occupying too much territory with too-few German soldiers, Nazism expanded the Master Race definition to include Dutch and Scandinavian men as superior, German-stock Herrenvolk, in order to recruit them into the Schutzstaffel (SS). Nazi eugenics: "We Do Not Stand Alone" (1936).

Hitler argued that nations who could not defend their territories did not deserve a country. He said that "slave races", such as the Slavic peoples, had less of a right to life than did the master races especially concerning Lebensraum. He claimed that the Herrenvolk had the right to vanquish inferior indigenous races from their countries.[117]

Hitler argued that "races without homelands" were "parasitic races", and that the richer the parasite race, the more virulent their parasitism. A master race could, therefore, easily strengthen themselves by killing the parasite races in the Heimat. The Herrenvolk philosophic tenet of Nazism rationalized Die Endl sung (the Final Solution), extermination of Jews, Gypsies, Czechs, Poles and other Slavs (Generalplan Ost), the mentally retarded, the crippled, the handicapped, homosexuals and others deemed undesirable. During the Holocaust, the Waffen-SS, Wehrmacht soldiers, and right-wing paramilitary civilian militias killed some 11 million people in Nazi-occupied lands via concentration camps, prisoner-of-war camps, labor camps, and death camps, such as the Auschwitz concentration camp and the Treblinka extermination camp. Sig Runes]] on a black background

In Germany, the master-race populace was realised by purifying the Deutsches Volk via (see: eugenics; the culmination was involuntary euthanasia of disabled people, and the compulsory sterilization of the mentally retarded. The ideologic justification was Adolf Hitler's consideration of Sparta(11th c. 195 BC) as the original V lkisch state; he praised their dispassionate destruction of congenitally deformed infants in maintaining racial purity:[118][119] "Sparta must be regarded as the first V lkisch State. The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent, and, in truth, a thousand times more humane, than the wretched insanity of our day, which preserves the most pathological subject."

Nazi cultural perception of the Jews, based upon the anti-Semitic The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, emphasized that Jews throve on fomenting division among Germans, and among nation-states. Yet Nazi anti-Semitism was also physical and racial. Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels said: "The Jew is the enemy and destroyer of the purity of blood, the conscious destroyer of our race ... 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."[120]

Nazi Germany was ideologically based upon the racially defined Deutsche Volk (German People), which denied the limitations of nationalism.[121] The Nazi Party and the German people were consolidated in the Volksgemeinschaft (People's Community), a late-nineteenth-century neologism defining the citizens' communal duty is to the Reich, rather than to civil society, the citizen-nation basis of Nazism; the socialism would be realized via common duty to the volk, by service to the Third Reich in establishing Gro deutschland, the embodying locus of the peoples' will. Hence, Nazism encouraged ultra-nationalism, to establish a world-dominating, Aryan Volksgemeinschaft. The pr cis of this central tenet of Mein Kampf is the motto Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein F hrer (One People, One Empire, One Leader).

Church and State

Hitler receives the papal nuncio Cesare Orsenigo, on January 1, 1935 Point 24 of the Nazi Party Programme of 1920 guaranteed freedom for all religious denominations not inimical to the State and endorsed Positive Christianity to combat the Jewish-materialist spirit .[122]

The anti-communism of the mainstream churches and desire to preserve institutional autonomy in the face of likely political co-ordination (Gleichschaltung) smoothed the way for accommodation and co-operation with the regime after its "seizure of power" in 1933.

Relations between the Nazi state and the Catholic Church were regulated by the Concordat signed in July of that year, an agreement upheld by both parties despite breaches which were criticized in 1937 in Pope Pius XI s encyclical With Burning Anxiety (Mit brennender Sorge).[123] The Lutheran tradition of obedience to state authority and long association with German patriotism resulted in a more enthusiastic reception of Nazi beliefs by the Evangelical, i.e. Protestant churches (Lutheran, Reformed, United).

