Hitler and Hitlerism: Germany Under the Nazis

The Führer’s early goals included physical education, a return to rural life, health care for all -- and foreboding plans for the Jews.

IN my first article (published in the March Atlantic) I set forth in some detail the dominant ideas which shape the political philosophy of Adolf Hitler. I pointed out that almost everything this remarkable man believes stems from his conception of the Germans as a 'chosen people.' From this source spring his rabid nationalism, his violent opposition to Socialism and Communism, his undisguised hatred of the Jews; even his distrust of democratic government and parliamentary institutions is based upon his tribal sense of leadership. I now wish to turn to an examination of Hitler's methods, —methods by which he has built up the National Socialist Party into a formidable organization commanding the fanatical loyalty of eight million people, and to foreshadow, from his own statements, some of the things he would like to accomplish if the Nazis, or Fascists, as his followers are commonly termed, should succeed in gaining control of the German Government.

During the first years of Hitler's political activity he spent some time studying economic matters, principally under the tutelage of Gottfried Feder, a present member of the Reichstag who figures as the economic expert of the party. The ground plan of his economic thinking seems to be something like this: Capital is always the result of labor, and is dependent upon the same human factors as labor itself. Capital relies upon the freedom and power of the state, but must not be allowed to dominate the state. Though capital is the property of individuals, its use also affects the welfare of the state; it must therefore be directed to promote the national well being. In short, Hitler believes that economic boundaries should coincide with political boundaries; hence he denounces 'the economic bourse capital controlled by the Jews,' which, he says, is manipulated to work the overthrow of national states.

Prophecies of the chaos and paralysis that would be brought about by adopting this policy of economic isolation are as fantastic, Hitler thinks, as the solemn opinion of the Bavarian medical profession, in the early days of the railroads, that passengers would become dizzy and sick. For National Socialists he asserts, there is

but one doctrine People and Fatherland. What we have to fight for is to ensure existence and increase of our race and our people, the support of our children and the maintenance of the purity of their blood, the freedom and independence of the Fatherland; so that our people may be able to carry out the mission assigned them by the Creator of the universe. Every thought and every idea, every teaching and all learning, must serve this purpose. From this point of view everything is to be tested, and, according to its suitability, either applied or rejected.

From this it will be seen that the Nazis base their economic ideals upon a conception of commerce and trade which is already outmoded. They are still thinking in terms of free and unlimited competition, and have not even begun to see that economic rivalry between nations must give way to international cooperation, with an organization of the whole world for the benefit of all its inhabitants. Liberals of every stripe have perceived this, and have realized that national selfishness is not an ideal it is a way of destruction; but the Fascists, whether German or Italian, are not Liberals.

Hitler objects particularly to the complications of modern industrial life. He wants to get back to simpler and more personal conditions. His mind, like Gandhi's, turns longingly to times that are dead; both have committed themselves to an outgrown form of social organization, identifying the virtues of an older order with its exterior features. Gandhi asks his people to spin because he cherishes the human values which he associates with the period when each family made its own cloth. Hitler fears international capital for much the same reason. He does not see that 'national economics' is a thing of the past; that, instead of trying to restore a more primitive social system in order to revive the virtues which he associates with it, a modern statesman should seek to adapt to the needs of mankind the economic integration of the world which is now in process and is bound to go on. He does not realize that the existence of international capital is no longer an issue; that the important problem is to determine who is to control it, and how.


When Hitler discusses the national collapse of Germany at the close of the war, he gives us a very clear insight into the way his mind works. The cause of the collapse, he says, was not the defeat of the army, but the demoralization behind the lines. He affirms over and over again that it was a great mistake, in the pre-war years, for Germany to renounce the winning of more land in Europe and to aim, instead, at the economic conquest of the world. This led to limitless industrialization, with a consequent weakening of the peasantry and overgrowth of the proletariat in large cities; eventually the sharp contrasts between rich and poor engendered dissatisfaction and bitterness, and the people were divided into political classes. In proportion as 'big business' became mistress of the state, money became the god to be served. The Kaiser gradually let the nobility of gold get the upper hand over the nobility of the sword, and the combative virtues of the race declined.

