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For other meanings of the term National Socialism see National Socialism (disambiguation)

Nazism' or Hitlerism or National Socialism (German Nationalsozialismus) is the totalitarian ideology of the dictatorship which ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945: the 'Third Reich'. In this ideology, the German nation and the purported "Aryan" race were considered superior to all other races. Nazism is usually associated with Fascism.

The dictator Adolf Hitler rose to power as leader of a political party, the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP for short). Germany during this period is also referred to as Nazi Germany. Adherents of Nazism were called Nazis. Nazism has been outlawed in modern Germany, although tiny remnants, known as Neo-Nazis, continue to operate in Germany and abroad.

as their symbol and the red and black colors were sait 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). 1871, with the foundation of the German Reich, the flag of the North German Confederation became the German Reichsflagge (Reichs flag). Black, white, and red became the colors of the nationalists through the following history (e.g. WWI and Weihmarer Republik.]]

Table of contents
1 Ideological theory
2 Key elements of the Nazi ideology
3 Economic practice
4 Effects
5 Backlash effects
6 People and history
7 Nazism in relation to other concepts
8 The role of the nation
9 Factors which promoted the success of Nazism
10 Nazi / 3rd Reich terminology in popular culture
11 Related Topics
12 Bibliography
13 External links

Ideological theory

According to "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle, or My Fight), 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 and Germany's defeat of World War I—many Germans still had heartfelt ties to the goal of creating a "unified Germany," and thought that the goal, as well as the use of military force to achieve it, were both correct. For many, the utopian imaginary vision of a unified German nation became a kind of idolatry. Unable to blame their leaders, policies, and ideologies, many placed the blame instead on those who they perceived, in one way or another, to have "sabotaged" the goal of nationalist unification. "Jews and communists" were the ones perceived by many Germans to have been less than fully behind "the plan," and would become the ideal scapegoats for Germans deeply invested in a German Nationalist ideology.

Expanding upon the popular German blame of Jews and Communits, Hitler's Nazi "theory" also claimed that the Aryan race is a "master race" superior to other races. It rationalized this claim with another claim —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."

According to the Hitlerian vision, it was an obvious mistake to permit or encourage multilingualism and multiculturalism within a nation. Thus fundamental to the Nazi goal was the unification of German-speaking peoples, "unjustly" divided into different territories. He claimed that nations that cannot defend their borders must be said to have been the creation of weak or slave races —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 indigenous inferior races. Hitler draws parallels between Lebensraum and the American ethnic-cleansing and relocation policies of the Native Americans 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 Nazi's later oppression and elimination of Jews and Gypsies. Despite the popularity of Hitler and his Lebensraum appeal, some Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS soldiers found the "duty" morally repugnant. Only a small fraction of them were activily 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.

Though not quite complete, the general current understanding of Nazism is that it was centered in ethnic bigotry and racism, which eventually brought about a rationalization for engineering one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century in the Holocaust. But aside from the scapegoating of non-Aryans, the ideological roots which became German "National Socialism" drew from numerous and deep sources in European history, especially Romantic 19th Century idealism, and Friedrich Nietzsche's thoughts on "breeding upwards" toward the goal of an Übermensch. According to the biographer Ian Kershaw, Hitler was an avid reader and borrowed all his ideas what was later to become Nazism from traceable publications, sometimes of fringe groups.

Key elements of the Nazi ideology

Nazism and romanticism

According to Bertrand Russell, Nazism comes from a different tradition than that of either liberal capitalism or communism. Thus, to understand values of Nazism, it is necessary to explore this connection, without trivializing the movement as it was in its peak years in the 1930s and dismissing it as a little more than racism.

Many historiographers say that the antisemitic element, which does not exist in the sister fascism movement in Italy and Spain, was adopted by Hitler to gain popularity for the movement. Anti-Semitic prejudice was very common among the masses in German Empire. 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.

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. German romanticism in particular expressed these values. For instance, the Nazis identified closely with the music of Richard Wagner (a noted anti-Semite and the author of Das Judenthum in der Musik). Many of his operas express the ideals of the strong dominating the weak, and a celebration of traditional Norse Aryan folklore and values. The style of his music is often very militaristic.

Ideological competition

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) were used to crush both these uprising 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 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) was 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. Racist theories were developed by British intellectuals in the 19th century to control the Indian people and other "savages." These methods 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 anti-immigration laws. 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.


Economic practice

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:

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. However, many economists argue that the expansion of the Germany 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 begin 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.

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 the draft 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 commentators to the conclusion that a European war was inevitable for these reasons alone. Stated another way, without another general European war to support this consumptive and inflationary economic policy, the Nazi domestic economic program was unsupportable. This is not to say that other more important political considerations were not to blame. It is only meant to state that economics have been, and are a primary motivating factor for any society to go to war.

