NDU Term Paper | Introduction To Sociology - Hitler
Faculty of Humanities
“Hitler and the Rise of National Socialism “
SOL 201, Sec. D
Mr. Imad Chamoun
May 26, 2004
MAJOR EVENTS IN HITLER'S LIFE
• *Hitler born in Branau am Inn, Austria Hungary
• *Began school
• *Father died
• *Left school entirely after equivalent of ninth grade
• *Rejected as an unqualified artist by Vienna Academy for Fine Arts
• *Mother died
• *Refused to get a job
• *Went to homeless shelter where he
was exposed to political ideas
• *Life improved
• *Paint and sold pictures and
postcards for a living
• *Declared physically unfit for WWI
• *Went to Munich, Germany
• *Volunteered for Bavarian Army
• *Served the whole war
• *Returned to Munich
• *Became spokesman for Nazi Party
• *Chosen Absolute Leader of Nazi Party
• *Sentenced to 5 years in prison for Beer Hall Revolt
• *Released after less than one year
• *Nazi Party received less than 3% of the vote in German election
• *Nazi Party received more votes than any other party
• *Hitler demanded to be appointed chancellor of Germany
• *Sworn in as chancellor of Germany
• *Initiated laws against Jews
• *Took over Austria
• *Proclaimed official union of Austria Germany
• *Germany broke Munich Pact with Czechoslovakia
• *Deal signed with USSR to split Europe equally and for USSR to
• *Germany invaded Poland
• *Britain and France declared war on Germany
• *Holocaust began
• *Hitler speech to Reichstag, January 30
• *Decided to attack USSR
• *Invasion actually took place
• *Several attempts were made to assassinate Hitler by non-
• *War was going very badly for Hitler
• *Soviet troops invaded Germany, making it all the way to the gates
• *Hitler appointed Karl Donitz his successor
• *Married his mistress, Eva Braun
• *Committed suicide in Berlin on April 30
Hilter was a Nationalist, a Socialist, or National Socialist ??
To most people, Hitler's beliefs belong to the extreme far right. For
example, most conservatives believe in patriotism and a strong military;
carry these beliefs far enough, and you arrive at Hitler's warring
nationalism. This association has long been something of an embarrassment
to the far right. To deflect such criticism, conservatives have recently
launched a counter-attack, claiming that Hitler was a socialist, and
therefore belongs to the political left, not the right.
The primary basis for this claim is that Hitler was a National Socialist. The
word "National" evokes the state, and the word "Socialist" openly identifies
itself as such.
However, there is no academic controversy over the status of this term: it
was a misnomer. Misnomers are quite common in the history of political
labels. Examples include the German Democratic Republic (which was
neither) and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's "Liberal Democrat" party (which was
also neither). The true question is not whether Hitler called his party
"socialist," but whether or not it actually was.
In fact, socialism has never been tried at the national level anywhere in the
world. This may surprise some people -- after all, wasn't the Soviet Union
socialist? The answer is no. Many nations and political parties have called
themselves "socialist," but none have actually tried socialism. To
understand why, we should revisit a few basic political terms.
Perhaps the primary concern of any political ideology is who gets to own and
control the means the production. This includes factories, farmlands,
machinery, etc. Generally there have been three approaches to this
question. The first was aristocracy, in which a ruling elite owned the land
and productive wealth, and peasants and serfs had to obey their orders in
return for their livelihood. The second is capitalism, which has disbanded
the ruling elite and allows a much broader range of private individuals to
own the means of production. However, this ownership is limited to those
who can afford to buy productive wealth; nearly all workers are excluded.
The third (and untried) approach is socialism, where everyone owns and
controls the means of production, by means of the vote. As you can see,
there is a spectrum here, ranging from a few people owning productive
wealth at one end, to everyone owning it at the other.
