National Socialism (German: Nationalsozialismus), more commonly known as Nazism (/ˈnaːtsɪzᵊm/), is the ideology and practice associated with the 20th-century German Nazi Party and Nazi state as well as other far-right groups. Usually characterized as a form of fascism that incorporates scientific racism and anti-Semitism, Nazism developed out of the influences of Pan-Germanism, the Völkisch German nationalist movement, and the anti-communist Freikorps paramilitary groups that emerged during the Weimar Republic after German defeat in World War I.
Nazism subscribed to theories of racial hierarchy and Social Darwinism. Germanic peoples (called the Nordic Race) were depicted as the purest of the Aryan race, and were therefore the master race. Opposed to both capitalism and communism, it aimed to overcome social divisions, with all parts of a homogeneous society seeking national unity and traditionalism. Nazism also vigorously pursued what it viewed as historically German territory under the doctrine of Pan-Germanism (or Heim ins Reich), as well as additional lands for German expansion under the doctrine of Lebensraum.
The term "National Socialism" arose out of attempts to create a nationalist redefinition of "socialism", as an alternative to both internationalist Marxist socialism and free market capitalism. The Nazis sought to achieve this by a "people's community" (Volksgemeinschaft) with the aim of uniting all Germans as national comrades, whilst excluding those deemed either to be community aliens or "foreign peoples" (Fremdvölkische). It rejected the Marxist concept of class struggle, opposed ideas of class equality and international solidarity, and sought to defend private property and businesses.
The Nazi Party was founded as the Pan-German nationalist and antisemitic German Workers' Party on 5 January 1919. By the early 1920s, Adolf Hitler assumed control of the organization and renamed it the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP) to broaden its appeal. The National Socialist Program, adopted in 1920, called for a united Greater Germany that would deny citizenship to Jews or those of Jewish descent, while also supporting land reform and the nationalization of some industries. In Mein Kampf, written in 1924, Hitler outlined the antisemitism and anti-communism at the heart of his political philosophy, as well as his disdain for parliamentary democracy and his belief in Germany’s right to territorial expansion.
In 1933, with the support of the elites, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and the Nazis gradually established a one-party state, under which Jews, political opponents and other "undesirables" elements were marginalized, with several millions eventually imprisoned and killed. Hitler purged the party’s more socially and economically radical factions in the mid-1934 Night of the Long Knives and, after the death of President Hindenburg, political power was concentrated in his hands, as Führer or "leader". Following the Holocaust and German defeat in World War II, only a few fringe racist groups, usually referred to as neo-Nazis, still describe themselves as following National Socialism.
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