How could Nazism happen? [Section 3 of Nietzsche and the Nazis]

[This is Section 3 of Nietzsche and the Nazis.]nazibks-50px

Part 2. Explaining Nazism Philosophically

3. How could Nazism happen?

How could Nazism happen? This is an important question: professors and teachers the world over use the Nazis as a prime example of evil and rightly so. The Nazis were enormously destructive, killing 20 million people during their twelve-year reign. auschwitz-100pxThey were not the most destructive regime of the twentieth century: Josef Stalin and the other Communist dictators of the Soviet Union killed sixty-two million people. Mao Zedong and the Communists in China killed thirty-five million. The Nazis killed over twenty million and no doubt would have killed millions more had they not been defeated.[1]

So it is important to learn the lesson and to get it right.

After coming to power by democratic and constitutional means in 1933, the Nazis quickly turned Germany into a dictatorship. For six years they devoted their energies to preparing for war, which began in 1939. During the war in which every human and economic resource was needed for military purposes, the Nazis devoted huge amounts of resources in an attempt to exterminate Jews, gypsies, Slavs, and others.

Domestic dictatorship, international war, the Holocaust. All are terrible. But what exactly is the lesson of history here? How could a civilized European nation plunge itself and the world into such a horror?


[1] See Courtois 1999, pp. x, 4: contributors to that volume variously estimate the Communist death toll to be from 85 million to 100 million. See also Rummel 1997, Section II. Rummel’s site has updated numbers. For example, new data on deliberately caused famines in the People’s Republic of China under Mao led Rummel to revise the death toll for communist China upwards to 76,702,000.


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