The Rise Of Nazism And The Third Reich Research Papers Example

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Politics, Nation, Germany, Adolf Hitler, War, Mussolini, Italy, Community

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/12/22

The term “Nazi” conjures up horrific images of German soldiers brutally murdering millions of Jews and other social groups German Nazis categorized as “non-Aryans.” The Holocaust has been called the darkest period of human history and the greatest crime against humanity that has hitherto been recorded in history. This methodical and systematic elimination of so-called “undesirables” was made possible by an amalgam of factors: ripe conditions in a war-torn Europe that enabled fascism to take form. * Despite national idiosyncrasies, Nazi Germany as the Third Reich and Fascist Italy, along with other fascist movements, retained many commonalities that allow for a transnational comparison in order to fully understand the political, economic, and social condition during the interwar period enabled totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany rise to power during the twentieth century. Mussolini's dictatorship, which represented the first of several totalitarian regimes, functioned as a model and blueprint for Hitler to emulate within the German national context. Thus, comparative analysis of Germany and Italy reflects certain criteria that situate them within an appropriate conceptual framework for an analysis of fascism. It allows a cyclical examination of fascism that establishes transnational ties in European history during the interwar era. The experience and the aftermath of World War I playing a significant role in the rise of fascism, especially the ensuing economic upheaval which played a pivotal role in both Italy and Germany along with other types of upheaval. The rise of fascism represents one response the disgruntled European masses who are unhappy with the state of European society during the interwar era.


Italian dictator Benito Mussolini coined the term totalitarian to describe a political ideology aimed at buttressing a totalizing entity in a litany of ways. As such, fascism emerged as a political philosophy that posits the universal subservience of the individual to the nation or community and the equation of the nation with the state. Unlike liberalism—which argues that civil society is best served through individual rights—fascism objects to the nurturing of individual interests. Only through devotion to the state as representative of the nation can individuals find fulfillment. In this political ideology, the nation and state are conflated together. The nation refers to all of the people participating in the governance and the operation of a political entity together, which starkly contrasts from a monarchical kingdom, which is characterized by a top-down rule. In fascist governances, power derives from those who are in charge of the nation because fascism says power does not derive from the individuals, as the job of individuals is to serve the nation and the state. Fundamentally, fascism is anti-democratic, anti-capitalism, anti-republican, anti-communist, anti-modernity, and anti-weakness. It represented a reaction to all of the changes that modernity wrought, especially socio-economic dislocation from rapid modernization and industrialization that resulted in an increasingly bifurcated society.
Robert Paxton explicitly views the ascendance of fascist regimes as a process that is never inevitable but arose as a result of crises occurring within political and economic systems. He discredits exclusory and essentializing definitions of fascism proffered by other scholars because neither effectively model its nuances and convey concrete realities. Rather, Paxton contends that only a holistic analysis would be appropriate, which necessitates a thorough exploration of the five stages of fascism. Ironically, Paxton's identification of the five stages of fascism through his exploration of the lived historical experience emerges as archetypal. The intersection of various phenomena unique to the interwar period in Europe during the twentieth century undergirded the roots of fascism. Trepidations regarding Bolshevism in Russia, socio-economic dislocations wrought by modernization, and the clout of the bourgeoisie coincided with mass politics and nationalistic fervor which created space for fascist agency (Burleigh and Wippermann 1). While fascist rhetoric early on contained anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeoisie sentiments, fascist movements sought to gain political inroads and thus often abandoned such rhetoric out of pragmatism necessary to acquire political clout (Paxton 56). The machinations of fascist regimes convey this need for a wide appeal through a refusal to adhere to strict ideological tenets. This process entailed placating conservatives and capitalists and involved compromise and collaboration with other groups that alienated some purists from the fascist party.
Although radical fascist rhetoric projected fascism as a revolution, Paxton asserts that no socioeconomic revolution transpired, only a "revolution of the soul" (142). Thus, Paxton contends that fascists needed to work within the existing power structures to infiltrate their movement. Upon garnering power, Paxton contends that a "four-way tension" contributed to the obscurity of fascist regimes' structure which rendered them shapeless (124). This tense dynamic necessitated the party's use of terror against both internal and external enemies along with the employment of "parallel structures" to ensure the complete fascist infiltration. Such structures created loyal power bases to the fascist leader that ensured order within the state. War radicalized fascist movements that fulfilled the expansionistic yearnings and projected national revival and strength. Without such radicalization, the process of fascism would have become static and disintegrated into merely an authoritarian regime.