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 German Empire as a nation state in the 1870s, but is noted in most major histories of all European powers from the 1500s onward. In fact, some transnational corporations in the 1500 to 1800 period (the Dutch East India Company for one good example) were formed specifically to engage in warfare as a proxy for governmental involvement, as opposed to the other way around.

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 may be considered a subset of Fascism, with all Nazis being Fascists, but not all Fascists being Nazis. Nazism shares many economic features with Fascism, featuring complete government control of finance and investment (allocation of credit), industry, and agriculture. Yet in both of these systems, corporate power and market based systems for providing price information still existed. Quoting Benito Mussolini: "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power."

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.

Backlash effects

Perhaps the primary intellectual effect has been that Nazi doctrines discredited the attempt to use biology to explain or influence social issues, for at least two generations after Nazi Germany's brief existence.

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 denies or 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.

People and history

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, and oversaw the murder of over 40 million people. Under Hitler, ethnic nationalism and racism were joined together through an ideology of militarism to serve his goals.

After the war, many prominent Nazis were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials.

The Nazi symbol is the clockwise swastika.


Nazism in relation to other concepts

Nazism and religion

The relationship between Nazism and Christianity can only be described as complex and controversial.

Hitler and other Nazi leaders clearly made use of Christian symbolism and emotion in propagandizing the overwhelmingly Christian German public, but it remains a matter of controversy whether Hitler believed himself a Christian. Some Christian writers have sought to typify Hitler as an atheist or occultist -- even a Satanist -- whereas non-Christian writers have emphasized Nazism's outward use of Christian doctrine, regardless of what its inner-party mythology may have been. The existence of a Ministry of Church Affairs, instituted in 1935 and headed by Hanns Kerrl, was hardly recognized by ideologists such as Rosenberg and by other political decision-makers.

The Nazi Party's relations with the Catholic Church are yet more fraught. Many Catholic priests and leaders vociferously opposed Nazism on the grounds of its incompatibility with Christian morals. Pope Pius XI issued in 1937 the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge to condemn the ideology and pseudo religion of Nazism. As with many political opponents, many priests were sentenced in the concentration camps for their opposition, like the parson of Berlin Cathedral Bernhard Lichtenberg , however most of them were Poles persecuted due to their nationality. Nevertheless, the Church hierarchy represented by Pope Pius XII remained largely silent on the issue, and allegations of the Pope's complicity are today commonplace. There were also pro-Nazi Catholic leaders like Bishop Alois Hudal.

As well, the Vatican has been criticised for agreeing that the Catholic Centre Party would support the Enabling Act that gave the Nazis dictatorial powers in exchange for the provisions in the 1933 Concordat between the Vatican and the Third Reich guaranteeing that the church would maintain the right to govern its own internal affairs and maintain its parochial schools.

Criticisms of the Church's relationship with the Nazis in particular and fascism in general are developed extensively in John Cromwell's book Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII.

As Nazism continued to rule Germany, to many people it became a kind of religion in and of itself.

Nazism and fascism

The term Nazism is often used interchangeably with fascism, but this usage is controversial. Some insist that the word Fascism (spelled with a capital F) can only accurately be used to describe Italian Fascism, while others argue that there is another generic fascism (spelled with a small f) that may include many different movements, in many different countries.

Nazism and Italian Fascism both employed a similar style of propaganda, including military parades and uniforms. The ideologies of both ostensibly included an extreme nationalism and a rebirth of their own nation to some former, past state of national greatness. Both movements, when in power, also put in place totalitarian governments that pursued wars of expansion.

There were also many important differences between the two movements. For example, racism was central to Nazism but of less significance in Italian Fascism. Fascist Italy did not adopt anti-semitism until urged to do so by Hitler.

Nazism and socialism

Because Nazism is an abbreviation for "National Socialism", and Nazi leaders sometimes described their ideology as a form of socialism, some people believe that Nazism was a form of socialism, or that there are similarities between Nazism and socialism. It has also been argued that the Nazi use of economic intervention, including central planning and some limited public ownership, is indicative of socialism.

Nazi leaders were opposed to the Marxist idea of class conflict and opposed the idea that capitalism should be abolished and that workers should control the means of production. For those who consider class conflict and the abolition of capitalism as essential components of socialist progress, these factors alone are sufficient to categorize "National Socialism" as non-socialist.

