A little-known fact about cults (all cults, not just charismatic/totalitarian) is that just about all their members are spiritual pilgrims who (consciously or subconsciously) are on a spiritual journey. Which for certain reasons takes them to the cult.
In a stable political, economic and social environment few individuals embark on a spiritual journey. The overwhelming majority is too risk-averse and (let’s be honest) simply too lazy to question the behavioral patterns that they learned in their families, in their schools and in their society in general. All they want is to “fit with the Joneses” and into the whole society.
Only a tiny percentage of the population either does not fit (no matter how hard they try to) or does not want to fit – or both. Because they are “not good enough” for this world or “too good for this world”, or simply too different from this world.
Hence, they starting to look for the “alternative world” they would fit into… or create their own. Another little-known fact about cults is that all cult leaders are misfits, too (because they are “too evil” or simply different – it really does not matter).
Which, not surprisingly, makes them very attractive to other misfits (“their kin”). Especially when they provide ready, complete and comforting answers to all life’s seemingly unanswerable questions, create a comfortable environment (offering emotional and spiritual security) and open venues to self-actualization and self-transcendence (two highest levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs).
And that’s exactly what Adolf Hitler did. He was twice rejected by the world (first by the civilian one and then – after demobilization in 1920 – by the Army)… so he created his own. And quite a world – the whole different civilization. The Third Reich.
Which, not surprisingly, attracted a whole lot of misfits rejected by the brand new world of Weimar Republic. And before that – by the Imperial Germany. Hundreds and thousands of these misfits made genuinely stellar careers in the Nazi world.
However, it would not have brought him tens of millions of devoted followers. Especially in Germany known for it being a nation of conformists. Which was, obviously, true… but only in the stable environment.
Blockade and Great Hunger of 1917-19; defeat in the Great War, demise of the Imperial Germany (and of the monarchy); establishment of a new and totally unfamiliar political system – the Weimar Republic; humiliating robbery by the “Versailles criminals”; a long series of right-wing and Communist coups (and counter-coups); a narrow escape from being occupied by the Red Army in 1920, chronic political instability; and, finally, the murderous Great Depression took just about all Germans so far out of their comfort zone and made them so confused that it transformed practically all of them into spiritual pilgrims. Pilgrims looking for the “alternative world” where they (finally) would find emotional and spiritual comfort.
And Adolf Hitler gave then exactly what they needed (or thought they needed). His world was based on highly irrational and even outlandish (to put it mildly) beliefs but it did not even scare (let alone repel) them.
Which was no surprise at all as charismatic leaders of totalitarian cults are known to be able to convince rational people (and Germans are very rational people) to subscribe to irrational beliefs, making the outlandish (at first glance) seem very believable and acceptable to cult members. Whether leaders themselves subscribe to them… or are simply con men (and women).
Adolf Hitler was no fraud which made them even more efficient in recruiting literally millions to his Nazi cult.