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R.Q.: To what extent were the German and Italian regimes under Hitler and Mussolini Totalitarian?
With this research I want to discover whether Hitler and Mussolini transformed Germany and Italy, respectively into Totalitarian regimes. In my discretion this played a major role when looking at traditions, respectability of countries and reputations of countries. Such “emotions” can also trigger wars, as we so in WWII. Initially, I feel that Dictatorships having absolute power over a country can cause many inconveniences for the citizens of it. Hence, I want to understand their motives and ambitions. Also, I figure that this is a very important time period in which milestones and new dimensions have been opened. Thirdly, I decided on this topic because I am a German citizen, who is naturally interested in the background and history of ones father country.
I am going to use a series of books written in different time periods by different writers from different countries. This shows a certain scope of viewpoints, which makes the answer to this question more objective. I am also going to use the Internet as one research option of my internal assessment.
iii. I planned my essay. This can be seen in the appendix, 1) Essay Plan. This plan shows how I am going to attempt to accomplish my Task
i. Define Nazism
a. Nazism is the body of political and economic doctrines held and put into effect by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party in the Third Reich including the totalitarian principle of government, state control of all industries, predominance of groups assumed to be racially superior, and supremacy of the Fï¿½hrer1.
ii. Define Fascism
a. Fascism is a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition2.
iii. Define Totalitarian
a. Totalitarian is defined as of or relating to centralized control by an autocratic leader or hierarchy. Of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures (as censorship and terrorism)3
iv. All these definitions above are essential in order to understand how totalitarianism is initially linked with Nazism and Fascism. These terms, Nazism Fascism and Totalitarianism have all got the subordination of the individual to the state and the control of mind etc. of the individual in common. The difference between them, however is that Totalitarian is purely a term describing a situation, a current state of something. Nazism and Fascism on the other hand, describe an ideology that developed over centuries and eventually ruled a country.
When we are looking at these definitions, we discover, that both ideologies have a feature of totalitarianism innate. Therefore, initially we would say that they the states, Germany and Italy, both are totalitarian because the autocracy by which they are ruled is totalitarian. This must mean that the people believe in it because they elected this system of government, and hence the system must be totalitarian. This, however, is debatable. In the ongoing lines I will question the above statement by looking closer at the two ideologies and how they became elected.
i. Discrimination of Minorities
i. Minorities, such as Jews, Blacks, Gypsies and women were discriminated widely. Anything not of Aryan derivation, was inferior. Women, for example, were expected to behave just like “K,K,K”-meaning Kinder, Kirche, Kï¿½che. Translated, Children, Church, Kitchen. In other words, they were expected to have as many children as possible to expand the Aryan race, support the religion and cook well. Jews, of course, were treated the worst, i.e.: concentration camps.
i. Fascist Policy towards women was condescending. Women were not put equal to men. It was also anti-urban and anti-consumerist. There was birth control and additional taxes on unmarried. This, in a way, was similar to Nazi Germany, where there were incentives to bear as many children as possible. It aimed to promote the ‘superior’ race. Fascist policy was at the beginning not racially concerned. However, when relations with Germany improved, Mussolini adopted some anti-foreign steps. This aimed to give the people a feeling of superiority over other nations and should promote the will to fight for the cause of the nation. Employment conditions for female workers were restricted. They were excluded from several workplaces.
i. Germany was almost entirely a Christian country. Hitler realised this and did not underestimate the power the church, as a single institution, could have on the peoples’ minds’. Therefore, he knew it would not be wise to attack the church during his campaigns. Hence, he made an agreement with the church, the Concordat, which granted the church religious freedom. This, however was only superficially. In reality, any member of the church speaking bad about Hitler or his party, NSDAP, was prosecuted or sent to a concentration camp. Even Church schools were influenced by Hitler; the bible was replaced by “Mein Kampf” and the cross by the swastika.
i. In Italy the church played a more important role than in Germany because of the Pope and the Vatican being situated in Italy. Hence, Mussolini tried, after 1922 when coming to power, to include the church as much as possible in the fascist state in order to stabilise and ensure power for his party, PNF. Catholicism was also seen as a possible threat to the emerging fascist state. Hence, a concordat was attempted to improve church-state relations. Catholicism was considered the religion of most Italians, which was so deeply rooted in Italian life that could directly endanger the position of the fascist might.
i. Education in Germany was largely controlled by the Nazis. The main subjects were history, biology and physical education. All of course indoctrinated and altered to shine a good light on the Nazi party and its style of rule. Special schools were build for the “most talented”. This meant that from a very young age onwards, children in Germany were focused on the Nazi ideology, similar to the Youths, which I will talk about in the next paragraph.