The relationship between fascism and the Catholic Church was an interesting one because the Catholic Church was still powerful on social and cultural issues. However, the church was not fond of fascists, yet fascists remained in line with the Catholic Church regarding its social and cultural values. Indeed, the fascist state uses the language of tradition to demonize the modern nature of the parliamentary democracy. As such, fascists wanted to turn back the clocks and return to traditional European social and culturally conservative mores. The Italian political cartoon entitled “Strapaese's Nemesis: The Crisis Woman, 1931,” visually articulates this desire to reverse the process of modernity in Italy. On the right hand side of the cartoon is masculinized woman who sits at a bar imbibing an alcoholic beverage. Her short hair and muscularity ascribe her masculine qualities, as she clearly embodies Modern Woman, or New Woman, whose transgression of traditional gender mores in Italy incited a perceived gender crisis during the interwar era. On the left hand side of the cartoon, a mother who is fully clothed feeds her child breast milk. This cartoon suggests that fascists eschewed and derided the modern woman with her short dress and cropped hair. Rather, it conveys the fascist desire to return to tradition when men were men and women were women according to the traditional moral canon.

Italy and the Rise of Mussolini: A Trans-historical Lens

In the wake of the war, Italy’s losses were minor but they were significant because they felt as though they had been robbed of land by Great Britain and France, so there is still an aggrieved resentment and anger. Benito Mussolini symbolized to the Italians the promise of something better and power amidst a completely disempowered situation. Indeed, this mirrors the dynamics evident in Germany, although in Italy the scapegoats are the communists rather than the Jews and so-called “non-Aryans.” The role and threat of violence also cannot be underestimated as a critical factor in the rise of fascism in Italy. Once he procured total power, violence vis-à-vis the secret police was the primary mechanism that propped up his power in order to minimize political dissent in a very real way. In 1932, Mussolini penned document penned by him entitled, “What is Fascism?” in which he expounds on his view and discursive analysis of the fluid, multi-layered, and nuanced political ideology fascism. Mussolini wanted to grow a herculean empire, insinuating that the expansion of the nation because expansionistic impulses denote increased vitality and national strength. Spreading ideas and grafting more land for the nation –state, which was in line with nineteenth century imperialism, about conquest, showing and demonstrating a nation’s power. Fascism decries modernity and the decadent culture it wrought, as he believed that modern life had corrupted people. Rather, it would imbue national and personal strength and resolve rather than the weakness and decadence that democracy cultivated. Mussolini underscores the courage and bravery exhibited by men in the trenches during the Great War, thereby extolling the notion that bellicosity proves the metal of a nation during the interwar period (Mussolini).
Mussolini time and again rendered Marxian socialism the antithesis of fascism by elucidated the economic and material worldview of the Italians during this epoch. Mussolini unequivocally disagrees with the central Marxian precept that socio-economic inequality and class warfare drove history. Rather, he argues that force and heroism did, as people have always wanted to publically display their strength (Mussolini). This document makes it clear that Mussolini possesses an overt aversion towards democracy because he believed that inequality was a natural fact of life. Rather, he embraced the Social Darwinian notion of the “survival of the fittest” where a nation proved themselves through conquest and struggle. Mussolini decries the myth of democratic happiness in favor of bellicosity and proving one’s pain that derived power and fortitude. These notions articulated by Mussolini go to the core of what fascism is and is not.
