Adolf Hitler as a Terrorist
Adolf Hitler, the famous Germany dictator and leader of National Socialist German Workers Party, commonly referred to as the Nazi Party, lived between April 20, 1889 and April 30, 1945; almost exactly fifty-six years. For the first thirty years of his life, he was an obscure failure; becoming a local celebrity almost overnight before becoming a man around whom the whole world policy revolved when he became Germany’s Chancellor in 1933 before turning his rule into a total dictatorship.
Adolf Hitler was responsible for the outbreak of the Second World War and the Holocaust that resulted in the killing of 6 million Jews. He was born in Braun au am Inn, a small town on the border of Austria and Germany. After becoming a decorated veteran of World War I, he joined the German Workers’ Party in 1919. He later became the leader of the party (now called NSDAP or Nazi) in 1921 (Haugen, 2006). With the failure of a revolution called the “Beer Hall Putsch” in November, 1923, by the Nazi Party, Adolf Hitler and his conspirators were imprisoned. This made young Hitler to vow that he would take power “legally”.
After his release, Hitler gained massive popularity in Germany by constantly attacking the Treaty of Versailles that had been imposed on the country after the First World War With his great oratory skills, and anti-Semitism and anticommunism ideologies Hitler quickly rose through the ranks of German leadership, being appointed Chancellor in 1933 before transforming the country into a single-party dictatorship (Davidson, 1997). His aim to establish Nazi rule throughout Europe led to the outbreak of World War II. He committed suicide in 1945 to avoid capture after Germany’s defeat.
Hitler rose to power on the backs of his own terrorist organizations. Hitler had been seeking to become the leader of German since the early 1920s. Hitler believed in the power of terror. He illustrated in his private conversations, speeches and books. In his famous book “Mein Kampf” he writes: “Terrorism is a form of propaganda, a political weapon that can be use to instill fear, horror and indignation, to destroy and sap out the will of people. Through fear and terror one can demand obedience and blind submission. Through death and terror (and the promise of more terror to come), the terrorist will conquer all opposition.
Terror is a political weapon and its purpose will force capitulation”. This summarizes Hitler’s view of terrorism; that terror is the most effective form of politics (Nicholls, 2006). To the Nazis and Hitler, absolute control and constant intimidation of opponents was an important component of the fascist-controlled state. Adolf Hitler organized several extensive organizations within the National Socialist Party to ensure that nobody challenged his power in Germany or any other state that came under their control during the drive to annihilate continental Europe during the Second World War.
This pattern of terrorist organization can be traced back to 1922 when Hitler organized his Sturmabteilung (the “Storm Troops”), commonly known as the SA, whose uniforms included the distinctive brown shirts. In 1926, Nazi leaders created another power group known as the SS (officially called the Schurtzstaffel), or the “Security Guards”. Initially, the SS was conceived as a branch of the SA, but by the 1930s, the group had become two different entities (Hook, 2011). These groups (the SS and the SA) frequently practiced intimidation, kidnappings, beatings, torture, and murder to achieve Nazi’s political goals.
When Adolf Hitler became Germany’s chancellor in 1933, he created a secret state police, called the Geheime Staatspolizei, or the “Gestapo”. Its duty was to intimidate the German people and arrest anybody suspected of being anti-Nazi and questioning Hitler’s authority. The Gestapo also had a branch called the SD, or Sicherheitsdienst. This was the security service which infiltrated every branch of the German government to assist the Nazis in maintaining power and exposed the alleged enemies of the party. Such organizations reveal how fundamental hate was within the Nazi regime.
The individual Nazi leaders most responsible for these institutions were Goebbels and Himmler. Both aimed to spread Hitler’s racial ideas and give them some structure, although their methods differed greatly. Goebbels strove to operate within the rules of the Nazi Regime while Himmler transcended them by creating a new system (Lifton, 2000). The SA was initially formed to provide security in Nazi gatherings and campaign speeches against disruptions and assaults by members of rival parties. Its activities quickly changed to include assaults on the activities of other parties.
