Nazism in context

Jan 2013
48
Hi, I'm new here.

While I'm sure Nazism has been beaten to death here, for me at least it is something I'm not entirely familiar with. I'm kind of curious on where Nazism is in line with previous traditions and ideologies, what it's historical precursors were, what it's ideological innovations were, and ultimately what its fatal flaw was.

Right now my essential impression of Nazism is that it is an emotion, and that its intolerance and theories were undergirded by the stress that German society experienced after WWI. But then all decision-making is at base an emotion which later gets refined by higher thought into principles and then ideologies.

And how to best distinguish the line where normal patriotism becomes Nazism? With the post-colonial movement, we are all now well aware of how racist the United States and Britain were, and yet both strongly opposed Nazism. Why?
 
Aug 2012
1,554
Nazism was, in many ways, a hodgepodge of so many different ideas. Elements of it sprung from the quackery of the eugenics movement, itself a perversion of Darwin's theory of evolution. Beyond that, early supporters and patrons included occultist groups and thinkers who sprung up during the liberalism of the Weimar Republic. And many of the trappings of Nazism, from the salute to the worship of war and the military, were borrowed from Italian fascists like Mussolini and Gabrielle D'Annunzio.

Of course, once in power, Himmler and Goebbels attempted to tie their regime to Medieval Germany and Christendom, and even went further, arranging phony archeological digs to try and prove that the first human beings were Aryans - ideas connected to those Occultists I previously mentioned, who wrote fantastical claims that Germans were the heirs of ancient Atlantis.

In many ways, Nazi Germany was a product of various different schools of thought, an increase in scientific progress, and risible psuedo-intellectualism which sought to apply modern prejudices to Medieval and Ancient history.
 

mark87

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,118
Santiago de Chile
In traditional political terms, Nazism can be described most accurately as perhaps the most vicious and murderous form of interwar middle European fascism, in this case of the German variety. It had a lot in common with Italian fascism and European fascism more in general (naturally, sorry for the redundancy). Unlike other forms of fascism of the time it had a very strong strain of racism and ultimately its most lasting historical legacy, antisemitism. Nazism took on a sort of midway point between the liberal democracies and communism or hard lined socialism espoused by the soviet union of the time, a third way if you will also seen for example in the falangist movement in francoist Spain. It theoretically (in practice it was not so) repudiated regular liberal capitalism and democracy (this it did do) in lieu of a strong one party state with a cult of the leader (Hitler). It also clashed with socialism and communism and offered itself in propaganda terms as an answer to communism but also to capitalist democracy (which failed in the Wiemar experiment, partly due to Nazism itself undermining it) which especially after the 1929 stock market crash and subsequent depression was viewed by many all over the world to be discredited.
The antisemitic element of Nazism is bit complex, it was based on both a long tradition of antisemitism in middle Europe dating from the middle ages but at the same time added the mangled Darwinist racial hygienic approach to it. Social Darwinism was somewhat popular in many places of the world at the time, and the Nazi belief in the superiority of white people (Germans in this case) was not exactly unheard of for the time. Even their views regarding racial hygiene were not exactly out of place for their context, but the Nazi T4 euthanasia program and the Holocaust and the war itself was most definitely the most brutal and murderous (to my knowledge) application of social Darwinism seen around the globe at the time. On some level, their worldview was not exactly unique for their time period but the methods, brutality, and ultimately the excessive goals they had for their worldview were completely unique and put Nazism in a category all its own. Nazism in this sense is fascism taken to another level perhaps.
Patriotism and love of country are one thing, willing to kill off whole groups of innocent people to prove you're love of country is an entirely different thing. Unfortunately Germany of the early 20th century was imbibed by a very virulent strain of patriotism which was surprisingly deep in a huge sector of the population, now said patriotism was not necessarily fascist or antisemitic in its nature, but it did help on some level to goad loads of 'regular' Germans to partake of the nastiness that came after Nazism took hold of Germany.
 

sculptingman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
3,693
San Diego
Well, I would not blame darwin for eugenics...
That idea goes back to the very concept of aristocracy, "breeding" and blue blood. Darwinism simply gave a loosely scientific patina to that concept of some people being 'better' than others.


In truth- the Germans and Japanese fascists seized upon darwinian ideas of supremacy simply because they were ideas in vogue among the common classes and they appealed to a sense of a given people being "number one".

