II. The 3rd Reich & the Holocaust Era, Jan 1933-May 1945

Perpetrators, Collaborators, Victims, Bystanders, Resisters, Rescuers
Murderous Racism and Antisemitism - Bureaucracy of Evil. “You let us do it!”

Introduction. The Holocaust Era - what, when, why, who, how? Shoah

The Holocaust Era, 1933-45

The social, political, economic and cultural developments that helped create a climate in which the Holocaust could occur (How could the great majority of Christians and Christian leaders either lend support to the Nazi effort or simply choose to do and say nothing?). Nazism: A monolithic culture; the extreme results of institutionalized antisemitism and racism. Ostracize, isolate, annihilate - Policy, bureaucracy, & technology.

Conceptual framework Relations between ideology & policy

Nazi ideology is examined in this regard, considering fascism, racism and antisemitism, and the fuehrer principle. This part of the course traces the connections between ideological principles and actual Nazi policy toward the Jews and the “undesirable others,” after 1933; it stresses the relationship of Nazi policies and actions regarding Jews and “the others” to their broader aims of domination, conquest and subjugation of the whole of Europe. It explores Nazi policy toward the Jews and the “others” in the context of Nazism & anti-Jewish ideology, bureaucratic structures, and the varying conditions of occupation and domination in Europe under the Third Reich.

Objective. Students will be able to

1. Identify and explain the processes which culminated in genocide, from isolation to the "Final Solution," and the responses to the Holocaust, exploring the inter-relationships between the perpetrators, the victims, the rescuers, the bystanders and the resisters.

2. Describe and explain the extreme consequences of institutionalized antisemitism and racism, and how the development of public policy can lead to genocidal ends, especially when people remain silent in the face of discriminatory practices.


The Holocaust has been seen as an event that fundamentally challenges the foundations upon which human civilization rests. It has generated a credibility crisis of major proportions in our most basic assumptions about the nature of humankind and of society, of the modern stated, and of our responsibilities as citizens of the world to speak up and act to stop the unjust suffering of innocent people everywhere (Yad Vashem - why teach the Holocaust)

“When Hitler came to power in January 1933, no one could ... have anticipated the outcome: that those political and economic forces which had propelled him into government, in the belief that he would be little more than a puppet, would be ... unable to contain him; that, after rebuilding Germany’s economy & shattered national pride, he would plunge his country & ... much of the rest of the world into a war that would cost over 50 million lives & radically change the political shape of Europe.”1



What does Webster's Dictionary define the Holocaust as
ho·lo·caust \'hO-l&-"kost, 'hä- also -"kästor'ho-l&-kost\ noun
1 : a sacrifice consumed by fire,
2 : a thorough destruction especially by fire. (i.e. a nuclear holocaust)
3 a often cap. : the mass slaughter of European civilians and especially Jews by the Nazis during WW II; b:mass slaughter of people; especially genocide

*Holocaust (Hebrew: sho’ah). The word “holocaust” is derived from the Greek holokauston, which originally meant a sacrifice totally burned by fire; *The word holo is Greek for "whole". The word caust came from caustos meaning "burned".
A Hebrew word, olah, meaning “burnt offering.” It was used in the translation of 1 Samuel 7:9, “a burnt offering to God.” In the Septuagint version (translated Hebrew Bible into Greek during the reign of Ptolemy II, 3rd century B.C.E.), the word, olah, is consistently translated by the Greek word, holokauston, “an offering consumed by fire.” (Baustin) the destruction of life by fire. In the course of time it came to be used to describe slaughter on a general or large scale, and, especially, various forms of the destruction of masses of human beings.

In the 1950s the term came to be applied primarily to the destruction of the Jews of Europe under the Nazi regime, and it is also employed in describing the annihilation of other groups of people in World War II (Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, p. 681).

* The word Sho’ah originally a Biblical term meaning widespread disaster, it is the modern Hebrew equivalent for the term ‘Holocaust’

-Biblical term for widespread disaster; modern Hebrew equivalent for “Holocaust.”

The Holocaust - Holocaust, originally, a religious rite in which an offering was entirely consumed by fire. In current usage, holocaust refers to any widespread human disaster, but as the term Holocaust, capitalized, it means the almost complete destruction of Jews - the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews.

