National socialism and the holocaust traumatized the moral fortitude of the West. Germany was the home of poets and philosophers. How on earth could this bastion of civilization descend into industrialized genocide?
The question is direly relevant today because Naziphobia colors all modern politics. The underlying premise is that if we allow ourselves to talk about sensitive issues such as immigration and cultural pride, the Nazi beast will be unleashed. Therefore, understanding the cause of national socialism in Germany can allow us to go back to having normal conversations about a range of subjects that are fraught with fear and misunderstanding.
The “official” cause
The “official” cause of Nazism is racism and a white supremacy ideology. On closer inspection, this explanation may be the “whole” we see today but it does not equal the sum of the parts. Racism and tribalism have always existed in human societies down through the ages, and it certainly does not summarily result in genocide.
Similarly, try to find a single culture anywhere in the world that doesn’t consider itself the best. You will fail. If cultural or ethnic supremacy causes genocide we should be seeing it everywhere all the time. That cannot be the explanation either. Like so many of the left’s simple and mindless theories, this one smacks of the psychological insights of an adolescent.
What happened in Germany in the 1930s was not about racism or white supremacy. It was a unique combination of circumstances acting together to produce a tragic and disastrous outcome. A quick review should help us understand why so many have conflated the Nazi experience with other issues that do not belong in the same category.
A brief look at history
Historians agree that Germany’s loss in World War I played a major role in creating World War II. Germans had a general sense of being treated unfairly in the aftermath; in addition to around two million dead soldiers, they lost vast areas of land to France and Poland and the nation was sentenced to pay huge war reparations that they were unable to fulfill.
Now add in the mix that around 10% of German children lost their fathers in The Great War. What we didn’t know then what we know now: that fatherless homes have devastating effects on a child’s mental health. Pile on top of that hyperinflation which wiped out all savings and decimated the German middle class and you have a recipe for disaster.
The whole of Germany was thrust into social and economic chaos. Everything was falling apart. People turned to mindless hedonism. Prostitution, gambling, and drugs were everywhere in a nihilistic attempt to deal with reality. Bands of orphans were roaming the streets, forming criminal gangs and making mischief everywhere.
Now add into the situation that communists were trying to topple the government, forming para-military groups inspired by the Bolsheviks. Everyone had heard about the mass murdering communists in Russia. Thus, Germans were frightened that the same thing would happen in their own country.
This gives a rough overview of what the conditions were like during the 1920s.
He spoke of order and rebuilding the nation, and he said he knew who was to blame for all their pain and suffering: the Jews. Orphans in search of a father figure flocked to him and became part of his paramilitary party group.
Maybe Germany didn’t have to fall into the hands of the communists after all? Maybe there was hope? Millions of Germans in search of order, meaning and justice turned to national socialism. The rest, as they say, is history.
What can we learn?
Notice how the many and varied reasons for the rise of Hitler are simply never mentioned. The breakdown of the nuclear family, fatherlessness, hyperinflation, hedonism, chaos, loss of meaning, resentment over the loss of the Great War, the cowardice of the conservatives and liberals and the well-founded fear of the menace of communism were all contributing factors. This was the germination — the breeding ground — for World War II and the holocaust. It fed and watered the soil of bitterness, economic disaster and fear.
There are important lessons to be learned here. It is noteworthy that several of the above factors are present in America today. In the last fifty years, the nuclear family has collapsed. The institution of religion has lost its grip over large swaths of the population and only mindless materialism has taken its place. Depression among our youth is rampant, and people are desperate for meaning. People with hollow hearts are turning to identity politics to quench their thirst for purpose and value.
The cowardice of the conservatives and liberals in dealing with the new communists is ominous. People are afraid, and those who can stand out (even if they are preaching hate) will attract a following.
It is still an open question which path America will take. If we are lucky everything will work out fine, but it could also go down a dark alleyway. Whatever we do, this is not the time to be cowards or remain passive. We must be willing to talk about sensitive issues like immigration and cultural pride without labeling and name-calling. This solves nothing and only serves to further divide a civil society.
Open discussion of these crucial issues will not mean the Nazi beast will be unleashed. A broader conversation is needed about how the breakdown of the nuclear family and traditional values is destabilizing American society and threatening its long-term viability. If done right, this conversation could also finally expose the true causes of hate and Nazism. And it will open a dialogue that could prevent history from repeating itself.