Level 16 - Colossus
BIRTH OF NAZISM
"Until the German people understand that one can conduct politics only when one has the support of power—and again power. Only so is reconstruction possible… It is not an economic question which faces the German people, it is a political question—how shall the nation’s determination be recovered?" (Bullock, 1962)
Adolf Hitler posed this question to the German people in 1923. The face of post World War I Germany was truly battered, in all senses of the word. Germany had lost the war politically, which essentially meant emotionally. The country had no sense of leadership, and was suffering from many economic hardships. With the loss of the war, came the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles. Within the treaty, many demands of Germany were made which nearly raped her of her economic capacities. Industries had suffered, causing great unemployment. With this unemployment came inflation as well. The hardships posed upon the country not only harmed her economically, but socially too. The state of the people was equally harsh. Stripped of any sign of nationalism that may have once reigned within them, there was very little to have pride in. They were the joke of Europe, not to mention the brutal force which had caused the hardships within her neighbors as well. Leadership was also lacking at this time. The control of state that had once governed in Germany was strongly ousted away. Germany knew nothing but monarchical rule, but this had been replaced with the democratic attempt of the Weimar Republic.
This was the state of 1933 Germany, one that not endured since the Thirty Years War. Everything familiar to Germany had been replaced by the Treaty of Versailles. This state was the "breeding ground" of Nazism, or National Socialism. At a time of severe depression, the ideas and promises of the National Socialists looked very promising. Many Germans lacked faith in the existing government and began to turn to political groups that called for extreme changes. Nazis had divined a plan, and were willing to lead Germany to the grandeur that she deserved. Lead by the bold and charismatic Adolf Hitler, the light of a brighter future began to shine through the clouds of the post war era.
Though new to Germany when Nazism was embedded within the system in 1933, its roots spawn much further back into history. It is general thought that Nazism is nothing more than a branch of Fascism. To understand the Nazi ideologies, it is necessary to understand the basis of Fascism.
Fascism is a form of counter-revolutionary politics that first arose in the early part of the twentieth-century in Europe. It was a response to the social upheaval, the devastation of World War I, and the Bolshevik Revolution. Fascism a philosophy or a system of government that advocates or exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with an ideology of aggressive nationalism. It celebrates the nation or the race as an organic community surpassing all other loyalties. This right-wing philosophy will cal for violent action to assure total loyalty, which is held in such high regards. Fascism approaches politics in two central areas; populist and elitist. Populist in that it seeks to activate "the people" as a whole against perceived oppressors or enemies, and to create a nation of unity. The elitist approach puts the people’s will on one select group, or most often one supreme leader , from whom all power proceeds downward (Morgan, 1948).
Fascist Theory values human nature in a group for the benefit of the community. The group as a whole is identifiable as the "human will", which is led by a select group or one leader, with the power being passed down from top to bottom. Fascism seeks to organize a society, led by a mass movement, in an effort to capture the state power. When the power is in the firm grip of the ruler, the government will be used to control the population, and everything in it so the community will benefit (Schneider, 1936).
Fascism’s ideal government would be fashioned around the good of the community or nation. Everyone would work solely for the benefit of the nation. Regularly this would take place with the merging of the state and business leadership, with concern only of the nation. In this, the nation will also take care of its members if the need should arise. This could be in the form of money, shelter, food, or any other need that might come about (Schneider, 1936).
The philosophy of Fascism can be traced to earlier German philosophers who argued that, the will is and prior to superior to the intellect and reason. Friedrich Nietzsche and George Hegel are leading philosophers whose beliefs and ideologies greatly influenced the shaping of Fascist theory. A hundred years before Hitler became Chancellor, Hegel, in a famous course of lectures at the University of Berlin, pointed to the role of "World-historical individuals" as the agents by which "the Will of the World Spirit," the plan of Providence, is carried out (Bullock, 1962). Hegel’s philosophy of history asserts that history is in constant progression, for it is moving from simple to complex in a dialectical manner. Therefore, taking the approach that order and chaos are molded together to create new order, an order of which will direct progression. He believed that people should sacrifice for the community as well as theorized the idea that war was necessary to unify the state, "while peace brings nothing but a weak society."