What? The Courage To Remember - The Holocaust 1933-1945

"Behold the tears of the oppressed. and they have no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power... And l thought the dead more fortunate than the living; but better than both is he who has not Yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun." Ecclesiastes 4:13

Why? Who? Racial Purity. The Nazi regime & its collaborators

The Nazi policy of racial hatred moved with relentless cruelty from hateful propaganda to mass murder, culminating in the extermination of European Jewry and culture. The magnitude of brutality, the remorseless cruelty, and the cold industrial character of mass murder during the Holocaust are unique. However, the root causes of the Holocaust persist.

Racial hatred, economic crises, human psychological & moral flaws, the complacency or complicity of ordinary individuals in the persecution of their neighbors are still ominously common. Thus we must have the courage to remember and study the Holocaust, no matter how disturbing these studies and memories may be. For only informed, understanding, and morally committed individuals can prevent such persecution from happening again. The persecution of people is always and everywhere intolerable and to act against it is a beginning for hope.*

*About 6 million Jews & 5.5 million of ‘others’ (non-Jewish civilians) including Gypsies, Slavs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, political dissenters, homosexuals, P.O.W.'s and the mentally ill and infirm were murdered by the Nazis, and their accomplices, between 1933 and 1945.
*Approximately 11.5 million individuals were murdered by the Nazi regime ((Nazis Members of the fascist National Socialist German Workers' Party NSDAP: short for Nationalsozialistische deutsche Arbeiter-Partei -NAZI, founded in 1919), & its collaborators (who aided the Nazis in their campaign against the Jews), and empowered by Adolf Hitler.

An estimate of one point five million children died during the Holocaust & about one point two million of the children were Jewish and tens of thousands were Gypsy children. Children were killed because they were prosecuted with their families for racial, political, or religious reasons. The children were separated according to their age.

More than 1 million children died, including 3 of the Margules family children shown here, whom the Nazis deported from Paris and killed in 1942. Only the girl in the lower right survived.

Children who were an infant to the age of 6 were grouped together, children ages 7 to 12 were together, & teenagers 13 to 17 were put together. Jewish students were affected by one major law, that was the "Law Against Over crowding in German schools and universities. Jewish children could not pass one point five percent of the total students in a school.The Nazi's were conquering what they hoped to- flushing out the young so they could not grow up to overpower them.

The annihilation of 11.5 million lives was not only for who they were, but also for what they were. The victims of Nazism and its collaborators during the Holocaust Era were Jews, and non-Jewish civilians, including those with physical and mental disabilities, those targeted for racial and religious reasons and those targeted because of their sexual orientation.

“Although Jews were the primary victims, hundreds of thousands of Roma (Gypsies)2 & at least 250,000 mentally or physically disabled persons were victims of Nazi genocide. ... More than three million Soviet prisoners of war were killed because of their nationality. Poles, as well as other Slavs, were targeted for slave labor, and as a result, almost two million perished. Homosexuals and others deemed "anti-social" were also persecuted and often murdered. In addition, thousands of political and religious dissidents such as communists, socialists, trade unionists, and Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted for their beliefs and behavior and many of these individuals died as a result of maltreatment. ”3

(Jehovah's Witnesses: religious sect started in the United States by Charles Taze Russell that does not allow recognition of any worldly power, including priests, instead looking only to the Bible and the kingdom of God. Their refusal to salute the flag, bear arms, or work in the government created a conflict with National Socialism. As many as 10,000 were imprisoned (of which 2,500 died) as ‘enemies of the state’).

Black people, resistance fighters from all the nations, Catholics, Poles, & others -the "anti-social," e.g. beggars, vagrants, hawkersand, others targeted as undesirables, were persecuted by the Nazis because of their religious/political beliefs, or failure to fall into the "Aryan" ideal (Aryan: this actually has no racial meaning, instead referring to those speaking Indo-European languages. Hitler misused the term to refer to Caucasians of the Nordic type)
The attack on all these targeted groups -because of their race- drew on more than fifty years of political and scientific arguments hostile to the belief in the equality of man. ...

*Geneticists, anthropologists, and psychiatrists had advanced a theory of human heredity that had merged with the racist doctrine of volkisch nationalists to form a political ideology of a nation based on race. The Nazi movement both absorbed and advanced this ideology.
*After 1933 they created the political framework that made it possible to translate this ideology of inequality into a policy of exclusion, while the German bureaucratic, professional, and scientific elite provided the legitimacy the regime needed for the smooth implementation of this policy.’4).

