A trillion-Reichsmark (literally) question is, obviously, “Why?” Why the Nazi ideology not only became the official (and only) ideology of the German state but was accepted and adopted by the overwhelming majority (over 90%) of the population of not only Germany but Austria as well?
The majority that fought and worked hard until almost the very last days of the Third Reich to keep it in existence almost at any (no matter how enormous) cost.
The first reason was, obviously, Adolf Hitler – one of the most emotionally and spiritually powerful and gifted (if not the most powerful and gifted) orator and propagandist in human history. Orator capable of convincing just about anybody about just about anything.
However, he was much more than just a very, very gifted public speaker. Adolf Hitler was a brilliant political entrepreneur (one of the most brilliant in the history of mankind).
An entrepreneur who created a very fast-growing and highly efficient political and propaganda machine that he and the Nazis used to win the war for minds, hearts and souls of Germans, to come to power in Germany and to make their dreams, visions and objectives a reality.
The second reason was, believe it or not, Nazi pragmatism. Despite their very much idealistic rhetoric, Nazis in general and Adolf Hitler in particular were very pragmatic.
Pragmatic because they developed and implemented solutions to vital problems of German (and later Austrian population). They made promises that Germans wanted to hear – and delivered on these promises. Doing what Germans needed (and wanted) to be done.
They eliminated unemployment, achieved astonishing economic growth, radically improved the living standards of just about all Germans (with the exception of the very rich), did away with restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, made German economy (and the German armed forces) the most powerful in Europe, united all predominantly German lands (Ein Volk) into Ein Reich, did away with internal existential Communist threat and transformed Germany into the economic, military and political superpower, returning it to its power and glory.
Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of Germans came to a not unexpected conclusion that if the Nazis were so successful in solving the seemingly impossible problems of their Fatherland, their ideology must make sense (i.e., be true and correct).
The third reason was the general European trend away from liberal democracy towards authoritarian and even totalitarian regimes. It began in 1917 when very totalitarian Bolsheviks came to power in Russia (the largest country in Europe by far).
In 1920, Admiral Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya (the last commander of the Austro-Hungarian Navy) became the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary. Quickly transforming it into an authoritarian state (de-facto dictatorship of his).
In 1922 Italy followed suit with the establishment of fascist regime led by Il Duce – Benito Mussolini. Ten years later António de Oliveira Salazar (an economist by training, believe it or not) became Prime Minister of Portugal and immediately established another fascist regime – so-called Estado Novo (“The New State”).
On 17 December 1926, a military coup d’état took place in Lithuania, resulting in the replacement of the democratically elected government with a conservative authoritarian nationalist government led by Antanas Smetona (the first and last president of interbellum Lithuania).
In 1934, the Zveno military organization established a military dictatorship in Bulgaria (obviously, via a military coup). A year later Tsar (Bulgarian King) Boris III successfully staged a counter-coup and established his own authoritarian dictatorship.
The same year (1934) Kārlis Ulmanis (the first Prime Minister of Latvia) staged a bloodless coup, establishing a nationalist dictatorship. And in neighboring Estonia the acting head of state, Konstantin Päts, declared a state of emergency thus establishing another authoritarian regime.
In 1939, Francisco Franco Bahamonde (once the youngest general in Europe) won the civil war (with Soviet-backed Republicans) and became El Caudillo of Spain founding another fascist state. Which was not the first in modern Spanish history – from 1923 to 1930 it was ruled by another dictator General Miguel Primo de Rivera y Orbaneja. Who came to power via military coup that put an end to the liberal and parliamentary monarchy.
In 1940, Marshal Ion Antonescu became the Prime Minister of Romania and (following the fashionable European trend) established his very totalitarian fascist regime (the so-called National Legionary State).
The fourth (and probably the most important) reason was purely psychological. In 1917-33 the Germans received so many severe psychological traumas that Germany became a genuine PTSD nation.
Blockade, hunger, epidemic of murderous flu, defeat in the Great War, collapse of Imperial Germany, establishment of a totally new and unfamiliar regime (Weimar Republic), Communist coups, armed robbery and other murderous terms of the Treaty of Versailles, hyperinflation, Soviet-Polish War (which almost resulted in invasion and occupation of Germany by the Red Army), the Great Depression…
Germans were in a desperate need of an emotional therapy that would help them cope with these psychological traumas (and the resulting post-traumatic stress disorder).
And the Nazi ideology – with its powerful message and no less powerful emotional and spiritual energies (amplified by skillful use of images, slogans and other propaganda tools) was exactly what the Germans needed (for purely mental health reasons).
The final reason was nostalgic. Despite all its radicalism, Nazi ideology was still firmly rooted in German nationalism, militarism and imperialism. Of the Second Reich, to be more precise.
Despite all honest and diligent efforts of its leaders, Weimar Republic was still an alien regime for most Germans. Regime imposed of them by either “November criminals” or just by the series of unfair misfortunes.
Consequently, they welcomed with open arms the radically improved version of the German Empire that the Nazis offered. (Nazis positioned its regime as the successor not to Weimar Republic that they abhorred but to the Deutsches Kaiserreich – the Imperial Germany of 1871-1918).
So it is no surprise that the Nazis have won the hearts, minds and souls of the overwhelming majority of Germans – it would have been an enormous surprise if they hadn’t.