Friday, September 7, 2012


Flag of the Nazi PartyNational Socialism (common English short form Nazism, German: Nationalsozialismus) was the ideology of the Nazi Party and Nazi Germany.[1][2][3][4] It is a variety of fascism that incorporates biological racism and antisemitism.[5] Nazism used elements of the far-right racist Völkisch German nationalist movement and the anti-communist Freikorps paramilitary culture which fought against the communists in post-World War I Germany.[6] It was designed to draw workers away from communism and into Völkisch nationalism.[7] Major elements of Nazism have been described as far-right, such as allowing domination of society by people deemed racially superior, while purging society of people declared inferior which were said to be a threat to national survival.[8][9]
Nazism philosphy claimed that the so-called Aryan master race was superior to all other races.[10] To maintain what it regarded as the purity and strength of the Aryan race, the Nazis sought to ethnically cleanse Jews and Romani, and exterminate the physically and mentally disabled.[11] Other groups deemed "degenerate" or "asocial" received exclusionary treatment by the Nazi state and included homosexuals, blacks, Jehovah's Witnesses and political opponents.[11] The Nazis promoted German territorial expansionism to gain Lebensraum ("living space") for German settlers and to bring labor, food and materials into the nation for growth.[12][13] Nazism rejected democracy because it believed Jews used it for their self-preservation.[14]
Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler had objected to the party's previous leader's decision to use the word "Socialist" in its name as Hitler at the time instead preferred to use "Social Revolutionary".[15] Upon taking over the leadership, Hitler kept the term but defined "socialism" as meaning a commitment of an individual to a community.[15] Hitler also claimed that unconditional equality of opportunity for all "racially sound" Aryan males was the essence of the "Socialism" of "National Socialism".[16] Initially, Nazi political strategy used anti-big business, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist rhetoric.[17] This was downplayed in the 1930s to gain the support of industrial owners, and it shifted more to anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist themes.[17] Nazism favoured private property, freedom of contract, and promoted the creation of national solidarity that would transcend class differences.[18][19] The Nazis outlawed strikes by employees and lockouts by employers, because these were regarded a threat to national unity.[20] Instead, the state controlled and approved wage and salary levels.


The full name of Adolf Hitler's party was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers' Party). The acronym Nazi was formed from the first syllable of NAtional and the second syllable of SoZIalist. Such acronyms, usually formed from the initial letters or syllables of successive parts of compound names, were popular in the Third Reich. Another such example was Gestapo for GEheime STAatsPOlizei (Secret State Police).[22]

Position in the political spectrum

Führer Adolf Hitler (first from left side), Hermann Göring (second from left side), Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels (third from left side), Rudolf Hess (fourth from left side).