We see the same dynamic today- with the idea of American Excpetionalism being perverted into rank xenophobia and isolationism.


The Brits for the prior century had validated their own empire with similar self aggrandizing notions of superiority- they just thought of theirs as being cultural, more than genetic.

But its just the same old saw of selling people on the idea that THEY are special, and all their problems blamable on OTHER people.
In group Outgroup dynamics.


What Made Nazism and fascism different was their rejection of intellectualism and knowledge in favor of narrative. Their corruption of truth to serve a narrative, and their disregard for any process meant to check their power and authority.

Thus Fascism is revealed as simple authoritarian despotism... but not as the result of coup, or conquest by an authoritarian... but thru the agency of propaganda, misinformation, and scapegoating- the WINNING of authoritarian power over an otherwise democratic people.

Authoritarians seize power. Fascists get the populace to GIVE them power- which they then abuse.
The only difference between a despot and an fascist is the fascist is more of a salesman.
 

pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
10,095
@mark87,

Like most gringos, I am not well informed on South American history. As Argentina, and to some degree some other states in South America, had something of a flirtation with Fascist and nationalist ideologies, may I ask what was Chile's experience from the late 1930s through the end of the war, and beyond that?

I am not trying to deflect, or inject something into the OP, but since you are our Chilean expert :), I thought it worth asking if there were Peronist type politicians that appeared or made some impact in Chile during the period of European fascist politics (Spain; Portugal; Germany and Italy).

There has been a great deal of apocrypha connected to Nazis in South America after the war. How much of it has traction - other than Eichmann and Mengele - is not known to me. Obviously they had facilitators and enablers in more than one country. Were there Chilean connections before, during and after the war?
 

mark87

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,118
Santiago de Chile
@mark87,

Like most gringos, I am not well informed on South American history. As Argentina, and to some degree some other states in South America, had something of a flirtation with Fascist and nationalist ideologies, may I ask what was Chile's experience from the late 1930s through the end of the war, and beyond that?

I am not trying to deflect, or inject something into the OP, but since you are our Chilean expert :), I thought it worth asking if there were Peronist type politicians that appeared or made some impact in Chile during the period of European fascist politics (Spain; Portugal; Germany and Italy).

There has been a great deal of apocrypha connected to Nazis in South America after the war. How much of it has traction - other than Eichmann and Mengele - is not known to me. Obviously they had facilitators and enablers in more than one country. Were there Chilean connections before, during and after the war?
Oh wow this is a lot :lol:. There are various and multiple connections. Peron's Argentina was probably the closest pseudo ally to the axis, and he paid dearly in the immediate postwar for his neutral stance. Chile also played coy and kept strict neutrality (as was done during the great war) in both cases this was done, in both nations, due to a variety of factors mainly including good ties and relations with both sides. Both nations had relatively large, prosperous, and influential ''German'' immigrant communities that were for patriotic reasons understandably sympathetic to Germany both in the first war and during the second one.
Chile specifically had two main connections to European fascism, one was the intellectual connection with Franco's Spain which bore fruit a falangist political movement which basically became non fascist and mainstream after the war without any hardcore aspects to it, in fact they have become the party most often associated with social democracy and are fully democratic since the late forties. The depression hit Chile and Latin america in general very hard, even harder than parts of north america and Europe, so regular liberal democracy was very much impopular in a sense so that led to sympathetic views of a third way, both francoist style falangism and less massive but still relatively popular Nazism, which was dealt a death blow both by the war's result but also previously in Chile by a large massacre done by the government of the time against national socialist youth paramilitaries who were gunned down in an attempted coup. The war discredited most of all of the nastiness of Nazism and fascism in general, populism grew a lot, but within a somewhat liberal democracy framework.
Now the last bit, the connection with Nazism in a more real way, that is harder to assert because a lot of what happened right after the war is marred in a nebulous and haze of the postwar itself and all the conspiracy theories and myths that arose in the time about hidden Nazi's and whatnot. A few mid level and very lower level ''higher ups'' in the Nazi hierarchy made it to south america, this was for a few factors. 1. Large or relatively large German immigrant communities who were somewhat nationalist and pro German and were willing to aid them. 2. Peron's Argentina specifically had its own sort of operation paperclip going on and decided to allow in a lot of ''refugees'' from the war torn continent into the country knowing some of them were not clean. 3. The logistics in place made it somewhat hard to really know who really was who in the period, and most of those who sought refuge contrary to popular fiction were not big names or recognizable, and many went to enormous lengths to hide their true identity and by the time they were caught many nations could no longer process them due to statute of limitations in the legal systems in place, and in other cases authorities of military juntas and authoritarian governments simply didn't care too much. It should also be pointed out that due to all these reasons they just wasn't the European and north american mindset of hunting down these men with the same vigor, after all except for Brazil and to a lesser degree Mexico, the rest of Latin america was strictly neutral regarding the war.
 