Socialism has been proposed in many forms. The most common is social
democracy, where workers vote for their supervisors, as well as their
industry representatives to regional or national congresses. Another
proposed form is anarcho-socialism, where workers own companies that
would operate on a free market, without any central government at all. As
you can see, a central planning committee is hardly a necessary feature of
socialism. The primary feature is worker ownership of production.
The Soviet Union failed to qualify as socialist because it was a dictatorship
over workers -- that is, a type of aristocracy, with a ruling elite in Moscow
calling all the shots. Workers cannot own or control anything under a
totalitarian government. In variants of socialism that call for a central
government, that government is always a strong or even direct democracy…
never a dictatorship. It doesn't matter if the dictator claims to be
carrying out the will of the people, or calls himself a "socialist" or a
"democrat." If the people themselves are not in control, then the system is,
by definition, non-democratic and non-socialist.
And what of Nazi Germany? The idea that workers controlled the means of
production in Nazi Germany is a bitter joke. It was actually a combination
of aristocracy and capitalism. Technically, private businessmen owned and
controlled the means of production. The Nazi "Charter of Labor" gave
employers complete power over their workers. It established the employer
as the "leader of the enterprise," and read: "The leader of the enterprise
makes the decisions for the employees and laborers in all matters
concerning the enterprise." (1)
The employer, however, was subject to the frequent orders of the ruling
Nazi elite. After the Nazis took power in 1933, they quickly established a
highly controlled war economy under the direction of Dr. Hjalmar Schacht.
Like all war economies, it boomed, making Germany the second nation to
recover fully from the Great Depression, in 1936. (The first nation was
Sweden, in 1934. Following Keynesian-like policies, the Swedish government
spent its way out of the Depression, proving that state economic policies
can be successful without resorting to dictatorship or war.)
Prior to the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, worker protests had spread all
across Germany in response to the Great Depression. During his drive to
power, Hitler exploited this social unrest by promising workers to
strengthen their labor unions and increase their standard of living. But
these were empty promises; privately, he was reassuring wealthy German
businessmen that he would crack down on labor once he achieved power.
Historian William Shirer describes the Nazi's dual strategy:
"The party had to play both sides of the tracks. It had to allow [Nazi
officials] Strasser, Goebbels and the crank Feder to beguile the
masses with the cry that the National Socialists were truly
'socialists' and against the money barons. On the other hand, money
to keep the party going had to be wheedled out of those who had an
ample supply of it." (2)
Once in power, Hitler showed his true colors by promptly breaking all his
promises to workers. The Nazis abolished trade unions, collective
bargaining and the right to strike. An organization called the "Labor Front"
replaced the old trade unions, but it was an instrument of the Nazi party
and did not represent workers. According to the law that created it, "Its
task is to see that every individual should be able… to perform the
maximum of work." Workers would indeed greatly boost their productivity
under Nazi rule. But they also became exploited. Between 1932 and 1936,
workers wages fell, from 20.4 to 19.5 cents an hour for skilled labor, and
from 16.1 to 13 cents an hour for unskilled labor. (3) Yet workers did not
protest. This was partly because the Nazis had restored order to the
economy, but an even bigger reason was that the Nazis would have cracked
down on any protest.
There was no part of Nazism, therefore, that even remotely resembled
socialism. But what about the political nature of Nazism in general? Did it
belong to the left, or to the right? Let's take a closer look:
The politics of Nazism
The political right is popularly associated with the following principles. Of
course, it goes without saying that these are generalizations, and not every
person on the far right believes in every principle, or disbelieves its
opposite. Most people's political beliefs are complex, and cannot be neatly
pigeonholed. This is as true of Hitler as anyone. But since the far right is
trying peg Hitler as a leftist, it's worth reviewing the tenets popularly
associated with the right. Let's review these spectrums one by one, and see
where Hitler stood in his own words. Ultimately, Hitler's views are not
monolithically conservative -- on a few issues, his views are complex and
difficult to label. But as you will see, the vast majority of them belong on
the far right:
Individualism over collectivism.
