Nazism or National Socialism was an extreme right-wing totalitarian ideology put into practice by the government of German dictator Adolf Hitler during the Third Reich (1933-1945).
The expansion of Nazism and the rise of Hitler to power meant the end of the brief democratic experience of the Weimar Republic, the militarization of Germany and the consequent outbreak of World War II.
Origin of Nazism
After World War I, Germany suffered the devastating effects of defeat. In 1919, Adolf Hitler joined the ranks of the German Workers’ Party, which eventually became the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP).
Hitler and the National Socialists tried to recover among the people the feeling of belonging to Germany. The Nazis sought to restore pride among a population punished by the hardships of the First World War. Poverty and social discontent were more than evident among the Germans, circumstances that Hitler did not hesitate to take advantage of.
In fact, Hitler quickly took command of the National Socialist Party and in 1923 staged a failed coup known as the Munich Putsch. Despite this, the Nazis did not get enough social support in the 1920s.
Meanwhile, Hitler consolidated his power in the party by surrounding himself with its core power. Men like Goering, Sttrasser, Hess, and Röhm became the main leaders of National Socialism. In turn, while he was in prison, Hitler wrote his book “My Struggle”, in which he laid the theoretical foundations of a totalitarian ideology such as Nazism.
In their eagerness to seize power, Hitler and the Nazis did not hesitate to combine legal methods and violent methods. Thus, while the National Socialist Party was formally presenting itself in the elections, it had the support of street agitators from the SA paramilitary organization.
However, the real rise of the Nazi Party did not come until the 1930s. Germany had suffered severely from the Great Depression, unemployment was high, it had also suffered the consequences of hyperinflation and the people were wary of the institutions of the troubled Weimar Republic.
From 1930 to 1933, the National Socialist Party was gaining social support, counting on the support of the rural population and small towns. This promotion was achieved at the cost of the support lost by the liberal and nationalist parties.
By 1933, the National Socialist Party, led by Hitler, rose to power, contesting the elections while causing street riots and engaging in conspiracies with the backing of sectors of the army and businessmen.
What were the main ideas of Nazism?
Nazism was characterized as a racist ideology, which established the superiority of the Aryan race over the others. In this sense, the Nazis persecuted the Jews for considering them traitors and responsible for the German defeat in the First World War. For this reason, the Nazis persecuted, sterilized and exterminated the Jews.
Within the framework of these racist and extermination policies, gypsies, homosexuals, the physically handicapped and opponents of left-wing movements also suffered the fierce repression of the Nazi regime.
Another fundamental axis of Hitler’s political ideas was the frontal opposition to the conditions imposed on Germany through the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Thus, Hitler advocated strong militarization and territorial expansion through what he called Lebensraum or living space. At the head of a totalitarian state endowed with a powerful army, Hitler intended to recover the territories lost by Germany in the First World War.
Another notable aspect in the bases of the National Socialist ideology was the rejection of parliamentarism. Faced with democracy, National Socialism bet on military expansionism and a power concentrated in the person of a Führer or warlord.
It is worth noting the marked rejection of leftist movements and communism in particular. Thus, when the Nazis came to power in Germany, they outlawed unions and the only party allowed was the National Socialist Party.
the third reich
With Hitler sitting in power in 1933, the lack of political freedom was felt from the start. Political movements opposed to National Socialism were persecuted, trade union organizations were banned, and the persecution of Jews began.
Culture and the media were tightly controlled by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, while the SS, a racist paramilitary organization led by Heinrich Himmler, was in charge of social control. The Nazis penetrated all social strata, while the Gestapo and the SS, through a policy of terror, eliminated any type of dissent.
As for the economy, this was articulated in four-year plans. To do this, Germany opted for autarky, while the country experienced strong industrialization and a spectacular reduction in unemployment. In fact, production returned to the levels prior to the economic crises. And it is that, Hitler needed a strong industry to provide the necessary material to his army.
Germany did not take long to rearm and breach the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. The country also left the League of Nations, reoccupied the Rhineland demilitarized zone, and annexed Czechoslovakia and Austria. The subsequent invasion of Poland caused the Second World War which, in 1945, resulted in the final defeat of the Nazi regime.