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  Nazi is an abbreviation of the title of the Nationalist Socialist German Worker\'s Party (NSDAP: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), led by Adolf Hitler from 1921 until 1945. The ideology of the Nazi movement was based on an obnoxious but powerful synthesis of fascism, imperialism, racism, ethnic nationalism and anti-semitism.

Attempts to explain the rise of the Nazi party and the appeal of Nazism in interwar Germany focus on seven factors: (1) defeat in World War I and the impositions of the Versailles Treaty injured the collective pride of the German nation, which the Nazi movement offered to restore through reasserting the superiority of ‘the Aryan race’; (2) the economic collapse occasioned by the Great Depression (1929-32) which undermined the credibility of the democratic Weimar Republic and created opportunities for an alliance united under the Nazi\'s programme of ‘national socialism’; (3) the economic collapse also facilitated the anti-semitism and racism of the Nazis, encouraging ‘scapegoating’ of Jews who were accused of dominating the world banking system and the communist movement; (4) the pervasive fear of Soviet and German communism, which rallied many conservative traditionalists to the Nazis as the lesser of two evils; (5) the authoritarian and cultural burden of Germany\'s past which made the Weimar republic a democracy without enough democrats to support it under crisis; (6) the skilful ability of Nazi propagandists to synthesize contradictory ideas with broad appeal (nationalism for conservatives, socialism for workers, anti-communism for the bourgeoisie, and anti-semitism for those looking for scapegoats); and (7) the miscalculations of opponents and rivals of Hitler and the Nazis. Between 1928 and 1932 the Nazi party\'s percentage of the vote increased from about three percent to over thirty-seven percent. In 1933 Hitler was made chancellor in a coalition government which enabled him to consolidate power with a mixture of constitutional and unconstitutional measures. By the following year he had declared himself the sole leader (Führer) of the official one-party state, under the slogan ‘one people, one party, one leader’.

The two infamous legacies of Hitler\'s dictatorship, World War II, and the genocide of over six million Jews, Communists, Gypsies and others, were extensions of Nazi ideology, as articulated in Hitler\'s Mein Kampf. Hitler attempted to exterminate all the Jews of Europe and other ‘degenerate persons’ to eliminate the perceived threat to ‘racial hygiene’. The territorial expansion of Nazi Germany into Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland which led to World War II was meant to create sufficient ‘living space’ for the ‘Aryan race’ to dominate the rest of the world.

Although unsuccessful in achieving the ‘final solution’ Hitler\'s consolidation of power and the extent of the atrocities committed under the influence of Nazi ideology demonstrate the power which ideology and charismatic authority can exert under conditions of political, social and economic uncertainty, and the fearsome possibilities of totalitarian government. Neo-nazi movements exist in many parts of the contemporary world, especially where the social strains of massive immigration coexist with economic crises and depressions. While we can be confident that modern Germany has sufficiently strong democratic institutions to withstand the challenges posed by neo-nazi extremism, the same cannot be said about the newly democratized régimes of eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union which are potentially susceptible to domination by charismatic figures spouting nazi-style propaganda, as exemplified by the proponents of ‘ethnic-cleansing’ in what was Yugoslavia. BO\'L

See also conservatism.Further reading A. Bullock, Hitler: a Study in Tyranny; , J. Noakes and , G. Pridham (eds.), Nazism 1919-45: a Documentary Reader (3 vols.); , E. Nolte, Three Faces of Fascism.



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