Nazism, the German form of fascism, emerged as an infamous regime in 1933-1945 under the charismatic leadership of Adolf Hitler as a supreme authority. Many of its policies were deemed highly controversial, leading to prolonged debates on whether the Nazi movement was inspired by racist or nationalist aims. Nevertheless, this paper will assert that Nazism was imbued by racism masquerading as nationalism, as reflected on its three prominent doctrines: Aryanism, anti-Semitism, and conquest.
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The Nazis’ belief in Aryanism implies that they recognized the existence of racial division, with the Aryans possessing biological superiority. To begin with, although nationalism is defined as loyalty towards one’s nation, it is also a dislike of other nations (Heywood 2007, p.147). So, racism and nationalism can be very similar. As nationalism is a very broad and abstract term, it can be associated with most ideological traditions (Heywood 2007, p.147). For instance, a country which believes in liberalism, would be liberal nationalist. Hence, nationalism is imbued by “the central importance to political life of the nation” (Heywood 2007, p.147)—its fundamental political values. If we want to identify the fundamental values of the Nazis, it is fairly reasonable to rely on what Hitler believed in, since “Adolf Hitler is Germany, Germany is Adolf Hitler” (Heywood 2007, p.213). As Hitler asserted, “mankind is not a uniform and equal mass. There are differences between races.” (Hitler Motivation ex. 1), we can infer that the Nazis acknowledged that there are fundamental differences amongst races. Likewise, the statement that, ”Decisive within each race, however, are the personalities it is able to produce. Personalities have created the cultural shape of mankind and not democratic majorities.” (Hitler Motivation ex. 1) suggests how races assign personalities which then establish culture. But most importantly, Hitler claimed that “what we see today is ultimately the result of the activity and achievements of the Aryans.” (Hitler Motivation ex. 1), signifying the existence of race superiority—Aryans being more socially significant to the cultivation of mankind. Thus, this accords to the racialist theories: “there are fundamental genetic differences amongst peoples and that these are reflected in cultural, intellectual and/or moral differences” (Heywood 2007, p.221). In addition, Hitler also classified races into his made-up racial hierarchy. At the apex were the Aryans as the ‘master race’ who found the cultures. Beneath them were the ‘bearers of culture’—peoples who utilize the ideas and inventions of the Aryans, but were incapable of creativity. At the bottom were the Jews as the ‘destroyers of culture’ (Heywood 2007, p.224). Thus, the Aryans were perceived racially superior, and so, other races were regarded inferior. Hence, it is evident that the Nazis believed in the importance of race and racialism. Therefore, since Nazism stressed the significance of race and racialism, it was actually a racist-inspired nationalist, and not the other way around.
The Nazis’ hostility, prejudice, and discrimination against the Jews represent their racial hatred towards a particular race. Specifically, Hitler hated the Jews, believing that they were the excuse behind the Germany’s shortcomings (Thurlow 1999, p.40). The Nazis’ faith in anti-Semitism was reflected in their race fostering program. Hitler was convinced that “the purity of German blood is essential for the further existence of the German people” (German blood ex.), claiming that ‘profanation of blood’ is the major cause of the collapse of cultures (Hannaford 1996, p.363). Thus, the Nazis implemented a policy by which “Marriages between Jews and nationals of German or kindred blood are forbidden.” (German blood ex. Sec 1). Admittedly, it might seem that this doctrine was not racist, as it was merely an attempt for self-preservation and the safeguarding of future generation through race fostering. And since “The German people have direct contact only with one type of foreign people: with the Jews.” (Heredity and race ex. 5), for them, race fostering means protecting their blood from contamination by the Jews. However, if the Nazis were not being racist to a particular race, the Jews, why then did the Nazis intentionally treat them worse than other ‘races’? Although during the wars, other races were treated badly as well, the Jews were treated worse, for instance, “French laborers, for example, received similar food rations to Germans; Polish and Russian workers were given less; while Jews, political prisoners and concentration camp inmates were literally worked to death on scientifically calculated minimum diets.” (Thurlow 1999, p.56). The Nazis’ hostility to the Jews was so noticeable that “The Jews had to be persecuted, indeed they deserved to be persecuted, because they represented evil.” (Heywood 2007, p.224). Persecution is more inhumane than killing, as it means that Jews needed to suffer before eventually being killed. In fact, the Nazis transported Jews from all over Europe to the Auschwitz extermination camp (Thurlow 1999, p.57), which suggests that they did not only persecute Jews who