2018-04-18 02:04:39 UTC
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Nazi Persecution of Political Opponents
After World War I (1914-1918), nationalist, right-wing political movements
in Germany and Austria tended to see the nation in collective terms as a
Volksgemeinschaft or national community. Racist nationalists on the
extreme right of the political spectrum saw this collective as a
voelkische Gemeinschaft, by which they meant a racial group that they
considered superior. Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, among other radical
right-wing groups, adopted this view of the German nation.
Unlike Western liberals or nationalists, the Nazis did not find value in
individuality. For the Nazis, individualism was an egotistic, culture-
corroding, Jewish value that would tear apart the fabric of the communal
nation. The Nazis insisted that the individual had value only in his or
her membership in the collective racial community.
A key Nazi criticism of Weimar democracy in particular and liberal
democracy in general was that its emphasis on the individual misled or
duped members of a race into relinquishing their natural race
consciousness. In their campaign to destroy any political or spiritual
loyalty other than to the race-nation, the Nazis hoped to reeducate the
German people to become conscious of something that already existed:
their racial heritage and the ensuing obligations to maintain the survival
of the race.
The Nazis persecuted non-Jewish German opponents, both real and perceived.
Whether they were political (Communists, Social Democrats, Democrats),
spiritual (Jehovah's Witnesses), or social (Homosexuals) opponentsNazi
racial theory held that they were valuable members of the race. These non-
Jewish German opponents needed to understand their racial value and then
follow their restored natural instinct to do the right thing: accept and
internalize the Nazi vision of the world.
Although in practice the Nazis moved harshly, and often with lethal
outcome, against activists who impeded the realization of race
consciousness, they expected, in accordance with their racist view, that
the rank and fileperhaps after a time in a concentration campwould see
the light and fall in with the collective.
The Nazis demanded that Germans accept the premises of the Nazi worldview
and live their lives accordingly. They tolerated no criticism, dissent, or
nonconformity. Following his appointment as chancellor by President Paul
von Hindenburg on January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler began laying the
foundations for Nazi control of the state. Guided by racist and
totalitarian principles, the Nazis eliminated individual freedoms and
pronounced the creation of the national community, in whose name they
seized every opportunity to turn Germany into a unified racial collective
Hitler also moved carefully to organize the police power necessary to
enforce his long-term policies of "racial" purification and European
conquest both inside and outside the legal framework of the German
constitution. Given the Nazis' public aims of destroying the Marxist
threat in Germany and tearing up the Versailles Treaty, aims that were
shared by a majority of the German population, Hitler's political
opponents were the first victims of systematic Nazi persecution.
Political Prisoners and the Establishment of Nazi Concentration Camps
The term "concentration camp" refers to a camp in which people are
detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to
legal norms of arrest and imprisonment. The term was first used in
reference to detention camps established by British authorities to detain
suspected rebels and their families during the Boer war in South Africa at
the beginning of the 20th century.