Nazis alongside members of the far-right reactionary and monarchist German National People's Party (DNVP), during the brief Nazi-DNVP alliance in the Harzburg Front from 1931 to 1932.
A majority of scholars identify Nazism in practice as a form of far-right politics.[23] Far right themes in Nazism include the argument that superior people have a right to dominate over others and purge society of supposed inferior elements.[8] Adolf Hitler and other proponents officially portrayed Nazism as being neither left- nor right-wing, but syncretic.[24][25] 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.[26]
Hitler, when asked whether he supported the "bourgeois right-wing", claimed that Nazism was not exclusively for any class, and indicated that it favoured neither the left nor the right, but preserved "pure" elements from both "camps", stating: "From the camp of bourgeois tradition, it takes national resolve, and from the materialism of the Marxist dogma, living, creative Socialism".[27]
The Nazis were strongly influenced by the post-World War I far-right in Germany, which held common beliefs such as anti-Marxism, anti-liberalism, and anti-Semitism, along with nationalism, contempt towards the Treaty of Versailles, and condemnnation of the Weimar Republic for signing the armistice in November 1918 that later led to their signing of the Treaty of Versailles.[28] A major inspiration for the Nazis were the far-right nationalist Freikorps, paramilitary organizations that engaged in political violence after World War I.[28] Initially, the post-World War I German far right was dominated by monarchists, but the younger generation, who were associated with Völkisch nationalism, were more radical and did not express any emphasis on the restoration of the German monarchy.[29] This younger generation desired to dismantle the Weimar Republic and create a new radical and strong state based upon a martial ruling ethic that could revive the "Spirit of 1914" that was associated with German national unity (Volksgemeinschaft).[29]
The Nazis, the far-right monarchist and reactionary German National People's Party (DNVP), and others, such as monarchist officers of the German army and several prominent industrialists, formed an alliance in opposition to the Weimar Republic on 11 October 1931 in Bad Harzburg; officially known as the "National Front", but commonly referred to as the Harzburg Front.[30] The Nazis stated the alliance was purely tactical and there remained substantial differences with the DNVP. The Nazis described the DNVP as a bourgeois party and called themselves an anti-bourgeois party.[31] After the elections in 1932, the alliance broke after the DNVP lost many of its seats in the Reichstag. The Nazis denounced them as "an insignificant heap of reactionaries".[32] The DNVP responded by denouncing the Nazis for their socialism, their street violence, and the "economic experiments" that would take place if the Nazis rose to power.[33]
There were factions in the Nazi Party, both conservative and radical.[34] The conservative Nazi Hermann Göring urged Hitler to conciliate with capitalists and reactionaries.[34] Other prominent conservative Nazis included Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich.[35]
The radical Nazi Joseph Goebbels, hated capitalism, viewing it as having Jews at its core, and he stressed the need for the party to emphasize both a proletarian and national character. Those 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.[34] Large segments of the Nazi 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 1933.[36] Many of the million members of the Sturmabteilung (SA) were committed to the party's official socialist program.[36] The leader of the SA, Ernst Röhm, pushed for a "second revolution" (the "first revolution" being the Nazis' seizure of power) that would entrench the party's official socialist program. Further, Röhm desired that the SA absorb the much smaller German Army into its ranks under his leadership.[36]
Prior to becoming an anti-Semite and a Nazi, Hitler had lived a Bohemian lifestyle as a wandering watercolour artist in Austria and southern Germany, though he maintained elements of it later in life.[37] Hitler served in World War I and after the war his battalion was absorbed by the Bavarian Soviet Republic from 1918 to 1919, where he was elected Deputy Battalion Representative. According to historian Thomas Weber, he attended the funeral of communist Kurt Eisner (a German Jew), wearing a black mourning armband on one arm and a red communist armband on the other.[38] Further that Hitler's political beliefs had not yet solidified, and at that time he supported the idea of a classless society and was an anti-monarchist.[38] In Mein Kampf, Hitler never mentioned any service with the Bavarian Soviet Republic, and he stated that he became an anti-Semite in 1913 in Vienna. This statement has been disputed with the contention he in fact was not an anti-Semite at that time.[39] Hitler altered his political views in response to the Treaty of Versailles of June 1919, and it was then that he became an anti-Semitic, German nationalist.[39] As a Nazi, Hitler had expressed opposition to capitalism; he regarded capitalism as having Jewish origins, and accused capitalism of holding nations ransom in the interests of a parasitic cosmopolitan rentier class.[40]
Hitler took a pragmatic position between the conservative and radical factions of the Nazi Party, in that he accepted private property and allowed capitalist private enterprises to exist as long as they adhered to the goals of the Nazi state. However, if a capitalist private enterprise resisted Nazi goals, he sought to destroy it.[34] Upon the Nazis achieving power, Röhm's SA began attacks against individuals deemed to be associated with conservative reaction, without Hitler's authorization to do so.[41] Hitler considered Röhm's independent actions to be 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.[42] This resulted in Hitler purging Röhm and other radical members of the SA in what came to be known as the Night of the Long Knives.[42]
Although he opposed communist ideology, Hitler on numerous occasions publicly praised the Soviet Union's leader Joseph Stalin and Stalinism.[43] Hitler commended Stalin for seeking to purify the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of Jewish influences, noting Stalin's purging of Jewish communists such as Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev and Karl Radek.[44] While Hitler always intended to bring Germany into conflict against the Soviet Union to gain Lebensraum ("living space"), he 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.[43]