Shoah ‘The ‘War against the Jews’

At the center of the Holocaust Era, is the Shoah. The Shoah refers to a specific event in the 20th century history: the systematic, deliberate, state-sponsored, bureaucratic destruction of nearly 6 million Jews - killed for no other reason than that they were Jews, by the Nazi regime and its collaborators, between the years 1933-1945. (two-thirds of the total European Jewish population).

What was the Holocaust?

The Holocaust was the murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators. Between the German invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 & the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, Nazi Germany and its accomplices strove to murder every Jew under their domination.
* Because Nazi discrimination against the Jews began with Hitler's accession to power in January 1933, many historians consider this the start of the Holocaust era.
It was an ideological war; As Bauer stated: “the Holocaust is the logical consequence of ideological antisemitism.” 5

* The Jews were not the only victims of Hitler's regime, but they were the only group that the Nazis sought to destroy entirely.6

The Holocaust: a crime overwhelming in its enormity and tragedy. Today, survivors and witnesses to the Holocaust tell their stories, they bear witness to man's greatest inhumanity. But what about tomorrow? How will we teach what must never be forgotten-in a world that wants to forget?

The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic annihilation of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and their collaborators as a central act of state during World War II.

“The Holocaust or Shoah refers to a specific event in the 20th century history: the systematic, deliberate, state-sponsored, bureaucratic destruction of nearly 6 million Jews”8
“who lived in a country at the time when it was:
- under Nazi regime

- under Nazi occupation
- under regime of Nazi collaborators”9


*The destructive will (Vernichstungwill) of the Nazis was aimed at the totality of the Jews, and consequently the victims included women, children, and old people.
*“The form of genocide known as the Holocaust ... Hitler’s ‘final solution’ to the Jewish problem.’ ... almost a third of the world’s Jewish population was murdered by the Nazis & their collaborators. ... Techniques associated with industry were applied to the mass murder of Jews in death factories ... the term ‘Holocaust’ is generally associated with the intentions of the Germans and their collaborators to rid the earth of its Jewish population. ... I want to emphasize that Hitler’s war against the Jews was as much a priority as was the more traditional conflict against the Allies. ... the Nazi animus toward the Jews derived from racial ideology ...”10

*The first step of this continuum (genocide) is discrimination - treating certain groups of people differently. The second step is isolation, such as the physical segregation of minorities in ghettos or setting up separate schools. The third step is persecution, followed by dehumanization and violence.
Genocide, the deliberate and systematic extermination of a group of people, is the ultimate expression of human hatred.

The Shoah has special characteristics - Introduction to the Holocaust by Ben S. Austin


Certainly there have been numerous atrocities against humankind throughout history, horrible cases of genocide directed against innocent people -- 10-20 million black Africans who died during the 200 years of the international slave trade, the decimation of nearly 12 million Native American Indians in North America between 1600 and 1850, and the more recent events in Bosnia and Rwanda. It is not the intent of this essay to lessen the horror of any of these instances of man's inhumanity to man. ...’ The Shoah has special characteristics:

‘1. The motivations for it were entirely racial. There was little, if any, economic net gain ... The victims presented no threat to the German nation, nor to the Nazi regime. Neither national security nor territorial expansion were served by it, though Hitler used antisemitism as a rationale for both.

2.The rational nature of its methodology -- its efficiency, calculability, predictability and control - are unparalleled in human history.

3. Its ferocious intensity. The destructive will (Vernichtungswill) of the Nazis was aimed at the totality of the Jews as Jews, and consequently the victims included women, children, and old people. Slaughter of the Jews did not begin until late 1938 & ended in 1945

The Jewish Victims

‘Who are these people? Or, more precisely, who were they? ... Unless we can give them human dimensions their death will remain mere statistics. To understand the meaning of the Holocaust -Shoah, we must know the past of its victims. ‘The dehumanization of the killing process must be reversed ... (Rita S. Botwinick, A History of the Holocaust, From Ideology to Annihilation, p. 27. Prentice-Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1996 )

*They were 6 million Jews, “men, women, & children.With the exception of Finland, every country defeated by or politically linked to the Germans contributed to their numbers. They had been caught in a vast net which the German had spread ...’- Jews of Europe, Jews of French North Africa, Jews of Italian Libya.

In the east, they reached the outskirts of St. Petersburg to the Ukraine; Switzerland was left neutral; conquered France & its North African Empire under Vichy France, Nazi-conquered Tunisia, Italy’s Libya, the Low Countries, Poland and the Baltic states, Italy and Austria. The Jews were divers, in appearance, in culture, in degree of assimilation.

