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The "Führer" and "Volksgemeinschaft"

Enthusiastic SA members cheer Hitler. A photo from the exhibition. Photo: Helmut Meyer zur Capellen

The Third Reich is founded on two fundamental myths: the "Führer" and "Volksgemeinschaft." Behind these, cloaked in pseudo-science, is the credo that the Germans are a people joined by "shared blood" and a uniform "racial core" – in other words, a substantially identical genetic makeup.

According to the National Socialists, German history is a story of internal conflicts and divisions that have increasingly threatened the survival of the "Volk" during the Weimar Republic. National Socialism claims it will bring an end to this alleged process of "degradation" caused by political parties and class organizations, and restore the "unity of the people" once again.

In this context, the "Volksgemeinschaft" – the "people’s community" – is a radical program for reversing modern society, with its diversity of values and interests, and returning it to pre-modern conditions. The aim is to create a kind of tribal society in which a single individual with special "gifts" is empowered to decide the ideas and actions of his unconditionally submissive followers.

These notions are at the root of the elimination of competing parties and the forcible cooptation of institutions that were supposed to represent the diversity of interests in a democratic order. These are to be replaced by a "Volksgemeinschaft" founded, most of all, on emotions. Of course, anyone who declines to join this “community,” or who does not meet its "racial," political and moral standards or its demands for performance, will be excluded, isolated, or even physically annihilated.

Continue reading: "The myth and cult of the 'Führer'"

Back to the overview page "The beginnings of the Nazi dictatorship"