National Socialism

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Adolf Hitler in 1927 as a speaker at the Third Reich Party Congress of the NSDAP (the first in Nuremberg ). Heinrich Himmler , Rudolf Heß , Franz Pfeffer von Salomon and Gregor Strasser can be seen in the background .

The Nazi is a radically antisemitic , racial , nationalist ( chauvinist ), ethnic , social- , anticommunist , anti-liberal and anti-democratic ideology . It has its roots in the völkisch movement that developed around the beginning of the 1880s in the German Empire and in Austria-Hungary . From 1919, after the First World War , it became an independent political movement in German-speaking countries.

The National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), founded in 1920, came to power in Germany under Adolf Hitler on January 30, 1933 , and transformed the Weimar Republic into the dictatorship of the NS state through terror , breaches of law and the so-called Gleichschaltung . This sparked in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, the Second World War made, during which the Nazis and their collaborators numerous war crimes and mass murders committed, including the Holocaust of six million European Jews and Porajmos to the European Roma . The time of National Socialism ended with the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht on May 8, 1945.

Since then, dealing with the Nazi past has influenced politics. Nazi propaganda , the use of symbols from that time and political activity in the National Socialist sense have been banned in Germany and Austria since 1945 . Similar bans exist in other states. Neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists continue to represent National Socialist or related ideas and goals. In Nazi research, it is controversial whether National Socialism can be described with generalizing terms such as fascism or totalitarianism or whether it was a singular phenomenon.


In the German-speaking world, “ national socialism ” has been the term used to describe connections between nationalist and socialist ideas since around 1860 . The German Workers 'Party , founded in Austria in 1903 and renamed the German National Socialist Workers' Party (DNSAP) in 1918 , was the first to speak of “National Socialism” . Accordingly, the German Workers' Party (DAP), founded in Germany in 1919, was renamed the NSDAP in 1920.

With the designation "National Socialism" these new parties delimited their ideology against the internationalism of the social democratic and communist parties and from the conservative nationalism of older parties by offering themselves to their electorate (workers and middle class) as a better alternative. In addition, they placed individual anti-capitalist demands in the context of a nationalist racist nationalism and, since 1920, presented themselves as a “movement”, not as a party, in order to reach protest voters and politicians disapproved of.

Today the term usually describes the particular ideology of Adolf Hitler and his followers. Hitler defined the devotion of the individual to his national community as "nationalism" ; he called their responsibility for the individual "socialism". He firmly opposed the socialization of the means of production , a main goal of the socialists. According to the historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler , socialism only lived on in the NSDAP “in a corrupt form” as a national community ideology.

In addition, the NSDAP differentiated its National Socialism from Italian fascism . However , since 1925 (based on the Soviet Union ), fascism has often been used as a generic term for "National Socialism" (" Hitler fascism "), Italian fascism and related anti-communist ideologies, regimes and systems. In Marxist theories of fascism , National Socialism is classified as a form of fascism. Non-Marxist researchers who explain National Socialism as a variant of fascism include Ernst Nolte , who in his work The Fascism in His Epoch (1963), distinguished it from Italian “normal fascism ” as “radical fascism ”, or Wolfgang Benz , who described it 2010 referred to as the “most radical manifestation of fascist ideologies”. Jörg Echternkamp argues that only the coordinate system developed by transnational fascism research allows a classification of National Socialism and a comparison with other movements. The affinity between them, affirmed by many scientists, is less evident in the respective programs than in their activism and their immense willingness to use violence .

After 1945, National Socialism was called totalitarianism , especially in the USA and the former Federal Republic of Germany , and under this umbrella term it was paralleled with the ideology and the system of rule of Stalinism . Theories of fascism and totalitarianism are controversial in research. The historians Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wippermann argue that subsuming National Socialism under one of these theories fails to recognize its essence, the racial ideological program. According to the French psychoanalyst Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel and the German social scientist Samuel Salzborn, the application of the concept of fascism to National Socialism rationalizes the Holocaust and thereby plays it down. This subconsciously serves to suppress and ward off the guilt of the parents or grandparents' generation. For these and other reasons, these researchers, as well as Karl Dietrich Bracher and Bernd Martin, advocate viewing National Socialism as an independent and singular phenomenon.

The expressions “ Nazis ” for the National Socialists and “ Nazism ” for their ideology became common among their opponents in the labor movement , later also among the liberated prisoners of the Buchenwald concentration camp and in the GDR . Today's supporters of National Socialism are often called " neo-Nazis ".


swastika sketch from 1920 with the note: “The sacred symbols of the Teutons . One of these signs should be raised by us again. "

German anti-Semites had organized themselves into several political parties, many groups and associations since 1879. The anti-Semite parties wanted to end and revise Jewish emancipation , but failed to achieve their goals. After losing votes in the Reichstag elections of 1912, new, non-partisan anti-Semitic clubs and associations such as the Reichshammerbund of Theodor Fritsch , the " Association against the presumption of Judaism " and the secret order of Teutons , from which the Munich Thule Society emerged in 1918 . Their magazine, the Munich observer with the swastika as the title symbol, became the party organ of the NSDAP, the Völkische Beobachter .

Another forerunner of National Socialism was the small, extremely nationalist and imperialist, non-partisan All-German Association (founded in 1891). He strove for a warlike expansion of the German " living space " and a policy of submission. During the First World War, with his strong anti-Semitic propaganda, he reached the state Jewish census of 1916. After 1918 he called for a “national dictatorship” against “foreigners”.