Many conservatives argue that Hitler was a leftist because he subjugated
the individual to the state. However, this characterization is wrong, for
The first error is in assuming that this is exclusively a liberal trait.
Actually, U.S. conservatives take considerable pride in being patriotic
Americans, and they deeply honor those who have sacrificed their lives for
their country. The Marine Corps is a classic example: as every Marine
knows, all sense of individuality is obliterated in the Marines Corps, and one
is subject first, foremost and always to the group.
The second error is forgetting that all human beings subscribe to
individualism and collectivism. If you believe that you are personally
responsible for taking care of yourself, you are an individualist. If you
freely belong and contribute to any group -- say, an employing business,
church, club, family, nation, or cause -- then you are a collectivist as well.
Neither of these traits makes a person inherently "liberal" or
"conservative," and to claim that you are an "evil socialist" because you
champion a particular group is not a serious argument.
Political scientists therefore do not label people "liberal" or "conservative"
on the basis of their individualism or collectivism. Much more important is
how they approach their individualism and collectivism. What groups does a
person belong to? How is power distributed in the group? Does it practice
one-person rule, minority rule, majority rule, or self-rule? Liberals believe
in majority rule. Hitler practiced one-person rule. Thus, there is no
And on that score, conservatives might feel that they are off the hook,
too, because they claim to prefer self-rule to one-person rule. But their
actions say otherwise. Many of the institutions that conservatives favor
are really quite dictatorial: the military, the church, the patriarchal family,
the business firm.
Hitler himself downplayed all groups except for the state, which he raised
to supreme significance in his writings. However, he did not identify the
state as most people do, as a random collection of people in artificially
drawn borders. Instead, he identified the German state as its racially pure
stock of German or Aryan blood. In Mein Kampf, Hitler freely and
interchangeably used the terms "Aryan race," "German culture" and
"folkish state." To him they were synonyms, as the quotes below show.
There were citizens inside Germany (like Jews) who were not part of
Hitler's state, while there were Germans outside Germany (for example, in
Austria) who were. But the main point is that Hitler's political philosophy
was not really based on "statism" as we know it today. It was actually based
on racism -- again, a subject that hits uncomfortably closer to home for
conservatives, not liberals.
As Hitler himself wrote:
"The state is a means to an end. Its end lies in the preservation and
advancement of a community of physically and psychically
homogenous creatures. This preservation itself comprises first of all
existence as a race… Thus, the highest purpose of a folkish state is
concern for the preservation of those original racial elements, which
bestow culture and create the beauty and dignity of a higher
mankind. We, as Aryans, can conceive of the state only as the living
organism of a nationality which… assures the preservation of this
Racism or racial segregation over racial tolerance.
"All the human culture, all the results of art, science, and technology
that we see before us today, are almost exclusively the creative
product of the Aryan." (9)
"Every racial crossing leads inevitably sooner or later to the decline
of the hybrid product…" (12)
"What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and
reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our
children and the purity of our blood…" (14)
Eugenics over freedom of reproduction
"The folkish state must make up for what everyone else today has
neglected in this field. It must set race in the center of all life. It
must take care to keep it pure… It must see to it that only the
healthy beget children; that there is only one disgrace: despite one's own
sickness and deficiencies, to bring children into the world, and one highest
honor: to renounce doing so. And conversely it must be considered
reprehensible: to withhold healthy children from the nation. Here the
state… must put the most modern medical means in the service of this
knowledge. It must declare unfit for propagation all who are in any way
visibly sick or who have inherited a disease and therefore pass it on…" (16)
Merit over equality.
"The best state constitution and state form is that which, with the
most unquestioned certainty, raises the best minds in the national
community to leading position and leading influence. But as in
economic life, the able men cannot be appointed from above, but
must struggle through for themselves…" (17)
"It must not be lamented if so many men set out on the road to
arrive at the same goal: the most powerful and swiftest will in this
way be recognized, and will be the victor." (p. 512.)
