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

The Führer (Leader) Principle

The Nazi’s Führer Principle or the cult of Adolf Hitler was its defining feature. Hitler was more than a powerful leader in the Nazi imagination, he was the embodiment of the German people, their desires, aspirations, power, potential. His will was the direct reflection of the collective will of the Volksgemeinschaft, the community of racial Germans. Of course, this collective will had no political power or way of freely expressing itself. Hitler set the course, the state and the people followed as it this course was also their course, Hitler’s choices also their choices. There was no room for opposition to Hitler’s way. Democracy and republicanism, for the Nazis, was defined by its internal struggles, its arguments, its domestic strife—its openness to the individual political opinions of all. Such constant internal strife signified the weakness of the Weimar Republic and ultimately the weakness of democracy as a system. While democracies sought compromise between competing opinions and glorified coalition, the Nazi political structure imagined a society in which all people found political voice through their leader. Individual people existed, of course, but they were first and foremost members of the German race and the German nation. All individual desires and ideas came after the collective ideal. Individuality—expressions of selfhood in either the political or artistic sense—were considered dangerous and were targeted by the massive Nazi apparatus of terror.   


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