Nationalism, antisemitism and racism

Johann Gottlieb Fichte, considered one of the fathers of German nationalism.
One of the most significant ideological influences on the Nazis was the German nationalist Johann Gottlieb Fichte, whose works had served as inspiration to Hitler and other Nazi members, including Dietrich Eckart and Arnold Fanck.[45] 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 for action by the German nation to free itself.[46] Fichte's nationalism was populist and opposed to traditional elites, spoke of the need of a "People's War" (Volkskrieg), and put forth concepts similar to those the Nazis adopted.[46] Fichte promoted German exceptionalism and stressed the need for the German nation to be purified (including purging the German language of French words, a policy that the Nazis undertook upon rising to power).[46]
Völkisch nationalism denounced soulless materialism, individualism, and secularized urban industrial society, while advocating a "superior" society based on ethnic German "folk" culture and German "blood".[47] It denounced foreigners, foreign ideas and declared that Jews, national minorities, Catholics, and Freemasons were "traitors to the nation" and unworthy of inclusion.[48] Völkisch nationalism saw the world in terms of natural law and romanticism, viewed societies as organic, extolling the virtues of rural life, condemning the neglect of tradition and decay of morals, denounced the destruction of the natural environment, and condemned "cosmopolitan" cultures such as Jews and Romani.[49]
During the era of Imperial Germany, Völkisch nationalism was overshadowed by both Prussian patriotism and the federalist tradition of various states therein.[50] The events of World War I including the end of the Prussian monarchy in Germany, resulted in a surge of revolutionary Völkisch nationalism.[51] The Nazis supported such revolutionary Völkisch nationalist policies.[50] 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.[52] 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.[53] While Hitler was supportive of Bismarck's creation of the German Empire, he was critical of Bismarck's moderate domestic policies.[54] On the issue of Bismarck's support of a Kleindeutschland ("Lesser Germany", excluding Austria) versus the pan-German Großdeutschland ("Greater Germany") of the Nazis, Hitler stated that Bismarck's attainment of Kleindeutschland was the "highest achievement" Bismarck could have achieved "within the limits possible of that time".[55] In Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler presented himself as a "second Bismarck".[55]
The concept of the Aryan race which the Nazis promoted stems from racial theories asserting that Europeans are the descendants of Indo-Iranian settlers, people of ancient India and ancient Persia.[56] Proponents of this theory based their assertion on the similarity of European words and their meaning to those of Indo-Iranian languages.[56] 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.[56] 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.[56]
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" which is superior to other races, and particularly the Semitic race, which they associated with "cultural sterility".[56] Arthur de Gobineau, a French racial theorist and aristocrat, blamed the fall of the ancien régime in France on racial degeneracy caused by racial intermixing, which he argued destroyed the purity of the Aryan race.[57] Gobineau's theories, which attracted a strong following in Germany,[57] emphasized the existence of an irreconcilable polarity between Aryan and Jewish cultures.[56]
Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Aryan mysticism claimed that Christianity originated in Aryan religious tradition and that Jews had usurped the legend from Aryans.[56] Houston Stewart Chamberlain, an English proponent of racial theory, supported notions of Germanic supremacy and anti-Semitism in Germany.[58] 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.[58] Chamberlain used his thesis to promote monarchical conservatism while denouncing democracy, liberalism, and socialism.[57] The book became popular, especially in Germany.[57] 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.[57] In 1923, Chamberlain met Hitler, whom he admired as a leader of the rebirth of the free spirit.[59]
Beginning in the 1870s, German Völkisch nationalism began to adopt anti-Semitic and racist themes and was adopted by a number of radical right political movements.[60]
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (1912) was an anti-Semitic forgery created by the police of the Russian Empire. Anti-Semites believed it was real and the Protocol surged in popularity after World War I.[61] The Protocols claimed that there was a secret international Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.[62] 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; that Jews and Bolsheviks were one and the same and that Marxism was a Jewish ideology.[63] Hitler believed that The Protocols were authentic.[64]
Radical anti-Semitism was promoted by prominent advocates of Völkisch nationalism including Eugen Diederichs, Paul de Lagarde, and Julius Langbehn.[49] 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.[65] 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.[65]
Johann Gottlieb Fichte 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.[46] 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.[66] The other option was violence against Jews, saying that the goal would be " cut off all their heads in one night, and set new ones on their shoulders, which should not contain a single Jewish idea".[67]
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.[52] Using the "stab in the back" legend, the Nazis accused 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 Völkisch movement and their politics of Romantic nationalism for establishing a Großdeutschland were strong.[68][69]
Nazism's racial policy positions may have developed from the views of important biologists of the 19th century, including French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, through Ernst Haeckel's idealist version of Lamarckism and the father of genetics, German botanist Gregor Mendel.[70] However Haeckel's works were later condemned and banned from bookshops and libraries by the Nazis as inappropriate for “National-Socialist formation and education in the Third Reich.” This may have been because of his "monist" atheistic, materialist philosophy which the Nazis disliked.[71] 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.[70] 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.[72] 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.[70]
Mendelian inheritance or Mendelism was supported by the Nazis and also mainstream eugenics proponents at the time. The Mendelian theory of inheritance declared that genetic traits and attributes were passed from one generation to another.[73] 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.[74]
During his youth in Austria, Hitler was politically influenced by Austrian pan-Germanist proponent Georg Ritter von Schönerer, who advocated radical German nationalism, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Slavism and anti-Habsburg views.[75] From von Schönerer and his followers, Hitler adopted for the Nazi movement the Heil greeting, the Führer title, and the model of absolute party leadership.[75] Hitler was also impressed with the populist anti-Semitism and anti-liberal bourgeois agitation of Karl Lueger, who as the mayor of Vienna during Hitler's time in the city used a rabble-rousing oratory style that appealed to the wider masses.[76] Unlike von Schönerer, however, Lueger was not a German nationalist, but a pro-Catholic Habsburg supporter.[76]