While the fundamental incompatibility of Christian teachings and Nazi ideology appear obvious today, the issues were not so clear-cut for contemporaries. The historian Joachim Remak thought that political innocence and misjudgement of the Nazis' true aims played their parts in the churches' acceptance of the new regime.[124] Traditional Christianity in Germany had also been undermined by racist and pagan ideologues in the 19th century who had progressively stripped Christianity of its "Jewish" features" and attempted to remould the biblical Christ into an "Aryan" superman.[125] The composer Richard Wagner, for example, portrayed the main character of his last music drama Parsifal as a Christ-like redeemer and spear-carrying Germanic warrior performing a blood purification ritual in a parody of the Catholic Mass.[126]

The Nazi Party and the churches co-existed uneasily throughout the period of the Third Reich. The regime avoided direct public attacks on the churches. There was no equivalent of Bismarck s Kulturkampf. Hitler respected the power of the Catholic Church and was wary of the negative effect any open confrontation might have on German public opinion.[127] Hitler saw the churches as embodying a socially conservative element that could not be replaced by party ideology.[128] He was prepared to tolerate them as long as they recognised the supremacy of the State and did not interfere in secular affairs.[129] Bormann, who represented the more aggressively anti-Christian and neo-pagan element in the Party, thought Hitler had always been religious,[130] He employed religious vocabulary in his everyday conversation and often invoked the "Lord" and the "Almighty" in his public speaking.

Much of the evidence of Church and State relations in Nazi Germany appears contradictory. Despite voicing his contempt for Christianity in private, Hitler wanted to maintain good relations with the churches and secure their support. He forbade Goebbels to leave the Church and intended to remain Catholic himself.[128] Speer reported Hitler as believing that the churches would in time adapt to the goals of the Nazi state.[128]

Dissenting voices were heard in both mainstream churches, especially on the question of the regime's policy of euthanasia.[131] In the case of the Catholic Church opposition was expressed by individual priests and bishops who were punished by internment in concentration camps.[127] Goebbels retaliated to growing criticism by orchestrating occasional smear campaigns in the press against priests and monks, often "arraigned in the courts on trumped-up charges ranging from financial malfeasance to sexual aberrations".[131]

Memorial tablet on the YMCA building in Berlin-Kreuzberg commemorating meetings of Confessing Church activists Dissent manifested itself in a more organised form in the Evangelical churches. Perceiving the Nazis as a threat to religion, many pastors resisted Nazification by establishing the Confessing Church (Bekennende Kirche) in 1934 as a counterweight to the pro-Nazi 'German Christians'. This movement within the Evangelical churches announced its rejection of Nazi racial (v lkisch) ideology in 1935. The historian Klaus Hildebrand gives a figure for 1937 of 800 members of the Confessing Church being arrested for their opposition.[132]

Official harassment of the churches ceased on the outbreak of war.[133] While party fanatics like Bormann continued to press for a campaign against the churches (Kirchenkampf), Hitler wanted this postponed until after the war.[134][135] He recognised the value of traditional religion in maintaining morale in the armed forces and providing solace to the bereaved families of soldiers killed in action. Both mainstream churches continued to supply chaplains to the armed forces and offered prayers for the F hrer from their pulpits.[136] By the war's end the relationship between the Nazi state and the churches was still a "major unresolved issue".[137]

The American historian Klaus Fischer has described the collective moral failure of the churches to resist Hitler as an "institutional failure of nerve", but acknowledges that "few believers realized that their Christian faith was fundamentally at odds with Nazi ideology". He writes of a moral myopia, both individual and collective, concluding that the failure to resist Hitler "will forever be a stain on the historical record of Christianity", for when confronted with "unmistakable evidence of Nazi evil", the churches "chose to respond with feeble protests rather than aroused mass protests".[131]

