By definition, a totalitarian organization is the one where its members are kept both obedient and subservient. They are not allowed to think independently or to publicly question their leader’s motives or actions.
Instead, members must immediately do whatever their leader asks of them, no matter how immoral or even criminal it might be. To accomplish this, totalitarian cults practice intense indoctrination and stern discipline (the latter includes often brutal punishments).
That’s exactly what was the case in the Third Reich. Nazi propaganda was omnipresent, loud and merciless. And every resident of the Reich lived under threat of being locked up in a concentration camp (where conditions were inhuman and punishments brutal) at any time without trial. And the trials (by the infamous Special and People’s Courts) were not much better – even non-violent opposition to the Nazi regime could have resulted into swiftly pronounced death sentence and a swift execution – by guillotine, hanging or (at best) a firing squad.
However, the Nazi regime was fundamentally different from totalitarian cults as relied on “carrots” far more than on “sticks”. Contrary to a very popular misconception, the fundamental objective of domestic informants (who mostly worked not for Gestapo, but for SD-Inland – a domestic intelligence service) was to identify genuine needs of ordinary Germans. Which subsequently became the objectives of Nazi domestic policies.
Consequently, although the Nazi regime did use (and used extensively) propaganda and terror, it mostly relied on generation of aggregate value – financial, functional, emotional and spiritual – for its citizens as the key tool for exercising control over the latter.
Contrary to the public’s perception, most members of totalitarian and even destructive cults (not all totalitarian cults are destructive) are not losers, misﬁts or crazies who are drawn to cults.
More often than not those who join these cults are active, productive, intelligent, energetic – and really nice individuals with a deep and genuine sense of idealism.
Wide-eyed idealists are often joined in destructive totalitarian cults by people with advanced academic degrees, individuals having large amounts of money, and even elected officials, government bureaucrats, members of academia, the military, etc.
In other words, charismatic leaders of these cults capture the hearts, minds, and souls of the best and brightest in the society. In fact, a number of scientiﬁc studies have shown a positive correlation between the level of a person’s education and the likelihood of cult membership.
“All of the above” was very much true in the Third Reich (in other words, Adolf Hitler capture the hearts, minds, and souls of the best and brightest in German society). And in Austrian – many high-ranking Nazi officials (and war criminals) were Austrian by birth.
Contrary to a very popular misconception, the overwhelming majority of Nazi leaders were of a superior intelligence (and some were certified geniuses). This was the result of the IQ tests administered by the psychologists hired by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg right before the (in)famous trial (see the table).
|Schacht, Hjalmar||143||Genius or near genius|
|Seyss-Inquart, Arthur||141||Genius or near genius|
|Dönitz, Karl||138||Very superior intelligence|
|Göring, Hermann||138||Very superior intelligence|
|Papen, Franz von||134||Very superior intelligence|
|Raeder, Erich||134||Very superior intelligence|
|Frank, Hans||130||Very superior intelligence|
|Fritzsche, Hans||130||Very superior intelligence|
|Schirach, Baldur von||130||Very superior intelligence|
|Keitel, Wilhelm||129||Very superior intelligence|
|Ribbentrop, Joachim von||129||Very superior intelligence|
|Speer, Albert||128||Very superior intelligence|
|Jodl, Alfred||127||Very superior intelligence|
|Rosenberg, Alfred||127||Very superior intelligence|
|Neurath, Konstantin von||125||Very superior intelligence|
|Frick, Wilhelm||124||Very superior intelligence|
|Funk, Walther||124||Very superior intelligence|
|Hess, Rudolf||120||Very superior intelligence|
|Sauckel, Fritz||118||Superior intelligence|
|Kaltenbrunner, Ernst||113||Superior intelligence|
|Streicher, Julius||106||Average intelligence|
Obviously, a smart criminal is still a criminal and even very smart people can make terrible mistakes (blunders, even), but still Nazi Leaders were no mediocrities. And, by the way, more than half participants of the infamous Wannsee Conference had Ph.Ds (as did many of the Einsatzgruppen commanders and RSHA Chief Ernst Kaltenbrunner). So they were no mediocrities either.