Response to World War I and fascism

During World War I, German 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).[77] 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.[77] 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.[77] He believed that the "Spirit of 1914" manifested itself in the concept of the "People's League of National Socialism".[78] 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.[78] 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.[78] Plenge advocated an authoritarian rational ruling elite to develop National Socialism through a hierarchical technocratic state.[79] Plenge's ideas formed the basis of Nazism.[77]
Oswald Spengler
Oswald Spengler, a German cultural philosopher, was a major influence on Nazism; although after 1933 Spengler became alienated from Nazism and was later condemned by the Nazis for criticizing Adolf Hitler.[80] Spengler's conception of national socialism along with a number of his political views were shared by the Nazis and the Conservative Revolutionary movement.[81] Spengler's views were also popular amongst Italian Fascists, including Benito Mussolini.[82]
Spengler's book The Decline of the West (1918) written during the final months of World War I, addressed the claim of decadence of modern European civilization, whicht he claimed was caused by atomizing and irreligious individualization and cosmopolitanism.[80] 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.[83] 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.[83] 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.[83] He believed that the "young" German nation as an imperial power would inherit the legacy of Ancient Rome, lead a restoration of value in "blood" and instinct, while the ideals of rationalism would be revealed as absurd.[83]
Spengler's notions of "Prussian socialism" as described in his book Preussentum und Sozialismus ("Prussiandom and Socialism", 1919), influenced Nazism and the Conservative Revolutionary movement.[84] Spengler wrote: "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."[81] Spengler adopted 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 and that would connect the individual to the state through corporatist organization.[80] Spengler claimed that socialistic Prussian characteristics existed across Germany, including creativity, discipline, concern for the greater good, productivity and self-sacrifice.[85] He 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."[86]
Spengler's definition of socialism did not advocate a change to property relations.[81] He 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.[87] He claimed that "Marxism is the capitalism of the working class" and not true socialism.[87] 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."[88]

The book Das Dritte Reich (1923) translated as "The Third Reich", authored by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck.
Arthur Moeller van den Bruck who initially was the dominant figure of the Conservative Revolutionaries influenced Nazism.[89] He rejected reactionary conservatism, while proposing a new state, that he coined the "Third Reich", which would unite all classes under authoritarian rule.[90] Van den Bruck advocated a combination of the nationalism of the right and the socialism of the left.[91]

