Many similarities exist between German fascism, or Nazism, and Italian fascism. For example, both fascist movements were brought into power after facing very similar problems. One of the major problems that both countries encountered was a post-war economy teeming with instability. Germany’s fragile economy was undermined by widespread unemployment, hyperinflation, and burdensome reparation payments, while Italy’s economy was just as delicate. In addition, the Great Depression brought both countries even further into economic collapse. Another problem that brought about fascism in the two countries was post-war peace settlements, especially the Versailles Treaty.
While the Germans were exasperated by the exorbitant reparation payments forced upon them by the Allies, the Italians felt betrayed by the peace settlements for denying them the territory and status they deserved. Another problem that the two countries faced was their dissatisfaction with their existing governments. Many Germans were disgruntled with the Weimar Republic for signing the humiliating Treat of Versailles, while many Italians were apprehensive of the chaos within their parliamentary regime. Lastly, widespread fear of revolutionary upheaval and the expropriations of a Communism system also caused many Germans and Italians to identify with fascism.
Both German fascism, led by Adolf Hitler and Italian fascism, led by Benito Mussolini exploited many economical and political difficulties within their nation in order to gain power. Hitler blamed Germany’s ruined economy on the Weimar Republic, Communists, and Jews, while Mussolini blamed large Socialist and Catholic parties for Italy’s economic struggles. They also gained the support of farmers, small businessmen, civil servants, and young people by advocating strict nationalistic goals and blaming their economic troubles on the Bolsheviks. Nevertheless, the most crucial components of securing political power was though institutionalized violence and the abolishment of all other political parties. The fascist party under Hitler gained power by abolishing the press, public meeting, trade unions, and eventually, all other political parties. They also secured their total dominance by orchestrating violence to eliminate political enemies with the Sturmabteilung and later, the Schutzstaffel. Similarly, Mussolini used the Squadristi to attack his political enemies, the Catholics and the socialists, in order to secure fascist supremacy and make Italy a one-party dictatorship.
Both the German and the Italian fascist regimes dominated business. In Italy, Mussolini lent money to many Italian businesses and acquired power in key industries such as steel, shipping, machinery, and electricity. Meanwhile, in Germany, Hitler’s fascist government controlled industry, agriculture, and education. Newspaper and radio broadcasts were operated under strict censorship. In addition, both the German fascist regime and the Italian fascist regime strictly advocated nationalism, militarism, and institutionalized violence. One of the most important characteristics of the fascist regimes of Germany and Italy was nationalism. Nationalism spawned the idea of racial superiority, especially to Germany, and brought about territorial expansion and rearmament. The idea of territorial expansion stimulated militarism in both Germany and Italy.
In Germany, Hitler’s three goals, Lebensraum, rearmament, and economic recovery became the basis of his new foreign policy. Lebensraum, or living space, was Hitler’s idea that superior nations had the right to conquer and expand into the territories of inferior states. Lebensraum brought about rearmament, and in 1935, Hitler publicly announced that Germany was rearming. The third phase of Hitler’s foreign policy was economic recovery, which was directly linked to Lebensraum and rearmament, because not only did assembling weapons improve Germany’s economy, but also the Balkan countries that Hitler annexed produced consumer goods for them. Similarly, in Italy, Mussolini was also rearming and targeting many weaker countries for his expansionist aims. In October 1936, the two fascist nations formed the Rome-Berlin Axis.
Then, in May 1939, Germany and Italy agreed to offer each other military support both offensively and defensively by signing the Pact of Steel. Another act introduced by Hitler was the creation of Nazi controlled-organizations such as Hitler Youth, which taught German boys and girls between 10 and 18 to uphold his fascist values. However, the most unforgettable acts were his Nuremberg Laws, which deprived Jews of their citizenship and forbade them from marriage. Then, on November 9, 1938, 20,000 to 30,00 Jews were sent to concentration camps and the night became known as Kristallnacht, or the “night of broken glass”.