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The main principles of Nazi Ideology

The main principles of Nazi Ideology
We have already discussed how the trauma of the First World War and the turbulent interwar years, led various political and ideological movements of the time to incorporate antisemitism in their ideologies and policies. This reached a peak with the rise of Nazism in Germany and with the formulation of the Nazi ideology. A dominant force in the development of Nazi ideology was Adolf Hitler. Born in a small town in Austria in 1889 to a family of minor landowners, Hitler moved to Munich in 1913. When World War I broke out the following year, he joined the German army, serving in France and in Belgium. He was promoted to the rank of lance corporal. After the war, Hitler returned to Munich.
Like many others in the German sphere, he was embittered and humiliated by Germany’s defeat in World War I, and was further outraged by the terms of the Versailles Treaty. He soon joined the small and marginal antisemitic German Workers’ Party, that changed its name in 1920 to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) - or the Nazi Party, for short. It is within the ranks of the party that he found a political home among others who despised Germany’s democratic Weimar government and who blamed Marxists and Jews for the country’s problems. Hitler was quickly recognized as an extraordinary and charismatic public speaker, and in 1921 became his Party’s all-powerful chairman. By 1923 the Nazi Party swelled to an estimated 56,000 members.
As mentioned, the first years of the Weimar Republic were difficult and tumultuous. Under the leadership of a Social-Democratic government, the republic faced an economic crisis which stemmed from the immense expenditures of war, the damage to industrial production capacity, the transition from a war economy to a peace economy, and the high level of reparations that Germany was forced to pay under the Versailles Treaty. This was accompanied by extreme anti-Republicanism which brought about a wave of political assassinations. In November 1923, at a time when the economic crisis in the republic had reached a peak, with extreme unemployment and unprecedented hyperinflation, Hitler and his fellow party members attempted to seize control of Germany, beginning with the takeover of the Bavarian government in Munich.
The armed revolt, known as the Beer Hall Putsch, failed. Caught and tried for treason, Hitler was sentenced to five years in jail, though he only served nine months.
During this time he was imprisoned in very comfortable conditions: He had a private room in which he received his many guests, got regular deliveries of newspapers and books, and was surrounded by his personal assistant and friends. Most of his time in prison was dedicated to the composing of Mein Kampf (My Struggle), his political autobiography, in which he outlined his vision of a new future for Germany and the main principles of Nazi ideology or worldview. These continued to be formulated in the following years by Hitler himself and by other central figures in the Nazi party. What then were the main principles of the Nazi ideology?
Nazi ideology was a worldview, that claimed to explain everything about the world and how it functions. At its core the ideology was racial and biological totalitarian and imperialistic.
Nazi ideology viewed the world as divided into races: with superior and inferior races and of course the Aryan race. the so called “Aryan” race was a superior race, to which the Nazis attributed all positive developments
in humanity: in arts, in science, in technology and so on. and all the other races of humanity, fit into the racial hierarchy in various rungs beneath the so called Aryan race. For example the Latin race, the French, the Italians and so on, were one rung below the Aryan race, who could appreciate culture, but do not create culture and the arts and science and so on. Within this view, the Jews were viewed as a kind of anti-race, an inhuman race of some sort, a creature of some sort, that existed in human form. And the Jews were, by nature, evil and destructive.
It was by no accident that the Nazis viewed the Jews in their ideology as a kind of microbe on the one hand, or as the devil incarnate on the other. In other words some kind of inhuman creature with supernatural powers, that could destroy everything that the Aryan race and other people had built in this world. Where did the Nazis get these ideas from? Clearly they didn’t invent anything that they argued. the Nazis drew their ideas from earlier beliefs, and particularly from developments in 19th century research in the sciences and the social sciences and the development of modern racism, and the development of modern antisemitism.
What the Nazis did, was bring all of this together into one cohesive ideology, that was setting out to explain everything, and from that ideology they argued that the Aryan race has the natural right to rule, and as such, various policies derive from that natural right to rule. For example, the Nazis argued that they had a right to expand eastward, into the territories of “the lesser subhuman Slavic peoples”, as they argued, because they argued falsely, that Germany was the most crowded nation on earth and therefore, because they were superior and had the right to rule, they could expand into the territory that was unfairly peopled by “subhumans”. They also, because of their ideology, developed other policies.
For example, the policy during the course of World War II, known as T4 or as the euthanasia program, through which they murdered some 200,000 or more, mentally handicapped, and some physically handicapped Germans. Most of them Aryans, but from a Nazi point of view defective Aryans, who didn’t contribute to society. Nazi ideology then set out, as other ideologies developed in the same period of the late 19th century, and the 20th century. They set out to develop as they saw it, a perfect world. And they claim to have that recipe, to develop a perfect world, such Utopian ideas tend to develop worlds, that are full of destruction. Nazi policy-making then, was the introduction the newness of the Nazis brought to this world.
Not the specific ideas that they brought, that they brought together from the 19th century , but rather making those ideas, coalescing them into one distinct worldview, to explain how the world functions and how it ought to function. And then turning that ideology into the engine for policy making. First of all for Germany, and ultimately for all the world. And within that policy making, a special place was set aside for the Jews. The Jews who constituted the greatest threat to the world because of their destructive nature.
And because of their immutable nature they cannot change, and hence Nazi policy making regarding the Jews, which stood at the heart of Nazi ideology, also ultimately, was part of what stood at the heart of Nazi policy making and led in the end to the final solution.
Nazi totalitarian thinking, was on two levels: first of all, that there is no equality among nations or races. Clearly the Aryan race needs to rule and the German people need to rule. But at the same time, Nazi totalitarianism was internal. How was that nation, and how were those people going to be ruled within Germany and within the Aryan race? It was going to be through what developed in Nazi ideology as the “Führerprinzip”, the principle that the Führer, the leader - Hitler, embodies the will of the nation the will of the race and as such to argue against what he says, to argue against what he determined his policy is to argue against the race and is therefore unacceptable.
And as such, totalitarian rule, and no other kind of rule was the only way to go. Nature and biology are very important in this worldview. Because according to nature and their interpretation of nature, there is a hierarchy in nature. And this stands versus the main idea of this era, as they perceived it, and that is equality. Equality emerged with the Enlightenment, was implemented with the French Revolution, and Nazism stood opposite to that idea. Now, where comes equality from? Equality which we find in socialism, in communism, in capitalism, in democracy, comes from the Enlightenment. Enlightenment emerged from Christianity, Christianity emerged from Judaism. So we are coming back, Jews are at the origin of the idea of equality.
Therefore everything, Marxism and Capitalism are Jewish and it is wrong to think that they’re opposites. They stand versus the natural principle of hierarchy. And Nazism is representing this principle of nature. And therefore society should be ordered also according to the Führerprinzip, and nations should be ordered according to the place on the ladder of a nature, and Jews are actually outside this ladder.

Dr. David Silberklang, Prof. Dan Michman

We have seen how the trauma of the First World War and the turbulent interwar years led various political and ideological movements of the time to incorporate antisemitism in their ideologies and policies. This reached a peak with the rise of Nazism in Germany and with the formulation of the Nazi ideology.

What were the main principles of the Nazi worldview?


  • Bialas, Wolfgang and Lothar Fritze, eds., Nazi Ideology and Ethics (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014).

  • Evans, Richard J., The Coming of the Third Reich (London: A. Lane, 2003).

  • Jäckel, Eberhard, Hitler’s World View: A Blueprint for Power (Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard University Press, 1995).

  • Kershaw, Ian, Hitler, 2 vols. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999-2000).

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