10 Dead Nazis You've Never Heard Of
Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 film Inglorious Basterds was a gory “what if” flick imagining an alternate timeline where a special ops team from the United States sneaks into Germany and assassinates Hitler and his closest henchmen. The team, led by a character played by Brad Pitt, ends up smoking Hitler in a Parisian theatre picked by Nazi propagandists to debut a new film dedicated to one of Nazi Germany’s deadliest snipers.
That short description of Tarantino’s film does not do it justice, of course. The film is great. If you haven’t watched it yet, you should (but, beware, it’s gory and full of foul language).
Americans have long had a fascination with killing Nazis; from video games to films to books, Nazis regularly compete with aliens, zombies, and vampires for the violent affections of our society. This is certainly understandable, up to a point, but Hitler and the Nazis killed far fewer people than the socialists in the Soviet Union and China. A college student today would be (rightly) condemned for sporting a t-shirt with a Nazi swastika on it, but this same student would not hear a peep of concern were he to wear one of those popular Che Guevara shirts around campus.
Why don’t communists, who killed far more innocent people than fascists, ever compete with zombies or aliens for the ire of the American public? One answer would be because the communists were our allies in World War II, but that’s too simple. There has to be more to it. The sympathies of our intellectual class to socialism and communism probably play a significant role, too. Enterprising graduate students could write their dissertation on this question, of course, but while we wait around for that to happen, here are 10 Dead Nazis You’ve Never Heard Of:
10. Anton Drexler (died 1942). Drexler was the first Führer of the Nazi Party, though he only served as Führer for a short period of time and was elbowed out of the way by Hitler, who Drexler had “discovered” and mentored. Drexler founded one of the many nationalist and anti-Semitic political organizations to spring up after World War I, the German Worker’s Party (DAP), in January of 1919. In September of that same year, Hitler caught Drexler’s attention by out-arguing a visiting dissenter in the meeting. Drexler convinced Hitler to join the DAP, which he did in September of 1919, and the two of them collaborated on an outline for a coherent political platform for the DAP’s foray in to electoral politics. Drexler and Hitler drifted apart after Hitler elbowed him out of the way, but Anton Drexler received a Blood Order (prestigious Nazi military award) in 1934 his name was used for propaganda purposes by party officials up until his death in 1942.
9. Gottfried Feder (died 1941). Feder was an engineer by profession who became interested in anti-capitalist economics after World War I, and became one of the Nazi Party’s main theoreticians in the early years of its formation. Feder argued that big banks and interest rates were ruining Germany and run by international Jewish interests rather than plain, honest German folks. One of Feder’s early speeches is rumored to have inspired Hitler to join the German Workers Party, a precursor to the National Socialist German Workers Party. Feder’s strident anti-capitalist views meant eventually forced Hitler, who still had to find common ground with non-Nazis while governing, to eschew Feder’s advice in favor of more moderate economic policies. Feder, once sidelined from economic policy, moved on to architectural planning, where he sought to design agriculturally self-sufficient, industrially decentralized urban centers throughout the German realm. Even though Feder had long been out of favor with Hitler by the time he delved into architecture, his plans for the daily lives of these utopian city’s inhabitants reveal clearly the Nazi obsession with central planning.
8. Karl Haushofer (died 1946). While it is perhaps unfair to include Haushofer in this list (he denied being a Nazi and his wife and son were, under Nazi law, considered to be “half-Jews”), his ideas about the world and how he went about promoting them are too important to leave out of the Nazi story. Haushofer became a geopolitical theorist after World War I and is credited with introducing to the German public (including the Nazis) the idea of “Lebensraum,” or “living space.” According to Haushofer, Germany could only compete with the Western powers if it had control over areas of Europe stretching from Norway to the Caspian Sea. Once the German military controlled this geographic space, the Nazis could begin exterminating the indigenous people there to make room for German colonists. Haushofer also viewed Japan as a natural ally of Germany and was instrumental in convincing the Nazis to partner up with Tokyo. One of Haushofer’s former students, Rudolf Hess, was one of Hitler’s closest confidants, and it’s unlikely that Haushofer, bitter about the terms of peace imposed on Germany by France and the U.K. after World War I, did not exploit his former student’s position as Deputy Führer. He and his wife committed suicide together in 1946. Their son had been murdered by the S.S. in April of 1945.
7. Hans Frank (died 1946). Frank was Hitler’s personal lawyer and the lawyer of the Nazi Party before it lorded over Germany. Hans Frank was a member of the DAP before it morphed into the National Socialist German Workers Party, and his early work for the organization saved him from Hitler’s purge in the Night of the Long Knives. Frank’s legal acumen was also instrumental in delegitimizing the Weimar government during a trial meant to put some hardline nationalists (and former military officers) behind bars. Instead, Frank inspired the remnants of a broken German military and boosted the profile of the Nazi Party. In 1939, after Germany and the Soviet Union had carved up Poland, Hans Frank was appointed the Governor-General of the parts of Poland that were not immediately incorporated into Germany. Frank immediately went about segregating Poland’s Jews into ghettos and putting the general Polish population to work as forced laborers. Four of Nazi Germany’s six extermination camps were located in Frank’s territory, and the other two, Chelmno and Birkenau, were just outside of his governor-generalship. Hans Frank was one of the most evil men of the 20th century, and when his lifeless body hung from the gallows in October of 1946, justice rejoiced.