Benito Mussolini (centre in suit with fists against body) along with other Fascist leader figures and Blackshirts during the March on Rome.
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 later had begun to model himself and the Nazi Party upon Mussolini and the Fascists.[92] Hitler presented the Nazis as a German fascism.[93][94] In November 1923, the Nazis attempted a "March on Berlin" modelled upon the March on Rome that resulted in the failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich.[95] Other Nazis — especially more radical ones such as Gregor Strasser, Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler — rejected Italian Fascism, accusing it of being too conservative or capitalist.[96] Alfred Rosenberg condemned Italian Fascism for being racially confused and having influences from philo-Semitism.[97] Strasser criticized the policy of Führerprinzip as being created by Mussolini, and considered its presence in Nazism as a foreign imported idea.[98] 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.[98]


From 1920 to 1923, Hitler formulated his ideology, then published it in 1925–26, as Mein Kampf, a two-volume, biography and political manifesto.[99]
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."[100] 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."[100] Historian Conan Fischer argues that the Nazis were sincere in their use of the adjective socialist, which they 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."[101]

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:
The racialists were not capable of drawing the practical conclusions from correct theoretical judgements, especially in the Jewish Question. In this way, the German racialist movement developed a similar pattern to that of the 1880s and 1890s. As in those days, its leadership gradually fell into the hands of highly honourable, but fantastically naïve men of learning, professors, district counsellors, schoolmasters, and lawyers — in short a bourgeois, idealistic, and refined class. It lacked the warm breath of the nation's youthful vigour.[102]
Despite many working-class supporters and members, the appeal of the Nazi Party was arguably more effective with the middle class. 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.[103] 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).[103]

Sex and gender

Homophobia: Berlin Memorial to Homosexual Victims of the Holocaust; Totgeschlagen—Totgeschwiegen (Struck Dead—Hushed Up)
Nazi ideology advocated excluding women from political involvement and confining them to the spheres of "Kinder, Küche, Kirche" (Children, Kitchen, Church).[citation needed]

Opposition to homosexuality

After the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler promoted Himmler and the SS, who then zealously suppressed homosexuality, saying: "We must exterminate these people root and branch ... the homosexual must be eliminated."[104] In 1936, Himmler established the "Reichszentrale zur Bekämpfung der Homosexualität und Abtreibung" ("Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion").[105] The Nazi régime incarcerated some 100,000 homosexuals during the 1930s.[106] As concentration camp prisoners, homosexual men were forced to wear pink triangle badges.[107][108]

Racial policy

The Master Race: the Meyers Blitz-Lexikon (Leipzig, 1932) depicts German war hero Karl von Müller as an exemplar Nordic type of the Herrenvolk.

Europe, with pre-WW2 borders, showing the extension of Generalplan Ost, i.e., the massive depopulation and ethnic cleansing within German Lebensraum.
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.[109] Originally, derived from the Germanenorden, the Thule Society shared the racist superstitions of Ariosophy and the society's activities consisted of anti-Semitism lectures and excursions of Germanic antiquity.[110] The Thule Society member, Dietrich Eckart, coached Adolf Hitler in public speaking, and Hitler later dedicated Mein Kampf to Eckart.[111] The DAP had initial support from the Thule Society — but after Hitler had taken over the Party, by denigrating their superstitious approach to politics, the society's members were quickly marginalised to allow the party to become a mass movement.[112]
Hitler viewed individual races as being part of a hierarchy, and he espoused the "aristocratic idea of nature". This view led to his assertion of superior and higher qualities of the Aryan race.[113] Hitler claimed to have first developed his worldview while in Vienna from 1907 to 1913, concluding that the Austro–Hungarian Empire comprised racial, religious, and cultural hierarchies; he viewed "Aryans" as the ultimate master race inhabiting the top, whilst Jews and Gypsies were at bottom.[114] Other research suggests that Hitler's virulent antisemitism was a post-war development, influenced from the Russian civil war.[115] The idea of the Russian roots of Nazism has been explored by Walter Laqueur[116] and Michael Kellogg.[117]
The racist subject of Nazism was Das Volk, the German people living under continual cultural attack by Judeo-Bolshevism. Nazi Party leadership sought to unify the Volk, and strongly encouraged stoicism, self-discipline and self-sacrifice to achieve final victory.[118] Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels frequently employed antisemitic rhetoric to underline this view: "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."[119]
In the pseudoscientific treatise, The Myth of the Twentieth Century — according to Terrence Ball and Richard Bellamy, the second-most important book to Nazism, after Mein Kampf[120]Reichstag Secretary, Alfred Rosenberg proposed 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".[121]