Thule Society

Several of the founders and leaders of the Nazi Party were members of the Thule-Gesellschaft (Thule Society), who romanticized Aryan race superstitions with ritual and theology.[138] Originally, derived from the Germanenorden, the Thule Society shared the racist superstitions of Ariosophy that were common to such pan-German groups; Rudolf von Sebottendorf, and a man named Wilde, lectured the Thule Society on occultism.[139] Generally, the society's lectures and excursions comprised anti-Semitism and Germanic antiquity, yet it is historically notable for having fought as a paramilitary militia against the Bavarian Soviet Republic.[140] Dietrich Eckart, an associate of the Thule Society, coached Adolf Hitler as a public speaker, and Hitler later dedicated Mein Kampf to Eckart.[141] The DAP was initially supported by the Thule Society but Hitler quickly excluded them in favour of a mass movement political party, by denigrating their superstitious approach to politics.[142] In contrast, SS Chief Heinrich Himmler was much interested in the occult.[143]

Luther and Nazi propaganda

Julius Streicher The Nazis publicly displayed an original of Martin Luther's On the Jews and their Lies during the annual Nuremberg rallies, and the city also presented a first edition of it to Julius Streicher, the editor of Der St rmer, which described Luther's treatise as the most radically anti-Semitic tract ever published.[144][145] Protestant Bishop Martin Sasse published a compendium of Martin Luther's writings shortly after Kristallnacht; in the introduction, he approved of the burning of synagogues and mentioned the coincidental date: "On November 10, 1938, on Luther's birthday, the synagogues are burning in Germany." He urged Germans to heed the words "of the greatest antisemite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews."[146] Luther's tract On the Jews and Their Lies (1543) Scholars debate the extent of Luther's influence and whether it is anachronistic to view his work as a precursor of the racial antisemitism of the National Socialists. Some scholars see Luther's influence as limited, and the Nazis' use of his work as opportunistic. Biographer Martin Brecht points out that "There is a world of difference between his belief in salvation and a racial ideology. Nevertheless, Prof. Diarmaid MacCulloch said that On the Jews and Their Lies was the blueprint for Kristallnacht.[147] His misguided agitation had the evil result that Luther fatefully became one of the 'church fathers' of anti-Semitism and thus provided material for the modern hatred of the Jews, cloaking it with the authority of the Reformer."[148] Theologian Johannes Wallmann, however, said Luther's anti-Semitic tract exercised no continual influence in Germany, that it was mostly ignored during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.[149] Uwe Siemon-Netto agreed, arguing that it was because the Nazis were already anti-Semites that they revived Luther's work.[150][151] Hans J. Hillerbrand agreed that to focus on Luther was to adopt an essentially ahistorical perspective of Nazi antisemitism that ignored other contributory factors in German history.[152]



Historians Ian Kershaw and Joachim Fest argue that in post-World War I Germany, the Nazis were one of many nationalist and fascist political parties contending for the leadership of Germany's anti-communist movement. The Nazis claimed that communism was dangerous to the well-being of nations because of its intention to dissolve private property, its support of class conflict, its aggression against the middle class, its hostility to small businessmen, and its atheism.[153] Nazism rejected class conflict-based socialism and economic egalitarianism, favouring instead a stratified economy with social classes based on merit and talent, retaining private property, and the creation of national solidarity that transcends class distinction.[15]

During the 1920s, Hitler urged disparate Nazi factions to unite in opposition to "Jewish Marxism."[154] Hitler asserted that the "three vices" of "Jewish Marxism" were democracy, pacifism and internationalism.[155]

Hitler believed that private ownership was useful in that it encouraged creative competition and technical innovation, but insisted that it had to conform to national interests and be "productive" rather than "parasitical".[156] In 1930, Hitler said: "Our adopted term Socialist' has nothing to do with Marxian Socialism. Marxism is anti-property; true Socialism is not."[157] In 1931, during a confidential interview with influential editor Richard Breiting of the Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten, a pro-business newspaper, Hitler said:

I want everyone to keep what he has earned, subject to the principle that the good of the community takes priority over that of the individual. But the State should retain control; every owner should feel himself to be an agent of the State ... The Third Reich will always retain the right to control property owners.[158]

