Nazism – Concept, origin, characteristics and fascism

We explain what Nazism was, how it arose, its characteristics and its relationship with fascism. Also, what was the Holocaust.

The politics of Nazism caused millions of deaths and started World War II.

What was Nazism?

Nazism or National Socialism (in German nationalsozialismus) is the German variant of fascism, which emerged in the 1920s. It was promoted by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) and its leader, Adolf Hitler (1889-1945).

It was about an ideology and a political practice of reactionary values, totalitarian, that differentiated citizens based on their race, and that the establishment of a third German empire (the so-called Third Reich).

With Nazism in power, Germany quickly became a dictatorship and militarized its society. A one-party regime was built that deposited in Adolf Hitler the totality of political power, creating for him the position of “guide” or “leader” (führer), supposedly destined by providence to lead Germany to its former glory. Such aspirations led Europe into World War II.

However, the most controversial feature of Nazism was, probably, its particular interpretation of history based on the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin, in what is known as “social Darwinism“, that is, the belief that different human ethnic groups they must compete with each other so that only the strong and fit survive, taking over all resources.

The latter led to Nazism and the German people to persecute the considered “inferior races” (untermenschen), especially the Jews, whom Hitler professed a particular hatred, and to undertake measures for their forcible deportation and then, during the critical times of World War II, for their extermination.

Characteristics of Nazism

Nazism was not always consistent with its ideological assumptions, nor was it explainable in traditional political terms. Broadly speaking, it was characterized by the following:

  • It was a movement undemocratic, totalitarian, militaristic, racist and nationalist, vertically organized around the figure of its eternal and undisputed leader, Hitler.
  • Your ideological position it aspired to be a “third way” between the conservative right and the revolutionary left. Thus, it promoted a strong State and at the same time a strongly stratified society, with first, second and third class citizens, ethnically differentiated.
  • Nazism had as enemies Marxism and all forms of communism or anarchism, but he was also opposed to the traditional bourgeoisie and Judaism, seeing in the latter the symbol of usury and lending. In their nationalist delusions, the Nazis even claimed that they were all part of a global conspiracy against Germany.
  • The Nazi State it was repressive and police, one-party, and considered as enemies of the nation not only Jews and Communists, but also homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies and all those who opposed his model of government. Many of them were reduced to slave labor and later imprisoned in concentration camps.
  • The foreign policy of Nazism was based on the idea of ​​”living space” (Lebensraum) necessary for the German people to achieve the glory for which they were destined. For this, it was necessary to annex the neighboring territories of Eastern Europe and repopulate them with German blood, after having “cleansed” them of their traditional settlers.
  • The Nazis considered themselves direct descendants of the Aryan people, a supposed racially and linguistically homogeneous Indo-European ethnic group, from which all traditional European peoples would descend. For that reason, they viewed racial mixing as an act against nature and they watched over the preservation of the genetic purity of the German people.

Rise of Nazism

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Although he belonged to a still minority party, Hitler was appointed chancellor in 1933.

Nazism appeared in the Germany of the Weimar Republic, established after the German defeat in World War I and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, in which the losers of the conflict were subjected to a series of crushing political and economic conditions.

Resentment, discontent, poor living conditions and the feeling of having been betrayed were some of the feelings that hung in the air, and of which Hitler’s voice echoed.

Furthermore, since the beginning of the 20th century a strong pan-Germanist sentiment had nested in the Germanic populations of Europe, inside and outside Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, yearning for a powerful nation to bring them together, or as Hitler himself later proposed, “A Reich that lasts a thousand years.”

It was so in 1919 Hitler joined the German Workers’ Party (DAP), whose nationalist preaching had seduced him, and he soon became one of its leaders and top speakers.

After reforming the party and founding the NSDAP, in 1921 Hitler was first introduced as führer, starting a frantic race to seize political power, in the midst of a climate of generalized crisis for which the Social Democrats were blamed. The Nazis created their own shock troops, the SA (sturmabteilung) with which to parade and intimidate your opponents.

Hand in hand with other political actors such as Franz von Papen (1879-1969), who saw Hitler as a puppet through which to achieve power, the Nazi party entered the running of the State despite still being a minority party. . A) Yes, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933, which gave him control of the executive power.

His first action was to request the dissolution of parliament (Reichstag) and to call new elections for the same year, which were interrupted by the burning of the legislative building (probably by orders of Hitler himself) and the declaration of the State of emergency, which led to the abolition of the fundamental rights of the Constitution of 1919.

In any case, elections were held and Nazism obtained 44% of the votes. But Hitler had an ace up his sleeve: to request the declaration of special powers to parliament, with which to manage the crisis.

This enabling Law was granted to him in 1933 thanks to a strong social and political coercion on the part of the members of the Nazi party. Once the dictatorial powers have been obtained, Hitler banned and dissolved opposition parties, starting his political regime.

The following year took place the infamous “night of the long knives” (Nacht der langen Messer) in which Nazi troops (the newly created SS and Gestapo) besieged remnants of Germany’s opponents, assassinating and arresting major politicians.

Among the victims were former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher (1882-1934), or former comrades of Hitler who were no longer useful for the command or whose loyalty he suspected, such as Gregor Strasser, Gustav Ritter von Kahr and Ernest Röhm.

Through this coup, Nazism took over almost all the structures of the State. The last steps towards total dictatorship took place after the death of German President Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934): In 1934 Hitler announced that the powers of the President were henceforth transferred to the Chancellor, that is, to his person.

Thus, after holding an approving plebiscite in which the Nazis obtained 90% of the vote, the German Third Reich had formally begun.

The Holocaust

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Nazism killed millions of Jews, Gypsies, the disabled, homosexuals, and opponents.

Today it is known as the Holocaust (in Hebrew Shoah, “Catastrophe”) to what the Nazis called the “final solution” (Endlösung) for the Jews of Europe, that is, a systematic and large-scale plan for the extermination of the “inferior races” that inhabited the countries occupied by the German army during World War II, especially the Jews.

Such a genocide took place between the end of the summer of 1941 and the end of the war in 1945. It cost the lives of two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe, whose estimated figure is estimated at 6 million people.

In addition, millions of Poles, Gypsies, physically and mentally disabled, homosexuals and Soviet prisoners of war were executed along a network of concentration camps and forced labor, many of which also had gas chambers and industrial crematoria.

The Holocaust It is considered the greatest genocide of the 20th century and one of the greatest in the contemporary history of mankind.

Nazism and fascism

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Both Nazism and Fascism were militaristic, anti-communist, and racist.

In general, Nazism and Fascism are more or less equivalent terms. Both are extreme, radical and undemocratic political tendencies, especially those with a racist or xenophobic livelihood. However, in due course, the term “fascist” referred to the Italian political movement counterpart to Nazism, led by Benito Mussolini.

The Italian fascists adhered to similar militaristic, anti-communist and imperialist values ​​to the Germans. They got their name from the Latin term fasces, translatable as “do”, and that the ancient Romans used as a symbol of authority. His task was to restore in Italy the glory of the ancient Roman Empire, and to seize the African colonies of his European rivals.

Fall of Nazism

Nazism met its end in early 1945, when the German Third Reich was defeated finally by the combined armies of the Soviet Union and the western allies (the United States and Great Britain).

Being everything already given for lost, Hitler and many of his top officials committed suicide in his underground bunker in Berlin. On the other hand, many of the high military leaders of the Reich were captured and tried by an international court in the Nuremberg Trials between 1945 and 1946.