6. Alfred Rosenberg (died 1946). Rosenberg was the Nazi Party’s official theorist and philosopher, which meant that he was the one who shaped Nazi racial theory. Rosenberg argued that Christianity had made the German and Nordic people weak, thanks in large part to Judaism’s influence on Christianity, and that Christianity’s universalism was incompatible with Aryan supremacy. His views on religion suggested that the Germans should incorporate pre-Christian paganism, Zoroastrianism, and ancient Hinduism into a new religion. Rosenberg also argued that Jesus was not a Jew but rather a member of a small Nordic community that thrived in Judea during the Roman occupation of the Holy Lands. Rosenberg, a Baltic German forced to flee from his home in Estonia due to the advancing Bolshevik army in 1918, also loathed communism and he fully supported the war effort against the Soviets. Rosenberg argued that the Slavs, while lesser than the Germans, were still Aryans and that Nazi treatment of non-Jews in the German-occupied Soviet Union was akin to fratricide (he had no qualms about how the Jews were treated). On the western front, Rosenberg was responsible for looting much of Paris and Vienna of its art and musical wealth. He hung from the same gallows as Hans Frank.
5. Franz Xaver Schwarz (died 1947). Schwarz was the Nazi Party’s financial officer throughout most of its existence. He was an accountant for the city of Munich before becoming the Nazi’s treasurer. With Schwarz’ abilities, the Nazis were able to raise enough funds to publish Mein Kampf. Schwarz stayed away from intra-party squabbles, and was generally well-respected by all high-ranking Nazi officials. He was also awarded numerous military medals for his work on the western front. He died in an American prison camp from an illness at the age of 72.
4. Dietrich Eckart (died 1923). Eckart was one of the founders of the DAP and was responsible for introducing Hitler to Rosenberg and Feder. Eckart was an ardent anti-Semite who traced “Bolshevism from Moses to Lenin” and was influential in molding Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Though he died in 1923, Eckart’s place in Nazi mythology was never in doubt, and today most historians consider him to be the spiritual father of Germany’s National Socialist movement.
3. Hermann Esser (died in 1981). Even in a list such as this, Esser stands out for being a scumbag. Esser was a left-wing socialist in college before meeting Drexler and becoming a full-throated national socialist. Esser was the Nazi Party’s first Head of Propaganda, but his sexual promiscuousness led to him being demoted time after time. Hitler was the godfather of one of his children (Esser had initially refused to marry the woman, but her appeal to Hitler himself forced Esser’s hand), and Esser was suspended from the party after raping a businessman’s underage daughter. An author as well as a rapist, Esser published The Jewish World Plague in 1933 and republished it again in 1939, just after Kristallnacht. Esser was arrested by U.S. forces after the war, but was released because the Americans thought he was a minor player. The West German police eventually found him (he went into hiding after the Americans released him) and convicted him of being a major player for the Nazis. He did little time, however, and lived until the ripe old age of 80.
2. Philipp Bouhler (died 1945). Bouhler was the Nazi Party’s censor. It was he who determined what kind of literature was fit for national socialism. Oh, and he was also the Nazi responsible for murdering Germany’s handicap population. Under his watchful eye, hundreds of thousands of Germans with handicaps were involuntarily euthanized. Bouhler’s program laid the groundwork for the later, large-scale gassing campaigns that took place throughout German-occupied territory. A recipient of the Blood Order, he and his wife committed suicide while imprisoned by American forces. They had no children.
1. Kurt Daluege (died 1946). Daluege was the head of the national police force of Nazi Germany, and his viciousness made him the perfect man for the job. Originally a member of the S.A., Daluege secretly joined the S.S. and his intelligence reports played an instrumental role in Hitler’s brutal purge, the Night of the Long Knives. Daluege oversaw the mass shootings of thousands of Polish and Czech Jews during his time as Nazi Germany’s top cop. Under his command, captured Polish guerrillas were hanged from light poles throughout the towns they were captured in, to serve as a warning to others who might take up arms in resistance. After a Nazi official was assassinated in a Czech town, Daluege’s forces razed two large villages and murdered every male in both of them. The Nazis deported all of the women and children to concentration camps. Daluege suffered a heart attack in 1943 and spent the rest of the war on a quiet property given to him by Hitler. Daluege was eventually arrested by the British and they handed him over to Czech officials, who tried him for crimes against humanity. Daluege obstinately stood by actions and was hanged in 1946.
Two brothers who were influential early on in the Nazi Party gave rise to a left-wing strain of Nazi thought called Strasserism. Strasserism was anti-Semitic and nationalist, but it differed with Hitler-style Nazism in that it called for a heavier emphasis on anti-capitalism and less of an emphasis on racial and religious theory. Otto and Gregor Strasser were hardcore nationalists who argued that socialism should be used to alleviate poverty in Germany and remove elites from their positions of power in German society. The Strasserists were considered too radical for the Hitlerites and many were purged. Those who remained in the Party and continued to advocate for a more radical national socialism were eliminated during the Night of the Long Knives. Gregor Strasser was among the victims of the purge, but Otto was able to flee to Canada, where he continued to publish material in support of national socialism. In 1955, he was permitted to return to West Germany, where he advocated national socialism for the remainder of his life. He died in 1974, uncondemned and free to choose.
Andrei Znamenski, a historian at the University of Memphis, has a great essay titled “From ‘National Socialists’ to ‘Nazi’: History, Politics, and the English Language" that is a must-read. An Atlantic magazine interview with Anne Applebaum is also worth reading: “How Communism Took Over Eastern Europe.” Have a great weekend!