Thomas Childers says we’ve got the Nazis wrong in 5 different ways

Historians in the News
tags: Hitler, Nazi



Thomas Childers, author of "The Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany," is the recently retired Sheldon and Lucy Hackney professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania.

White nationalists have been seeking (and finding) attention frequently this year, in the form of widely publicized protests and rallies. But for all the attention focused on this new wave of Nazi imitators, the original Nazi party, which unleashed chaos on the world in the early decades of the twentieth century, is still shrouded in myths. Here are five of the most persistent.

Myth No. 1

Hitler was bankrolled by big corporate donors.

In his biography of Henry Kissinger, historian Niall Ferguson notes that “old man Thyssen” — that is, German steel magnate Fritz Thyssen — “bankrolled Hitler.” Businessmen such as Thyssen using their financial assets to assist the Nazis was “the mechanism by which Hitler was funded to come to power,” according to John Loftus, a former U.S. attorney who once prosecuted Nazi war criminals.

But the Nazis were neither “financed” nor “bankrolled” by big corporate donors. During its rise to power, the Nazi Party did receive some money from corporate sources — including Thyssen and, briefly, industrialist Ernst von Borsig — but business leaders mostly remained at arm’s length. After all, Nazi economic policy was slippery: pro-business ideas swathed in socialist language. The party’s program, the Twenty-Five Points, called for the nationalization of corporations and trusts, revenue sharing, and the end of “interest slavery.” Capitalism, the Nazis charged, “enslaves human beings under the slogan of progress, technology, rationalization, standardization, etc.”

The party largely depended on grass-roots sources of funding (membership dues, subscriptions to the party press, admission to events and so forth). The Nazi propaganda machine — the dances, the “German evenings,” the concerts, the speeches — was also a moneymaking operation, as is made clear in entries in Joseph Goebbels’s diary. ...




comments powered by Disqus