Ethnic Nationalism or Civic Nationalism – World History Essay
Throughout our world, there are many different nations throughout the world with different nationalities. But what is a nationality? What makes each nation different from each other? Nationalism is the feeling of commonality that one has with people from similar backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures. Nationalism has the power to create entire new states, move borders, and start wars. There are the theories of Civic Nationalism and Ethnic Nationalism. Civic Nationalism is the theory that one belongs to a country based on one’s choice to live there.
Ethnic Nationalism is the belief that one can only belong to a nation if one is of the correct blood. The forces of Nationalism were at work greatly throughout the 20th century, both positively and negatively. One of the most negative examples of nationalism this century was the regime of Adolph Hitler in Nazi Germany. Adolph Hitler used a combination of myth, ethnic nationalism, and national pride in his regime of power, which resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent people. Nevertheless, German people felt pride in their nation and in their leader, who was bringing Germany back as a world power. Adolph Hitler used pre-existing nationalist sentiment, pre-existing views on other nationalities, and sheer force to instigate his regime. His Ethnic Nationalist views led both to the extermination of millions as well as his desire to make gains in Europe.
The extreme negative forces of Ethnic Nationalism were at work in Germany under Adolph Hitler. Hitler believed in a 19th century German belief known as the Volk, in which Germany surpassed other nations in terms of culture and society and had a duty to dominate. Hitler’s views of Ethnic Nationalism led to the Second World War and resulted in an international conflict. Hitler held the belief that other races in Germany were causing German society to decay. He beliefs that the German Aryan race of blond hair and blue eyes is superior to all others, and he dreams of a European union of Aryans, free of undesirable races. The nations he would like to unite in a union of Aryans in clued Germany, Scandinavia, The Netherlands, and England. This aggressive form of nationalism also led to increased militarism in Germany. In 1938, Austria formed a union with Germany. A large amount of people in Austria were of German “stock” and spoke the same language. Hitler believed that “those of the same blood belong in the same Reich!” (Holocaust Timeline) Throughout Europe and into Southern Russia, German people had settled. Hitler wished to push east and eventually settle these areas with Aryan people. Nazi Germany’s nationalist ambitions were the major cause behind World War II, and their desire to dominate over inferior races is demonstrated through their invasions of Czechoslovakia and Poland.
Not only was nationalism a driving force behind Hitler’s goals once in power, but nationalism was one of the major causes of Hitler’s success in gaining control of Germany. After Germany’s defeat in World War I, German nationalism was dealt a severe blow. Hitler himself was completely devastated by the German loss. He said of when he heard the news, “Since the day when I had stood at my mother’s grave, I had not wept…But not I could not help it. And so it had all been in vain…Did all this happen so that a gang of wretched criminals could lay hands on the fatherland.” (From Herder to Hitler) The Nazi party appealed to Germans reeling from their defeat in the First World War, which resulted in massive reparation payments to be made to the allies. The promise of a reborn Germany (the swastika symbolised rebirth) that would be the new great military power on the planet offered promise to many. Hitler promised a better country and said that the reason the country had crumbled was because of the non-Germans living and infiltrating German society. Hitler played off pre-existing ideas. At this time in Europe, the Jews were mainly a minority nation without a country of their own to live in. A lot of the Jews did not have much land so turned to education as a means of getting by. Many Jews became lawyers, journalists, doctors, and civil servants. Non-Jews resented the position of Jews in business etc. and the number of them getting an education. Jews were often subject to violent displays of protest in Europe at this time. Hitler played off these pre-existing notions about them and used them as a scapegoat for the nation’s problems. One of the major reasons for Hitler’s popularity was the Great Depression. The Great Depression affected one out of two German people and affected Working and Middle class Germans alike. (Howarth) The points offered by the Nazi party had something for everyone and eventually Hitler was elected in 1933. In this way, nationalist forces were in favour of Adolph Hitler and let to his rise to power. At the time, German people were inspired by the promises of a better future of a glorious powerful Germany. Nationalism is a very powerful force, however, and can be used both positively and negatively. When Adolph Hitler used nationalism to gain control of Germany, he did not have positive motives as we would see them today. He wanted to control Germany and establish his Aryan state.
Hitler’s beliefs in Ethnic Nationalism had a very dark side to them. Ethnic Nationalism in Nazi Germany led to the extermination of millions of “inferior” races. This practice has come to be known as ethnic cleansing, creating a nation made up only of those who belong by blood. Hitler held the belief that the German Aryan race of blond hair and blue eyes reigned supreme over all other races. This belief was rooted in the Social Darwinist theories of the earlier century. He believed the mixing of Germans and non-Germans had resulted in the deterioration of German society. This also comes from the Darwinist theory in that mixing of different races results in an inferior breed that has less physical and mental abilities. (Heller to Hitler) Under the Nazi’s “Law for the Protection of German blood and honour,” Jewish people were designated a different race. The subsequent Nuremberg Laws resulted in the Jews having their civil rights taken away and legally declared separate from Germans. In order to bring about Aryan racial supremacy in Germany, the Germans had millions of Jews sent to concentration camps, where they either had to perform arduous labour for the Germans or were executed by firing squad or the gas chambers. Jews weren’t the only people subjected to Germany’s ethnic cleansing. Germany also deemed gypsies, communists, Slavs, religious minorities, and gays undesirable. During Hitler’s Nazi regime, the numbers of people executed are in the millions. The estimates range from the 10 million mark all the way up to the 26 million mark. (Wikipedia.org) Hitler’s views on racial supremacy, therefore, resulted in one of the largest mass murders in history, and are a horrific example of what the force of nationalism can do.
When we look at nationalism in Nazi Germany, we can see a regime that appealed to people’s nationalism and managed to get to power because of it. German people wanted to better themselves and they liked what the Nazis promised, a better future for Germany and a stronger Germany. Adolph Hitler’s ideas for a unified Aryan Europe led to the Second World War, one of the most brutal conflicts in history in which millions of soldiers were killed. His dislike for the Jews and his ideas of German nationalism led to the extermination of millions of Jews, gypsies, gays, and other minorities. The forces of nationalism active in Nazi Germany around the time of the Second World War are an excellent example of how nationalism can inspire people and give them hope, yet cause conflict and horrific acts. Nationalism cannot be called a positive force, even for the German people in this case, as these feelings of nationalism led to a brutal international conflict.