What are the main elements of Nazi fascist thought? Why do you think they were so appealing to Germans? Was it German character or historical circumstances which compelled large numbers of Germans to embrace Hitler and Nazism?

The main elements of Nazi thought include the superiority of the German Volk, a drive to exterminate all of those peoples considered to be of inferior ethnic or national stock, and the desire to expand the German Lebensraum. Although historians in the immediate post-war years believed that Germany's unique historical circumstances led to the rise of Nazi ideology, this line of though has been discredited in the current-day scholarship.

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The origins of national-socialist ideology and Nazi thought in Germany are complex, and it would be inaccurate to relegate it to some essential characteristic shared by Germans and no one else. This was, coincidentally, a popular thread of historical thought that emerged in the aftermath of the Second World War. Historians talked about a peculiar German Sonderweg, or “special path,” fundamentally different from anywhere else in Europe, that Germany took to reach Nazi ideology. Their reasoning discussed Germany’s relatively weak imperial reach in comparison with France and Britain, the explosive industrial development it experienced in the mid-1800s, its violent experiences in Africa, and so on. However, most historians today dispute the argument that German historical development was extremely unique in comparison with other modern nation states.

Some of the main elements of Nazi thought—although this is by no means an exhaustive list—include the belief in Arian racial superiority and the purity of the German bloodline. Nazi ideologues spoke about the greatness of a pure German Volk, or “people,” whose destiny it was to conquer Europe and expand their Lebensraum. Literally translated, Lebensraum means “living room,” but in Nazi ideology it came to represent the territory inhabited by the German Volk, and that territory that had not yet been conquered but which was German by right.

Unlike Soviet socialist ideology, Nazism did not champion the world’s working peoples and in fact saw the division of non-Germans into separable classes as a good thing. If those harmful elements of society could be identified—Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, disabled peoples, etc.—then they could be eradicated. Extermination of unwanted ethnic and social groups was central to Nazi thinking, because the Nazis were overtly concerned with maintaining the purity of German blood, the purity of the Volk. Intermixing of the dominant German peoples with those of “lesser” ethnicity would only lead to a weakening of the nation and the inevitable enslavement of the German people.

It should be noted that many historians who originally supported the Sonderweg theory did so because of exactly this point: they argued that perpetual German fear of being conquered—as Germany was surrounded on the left by aggressively expansionist empires and on the right by the “savage” peoples of the Slavic heartlands—led them to such aggressive and ruthless ideologies of German blood-purity. However, these ideas have been largely discredited in the current-day scholarship.

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