Sketch plan of Treblinka extermination camp. Between the years 1942 and 1943, more than 850,000 Jews were murdered there and only 54 survived.
According to Nazism, through struggle and proper "breeding", the "strong" would subdue the "weak" and rise to dominance.[113] For example, Nazi policy since 1920 emphasized that only people of "German blood" could be considered German citizens thus excluding people of Jewish descent,[122] a view that ultimately resulted in the killing of millions of people in the Holocaust.

A wagon piled high with corpses outside the crematorium in Buchenwald concentration camp
To maintain the "purity and strength" of the Aryan race, the Nazis sought to exterminate Jews, Romani, and the physically and mentally disabled.[11] 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.[11] One of Hitler's ambitions at the start of the war was to exterminate, expel, or enslave most or all Slavs from central and eastern Europe (i.e., Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, etc.) so as to make living space for German settlers.[123]
Hitler declared that racial conflict against Jews was necessary to save Germany from suffering under them and dismissed concerns about such conflict being inhumane or an injustice:
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.[124]
In Germany, the idea of creating a master-race resulted in efforts to "purify' the Deutsche Volk through eugenics; its culmination was compulsory sterilization or involuntary euthanasia of physically or mentally disabled people. The ideological justification was Adolf Hitler's view of Sparta (11th c.–195 BC) as the original Völkisch state; he praised their dispassionate destruction of congenitally deformed infants in maintaining racial purity:[125][126]
The number of Germans of African descent was low; however, some of them were enlisted into Nazi organisations like the Hitler Youth and the Wehrmacht.[127]


Members of the German Christians organization celebrating Luther-Day in Berlin in 1933, speech by bishop Hossenfelder

Hitler with Cesare Orsenigo, the Catholic Church's nuncio to Germany, in 1935.
The Nazi Party Programme of 1920 guaranteed freedom for all religious denominations not hostile to the State and endorsed Positive Christianity to combat “the Jewish-materialist spirit”.[128] It was a modified version of Christianity which emphasized racial purity and nationalism.[129] The Nazis were aided by theologians, such as, Dr. Ernst Bergmann (philosopher). Bergmann, in his work, Die 25 Thesen der Deutschreligion (Twenty-five Points of the German Religion), held that the Old Testament and portions of the New Testament of the Bible were inaccurate. He claimed that Jesus was not a Jew and of Aryan origin, and that Adolf Hitler was the new messiah.[129] At the same time the Nazis utilized Protestant Martin Luther in their propaganda. Nazis publicly displayed an original of Luther's On the Jews and their Lies during the annual Nuremberg rallies.[130][131] The Nazis endorsed the pro-Nazi Protestant German Christians organization.
The Nazis were initially highly hostile to Catholics because most Catholics supported the German Centre Party. Catholics opposed the Nazis' promotion of sterilization of those deemed inferior, and the Catholic Church forbid its members to vote for the Nazis. In 1933, extensive Nazi violence occurred against Catholics due to the their association with the Centre Party and their opposition to the Nazi regime's sterilization laws.[132] The Nazis demanded that Catholics declare their loyalty to the German state.[133] In propaganda, the Nazis used elements of Germany's Catholic history, in particular the German Catholic Teutonic Knights and their campaigns in Eastern Europe. The Nazis identified them as "sentinels" in the East against "Slavic chaos", though beyond that symbolism the influence of the Teutonic Knights on Nazism was limited.[134] Hitler also admitted that the model of the Nazis' night rallies was inspired by the Catholic rituals he witnessed during his Catholic upbringing.[135] The Nazis did seek official reconciliation with the Catholic Church and endorsed the creation of the pro-Nazi Catholic Kreuz und Adler organization that supported a national Catholicism.[133] On 20 July 1933, a successful concordat (Reichskonkordat) was signed between Nazi Germany and the Catholic Church which demanded loyalty of German Catholics to the German state in exchange for acceptance of the Catholic Church in Germany. The Catholic Church then ended its ban on members supporting the Nazi Party.[133]
Historian Michael Burleigh claims that Nazism used Christianity for political purposes, but such use required that "fundamental tenets were stripped out, but the remaining diffuse religious emotionality had its uses".[135] Burleigh claims that Nazism's conception of spirituality was "self-conciously pagan and primitive".[135] However, historian Roger Griffin rejects the claim that Nazism was primarily pagan, noting that although there were some influential neo-paganists in the Nazi Party, such as Heinrich Himmler and Alfred Rosenberg, they represented a minority and their views did not influence Nazi ideology beyond its use for symbolism; its noted that Hitler denounced Germanic paganism in Mein Kampf and condemned Rosenburg's and Himmler's paganism as "nonsense".[136][137]