Jews had lived in Europe, since the birth of Christ, & in North Africa, before Christ. They had adopted, in varying degrees, the customs & mores of their host countries - assimilated. There had been intermarriages; great differences in physical appearance among them. blue-eyed blonds, dark-eyed brunettes, olive-skinned.

Culturally, they depicted a wide range of differences. Most Polish, Russian, and many Balkan Jews spoke and wrote Yiddish, while many from the South used Greek or Ladino; in North Africa, -French Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, & Libya, they spoke ladino, Arabic, French & Italian. Western European Jews had experienced a greater degree of acculturation. They constituted a small minority, less than 1% among their countrymen. In the process of assimilation they had adopted the vernacular and became integrated into the political and economic activities of their nations -France, Holland, Belgium, Germany ... Clearly, there was no monolithic Jewish culture.

The achievements of assimilated Jews in the arts, in science, and in literature, were acclaimed. Social acceptance was growing. Process of industrialization was breaking down ancient class barriers and many Jews were a part of the rising middle classes. They became nationalists and fought during World War I. They expected that their faith would not block full acceptance by the Christian neighbors. (based & adapted from Botwinick, pp. 28-29)

Why The Jews? Patterns of Persecution. An old prejudice rears its ugly head

"Moreover, we do not know to this day which devil has brought them (Jews) here...like a plague, pestilence, pure misfortune in our country." Martin Luther, About the Jews and Their Lies, 1543

*Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners aroused a great deal of debate in 1996 with its suggestion that ordinary Germans were in fact responsible for the Holocaust, zealously carrying out orders to execute Jews rather than being coerced by their leaders. The issues have not been yet resolved, as this debate shows.

*But the fact remains that antisemitism, much less ethnic hatred in general, was not unique to Germany. Jews were historically persecuted as excellent scapegoats.


Jewish communities existed continuously in Europe for over 2,000 years. Many of these communities were older than the countries in which they existed. Nevertheless, as the countries of Europe developed, Jews were rarely given complete citizenship status. At best they were tolerated as guests. Their social and religious distinctiveness made them persistent targets for persecution; & such persecution, in turn, intensified the cohesiveness of Jewish communities.

*The emergence of Christianity as the dominant religion in Europe intensified the persecution of Jews.
*Since both the religious & political life of Europe became organized around the Christian faith, Jews were seen as outcasts, the deniers & "killers" of Christ. For millions of European Christians, for over 1600 years, the hatred & persecution of Jews was religiously sanctioned.* In the medieval times they were blamed for the plague, depicted as having horns and cloven feet as well as sacrificing Christian babies. During the Crusades Jews were killed by pillaging Christians on the way to "reclaim the Holy Land." Jews were often subjected to prejudice, boycotts, exclusion, restrictive laws, attacks, and killings. Some Christians felt that Jews were Satanic because they killed their Messiah.

The Spanish Inquisition of the 1400's forced Jews to convert, leave Spain or be burned at the stake. Jews became increasingly distant from Christians following physical separation during the first century, the waxing of Christianity and the waning of Judaism, and the preservation of practices by Jews that were adopted by Christians. For example, the Saturday Sabbath, circumcision, not eating pork, and reading Hebrew. Medieval Jews were kept out of guilds and forced into the job of moneylending. There was a popular myth that Jews killed Christian children to make unleavened bread that led to persecution. The fact that the Jews of the Diaspora was often wandering about without clear roots made them even more alien.

The Protestant Reform of 1517 did not help the Jewish relations with the Church as well. Martin Luther, first desirous of Jewish conversion to his Church was inviting, but upon the decline of his offer of conversion, his failure turned to hatred of the Jews and their religion. He declared the Jews unfit to live.
It wasn't until recently (1994) that the Lutheran Church re-examined his racist ideology and rejected that portion of it;
similarly, it wasn't until 1960 that the Pope offered any sort of apology for the treatment they suffered at the hands of the Catholics over the ages.

*A forged book, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, published in 1900 and proven to be a fraud led to the belief that there was a Jewish world domination plot. To this very day it remains in translation around the world, despite its well documented status as a complete fake. However, none of the discrimination that Jews were subject to elsewhere could match the inhuman extremes of Adolf Hitler (and the Nazis), who claimed he was acting with the Lord and "finishing the job."

