Evaluation of the National Socialism Movement until 1945 sample essay
Germany 1921, lower-class German, you have no job, almost no food, no shelter, no way of taking care of you family. You look around at the Germany where you were born and you see the material and mental devastations imposed by WWI sanctions. Terms imposed by the Treaty of Versailles on Germany included partitioning a certain amount of its own territory to a number of surrounding countries, being stripped of all of its overseas colonies, in particular in Africa, and restricting the size of its army in order to prevent the Germans to initiate another conflict. The treaty was not accepted by the German people who were shocked by its terms; they refused to consider that they were the only ones responsible for starting the war when it was the fault of Imperial Germany and its allies.
During the time of the Weimar Republic, the life conditions in Germany after the treaty became harsh as the currency was devaluated. The allies permitted only low import levels of goods that most Germans could not even afford. After four years of war and famine, many German workers were exhausted, physically impaired and discouraged. Millions were disenchanted with capitalism and hoping for a new era. Hence, in 1933, the Weimar Republic collapsed since the German people did not see any radical changes under their government. Hitler’s movement took advantage of the situation by accusing Weimar of having betrayed the German people. Hitler took power (Machtergreifung) in 1933.
The Nazi party owed its huge increase to an influx of workers, unemployed, despairing peasants, and middle-class people. On the ceremony of the opening of the Reichstag in Potsdam on March 21, 1933, the Nazi propaganda machine began its extraordinary influence on the minds of the German people. The emotional and grandiose “show” had the goal of linking Hitler’s government with Germany’s imperial past and portraying National Socialism as the nation’s future. (Richard J. Evans 371)
Some view the Nazi movement as a total detour from the path of progress to modern Europe. However, others consider it in complete agreement with its development. Thus, an evaluation of the Nazi movement is needed in order to define and identify its contribution through historical records of its ideas, successes, and failures, with an aim to determine whether its influence was truly significant in building a modern Europe. In addition, a description of what is considered the true path towards a modern Europe is needed to draw a specific conclusion.
In the first place, one needs to describe basic ideas and the member components of the Nazi party between 1920 and 1933. The National Socialist Germans Worker’s Party was born in 1920. Adolph Hitler became its leader and transformed the party into the most powerful entity to reckon with from 1920 until 1933 when Hitler was named chancellor. The ideology of the party was rooted in German mythology, which was represented in the musical works of Wagner. The basis was that the claim that German people were the descendants of the Aryans as a pure race. Therefore, conserving the racial purity of the Germans was one of the major efforts that led to the Holocaust during which the impure races (Jews, Communists, Polish etc…) were eliminated.
In addition, Lebensraum or “space for life” was another pillar idea leading to the invasion of other European nations, initiating the beginning of World War II, causing over 60 millions deaths. Even though the party is called “socialist”, it has nothing to do with our familiar concept of socialism. In fact, the Nazis rejected egalitarianism, internationalism as well as the common ownership of means of production, and the class struggle notion as introduced by Karl Marx. The origins of the party were the extreme rejection of Germany losing World War I. The German Far-Right believed that the loss of WWI was due to the socialists, the liberals, the intellectuals and the Jews for failing to support the war effort.
In addition, there was a strong belief in the need to unify Germany as one national community instead of having a society divided by classes and party lines. When Hitler became an important figure of the party in 1921, his vision was clear: The main concerns of the Party dealt with German expansionism as well as anti-Semitism. He already had thoughts of attacking France, Britain, and the Soviet Union since all three countries were run by Jews, according to his beliefs. Hitler’s grip increased as he came to full power, controlling all areas of the government, in essence, strongly imposing a dictatorship. Based on the economic historical records, the Nazi’s concerned themselves with domestic problems.
Three major goals were identified: the elimination of unemployment, rapid and substantial rearmament, and the expansion of production of consumer items to support as well as improve middle-class, and lower-class living conditions. These directly addressed the failures of the Weimar Republic.
