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Many see strong connections to the values of Nazism and the irrationalist tradition of the romantic movement of the early 19th century. Strength, passion, frank declarations of feelings, and deep devotion to family and community were valued by the Nazis though first expressed by many Romantic artists, musicians, and writers. [Jun 2006]

Book burning, May 10, 1933, Berlin

Holocaust, WWII

Mussolini and Hitler


Nazism or National Socialism (German Nationalsozialismus) refers to the totalitarian ideology of the dictatorship which ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945: the 'Third Reich'. In this ideology, the German nation and the purported "Aryan" race were considered superior to all other races. Nazism is usually associated with Fascism.

The dictator Adolf Hitler rose to power as leader of a political party, the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP for short). Germany during this period is also referred to as Nazi Germany. Adherents of Nazism were called Nazis. Nazism has been outlawed in modern Germany, although tiny remnants, known as Neo-Nazis, continue to operate in Germany and abroad. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism [May 2004]

Nazi / Third Reich terminology in popular culture

The multiple atrocities and extremist ideology that the Nazis followed have made them notorious in popular grammar as well as history. The term "Nazi" is used in various ways. So are other 3rd Reich terms like "Führer" (often spelled "fuhrer" or less often, but more correctly, "fuehrer" in English speaking contries), "Faschist", "Gestapo", "uber/ueber" (from Übermensch, superior person, arian as opposite to Untermensch) or "Hitler". The terms are often used to describe individuals or groups of people who try to force an unpopular or extreme agenda on the general population, and also commit crimes and other violations on others without remorse. The terms are also often simply used to insult people.

In the context of the Western World, Nazi or fascist is also sometimes used to qualify, or better disqualify, political groups (such as the French Front National) advocating restrictive measures on immigration, or strong law enforcement powers.

Critics of Israel have recently taken to using comparisons with the Nazis in describing its treatment of Palestinians, particularly with regards to Israel's separation barrier on the West Bank. Many regard this usage to be antisemitic, or at best an exaggeration.

The terms are also used (more humorously, but also fully intentionally to insult and offend) to describe anyone or anything seen as strict or doctrinaire. Phrases like "Open Source Nazi", "spelling Gestapo", "ubergeek" and "Feminazi" are examples of those in common use in the USA. These uses offend many, as the controversy in the popular press over the Seinfeld "Soup Nazi" episode should indicate. Those offended consider the use to be a trivialization of the Nazis, who killed millions of people.

The terms are used so frequently as to inspire "Godwin's Law" on usenet which states "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one". A popular corollary states that when one disputant compares the other to the Nazis, meaningful discussion is over and the former has lost the debate.

More innocent terms, like "fashion police" also bear some reminiscents of Nazi terminology (GESTAPO, Geheime Staatspolizei, secret state police) as well as references to Police states in general.

It can also be found that German-sounding or German-looking spellings of English words are used to claim superiority in some area, or to create some impression of power or brutality. Usually without adopting the Nazi ideology, or any parts of it, at all. For example, to give English words a German touch the letter 'C' is often replaced by 'K', like "kool" or "kommandos". A well known example of "germanization" of names are the names of heavy metal bands like Mötley Crüe, or MOTÖRHEAD ("because it looks mean"). See Heavy metal umlaut.

Another similar effect can be observed in the usage of typefaces. Some people strongly associate the Fraktur typeface with Nazi Germany propaganda (although the typeface is much older, and its usage was banned at some time in Nazi Germany). A less stronger association can be observed with the Futura typeface, which today is sometimes described as "germanic" and "muscular". --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism#Nazi_.2F_Third_Reich_terminology_in_popular_culture [Sept 2004]

It Happened Here (1966) - Kevin Brownlow, Andrew Mollo

It Happened Here (1966) - Kevin Brownlow, Andrew Mollo [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

British film historian Kevin Brownlow was all of 18 when he conceived the idea for this alternate-history film depicting what life in London would have been like if Nazi troops had conquered England in July 1940. Along with his friend and collaborator Andrew Mollo (only 16 at the time), he took eight years to piece the film together using borrowed equipment and begging scraps of film stock from established filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick. The result owes much to Brownlow's penchant for silent films (he authored a classic text on the subject entitled The Parade's Gone By), and possibly to Italian neorealism, since the semidocumentary style bows in that direction. Good thing, too. The documentary feel captivates the viewer. The story follows an Everybrit named Pauline as she grows from complacence and resignation over the Nazi occupation of England to when she becomes a nurse for the Nazis and realizes the true horror of her and England's situation. Brownlow's pure desire for authenticity makes the film more chilling than it would otherwise have been. For instance, on the film's initial release, Jewish groups objected to a sequence involving a real-life fascist of the time, Colin Jordan, spouting his opinion of Jews and euthanasia. They feared people wouldn't pick up on the film's anti-Nazi stance, and would therefore take the comments seriously. So seven minutes of footage were cut that have now been restored, making the film scarier than ever. --Jim Gay

