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The Nazi party used a right-facing as their symbol and the red and black colors were said to represent Blut und Boden (blood and soil). Black, white, and red were in fact the colors of the old flag (invented by , based on the colors black and white, blended with the red and white of the medieval ). In , with the foundation of the German Reich, the flag of the North German Confederation became the German Reichsflagge (Reich's flag). Black, white, and red subsequently became the colors of the nationalists (e.g. during and the Weimarer Republik).
The Nazi party used a right-facing swastika as their symbol and the red and black colors were said 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, blended with the red and white of the medieval Hanse cities). In 1871, with the foundation of the German Reich, the flag of the North German Confederation became the German Reichsflagge (Reich's flag). Black, white, and red subsequently became the colors of the nationalists (e.g. during WWI and the Weimarer Republik).
"National Socialism" redirects here. For alternate meanings, see National Socialism (disambiguation).

Nazism (abbreviated from the German: Nationalsozialismus, "National Socialism") or also called Hitlerism is a type of fascist/totalitarian ideology. The term is most often used in connection with the dictatorship of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945 (the "Third Reich"). This ideology was held by the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, commonly called NSDAP or the Nazi Party), which was led by its führer Adolf Hitler. Adherents of Nazism held that the German nation and the purported "Aryan" race were superior to other races. Nazism has been outlawed in modern Germany, although remnants and revivalists, known as "Neo-Nazis," continue to operate in Germany and abroad.

Contents

Ideological theory

According to Mein Kampf (My Struggle), 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 greater Germany, and thought that the use of military force to achieve it was necessary.


Many placed the blame for Germany's misfortunes on those whom they perceived, in one way or another, to have sabotaged the goal of national victory. Jews and communists became the ideal scapegoats for Germans deeply invested in a German Nationalist ideology.


Hitler's Nazi theory also claimed that the Aryan race is a master race, superior to all other races, 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. Worst of all were seen to be the parasitic Untermensch (Subhumans), mainly Jews, but also Gypsies, homosexuals, disabled and so called anti-socials, all of whom were considered lebensunwertes Leben (Lifeunworthy Life) due to their perceived deficiency and inferiority. The role of homosexuals during the Holocaust are controversial among historians. Some, like the International Committee for Holocaust Truth and authors Scott Lively and Kevin E. Abrams in The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party (ISBN 0964760932), defend the perspective that many homosexuals were involved in the inner circle of the Nazi party: Ernst Röhm of the SA, Horst Wessel, Max Bielas, and others. This perspective is denounced as hateful propaganda by most homosexual associations and groups, stirring heated debates and accusations of censorship and "hate-speech" from both sides.


People of Slavic descent were also seen as subhuman, but only marginally parasitic, because they had their own land and nations, though many of them lived in German countries such as Austria, which Hitler saw as an ethnic invasion of Germanic Lebensraum by foreign populations who would have incentive to force Austria's loyalty to their lands of ethnic and cultural origin.


According to Nazism, it is an obvious mistake to permit or encourage multilingualism and multiculturalism within a nation. Fundamental to the Nazi goal was the unification of all German-speaking peoples, "unjustly" divided into different Nation States. Hitler claimed that nations that could not defend their territory did not deserve it. 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 inferior indigenous races. Hitler draws parallels between Lebensraum and the American ethnic cleansing and relocation policies towards the Native Americans, which he saw 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 living space doctrine, some Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS soldiers found the duty repugnant. Only a small fraction of them were actively 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.


The ideological roots which became German "National Socialism" were based on numerous sources in European history, drawing especially from Romantic 19th Century idealism, and from a biological misreading of Friedrich Nietzsche's thoughts on "breeding upwards" toward the goal of an Übermensch (Superhuman). Hitler was an avid reader and received ideas that were later to influence Nazism from traceable publications, such as those of the Germanenorden (Germanic Order) or the Thule society.


Key elements of the Nazi ideology

  • National Socialist Program
  • Racism
    • Especially anti-Semitism, which eventually culminated in the Holocaust.
    • The creation of a Herrenrasse (Master Race= by the Lebensborn (Fountain of Life; A department in the Third Reich)
    • Anti-Slavism
    • Belief in the superiority of the White, Germanic, Aryan or Nordic races.
  • Euthanasia and Eugenics with respect to "Racial Hygiene"
  • Anti-Marxism, Anti-Communism, Anti-Bolshevism
  • The rejection of democracy, with as a consequence the ending the existence of political parties, labour unions, and free press.
  • Führerprinzip (Leader Principle) /belief in the leader (Responsibility up the ranks, and authority down the ranks.)
  • Strong show of local culture.
  • Social Darwinism
  • Defense of Blood and Soil (German: "Blut und Boden" - represented by the red and black colors in the Nazi flag)
  • "Lebensraumpolitik", "Lebensraum im Osten" (The creation of more living space for Germans)
  • Related to Fascism

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 anti-Semitic 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. Others see anti-Semitism as central to Hitler's Weltanschauung (World view).


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, as well as, among the Nazi elite, the ancient Greek habit of same-sex relations between the military and young boys praised notably in Plato's works, and favored by German sensualists such as Röhm, Bielas and Wessel. German romanticism in particular expressed these values. For instance, the Nazis identified closely with the music of Richard Wagner (a noted anti-Semite, author of Das Judenthum in der Musik, and idol to the young Hitler). 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.