Antisemitism intensified during the l9th and 20th century industrialization of Europe as Jews participated more directly in European economic and social life. By 1933, the patterns of economic, social, & personal persecution of European Jews were well established. Nazi racial antisemitism & propaganda amplified & manipulated these patterns, ultimately adding one deadly tenet--that all Jews must be eliminated. The picture of the Jews encountered in Nazi propaganda was drawn, in part, from a long tradition of antisemitism.

*"Crucifixion." Modern Germany crucified by the Jew. CL:Der Stuermer. 1939, no.4

A new level of hate and blame

*Hitler was able to exploit antisemitic feelings. His plan to do so was spelled out in Mein Kampf in 1924 (written during his short stay in prison for a failed coup); by 1933 it had sold over a million copies. Although his ideas seemed ridiculous at the time, (and therefore garnered little international worry until it was too late) he managed to implement them. Germany was in sad shape, & Hitler & his ideals made it easy for them to say it was someone else's fault.
Hitler, perverting the ideas of Social Darwinism, felt that the Jews were an evil that was at the root of Germany's problems & must therefore be eliminated. H. claimed that Germany never really lost World War I, but was stabbed in the back by a Jewish/Communist conspiracy. The discovery of a scapegoat gave the Germans something to work toward eliminating. The anger & humiliation was now directed away from themselves, Germans could focus all of their negativity on the Jews. By 1939, Nazism became widespread & its oppression of the Jews grew into the genocide that was the Holocaust.

At the core of the Holocaust was the decision to murder every single Jewish man, woman and child. Nazism, drawing upon earlier antisemitic traditions, and welding them together with more modern trends such as fascism and racism, developed a total world view that served to raise mass murder to the highest of ideological imperatives; the apparatus of the modern state was systematically and fully enlisted in order to implement this task (Yad Vashem)

State-sponsored ideological slaughter

‘The murder of million Jews would be designed & systematically implemented with all the legal, technological, bureaucratic & propagandist means available to the German state. The destruction of the Jews would be so desired by the Nazi state that even when it was clear to all that Germany was heading for military defeat, her anti-Jewish policy would be carried out with even more vigor & determination; even though it often worked directly against the German war interest. The Holocaust cannot be explained merely as a by-product of WWII.
*The Holocaust would only be made possible because of the active participation or passive compliance of many groups & individuals, 1st within Germany, then in Austria and later in other countries under Nazi occupation.

The path to the death camps had been prepared many years before the outbreak of that war. Taking an overview of 1,600 years of Jewish history in Christian Europe, historian Raul Hilberg, outlined the development of anti-Jewish measures in the following way:

‘Since the 4th century after Christ, there have been 3 anti-Jewish policies: conversion, expulsion, and annihilation. The 2nd appeared as an alternative to the first, and the 3rd emerged as an alternative to the 2nd. (The Destruction of the European Jews.
Harper Colophon, 1979), p.3. - Raul Hilberg in The Destruction of the European Jews, page 9:

"The missionaries of Christianity had said in effect to the Jews:
'You may not live among us as Jews.'
The secular rulers who followed them from the late Middle Ages then decided: 'You may not live among us,' and the Nazis finally decreed:
"You may not live."

(The missionaries of Christianity had said in effect:
You have no right to live among us as Jews. Secular rulers who followed had proclaimed:
You have no right to live among us. The German Nazis at last decreed:
You have no right to live
--- Raul Hilberg in The Destruction of the European Jews).

*The Nazis were not interested in converting Jews to Christianity, because they viewed the Jews in purely racial terms. In order to ‘remove’ Jews, they concentrated initially on a policy of exclusion & emigration. When they were confronted by the reality of a total war which encompassed parts of Europe - especially Eastern Europe (including the Soviet Union after June 1941) - in which millions of Jews would be ‘acquired’ by their expansionist empire, they decided that emigration was no longer a feasible solution to their ‘Jewish problem.’ It was then that they produced the 3rd and quite unprecedented anti-Jewish policy’ (Landau, p. 117-8)

Chronology of the Holocaust Era
http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/chronology.html (excellent)

*Dates of the Holocaust Era, Jan. 30, 1933
-May 8, 1945

“We will try to trace at least the external events, the extraordinary human suffering of ‘the others/undesirables,’ and a specially selected ‘race’ pursued over the length & breadth of a continent & beyond, condemned to mass murder. Integrated or segregated, educated or ignorant, rich or poor, young or old, every Jew was condemned, in the belief that the Nazis would have the ultimate ‘solution’ to the Jewish question.’
The Holocaust Era refers to the period from January 30, 1933
when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, to May 8, 1945 (V-E Day), the end of the war in Europe, during which there was an assault on Humanity, by the Nazi regime and their collaborators and followers. Two major periods of the Holocaust Era can be discerned - “The events of the Holocaust occurred in two main phases: 1933-1939 and 1939-1945”11:

