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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: June 2013

1 - Positive Christianity


The struggle we are now waging today until victory or the bitter end is, in its deepest sense, a struggle between Christ and Marx.

Joseph Goebbels

The narrative of the early history of Nazism is well enough known: The trauma of defeat in the First World War, the guilt clause of the Versailles Treaty, and the domestic upheaval of the failed November Revolution all conspired to produce a cacophony of rightist fringe groups determined to overthrow the newly created Weimar Republic. Although distinct in style and organization, all these groups advocated a radical völkisch nationalism that embraced antisemitism, anti-Marxism, antiliberalism, and anti-Catholicism to varying degrees. By positing the primacy of race, these groups, and the National Socialists in particular, seemed to represent a radical departure from the norms of the party-political right, which up to that time remained within the parameters of traditional, monarchist conservatism. The turbulence created by events unleashed a movement that, although having ideological roots in the prewar period, had been previously unable to enter the political mainstream. The tumult of Weimar and apparent triumph of the left provided the opportunity to seize the initiative.

There was initially little aspiration for parliamentary success on the extremist right. Up until Hitler's failed putsch of November 1923, the Nazis did not take political pragmatism into consideration. Less concerned with garnering an electorate than with forcing through their immediate goals, the party in this period articulated its vision without concern for campaign strategy or electoral posturing.

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