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The Nazi ideology
Nazism or National Socialism (German: Nationalsozialismus) is an ideology that received its practical political form in the regime that governed Germany from 1933-1945. Nazism is a variety of another totalitarian ideology, fascism. The political goal of both ideologies is to establish a totalitarian state, that is to say a modern, bureaucratic state, where the government is completely dominant in relation to the individual. It is thus a purpose of the regime to monopolise all human activities, both private and public.
The basic characteristics of Nazism
Nazism was specifically characterised by:
How the Nazis came into power in Germany is obviously an important question. How this take-over occurred is described in the section > The Nazi takeover. A few reasons should be mentioned in this context, however:
Nazism presented the German population with an easy explanation to all their problems: Jews and democracy. It was the “International Jewry” that had been responsible for Germany’s defeat in World War I and the humiliating peace treaty. Democracy, i.e. the elected officials of the Weimar Republic, was responsible for the economic depression of the early 1930’s. The Nazis cleverly played on the “political paranoia” of the middle class, and in this respect the Jews and communists worked excellently as representations of the enemy.
NSDAP's party programme
The Nazi Party’s political programme was formulated in 1920, and according to its wording it was ‘inalterable’. It was never revised, but many of the ideological principles were never transformed into practical policy when the Nazis came into power. This was particularly the case for the party programme’s economical principles, which were deemed much too socialistic. Among other things, the Nazi Party demanded the abolition of all trusts (§13), equal share of profits in all businesses (§14), and a prohibition against any kind of capital income (§11). Such ideas were of course completely unacceptable to the party’s big business supporters, and they were never realised.
Hitler and Mein Kampf
The most coherent effort at presenting the ideological characteristics of Nazism can be found in
Hitler’s autobiographical work, Mein Kampf (‘My Struggle’). This book was written between 1923 and
1924, while Hitler was in prison for participating in the famous (and failed) Beer Hall Putsch
in Munich. In his book, Hitler presents his inalterable ‘worldview’ (German: Weltanschauung), which after the Nazi takeover became the political-ideological basis of the new regime.
Fundamental for all these aspects was Hitler’s steady belief in the biological and cultural superiority of the Aryan race. It was consequently a very important part of Hitler’s ideology that the races should not be mixed. He saw the ‘purity of the blood’ a prerequisite for the coming greatness of the German people.
Racism and Nazism
As mentioned earlier, racism (together with anti-Semitism) played a defining role in Nazi ideology. But on which ideas did this racism build? In order to answer this question it is necessary to go back to the second half of the 19th century, where many of the intellectual roots of Nazism came into existence.
Anti-Semitism can be translated with ‘hostility towards Jews’. The Nazis’ hatred for the Jews and the use of the Jew as a universal explanation for all Germany’s problems is unique. Fascism – i.e. Nazism’s Italian counterpart – does not include this element.
As an ideology, Nazism (or National Socialism) is difficult to characterise because of its complexity and its fundamental lack of logical content. It builds on artificially created enemy figures. Four elements are characteristic of Nazism: it is an anti-ideology that builds more on criticism than suggestions for improvement; it is an anti-Semitic ideology, where the Jews (in an absurd combination with communism) are used as an explanation for all kinds of problems; it is a racist ideology that builds on a fundamental idea of the superiority of the Aryan (German) race; and it is, finally, an aggressively nationalistic ideology that puts the nation over the individual, and demands that the nation be extended to its “natural” territorial borders.
Want to know more?
> The Nazi takeover
> NSDAP's party programme - external link
© 2002 by Peter Vogelsang & Brian B. M. Larsen. All rights reserved