A. The prewar period, 1933-39: Nazism - A Monolithic Culture

From the Nazi accession to power to the beginning of Germany’s military expansion,1933-39
Dictatorship under the 3rd Reich. Creation of the Nazi Racial Totalitarian State

B. The period of World War II, 1939-45: “New Order”

Phase 1: 1939-41 Dehumanization
Phase 2: 1941-45 Annihilation. The ‘Final Solution’


*Antisemitism, Systematic prejudice against Jews. Notice the absence of a hyphen (-); there has never been any such thing as "Semitism." The term "antisemitism" is, properly one word.

, In the Nazi ideology, the pure, superior Germanic (Nordic, Caucasian) race.

*Holocaust, Hebrew word (olah) meaning ‘burnt’ offering. In the Septuagint version (translated Hebrew Bible into Greek during the reign of Ptolemy II, 3rd century B.C.), the word, olah, is consistently translated by the Greek word, holokauston, "an offering consumed by fire."

*Nazi party, National Socialist German Workers' Party - the political party which emerged in Munich after World War I. The party was taken over by Adolph Hitler in the early 1920's. He created the SA (Storm Troopers, also known as "Brownshirts") in 1921 and chose the swastika as the party's symbol.

, a Hebrew word meaning "Desolation." Shoah has come to be the preferred term for the Holocaust by Jewish scholars who feel that "Holocaust" has lost much of its significance through overuse.(http://www.mtsu.edu/~baustin/glossary.html)


SEVEN-b Nazi Fascism and the Modern Totalitarian State


The government of Nazi Germany was a fascist, totalitarian state. Totalitarian regimes, in contrast to a dictatorship, establish complete political, social, and cultural control over their subjects, and are usually headed by a charismatic leader. Fascism is a form of right-wing totalitarianism which emphasizes the subordination of the individual to advance the interests of the state. Nazi fascism's ideology included a racial theory which denigrated "non-Aryans," extreme nationalism which called for the unification of all German-speaking peoples, the use of private paramilitary organizations to stifle dissent and terrorize opposition, and the centralization of decision-making by, and loyalty to, a single leader.

Instructional Objectives - Students will learn:

1. The principal characteristics of totalitarianism.
2. The ways in which a totalitarian regime differs from a dictatorship.
3. The ways in which right-wing totalitarian regimes differ from left-wing totalitarian regimes.
4. The principal features of Fascism.
5. The principal features of Nazism.


Chapter Content


Totalitarianism is a form of government in which all societal resources are monopolized by the state in an effort to penetrate and control all aspects of public and private life, through the state's use of propaganda, terror, and technology. Totalitarian ideologies reject the existing society as corrupt, immoral, and beyond reform, project an alternative society in which these wrongs are to be redressed, and provide plans and programs for realizing the alternative order. These ideologies, supported by propaganda campaigns, demand total conformity on the part of the people.

Totalitarian forms of organization enforce this demand for conformity. Totalitarian societies are hierarchies dominated by one political party and usually by a single leader. The party penetrates the entire country through regional, provincial, local & ‘primary’ (party-cell) organization. Youth, professional, cultural, & sports groups supplement the party's political control. A paramilitary secret police ensures compliance. Information & ideas are effectively organized through the control of television, radio, the press, and education at all levels.

Totalitarian Regime vs. Dictatorship

Totalitarian regimes differ from older concepts of dictatorship or tyranny.
Totalitarian regimes seek to establish complete political, social and cultural control, whereas dictatorships seek limited typically political control.

Totalitarian regimes mobilize and make use of mass political participation, and often are led by charismatic cult figures. Examples of such cult figures in modern history are Mao Tse-tung (China), and Josef Stalin (Soviet Union), who led left-wing regimes, and Adolf Hitler (Germany) and Benito Mussolini (Italy), who led right-wing regimes.