Nazi leaders made statements describing their views as socialist, while at the same time opposing the idea of class conflict espoused by the Social Democrats (SPD) and Communists (KPD). Established socialist movements did not view the Nazis as socialists and argued that the Nazis were thinly disguised reactionaries. Historians such as Ian Kershaw also note the links between the Nazis and the German political and economic establishment and the significance of the Night of the Long Knives in which Hitler purged what were at the time seen as "leftist" elements in the Nazi Party and how this was done at the urging of the military and conservatives.

Many of the traditional center and right political parties of the Weimar Republic accused the Nazis of being socialists citing planks in the Nazis' party program which called for nationalization of trusts and other socialist measures. However, the German National People's Party (DNVP), the most important party on the mainstream right, usually treated the Nazis as a respected potential member of coalition cabinet.

The Nazis' came to power through an alliance with traditional conservative forces. Franz von Papen, a very conservative former German Chancellor and former member of the Catholic Centre Party supported Hitler for the position of Chancellor and later became an important Nazi official.The Enabling Act which gave the Nazis dictatorial powers passed only because of the support of conservative and centrist deputies in the Reichstag, over the opposition of Social Democrats and Communists.

When the Nazis were still an opposition party some leaders, particularly Gregor Strasser, espoused anti-big business stances and advocated the idea of the Nazis as a workers' party. In spite of this, most workers continued to vote for the SPD or the KPD as late as the March 1933 elections held shortly after Hitler's appointment as chancellor.

Central to Nazi ideology and propaganda was not the rights of workers or the need for socialism but opposition to Marxism and Bolshevism which the Nazis called Judeo-Bolshevism. According to the Nazi world view Marxism was part of a Jewish conspiracy. Rather than being afraid of the Nazis' "socialism" many prominent conservatives and capitalists supported and funded the Nazis because they saw them as a bulwark against Bolshevism.

Ideologically fascism and Nazism reject the most important aspects of Marxist theory. For instance, Hitler did not exalt the working class over the capitalist class as Marx prescribed. In his book Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote 'the suspicion was whispered in German Nationalist circles that we also were merely another variety of Marxism, perhaps even Marxists suitably disguised, or better still, Socialists... We used to roar with laughter at these silly faint-hearted bourgeoisie and their efforts to puzzle out our origin, our intentions and our aims. '

Moreover, Hitler despised Marx as a Jew and condemned communism and Marxism as Judeo-Bolshevism pledging to block its rise in Germany arguing that the nation's downfall was due to Marxism and its Jewish influence.

There were ideological shades of opinion within the Nazi Party, particularly prior to their seizure of power in 1933, but a central tenet of the party was always the leadership principle or Führerprinzip. The Nazi Party did not have party congresses in which policy was deliberated upon and concessions made to different factions. What mattered most was what the leader, Adolf Hitler, thought and decreed. Those who held opinions which were at variance with Hitler's either learned to keep quiet or were purged, particularly after 1933. Although this is in some respects comparable to the behavior of certain Communist dictatorships such as that of Stalin in the Soviet Union or Mao Zedong in China, it also presents a strong contrast to the collective leadership exercised in other Communist parties, more so to the more democratic organization of most European socialist parties.

In power, the Nazis jettisoned practically all of the socialistic aspects of their program, and worked with big business, frequently at the expense of both small business and the working classes. Gregor Strasser was murdered, as was Ernst Röhm while Otto Strasser was purged from the party. Independent trade unions were outlawed, as were strikes. In place of the unions, the Nazis created the Deutsche Arbeitsfront. The Nazis took other symbolic steps to co-opt the working classes' support, such as the introduction of May Day as a national holiday in 1933. These were described by socialists as superficial moves designed to win the allegiance of workers rather than grant them any material concessions at the expense of capital.

Industries and trusts were not nationalised, with the exception of private rail lines (nationalised in the late 1930s to meet military contingencies). The only private holdings that were expropriated were those belonging to Jews. These holdings were then sold or awarded to businessmen who supported the Nazis and satisifed their ethnic and racial policies. Military production and even film production remained in the hands of private industries whilst serving the Nazi government, and many private companies flourished during the Nazi period. The Nazis never interfered with the profits made by such large German firms as Krupp, Siemens AG, and IG Farben. Efforts were made to coordinate business's actions with the needs of the state, particularly with regard to rearmament, and the Nazis established some state owned concerns such as Volkswagen. But these were functions of the new German expansionism rather than an implementation of socialist measures. Germany had moved to a war economy, and similar measures occurred in the western democracies during the first World War, and again once the second World War had begun.