In 1914 the German National Sales Aid Association was founded , and two older anti-Semitic parties united as the German Nationalist Party (DVP). This united in the course of the war with the Pan-German Association. On his initiative, groups that had dissolved towards the end of the war and newly founded völkisch groups such as the German-Austrian Protection Association Antisemite Association , the Association of German Officials and the Association of Völkischer Women united to form the German Völkisch Protection and Defense Association . In 1920 this had around 200,000 members in 600 local groups, but was banned after the Hitler-Ludendorff putsch in 1923. After the re-admission of the NSDAP, he lost influence over it and was completely dissolved in 1933.

In addition, since the October Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent Russian Civil War , many anti-communist groups have spread, including through Russian refugees. Under the propaganda slogan “ Jewish Bolshevism ”, national-conservative elites and the Freikorps formed from soldiers at the front equated Jews and communists. They often also represented the conspiracy theory of an alleged world-ruling world Jewry . Among them was the " Economic Development Association " founded in Munich in 1920 . This supported the NSDAP financially and ideologically.

Under National Socialism, these currents and groups merged their racist, nationalist, “Pan-German” and imperialist ideas and goals. The strongest supporting link between their diverse ideas was anti-Semitism. Since the November Revolution of 1918, this has also shown itself to be a radical rejection of the Weimar Republic , which denounced these groups as a "Jewish Republic" created by November criminals. The Völkische defined their worldview as a strict opposition to the Marxism of the left parties, to the political Catholicism of the Center Party and to their fiction of a "world Jewry". Parts of the völkisch movement already represented ideas of "human discipline" ( eugenics ).


25-point program

As a collective movement of ethnic, racist and revisionist groups, National Socialism initially did not form a consistent ideology. Hans Frank therefore later declared in the Nuremberg Trials that there had been "as many National Socialisms as National Socialists". The party was held together by the person of Hitler, who, as a charismaticFührer ”, had the monopoly on interpreting what National Socialism meant: “Our program is called Hitler”, was a National Socialist slogan.

The program was laid down in writing in the 25-point program adopted when the NSDAP was founded in 1920.

The first priority was foreign policy goals. Point 2 derived the repeal of the Versailles Peace Treaty , point 3 "Land and soil ( colonies ) for feeding our people and settling our population surplus" from the "union of all Germans ... into one Greater Germany" with reference to the peoples' right to self-determination . This was followed by domestic political demands for the exclusion of certain parts of the population through racist aliens legislation:

“A citizen can only be someone who is a national . Only those who are of German blood can be a national, regardless of their denomination . No Jew can therefore be a national comrade. "

From this point 6 concluded the exclusion of Jews from all state and party offices, point 8 a ban on immigration and immediate compulsory deportation of all persons defined as “non-Germans” who had immigrated since August 2, 1914.

The guiding principle of the racial national community was thus formulated outwardly in an expansive manner, inwardly as the disenfranchisement of a part of the Germans. In points 9-17, this was followed by some bold economic and socio-political demands steeped in resentment, which were intended to show the party's claim to represent the interests of German workers:

  • general duty to work
  • "Abolition of work and effortless income"
  • " Breaking interest bondage "
  • "Confiscation of all war profits"
  • "Nationalization of all (so far) already socialized (trusts) companies"
  • "Profit sharing in large companies"
  • "Expansion of pensions"
  • "Creation of a healthy middle class and its maintenance"
  • "Localization of large department stores and their leasing to small businesses at low prices"
  • "A free expropriation of land for charitable purposes"
  • "Abolition of the interest on land and the prevention of all land speculation".

Point 18 called for the death penalty for "common criminals, usurers, smugglers, etc. regardless of religion or race": again a clear reference to the intended target group, the Jews. Point 19 called for the replacement of an allegedly "materialistic" Roman law by a "common German law".

The idea of ​​a unity of people and state was followed by demands for state expansion of popular education (20), "raising public health" through "physical training" (21), and forming a "people's army" (22). The intended abolition of freedom of the press and the introduction of press censorship were cloaked as a “legal fight against conscious political lies and their spread” (23). Since only “people's comrades” were supposed to be newspaper editors and publishing house owners, an anti-Semitic impulse emerged here too: the topos of the “Jewish world press” had long been common among anti-Semites. At the same time, art and culture should also be "cleaned" of the "corrosive influence on our people's life": this was the basis of Nazi cultural policy, especially the action against so-called " degenerate art ".

In apparent contradiction to this, point 24 affirmed the freedom of religion “in the state”, but only “as long as it does not endanger its existence or violate the morality and morality of the Germanic race.” With the commitment to a “ positive Christianity ” without commitment a certain denomination , but in a unified position against a “Jewish-materialistic spirit in and outside of us” was a prerequisite for the later church struggle.

The program culminated in the slogan “common good before self-interest” and the demand for a “ strong central power of the empire ”, whose “framework laws” enacted in “unconditional authority” were to be implemented by newly formed chambers of estates and professional bodies in the states. This already indicated the later policy of harmonization towards federal institutions. The party leaders would advocate the implementation of the program “if necessary at the risk of their own lives”.