Deutsches Volk–Deutsche Arbeit: German People, German Work, the alliance of worker and work. (1934)
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".[138] Private property rights were conditional upon the economic mode of use, if it did not advance Nazi economic goals then the state could nationalize it.[139] Although the Nazis privatised public properties and public services, they also increased economic state control.[140] Under Nazi economics, free competition and self-regulating markets diminished; nevertheless, Hitler's social Darwinist beliefs made him reluctant to entirely disregard business competition and private property as economic engines.[141][142]
To tie farmers to their land, selling agricultural land was prohibited.[citation needed] Farm ownership was nominally private, but discretion over operations and residual income were proscribed.[citation needed] That was achieved by granting business monopoly rights to marketing boards, to control production and prices with a quota system.[citation needed]


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.[143] 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.[18]
During the 1920s, Hitler urged disparate Nazi factions to unite in opposition to "Jewish Marxism."[144] Hitler asserted that the "three vices" of "Jewish Marxism" were democracy, pacifism and internationalism.[145]
In 1930, Hitler said: "Our adopted term ‘Socialist' has nothing to do with Marxian Socialism. Marxism is anti-property; true Socialism is not."[146] In 1942, Hitler privately said: "I absolutely insist on protecting private property ... we must encourage private initiative".[147]
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.[148]


Nazi anti-Semitic and anti-capitalist theme in a cartoon telling Germans not to buy from Jewish shops. It portrays a stereotypical depiction of Jews as affluent capitalists.
The Nazis argued that capitalism damages nations due to international finance, the economic dominance of big business, and Jewish influences.[143] 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."[149]
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.[150] He opposed free-market capitalism's profit-seeking impulses and desired an economy in which community interests would be upheld.[138] 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.[150] Hitler told a party leader in 1934, "The economic system of our day is the creation of the Jews."[150] Hitler said to Benito Mussolini that "Capitalism had run its course".[150] Hitler also said that the business bourgeoisie "know nothing except their profit. 'Fatherland' is only a word for them."[151] Hitler admired Napoleon as a role model for his anti-conservative, anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois attitudes.[152]
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.[153] 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.[154] He claimed that war to gain such resources was the only means to surpass the failing capitalist economic system.[153]
A number of other Nazis held strong revolutionary socialist and anti-capitalist beliefs, most prominently Ernst Röhm, the leader of the Sturmabteilung (SA).[155] Röhm 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.[41] Röhm's SA began attacks against individuals deemed to be associated with conservative reaction.[41] Hitler saw Röhm's independent actions as violating and possibly threatening his leadership, as well as jeopardizing the regime by alienating conservative President Paul von Hindenburg and the conservative-oriented German Army.[42] This resulted in Hitler purging Röhm and other radical members of the SA.[42] 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."