Nazism. Fascism. Communism

Two types
of totalitarianism can sometimes be distinguished Nazism & Fascism which evolved from "right-wing" extremism, and Communism, which evolved from "left-wing" extremism. Traditionally, each is supported by different social classes. Right-wing totalitarian movements have generally drawn their popular support primarily from middle classes seeking to maintain the economic and social status quo. Left-wing totalitarianism has often developed from working class movements seeking, in theory, to eliminate, not preserve, class distinctions. Right-wing totalitarianism has typically supported and enforced the private ownership of industrial wealth. A distinguishing feature of Communism, by contrast, is the collective ownership of such capital.

Right-wing totalitarian regimes (particularly the Nazis) have arisen in relatively advanced societies, relying on the support of traditional economic elites to attain power. In contrast, left-wing totalitarian regimes have arisen in relatively undeveloped countries through the unleashing of revolutionary violence and terror.
Such violence and terror are also the primary tools of right-wing totalitarian regimes to maintain compliance with authority.


Fascism was an authoritarian political movement that developed in Italy and several other European countries after 1919 as a reaction against the profound political and social changes brought about by World War I and the spread of socialism and Communism. Its name was derived from the fasces, an ancient Roman symbol of authority consisting of a bundle of rods and an ax. Italian fascism was founded in Milan on March 23, 1919, by Benito Mussolini, a former revolutionary socialist leader. His followers, mostly war veterans, were organized along paramilitary lines and wore black shirts as uniforms. The early Fascist program was a mixture of left- and right-wing ideas that emphasized intense Nationalism, productivism, anti-socialism, elitism, and the need for a strong leader. Mussolini's oratorical skills, the post-war economic crisis, a widespread lack of confidence in the traditional political system, and a growing fear of socialism, all helped the Fascist party to grow to 300,000 registered members by 1921. In that year it elected 35 members to parliament.

The Philosophy of Fascism

The intellectual roots of Fascism can be traced to the voluntaristic philosophers who argued that the will is prior to and superior to the intellect or reason.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

A German philosopher who held that the will is the underlying and ultimate reality and that the whole phenomenal world is the only expression of will. Human beings have free will only in the sense that everyone is the free expression of a will and that we therefore are not the authors of our own destinies, characters, or behavior, he wrote. He theorized that space, time, and causality were not absolute principles but only a function of the brain, concepts parallel to the scientific discoveries of relativistic physics two generations later.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

A German philosopher and poet best known for "Thus Spoke Zarathustra." He theorized that there were two moral codes that of the ruling class (master morality) and that of the oppressed class (slave morality). The ancient empires grew out of a master morality, and the religions of the day out of the slave morality (which denigrates the rich and powerful, rationalism, and sexuality). He developed the concept of the "overman" (superman) which symbolized man at his most creative and highest intellectual capacity.

Henri Bergson (1859-1941)

A French philosopher of Jewish parents who was the leading rejectionist of the concept that scientific principles can explain all of existence. He asserted that metaphysical principles also apply. He found credence in applying the biological theories of Darwin (which pointed to the "survival of the fittest" in biological systems) to social theory.

George Sorel (1847-1922)

A French social philosopher who had a major influence upon Mussolini. Sorel believed that societies naturally became decadent and disorganized, and this inevitable decay could only be delayed by the leadership of idealists who were willing to use violence to obtain power. His anti-democratic, anti-liberal views and pessimistic view about the natural life-cycle of a society were antithetical to most of his contemporaries.

Gabriele D'Annunzio (1863-1938) was an Italian politician, poet, dramatist, novelist and war hero who was a supporter of Mussolini.

Fascist Ideology

Fascist ideology was largely the work of the neo-idealist philosopher, Giovanni Gentile. It emphasized the subordination of the individual to a "totalitarian" state that was to control all aspects of national life. Violence as a creative force was an important characteristic of the Fascist philosophy. A special feature of Italian Fascism was the attempt to eliminate the class struggle from history through nationalism and the corporate state. Mussolini organized the economy and all ‘producers’ from peasants & factory workers to intellectuals & industrialists into 22 corporations as a means of improving productivity and avoiding industrial disputes. Contrary to the regime's propaganda claims, the system ran poorly. Mussolini was forced into compromises with big business and the Roman Catholic Church. The corporate state was never fully implemented. The inherently expansionist, militaristic nature of Fascism contributed to imperialistic adventures in Ethiopia & the Balkans and ultimately to World War II.


Nazism refers to the totalitarian Fascist ideology & policies espoused & practiced by Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Worker's Party from 1920-1945. Nazism stressed
- the superiority of the Aryan,
its destiny as the Master Race to rule the world over other races, and
- a violent hatred of Jews, which it blamed for all of the problems of Germany.