Prior to the war, Benito Mussolini was an editor for a newspaper and identified himself as a National Socialist, but not as a socialist in the Marxist tradition. This difference is significant because a fundamental aspect if Italian nationalism was a rejection of the individualism that was so evident in Great Britain and France. Italy was a nation constructed on the notion of a national community. Early fascist rhetoric indicated an aversion to capitalism and individualism, fascist movements that approached Paxton’s second stage of “taking root” diverged from earlier promises as a way to garner power (Paxton 55). Mussolini rejected republican individualism and thus decried capitalism as an economic system constructed on the premise of the primacy of the individual. Mussolini moved to the radical right and used the idea of the nation and national community to move towards the Right on the political spectrum after the war because he felt as though western democracies burdened Italy during the peace process so Italy should not be allied with them. The parliamentary government in Italy in the immediate aftermath of the war was unable to deal with the economic crises that wracked Italy in a productive manner. The weak parliamentary government enabled Mussolini to ascend to power vis-à-vis violence, which propped up his totalitarian regime. In 1919, the Fascio di combattimento, or Mussolini’s “combat group,” used his newspaper at this time as his base. The squadristi, or black shirted individuals who comprised a vigilante group and paramilitary arm for Mussolini and created havoc when necessary, breaking up communist and socialist political meetings and rallies, publically murdering political foes, and harassing socialist and communist newspaper editors. The squadristi enabled Mussolini to gain a foothold in local governments and local elections where social dislocation during the interwar period was rampant as a result of the ailing economy. This vigilante group put the Italian government on notice as it emerged as a potent political force. Mussolini used the government, structures, and institutions in place to ascend to power and take total control over the state machinery of Italy and transform it into a totalitarian regime ruled by National Socialists.
Even though fascism touted itself as a movement based on national and social unity and homogeneity, the fractures within fascist totalitarianism due to regional, religious, political, economic and socio-cultural differences reveal the dissonance between fascist rhetoric and practices. Despite the propaganda that projected the refashioning of Italy by fascism, fascism could not fundamentally transform the behaviors and sympathies of ordinary Italians. It was they who in turn manipulated fascism itself. The roots of fascism harkened back to the very origins of the modern Italian nation-state. Liberal Italy, hampered by currents of imperialism, racism, political corruption and religious tensions, laid the groundwork for fascism post World War I. The failure of the liberal government in Italy to deal with political, economic and social crises wrought by World War I created a vacuum for the ascendance of fascism. Although fascism acquired a highly symbolic notion of national unity devoid of all hierarchical structures, the lived experiences of ordinary fascist citizens prevented the normalization of fascism into their lives because they recognize it as superficial and inadequate to address their local concerns. The institutionalization of fascism became a drawn out and defective process in the attempt to establish an orderly, disciplined regime. Attempts by fascists to occupy available public space through avenues such as mass culture exposed the rampant contradictions of the ideology. This process thus depicted fascism as a pliable, fluid ideology and rendered it a virtual lie that did not promote the social and cultural revolutions it purported. Scholars must acknowledge the brutal, corrupt and violent nature of fascism that characterized a disastrous epoch in Italian history. Nonetheless, the durability of fascism in Italy represents its greatest achievement, as there remains a persistent "tendency [and orientation] towards fascism" in present-day Italy (Bosworth 4).


In his seminal monograph The Anatomy of Fascism, historian Robert Paxton examines the complex and often paradoxical nature of fascism as practiced from its birth in Italy after World War I up until its disintegration at the conclusion of World War II throughout Europe. Paxton employs a comparative analysis of Fascist Italy under Mussolini and Hitler's Nazi state in Germany for the majority of his work. When appropriate, he situates other fascisms developing in European countries in relation to Italy and Germany. This inquiry elucidates a functioning paradigm for an analysis of fascism and argues that fascism underwent various transformations both from above and below yet developed in an idiosyncratic fashion according to various national contexts.
The political and economic aftermath profoundly contributed to the rise of fascism, commonly referred to as Nazism, in the German context during the interwar period because the Germany bore the brunt of the punishment for German aggression during World War I. At the conclusion of the Great War, Germany became a weak democracy referred to as the Weimar Republic. When the Axis powers surrendered at the conclusion of the war, the Germans were stationed in France and were quite upset because they felt as though their leaders had betrayed the military commanders. Imbued with hyper-nationalism, German soldiers believed that they still could win the war for the Axis powers, so surrendering fostered an aversion and distrust in the German soldiers. The Treaty of Versailles was agreed upon and contained provisions that further disenchanted German soldiers. Article 231 was viewed as a “stab in the back” by German leaders, especially because of the so-called “war guilt clause” which had a litany of adverse consequences for Germany during the interwar period (“Treaty of Versailles”).