German education before the war was bad, for it put emphasis upon learning rather than upon power to act; instead of training character, it bred lack of will, fear of responsibility, and half heartedness. The press, which ought to have been controlled in the interest of the state, took advantage of these popular defects. Now there are three classes of readers, says Hitler: those who believe all they read; those who believe nothing they read; those who reason, test, and think. The great majority of people belong in the first classification, and the pre war press taught them pacificism and internationalism, thus weakening the will of the people to defend to the death their racial heritage. Force only is effective, and the press must be supervised by the state and kept out of the hands of strangers and enemies of the people. The present generation, Hitler adds approvingly, is less squeamish about using force than its fathers were: 'A 30 centimere grenade hisses louder than a thousand Jewish newspaper vipers.'

He berates the authorities in pre war Germany for neglecting to take adequate measures against syphilis and tuberculosis which, by their increase, threatened the strength of the nation. He discusses at length the degenerative effects of wrong sexual life and the prostitution of love to social or financial considerations. He declares that a foul theatre and an insane art, such as cubism, are indications of a Bolshevist state of mind. He notes that most of these degenerative influences are concentrated in the cities, which lack individuality and artistic treasures, and have no magnificent buildings to serve as foci of city life, as did the cathedrals of the Middle Ages. In refusing to grapple with these social evils, the prewar state failed in its first duty,— that of maintaining the health and soundness of the race, and to this end Hitler offers a concrete programme of his own:—

1. Earlier marriage must be made possible by providing new housing facilities and such financial help as may be needed.

2. Education must train the body as well as the mind.

3. Medical treatment must be made available to all classes; hopeless incurables must be remorselessly sterilized

4. Public morals must be taken in hand and all entertainments, placards, and advertisements made clean.

5. City life must be broken up by inducing slum dwellers to return to the land.

All the Social ills of the last twenty five years, says Hitler, have been brought about by the people's lack of a positive philosophy of life. The masses will not cling to religion unless they have a definite dogma to believe in. The upsetting of religious faith is therefore not in the public interest. For the politician, the value of any religion is comparative; he should espouse the prevailing cult unless he can devise a better substitute. This is to say that religion is a tool in the politician's bag of tricks (a view, be it noted, which has also been ascribed to Mussolini). But religion must not be dragged into politics for temporal ends; that is always thoroughly bad. This last principle is quite in accord with American political thought, though in Hitler's mind it has a very special reference to the German Centre Party.

The decay of religion, the lapse in morals, the neglect of public health — these things played their part in the nation's collapse, repeats Hitler, but they were not the prime cause. The fundamental cause, the cause of all other causes, he asserts, growing more eloquent as he swings into his favorite theme, was Germany's failure to recognize the race problem. The Aryans are the great founders of civilizations, and their cultures have lasted only so long as they kept their blood pure and enforced their supremacy.

The mixing of blood, the pollution of race has been the sole reason why old civilizations have died out. Humanity does not go down in defeat because of lost wars, but because of the loss of that power of resistance which is innate in a pure blood stream. Everything that happens in world history is only the working out of the struggle for existence among the races.

The significant thing about the Aryan, says Hitler, is his idealism, his willingness to sacrifice himself for the common good. The Jew has no such idealism. His civilization is borrowed from other people, and even when he appears to be loyal to it he acts from herd instinct and remains loyal only so long as a common danger threatens the herd. Beyond that, nothing moves him but his own individual struggle for existence. He is ready, like the hungry wolf, to attack his neighbor, for he is governed by the crudest and most naked egoism. This, the very kernel of Hitler's doctrine, he amplifies at great length dealing always in generalities and keeping pretty wide of concrete fact— perhaps because it is difficult to lay hold of facts to support his hypothesis, perhaps because the gospel of race is to him a religious tenet requiring no factual proof.

Jews, he says, have no country; they are not even nomads, but always parasites; and he outlines the procedure by which they insinuate themselves into the national institutions set up by other peoples. Labor unions and Marxism are both Jewish contrivances, and parliamentary government is the field the Jews' operations. First comes democracy, then the dictatorship of the proletariat. The last and most decisive cause of Germany's collapse, then, was her failure to recognize the race problem, and especially the Jewish danger.


