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Hitler’s Reich And 1984: The Repercussions Of Totalitarianism

2868 words - 11 pages

Amid the calamitous Weimar Republic of post World War I, Adolf Hitler planted the seeds of what would quickly become one of the most momentous manipulations of government. In just a few years, Hitler established himself as a political authority, and instilled Nazism, short for National Socialism, within Germany. This unprecedented ideology, which he called the European New Order, capitalized on a scattered and demoralized Germany. He initiated an authoritarian regime that would last a decade, ended only by a brutal world war. As Ian Kershaw explains in his essay on Nazi uniqueness, “a regime responsible for the most destructive war in history, leaving upwards of 40 million people dead . . . has an obvious claim to singularity” (239). Yet, the uniqueness of Nazism does not only lie in its genocidal intent. Its fascist ideals contribute to its intriguing nature, and, as a result, are a source of inspiration for countless authors.
Reactions are evident in the period of postmodern literature that emerged as a response to Hitler’s Reich. Because of the political messages within these, they greatly influenced society, and therefore have a place in the historical analysis of WWII. George Orwell, a political essayist and novelist, was a prominent luminary of these writings, and in his novel 1984, he attempts to explain the disastrous situation of the mid twentieth century and present a warning about the future. To do so, Orwell formulates a national socialist government, Big Brother, and an insurgent party member, Winston Smith. Though Winston begins as a rebellious citizen, he becomes an obedient subordinate because of his torture. His authority, Big Brother, is a powerful governmental entity that has supreme influence over him and his fellow citizens. In a critique of Orwell’s writing, Professor Lowenthal deduced that Big Brother’s power came when an atomic war in the 1950’s led to a series of revolutions and purges. By the end of these conflicts, the world was split into three empires, one of them known as Oceania, a large, yet repressed, state led by Big Brother (161). This governmental supremacy is an allusion to a historical entity, and Orwell has confirmed that “Nazi Germany was not entirely removed from his mind” when composing the novel (Enteen 206). As a result, Big Brother and the Oceania Empire have uncanny resemblances to the government of the Third Reich of Germany. Hence, political experts label both of these influential powers as totalitarian. Alfredo Rocco, a theoretician of Fascism, explains totalitarianism as “‘an absolute monopoly of authority by the state’” (qtd. in Gleason 146). Though some seek to find a distinction, the Orwellian generation used totalitarianism to describe authoritarian socialism, or fascism of the strong political powers. In Germany, this term was extremely political, and often used to describe Hitler’s reign and seizure of power. Yet, the nationalistic conservative ideals that were present in Nazi Germany also...

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