Darré at a rally, December 1937

While the main foreign and domestic policy demands in points 1–8 were precisely and specifically formulated and were actually largely implemented by the state from 1933, many of the economic and cultural policy demands in points 9–20 remained vague (11), unclear (13), bizarre or practically unrealisable (such as the "collection of all war profits" in point 14). These ambiguities led to a sometimes heated internal ideology debate and various economic programs. Otto Wagener, for example, demanded the support of the middle class, Richard Walther Darré that of the peasants, Gottfried Feder demanded the "breaking of interest bondage" invented by him. As party leader, Hitler later partially took this dispute into account by revising, reducing, or ignoring some program demands. In 1928 he reduced the announced land reform to the expropriation of “Jewish” land speculation societies. How the "interest bondage" should be broken, however, he left open. After fierce disputes about “ socialism ” under National Socialism, the 25-point program was declared “unalterable” at the Bamberg leadership conference in 1926, and no specific interpretation was made.

In an interview with a Catalan journalist in November 1923, Hitler explained why the NSDAP campaigned for the removal of Jews from Germany: killing them without exception "would of course be the best solution". Since this is not possible because of the expected reaction from abroad, the only solution remains the mass displacement.

My fight

In Mein Kampf , Hitler primarily affirmed the foreign and population policy goals of the NSDAP program, above all the annexation of Austria to what is now the “ Greater German Reich ”. In contrast to the German Empire, which tried to compete with the British Empire as a colonial power in Africa and Far Asia, Hitler did not want to gain living space in Western Europe and overseas, but in Eastern Europe . In doing so, he probably joined the geopolitical theories of Rudolf Kjellén , Halford Mackinder and Karl Haushofer , who saw the conquest and domination of the land mass of "Eurasia" as the key to world domination. The medieval myth of some knights of the order of a German "urge to the east" was behind this idea.

In doing so, Hitler thought of "Russia and the peripheral states subject to him". In order to conquer it, he first wanted to revise the Versailles Treaty, then isolate France with the help of an alliance with Great Britain and Italy , and later destroy it entirely. In doing so, he revised point 3 of the NSDAP program: the conquering of colonies would provoke England to protest. Germany would have to guarantee its colonial power, then the British would let it go on the continent. Poland did not mention Hitler here, and the USA and Japan only appeared in passing. These priorities were new to the preferences of imperial imperialists.

An “information poster” from the exhibition Miracles of Life , March 1935 in Berlin

In Mein Kampf , Hitler commented on economic policy on only five pages. The point of public health, on the other hand, he made broad and emphasized the racism of the Nazi ideology, which also supported economic and cultural-political ideas. His two inextricably linked basic ideas were

  • the thesis of higher and lower races at war with one another;
  • the thesis that "racial intermingling" would be harmful to the higher race would inevitably weaken it and would dissolve it in the long term.

These ideological principles were founded by social Darwinists , eugenicists and racial theorists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Francis Galton , Ernst Haeckel , Alfred Ploetz and Wilhelm Schallmayer . What was new was that “ racial hygiene ” was made a comprehensive political program for the first time. Hitler saw “preservation of the species” as the main task of the state and concluded that it had to consistently protect the “unmixed stocks of Nordic-Germanic people” in the German people and thus “slowly but surely bring them up to a dominant position”. The strong leader state must promote “the victory of the better and stronger” and the subordination of the “worse and weaker”. In concrete terms, this meant, for example, the forced sterilization of those classified as “disabled” and “hereditary diseases” and at the same time child benefit, cheap housing and material benefits for “German families”. The "bearers of the highest racial purity" should receive a "settlement certificate" and be settled in "marginal colonies" still to be conquered. At the end Hitler again emphasized his objective:

"A state that, in the age of racial poisoning, dedicates itself to the care of its best racial elements, must one day become master of the earth."

The counter-image to this vision was "World Jewry", which was portrayed in Hitler's conspiracy theory as the originator of all negative phenomena, such as the First World War, the defeat in it, the November Revolution and inflation. In doing so, he identified Judaism both with " finance capital " in the USA and with its global opponent, " Bolshevism ". Apparently contradicting this global superiority, Hitler emphasized the absolute inferiority and inferior dependency of the Jews on their Aryan " host people " and described them as parasites, parasites , bacilli, leeches, fissile fungi, rats, etc. In all its manifestations, Judaism strives for "decomposition "," Bastardization "and" blood poisoning "of the German people: for example through prostitution , spread of venereal diseases, seduction of unsuspecting Aryan girls. Propagating this pornographic image became the main task of the specially founded propaganda paper Der Stürmer des Gauleiter of Franconia, Julius Streicher .

Auschwitz-Birkenau mass extermination camp

In the second volume of Mein Kampf , Hitler finally openly expressed the idea of ​​a proxy, preventive extermination of the Jews:

"If at the beginning of the war and during the war twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters had been kept under poison gas as hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers from all walks of life and professions had to endure in the field, then the millions of victims at the front would not have been in vain. On the contrary: Eliminated twelve thousand villains at the right time would perhaps have saved the life of a million decent Germans who would be valuable for the future. "

To carry out this task in the future, Hitler saw himself determined by " Providence " - as his expression for God :

"By resisting the Jew, I am fulfilling the Lord's work."

That is why the historian Saul Friedländer speaks of the National Socialist movement and its immediate precursors of a special “redemption anti-Semitism” that goes beyond traditional Christian, but also ethnic and social Darwinist hostility towards Jews.