Competition over cooperation.
"Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to
fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live." (18)
Power politics and militarism over pacifism.
Allan Bullock, probably the world's greatest Hitler historian, sums up
Hitler's political method in one sentence:
"Stripped of their romantic trimmings, all Hitler's ideas can be
reduced to a simple claim for power which recognizes only one
relationship, that of domination, and only one argument, that of
One-person rule or self-rule over democracy.
"The young [Nazi] movement is in its nature and inner organization
anti-parliamentarian; that is, it rejects… a principle of majority rule
in which the leader is degraded to the level of mere executant of
other people's wills and opinion." (25)
"The [Nazi party] should not become a constable of public opinion,
but must dominate it. It must not become a servant of the masses,
but their master!" (26)
"When I recognized the Jew as the leader of the Social Democracy,
the scales dropped from my eyes." (30)
"Only a knowledge of the Jews provides the key with which to
comprehend the inner, and consequently real, aims of Social
Capitalism over Marxism.
Bullock writes of Hitler's views on Marxism:
"While Hitler's attitude towards liberalism was one of contempt,
towards Marxism he showed an implacable hostility… Ignoring the
profound differences between Communism and Social Democracy in
practice and the bitter hostility between the rival working class
parties, he saw in their common ideology the embodiment of all that
he detested -- mass democracy and a leveling egalitarianism as
opposed to the authoritarian state and the rule of an elite; equality
and friendship among peoples as opposed to racial inequality and the
domination of the strong; class solidarity versus national unity;
internationalism versus nationalism." (33)
As Hitler himself would write:
"The German state is gravely attacked by Marxism." (34)
"The Marxists will march with democracy until they succeed in
indirectly obtaining for their criminal aims the support of even the
national intellectual world, destined by them for extinction." (37)
"Marxism itself systematically plans to hand the world over to the
"The Jewish doctrine of Marxism rejects the aristocratic principle
of Nature and replaces the eternal privilege of power and strength
by the mass of numbers and their dead weight." (39)
Realism over idealism.
Hitler was hardly an "idealist" in the sense that political scientists use the
term. The standard definition of an idealist is someone who believes that
cooperation and peaceful coexistence can occur among peoples. A realist,
however, is someone who sees the world as an unstable and dangerous place,
and prepares for war, if not to deter it, then to survive it. It goes without
saying that Hitler was one of the greatest realists of all time.
Nationalism over internationalism.
"The nationalization of our masses will succeed only when… their
international poisoners are exterminated." (42)
"The severest obstacle to the present-day worker's approach to the
national community lies not in the defense of his class interests, but
in his international leadership and attitude which are hostile to the
people and the fatherland." (43)
Exclusiveness over inclusiveness.
"Thus men without exception wander about in the garden of Nature;
they imagine that they know practically everything and yet with few
exceptions pass blindly by one of the most patent principles of
Nature: the inner segregation of the species of all living beings on
"The greatness of every mighty organization embodying an idea in
this world lies in the religious fanaticism and intolerance with which,
fanatically convinced of its own right, it intolerantly imposes its will
against all others." (46)
Meat-eating over vegetarianism.
It may seem ridiculous to include this issue in a review of Hitler's politics,
but, believe it or not, conservatives on the Internet frequently equate
Hitler's vegetarianism with the vegetarianism practised by liberals
concerned about the environment and the ethical treatment of animals.
Hitler's vegetarianism had nothing to do with his political beliefs. He
became a vegetarian shortly after the death of his girlfriend and half-
niece, Geli Raubal. Their relationship was a stormy one, and it ended in her
apparent suicide. There were rumors that Hitler had arranged her murder,
but Hitler would remain deeply distraught over her loss for the rest of his
Hitler's vegetarianism, then, was no more than a phobia, triggered by
an association with his niece's death.