The Treaty of Versailles and the “War Guilt Clause” catalyzed a protracted process in which political, social, economic, and ideological conditions became ripe in Germany for the rise of fascism in the German context. Germany was forced to bear the blame for the war, as Allied powers pointed to German military aggression as the reason the war started in the first place. Such notions elide the documented reality that the Austrian archduke was killed by a Serbian terrorist due to simmering tensions in the region. Germany had supported Austria, so the Allied powers blamed Germany as the scapegoat because Germans were viewed as hyper-militaristic and hyper-masculine that threatened world order and stability as a result of the Germans’ desire to build a world empire. Thus, reparations were enacted, and Germany was forced to pay France and Great Britain reparations for the damages caused by the war. This treaty further ensured that the German military would never rise and threaten the world order again, so the treaty stipulated for the demilitarization of the German army and reduced it to a mere police force (“Treaty of Versailles”). As such, the treaty effectively dismantled German industry, which had been geared towards the war effort. The onerous treaty disable the heart of German industry by rendering the Germans unable to pay back their reparations because the Gross Domestic Product plummeted and so the Germans had no way to pay back reparations short of loans. While Woodrow Wilson, the president of the United States, did not want a harsh punitive settlement, France and Britain who fought for the passage of this treaty, which eventually materialized. The ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and the War Guilt Clause thus resulted in the political and economic instability which hampered the productivity and effectiveness of the Weimar Republic. The German economy was wracked by devastating inflation, so the Germans could not pay back reparations as a result of the guilt clause. Industrial structures broke down, so Weimar leaders called for more money to be printed, which caused the currency to lose its value. German marks thus became worthless over the course of only two years since rampant inflation wiped out the German middle class and their purchasing power.
The juxtaposition of the political and economic instability in the very first years of the Weimar republic fostered distrust in the German masses towards this government and further fomented a chasm and bipolarity between the Left and the Right in German politics. These movements were spawned as a result of simmering fears of Bolshevism that Germans had witnessed during the Russian Revolution. The Left was adjudicated much more harshly than the Right during the interwar era, which revolutionary attempts made during the epoch from both sides underscore. Attempts made by those in the Left, such as the Spartacus Movement in 1919 spearheaded by Marxists such as Rosa Luxemburg,, provide evidence that the Weimar Republic was weak, as the state was forced to call in the police and the Freikorps to subdue them, which empowered to the Right as a result. In March of 1920, the Kapp Putsch took place in an attempt to overthrow the Weimar regime. Putsch translates to “coup,” or an attempt to overthrow the government on a small, localized scale. It was engendered by supporters of the Freikorps, or veterans who joined together in a paramilitary group and had helped put down the Leftist Spartacus movement a year prior. Such events underscore the weakness of the Weimar Republic and the power vacuum that needed to be filled by those at the Far Left or Far Right in the near future.
It was amidst this tumultuous atmosphere in Germany that Hitler took advantage of in order to fill the power vacuum opened up by the weak Weimar and gain control over the state machinery to create a totalitarian entity bent on resuscitating the pride and power of Germany. In 1923, Adolph Hitler’s beer hall putsch took place. As a former corporal in the German Army, Hitler brings together the members of various groups and organizations such as the Freikorps—who eventually comprised his Nazi army—and flipped around the economic and social order. In November 1923, Bavarian leaders organized a rally at a beer hall in Munich with three thousand spectators attended. Hitler burst into the rally and fired a gunshot into the air in order too announce that his paramilitary force of storm troopers surrounded the building. Hitler and his Nazis took hostage the Bavarian officials who were present until they articulated their support for Hitler’s revolution. Unfortunately, the local population did not embrace Hitler and the Nazi revolution, which resulted in the coup being stalled. Hitler’s efforts were futile after he and his army marched into Berlin and was arrested, tried, and convicted of treason thereafter. Although this initial attempt to jumpstart a revolution failed, the experience nonetheless taught Hitler that he would not be able to achieve power merely through force and armed conflict. Rather, he must manipulate existing political structures and use violence as a mechanism to prop up his power once he achieved. The political Right became empowered by the helplessness of the Weimar republic to effectively deal with the failure of the first coup attempted by the Left.
