Few groups throughout history have become so hated as the Nazis. Today they may be frequently used as villains in films, comics, novels, and even video games, but the fact is that they were one of the most terrifying groups to ever exist and were responsible for the systematic extermination of millions of men, women and children throughout Europe.
The Nazis officially used the name 'The National Socialist German Workers' Party", and the term 'Nazis' was primarily used by English speaking nations. The party itself was founded not by Adolf Hitler, who is commonly associated with them, but with a man known as Karl Harrer, who led the party from 1919 to 1920.
The group was primarily focused on racism and staunch nationalism, and its ideology frequently focused on a combination of conservative and liberal leanings, specifically the right's strong nationalism and the left's embrace of socialism. When founded, fewer than 60 members existed. By the end of Nazism in 1945, the group had 8.5 million members.
While the Nazis began with a focus on anti-capitalist, anti-big business policies, these aspects were gradually reduced to gain stronger members. Instead, the group's primary focus shifted towards racist beliefs that the "Aryan race" was superior to all others and that degenerate groups like Romani Gyspies, Jehovah's Witnesses, blacks, homosexuals, and especially Jews should all be exterminated or at the very least segregated completely from the Aryans.
Adolf Hitler took over the party in 1921, and quickly went about taking over complete control of Germany. Within a few years, Germany itself was a Nazi country that was ruled by Hitler's regime – the Third Reich. The focus of the Nazis then shifted towards domination of Europe as well as the complete extermination of the Jewish people. This is the 'Nazi' that most people are familiar with – the German soldier, the Gestapo agent, the SS agent, and the group responsible for operating the dreaded concentration camps that killed so many.
Without question, the Nazis were evil beyond description. Hitler's propaganda convinced millions of Germans that the systematic extermination of a group of people was the path to glory for Germany, and as a result millions died before the Allied forces finally defeated them.
With the end of World War II, Nazism was declared to be illegal and punishable by strict penalties. To this day, German law makes it illegal to own Nazi propaganda or relics, and even the appearance of the group's symbol – the Swastika – is banned in advertisements, even of WWII films.
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