Friedrich Nietzsche postulated that there were two moral codes: the master morality (or the ruling class) and the slave morality (or the oppressed class) (Sillani, 1931). Nietzsche believed the ancient empires were developed from the master majority and the religious ideas and views grew out of the slave majority. The idea of the ubermensch, or superman, which symbolized man at his most creative and highest intellectual capacity was brought about by Nietzsche as the ultimate rule. The Fascist theory has a basis to that of which the ultimate should rule, therefore, placing the state as the highest ruler. With this concept, Nietzsche, has been linked to the emergence of some Fascist ideologies.
It is a common belief that the origins of Nazism come from these ideologies of Fascism. Though the Nazi party did not come to power until 1933, they were an active coalition of people throughout the early decades of the twentieth century. The German Workers’ Union was conceived by Anton Drexler in March of 1918. Drexler’s union consisted of barely forty men that were banded together by their shared sentiments of fierce nationalism, anti-Semitism, and support for the war effort. Their opinions were quite clear, for they adhered to a straightforward program of Strikers, Bolsheviks, Jews, malingerers, and war profiteers were the enemy, and it was the duty of the German Workers’ Union to unite behind the war effort (Nyomarkay, 1967). However, after the disastrous conclusion of the war, the union was on the brink of collapse when Adolf Hitler inadvertently stepped into the picture.
Immediately the party ceased to be Drexler’s party, it became Hitler’s. Renamed the German Workers Party, it became the foundation for the National Socialist party. Hitler amazingly transformed a forty member union into a dominant political force, proving at an early stage that he was indeed a master of propaganda (Nyomarkay, 1967). In all actuality, Hitler was assigned to attend the very first meeting in September of 1919 in order to investigate the party and its activities for the military. At the meeting, Hitler became immersed in all of the activity, and even involved himself in one of the arguments. Hitler’s only purpose for attending that meeting was to attend, and then write a report. For this reason, he took one of Drexler’s pamphlets which detailed much of the groups political philosophies. In this pamphlet, Hitler found Drexler to be a prophet to his own heart (Sheridan-Allen, 1965).
Drexler was equally impressed with Hitler, and immediately saw his potential. Drexler invited him to attend one of the executive committee meetings. From this point, Hitler joined the party, though he was described as "a card carrying member with the intention of destroying and recreating the party in his own image" (Nyomarkay, 1967). Thus the birth of Nazism and the ideologies which encompassed it.
Hitler’s first step in developing the party, was to control its propaganda. He had a strong understanding of going directly to the people. He sought to increase the party’s small gatherings into much larger ones. Presently, the meetings were being held in small taverns, but within four meetings in a much larger tavern, the attendance reached over four hundred. Hitler also put himself in control of making the posters and fliers advertising the meetings. He showed his mastery in propaganda, which was a fundamental element in the Nazi movement’s rise to power. He realized what colors called attention to the movement and caught a person’s eye. He wrote information using various styles and sizes of lettering. His goal was to create a name for the party, and draw the curious and perspective members into his movement (Sheridan-Allen, 1965).
Through these meetings, Hitler established himself as a political figure, and a powerful voice of the people. In his own words, Hitler said, "To be a leader means to be able to move the masses" (Hitler, 1941). Thus he took it upon himself not only to move the masses, but create a mass movement. At the meetings, Hitler would speak and make all those present feel as if they were a part of a vast and powerful movement.
In this process the National Socialist movement had been successful in creating a place for itself within German society. What had started as a grouping of laborers in a tavern, had now become a fairly well known and recognized assembly of ambitious people. Hitler and his use of propaganda had been successful in recruiting many members, who spread the word of the movement, as well as himself, throughout Germany. Hitler, now a strong member of the executive committee, was in the political position he had dreamed of, and continued to acquire new responsibilities within party. As the party had grown, National Socialism realized the lack of a program, for the party had expanded out of its original, limited, ideologies (Nyomarkay, 1967).
Together, Drexler and Hitler formulated a twenty-five point plan which detailed the party’s new program. These points included. The demand for the union of all German people; equal rights to all citizens (hence, Jews could not become citizens,); profit sharing of large industries; waging war against those who worked against the common welfare of the movement, and the creation of a strong central authority within the state (Nyomarkay, 1967).
