Last Updated 15 Apr 2020

Modern History – Nazism as Totalitarian

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Germany was a totalitarian state, however, only to an extent due to differing perspectives Nazi Germany did not fit the universal criteria of what constitutes totalitarianism. It is unarguably necessary that Germany was ran by a single party, had absolute control over mass communication & media, had a systematic terror & police control as well as total control over the army. However, many have argued that Nazi Germany was not totalitarian as it did not have total control over the economy and Hitler’s role in regime of the Nazism played a significant role in whether or not Germany was totalitarian.

Views of Hitler’s role in the Nazi state concerning whether or not Germany was totalitarian changed over time, from when Hitler was the absolute centre and in complete control of Nazism to the view of ‘Working towards the Fuhrer’. Germany was a totalitarian state to an extent. Joseph Goebbel was the Minister for Enlightenment and Propaganda, who strictly repressed all public communications such as censoring all aspects of newspapers, heavy censorship of films, events that were organised to place Nazis’ message in a positive light as well as the effectively using the radio.

Radios were cheap and when manufactured, they were preset to Nazi stations only. Through this aspect, civilians were constantly exposed and brainwashed to believe the righteousness of the principles of Nazism such as broadcasting Hitler’s speeches in full and placing glorifying Nazis. Newspaper editors were told daily of what stories were to be published, opinions to be expressed and even graphics. The ‘Fuhrer Myth’ played a significant role in Nazi propaganda: it portrayed Hitler to be a man who was born to lead Germany, ordinary yet extraordinary.

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Hitler had ended the Depression; he was anti-Marxist, thus he would save Germany from Communism; and he was willing to take action to save Germany from hated aspects such the Treaty of Versailles. The image portrayed was propaganda and was more or less a lie, thus proving that Nazi Germany was a totalitarian state. Hitler had learnt a lesson in 1923, to gain power and popularity he must gain it through the legal processes.

After the series of events that lead to Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor, he legally pushed out any parties that had any possible means of opposition out of the framework of Nazi Germany, therefore leaving no room for individuality. The sworn personal allegiance of the army to Hitler is also another factor that confirms that Nazi Germany was a totalitarian state. It is evident to understand that there are concepts in which Nazi Germany is not considered to be a totalitarian state.

There are different viewpoints of Germany that determines whether or not Germany was a totalitarian state during the Nazi regime. One viewpoint is that Hitler was the absolute centre and in complete control of Nazism. This idea established that all aspects during his rule went with the direct consent from Hitler himself, no policies were made without the reference of his ideology and all successes & problems could be Hitler’s responsibility.

This aspect showed historians that Nazi Germany was a totalitarian state: Hitler had detailed understanding of specific situations, the public’s grievances, Europe’s fear of communism, gaining power through legal proceedings and the importance of the link between terror and propaganda in which he used to his advantage to seize control over the entire country. This perspective is contrasted with the modern viewpoint of ‘Working towards the Fuhrer’.

Hitler was not interested in the day to day running of things, his attention was mainly concentrated on his ‘will’ and his plan for Germany which was a basis that took Germany forward. Often, Hitler would not make decisions hence leaving situations pending. Due to this issue, policy makers had to create or amend programs and policies that followed the in line of Hitler’s way of thinking. This concept explained the reasons why the regime become more radical as time wore on.

Hitler’s beliefs such as ridding the Jews, destroying the Bolsheviks, creating the Aryan race lead to such events such as the Night of the Broken Glass and killings of those who did not fit the criteria of the Aryan description. The idea that Hitler was seen to above the day to day running of things, played a part in demonstrating the ‘Fuhrer Myth’ proved that he was beyond reproach thus, his followers must followed his line of thinking.

This viewpoint shows that despite having complete control over media and communication, Germany was a totalitarian state, only to an extent. Another aspect that constitutes a totalitarian state is that it must have an official ideology. Nazi Germany, despite every civilian owning ‘Mein Kampf’, did not have an official ideology like the Soviet Union, which in theory, wanted a classless society. Nazism was a cluster of disassociated ideas that were tied together by Hitler whereas the Soviet Union had Marxism and Communism.

As a result of this failure to fill the point of having an official ideology, it shows that Germany was not a totalitarian state. Significant aspects of Nazi Germany proves that it was a totalitarian state, such as its complete control over media and communication, Germany’s evident systematic terror and control as well as power over the army. However, due to differing perspectives, it is clear that Germany was a totalitarian state, only to an extent as it did not have an official ideology, and total control over the economy

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