What is National Socialism?

What are the ideals behind National Socialism, and what was it that that struck a chord with so many deluded German individuals during the 1930s and 40s?

Nazi soldier

Hitler's legacy

Adolf Hitler's dream for a new world order under the Nazi party ended the day he put a bullet in his brain in April 1945. Unfortunately, Nazism - or National Socialism - did not die with him and there are a frightening number of Neo Nazi groups espousing Hitler's evil political ideals throughout the globe. But just what are the ideals behind National Socialism, and what was it that that struck a chord with so many deluded German individuals during the 1930s and 40s?

Influential works

The key works that influenced Nazi ideology include the racist doctrines of the comte de Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, combined with the nationalism of Heinrich von Treitschke, and the hero-cult of legendary philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The Nazi dogma that Hitler espoused was also elaborated on by the fanatical Alfred Rosenberg. Vague and mystical, it was not a system of well-defined principles but rather a glorification of prejudice and myth, combined with elements of nihilism. In general terms, the principal doctrines of National Socialism were that of racial inequality and of adherence to the leader, or Führer, while its constant theme was that of nationalist expansion.

Hitler and Darwin: Unlikely bedfellows

Out of all the philosophies and ideas that influenced Hitler's views, one particularly influential strand of thinking was Social Darwinism, which as you may be able to tell, emerged from the groundbreaking evolutionary research of scientist Charles Darwin. Darwin in no way shared the same murderous views as Hitler; rather, Social Darwinism was an ideology that was drawn out from various elements of Darwinian thought; it suggested a relation between his teaching of evolution by natural selection and the way humanity functions. Basically, the notion of 'survival of the fittest', a phrase coined by its leading proponent Herbert Spencer, implied that it was the biological right for 'stronger' cultures to dominate and eventually wipe out those weaker societies.

WWII Soldiers

WWII Soldiers

Essence of evil

The essential National Socialist principals of Hitler can be found in Mein Kampf (My Struggle), the work he penned while imprisoned in the 1920s. Hitler believed that ethnic and linguistic diversity had weakened the fortunes of Germany. Further, he saw that democracy was a corrosive force, because it placed power in the hands of ethnic minorities, who he claimed had further "weaken and destabilize" the success of his people. Simply put, in order for Germany to be great again, it needs to be made up of a master race, a pure Aryan people who have not been polluted by outside forces and insidious immigrants.

Aryan supremacy

Hitler's Nazi theory believed that a nation is the highest creation of a race, and great nations were the creation of great races. For Hitler, these nations, such as the Nordic people, developed cultures that naturally grew from races with "natural good health, and aggressive, intelligent, courageous traits." Contrastingly, he wrote that the weakest nations were those of 'impure or mongrel races', because they have divided, quarrelling, and therefore weak cultures. Worst of all were seen to be the parasitic Untermensch, a group mainly comprised of Jews, but also Gypsies, homosexuals the disabled and other 'antisocials' were considered lebensunwertes Leben (Life-unworthy life), owing to their perceived deficiency and inferiority.

Electric Fences at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Electric Fences at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp

The road to war

Why were people taken in by this hate-filled ideology to the extent that it led them on the road to war? Well, the Nazi rationale was heavily invested in the militarist belief that great nations grow from military power, which in turn grows "naturally" from "rational, civilized cultures." Hitler's calls appealed to many disgruntled German Nationalists, eager to save face for the failure of World War I, and to salvage the militaristic nationalist way of thinking that had previously dominated that previous era. After Austria's and Germany's defeat of World War I, many Germans still had heartfelt ties to the goal of creating a greater Germany, and thought that the use of military force to achieve it was necessary. Hitler's misguided views that championed a stronger, purer race of Germans, had sadly struck a chord with many people and the rest is history...