Pendennis

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,386
Kirkcaldy, Scotland
Briefly -very very briefly- early Nazism went through a left wing socialist phase under Gregor Strasser but Adolf and the boys soon dumped Herr Strasser in the early 1920's.
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,787
UK
Whilst the USA and UK were opposed to Nazism, they still promoted to liberal democracy. Though I think the real reason was due to upsetting the balance of power, and Hitler despising democracy. I don't see it as a contradiction for Britain to be racist and then oppose Hitler.
 

Ancientgeezer

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
8,904
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
Briefly -very very briefly- early Nazism went through a left wing socialist phase under Gregor Strasser but Adolf and the boys soon dumped Herr Strasser in the early 1920's.
I would suggest that the NSDAP maintained it's "left wing" component , it was after all, always a left wing outfit by democratic standards as evinced by its position between it's Harzberg Front partners, the reactionary DNVP, the Agricultural Party and the Pan-German League versus the various Socialists and Communist parties (there were several of each).
In the Harzberg Front, the NSDAP was the most "left wing" of the group in its policies towards capital, labour and social welfare.

Throughout its existence it had two distinct wings. It's "left", was originally, as you say, led by Strasser, but later fronted by Goebbels, Ley, Muchow, and their acolytes who detested "Capitalism" and promoted a more levelled society even to the extent that the forerunner of the Labour Front, the National Socialist Factory Cell Organisation, had a manifesto identical to that of the National Bolshevists. The SA before its disbandment had over 400,000 full-time members who were largely drawn from the modestly educated working classes and those lower middle class people ruined during the inflation--the same recruitment pool as the Communists with very much the same political outlook.

The NSDAP was also "left-wing" in its fiscal policies--it used Keynesian concepts of deficit financing and State intervention in and investment in industry and influence on prices and incomes. In pre-war NSDAP Germany average real wages actually fell in real terms, however un-employment almost vanished thanks to State-funded job creation schemes as well as strict hiring and firing practices imposed on the private sector. The multiplicity of private welfare organisations were all consolidated into the National Socialist People's Welfare (NSV), that equalised welfare provision on a national basis and did not discriminate between Catholic and Protestant--although Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses and "foreign elements" were excluded.

Although there was a substantial degree of privatisation in the first years of NSDAP rule (something already planned by their predecessors), the "commanding heights of the economy" increasingly came under the direction of Party appointed directors and subject to a number of Party-controlled Industrial oversight authorities. Unprofitable businesses were nationalised or forced to merge into State-directed conglomorates---a landscape that would have been immediately recognisable to the Industrial Policy planners of the British Labour Party c.1948. The Herman Goering Werke, a State enterprise, originally intended to keep a few bankrupt metal enterprises open grew like topsy as it acquired more and more businesses and forcibly took over many of its competitors. The assets of Jews and other "enemies of the State" were confiscated after 1936 and this included substantial businesses, especially in the retail and luxury goods market--these were nationalised or closed down or--sometimes, sold on the cheap to party cronies.

So Left or Right?

Very much a Left wing organisation with exclusive nationalism replacing the normal socialist pretense of inclusivity and Internationalism and with better uniforms and smarter cars.
 

Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
4,514
Caribbean
I'm kind of curious on where Nazism is in line with previous traditions and ideologies, what it's historical precursors were, what it's ideological innovations were, and ultimately what its fatal flaw was.
I think fits perfectly in line with almost all traditions and ideologies - namely - the few rule over the many. I would suggest at least a modicum of skepticism over whether politicians believe their own [expletive deleted].

Don't overthink it. When ruthless men acquire power without boundaries, they do horrible things. Philosophizing about it as some form of neo-intellectualism is just one the perks of the job.