During the late 1930s and the 1940s, anti-communist regimes and groups that supported Nazism included the Falange in Spain; the Vichy regime and the 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne (1st French) in France; and the Cliveden Set, Lord Halifax, and associates of Neville Chamberlain in Britain.[159]


The Nazis argued that capitalism damages nations due to international finance, the economic dominance of big business, and Jewish influences.[153] Nazi propaganda posters in working-class districts emphasized anti-capitalism, such as one that said: "The maintenance of a rotten industrial system has nothing to do with nationalism. I can love Germany and hate capitalism."[160]

Hitler, both in public and in private, expressed strong disdain for capitalism, accusing modern capitalism of holding nations ransom in the interests of a parasitic cosmopolitan rentier class.[161] He opposed free-market capitalism's profit-seeking impulses and desired an economy in which community interests would be upheld.[156] He distrusted capitalism for being unreliable, due to its egotistic nature, and he preferred a state-directed economy that is subordinated to the interests of the Volk.[161] Hitler told a party leader in 1934, "The economic system of our day is the creation of the Jews."[161] Hitler said to Benito Mussolini that "Capitalism had run its course".[161] Hitler also said that the business bourgeoisie "know nothing except their profit. 'Fatherland' is only a word for them."[162] Hitler admired Napoleon as a role model for his anti-conservative, anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois attitudes.[163] However, Hitler had little tolerance for Goebbels insistence upon adherence to socialist ideas and alliance with leftist and socialist parties as Hitler had abandoned them by the time the party rose to power. In correspondence Goebbels tried to convince Hitler the Nazis and the left share a common enemy in capitalists, however, Hitler disagreed and adamantly stated that capitalists are not the enemy of Nazis.[164]

In Mein Kampf, Hitler effectively supported mercantilism, in the belief that economic resources from their respective territories should be seized by force; he believed that the policy of Lebensraum would provide Germany with such economically valuable territories.[165] He believed that the only means to maintain economic security was to have direct control over resources rather than being forced to rely on world trade.[166] He claimed that war to gain such resources was the only means to surpass the failing capitalist economic system.[165]

A number of other Nazis held strong revolutionary socialist and anti-capitalist beliefs, most prominently Ernst R hm, the leader of the Sturmabteilung (SA).[167] R hm claimed that the Nazis' rise to power constituted a national revolution, but insisted that a socialist "second revolution" was required for Nazi ideology to be fulfilled.[37] R hm's SA began attacks against individuals deemed to be associated with conservative reaction.[37] Hitler saw R hm's independent actions as violating and possibly threatening his leadership, as well as jeopardizing the regime by alienating the conservative President Paul von Hindenburg and the conservative-oriented German army.[38] This resulted in Hitler purging R hm and other radical members of the SA.[38] Another radical Nazi, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels adamantly stressed the socialist character of Nazism, and claimed in his diary that if he were to pick between Bolshevism and capitalism, he said "in final analysis", "it would be better for us to go down with Bolshevism than live in eternal slavery under capitalism."[168]


Gregor Strasser, founder of Strasserism. Before Hitler orchestrated the operation known as the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, whereby a substantial base of the Nazi Party's left-wing block such as the Sturmabteilung was purged of radical and disruptive elements, two former Freikorps and Social Democratic Party activists named Otto and Gregor Strasser united their left-leaning ideals to form a distinctly socialist strand of Nazism known as Strasserism.