Leader cult and leader state

Eger receives Hitler, Sudeten Germany , October 1938

In all European countries there have been strong tendencies towards authoritarian, anti-democratic political concepts since the beginning of the 20th century, the acceptance of which after 1918 also resulted from disappointment with pluralistic democracy and mass misery. The worship of the ruler in a monarchy , based on the idea of divine grace , could already be understood as a “leader cult” . The First World War disappointed the image of the heroic emperor , but it made nationalists even more longing for the heroic leader . The rising fascism turned this into a party-political concept: first with the Duce Benito Mussolini in Italy, then with the Caudillo General Franco in Spain , but also in the cult of "little father" Stalin in the Soviet Union.

Unlike in Italy, the personality cult around the “Führer” began ten years before the “ seizure of power ” after the Hitler coup of 1923, from the failure of which Hitler concluded that the NSDAP had to be a tightly run leader party and that he himself determined to “rescue” Germany be. The expectations of the party base of him met this. The German cult of the Führer went hand in hand with the development of the NSDAP into a mass party and served its integration, clout and expansion. In 1933 it was not grafted onto an existing centralized military dictatorship as it was in Spain or Russia to safeguard it, but rather as an organizational principle of a leader state created by bringing all existing administrative and government institutions into line without substitution. After the death of the Reich President von Hindenburg , on August 2, 1934, Hitler was also Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht as Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor ; since 1938 the government cabinet has not met either.

Unlike in the Soviet Union, which continued until 1991 after Stalin's death in 1953, the principle of the “charismatic leader personality” ( Max Weber ), who guided and oriented the rival forces in state and party through their “will” , undermined the independent functioning of the Bureaucracy in Germany. The state, which for a long time was directly governed by Führer decrees and ordinances, was therefore only able to outlast Hitler's defeat and death for a very short time. According to Ian Kershaw , the German National Socialist state stood and fell with the person of the “Führer”.

The Vichy regime (1940–1944) in the south of France was also a “leader state”; its leader was Philippe Pétain .

Further characteristics and developments of the Nazi ideology

“Lichtdom”, staged at the 1936 Nazi Party Congress

Other main characteristics of National Socialism were:

  • the central role of Nazi propaganda and mass staging as a means of domination and its protection internally and externally.
  • Totalitarianism : destruction of democracy , one-party rule, abolition of the separation of powers , instrumentalization of all political control bodies and media, far-reaching powers for secret services and informers , police state
  • Militarism and imperialism: Even during the rise of the NSDAP, arsenals were set up and armed thug gangs were trained to use street violence to intimidate political opponents. During the years of the Weimar Republic, National Socialist propaganda initially focused on treaty revisionism , i.e. the demand for the re-appropriation of the areas lost as a result of the German defeat and thus for the repeal or breach of the Versailles Treaty . This was defamed as the "shame of Versailles" or "Versailles disgraceful dictate". From 1933 on, rearmament was carried out, initially secretly, then openly, and the contractual ties to the League of Nations and international law were first undermined, then broken. As soon as the Wehrmacht would be strong enough, Hitler planned targeted wars of aggression to restore and expand a Greater Germany built on the development of military power. One country after the other should be isolated and individually fought down. In the opinion of most historians, the ultimate goal was the conquest of the continental mainland, the Soviet Union as far as the Arkhangelsk – Ural Mountains – Caucasus line and the colonization of these areas by the Germans. Other researchers believe they have evidence that Hitler was striving for (utopian) world domination . Dominion over the occupied territories was to be strengthened by driving out undesirable groups of the population.
  • The blood-and-soil ideology , the glorification of the peasant class (the “nutritional status”). Some National Socialists rejected urbanization and increasing industrialization and longed nostalgically for a country that was tilled by farmers as always. Even Heinrich Himmler had such thoughts when he proposed to settle the conquered territories of the Soviet Union with farmers who should be both soldiers ( "wehrbauer"). Russians, Ukrainians and Poles should provide the farm workers, domestic staff, construction workers or unskilled workers.
    Hunger plan : Starved Soviet prisoners of war in Mauthausen concentration camp
  • The propagation of the master race or the master people, who have the right to oppress, drive out or destroy other “inferior peoples”.
  • Male rule and the cult of masculinity, i.e. propagation of values ​​such as bravery and military strength. "Feminine values" are denounced by men as cowardice , illness and "decomposition of defensive strength".
  • Conspiracy theory : The delusional idea that international Judaism conspired to achieve world domination is viewed by various historians as the core of National Socialism. This conspiracy theory already emerged in a conversation with Hitler published by Dietrich Eckart in 1924 , in which an unbroken continuity of the alleged Jewish machinations from the second millennium BC is asserted. In the imagery of National Socialist propaganda, for example in the election posters before 1933 or in the caricatures of the striker , "the" Jew was regularly depicted in conspiracy-theoretical metaphors such as the mastermind behind the scenes of world events or the global octopus or spider. And during the war against the Soviet Union , the Wehrmacht justified the implementation of criminal orders such as the commissar's order or the martial law decree on the basis of conspiracy theory with the thesis of Jewish Bolshevism : behind the Soviet system, in truth, is Judaism. On November 20, 1941 , General von Manstein instructed his troops to “show understanding” for the “hard atonement against Judaism” :

“Judaism is the intermediary between the enemy at the rear and the remnants of the Red Army and the Red leadership who are still fighting […]. The Jewish-Bolshevik system must be exterminated once and for all. "

Capitalism and anti-capitalism

At the center of the scientific debate about the character of the National Socialist economic ideology has always been the question of whether National Socialism was capitalist or socialist .

