Few four-letter words spark more fear, insult and outrage than Nazi.
And well it should.
Nazism carries a boatload of baggage, even for generations that never experienced the Holocaust and fascism of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
“Nazi” is a nickname linked to a political ideology characterized by dictatorial rule, forcible suppression of opponents and harsh, even violent, control of a society. Make no mistake. Adolf Hitler was a bonafide fascist. And yet his “right wing” politics were remarkably married to progressive, socialistic and “left wing” ideologies.
Perhaps a little historical context will help.
The term “Nazi” is a German abbreviation for the National Socialist Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei).
Originally, Hitler wanted the word “socialist” removed from his party name but relented to appease the radical leftists he needed to get elected. The moderate middle is where most fascists launch their political careers. Hitler was no different. He was also the first to co-opt television in order to broadcast his political ideology. Thanks to the cover of German politicians and a state media in his hip pocket, Hitler and his Nazi party could hide their sins, foil opposition and push an increasingly radical and destructive dogma.
Ultimately, it wasn’t about improving Germany but controlling Germany.
The Nazi Party wanted to reimagine the nation through a message of hope and change.
Maybe that’s why Hitler’s first act as Chancellor of Germany was to institute socialized health care (1933). Initially, this benign and benevolent legislation was appreciated by the German people. Who wouldn’t want affordable health care? However, hindsight proved a devil in the details. There’s nothing “affordable” about socialized medicine.
Few knew Hitler’s ultimate goal was a “master race.” All other races were genetically inferior and socially unnecessary.
Adolf Hitler was a charismatic communicator.
His speeches generated enthusiasm and his messages on German nationalism inspired patriotism that eventually produced fanaticism. The irony? Germany had been the heart of intellectual, scientific and religious exploration for four centuries. Some of the world’s best thinkers were German. It was, after all, where Protestant Christianity started. And yet these Germans were all slowly seduced by the lie.
At the heart of Hitler’s delusion was German socialism.
Government was the answer to every problem.
Consequently, as socialized health care normalized the German people, it conditioned them towards a more sinister and deadly reality. Since socialized health care (for all Germans) was an expensive venture, it proved fiscally prudent to eliminate those German people who weren’t pulling their weight.
The first targets were the disabled, elderly, incurable, insane and demented, most of whom were already under institutional state care.
Hitler’s Nazi party utilized the guise of social engineering to exterminate the unnecessary. The oldest Germans were particularly costly, however individuals with chronic disease, or mentally off the rails or crippled were also expensive eyesores.
The “merciful” solution was to kill them for the good of all Germany.
Consequently Hitler’s Nazi Party systematically eliminated anyone labeled as “lebensunwertes leben” or “life unworthy of life.”
Naturally these fascist state-led murders caught the attention of the German Lutheran and Catholic churches, who vehemently denounced such atrocities. However, by then, it was too late. Modern Germans weren’t as “religious” as their forefathers. Liberal Christianity originated in Germany through the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834). By the early 20th century, liberalism had decimated the German Church and left a wake of apathy, agnosticism and atheism.
The German people were easy pickings because they no longer had a moral compass.
Consequently, once able-bodied Germans were conditioned to “merciful” euthanasia, Hitler moved to other social “undesirables”: beggars, criminals, homosexuals and homeless. These groups were either executed or sterilized (to prevent further reproduction). As the weak and undesirable were eliminated, the average white, healthy, younger, working German grew in prominence and political clout. This reality made it easy for Hitler to further apply Nazi eugenics and euthanasia to non-German ethnicities: Jews, blacks, Slavs and gypsies.
The rise of a new Aryan master race transformed Germany.
Adolf Hitler and the Nazis got many of their ideas from America.
In the early 20th century, a eugenics movement emerged in the United States that wanted to socially engineer a perfect human race. Influenced by Darwinian evolution, scientific progress and a desire to curb the “undesirable” immigration of Italians and Jews, American eugenicists felt they should manipulate who could reproduce.
American eugenicists focused initially on the blind, deaf, diseased, insane and poor. However, they also felt “dumb” people were equally a problem.
