The Rise of Fascism
World War One killed 9 million people, toppled four empires, ruined whole economies and forever scarred a whole generation with the horrors of modern war and for some, with the bitterness of defeat. When the fighting finally ceased in 1918, all sides found themselves in an incredibly dismantled state, disillusioned with the horrible war and bitterly angry with their enemies, and in some cases their allies. In the aftermath of the Great War, a new political-social movement was taking root in Italy, and would later inspire Germany to follow a similar more extreme path. Fascist regimes came to power in places in which the war left people disgruntled and conditions were so bad, economically and socially, that complete chaos was just a matter of time. Fascism presented new answers, when the old staples had failed, and promised an ancient Roman-esc glory for their nations in times of mass disorder and weakness. The fiery mode of the disgruntled subjects accompanied with the regimes emphasis on nationalism and militarism led to the most devastating and world-altering war the planet has ever seen. The events surrounding the reign of the Fascist governments in Italy and Germany, mainly in Germany, would forever scorn the term as an evil-inhumane disease, as well as vague epithet for all things oppressive and unpopular.
Even before World War One, European thought and popular belief, mainly amongst the intellectuals, had been slowly moving away from the optimistic view of the Enlightenment, that above all humans were the highest-most-advanced form of life living in a harmonious world governed by reason and rationality. The influential ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Darwin captivated the modern world, even if they were only widely read amongst intellectuals, and found their way into the subconscious of European society.
Fascism itself had roots in the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and especially appealed to the German people who were angry at their treatment after WWI, their current situation, and because “...there is something inherently autocratic, aggressive, and militaristic in the German character...” (Nicholls 61). Nietzsche, himself a native of Saxony, followed the typical stereotype of the German, meaning that he considered power best suited to be given to a special elite, or mainly in the hands of one man. He felt that these supermen, were suppose to lead the obedient mass of sheep. His works, much like Darwin’s, however would prove to be taken out of context, which is common with ideas so abstract, and put to work in ideas that Nietzsche despised like nationalism and anti-Semitism. “The plural Übermenschen [Superman or Overman] never appears in Nietzsche's writings, which sharply contrasts with Nazi interpretations of his corpus” (Wikipedia contributors). It is hard to pen down Nietzsche’s ideas, but leading scholars believe that he would have not agreed with a massive race of supermen ruling the world, like the Arian race the Germans glorified.
The controversial idea’s of Charles Darwin were shamelessly abused and misinterpreted to the Nazi’s benefit as well. The Nazis were social-Darwinists who promoted the German race, and more specifically the Arian race, as the most highly-evolved and superior race of human beings. They Nazi’s used this as mandate to rule over and collectivize the Germanic people, as well as an excuse for their cultural dominance and a justification to further their superior empire. Darwin’s writings generally disagreed with these racists beliefs. Darwin’s writings indicate that no one race was better than one another, but rather more suited to thrive in specific environments, and thus cultures could not be judged by their relative success according to European values. Nevertheless, the Nazi’s shamelessly promoted their superiority of their so called “dominant” race of Arian supermen that they believed should rightfully rule the civilized world.
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