In reality, the part of the economy that prospered was the one involved the rearmament effort with new jobs, well-paid jobs, productivity in the raw material production supporting other industries geared to the restoration of Germany’s war power, for example the chemical industry. Specifically, in 1939, the total expenditures in the gross social product were 34 to 35 %, 2/3 of which went to support rearmament. (Timothy W. Mason 371). However, the Nazi economic and ideological grandeur came to a abrupt end in 1945, signaling the end of WWII and the eradication of Nazism altogether right after 1945.
The most common agreed-upon model of European modernization relies on the early net investment of capital after the war and a shift of strategy for economic growth, which consisted of non-elected panels of experts dealing with mixed economies as well as managed capitalism. These new comers in the European economic landscape were focusing their energies on getting rid of outdated business practices while pushing for modernization, productivity, and acceptance of modern economy; some strategic details were inspired from American capitalistic practices.
Interestingly, Rosemary Wakeman who has been studying the progress of European economy since 1945, mentions that economic planning techniques of fascist Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union were extensively used, but without the ideologies. (Rosemary Wakeman 68-69) Modern Europe was built on these economic bases, rapidly increasing prosperity between 1950 to the mid-1970’s, then slowing down until now despite the unification of Europe as a competitor to the U.S.
What can be said about the role of Nazi Germany in the path of European modernization? First, the political success of the Nazi party in Germany was based on the anger of most German over the reparation conditions imposed by the Allies in 1919, which stripped Germany of economic stability and prosperity. Perhaps, if the reparation conditions had not been so harsh, the rise of Nazi Germany could have been avoided. In addition, it seems that the Weimar Republic was not strong enough to reestablish economic growth. Again, economic growth could have been manageable for Weimar without the extreme measures of the post-WWI era, but this time with the support of the German people who may have been more clement toward Weimar.
The planning strategies of economic growth in Nazi Germany were clearly stated as well as executed and beneficiated the middle-class and lower-class with jobs as well as material prosperity. The idea of “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer” (one people, one reign, one leader) gave pride and purpose to Germany who saw Hitler as a savior. The Nazi’s main tactic was to couple economic recovery as well as growth with political ideology, specifically, the rearmament of Germany to fulfill the “Lebensraum” ideal. (Alfred Sohn-Rethel, 40-78) Hitler saw the “Lebensraum” as a way to unite Europe, which did happen in our modern Europe, and to bring back the Western Holy Roman Empire from its ashes. As you can see, the Nazi model of European modernization was solely based on the concept of economic prosperity resulting from Nazi ideology.
However, our unification of Europe was based on economic unification, not necessarily a political one. In fact, the main difference between the Nazi planned economy and a modern Europe planned economy is the political context. The Nazi strongly supported an autocracy or a dictatorship, which eliminated, in the most frightful way, people because of their race or religion whereas the general political context of modern Europe has been a democracy. As remarked by Wakeman, the Nazi economic planning principles were taken into account to build a modern Europe, leaving the ideology behind. So, there was a real recognition that the Nazi economic know-how was useful to build a modern Europe; they had no other role in building the current unified modern Europe.
The Nazi ideology failed modern Europe standards in terms of equal social rights for everyone. Their ideology was based on pairing ideology with economic prosperity. In addition, the Nazi unified Europe was to be achieved through the violent conquest of other European countries by war in order to reestablish the Third Reich, eyeing the conquest of the entire world as well. . The Nazi contribution to a modern Europe was their economic planning strategies, a small part in the bigger picture of how modern Europe came to exist. Finally, their genocidal past has stuck in people’s minds until today, even the unfortunate modern Germans whose historical past will be forever tainted by the stain of the Holocaust.
Richard J. Evans. The Third Reich in Power. New York: Penguin, 2006.
Timothy W. Mason. Nazism, Fascism and the Working Class. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Rosemary (EDT) Wakeman. Themes in Modern European History Since 1945. London: Routledge, 2003.
Alfred Sohn-Rethel. Economy and Class Structure of German Fascism. London: CSE Books, 1978.
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