In 1927, a legal case made its way through the courts involving an 18-year-old Carrie Buck (with a mental age of nine). She was the offspring of an equally “feeble minded” 52-year-old mother.[i] The eugenicists wanted to sterilize Carrie (who already had an illegitimate child). Once committed to a state agency, Carrie was deemed unfit and scheduled for sterilization. The prosecution argued this action was inhumane and unethical.
The U.S. Supreme Court eventually heard the case of Buck v. Bell in 1927—and surprisingly ruled in favor of the eugenicists “for the protection and health of the state.” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. famously quipped in his opinion on the case: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”[ii]
One of America’s most influential eugenicists was none other than Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.
Today abortionists try to distance the pioneer from their pro-choice cause. Some even say Sanger was only loosely affiliated with the eugenics movement in order to politically strengthen her personal agenda. Regardless of her involvement, it’s clear where Sanger stood. She once penned that eugenics, including “planned parenthood” through birth control, was “the process of weeding out the unfit [and] of preventing the birth of defectives.”[iii] The problem is who defines the word “defective?” It’s why Hitler’s application of that word was far different from Sanger’s.
It was eugenicists like Sanger that caught and captivated Hitler’s attention.
In his desire to create a “master race,” forced sterilization and mercy killings proved perfect tools.
Ironically, Hitler’s rise to power was not without the help of strange bedfellows. His far-right fascism was aided by the “Brownshirts”–a violent protest group composed of radical leftists and homosexuals. However, once these Brownshirts were no longer useful to Hitler, they too were eliminated in what became the hellish “Night of the Long Knives” (June 30 – July 2, 1934). Throughout the 1930s, the Nazi Party slowly suppressed all critical voices, eliminated all undesirables and squelched any political criticism.
German politics was eventually saddled to a one-horse party.
Once in complete power Nazis could rewrite the rules to insure their power. With complete control of the media, the German people were told only what Hitler and his Nazi party wanted them to know.
But Hitler still wasn’t done.
His next move? Disarm the German people.
With no way to resist Hitler’s forces nor politically fight for the right to defense, the Germans either complied or died.
Many younger Germans, now indoctrinated with Nazi ideologies through German political and educational institutions were willing to die for their furor. That’s when Adolf Hitler took his Nazi army on the road to spread his deadly gospel. He invaded and occupied other countries to further infect Nazism. It was Nazi aggression and occupation that sparked the second World War in Europe. Even in faraway America the Nazi party had affectionate devotees among German Americans.
Adolf Hitler duped the German church to serve his cause.
At first, he seemed sympathetic to Christianity, but once elected, Hitler turned hostile and imposed Nazi socialism upon the German Christians. He eventually embraced Islam as a better “religious” solution to eliminate opposition…inspiring Muslims to rally and fight for his Nazi cause.
But not everyone bent the knee.
A new brand of German Protestantism emerged to stand against Nazism.
It was known as the “Confessing Church.” No matter what the Nazis did, they could not intimidate nor manipulate these Protestant Christians. Two of the movement’s greatest leaders were Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller. It was Niemoller who famously penned:
“In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.”[iv]
That’s the way fascism works. It’s why America needs freedom of speech, assembly and the press. It’s why the Second Amendment is critical to a free society. It’s why “cancel culture” and racist demagoguery, media suppression and “fake news,” unfair elections and illegal immigration, abortion and euthanasia are warning bells to greater tyranny. It’s why politicians who prefer to suppress opposing viewpoints and demonize the minor party, rather than work with them for the good of the whole nation, should be noted and removed.
The story of Hitler and Nazism is not a unique moral tale.
It can happen again.
[ii] “The Supreme Court Ruling That Led To 70,000 Forced Sterilizations,” NPR interview (March 7, 2016) with Andy Cohen, the author of Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. https://www.npr.org/2017/03/24/521360544/the-supreme-court-ruling-that-led-to-70-000-forced-sterilizations
[iii] “Fact Check: Was Planned Parenthood Started To ‘Control’ The Black Population?” by Amita Killy (August 14, 2015): https://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/08/14/432080520/fact-check-was-planned-parenthood-started-to-control-the-black-population