What was the nature of the nationalism used by Hitler in Mein Kampf? Where did it’s focus lie? To what extent was this nationalism merely a tool of Hitler’s ambition and to what extent did he really believe in it?
Before being able to study the extent to which Hitler employed nationalism as a tool in his policies evident in his seminal work Mein Kampf (My Struggle/Battle) we must first clarify what we understand to be his definition of nationalism. Nationalism can cover a wide range of ideas that all amount to some form of allegiance to a ‘nation’. Hitler’s explication of the term is no different. Hiitler’s nationalism is not one who’s base unit is the nation-state, as is most commonly perceived in the 21st Century, but one that holds shared culture as its focal point. Hitler is quick to distance himself from dynastic patriotism and his contempt for the monarchial Habsburg dynasty is very clear. His allegiance lies with Nordic-Germanic Aryan peoples. In a homogenous Aryan cultural-state Hitler saw strength in unity and shared interest with weakness being inherent in a state containing what he later describes as ‘lesser races’. His specific strain of this cultural nationalism he often refers to as Germanism. It is one that stretches beyond the spatial boundaries of Germany proper to all German speakers who possess a pure Aryan blood line. In promoting Germanism Hitler is advancing his idealism of creating a German nation that is fully constituted by Aryan peoples through the expulsion of all that are of unlike races.
In what way then, did Hitler propose to utilise nationalism as a functional tool? That is, in what ways could he use it and still have no base belief in the doctrine he was putting forth. It becomes very clear, very quickly, in Mein Kampf that Germanic Nationalism figures in almost every aspect of Hitler’s policies. He sees it as a way of weeding out laziness in the German youth and of instilling in them national pride. Through a new curriculum that would teach comprehensive German history and encourage nationalism he hoped to strengthen the bonds of all Aryan Germans. ‘The crown of the folkish state’s entire work of education and training must be to burn the racial sense and racial feeling into the intellect, the heart and the brain of the youth entrusted to it.’ By doing this Hitler saw a means of building national strength. He believed that in a homogenous society solidarity comes from ‘the ability and will of the individual to sacrifice himself for the totality.’ A thorough German education and subsequent racial indoctrination was the first step in achieving a nation of such people. Hitler saw a heterogenous state as dangerous because he felt that if not unified the forces of individual races [for Hitler the Jews were the most prominent example] could outgrow those of the common interest.’ Aside from the results of internal strengthening that Hitler saw in his nationalism there were also benefits with regard to the external realm. Hitler had two central dislikes, Jews and Marxists. He felt that by creating a national unity of Germanic race he could ensure safety against forms of Marxist Socialism. A key aspect of Marxism being the unity of all working classes regardless of cultural, national or racial boundaries, Hitler would prevent such unification by strengthening the German cultural and racial border so that the proletariat felt more allegiance to Germany than to other working classes. Hitler also saw the internationalisation of the German economy as an important factor in the weakening of the nation. He blamed this occurrence of this process both on the lack of foresight of the German Reich prior to the Great War and to the increasing influence of Jews in German politics. Following on from this he blamed German involvement in stock trade and dependence on international economic interdependence as reasons for German frailty and loss of the...
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