The Beer Hall Pusch took place during a time period characterized by high inflation and unemployment. Unemployment began to decline with celerity, especially amongst young men, and German women also procured jobs much easier in domestic work and low paying factory jobs. In his speech in the aftermath of the beer hall coup, Hitler articulates an agenda centered on blaming the Jews for everything that took place during the interwar period. He uses the terms “Germans” and the Aryans are used interchangeably because the German race is the Aryan race identified by their blonde hair and blue eyes as descendants of the Nordic peoples. In addition, Hitler also blames the Russians and Slavs, grouping together the Bolsheviks, Russians, Slavs, and Jews and demonizing them vis-à-vis vitriolic rhetoric (Hitler, as cited by Gordon, 75). Charismatic and articulate, Hitler masterfully weaves an “Us vs. Them” binary and scenario to explain why Germany faced the litany of obstacles it did during the interwar period. While imprisoned for treason in the aftermath of the failed Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler penned his renowned autobiography Mein Kampf, which was published in 1926. When it was published people thought Hitler was crazy because the German government had stabilized, so the German people were less receptive to his extreme diagnoses of Germany’s social, economic, and political ills. In his memoir, Hitler blames the Jews for everything that went wrong since the end of the war. This diagnosis did not hold as much sway during the beginning of the 1920s as it did in 1922 and 1923 when the economy increasingly destabilized. It is thus important to recognize what conditions render the German populace as more receptive to this kind of message.
The aforementioned underpinnings facilitated the rise of Hitler to the leader of the people during the 1930s, as he knew that he would have to manipulate existing political structures in order to gain more political clout. When the stock market in the United States collapsed, the Great Depression had a global impact, as it propelled many people to flood to the banks in Germany to repay loans within a certain time frame. The economy and German currency had just collapsed, so people became more receptive to Hitler. Moreover, the center of the political spectrum also collapsed, which resulted in the political climate swinging to the Far Left or the Far Right. Hitler’s appeal stemmed from the appeal of the far Right groups and the Freikorps in the immediate post war era. The peace settlement after World War I constructed a narrative of the “stab in the back,” and the armistice Treaty of Versailles combined with Hitler’s scapegoating of non-Aryans profoundly contributed to these processes.
Judaism was not just a religion; it also referred to a race of inferior and diseased individuals. Because of the trenchant impact of Social Darwinism and a heightened sense of nationalism, the development of a pseudo-science known as “Raceology” emerged and created racial hierarchies that scientists and social scientists applied to explain how groups interacted, which they extrapolated later to nations (Burleigh and Wippermann 3). In Germany, religion became conceptualized as a race in Germany because Hitler was a product of nineteenth century intellectual movements growing up in Vienna and Austria. It became paramount to distinguish between who is a German (Aryan) and who is a Jew. A bifurcated view of the races emerged, as if one was not an Aryan, then he or she must be a Jew. In Mein Kampf, Hitler advocated for the use of the media, propaganda, and the press along with the new technologies of radio and film to give voice and representation to this notion of who belongs and who does not belong in the German national community (Kirk 23). During the Great Depression, the conditions were very ripe for the German masses appealing to the message of returning to the traditional German values. “German” values were not Jewish, foreign, or anything considered outside of the ethnic German national community. Thus, unlike the Italian brand of fascism, the German ideology stressed the notion of belonging to an ethnic community rather than just a national community.
Economic instability after World War I propelled the masses to appeal to him because he blamed other groups including the Jews and other nefarious immigrants. He articulated and reiterated the simple message that “all we have to do to return to German greatness is to return to the values that made Germany great” (Hitler, Mein Kampf). The concept of returning to a mythical and magical time in German history where society was orderly unlike the dislocation and transgressions caused by modernity in the contemporary time period. Like in Italy, fascism in Germany eschewed modernity and fomented an environment in which nineteenth century themes of racial nationalism were appropriated to interwar contexts.