SA men would attempt to disrupt the gatherings and campaign speeches for rival political parties, particularly left wing. They would also attack leftist marchers when they were demonstrating or attempt to generate a confrontation. At times they invaded party reading rooms and newspaper offices. SA’s terrorist activities were not just limited to secular and political violence; they played an important role in terrorizing and capturing Jews and other groups that did not fit Hitler’s ideology of a racially pure German state.
The application of Nazi ideas and ideology was based on two types of force against individuals and social groups. One of these took the form of propaganda and indoctrination, the other was based on terror (Ku? hl, 2002). The Nazi ensured that not to appear illegal and unconstitutional, they maintained the basic structure of the Weimar Republic while sublimely adding a Nazified layer. The same applied to the process of indoctrination and propaganda. Germany’s ministry of education was fully centralized as part of the campaign to destroy the autonomy.
This was done to Nazify all schools through the teaching of a common curriculum which taught subjects closely similar to the Nazi ideology. Also a new institution was created in March 1933 called the Ministry of People’s Enlightenment and Propaganda. It controlled all areas of propaganda such as radio, press, and film while heavily influencing cultural output in form of music, fine arts and literature. Another organization created purely for the purpose of spreading propaganda was the 1936 law on the Hitler Youth, which legalized the institution that had existed since the coming to power of the Third Reich (Ku? l, 2002).
Nazis primary ideology was National Socialism and it was closely related fascism that was practiced in neighboring Italy by the dictator Benito Mussolini. The primary tenets of this ideology were nationalism, anti-Semitism and racism (Ku? hl, 2002). It claimed that Aryans were the most superior of all races. To maintain the purity of Germany’s Aryan race, Hitler strove to exterminate Jews, Romani (Gypsies), the physically and mentally disabled. Other groups that were considered inferior by the Third Reich included blacks and homosexuals.
Nazis also believed in the expansion of Germany’s territories to gain “living space” (Lebensraum) for the German people. Nazis knew that use of propaganda and imposing their ideologies would be a sure way to cement Hitler’s leadership and ensure the Third Reich survived. They were particularly keen to teach these ideas to young citizens, since it effectively ensured that if they grew up they would be loyal to Hitler and the Nazi Party. In order to indoctrinate children and the youth they were taught how successful the Nazis had been.
In Biology and Race Studies, they were taught that the Aryan race (Germanic and North European) was better than any other, particularly individuals with African or Semitic descent (Leitz, 2000). The democracy in Germany effectively ended when Hitler began dismantling the democratic elements of the constitution after being appointed the chancellor in 1933. The end of the Weimar Republic set both Hitler and the Nazi Party firmly on the path that ultimately led to outbreak of the Second World War and the Holocaust.
Violence and terrorism became an integral part of the Weimar Republic. When Hitler failed to capture power during the Beer Hall Putsch, he did not give up on the use of violence to achieve his ends; the violence simply took new forms to ensure that he became Germany’s leader “legally”. He achieved this by forming the ubiquitous SS and SA groups. Due to rejection of Nazi Party by urban voters during its early attempts to gain power, the Nazis decided to concentrate on the countryside to recruit voters and encourage the youth to join its terrorist groups.
Romantic nationalism, strong religious beliefs which made them vulnerable to anti-Semitism, along with economic difficulties, made rural populations a perfect target for Nazi propaganda. Playing on the increasingly popular issue of nationalism, the Nazis emphasized that peasantry had a special status of being the true nobility of what Germany should be, because they were the purest form of the Aryan race which in essence made them the racial backbone of the nation. The Nazis told them the Jewish bankers and capitalists, and the Marxists that controlled the government were a threat to the economic existence of this group.
They promised rural peasants tax reliefs, agrarian reforms, and the total elimination of indebtedness (Hook, 2011). Such propaganda was part of an intensive recruitment drive in rural areas and small towns, where the Nazis ensured that they kept a constant pace of activities. They saturated numerous districts with demonstrations and parades; presented countless lectures aimed at addressing several economic and local issues, organized entertainment events which they appropriately ensured portrayed patriotic and Nazi-oriented films.
The major political parties of that time had not paid such a level of attention to the peasantry, and thus the sympathy for the Nazis increased accordingly. In the small towns, Nazis presented an image of their party as one that was championing for the traditional German right and not as revolutionaries. Their primary goal was the rejuvenation of Germany, and they constantly attacked the current government as a pawn of the allies who had effectively ensured that Germany was a slave among nations the moment they agreed to sign the Treaty of Versailles (Davidson, 1997).