i. Education was focused on Fascist ideas and ideology. Children were educated in physical education and military training. These are just examples to illustrate what Mussolini wanted to achieve.
i. Various youths’ existed in Nazi Germany, all aiming to control the mind of German children. Hitler once described his views concerning the purpose of youths:” When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come your side’, I calmly say: ‘Your child belongs to us already…In a short time, they will know nothing else but this community.” These programs existed for boys and girls. Boys camps were more physical, preparing for war. Girls’ camps were aiming to make them strong to bear many healthy children.
i. From 1929 onwards, Mussolini focused more intensely on the control of children in his regime. He wanted to control them by education, which he stated as a right of the leading body in a totalitarian state. The Ministry of Public Instructions was changed to the Ministry of National education (ONB) in 1929. This new organisation provided pre-military training, drill and gym. All measures to convey a more aggressive and disciplined way of live. This program was even integrated into the school curriculum. Recruitment was thus made very easy and numerous. The Fascists wanted to create an Italy were there were young courageous men willing to fight for the cause of the nation. Their motto was: “Believe, Obey, Fight”. This displays exactly what Mussolini was after. Especially during the great depression, Mussolini tried to give his people a cause to believe in. He created groups or fixed mass meeting so that the people would experience a way of unity.
i. Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany was Goebbels. He was an able man, with enormous aims. Not only wanted he the people to accept the regime. He wanted them to capitulate to them, grasping the ideology. He, for the first time in history, effectively made use of the radio and press. He seized control over both. By 1932 less then 25% of the population owned a radio. Hence, he made provisions for producing cheap sets of wireless radios. He called it the ‘Volksempfï¿½nger’, translated, ‘nation-receptionist’. The press seemed harder to control. The Nazi publisher-‘Eher Verlag’-bought many of the 4,700 existing newspapers. Goebbels held a daily press conference and eventually, the Editors Law, made the seizure of the press complete. Via the radio, the Aryan race was emphasized. Jewish music was not played. People were constantly bombed with Nazi propaganda, their ideology.
i. Mussolini wanted to create an image of the ‘new’ Italian. This image should be aggressive and patriotic. He also used heroic figurers from the wars to illustrate the alleged superiority of the Italian nation.
vi. Police State
i. The party seemed to be well organized and structured. Hitler himself, however, rejected any document work. Now the question appears, how it was so sufficient? The answer is that a powerful force was acting behind the scenes. This force was the ‘army’. It consisted of the SS, short for “Schutz-Staffel”, the SA, short for “Sturm-Abteilung”, the Gestapo, known for its brutality and later the SD, “Sicherheitsdienst”, the party internal police force. All these acted in order to maintain or restore order. The SS was once created to be Hitler’s personal bodyguard. It evolved to be a unit with incredible power over, economic, political and social matters. It turned out to be an extremely useful tool for Hitler.
i. The military was also guaranteed a supreme status in Italy. However, the German army had become a political power whereas the Italian had not. After the death of Hindenburg, Hitler was able to benefit from an exclusive oath. Mussolini never had such an opportunity under the still existing Monarchy. The Italian Military acted with divided loyalties. The Italian army did not face any threats form party-army-type organizations, as opposed to the German SS and SA.
vii. Power of the Leader
i. Both, ‘der Fï¿½hrer’ and ‘il duce’, were charismatic and ambitious men. They had a set aim which they wanted to achieve no matter what the cost was. They managed to elate masses so that they would virtually believe anything they said. These are, among others, characteristics a strong Leader must have in order to be successful. Hitler was not only appointed chancellor but became President after Hindenburg’s death. He also appointed himself Chief-Commander of all armed forces. This gave him the mere control over many bodies.
i. Weigh factors against each other
a. Germany vs. Italy
a. When looking back at my research and all the information I collected during it, I think it is fair to say that both ideologies and those implementing it, transformed the respective countries to a large extent into totalitarian regimes.
Although, I would say that this phenomena did not occur in the conventional way. By definition, a totalitarian regime controls every aspect of life. When looking at the moment they came to power and the day they left, a great difference in many senses can be seen. Especially, when looking at how they controlled the peoples’ minds’. Propaganda, Force, Speeches, youths and discrimination are all factors, which increased their influence. This integrated so quickly into the respective countries roots, so that it was inevitable that people would eventually believe what they heard.
They would also obey by it because they the how brutal their measures could be. Power conveyed and achieved by force was one feature in these regimes. The other means was propaganda. New technology, new innovations enabled them to convey their messages and slogans whenever they wanted. They could also reach every member of their “community”. They not only controlled adults. One of their ideas was to transform the young so that their ideology would be carried further with the next generation.