Hitler’s actual rise to power occurred between 1929-1933 when the Great Depression hit the United States and rippled across the globe. Hitler looked to Mussolini and the success of the Squadristi when they created a case of even further chaos within chaos through violence. During the early 1930s, the Nazis enjoyed increasing electoral gains. The brown shirts emerged, and they portrayed strength, self-assuredness, and a message that they never wavered from. Several sets of federal elections took place in 1932, and the Nazis really did well early on in April when they obtained the majority of their parliamentary seats. In November 1932, the Nazis began to lose seats while the communists gained seats. As such, Nazi power was zapped from its apex as a movement. Chaos and violence had hitherto worked in favor of the Nazis, but there was a retrenchment where people turned away from fascism and towards communists. Nonetheless, people chose Hitler not because he won an election but because of the parliamentary system where Nazis were gaining power, but because people also felt that they could control Hitler. In January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany, an appointment that was not completely inevitable because there was still a lot of political dissent taking place throughout the country (Kirk 32). The question for Hitler was how should he take advantage of this opportunity before him in a similar vein to Mussolini.
Hitler consolidates power in a more gradual than hastened fashion, so he does not initially populate his political cabinet with all of his followers, but merely states that he wanted two cabinet posts and he wanted to be in charge of the police and the interior justice system. As a result, Hitler implemented the mechanism. The Reichstag fire, which burned down the German parliamentary building, was blamed on blamed on the communists for purposely burning down and gutting the very symbol of German democracy (Benz 24-25). Hitler ordered for the arrest of a Dutch communist who was mentally disabled and murdered him at the guillotine for the public to see. This event created a state of emergency that the government was under threat and under siege by internal enemies. Hitler subsequently ordered the arrests of political leaders, beginning with the communists. He then outlawed the socialist members of the Social Democratic party and the censorship of the press (Kirk 35). These steps led to the gradual elimination of political enemies and any enemies—real or perceived—of the German national community by murdering them of sending them to a concentration camp, the first of which was constructed in Dachau. Elections were then held in March 1933, and Hitler passed the Enabling Act (Benz 25-28). Although victory was not inevitable, Hitler was very good at bending laws to favor his agenda. He set in motion mechanisms to eliminate his political enemies, which fostered domestic conditions for the gradual acquiescence of people to his program.
Hitler’s program of “Gleichschaltung” coordinated all aspects of German government and society in the service of the German national community through both policy and racial legislation. “Gleichschaltung” served as justification for Hitler’s program and led to the creation of the “Volksreich,” or the German national community (Kershaw 76). It called for the coordination of all aspects of the German government and society in the service of the national community. This concept relates to the very definition of fascism about the individual submitting themselves to the state and being subservient to the state. Racial legislation would be passed in 1935 as a critical component of this fascist transformation in order to eliminate and marginalization of anti-social elements. Thus, the Nazi state coordinated various mechanisms in order to eliminate communists and socialists. Concurrently, the creation of the concentration camps were taking place for more efficient means of crafting this national German community. On June 30, 1934, the “Night of the Long Knives” took place, which was a purging of the internal leadership of the Storm Troopers, or Hitler’s Brown Shirts, which is where Hitler really begins to consolidate his inner circle here. Hitler began to view the leader of the Brown Shirts Ernest Rohm as a potential threat to the German national community. The Brown Shirts had swelled in popularity (1930-1934), and Hitler believed that if there was an internal challenge, it would emanate from the SA. Rohm was also homosexual, which did not fit into Hitler’s ideal of a national community
In 1935, Hitler passed the Nuremberg Laws which further underscored the obligations of German individuals to the nation/empire. Citizens were only those who were full-blooded Germans whose family inherited Aryan or Germanic blood. Through conduct, a German demonstrated that he or she is desirous and fit to serve the national community and the Reich. The Nuremburg laws passed in 1935 legalized anti-Semitism and provided the foundation for this systematic, legal discrimination that culminated in the Final Solution in 1942. These laws defined who qualified as a member of the ethnic German national community and who did not, rendering racial categorization as tantamount for inclusion and exclusion in the German nation. The regulations also legislated marriage and ordered “selective breeding,” which was done to preserve the purity of German blood and racial hygiene (Nuremberg Laws). Thus, these laws outlawed the miscegenation between Germans and Jewish as well as other “non-Aryan” groups. As a result, Jews faced outright discrimination and hardship. Hitler further outlines in his autobiography the need for a superior race to conquer inferior races and peoples, which harkens back to social Darwinism ideologies and race-infused nationalism that profoundly impacted Hitler growing up. In Mein Kampf, Hitler states nature does not “desire the mating of weaker with stronger individuals” because “if she did her whole work of higher breeding, over perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, might be ruined with one blow” (Hitler, Mein Kampf, 260). Ideas about survival of the fittest unequivocally feed into this racial logic that Hitler bought into because of the perceived need to produce the perfect nation in order to conquer to world. Thus the government passed racial legislation to enact an ideological strategy along with a legal system that perpetrated a gradual change and crafted of a perfect German ethnic community.
