Non-Causes Of Nazism

It has been said, for instance, that the Germans embraced Nazism because they lost World War I. Austria lost that war also, but this did not cause it to turn Nazi (it went under only when invaded by Hitler in 1938). Italy, on the other hand, one of the victorious powers at the Versailles Conference of 1919, went Fascist in 1922.

It has been said that the cause of. Nazism was the Great Depression. All the industrial nations suffered the ravages of the Depression. Few turned to Nazism.

It has been said that the cause of Nazism was the weakness of the non-totalitarian parties in the Weimar Republic, the pressure-group warfare which ,they encouraged, and the governmental paralysis that followed. This does not explain why or in what basic respect the non-totalitarians were weak, nor does it take into account the many countries in which social clashes and governmental drifting have not led to Nazism.

There is no direct causal relationship or even any approximate correlation between specific practical crises (singly or in combination) and the development of Nazism. Practical crises confront a country with the need for action. They do not determine what the action will be. In the face of military ruin, economic strangulation, or governmental collapse, men may choose to investigate the disaster’s causes and to discover a more rational course of action for the future, i.e., they may choose to think. Or they may choose to hate, or to pray, or to beg, or to kill. On such matters, the crisis itself is silent.

There are other interpretations of Nazism, besides the “practical crisis” theory

Religious writers often claim that the cause of Nazism is the secularism or the scientific spirit of the modem world. This evades the facts that the Germans at the time, especially in Prussia, were one of the most religious peoples in Western Europe; that the Weimar Republic was a hotbed of mystic cults, of which Nazism was one; and that Germany’s largest and most devout religious group, the Lutherans, counted themselves among Hitler’s staunchest followers.

There is the Marxist interpretation of Nazism, according to which Hitler is the inevitable result of capitalism. This evades the facts that Germany after Bismarck was the least capitalistic country of Western Europe; that the Weimar Republic from the start was a controlled economy, with the controls growing steadily; and that the word “Nazism” is an abbreviation for “National Socialism.”

There are the Aryan racists in reverse, who say that the cause of Nazism is the “innate depravity” of the Germans. This evades the fact that “depravity” is a moral concept, which implies that man is not predetermined but has free choice. It also evades the fact that regimes similar to Hitler’s, regimes differing only in the degree of brutality they perpetrated, have appeared in our century across the globe—not only in Italy, Japan, Argentina, and the like, but also, in the form of communism, in Russia, China, and their satellites.

Then there is the Freudian interpretation, according to which the cause of Nazism is the Germans’ Oedipus complex or their death wish or their toilet training, etc. This evades the fact that arbitrary constructs, such as Freud is famous for, can be manipulated to “explain” anything, and therefore explain nothing.
We dare not brush aside unexplained a horror such as Nazism.


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