The Nazis engaged in an extensive public works program including the construction of the Autobahn system. As with the expropriation of rail lines, however, the Autobahn system was created with the purpose of facilitating military transport, and government investment in transport systems is common in almost all nations. Similarly, all political movements that have formed governments have used economic intervention of some form or another. The suggestion that economic intervention is left-wing ignores the tradition of intervention practiced by monarchies and oligarchies in Europe before the eighteenth century, and the intervention, including protectionism, subsidies and anti-trade union laws, practiced by right-wing parties in government in Europe and North America during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Since the fall of the Nazi regime, many theorists have argued that there are similarities between the government of Nazi Germany and that of Stalin's Soviet Union. In most cases, this has not taken the form of arguing that the Nazis were socialist, but arguing that both Nazism and Stalinism are forms of totalitarianism. This view was advanced most famously by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism. However, most socialists argue that Stalin's system was not a truly socialist one, since it did not meet certain requirements that they see as essential for socialism - requirements such as a functional democracy, for example.

For more information see the article on Totalitarianism

Nazism and race

All forms of socialism focus on economic relationships as central in shaping society. In contrast, as can be seen in Mein Kampf, the central doctrine of Nazism is racism and the struggle between peoples. Nazis see the society divided not according to social classes, but according to races and peoples.

Nazis claimed to scientifically measure a strict hierarchy among races; at the top was the German or ("Aryan") race, then lesser races. At the bottom of this hierarchy were "parasitic" races, especially the Jews, which were perceived to be dangerous to society. Nazi theory said that because the nation was the expression of the race, the greatness of a race could be evaluated according to a race's ability and desire to acquire a large homeland. German accomplishments in science, weaponry, philosophy and art were interpreted as scientific evidence to support Nazi racist claims.

Primo Levi suggested another difference between socialism and Nazism: while both had their idea of what kind of parasitic classes or races society ought to be rid of, he saw the former to determine them by a social position (which people may change within their life), while the latter assign a place given by birth. In his view, revolutionary communists would accept one may be born the son of a wealthy capitalist to be acceptable as a productive member of society; according to Nazis, one born a Jew is a born parasite who must be disposed of. A counterexample may be found in Maoism in China, where at times during the Cultural Revolution the relatives of a "capitalist", even generations removed, were beaten, killed, or, at best, sent to a reeducation camp. Collective punishment is another way of describing this phenomenon. In support of Levi's contention, however, the Chinese Communists have had some members with "bourgeois" social origin, some of whom, such as Soong Ching-ling, achieved prominent positions in the People's Republic of China. Similarly there were a number of prominent Bolsheviks who came from wealthy backgrounds and were accepted in the movement despite this.

The role of the nation

The Nazi state was founded upon a racially-defined "German nation". This is a central concept of Mein Kampf, symbolized by the motto Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer (one people, one empire, one leader).

In comparison, many socialists refute the idea of nations, which they see as artificial divisions that support the status quo and oppression: according to them, dividing the world among nations leads to artificial oppositions between these nations, which themselves lead to wars, which are, according to them, waged for the interest of the ruling classes and arms manufacturers.

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:

Nazi / 3rd Reich terminology in popular culture

The multiple atrocities and extremist ideology that the Nazis followed have made them notorious in popular grammar as well as history. The term "Nazi" is used in various ways. So are other 3rd Reich terms like "Führer" (often spelled "fuhrer" or less often, but more correctly, "fuehrer" in English speaking contries), "Faschist", "GESTAPO", "uber/ueber" (from Übermensch, supirior person, arian as opposite ti Untermensch) or "Hitler". The terms are often used to describe individuals or groups of people who try to force an unpopular or extreme agenda on the general population, and also commit crimes and other violations on others without remorse. The terms are also often simply used to insult people.

In the context of the Western World, Nazi or fascist is also sometimes used to qualify, or better disqualify, political groups (such as the French National Front) 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 "security barrier" on the West Bank. Many regard this usage to be antisemitic.

The terms are also used (more humorously, but also fully intentionally to insult and offend) to describe anyone or anything seen as strict or doctrinaire. Phrases like "Open Source Nazi", "spelling GESTAPO", "ubergeek" and "Feminazi" are examples of those in common use in the USA. These uses offend many, as the controversy in the popular press over the Seinfeld "Soup Nazi" episode should indicate. Those offended consider the use to be a trivialization of the Nazis, who killed millions of people.

The terms are used so frequently as to inspire "Godwin's Law" on usenet which states "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one". A popular corollary states that when one disputant compares the other to the Nazis, meaningful discussion is over and the former has lost the debate.

More innocent terms, like "fashion police" also bear some reminiscents of Nazi terminology (GESTAPO, Geheime Staatspolize, 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. Usually without adopting the Nazi ideology at all. 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 is also the name of the heavy metal band MOTÖRHEAD.

Related Topics

For earlier National Socialist movements which merged with Nazism see: For modern Nazism see:


External links