Umberto Eco was an Italian-born intellectual who was raised during the reign of Mussolini in Italy. In his work “Ur-Fascism”, Eco describes his experience as a young boy living in a fascist state, and then elaborates on the fourteen aspects of fascism, at least some of which are identifiable in every configuration of fascism in practice.

In this section, I will use a few of these fourteen points to unpack the nature of Nazi Germany as a fascist state.

 

 

Appealing to the Frustrated Middle Class:

  • According to Bentley et. al, this was a crucial reason why Hitler received support during the elections which granted the NSDAP their political victory.[1]

 

Obsession with a Plot and Elitism:

  • This applies to Nazism with particular respect to eugenics as well. The German obsession with the purity of the Aryan race, and the desire to create a nation of racially pure inhabitants, is a direct example with the Fascist Obsession. Eco states that this particular appeal is best suited to be directed toward “people who feel deprived of a clear social identity”.[2] In the wake of the First World War, the Germans lost all sense of power, both politically and economically. When the NSDAP offered them a scapegoat for their problems and argued that the only way to make said problems disappear was with the eradication of the Jews and the subsequent elevation of the Aryan race, the German people were gifted with not only a sense of identity but also a convenient narrative to explain their predicament. Just as Eco suggests, one of the most powerful ways for a fascist state to address this sentiment is through an appeal to xenophobia.[3] The NSDAP was thus able to fill the void in the German collective consciousness which was left by the war.

 

Humiliation:

  • This does not suggest that it is the role of the fascist state to humiliate its masses. Rather, it either capitalizes upon or feeds the notion that the population is “humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies”.[4] Therefore, who better than the Jewish population to become Germany’s scapegoat for their financial crisis, given the preexisting stereotypical rhetoric in Europe of Jewish peoples?

 

Pacifism is Trafficking with the Enemy:

  • It was common for those who showed sympathy or mercy to Jewish people during the holocaust to be treated as traitors. This intolerance toward interaction with the “undesirables” of German society was often enough of an excuse to warrant one’s own incarceration or death.

 

Everybody is Educated to Become a Hero:

  • Recruitment into a group called Hitler Youth (Hitler-Jugend ) was common among young Germans under the Nazi regime, as it was the only registered youth group in Germany from 1933 to 1945.[5] One could be a part of this organization as early as ten years old, and could be a member until the age of 18. As a child, one could even become a junior squad leader in a German paramilitary organization called the Unterscharführer, which was used by the SS when possible, with the idea that graduating members of the Hitler-Jugend would soon enlist in the German military.

 

While this is only a selection of Eco’s points for Eternal Fascism, these few provide enough examples of exactly how well the practice of Nazism aligns with its categorization as a fascist government.

 

Facism1

Sign of unknown origin at an unmarked location

Photo Credit: https://dollarvigilante.com/storage/Facism1.png?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1345167272471

 


 

[1]  Jerry H. Bentley et al. Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past (Sixth Edition), Vol. 2: From 1500 to the Present (McGraw Hill Education, 2015), 828

[2] Eco Umberto, “Ur-Fascism” New York Review of Books 42, no. 11:12, n.p.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, “The Nazi Party: Hitler Youth,” Jewish Virtual Library, Accessed March 19, 2017. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/hitler-youth

Cover Photo Credit: http: //www.historyonthenet.com/files/fs/nazi_germany/images/triumphwill.jpg

 

 

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