Strasserist ideology engaged in overt critique of Hitler's F hrerprinzip, his affinities to the conservative establishment, and began attacking his policies through the National Socialist Newsletters and later ideological literature like Cabinet Seat or Revolution, while upholding aggressive anti-capitalist ideals. The Strasser brothers considered capitalism stained by Jewish finance, and called for a working-class, genuinely socialist and ultra-nationalist revolution following Hitler's rise to power (which they called a half-revolution), emphasizing the socialist component of National Socialism and proposing a cooperative economic ministry to direct Germany's economy in a more left-wing and guild-based direction.[169][170]

Economy of Nazi Germany

Deutsches Volk Deutsche Arbeit: German People, German Work, the alliance of worker and work. (1934)

Nazi economic practice first concerned the immediate domestic economy of Germany, then international trade. To eliminate Germany's poverty, domestic policy was narrowly concerned with four major goals: (i) elimination of unemployment, (ii) rapid and substantial re-armament, (iii) fiscal protection against resurgent hyper-inflation, and (iv) expansion of consumer-goods production, to raise middle- and lower-class living standards. The intent was correcting the Nazi-perceived short-comings of the Weimar Republic, and to solidify domestic support for the Nazi Party; between 1933 and 1936, the German gross national product increased annually by 9.5 percent, and the industrial rate increased by 17.2 percent.

The expansion propelled the German economy from depression to full employment in less than four years. Public consumption increased 18.7 per cent, and private consumption increased 3.6 per cent annually. Historian Richard Evans reports that before the outbreak of World War II in 1939, 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."[171]

Private property

Private property rights were conditional upon the economic mode of use; if it did not advance Nazi economic goals, the state could nationalize it.[172] Nazi government corporate takeovers, and threatened takeovers, encouraged compliance with government production plans, even if unprofitable for the firm. For example, the owner of the Junkers aeroplane factory refused the government's directives, whereupon the Nazis occupied the factory and arrested Hugo Junkers, but paid him for his nationalized business. Although the Nazis privatised public properties and public services, they also increased economic state control.[173] Under Nazi economics, free competition and self-regulating markets diminished; nevertheless, Adolf Hitler's social Darwinist beliefs made him reluctant to entirely disregard business competition and private property as economic engines.[174][175] In 1942, Hitler privately said: "I absolutely insist on protecting private property ... we must encourage private initiative".[176]

To the proposition that businesses were private property in name but not in substance, in The Journal of Economic History article "The Role of Private Property in the Nazi Economy: The Case of Industry", Christoph Buchheim and Jonas Scherner counter that despite state control, business had much production and investment planning freedom while the economy was still to a larger degree politically controlled it "does not necessarily mean that private property of enterprises was not of any significance [...] For despite extensive regulatory activity by an interventionist public administration, firms preserved a good deal of their autonomy even under the Nazi regime", a system which they term "command-capitalism".[177]


Agricultural and industrial central planning was a prominent feature of Nazi economics. To tie farmers to the land, selling agricultural land was prohibited; farm ownership was nominally private, but discretion over operations and residual income were proscribed. That was achieved by granting business monopoly rights to marketing boards, to control production and prices with a quota system. Quotas also were established for industrial goods, such as pig iron, steel, aluminium, magnesium, gunpowder, explosives, synthetic rubber, fuels, and electricity. A compulsory cartel law was enacted in 1936, allowing the minister of economics to make existing cartels compulsory and permanent, and compel industries to form cartels, where none existed, although disestablished by decree, by 1943, they were replaced with more authoritarian economic agencies.[178]


In place of ordinary profit-incentive determining the economy, financial investment was regulated per the needs of the state. The profit incentive for businessmen remained, but was greatly modified: "Fixing of profits, not their suppression, was the official policy of the Nazi party"; however, Nazi agencies replaced the profit-motive that automatically allocated investment, and the course of the economy.[179] Nazi government financing eventually dominated private financial investment, which the proportion of private securities issued falling from over half of the total in 1933 34 to approximately 10 per cent in 1935 38. Heavy business-profit taxes limited self-financing of firms. The largest firms were mostly exempt from taxes on profits, however, government control of these were extensive enough to leave "only the shell of private ownership". Taxes and financial subsidies also directed the economy; the underlying economic policy terror was incentive to agree and comply. Nazi language indicated death or concentration camp for any business owner who pursued his own self-interest, instead of the ends of the State. The official decree was stamped into the rim of the silver Reichsmark coins between 1933 through the end of WWII "Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz" or "The common good before self-interest.".[172]

See also




External links

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