Surprise, surprise: 25% of Germans think that there were “good sides” to the Third Reich (37% among the generation that grew up under the Third Reich, 15% for the next generation, and 20% among the young generation). It neatly parallels the rise of pro-fascists parties in recent elections

It would be easy to make too much of this. “The Nazis did such and such” is a weak, but oft used, rhetorical device. American conservatives often discredit social policies in Europe by noting similar programs established by the Nazis. These programs had roots in previous eras–the conservative-nationalists of the Kaiserreich and the socialists of the Weimar Republic. (I think I have been overheard comparing the current consumer economy to the Nazi war economy. Shame on me!) Surely, the formula can be reversed in order to lend credibility to the Third Reich.

The larger problem is how a positive interpretation of Nazism makes Germans comfortable with political extremism. Eva Herman, whose comments about Germans driving on Nazi-built roads caused a furor, soft-pedals the foundations of Nazism. The institutions of contemporary Germany may have some roots in the Nazi era–thus being Nazi accomplishments–but they are not remarkably Nazi. As Voelker Beck said, the Autobahn had been in the planning for decades before it had been built in the 1930s.

Even to argue for the efficiency of the regime would be a fallacy: was not fascism one force among many that prevented the flowering of democratic culture in Weimar Germany? Did those forces not seek to inhibit the function of the Weimar government? Nazism was partially responsible for the failures of the republic, an author of its faults. The NSDAP solved the turmoil it caused.

The Third Reich did not make order with efficiency. Through violence, it gained the monopoly on violence, thus could turn it on and off at will.
[Crossposted at Cliopatria.]