In 1939, before the war began, the German sociologist Max Horkheimer took the position: Those who do not want to talk about capitalism should keep silent about fascism. In a book published in 2011, the Marxist historian Manfred Weißbecker describes the name NSDAP as pure demagoguery , since the party was in fact neither national nor socialist, but fascist.

In contrast, the Austrian-American economist Ludwig von Mises attested the fascist economic program of 1927 to be anti-liberal and interventionist, even if not as largely as Bolshevism .

The economic policy orientation of National Socialism is examined on different levels:

  • as a question of the financial sources of the NSDAP and the circles that brought Hitler to power,
  • as a question of the importance of anti-capitalist elements for the ideology of the National Socialists,
  • as a question of the actual economic policy of the Nazi regime 1933–1945.

Financial sources of the NSDAP

Marxists see the donation practice of German industrialists like Fritz Thyssen and Emil Kirdorf and the industrialists' submission of November 1932, which called on President Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Reich Chancellor, mostly as evidence of the responsibility of big industry for the transfer of power to Hitler. The GDR historian Eberhard Czichon, for example, said that a “Nazi group” of German “industrialists, bankers and large agrarians wanted and organized Hitler's chancellorship”.

His West German colleague Reinhard Neebe , on the other hand, emphasized that most German entrepreneurs and their umbrella organization, the Reichsverband der Deutschen Industrie , did not support Hitler, but the previous governments of Heinrich Brüning , Franz von Papen and Kurt von Schleicher . The American historian Henry Ashby Turner underpinned this view with studies according to which the NSDAP did not get its financial means primarily from industrial donations, but from membership fees and entrance fees. Big industry has always given it significantly less money than its competitors DNVP , DVP and Zentrum . They only wanted to protect themselves in the event of an unwanted Nazi seizure of power. The big entrepreneurs are therefore hardly considered to be the main cause of the rise of the National Socialists and Hitler's takeover of power from 1932 to 1934.

Anti-capitalism in the Nazi ideology

In the ideology of the National Socialists there were anti-capitalist elements that were mostly anti-Semitic . It is controversial how these elements should be classified in the context of Nazi propaganda, especially after the Strasser wing was eliminated within the NSDAP.

The party's 25-point program of 1920, which Hitler declared "unchangeable" until 1926, contained several anti-capitalist demands such as the breaking of interest bondage , the nationalization of trusts and profit sharing in large companies. Initially, leading National Socialists such as Joseph Goebbels , Gregor Strasser and his brother Otto , who left the party with his supporters in 1930, regularly used socialist cues in their speeches. Hitler himself was clearly committed to private property , but in National Socialist practice there were numerous expropriations of private property. B. in the course of the so-called " Aryanization ". Mainly affected by expropriation were Jews, but also non-Jewish emigrants and politically unpopular people.

Albrecht Ritschl refers to the gradual elimination of the socialist party wing between 1930 and 1934 and interprets the anti-capitalist tones as anti-Semitism in disguise. The close connection between anti-capitalism and anti-Semitism in National Socialist propaganda is shown, for example, in the motion that the chairman of the NSDAP parliamentary group made in the Reichstag on October 18, 1930. In it he called for the expropriation of the entire property of the "bank and stock exchange princes, the Eastern Jews who had moved here since August 1, 1914, and other foreigners [...] for the common good of the German people."

In 1931, at the height of the global economic crisis , the NSDAP demanded state job creation programs to recruit the workforce as NSDAP voters. In May 1933 the Nazi regime crushed the organized labor movement in the form of the left-wing parties and the trade unions. Domestically, the NSDAP viewed Marxist and communist groups as the main enemy, just as Bolshevism was the main enemy in foreign policy.

The alternative, “national socialism”, was defined as “ national community ”. This was understood as a “unity of people and state” under the unified Nazi ideology and a “ strong state ”, guided by a “leader”. The classification of all citizens in the obligation to work and the racially defined national interests left open whether the production relations should be overturned for this purpose: This keyword was missing in the 25-point program. As a counter-concept to the central idea of ​​the international classless society in Marxism, but also to the plural and parliamentary social democracy protecting individual freedoms , it distinguished the NSDAP from the programs of all socialist parties at that time.

Relationship to private property and the principle of competition

The political scientist Franz L. Neumann , who emigrated to the USA, stated in his book on the structure and practice of National Socialism Behemoth from 1942/1944 that the National Socialist apparatus of rule did not break away from the basis of the private capitalist mode of production, but rather produced a "totalitarian monopoly capitalism ".

Hitler's commitment to private property was made privately in 1919 and publicly in the Hamburg National Club in 1926 . The Berlin economic historian Albrecht Ritschl , however, draws attention to statements made by Hitler in March 1942 among his adjutants, that is, without being forced to conceal his true views. Here Hitler fundamentally objected “against anonymous private ownership of the shares . Without doing anything, the shareholder receives more dividends if the workers of the stock corporation are hardworking instead of lazy or if a brilliant engineer is at the head of the company ”. Accordingly, he would have meant the frequent rejection of a “ruffing” as opposed to the laudable “creative capitalism” seriously.

