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Germans at Nuremberg: A united body controlled by Hitler’s will.
The Nuremberg rallies represented the apotheosis of Nazism: revealing the core fantasy that defined the movement. With thousands of bodies massed close together, it was here that Hitler’s idea of Germany as a “living organism” became real: words became flesh.

Hitler stated that at these rallies individuals—who feel lonely and easily succumb to the fear of being alone—for the first time got a “picture of a larger community.” This experience of being together with other Germans produced a “strengthening, encouraging effect.”

The community of the great demonstration not only strengthened the individual, it united the people and helped create an “esprit de corps.” Men need that strengthening, Hitler said, which lies in the conviction of being a member and fighter in a “great comprehensive body.”

The mass rallies actualized Hitler’s fantasy of Germany as an actual body politic, a living organism. Cheering and heiling Hitler en masse, it was as if Germans—the bodies at Nuremberg—had fused to create a single, omnipotent body politic.

People came to his speeches as enemies, Hitler explained, but after his speech, which lasted three hours, adherents and adversaries “fused into a single enthusiastic mass.” Hitler aspired to fuse all the German people into a single body that would respond unquestioningly to him as the head of this body.

One of the Nazis’ most repeated political slogans was Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer. The ideal of “oneness” lay at the heart of the Nazi movement. Hitler believed that the German people had to be absolutely united. The entire German nation, Hitler declared, must be brought to a “unity of spirit and will.”

The pre-condition for relieving the distress in Germany was restoration of the “consciousness of belonging together.” In order to bring men gradually nearer each other, they had to be thrown into the “great melting pot, the nation” that they might be “purified and welded one to another.”

Hitler took the term “melting pot” literally, meaning that each and every German had to abandon his or her individual boundaries—and to melt into one another. Once melted, these individuals could be “welded one to another” to create a single, comprehensive body, responsive to Hitler’s will.

The concept of obedience followed from the idea of Germany as a single body. In order to create a single organism, each human being—the cells of the German organism—had to respond to the will of Hitler, who constituted the “brain.” Each human being needed to perform his or her function—as a cell of that gigantic, unified body.

The Nazis claimed that the Volk was a kind of living creature (see Rhodes, 1980) with a mind (der Volksgeist), a will (die Volkswille) and a body (der Volkskorper). They expected every member of the Volk to “fill himself” with the life of the communal organism, just as arms, legs and leaves are so nourished by the organisms to which they belong.

Bernd Wegner (1990) observes that the SS saw the individual as an integral element of a “social organism.” The individual’s value and justification for existence depended “solely on the advantages he furnished the national community.”

Thus, Wegner says, the individual in the eyes of the SS was only a “fragment of the body politic to which he owed allegiance.” Himmler informed his SS that everyone should be fully aware that “our lives do not belong to us, but to the Reich and Fuehrer.”

Hitler’s fantasy, the template that drove the Nazi movement, was that of Germany as a national organism united as one body—responsive to Hitler’s will. Each individual German was expected to abandon his autonomy and to fuse—become one with—the German organism. Hitler constituted the brain and will of this organism.

From 68 million individual Germans, Hitler declared, there must arise a “single concentrated opinion, a single concentrated will, one conviction and one resolution.” The only way a single will could be effective was if every German was obedient—responsive to the will of the Fuehrer. In Hitler’s mind, Germany could never be overcome or defeated as long as the German people were united—massed together to constitute a single “block of steel.”