Hitler organized the National Socialist German Laborers Party as a great popular movement in order to regenerate in the rank and file of the citizenry a determined will to self preservation. Without such a will he saw that arms were useless. In 1918 the great majority of the German people were infected with Marxism, pacificism, and internationalism; so in 1919, when he set about forming his party, he determined first of all to win over the sympathies of the disaffected masses. The tactics by which he proposed to do this may best be shown by outlining the plan of campaign which Hitler drew up for the movement:

1. No social sacrifice is too great in winning over the masses. Employers must concede wage increases if need be. Economic sacrifice must be made for the goal.

2. The national education of the masses can be brought about only through a social uplift which will enable them to share in the cultural treasure of the nation, and so in its ideals.

3. To build up in the people a strong sense of their race and their nationality it is necessary to employ fanatical, narrow, one sided propaganda concentrated on the feelings of the masses, Dispassionate and judicial considerations are not for the masses.

4. The opponents of this nationalization programme must be destroyed. The masses know no halfway measures. The international poisoners of the soul must be done away with if the soul of the people is to be won.

5. The thing of fundamental significance is to maintain the purity of the race. Here is the key to world history.

6. This programme does not conflict with organization by occupations or the maintenance of proper occupational interests. The masses must rise to a higher level, social and cultural, and must break away from their internationally and unpatriotically minded leadership.

7. The goal of a political reform movement can never be attained by trying to persuade or influence the powers that be; the reform group must win power for itself. 'Success is the only earthly criterion of right or wrong in such a movement.'

8. The movement is against parliamentary government. It does not believe in control by majority vote. The leader only is elected. He appoints the next man below him, who appoints the next, and so on. Each leader has complete authority and complete responsibility. The movement aims to extend this system to the state. If it takes part in Parliament, it is only to destroy it.

9. The movement refuses to take any stand on matters outside its political sphere or not vital to it. It is not a religious reformation but a political reorganization that it seeks. Both religious communions (Catholic and Lutheran) are valuable bases, but those parties that use religion for their political advantage are to be opposed. The movement does not look toward the establishment of any particular form of government, whether monarchical or republican, but toward the creation of that fundamental social organism without which no government can endure —namely, a Germanic (that is, Teutonic, not merely German) state.

10. The inner organization of the movement is not a question of principle but of practicality; it must be so managed that the prestige and entire control of the leader and the Central Office are fully preserved. The magical glamour of a Mecca or a Rome is vital to such a movement. This is the explanation of the costly headquarters established in Munich ('The Brown House').

11. 'The future of the movement depends upon the intolerance yea, the fanaticism with which its followers maintain it to be the only right one.' Union with similar movements is dangerous. It must go its way alone, developing like the germ, all from its own inner power.

12. Its followers must be trained to love fighting with the enemy, and to rejoice in Jewish hate and slander; then is the movement unconquerable.

13. Reverence for great personalities, for genius, must be preserved. There must be no worship of the masses. The movement 'must never forget that in personal worth lies the value of everything human, that every idea every achievement, is the result of the creative power of a human being.'

Such a popular uprising as that of the National Socialist Party, says Hitler ought to be motivated by a definite philosophy if it is to wage successful war against the democratic bourgeois Marxist teachings which are leading to destruction. He takes it upon himself, therefore, to expound the philosophy of the Nazi state.

The state is not an end in itself; it is only a means to an end. That end is to protect, preserve, and promote the German race. The state is the vessel and the race the contents. If non Germans are absorbed, they merely lower the German racial level. Foreigners can be taught to speak German, but they cannot be made Germans. The only useful Germanization is that of land. The Reich, then, ought to comprise all Germans. It should assemble in one nation those strains which are richest in native racial elements, and should slowly and surely bring the best stocks to a dominating position. The state must control marriage, must prevent reproduction of the unfit, must see that good parents are not kept from breeding by poverty, and must concentrate on the well being of the healthy, racially pure child.