The idealisation of tradition, folklore, classical thought, the leadership of Frederick the Great, their rejection of the liberalism of the Weimar Republic and the decision to call the German state the Third Reich (which hearkens back to the medieval First Reich and the pre Weimar Second Reich) has led many to regard the Nazis as reactionary.


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, "the dictatorship of the proletariat" 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) and other anti-Soviet fighting formations, were 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 as a shining example of Nordic genius. 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 race-based 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..

Nazi domestic economic flyer
Nazi domestic economic propaganda flyer

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:

  • Elimination of unemployment
  • Elimination of hyperinflation
  • Expansion of production of consumer goods to improve middle- and lower-class living standards.

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, some 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 begun 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 to conclude that a European war was inevitable. (See Causes of 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 16th century onward.


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.


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.


Effects

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-Semitism, culminating in the Holocaust
  • Ethnic nationalism, including the notion of Germans' status as the Herrenvolk ("master race") and Übermensch
  • A belief in the need to purify the German race through eugenics - this culminated in the involuntary euthanasia of disabled people and the compulsory sterilization of people with mental deficiencies or illnesses perceived as hereditary

Anti-clericalism was also part of Nazi ideology. Although it was never acted upon as the Nazis often used the church to justify their stance and included many Christian symbols in the Third Reich.


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 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. These revisionists are often, however, either aligned with or in the employ of neo-Nazis, and this fact itself often casts suspicion on their beliefs.


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. 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.


Nazism in relation to other concepts

Nazi sacred symbol – the or gamma cross
Nazi sacred symbol – the swastika or gamma cross

The Nazi symbol is the right-facing swastika.


Nazism and religion

The relationship between Nazism and mysticism is one that has provoked both curiosity and controversy over the years.


Hitler and other Nazi leaders clearly made use of Pagan symbolism and emotion in propagandizing the Germanic public, and it remains a matter of controversy whether Hitler believed himself a Christian, a heathen, or something else entirely. Many historians have typified Hitler as a Satanist or occultist, whereas some writers have often utilized Nazism's occasional 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 nature of the Nazi Party's relations with the Catholic Church is yet more fraught. Many Catholic priests and leaders vociferously opposed Nazism on the grounds of its incompatibility with Christian morals. Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (1937) condemning Nazi ideology. Like political dissenters, many priests were sent to the concentration camps for their opposition, including the parson of Berlin Cathedral Bernhard Lichtenberg. (Some of these were Poles persecuted due to their nationality.)


Nonetheless, since the 1960s it has been claimed by some that the Church hierarchy headed by Pope Pius XII remained largely silent in the face of Nazism, and allegations of the Pope's complicity are today commonplace; see for example John Cornwell's book Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (although many works have since been published defending Pius' wartime record, e.g. Ralph McInerny's The Defamation of Pius XII.)


As Nazism continued to rule Germany, to many people it became a kind of religion in and of itself, sometimes called Esoteric Hitlerism, and sometimes associated with Ásatrú.

Enlarge
Hitler walking out of Brown House after 1930 elections

Nazism and fascism

The term Nazism is often used interchangeably with fascism, but this usage is controversial. Some use the word Fascism (spelled with a capital F), only to describe Italian Fascism, while generic fascism (spelled with a small f) 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, and the Roman salute. 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 it followed Hitler's example.


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 some conservative factions, though also exprienced opposition from some others. Franz von Papen, a conservative former German Chancellor and former member of the Catholic Centre Party supported Hitler for the position of Chancellor. Events during the Papen chancellorship led to the Enabling Act which gave the Nazis dictatorial powers, passed with the support of conservative and centrist deputies in the Reichstag, over the opposition of Social Democrats and Communists. Other conservatives opposed Hitler, notably Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher, who attempted to construct a center-right led "cross front" that united anti-Hitler factions on the right and center-left in the Reichstag. Schleicher, having been forced from the Chancellorship by Papen, was assassinated by the Nazis on the Night of the Long Knives.


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.


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. ' Hitler despised Karl Marx as a Jew and condemned communism and Marxism as a Judeo-Bolshevist conspiracy pledging to block its rise in Germany arguing that the nation's downfall was due to Marxism and its Jewish influence. These actions prompted some prominent conservatives and capitalists to fund and support the Nazis because they saw them as a bulwark against Bolshevism.


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 Caucasian or ("Aryan") race (minus the Slavs, who were seen as below Aryan), 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 Volk". This is a central concept of Mein Kampf, symbolized by the motto Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer (one people, one empire, one leader). The Nazi relationship between the Volk and the state was called the Volksgemeinschaft - a concept that defined a communal duty of citizens in service to the Reich. The term "National Socialism," arguably derives from this citizen-nation relationship, whereby the term socialism is invoked (socialism is traditionally defined as "the public ownership over the means of production") and is meant to be realized through the communal duty of the Volk to the Reich or German nation, the collective cause for which production is presumably in service of. The Reich, in turn, was a virulently nationalist ideology, a tendency which decisively defined its organizational thrust and overall immediate and long-term aims. In practice, the Nazis argued, this notion served to bring forth a nation-state as the locus and embodiment of the people's collect


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