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Thursday, July 29, 2021 Leer en Español

What the Nazis Had in Common With Every Other Collectivist Regime in the 20th Century

Just like Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others, the Nazis claimed to be socialists, concentrated power in the State, and spurned the rights of individuals.

Image Credit: FEE composite

Today marks an infamous centennial. One hundred years ago—on July 29, 1921—Adolf Hitler assumed the leadership of the National Socialist German Workers Party, better known as the Nazis. It became his vehicle to power.

Note the formal, official name of the party. It was not the National Capitalist German Workers Party. It was not the National Free Market German Workers Party. Nor was it the National Christian German Workers Party. Yet a century later, claims that Nazis were capitalist or Christian or both—though preposterous—are still occasionally heard.

Though Hitler quoted Scripture early in his career when it was politically convenient (he lied often, incidentally), he also said the Bible was “a fairy tale invented by the Jews.” He appointed many vehement anti-Christians to high office; arrested, jailed, tortured and killed many priests and pastors; denied that Jesus was a Jew and even ordered a “new Bible” stripped of all references to Jews and Jewish history.

Baldur von Schirach, head of the Hitler Youth, certainly got the memo. “The destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the National Socialist movement,” he said, as noted in evidence produced at the Nuremberg trials and in this video.

In a story on the Nazi bible, London’s Daily Mail reported,

Hitler admired the ceremony and majesty of the church—he admitted as much in Mein Kampf—but hated its teachings, which had no place in his vision of Germanic supermen ruling lesser races devoid of ‘outdated’ concepts such as mercy and love. But he knew the power of the church in Germany and even he could not banish it overnight. He was even forced to abandon the systematic murder of the handicapped and insane before the war when outspoken bishops began to speak against it. Instead, his plan was to gradually ‘Nazify’ the church beginning with a theological centre he set up in 1939 to rewrite the Holy Bible.  

In the real Bible, Matthew 7:16 famously declares, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” What Hitler and Nazism produced—genocide, warfare, state control, and endless evil in many forms—constitutes the very antithesis of the teachings of Jesus.

The lie that Nazism was capitalist instead of what the Nazis themselves said it was (namely, socialist) derives from the fact that the Hitler regime did not engage in wholesale or widespread nationalization of businesses. In the Third Reich, you might retain legal title to a factory but if you did not do as the Nazis ordered, you would be, shall we say, dispatched.

Writing in his magnum opus, Human Action, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises explained that Nazism was “socialism under the outward guise of the terminology of capitalism”:

The second pattern [of socialism] (we may call it the Hindenburg or German pattern) nominally and seemingly preserves private ownership of the means of production and keeps the appearance of ordinary markets, prices, wages, and interest rates. There are, however, no longer entrepreneurs, but only shop managers (Betriebsführer in the terminology of the Nazi legislation). These shop managers are seemingly instrumental in the conduct of the enterprises entrusted to them; they buy and sell, hire and discharge workers and remunerate their services, contract debts and pay interest and amortization. But in all their activities they are bound to obey unconditionally the orders issued by the government’s supreme office of production management. This office (The Reichswirtschaftsministerium in Nazi Germany) tells the shop managers what and how to produce, at what prices and from whom to buy, at what prices and to whom to sell. It assigns every worker to his job and fixes his wages. It decrees to whom and on what terms the capitalists must entrust their funds. Market exchange is merely a sham. All the wages, prices, and interest rates are fixed by the government; they are wages, prices, and interest rates in appearance only; in fact they are merely quantitative terms in the government’s orders determining each citizen’s job, income, consumption, and standard of living. The government directs all production activities. The shop managers are subject to the government, not the consumers’ demand and the market’s price structure.

Does that look like capitalism to any thoughtful, honest person with no agenda but the truth? Hardly.

As I wrote in The Only Spectrum that Makes Sense, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Hitler, Mussolini were all anti-capitalist peas in the same socialist, collectivist pod:

They all claimed to be socialists. They all sought to concentrate power in the State and to glorify the State. They all stomped on individuals who wanted nothing more than to pursue their own ambitions in peaceful commerce. They all denigrated private property, either by outright seizure or regulating it to serve the purposes of the State.

Michael Rieger argues that some of the confusion about how to label Nazi economics stems from socialism’s ever-shifting varieties. Socialists are notorious for claiming “this is it” when they’re just writing or daydreaming about it and then claiming “that wasn’t it” when it flops. Rieger writes,

The wide variance between utopian socialism, communism, national socialism, and democratic socialism makes it remarkably easy for members of each ideology to wag their fingers at the others and say, “That wasn’t real socialism.” However, there is one common thread in each of these definitions of socialism. From Saint-Simon to AOC, all self-described socialists have shared the belief that top-down answers to society’s problems are superior to the bottom-up answers created by the free market.

Rather than admit that Nazism was socialist and disastrous, diehard socialists declare “that wasn’t socialism.” It would be more honest if they just said, “Oops.” But they typically react the same way (in vehement denial) to failed socialist experiments everywhere, from the Soviet Union to Venezuela.

FEE’s director of content, Dan Sanchez, generated numerous affirmations when he recently tweeted this:

Cases of socialism they don’t like: “Not true socialism.” Cases of capitalism they do like: “Not true capitalism.” Socialists always lose on economics, so they try to win with word play.

Ask yourself this: Does the following statement sound like something a socialist would say or something a free-market, capitalist advocate would espouse?

The good of the community takes priority over that of the individual. But the State should retain control; every owner should feel himself to be an agent of the State; it is his duty not to misuse his possessions to the detriment of the State or the interests of his fellow countrymen. That is the overriding point. The Third Reich will always retain the right to control property owners. 

That was Adolf Hitler in a 1931 interview with Richard Breiting. He said essentially the same thing a hundred times or more, and it is exactly what he carried out in practice. And it is as socialist as it gets. Nothing capitalist or free market about it.

A century ago today, a megalomaniac began his rise to political power. The world suffered unspeakable catastrophe at the hands of that very anti-Christian and anti-capitalist monster. Do not be gullible or foolish enough to suggest he was otherwise.

For additional information, see:

The Only Spectrum That Makes Sense by Lawrence W. Reed

The Nazis Were Capitalist? A Lie Touted by Socialists by Chris Calton

Were the Nazis Really Socialists? It Depends on How You Define Socialism by Michael Rieger

The XYZs of Socialism (free eBook) by Lawrence W. Reed

You May Think You Like Socialism, But You’re Probably Not a Socialist at Heart by Kyle deVries

Was Adolf Hitler a Christian? (video) by Ray Comfort and Gordon Robertson

Was Hitler a Christian? By James Patrick Holding

  • Lawrence W. Reed is FEE's President Emeritus, having previously served for nearly 11 years as FEE’s president (2008-2019). He is also FEE's Humphreys Family Senior Fellow and Ron Manners Global Ambassador for Liberty. His Facebook page is here and his personal website is