lived in Germany, but also from all over Europe—who literally did not have ‘direct contact’ with them. Their racial bigotry progressed radically as they started from forbidding intermarriage with Germans to slaughtering the Jews by firing squads, starving them in the ghettos, eradicating them in extermination camps, and ended with the extremely abusive ‘final solution’, the Holocaust (Thurlow 1999, p.57-8). They started from persecution to genocide and, eventually, racial extermination (Heywood 2007, p.224). Furthermore, from the statement that, “local Nazis also targeted German Jews, boycotting Jewish business and attacking Jewish-looking pedestrians.” (Fritzsche 2008, p. 87), we can conclude that they no longer classified Jews based on ancestry, but on their biological appearance instead. Moreover, they also created an unjustified prejudice against the Jews with a conspiracy that Jewish bankers and communists intended to destroy nations and replace them with a universal government (Thurlow 1999, p.39). Additionally, Jews were excluded from educational institutions, workforce, and social community (Fritzsche 2008, p.87). Hence, this is an obvious evidence of their discriminative policies. Even Italy became anti-Semitic in 1938, yet it did not exclusively focus on “exterminating its imaginary racial enemies.” (Thurlow 1999, p.58). Thus, it is fair to say that actually the Nazis could implement anti-Semitism without focusing on annihilating the Jews. Yet, they chose to do so. Therefore, although it might seem as a nationalist attempt to protect their people, from their radical racial policies to exterminate the Jews, the Nazis were indeed racist in the first place.
Last, the Nazis’ military conquest during the war was not genuinely aimed to strive for national greatness, but instead to achieve Hitler’s own agenda. During his term of office as Chancellor, Hitler embarked on the Nazis’ expansionist project with passionate ardor, which was particularly shown during the Second World War. Even before the war, the Nazis had expressed their demand of territory as stated in “We demand land and soil (colonies) for the nourishment of our people and for the settlement of our excess population.” (NSDAP program ex. 3). Likewise, Hitler affirmed that territory—the basis of life—is limited, and so, “brutality rather than humanity is the basis of life! Man has become master of the world through conflict and continual struggle.” (Hitler Motivation ex. 1). This suggests that in his view, to live means to conflict and struggle, since territory as the essential basis of life is limited. Thus, others might argue that the expansion was clearly an evidence of expansionist nationalism, since “Military glory and conquest are the ultimate evidence of national greatness” (Heywood 2007, p.165). Hence, justified by their loyalty towards Germany, the Nazis’ expansion was absolutely a rational practice to obtain land for nutriment and occupancy. Nevertheless, if it were solely for the sake of the nation, when the Germany was “facing imminent defeat in 1945” (Heywood 2007, p.211), why did he “declared that the German nation had failed him and gave orders, never fully carried out, for a fight to the death and, in effect, the annihilation of Germany.” (Heywood 2007, p.211)? If he were so nationalist that his love towards the nation would lead him to die for it (Hitler 1922 speech ex. 1), he would never blame the nation for the defeat. If he truly aimed to fulfill “its first and foremost task to restore the unity of spirit and will” (Proclamation ex. 3), he would never state such “egotistical political opinion”, which he himself believed could “disintegrate and dissolve the unity of the nation” (Proclamation ex. 1). Moreover, from his declaration, we can infer that in his view, it was not him serving the Germany, but the other way around. This contradicts the Reich Law which stated that the people must “serve faithfully the German people and the Reich …” (Citizenship law ex. Art 2). Thus, simply put, we can deduce that perhaps, after all, during the expansion, the Germans had been unwittingly serving Hitler’s own intention. It is not possible to accurately uncover his genuine intention. However, from how he prioritized the Holocaust and the transportation of the Jews all over Europe to the concentration camp even when Germany was collapsing (Thurlow 1999, p.57), it is fairly plausible that the extermination of the Jews from all over Europe might be one. Therefore, the Nazis’ military invasion which was disguised as it was aimed by expansionist nationalism, was not thoroughly implemented in the name of the nation, yet for Hitler’s covert racist agenda.
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- NSDAP program extract 2018, Trinity College Foundation Studies, Melbourne.
- Fritzsche, P 2008, Life and death in the Third Reich, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.
- Hannaford, I 1996, Race: the history of an idea in the west, Wilson Center Press, Washington, DC.
- Heywood, A 2007, Political Ideologies, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
- Thurlow, R 1999, Fascism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
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