The Great Dictator (1940) - Charles Chaplin

  • The Great Dictator (1940) - Charles Chaplin [Amazon.com]
    Since Adolf Hitler had the audacity to borrow his mustache from the most famous celebrity in the world--Charlie Chaplin--it meant Hitler was fair game for Chaplin's comedy. (Strangely, the two men were born within four days of each other.) The Great Dictator, conceived in the late thirties but not released until 1940, when Hitler's war was raging across Europe, is the film that skewered the tyrant. Chaplin plays both Adenoid Hynkel, the power-mad ruler of Tomania, and a humble Jewish barber suffering under the dictator's rule. Paulette Goddard, Chaplin's wife at the time, plays the barber's beloved; and the rotund comedian Jack Oakie turns in a weirdly accurate burlesque of Mussolini, as a bellowing fellow dictator named Benzino Napaloni, Dictator of Bacteria. Chaplin himself hits one of his highest moments in the amazing sequence where he performs a dance of love with a large inflated globe of the world. Never has the hunger for world domination been more rhapsodically expressed. The slapstick is swift and sharp, but it was not enough for Chaplin. He ends the film with the barber's six-minute speech calling for peace and prophesying a hopeful future for troubled mankind. Some critics have always felt the monologue was out of place, but the lyricism and sheer humanity of it are still stirring. This was the last appearance of Chaplin's Little Tramp character, and not coincidentally it was his first all-talking picture. --Robert Horton for amazon.com

    Triumph Of The Will (1934) - Leni Riefenstahl

    Triumph Of The Will (1934) - Leni Riefenstahl [Amazon.com]

    Triumph of the Will (Triumph des Willens in German) is a documentary of a propaganda event by the German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, documenting the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg. It is one of the best-known propaganda films in the history of the cinema, with wide and enduring recognition of the technical skills of Riefenstahl despite the controversial subject.

    The film shows much footage of uniformed Nazi party members as well as common soldiers marching to melodious major-keyed classical music, then later singing, playing, and cooking; it also includes soundbites from speeches given by various advisors to Adolf Hitler, and portions of a speech by Hitler himself. The film tries to show how the German people pledged their loyalty to the person of Hitler, but becomes somewhat disorienting when Hitler is praised as an "epitome of altruism" and later informs the assembled masses that he is on a God-given mission.

    For this film Riefenstahl was awarded with the gold medal at the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris.

    In Germany, this movie is only allowed to be shown in critical context, e.g. with introducing remarks. This film is considered by many as a way to understand why the German people allowed Hitler to gain power. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_of_the_Will [Feb 2005]


    1. Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural, and Social Life in the Third Reich (1996) - George L. Mosse [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
      What was life like under the Third Reich? What went on between parents and children? What were the prevailing attitudes about sex, morality, religion? How did workers perceive the effects of the New Order in the workplace? What were the cultural currents-in art, music, science, education, drama, and on the radio?

      Professor Mosse's extensive analysis of Nazi culture-groundbreaking upon its original publication in 1966-is now offered to readers of a new generation. Selections from newspapers, novellas, plays, and diaries as well as the public pronouncements of Nazi leaders, churchmen, and professors describe National Socialism in practice and explore what it meant for the average German.

      By recapturing the texture of culture and thought under the Third Reich, Mosse's work still resonates today-as a document of everyday life in one of history's darkest eras and as a living memory that reminds us never to forget. --amazon.com

      "For the sanity of the human race it is essential that the record of Hitler's Germany should remain alive and be retold again and again as a warning for the future. Professor Mosse's book helps keep the record alive." �Saturday Review on George L. Mosse's Intellectual, Cultural, and Social Life in the Third Reich

    2. From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film (1947) - Siegfried Kracauer [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
      A landmark, now classic, study of the rich cinematic history of the Weimar Republic, From Caligari to Hitler was first published by Princeton University Press in 1947. Siegfried Kracauer--a prominent German film critic and member of Walter Benjamin's and Theodor Adorno's intellectual circle--broke new ground in exploring the connections between film aesthetics, the prevailing psychological state of Germans in the Weimar era, and the evolving social and political reality of the time. Kracauer's pioneering book, which examines German history from 1921 to 1933 in light of such movies as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, M, Metropolis, and The Blue Angel, has never gone out of print. Now, over half a century after its first appearance, this beautifully designed and entirely new edition reintroduces Kracauer for the twenty-first century. Film scholar Leonardo Quaresima places Kracauer in context in a critical introduction, and updates the book further with a new bibliography, index, and list of inaccuracies that crept into the first edition. This volume is a must-have for the film historian, film theorist, or cinema enthusiast. --Princeton University

    Nazi 'Chic'? : Fashioning Women in the Third Reich (2004) - Irene Guenther

    Nazi 'Chic'? : Fashioning Women in the Third Reich (2004) - Irene Guenther [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Book Description
    We are all familiar with the stereotype of the German woman as either a Brunhilde in uniform or a chubby farmer's wife. However, throughout the interwar period fashion was one of Germany's largest industries and German women ranked among the most elegantly dressed in all of Europe. This book explores the failed attempt by the Nazi state to construct a female image that would mirror official gender policies, instill feelings of national pride, promote a German victory on the fashion runways of Europe, and support a Nazi-controlled European fashion industry. How did the few women with power maintain style and elegance? How did the majority experience the increased standardization of clothing characteristic of the Nazi years? How did women deal with the severe clothing restrictions brought about by Nazi policies and the exigencies of war? Nazi 'Chic'? addresses these questions and many others, including the role of anti-Semitism, "aryanization," and the hypocrisy of Nazi policies. The result is the first book in English to deal comprehensively with German fashion from World War I through to the end of the Third Reich.

    About the Author
    Irene Guenther is Professor of History at Houston Community College.

    See also: fashion - nazism - chic

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