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ROOTS OF NAZI IDEOLOGY
The Nazi movement was started by a locksmith named Anton Drexler and it had just 28 members when it was established. Among them only six members were really active and when Hitler joined this party he was just an insignificant figure. The party was basically the outcome of the humiliating defeat of Germany during the first world war and ideologically it had no moorings apart from certain policies it had adopted such as confiscation of war profits, nationalization of trusts etc.But the driving force behind it was the strong desire for vengeance and a morbid hatred for the jews.The Nazi ideology in its early period was not a well worked out theory like Marxism. But during its evolution it drew its inspiration from a number of important thinkers like Fichte, Hegel, Treitschke, Nietzsche, Gobineau and Stewart chamberlain.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a German philosopher, immediately after Germany was defeated by Napoleon, poured out his ideas in his Addresses to the German nation (1808). Inthis he highlighted the purity of German language and emphasized the concept of VOLK or nation. The seeds of nationalism and anti-Semitism were embedded in his ideas.
But Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who succeeded Fichte laid emphasis on the supremacy of the state. He wrote ‘State is the world which the mind has made for itself …..so high as man stands above nature, so high does state stand above physical life. Man must therefore venerate the state as a secular deity (Irdisch-Gottliches)’ .It was this idea which made the Nazis look upon the state as a super-human entity. According to them, “the individual is nothing----Das Volk is everything” but it was another philosopher Heinrich Gotthard von Treitschke who glorified it. He wrote “It does not matter what you think, so long as you obey”. But the most dangerous idea was not just this; it was his justification of war. He wrote “the grandeur of war is the utter annihilation of puny man in the great conception of the state”. He believed “War is both justifiable and moral, and the idea of perpetual peace is not only impossible but immoral…”
But the philosopher on whom the NAZIS relied upon most was Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. His concept of war must have been a source of great inspiration for them. He wrote ’Ye shall love peace as a means to war… and the short peace more than the long You I advice not to work, but to fight. You I advice not to peace but to victory…Ye say it is the good cause which Halloweth even war? I say unto you; it is the good war which halloweth every cause. War and courage have done more great things than charity’ This pernicious idea explains the Nazi desire for the use of aggression and force. Though some modern scholars on Nietzsche claim that his sister Elizabeth Forster, who acted as the curator and editor of Nietzsche’s works, falsified some of his books to suit her husband’s Nazi sympathies; the fact remained that Hitler was an ardent admirer of Nietzsche.
But what made the brew even more dangerous was the concept of racial superiority. In this Nazis were influenced by not by any German philosopher but by a Frenchman named Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau and an Englishmen named Huston Stewart Chamberlain. It was they who highlighted the biological and mental differences of men which was the result of natural selection in the struggle for existence. By this method nature produced superior races and discarded the inferior ones. They glorified the Aryans and believed in their supremacy both in intelligence and energy. It was this which encouraged the Nazis to promulgate laws which provided for the sterilization of those who were victims of physical or mental defects and placed curbs on marriages between members of the’ master- race’ and other inferior races, notably Jews. Like the Jews the gypsies and Slavs too were despised and this explains the mass extermination of these people in Nazi concentration camps.
Nazism was indeed a very perverted ideology and its roots were from various sources. Their glorification of the state, the importance placed on discipline, the regimentation of society, and their aversion of other races were all due to the strange amalgam of above ideas. At a time when Germany was passing through very difficult and hopeless times, such an ideology was bound to have influence on a few people. Though most Germans were peace loving and even silently objected, they were helpless to the machinations of a few individuals.