On June 26, 1944, Hitler and Albert Speer, in speeches to important people from the armaments industry, including a. Walter Rohland , on the Obersalzberg “self-responsibility” and announced a major era for the “private initiative of the German economy” for the time after the victory.

The former NSDAP politician and conservative-bourgeois fascism theorist Hermann Rauschning attested that Hitler had a purely “realpolitical attitude” on economic issues that “tried to free himself from all doctrines”. According to Rauschning, Hitler consistently subordinated the economy to overriding political goals, so he did not pursue any fundamental notions of order in this area, but only flexibly adaptable goals.

Henry A. Turner comes to the conclusion that Hitler affirmed the "liberal principle of competition" and private property, if only "because he was able to incorporate them in a distorted way into his social Darwinist view of economic life".

Avraham Barkai contradicts this thesis and sees an extreme anti-liberalism of Hitler and a fundamental rejection of the laissez-faire principle. An incomplete quote from Turner in the following sentences indicates an attitude incompatible with the liberal principle of competition. Hermann Rauschning , cited by Turner among other things as evidence, was so shaken in 1984 in his credibility as a contemporary witness that Kershaw declared that the “Conversations with Hitler” were “a work that today is so little ascribed to authenticity that it is better to ignore it eight leaves ”.

Also Anselm Doering-Manteuffel interpreted the removal of parliamentary democracy and the establishment of the State leaders as a "breakthrough of the revolutionary anti-liberalism to the idea of the state". Goebbels' statement "The Third Reich replaced the age of liberalism" is, according to him, a "matter of course" that was already felt by contemporaries.

According to Jörn Axel Kämmerer , Hitler rejected the privatization efforts of the twenties and instead advocated the nationalization of the large stock corporations, the energy industry and other branches of the economy. Although the nationalization of existing industrial companies had not been implemented, Reich-owned companies (e.g. Reichswerke Hermann Göring ) had been founded. These company foundings as well as the course set by the National Socialists in commercial law still have an impact today.

Relationship to ordoliberalism

For the economist Ralf Ptak , "the diverse publication possibilities of ordoliberal authors in this period indicate a Nazi toleration towards the ordoliberal project". The economist Nils Goldschmidt contradicts Ptak's conclusion and cites the text “Nationalökonomie - whatzu ?” (1938) by Walter Eucken as an example of a publication ban . Goldschmidt also points to ordoliberal resistance against National Socialism , for example by the Freiburg circles .

Hauke ​​Janssen writes that “mainly the people of Freiburg” resisted the interventionist and central administrative tendencies under National Socialism.

Egalitarian principles and relationship to socialism

Friedrich August von Hayek emphasizes that National Socialism and Soviet Communism were similar in terms of dictatorial and anti-liberal features. For Hayek, socialism and National Socialism show the same totalitarian tendencies in order to pursue their - quite different - goals. Since they use central planning, both are variants of collectivism, the momentum of which leads to the destruction of prosperity, democracy and the rule of law.

Rainer Zitelmann sees Hitler as a “ revolutionary ”, for whom the improvement of the workers' chances of advancement , insofar as they corresponded to his racial ideas, was an honest concern. He was not interested in "enabling the best possible development of the individual, but rather in optimizing the benefits for the German national community ". In relation to the economy, he strived for a “ primacy of politics ” which resulted in “revolutionizing the relationship between politics and economy”. Hitler wanted to replace the capitalist economic system with a mixed economic order in which market and planned economic elements were combined in a new synthesis. The "social revolution" triggered by National Socialism should be taken seriously. Wolfgang Wippermann and Michael Burleigh indirectly objected to this thesis that they unduly downplay the racist and thus reactionary character of the Nazi regime.

According to Joachim Fest , “the discussion about the political location of National Socialism was never conducted thoroughly”. Instead, “numerous attempts have been made to deny any relationship between the Hitler movement and socialism”. Admittedly, Hitler did not nationalize any means of production, but “not unlike the socialists of all shades, he promoted social conformity”.

In Götz Aly's view, too , the Nazi regime, which he describes as a “dictatorship of convenience”, tried to implement egalitarian principles through social welfare. The NSDAP's program is based on two ideas of equality that can be combined with anti-Semitism: One of the basic ideas was that of ethnic homogeneity, on the other hand, as “national socialists”, they promised more social equality. More recent works identify above all the Reich Labor Service , the Hitler Youth and the military as areas in which attempts were actually made to put this promise into practice. In contrast to Marxism, this egalitarian claim did not apply to the entire population, but was limited to “the ethnically defined large collective of the German people”.

Economic policy of the Nazi regime

It is controversial to what extent the practical economic measures of the Nazi regime corresponded to a National Socialist economic policy model or were simply “due to the pragmatic requirements of the regime's armament and war policy” (see also war economy ). According to Willi Albers, based on the experiences of the First World War and the failure of a liberal war economic policy in individual countries at the beginning of the Second World War, all the states involved in the Second World War resorted to dirigistic measures. Markus Albert Diehl points out that even during the Weimar Republic, in view of massive economic problems, state direction measures were taken, e.g. B. foreign currencies were managed.

