Why Do People Become Nazis?

The following log is from a message board exchange which was held during Scholastic Network’s 1995 special event “Remembering World War II.”

Subj: Frustration and Hate 95-05-09 06:55:36 EDT
From: JimGrealis

Some reasons may be the severe economic depression (hyperinflation) which caused shortages in everything. This and the very hard feelings over the Versailles Treaty (extremely revengeful and harsh on Germany) were causes. The social conditions were ripe for a group like the Nazis to step in and "feed the fires." They focused the blame on opposing groups, sought revenge for Germany's treatment under the treaty, and claimed they would reinstall German national pride.

Look at conditions in inner cities and you see how gangs can form. People were looking to belong to something and for a way to vent their stored-up hates. The Allies did everything they could to punish Germany as harshly as possible after WW I. If Premier Clemenceau (France) had his way fully there would have been no more Germany. Millions faced starvation while the peace talks went on because the Allies refused to allow food shipments in during the talks.

Hitler and the Nazi Party gathered their recruits from those wanting revenge.


Subj: We think...... 95-05-09 14:10:23 EDT
From: IroquoisX

Many people became Nazis because they were caught up in Hitler's enthusiasm, and they feared for their own lives.


Subj: Roots of Nazism 95-05-10 12:40:35 EDT
From: Dr. Rodis

Editor's note: Dr. Rodis is a retired Professor of History at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio. He was also in Army Intelligence during the Second World War.

Most Germans did not become Nazis, they went along with the party because it promised them things that they wanted and needed. It provided for their livelihood. Hitler promised them jobs, food, clothing. He especially provided them with pride and the opportunity to get back what they had lost.

The democratic government in Germany never got a chance to get on its feet because the needs were so great and people want what they need NOW! There was no Marshall Plan after WW I.

Hitler also promised revenge and to bring together all Germans from everywhere. Germany's history was of a fragmented background and there had not been any real success at unifying the German people until Bismarck. Hitler was offering them the opportunity to unify. The Nazi Party was to be the means to accomplish this.

You don't get something for nothing and the price was to suffer a little to accomplish that unification. A little loss of freedom, of civil liberties, etc. The Nazi Party became a means to an end for many. An end that they would regret by 1945.


Subj: Re: Why.... 95-05-11 14:06:33 EDT
From: Patrickhen

We found your information interesting, although we felt "little suffering" was not the right choice of words. What about millions of people who suffered more than a little?


Subj: Answer to Partickhen 95-05-18 07:26:09 EDT
From: JimGrealis

EGR, Point well made on the "choice of words." What Dr. Rodis meant was that prior to the war in the early and mid 30s when Nazism was just starting to pick up members, that line was "suffer some now for a better future." This attracted many people who had already suffered a lot during the worldwide depression of the 20s and the post-WWI era. Little did they know the amount of personal freedom and suffering that they would both endure and cause later. Remember, in the late 30s even some Americans were blinded to Hitler's evil. Check into Charles Lindbergh's speeches or the the appeasement shown by Great Britain and France.



Subj: Re: Frustration and Hate 95-05-15 11:12:52 EDT
From: TMSWarrior

People may have become Nazis because they had no choice.


Subj: After the War Nazi Crimes 95-05-18 07:36:05 EDT
From: JimGrealis

What is distressing is that after the war some of the Nazis who committed crimes were given lighter sentences than they deserved.

Just one example is SS Colonel Jochen Peiper. His unit spearheaded the assault for the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. His men were responsible for the well-known "Malmedy Massacre" and for other atrocities against both civilian and soldier alike. At Malmedy 85 American prisoners were shot while in the control of Peiper's men. He was given the death sentence, which was later commuted, and was paroled in 1956. He later died in a house fire 20 years later.

A news show a couple of years ago interviewed survivors of the massacre, who were outraged that some of these men were free. It is upsetting.


Subj: Hitler Youth 95-05-11 11:48:39 EDT
From: SMS25

Can anyone speak about the Hitler Youth? How were they recruited? Was membership mandatory? What did parents think about this?


Subj: Hitler Youth 95-05-22 22:51:38 EDT
From: Ebweber

There was a great deal of pressure to join it was also unthinkable to NOT join. Speaking for myself, I wanted to join they had uniforms, discipline, sang songs, went camping, had bands, drills it seemed great to me to join.

But that was just about joining the "Jungvolk." One had to be 14 years old to join the Hitler Youth, and I was only 10 when I joined the "Jungvolk." Still, I went by myself, and for the first time in my life, alone on streetcars and subways to a place where I knew I could buy the diamond-shaped swastika emblem of the Hitler Youth, and I wore it even though I was only "Jungvolk."

The VAST majority of Hitler Youth members who joined the Hitler Youth as young boys join the Scouts now. Only more so. Girls joined the BDM, the "ring of German girls." Did this imply a political orientation? Well, tell me about any 14 year old who has ANY political orientation. They just want to belong to a "sanctioned" group, have activities and fun.


  • Subjects:
    World War II