Why did Germans follow Hitler so slavishly?

This has been something of a burning question ever since the war.  What historians have said about it is reviewed here. And the reviewer is right to say that none of the answers given is satisfactory.  Yet the answer is right there in plain sight.  It is in the name of Hitler's political party:  The national socialist German worker's party.

Before I elaborate on that, however, I must warn that I am about to mention Donald Trump. So I want to make clear from the outset that I am NOT going to say that Trump is a Nazi.  Leftists say that all the time and I have often pointed out how hollow such accusations are.

As we all know, Mr Trump came to power with the slogan:  "Make America great again".  And despite being just about as unpresidential as you can imagine, that slogan took Mr Trump to the top.  That slogan had to have great power to overcome all the negatives (real and imagined)  associated with Mr Trump.

So guess what Hitler's message to the German people was?  Paraphrased, it was "Make Germany great again". (Hitler didn't put it exactly that way.  He put it more emotionally.  For instance "Vor uns liegt Deutschland, in uns marschiert Deutschland und hinter uns kommt Deutschland!")  Germany was badly hit by WWI so that idea was very attractive to Germans.  So nationalism, particularly in a time of stress, has very strong appeal.

And Hitler added to that a form of socialism  -- where socialism is defined as redistributing the wealth from the rich to the poor -- "Gleichberechtigung" in Hitler's German.  Hitler campaigned using exactly that word. See below.

But here's the odd thing.  It's such an odd thing that I will be called a dangerous neo-Nazi for saying it. Socialism as we know it today is under Marxist influence and as such is basically motivated by hate.  Marx hated everybody. It masquerades as compassion but it's really an excuse to tear down the existing society and its arrangements.  And the various extreme socialist regimes -- Soviet Russia, Mao's China etc -- show exactly how vicious and destructive socialism can be.

But Hitler's socialism was different and more powerful.  It appeared to be and he claimed it to be motivated by love -- love of the German people ("Volk").  Hitler's love for his "Volk" and particularly German young people really stands out here.  In a word, Hitler convinced Germans that he loved them.  And it was out of that love that he wanted to benefit ordinary Germans at the expense of the rich, particularly rich Jews.

And he saw socialism as being secure only within a homogeneous society, which Germany would become once the Jews were ousted.  See below.  The quote is from Mein Kampf and translates as "There is no socialism except what arises from within one's own people".  So he saw nationalism and socialism as organically connected.

So he didn't tear down the existing society the way hate-motivated socialists do if they get the chance. He wanted to redistribute but not to destroy.  As you will see from the speech linked above, he wanted to build up a united and heroic Germany, not tear it down. The Marxist aim of class-war was anathema to him. And whatever its motivation, socialism has a lot of appeal to people to this day. Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are evidence of that. Socialism offers security of all sorts.  It says: "You will be looked after".

So if someone is offering both socialism and nationalism all in one package, he has got a magic mix.  Hitler offered the perfect dream -- he offered it all.  And the offering was made all the more powerful by his success in convincing people that his "compassion" was sincere. So Germans shared his dream and marched on behind him to the bitter end.

Mr Trump too tends to convince people that he stands for the little guy but his means to his ends are very different.  Where Hitler wanted to redistribute the wealth, Trump wants to create it -- mainly by giving the unemployed jobs.  And because Trump is not wanting to take anything off anybody, he does not have to have an authoritarian State to enforce his wishes.  So he is in fact chopping away at the vast regulatory apparatus that Obama and some of his predecessors built up.   Trump is a capitalist, not a socialist, a deregulator, not an authoritarian -- and there is a world of difference there.

1 comment:

  1. When I was in college I had a German professor who had served in Rommel's Afrika Korps. I asked him why Germans supported Hitler. The best he could muster was a shrug of the shoulders and say that he said he was going to fix things and women found him attractive. I believe at another time I said that I thought Hitler sounded like a raving lunitic, he said that people thought he was a great speaker. I think allot of Germans really didn't know why they supported Hitler. Like anti-Trump rioters, they don't know what they are protesting. It was just the 'in' thing to do.


All comments containing Chinese characters will not be published as I do not understand them