Overall, the findings are contradictory in view of the economic policy actually practiced from 1933 to 1945. On the one hand, the re- privatization of the big banks, which were de facto nationalized during the banking crisis in 1931, speaks in favor of a pro-capitalist stance on the part of the government. On the other hand, u. a. According to Avraham Barkai , Timothy Mason and Dietmar Petzina, the directional interventions in the economy under Hjalmar Schacht'sNew Plan ” (1934), under the four-year plan (1936) and finally the war economy under Armaments Minister Albert Speer (from 1942) little left of free enterprise. In accordance with the economic goal of self-sufficiency , the free market economy in agriculture was practically abolished in 1933 with the Reichsnährstand , whereby in the 1930s a planned economy policy in agriculture also expanded in other European countries. As part of the armament of the Wehrmacht , the price mechanism was replaced by rationing for numerous products . This concerned, for example, steel, foreign exchange, capital movements and the labor market .

The historian Klaus Hildebrand sums up the state of research in Oldenbourg's history as follows: “Although the companies remained in the private hands of the entrepreneurs, there is no doubt that the financial income from the arms business also increased. But the principle of ends-means-rationality, which is binding for a capitalist economy, under the spell of armaments requirements and the principle of autarky, was more and more overridden by order of Hermann Göring . ”According to Adam Tooze , the big banks never had less influence in German history than between them 1933 and 1945, the influence of big business ( big business ) was already in the global economic crisis weakened in 1929 against the state, especially in National socialism; Nevertheless, private industry still had a power base because the National Socialist regime remained dependent on it for its goals, especially military armament.

Dietmar Petzina puts it: “The Nazi system cannot be clearly assigned to the regulatory categories of central administration and market economy.” The economic order changed “from a corporatist economy to a state command economy in which the entrepreneurial profit principle is not eliminated, but the essential rights of disposal but were permanently restricted ”. According to Adam Tooze, foreign capital in Germany (e.g. Opel , Ford , shares in IG Farben ) was not expropriated. A capital withdrawal was only possible with large losses because of the capital controls , so that foreign capital was forced to reinvest its profits in Germany. Gerold Ambrosius states: "By the start of the war, the foundation stone for the transition to central planning and control was laid."

This thesis is supported by current theoretical studies: Michael von Prollius describes the Nazi economic system as the "result of incessant reorganization and reorganization [...] and countless control and bureaucratisation measures"; For Markus Albert Diehl, "under National Socialist rule, the German economic system moved further and further away from the ideal type of the market economy and ultimately largely corresponded to the ideal type of the centrally planned economy ". After Götz Aly and Susanne Heim , the propagated promotion of medium -sized businesses took a back seat to economic rationalization in practice, which led to bankruptcy and the closure of numerous medium-sized businesses. Ideologically, the involvement of the private sector in the German war economy under Reich Minister for Armaments and Ammunition Fritz Todt was presented as an application of the principles of “leadership” and “ entrepreneurship ”.

Planning for the post-war period was on the one hand forbidden, on the other hand, according to the historian Bernhard Löffler , the " Reichsgruppe Industrie " commissioned Ludwig Erhard in 1943 with economic and political planning for the time after the foreseeable lost war. These were “oriented towards a market economy concept” and were “in contrast to the Nazi system”. Industry and government agencies such as the Reich Ministry of Economics and the planning office in the Reich Ministry of Armaments and Ammunition headed by Hans Kehrl planned to cautiously carry out the transition from the war and control economy to the peace and market economy. In the Reich Ministry of Economics, Otto Ohlendorf held his “protective hand over post-war market economy planning” and was “astonishingly open to the redesign of a more liberal, business-friendly market system despite all profound ideological differences [...]”. In peacetime, the bureaucratic steering apparatus had to be replaced by “active and daring entrepreneurship”, according to Ohlendorf. Ohlendorf himself was protected by Himmler, who in his view rejected Speer's “totally Bolshevik ” economic management.

The relationship with the trade unions

In the spring of 1933, Adolf Hitler made May 1 a public holiday called “German Labor Day”. In this way, a union demand was met by the government of all people, which the unions strictly rejected. The unions called for participation in the May events, as they felt they were the initiators of the May idea. The official program was already heavily influenced by the National Socialists: “6 o'clock wake up by the SA bands. 8 a.m. flag hoisting in the factories, march to the parade ground, 9 a.m. transmission of the rally from the pleasure garden in Berlin to the public squares of the cities. 10.45 am State act of the Hessian government (...), reception of a workers delegation from the three Hessian provinces. (...) Common singing of the 'Song of the Workers'. (...) 7.30 a.m. Transmission from Tempelhofer Feld, Berlin: Manifesto of Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler, 'The first year of the four-year plan'. Then light music and German dance. 12 noon: Broadcast of the speech by Prime Minister Hermann Göring. (...) Former Marxist singing, gymnastics and sports clubs can take part in the parades, but carry Marxist flags or symbols with you. ”The rude awakening for the unions came a day later when the“ NSDAP led the red unions took over ”:“ The since then Marxist leaders in protective custody - A 3 million account of the former Reichstag President Löbe blocked - The rights of the workers secured - The buildings of the free trade unions occupied ”, headlined the newspapers, which had already been harmonized throughout the Reich.

Relationship to religion

Postage stamp from 1943

The National Socialists did not represent a uniform religious belief. Some propagated as German Christians (DC) a nationalist-anti-Semitic Protestantism , others a racist Neopaganism with references to Germanic mythology . In his main work, The Myth of the 20th Century , the Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg called for Christianity to be replaced by a religion of “ blood and soil ”. A particularly sharp critic of Christianity in the NSDAP was the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler. Himmler saw overcoming Christianity and reviving a “Germanic” way of life as a central task of the SS.