Gun ownership over gun control
Perhaps one of the pro-gun lobby's favorite arguments is that if German
citizens had had the right to keep and bear arms, Hitler would have never
been able to tyrannize the country. And to this effect, pro-gun advocates
often quote the following:
"1935 will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has
full gun registration. Our streets will be safer, our police more
efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future." - Adolf
However, this quote is almost certainly a fraud. There is no reputable
record of him ever making it: neither at the Nuremberg rallies, nor in any
of his weekly radio addresses. Furthermore, there was no reason for him to
even make such a statement; for Germany already had strict gun control as
a term of surrender in the Treaty of Versailles. The Allies had wanted to
make Germany as impotent as possible, and one of the ways they did that
was to disarm its citizenry. Only a handful of local authorities were allowed
arms at all, and the few German citizens who did possess weapons were
already subject to full gun registration. Seen in this light, the above quote
makes no sense whatsoever.
On April 12, 1928, five years before Hitler seized power, Germany passed
the Law on Firearms and Ammunition. This law substantially tightened
restrictions on gun ownership in an effort to curb street violence between
Nazis and Communists. The law was ineffectual and poorly enforced. It was
not until March 18, 1938 -- five years after Hitler came to power -- that
the Nazis passed the German Weapons Law, their first known change in the
firearm code. And this law actually relaxed restrictions on citizen firearms.
Common sense over theory or science.
Hitler was notorious for his anti-intellectualism:
"Knowledge above the average can be crammed into the average man,
but it remains dead, and in the last analysis sterile knowledge. The
result is a man who may be a living dictionary but nevertheless falls
down miserably in all special situations and decisive moments in life."
Pragmatism over principle.
"The question of the movement's inner organization is one of
expediency and not of principle." (52)
Religion over secularism.
Hitler's views on religion were complex. Although ostensibly an atheist, he
considered himself a cultural Catholic, and frequently evoked God, the
Creator and Providence in his writings. Throughout his life he would remain
an envious admirer of the Christian Church and its power over the masses.
Hitler thus advocated freedom of religious belief. Although he would later
press churches into the service of Nazism, often at the point of a gun,
Hitler did not attempt to impose a state religion or mandate the basic
philosophical content of German religions. As long as they did not interfere
with his program, he allowed them to continue fuctioning.
Hitler was raised a Catholic, even going to school for two years at the
monastery at Lambauch, Austria. As late as 24 he still called himself a
Catholic, but somewhere along the way he became an atheist. It is highly
doubtful that this was an intellectual decision, as a reading of his
disordered thoughts in Mein Kampf will attest. The decision was most likely
a pragmatic one, based on power and personal ambition. Bullock reveals an
interesting anecdote showing how these considerations worked on the
young Hitler. After five years of eking out a miserable existence in Vienna
and four years of war
Hitler probably realized that a frustrated artist and pipe-dreamer like
himself would have no chance of achieving power in the world-wide, 2000-
year old Christian Church. It was most likely for this reason that he
rejected Christianity and pursued a political life instead. Yet, curiously
enough, he never renounced his membership in the Catholic Church, and the
Church never excommunicated him. Nor did the Church place his Mein
Kampf on the Index of Prohibited Books, in spite of its knowledge of his
atrocities. Later the Church would come under intense criticism for its
friendly and cooperative relationship with Hitler. A brief review of this
history is instructive.
In 1933, the Catholic Center Party cast its large and decisive vote in favor
of Hitler's Enabling Bill. This bill essentially gave Chancellor Hitler the
sweeping dictatorial powers he was seeking
As anyone familiar with Christian history knows, the Church has always
been a primary source of anti-Semitism. Hitler's anti-Semitism therefore
found a receptive audience among Catholic authorities. The Church also had
an intense fear and hatred of Russian communism, and Hitler's attack on
Russia was the best that could have happened. The Jesuit Michael Serafin
wrote: "It cannot be denied that [Pope] Pius XII's closest advisors for
some time regarded Hitler's armoured divisions as the right hand of God."