Having got its healthy, racially pure child, the state must take care of his education, seeing to it, first, that he develops a healthy body; then training him for character, will, and decision; and, last, providing him with learning. The education of the people should be cultural rather than technical. A textbook of world history must be prepared in which the race question is given proper treatment as the dominating influence in world affairs. Youth must be aroused to national pride and enthusiasm by emphasizing the achievements of the really great Germans. Army training should come as the crown and cap of education, and, upon the completion of his service, a youth should be issued a certificate of citizenship and of fitness for marriage. Manual labor should be better paid than 'white collar' work, and equally honored. Each citizen should do what he best can for the common good, and have pay enough to enter comfortably into the cultural life of his people. By careful breeding and careful education it should thus be possible to rear a sound, determined, nationally enthusiastic race equipped to win the Aryan fight against the Jew.

In such a state there would be three classes of inhabitants: (1) citizens, (2) nationals who are not citizens, and (3) persons who are nationals of other states. All children born within the state would be nationals, but not necessarily citizens.

Men of pure German blood, having finished the full course of training, shall, upon completion of their military service, receive certificates of citizenship. German girls shall become citizens at marriage, sometimes otherwise. Persons not of German blood, and Germans who are unhealthy or otherwise objectionable, remain mere nationals.

The state must also search out and develop for the common good those individuals who possess special ability, since personality, not majorities, must rule. The principle of the new Constitution should be 'every leader to have authority over those below him, and responsibility to those above.' Parliaments would continue to exist as advisory councils, but all decisions would rest with the presiding officer; nothing should ever be determined by vote.

It is not necessary to go further into Hitler's theoretical outline of what the Nazi state ought to be. His programme comprises twenty five points, and was intended, he says, to give the ordinary man a rough picture of what the National Socialist Party wants to accomplish. Naturally enough, Hitler expresses keen admiration for Mussolini and Italian Fascism, and notes with approval Lloyd George's great qualities as a demagogue.


In the early days of his movement Hitler concentrated his first efforts upon making the German people appreciate the evils of the Versailles Treaty. He had many spirited contests with the Social Democrats, who opposed the rise of his party and persistently endeavored to stop it by trying to break up his meetings, or by ignoring them and keeping their own followers away. These disturbances gave Hitler the idea of creating his famous 'Storm Division,' a brown uniformed corps which, though originally devised merely to maintain order at his meetings, has been a prominent feature of all Hitlerite demonstrations since 1922. The purposes of this organization he has explained in cautious terms. Since it is not a secret society, a uniform is desirable. Its members are trained in athletic sports to a high degree of physical and moral efficiency, but Hitler states emphatically that it is an 'unmilitary organization.'

Just how 'unmilitary' the Storm Division is may best be seen by glancing at some of the evidence. It is now divided into two units the 'S. A.,' locally organized for service in its own area, and the 'S. S.,' a flying corps of seasoned veterans who may be called to duty anywhere. On November 3, 1931, the Völkischer Beobachier, the daily journal of the movement, carried the following advertisement: —

The S. S. of Munich needs in the shortest possible time 400 haversacks, 400 marquees, 400 camp kettles, and in addition cloak straps, camp kettle straps, boots, black leather leggings, brown shirts, belts with buckles, shoulder straps. What party associate or friend of the movement can help the S. S. to these articles of equipment, if possible without cost, or at very low prices? Single articles will gladly be called for. Advice requested by letter to Schutz Staffel Munich, Briennr Street 45.

Again in the same paper, the next day, appeared over Hitler's signature as Supreme Commander of the Storm Division an address delivered to the S.A. Comrades' on the tenth anniversary of the founding of the corps: —

In a decade of self sacrifice and fanatical struggle, of unwearied and tenacious toil and devotion, there has grown out of a little group of all daring fighters an Army of the Swastika which to day has already passed the second hundred thousand.

Such evidence is characteristic of the 'unmilitary' Army of the Brown Shirts. As Hitler's followers increased and were organized in formations, he saw that he needed a flag to serve as a banner for his marching men and a symbol for the movement. After giving much thought to the matter he decided upon a black swastika set in a white circle upon a red background. Red was chosen to represent the social side of the movement, white for the German national side; the swastika stands as a symbol for the Aryan race. The color combination, it is interesting to note, is that of the flag of the German Empire.