National Socialism as a Political Religion

As early as 1938/39, the German-American political scientist Eric Voegelin systematically interpreted National Socialism as a political religion for the first time. The contemporary portrayal of Hitler as an infallible, almost godlike figure played an important role - a point of view that u. a. was propagated by the film Triumph des Willens by the director Leni Riefenstahl . Historians such as Emilio Gentile or Michael Burleigh have taken up and expanded this approach to interpretation since the 1990s .

However, this interpretation is controversial in historical research. Hans Günter Hockerts argues that although the National Socialists created a kind of political religion in order to bind “religious energy that has become homeless”, the genocide of the Jews was based on ethnically and eugenically based racism. Above all, the absence of ideas of transcendence speaks against an interpretation of National Socialism as a religion .

Relationship to Christianity

The NSDAP program of 1920 affirmed a “ positive Christianity ”, defined as “freedom of all religious beliefs in the state, provided that they do not endanger its existence or offend against the morality and morality of the Germanic race.” The formulation was then used as tolerance and impartiality misunderstood and welcomed towards the Christian denominations in the context of the raison d'être and the common good, although as early as 1925 Hitler linked it with a threat against political activity by Christians in parties other than the NSDAP. Indeed, the program item subordinated Christianity to racism and appropriated it for anti-Semitism, expressed as the “fight against the Jewish-materialist worldview”, and for the “national community” directed by the authoritarian state, expressed as “common good before self-interest”. In his government declarations of February 1 and March 23, 1933, Hitler only affirmed Christianity for reasons of tactical power, in order to obtain the support of the major churches for the construction of the coordinated leader state and because he was interested in a Reich Concordat with the Vatican (which took place on March 20 July 1933 was actually closed). The churches willingly provided this support and only gradually recognized and expressed the contradiction to their own universal teaching in the church struggle (from 1934).

National Socialism understood its racist ideology as a "worldview" to be enforced by the Führer state in all areas of society. This totalitarian absolute claim tended to conflict with other “confessions”. On the one hand, the NSDAP program, like Hitler in 'Mein Kampf', guaranteed the major churches the protection of their existence and internal church self-administration, on the other hand, efforts were made to limit them to non-political issues and far-reaching interventions in church structures. Since 1933, the DC tried to unify the German Evangelical Church (DEK) in the sense of a non-denominational, centrally controlled imperial church and to adapt it ideologically to National Socialism. They rejected the Old Testament as a "Judaization" of Christianity and tried to abolish it. When this attempt failed in the church struggle, the Nazi regime turned away from the DC.

In 1933 Hitler granted the Vatican and the German bishops freedom of denomination , denominational schools and universities in the Reich Concordat , as long as the Roman Catholic Church refrains from any political activity. The Catholic Center Party disbanded on July 5, 1933 , after it had approved the Enabling Act and thus provided Hitler's dictatorship with the necessary constitutional majority. When the churches objected to some of the mass murders of the Nazi regime from 1940 onwards, Hitler strengthened the anti-church forces in the NSDAP and allowed them in conquered areas such as the Warthegau to disempower the churches by downgrading them from public corporations to mere religious associations.

Unlike the DC, Hitler did not believe that the “Jewish roots” of Christianity could be cut and that Christianity could be completely “de-Jew”. Hitler therefore internally supported the critics of Christianity in the NSDAP. However, he deliberately never expressed this point of view in public because he feared that he would lose the support of the population. A long-term elimination of Christianity can therefore be assumed as a long-term political goal of National Socialism.

"Belief in God"

In 1936 the National Socialists initiated a movement to leave the church. Between 1937 and 1939 the Evangelical Church lost more than a million members. The Catholic Church was also weakened during this time by numerous withdrawals. The exit movement was ideologically accompanied by writings by the party ideologist Alfred Rosenberg, in particular by his myth of the 20th century , as well as by publications by Erich Ludendorff and his wife Mathilde . The expression “believing in God”, conceived as a positive contrast to “unbelieving”, should positively identify genuinely religious or only apparently religious, non-denominational people with ideological proximity to National Socialism.

According to the Philosophical Dictionary of 1943, “God believing” was defined as “the official designation for those who profess a piety and morality appropriate to their species, without being bound by a denomination or church, but who reject religious and godlessness”.

The introduction of the term for all " national comrades " who are not affiliated with the church but who do not believe in faith is seen as an attempt to create a religious identification formula for functionaries and members of the NSDAP as well as the " German-Believing Movement " beyond the churches and other religious communities. Since membership of a religious community as well as “free-thinking” were not considered to be career-enhancing under National Socialism, the designation “Faithful in God” officially introduced by the Reich Minister of the Interior on November 26, 1936 offered a way out for non-denominational National Socialists in order to document that one went through leaving the church does not automatically become “incredulous” or freethinking-liberal.

See also

Portal: National Socialism  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of National Socialism


Web links

Commons : National Socialism  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: National Socialism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Category: National Socialism  - Sources and full texts



Basic information

Historical debate




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  7. ^ Wolfgang Wippermann and Michael Burleigh: The racial state. Germany 1933-1945. Cambridge University Press 1991, pp. 304-307 et al. ö.
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  79. transcript
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