They downplayed their previous socialist ideals, as they strove to portray themselves as defending the rights of the middle class and ownership of private property, which they considered to be under threat due to Marxism, big businesses, and control of Germany’s financial institutions by foreigners and Jews. Nazi speakers addressed middle class problems in rural areas, exploiting fears and prejudices of this social class, while their propagandists saturated major towns with leaflets and posters.
The Nazi tactic of penetration proved to be very effective in both the major towns and in rural areas, as they continued to infiltrate various organizations and Nazify them. Moreover, they managed to penetrate numerous middle-class professional, business, and student associations in major towns. Their desire to attract middle-class individuals was partially due to the need to staff the party’s ranks with more competent and more intelligent bureaucrats.
The influx of educated individuals into the party in the late twenties showed positive results of their recruitment campaign, just as the continual growth in membership from the countryside was an encouraging sign of the party’s increasing popularity. More youth were also willing to join its SA and SS ranks, which were tasked with terrorizing opposition into submission. This gave the party a reputation for organizational effectiveness, dynamism and determination. Concrete results for the party were immediately evident.
The NSDAP almost doubled in size in 1929, and by the end of that year the SA had grown in strength; it now has 100,000 fighters, equaling the size of the German army at that time (Davidson, 1997). Nothing embodied the terrorist activities of the Nazi regime like the Holocaust. On January 20, 1942, fifteen high-ranking Nazi Party and government leaders gathered to coordinate logistics for carrying out the “final solution to the Jewish question”. The “Final Solution” was the Nazi’s codename for deliberate planned mass murder of all European Jews.
They calculated that 11 million European Jews from more than 20 countries would be killed in their master plan. During months before the conference, special units made up of the SS, the elite guards of the Nazi state, and police personnel, known as Einsatzgruppen, had slaughtered Jews in mass shootings on the territory of the Soviet Union that German troops had occupied. Six weeks before the meeting, the Nazis began to murder Jews at Chelmno, Poland. Here SS and police personnel used sealed vans into which they pumped carbon monoxide to suffocate their victims to death (Haugen, 2006).
Throughout the 1942, trainloads of Jewish men, women and children were transported from countries all over Europe to a massive concentration camp in Auschwitz, Treblinka and four other major extermination centers in German-occupied Poland. By the years end, more than 4 million Jews had been killed. During the Second World War (1939-1945), the Nazi government and their collaborators killed or indirectly caused the deaths of up to 6 million Jews (Leitz, 2000). Hitler and other Nazi ideologues regarded Jews as a dangerous “race” whose very existence threatened the biological purity and superiority of the Aryan race.
To secure the help of thousands of individuals to implement the “Final Solution”, the Nazi regime exploited existing prejudice against Jews in Germany and other countries that had been conquered by or allied to Germany. After the war turned against Germany, the SS decided to evacuate concentration camps outside Germany to prevent liberation of prisoners. Several inmates died during the long journeys on foot known as “death marches”. The American government did not pursue a policy of rescue of victims in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
Like their British counterparts, the U. S. military and political leaders argued that winning the war should be the top priority since it would bring an end to the Nazi terror. Once the war erupted, security concerns, amplified partly by anti-Semitism, influenced the U. S. State Department (led by the Secretary of State Cordell Hull) and the U. S. government to do little to ease restrictions on entry visas for Jews seeking asylum.
In January 1944, President Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board within the U. S. reasury department to facilitate the rescue of refuges from Germany (Yeadon & Hawkins, 2008). Fort Ontario, located in Oswego, New York, began to serve as an ostensibly free port for refugees from the territories that had been liberated by Allied forces. The above factors clearly illustrate that Adolf Hitler was clearly a terrorist, only with bigger ambitions and power that enabled him to execute one of the most heinous crimes against humanities. He used several tactics employed by today’s terrorist cells including al Qaeda of propaganda, promise of liberation, racism and religious intolerance.
Just like most terrorist leaders, Hitler was not motivated by material gain, but by political goals disguised under religion that they believe is furthered by their actions.