The party had now been laid out and its program was clear in what it stood for. It was obvious that many racist roots embodied in their plans, and they encouraged a strong will to hate. It was at this time that the party decided to change its name to the National Socialist Peoples’ Party, later to be known as the Nazi Party. To symbolize this change, Hitler himself designed a new flag as an insignia of the movement (Krebs, 1976). "Whipping in the wind, the swastika flag suggested dreaming blood, black pistons in violent motion, and sudden flares of movement" (Hitler, 1941).
In a period of little over a year since Hitler first came to the German Workers’ Union meeting, an entire political force had been created. With the creation of the twenty five point plan came the answers to many people’s questions, and a desire to learn more. The focus of the party gave the people of Germany a target in asserting their anger, and a sense of direction as to where the country was to go. The party now published its own newspaper, and meetings had to be held in the open air to accommodate the crowds of six thousand plus people (Sheridan-Allen, 1965).
Hitler had become the party’s dictator. He had taken power away from the founder, and created his own image of how he felt this wave should be directed. After a mishap with a few of the party’s older members over his use of power, Hitler left the movement for awhile. Shortly after he had left, the party realized how helpless it was without him. So, they signed an instrument of surrender giving Hitler full and complete dictatorial powers. The Fuehrer had been born (Sheridan-Allen, 1965).
Hitler had now secured all of the resources necessary to create a major political institution. He had a party, a program, and a symbol; all of which could be credited to his own efforts. From his first meeting, he had became the driving force of the party. He had made all of the decisions, and confirmed the fact he did hold all of the power. Nazism had become a reality.
The correlation between Nazism and Fascism is very strong. Whether or not Nazism can actually be defined as a branch of Fascism is not entirely clear, but they share many of the same characteristics. When Drexler originated the German Workers’ Union, he intended to do so with set nationalistic goals, but then a racist tone was taken on. As the German Workers’ Union evolved into the National Socialist party, the racist tone became more blatant. Nazism stressed the superiority of the "Aryan" man, with the destiny of the Master Race to rule the world over the other races (Bullock, 1962). A violent hatred towards Jews emerged. This was partially due to the climate of the German Workers’ Union, but the very intent of this hatred can be attributed to Hitler, personally.
The racial theories of Nazism is the only arguably strong difference between Fascism and Nazism. They both share the major characteristics of strong nationalism, loyalty to a dictatorial power, anti-socialist views, and elitism. It is therefore certain that Hitler had some familiarity with the works of Hegel and Nietzsche. Hitler’s belief about himself as expressed in his autobiographical work Mein Kampf echoes of Hegel and Nietzsche. Cynical though he was, Hitler’s cynicism stopped short of his own person. Hitler recognized himself as a person taking the chaos and developing new order in Germany with the direction of reason, or Providence. He came to believe that he was a man with a mission, so marked by Providence, and therefore exempt from the ordinary canons of human conduct (Bullock, 1962).
The years following the birth of the National Socialist party had their peaks and troughs. Hitler continued his bold and radical leadership, landing himself in prison for nearly a year. With the spare time on his hands, he put his ideas to paper and wrote Mein Kampf, or ""My Struggles." In this work, Hitler made no secret of how he saw the future of the National Socialism, nor where he intended to take Germany. (Bullock, 1962).
Nazism did not gain wide support throughout the nation until the Great Depression in 1929, which began with a worldwide business slump. Discontented Germans turned to Nazism in increasing numbers, drawn to it by the promises of economic help, political power, and national glory. Finally in the elections of 1932, the Nazis emerged as the strongest party in Germany, though they never received more than one-third of the total vote. On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany, and the rest is history (Sheridan-Allen, 1965).
The birth of Nazism was an intricate rise to power, and could not have ever happened with out all of the components used to the rise. The doctrines of Fascism gave it structure, while the manipulative and cunning mind of Hitler gave it life. There can also be credit granted to the economic and social state of Germany, for without the economic distress and social upheaval, the eyes of the German people would have been less glazed over (Krebs, 1976). The ideologies were not foreign, neither was the plan to power as Hitler outlined within Mein Kampf. Speculation and history are the tools we have been given to work with. Where the Nazi movement truly emerged from, the world will never know; but through the looking glass to the past, the footprints of their reign will forever etch the spirit of mankind.