The Nazi ideology did not believe in equality among people but only in a racial hierarchy. According to this, the Nordic German Aryans were at the top and the Jews were at the bottom. All other colored people were placed in between.
In your biology class, you may have read about theories by Darwin and Spencer. Darwin proposed the theory of Natural Selection to explain organic evolution, while Spencer added the concept of Survival of the Fittest. These theories helped in understanding the process by which complex organisms evolved from simple organisms. Hitler interpreted the ideas of Darwin and Spencer to suit his own views. While Darwin and Spencer never talked about human intervention, Hitler wanted human intervention to ensure the elimination of other races. According to him, such races were not fit for survival and should be eliminated to make place for the purest race, the Nordic German Aryans.
Hitler’s ideology was also related to the geopolitical concept of Lebensraum, or living space. He believed in acquiring new territories to spread the race of the Nordic German Aryans.
The Nazis quickly began to implement their dream of creating an exclusive racial community of pure Germans. They did this by physically eliminating all those who were seen as ‘undesirable’ in the extended empire. The pure and healthy Nordic Aryans were seen as the only ‘desirable’ race. Many Germans who were considered ‘undesirable’ were killed under the Euthanasia Programme. Even the mentally or physically unfit were killed under this programme.
The Jews, the Russians and the Poles, all of them were widely persecuted. After the German occupation of Poland and parts of Russia, the captured civilians were forced to work as slave labour. Most of them died because of hard work and starvation.
Stereotyping the Jews: There had been a long tradition of Christian hostility towards the Jews. They had been stereotyped as killers of Christ and usurpers. Until medieval times, the Jews were barred from owning land. Trade and money-lending was their only means for survival. Periodic organized violence and expulsion from land were often used for persecuting the Jews.
The Nazis wanted the complete elimination of the Jews. From 1933 to 1938, the Jews were compelled to leave the country through different means of terror and segregation. In the next phase (1939-1945), there was an aim of concentrating them in certain areas and eventually killing them in gas chambers.
After German occupation, Poland was divided up and much of north-western Poland was annexed to Germany. Poles were forced to leave their homes and properties behind. They were to be occupied by ethnic Germans brought in from occupied Europe.
The Poles were sent to the other part which was called the General Government. Members of the Polish intelligentsia were killed so the Polish could be kept intellectually and spiritually servile. Some of the largest ghettos and gas chambers were also present in the General Government. Thus, it also served as the killing field for the Jews.
Hitler felt that by teaching the Nazi ideology to children, a strong Nazi society could be established. All schools were ‘cleansed’ and ‘purified’ to propagate the Nazi ideals. The teachers who were Jews or seen as ‘politically unreliable’ were dismissed. German and Jew children were segregated and the ‘undesirable children’, Jews, physically handicapped and Gypsies were thrown out of school. Finally in the 1940s, they were taken to the gas chambers.
School textbooks were re-written so that the ‘Good German’ children could be brainwashed through a prolonged period of ideological training. Racial science was introduced in the curriculum to justify the Nazi ideas of race.
Children were taught to be loyal and submissive, hate Jews and worship Hitler. The sport of Boxing was promoted to instill mental strength among students. Youth organisations were given the responsibility of educating the German youth in the spirit of National Socialism. Ten year olds had to enter Jungvolk. At 14 years of age, all boys had to join the Nazi youth organization, Hitler Youth. After a long and rigorous training in the Nazi ideology, they had to join the Labour Service, usually at the age of 18. After that, they had to serve in the armed forces and enter one of the Nazi organizations.
The boys were taught to be aggressive, masculine and steel hearted. The girls were told that they had to become good mothers and rear pure-blooded Aryan children. The girls had to maintain the purity of the race and hence had to distance themselves from the ‘undesirables’.
Women who bore racially undesirable children were punished. On the other hand, women who bore racially desirable children were awarded. They were given special treatment in hospitals and also got concessions in shops, theatres and railways. Honor Crosses were awarded to encourage women to produce more children. A bronze cross was given for four children, silver cross for six and golden cross for eight or more. The ‘Aryan’ woman who deviated from the prescribed code of conduct was publicly condemned and severely punished.
The Nazi regime used the language and media with great effect. They coined various deceiving terms to be used for ‘killing’ or ‘murder’. Mass killings were termed special treatment, final solution (for the Jews), euthanasia (for the disabled), selection and disinfections. Photographs, films, radio, posters, catchy slogans, etc. were used to propagate the Nazi ideology. Those opposed to the Nazis and the Jews were stereotyped through various campaigns.
Many people began to see the world through Nazi perspective. There was widespread hatred against the Jews. People believed that Nazism would bring prosperity and improve general well-being.
But many others organized active resistance to Nazism, braving police repression and death. But a large majority of the German population was composed of passive onlookers. They were too scared to act, to differ, to protest.
Information about Nazi atrocities had trickled out of Germany during the last years of the regime. But it was only after the end of the war that the world came to realize the horrors suffered by the Jews and other ‘undesirables’. Many Jews wrote their memories in diaries and notebooks, and created archives. Many of them buried their memoires under the ground, in the hope that someday the world would come to know about their plight.
When the Nazi leadership could see that they were fighting a losing battle, they distributed petrol to its functionaries to destroy all incriminating evidences.
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