The final objective of the National-Socialist Party, Hitler makes clear, is to set up an organic people's state which will concentrate all of its energies upon promoting the interests of the Germans as a race apart. To this end Germany must work unceasingly for the acquisition of more land in Europe. This is one of Hitler's favorite theses and he returns to it at every opportunity. Before the war, he says, Germany was not a world power, and never will be a world power until she acquires more territory. The expansion of the race demands it. The Reich will be secure only 'when for centuries to every child of the German race it has been possible to give his own piece of land. Never forget that the holiest right this world is the right to earth that a man desires to cultivate himself, and the holiest sacrifice the blood that a man pours out for his own soil.'

But where is Germany to find the new territory she needs? From Russia, asserts Hitler. For centuries the German race pushed irresistibly to the south and west; now it must turn its gaze to the east. The fringe of small border states which now stand between Germany and Russia must not be allowed to block her path; in the affairs of a great people there is no place for altruism. When the present Jewish regime in Russia crumbles, and Hitler thinks it inevitable that it will, Russia will be in a state of collapse. Then will come Germany's opportunity, and she will win new ground through 'the might of a victorious sword.'

Of course France will never stand idly by and see Germany strengthen herself at Russia's expense, so France must be crushed first. France, says Hitler, will never be happy until Germany is destroyed; there is no defense against her, therefore, except to attack her. France is the mortal enemy, who must be broken before Germany can expand elsewhere. All this is to be accomplished, presumably, indeed, Hitler says as much, —through the help of alliances with England and Italy. That such a programme of conquest would again arouse the world against Germany, Hitler fails to see; or, if the possibility occurs to him, he waves it aside, drunk with his doctrine of the survival of the fittest, and his faith that the fittest of all are the Germans. Confidently, then, he faces the world as he sees it 'this world of eternal struggle where, in every part of it, one being feeds upon another and the death of the weaker is the life of the stronger.'


And now, in the light of all this, what of the present situation? What about the recent talk of a coalition between the Nazis and one of the other political parties in Germany? What if it is true, as some people think, that Hitler is now striving to make himself tolerable to the French; to reassure everybody that he will proceed legally; to come to terms with the Centre Party? Do not these three compromises fall flatly afoul of all his cherished principles? Certainly they do —of all but one. With Hitler, what is expedient is right, and any alliance is possible for a limited aim (even with the Devil, says Gregor Strasser) but only for the moment and for the partial goal to be attained. Hitler has himself said, 'The strong man is at his strongest alone'; coalitions are dangerous, and any cooperation with others must be temporary, for some special purpose.

If, then, Hitler has concluded that he can probably not come to power alone within the next few months, he may quite conceivably reason that a share of power is better than none at all, since it may serve as the entering wedge to its sole possession later. In that event, what ally would be least objectionable and most serviceable for him? The Social Democratic Party must be ruled out, for its policies are fundamentally opposed to Hitler's and no common ground could be found for a working arrangement. But the Centre the Roman Catholic party in Germany is a businesslike organization: it will work with anyone for a limited objective so long as there is a prospect of carrying on orderly government and preventing a revolution. Why, then, should Hitler not seek the Centre, and the Centre not strike up a bargain with him? After all, if Hitler cannot be kept from power, the Centrists may think it better to share responsibility with him and exercise some check upon his wildest tendencies, just as Germany preferred to have the English remain on the Rhine with the French. The Church's ban on the Nazis may perhaps not prove irrevocable.

Such an alliance, if it should be brought about, would not necessarily mean that Hitler, in coming to power legally by coalition, had given up the hope of sole control; or that he would not, if once in office and confronted with an adverse majority, attempt a dictatorship upon the principles he has laid down. All depends upon what he would then think possible.

Nor does his gesture toward France mean a change of heart. It means a recognition of fact. As Hitler said in his open letter to Chancellor Bruning, the Versailles Treaty is a fact and must be dealt with as such. The French are now predominant in Europe, and in negotiation with them, one must take cognizance of realities. But when the time comes, when power at last returns to a Hitlerized Germany, then France must be crushed so that Germany may begin her conquest of land to the east

Thus, with Hitler, no aim changes, even though all aims may have to bend to the necessities of the moment. The philosopher sets the ultimate goal; the practical politician judges what is possible at any given instant and strives for that. And, among the Nazis, Hitler exercises both functions.

Read "Part I: A Man of Destiny."