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reign of Hitler and the actions of Nazi Germany are a dark page in human history. It has been well established that Hitler studied the tactics and policies of different dictators to create a regime that spread terror throughout Europe and the world. The purpose of this discussion is to examine how Bismarckian and Prussian Conservative/Authoritarian polices provided a stepping stone to Nazi Germany. First, we will explore the parallels between Nazi Germany and the policies and tactics that were used by Bismarck. In addition, our investigation will focus on the manner in which Prussian Conservative/Authoritarian policies influenced Nazi Germany.
Otto Von Bismarck is the notorious leader for which Bismarckian politics is named. The historic and controversial figure is essential to European history. Bismarck is credited with national unification and creating policies that changed Germany and the rest of the world forever. Initially, Bismarck's approach to foreign affairs was revolutionary and encouraged solidarity with Russia and Austria. Eventually this solidarity was challenged and Bismarck felt the need to focus on the unity of Germany.There are many different tactics and policies that Bismarck utilized in an effort to control his subjects and support his ideals of unity.
Bismarck ruled for almost three decades and became the most central figure in European and German politics during his reign. There are differing opinions of Bismarck's policies. One school of thought asserts that his policies were borne of his profound patriotism. This school contends that his motives were not evil and were "that of a conservative German nationalist, to whom Bismarck was the apex of German political achievement."This school of thought also asserts that Bismarck was not at all like Hitler. They argue that unlike Hitler, Bismarck was motivated "by a sense of ethical responsibility, grounded in an intense religious faith and earnest submission to a personal, all-powerful God. This inner piety preserved him from the "demonism of power." In other words, this school believes that while some of his tactics were brutal and unconventional his intentions were not evil. Bismarck did not desire to kill everyone that was not of German descent, rather he wanted the nation to be unified and respected throughout Europe.
The other school of thought asserts that Bismarck's policies were indeed the stepping-stone for Nazi Germany. The contention is that the policies created by Bismarck created and perpetuated the idea of nationalism, which was later taken to the extreme by Hitler and the Third Reich. Indeed, some parallels can be drawn from Bismarck's approach and Hitler's approach. For instance, prior to 1871 Bismarck was infamous for using any means necessary to unify Germany, including violence. In addition, he viewed individuals that resisted the unification as enemies of the Reich and was notorious for using coercive and paternalistic tactics to bring people into compliance.
Although, Bismarck was not as extreme as Hitler was, Hitler certainly saw the power that Bismarck possessed and desired to create that same kind of power for himself. Hitler took Bismarck's policies and tactics used them to spread an evil message and to kill millions of people that he viewed of as undesirables.
Although Bismarck may not have intended to create this type of evil through the policies that he practiced, his regime certainly contributed to the tactics that were used in Nazi Germany.
Certainly, when we seriously examine the policies and tactics that were used in Nazi Germany we can see that Hitler was influenced by Bismarckian policies. Like Bismarck, Hitler came to power at a difficult time in German history. Unemployment was at an all time high and the nation had collapsed. The people looked to the government to solve the problem. When it was apparent that the government was not going to solve the problem many citizens turned against the government. In addition, when reparations were severed in 1932, even greater hostilities were created and a revolt seemed inevitable.
In the midst of this turmoil arose Hitler and he used the failure of the government as a catalysts for his reign. A book entitled Hitler and Beyond, a German Testament explains the manner in which Hitler manipulated the situation. The authors explain that Hitler was effective because he recruited individuals that had been ignored by the government.
The book explains that these recruits "did not understand anything, and they did not want to understand anything. But now they were roused from their indifference and discouragement by Hitler's trumpet blasts, more ringing than any ever heard before."Hitler was able to give hope to the downtrodden and the poorly educated. Their vulnerability and acceptance of the leader made it possible for him to gain power throughout Germany and other parts of the continent. Eventually their loyalty led to the most brutal regime in world history.
Some experts assert that the collapse and subsequent depression that occurred was a direct result of Bismarck's policies. They contend that but for some of the actions of Bismarck Germany would not have been so vulnerable and succumb to Hitler's tactics. Plfanze explains that "By forcing Austria out of Germany in 1866, Bismarck prepared the way for the disintegration of the Hapsburg monarchy and hence the ultimate isolation and decline of Germany itself."
Another parallel that can be drawn from Bismarck and Hitler is the vigor with which they spoke and the spreading of propaganda that occurred during the rule of both leaders. Bismarck was notorious for making comments that were often viewed as extreme and militant to leaders throughout the world. One such comment was "We Germans fear God and nothing else in the world." Most people that support Bismarck's actions assert that although he was militant and extreme his comments were justified. In addition, they contend that many of the things that he spoke were designed to inspire German unity and that he would only act on them if he were provoked. In addition, Bismarck used these militant words to ensure that the Reichstag remained loyal. In short, he propagated militant rhetoric to instill fear in the nation and in the Reich.
Bismarck's tactics backfired because they created a militant and rebellious atmosphere in Germany. The German people became hostile because the policies made them believe that the countries around them were foes that they needed to be armed. (Weser and Marx)
It also created arrogance amongst the German people and the propaganda that spread was extreme. The propaganda could be found in the magazines and newspapers of the day that oozed of national pride and triumph. The book entitled, Hitler and Beyond, a German Testament explains that this propaganda even spread to the literature of that time. The book asserts that "Poets who chose patriotic subjects were preferred, especially as the authorities and the schools gave them their blessing. One of the most popular German novelists, Felix Dahn, turned the annihilation of the Ostrogoths in Italy into an apotheosis of radiant Germanic heroes, though actually they were very dubious characters." (Weser and Marx)
Hitler used many of these same tactics to spread his message and to secure loyalty within the Reich.
He often threatened and harmed individuals. Hitler was also very militant with his words and actions. Like, Bismarck Hitler used words to instill fear in citizens and members of the Reich. It seems that Bismarck's policies showed Hitler that it was possible to manipulate people with intimidating words and ultimately violent and extreme actions.
Hitler was also famous for spreading propaganda, although he did this on a much grander scale than Bismarck did. Hitler was able to spread propaganda through the formation of armed troops and the distribution of extravagant uniforms. (Weser and Marx)
Hitler also organized parades, street demonstrations, and attacked the leaders of opposing parties. (Weser and Marx)
It would be difficult for Hitler not to adapt some of the tactics and policies that Bismarck utilized. After all, many of Bismarck tactics worked and for some time they contributed to the stability of Germany.
Both rulers felt the need for a visible and active army. Both leaders used military force to enforce their policies and to ensure compliance. Although the two leaders differ greatly in their intentions but there is no doubt that Hitler was influenced by Bismarck.
Prussian Conservative/Authoritarian Influences
Prussian Conservative Authoritarian policies also influenced Nazi Germany and the events that took place under Hitler's rule. The Prussian influences that were evident in Hitler's regime involved the structure of the army and the authoritarian nature of Prussian policies. Indeed, the Prussian story is amazing in that it was able to overcome insurmountable odds to become a state to be reckoned with. It is apparent that many of the tactics used to solidify Prussia's position was also utilized in the creation and perpetuation of Hitler's regime.
The manner in which people were chosen for the Prussian army was stringent and very selective. A book entitled, For King and Kaiser!The Making of the Prussian Army Officer, 1860-1914 explains that most recruits came from the middle class and there was a…[continue]
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