- Nazism also provided for extreme nationalism which called for the unification of all German-speaking peoples into a single empire. The economy envisioned for the state was a form of corporative state socialism, although members of the party who were leftists (and would generally support such an economic system over private enterprise) were purged from the party in 1934.

*Nazism also placed an emphasis on sports and paramilitary activities for youth, the massive use of propaganda (controlled by Joseph Goebbels) to glorify the state, and the submission of all decisions to the supreme leader (Fuhrer) Adolf Hitler.

*Nazism made use of paramilitary organizations to maintain control within the party, & to squelch opposition to the party. Violence & terror fostered compliance. Among these organizations were the:

S.A. (Sturmabteilung) - Stormtroopers (also known as "brown-shirts") were the Nazi paramilitary arm under Ernst Rohm. It was active in the battle for the streets against other German political parties.

S.D. (Sicherheitsdiest) - the Security Service under Reinhard Heydrich.

S.S. (Schutzstaffel) - Defense Corps, was an elite guard unit formed out of the S.A. It was under the command of Heinrich Himmler.

Gestapo (Geheime Staatpolizeil) - the Secret State Police, which was formed in 1933.


1. Define the following: dictator, totalitarianism, left-wing, right-wing, propaganda, Fascism.
2. What are two differences between a dictatorship and a totalitarian regime?
3. What are three differences between right-wing and left-wing totalitarian regimes?
4. Who was Benito Mussolini, and what type of government did he lead?
5. What were three aspects of Nazi ideology?

6. How do totalitarian regimes foster compliance by those who disagree with the objectives of the regime?


Communism - A social, political, and economic system characterized by the revolutionary struggle to create a society which has an absence of classes, and the common ownership of the means of production & subsistence and centralized governmental control over the economy.

Dictator - A ruler having absolute authority and supreme jurisdiction over the government of a state; especially one who is considered tyrannical or oppressive.

Elitism - Philosophy that a narrow clique of the "best" or "most skilled" members of a given social group should have the power.

Fascism - A philosophy or system of government that advocates or exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with an ideology of belligerent nationalism.

Hierarchy - body of persons organized or classified according to rank, capacity, or authority.

Ideology - The body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture.

Left-wing - As used in this chapter, individuals and groups who desire to reform overthrow the established order and advocate change in the name of greater freedom or well-being of the common man.

Nazism - The ideology and policies of Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Worker's Party from 1921 to 1945.

Propaganda - The systematic spreading of a given doctrine or of allegations reflecting its views and interests.

Right-wing - As used in this chapter, individuals or groups who profess opposition to change in the established order and who favor traditional attitudes and practices, and who sometimes advocate the forced establishment of an authoritarian political order.

Totalitarianism - A form of government in which all societal resources are monopolized by the state in an effort to penetrate and control all aspects of public and private life, through the state's use of propaganda, terror, and technology.

Copyright, Fall 1999, January 2004 Edith Shaked
Source/Credit: The Holocaust - A guide for Teachers. http://www.remember.org/guide/

1 Landau, Ronnie S. The Nazi Holocaust. London-New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd Publishers,1992, p. 115.

2 these were the roma and Sinti, nomadic people from northwest India who arrived in Europe in the fifteenth century and were persecuted; as many as 250,000 Gypsies were killed; they were seen as enemies of the state less because of race than a fear that they were parasites and criminals

3 US Holocaust Memorial Museum website: http://www.ushmm.org/education/history.html

4 M. Chambers, Theodore Rabb, The Western Experience, v. 2, MacGraw-Hill College,1999, p. 1054

5 Yehuda Bauer. “Genocide: Was it the Nazi’ Original Plan? The Nazi Holocaust, 3. The “Final Solution”: The Implementation of Mass Murder, Volume 1. Ed. Michael R. Marrus. (Meckler Wesport: London, 1989): 84

6 Yad Vashem, About the Holocaust - Shoah: http://www.yadvashem.org.il/holocaust/faq/index.html

7 http://www.ushmm.org/education/history.html

8 Yad Vashem text

9 2. defining who is a survivor, in AMCHA on August 17, 1997

10 Jack R. Fischel, The Holocaust, Westport, Connecticut. London: Greenwood Press, 1998, pp. vii-viii.

11 US Holocaust Memorial Museum website: http://www.ushmm.org/education/history.html