Claudia Koonz’s The Nazi Conscience cogently argues that there is a development of a Nazi conscience and morality during the 1930s that altered how Germans viewed people outside who stood at the periphery of the ethnic German national community. Once in power, Hitler implemented the building blocks for Nazi society vis-à-vis legislation such as the Nuremberg laws and educating the youth according to a state-sponsored curriculum that inculcated Nazi values in children beginning at a very young age (Koonz 4-8). Education, experts in academia, political culture, and propaganda came together in molding a certain conscience—or lack thereof by modern standards—regarding how those at the periphery of the circumscribed national community. Indeed, the national community always the most important component for the German nation Hitler sought to protect the national community by isolating those that do not fit in and defining those as not fitting in whether they be political opponents or ordinary denizens. The crafting of a new morality and Nazi conscience inverted Nazi morality did not follow the western principle of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Rather, this Nazi morality worked along the logic of “Do unto others that you imagined them doing to you.” Thus, this moral canon was not rooted in reality but rather in the threat—real or perceived—to the German national community


It is unequivocal that the majority of the political successes enjoyed by Hitler and the Nazis was owed to the weaknesses and failure of the Weimar Republic to adequately respond to the problems facing Germany during the interwar period. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini defined fascism by what it was not: decadent, week, and antidemocratic opposite sign of decadence and weakness. Fascist Italy and Germany poignantly convey how the unification of the state and industry minimized any disruptions cause by workers who had participated in collective bargaining prior to World War I. Thus, fascist leaders banned trade unions, although the workers were not completely without recourse. Fascism critiques and thwarts the effects wrought by modernity in order to move forward. Historians have charting the conditions in post-World War I Germany that allowed for the rise of Hitler, especially the effects of the political and economic instability that defined the epoch. The economic instability of Germany was directly related to the country’s political instability. Hyper-inflation wracked the German economy because too much money was being printed in order for Germany to repay war reparations thrust upon them during the Treaty of Versailles. Germany’s political instability affected as well because the middle class was completely wiped out. As a result, the development and strengthening of the far Left and the far Right emerged, and the two camps at opposite ends of the political continuum posed very different solutions to address the shortcomings and failures of the Weimar Republic. During the 1920s, it appears that the German public was not as receptive to the actions of the extreme right and Left that as they were in the 1930s because of rampant instability. Indeed, the attraction of the Right and Left loses credence when stability comes about. Only with the Great Depression in the 1930s will the Left and the Right extremes become valid again. Clearly, the failures of democracy during the interwar period fomented an environment ripe for Nazism to appeal to a battered and broke German people.

Works Cited

Benz, Wolfgang. A Concise History of the Third Reich. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006. Print.
Bosworth, R.J.B. Mussolini's Italy: Life Under the Dictatorship 1915-1945. Allen Lane: London, 2006. Print.
Burleigh, Michael and Wolfgang Wippermann. The Racial State: Germany, 1933-1945 Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1991. Print.
Gordon, Harold J., Jr. Hitler and the Beer Hall Putsch. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Hitler, Adolf, and Ralph Manheim. Mein Kampf. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943. Print.
Kershaw, Ian. The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems & Perspectives of Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.
Kirk, Tim. Nazi Germany,: European History in Perpective.
Koonz, Claudia. The Nazi Conscience. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003. Print.
Mussolini, Benito. "Benito Mussolini: What Is Fascism?" Internet History Sourcebooks. Fordham University, 1932. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.
“Nuremburg Laws.” The History Place. 1933. Accessed March 16, 2015 .
Paxton, Robert. The Anatomy of Fascism. New York: Vintage Books, 2004.
"Peace Treaty of Versailles, Articles 231-247 and Annexes, Reparations." Peace Treaty of Versailles. 1919. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.
"Propaganda Gallery: Strapaese's Nemesis: The Crisis Woman, 1931." Propaganda Gallery. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.

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