USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

Hitler’s Core Agenda

We can break it down Hitler’s basic political agenda into the following categories:
1) Hyper-Nationalism: Hitler was the most nationalistic of all in this age of nationalism. But there was a difference between Hitler’s nationalism and other types. For Hitler, nationalism implied an inherent struggle for survival against forces both beyond the national community (Volksgemeinschaft) and within it. The key concept for Hitler’s nationalism was an idea of racial purity—again a concept common at the time but here taken to the extreme. The result was a call for German national purification, which of course for Hitler meant the elimination or “cleansing” of all “impure” elements.

2) Healthy Society: for Hitler, as for many others during this time, societies and nations were healthy or diseased/sick. One of the tasks of the state, in Hitler’s conception, was to “heal” society. Many methods were available—but all required that the state would define and label who was sick and who healthy. Those that were inherently healthy would be separated from those who were “sick.” The agenda is one of purgation—systematically to remove all undesirable people. Race, as we say above, was the main way of doing this and Hitler’s primary target was what he labeled the “Jewish race.” Other groups that were targeted included the physically and mentally handicapped, gays, people of Slavic origins, and blacks. This struggle against racial outsiders—as Hitler and the Nazis defined it—was a constant and permanent part of the role of the state. Only by radical cure and continued vigorous prevention could Dr. State prevent a sick social body. The life-force of this healthy society, according to Nazi science, was Germanic blood, which flowed through the German people (the Volk), creating the community (Volksgemeinschaft) and stemmed from its purported Aryan roots.

3) Statism: Hitler believed that the economy should serve the ends of the state, but that the state should serve to make sure the free market economy functioned smoothly. This meant, first of all, that though Hitler would allow private business to continue, he did so only if business (especially industry) worked with him to help him achieve his aims. Since his primary and basically single aim, economically speaking, was to establish total control over the nation and to prepare as quickly as possible for war (military expansion), all else was subordinated to that. Areas of economic life that fell beyond this scope the Nazis had little interest in. Those that fell within it became either pawns or (more often than not) active collaborators in the Nazi state.

4) Militarism: This is a clear one. From the beginning, Hitler’s vision was for massive military aggression in order to dramatically increase German territory. The entire Nazi state was organized around this principle. War was the means and the end of Nazism.

5) Anti-Semitism: Hitler’s movement was radically anti-Semitic. In other words, it was targeted at the Jews as the primary enemy of the German people and by extension the German state. Anti-Semitism created the ideological foundation of Nazism. It was used to justify extremist legal, political, and police activity. It helped give cohesion to the otherwise diffuse category of “German.” Without the “Jew,” there was no “German.”

6) Anti-Bolshevism: Hitler and his Nazi Party had powerful hostility to all types of economic socialism that was based on an ideology of class struggle. For sure, Hitler was well aware of the allure of socialism and socialistic solutions to modern problems. But this was a nationalistic issue for Hitler—it was about the people, the Volk, and not about the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. As such, the great enemy of the Nazis, from a purely political point of view, was the communists and especially the Bolsheviks in Russia. While the Nazis were intensively nationalistic with a nationalism based on a call for common cause between workers and capitalists, the Bolsheviks were inherently internationalist, calling for workers between counties to throw off the oppression of the capitalistic class.

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