(61) As Pope Pius himself would say after Germany conquered Poland: "Let
us end this war between brothers and unite our forces against the common
enemy of atheism" -- Russia. (62)
Once Hitler assumed power, he signed a Concordat, or agreement, with the
Catholic Church. Eugenio Pacelli (the man who would eventually become Pope
Pius XII) was the Vatican diplomat who drew up the Concordat, and he
considered it a triumph. In return for promises which Hitler increasingly
broke, the Church dissolved all Catholic organizations in Germany, including
the Catholic Center Party. Bishops were to take an oath of loyalty to the
Nazi regime. Clergy were to see to the pastoral care of Germany's armed
forces (regardless of what those armed forces did). (63)
The Concordat eliminated all Catholic resistance to Hitler; after this, the
German bishops gave Hitler their full and unqualified support. A bishops'
conference at Fulda, 1933, resulted in agreement with Hitler's case for
extending Lebensraum, or German territory.
Hitler, on the other hand, kept up his attack on the Church. Nazi bands
stormed into the few remaining Catholic institutions, beat up Catholic
youths and arrested Catholic officials. The Vatican was dismayed, but it did
not protest. (67) In some instances, it was hard to tell if the Church
supported its own persecution. Hitler muzzled the independent Catholic
press (about 400 daily papers in 1933) and subordinated it to Goebbels'
Ministry of Propaganda and Enlightenment. Yet soon the Catholic Press was
doing more than what the Nazis required of it -- for example, coordinating
their Nazi propaganda to prepare the people for the 1940 offensive against
the West. (68) Throughout the war, the Catholic press would remain one of
the Third Reich's best disseminators of propaganda.
Pacelli became the new Pope Pius XII in 1939, and he immediately improved
relations with Hitler. He broke protocol by personally signing a letter in
German to Hitler expressing warm hopes of friendly relations. Shortly
afterwards, the Church celebrated Hitler's birthday by ringing bells, flying
swastika flags from church towers and holding thanksgiving services for
the Fuhrer. (69) Ringing church bells to celebrate and affirm the bishops'
allegiance to the Reich would become quite common throughout the war;
after the German army conquered France, the church bells rang for an
entire week, and swastikas flew over the churches for ten days.
But perhaps the greatest failure of Pope Pius XII was his silence over the
Holocaust, even though he knew it was in progress. Although there are
many heroic stories of Catholics helping Jews survive the Holocaust, they
do not include Pope Pius, the Holy See, or the German Catholic authorities.
When a reporter asked Pius why he did not protest the liquidation of the
Jews, the Pope answered, "Dear friend, do not forget that millions of
Catholics are serving in the German armies. Am I to involve them in a
conflict of conscience?" (70) As perhaps the world's greatest moral leader,
he was charged with precisely that responsibility.
The history of Hitler and the Church reveals a relationship built on mutual
distrust and philosophical rejection, but also shared goals, benefits,
admiration, envy, friendliness, and ultimate alliance.
Many conservatives accuse Hitler of being a leftist, on the grounds that his
party was named "National Socialist." But socialism requires worker
ownership and control of the means of production. In Nazi Germany, private
capitalist individuals owned the means of production, and they in turn were
frequently controlled by the Nazi party and state. True socialism does not
advocate such economic dictatorship -- it can only be democratic. Hitler's
other political beliefs place him almost always on the far right. He
advocated racism over racial tolerance, eugenics over freedom of
reproduction, merit over equality, competition over cooperation, power
politics and militarism over pacifism, dictatorship over democracy,
capitalism over Marxism, realism over idealism, nationalism over
internationalism, exclusiveness over inclusiveness, common sense over
theory or science, pragmatism over principle, and even held friendly
relations with the Church, even though he was an atheist.