"I have in this War a burning private grudge—which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler (for the odd thing about demonic inspiration and impetus is that it in no way enhances the purely intellectual stature: it chiefly affects the mere will). Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light."
- – J.R.R. Tolkien, being a boss
- – Stroheim, an over the top Nazi and the first Guile
Important note: although the armed forces of Germany during World War II are commonly referred to as such, "Nazi" only refers to the political party. The regular German armed forces were the Wehrmacht, who were not necessarily Nazis (many were "paper Nazis," citizens who took party membership solely for the benefits, such as "not being purged as a dissident"). After the war, they were not considered Nazis, unlike the Waffen-Schutzstaffel, or Waffen-SS, which were the actual military arm of the Nazi party and declared an inherently criminal organization, although they were not complete saints either. The fact remains that while the Wehrmacht may not have been composed entirely of Nazi Party members, they were complicit in the Holocaust, actively participated in the Holocaust and Generalplan Ost (the German genocide of Slavic peoples), especially on the Eastern Front, and actively conquered new lands for Hitler to murder the inhabitants of. Wehrmacht soldiers also swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler personally, and can be held responsible for their part in Nazi Germany's actions and genocides.
Nazi is the commonly used shorthand version of Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers' Party), a political party which took over Germany
for 1,000 years from 1933 to 1945. It also refers to people who belong to said party, their ideology, and their regime in Germany during said period of time. Led by Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Party emerged from the uncertainty and political upheaval due to the Red Scare, the end of the German Empire after the Great War, resentment at unfair conditions imposed by Treaty of Versailles, economic uncertainties due to the Stock Market crash of 1929, German ethnic nationalism, a desire to blame things on scapegoats, and a belief in militarism popular among many returning veterans. They were also aided by their invention of modern campaigning and propaganda, wide-spread dissatisfaction with the status quo, the strategic seizure of the political positions that controlled the police force, and more dumb luck than anyone has any right to have, let alone a bunch of evil, racist loons.
The Nazi's initial success can be attributed to the image of glorious economic recovery, part of which they accomplished by keeping Germany's economy running during The Great Depression. They presented this to the rest of the world, making many people believe the little mustachioed guy couldn't be that crazy since he'd made his country recover brilliantly in very little time. And while Germany did indeed recover, the whole thing was helped and held upright by MEFO bills: basically a Ponzi scheme that allowed the government to loan money on the sly through a front company about metallurgy research(the Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft, or MEFO in short). This allowed them to work at a much higher level of debt flotation than allowed by international regulation, and the idea was to pay back the loans with seized gold and valuables from Jews at first, and then directly from conquered nations after the war went on, since even state created debt bonds are exactly that: debt, credit, which is trust. Eventually the creditor will want something in exchange (or at the very least get his investment back) or the debtor's credibility will be shattered, stopping the money flow.
To give you a clearer idea of what happened: imagine spending money from a credit card, raising the debt until being near broke to make the rest of the world believe you are rich. But still, your neighbors don't lend you a dime for making guns. So what you do? You make up a credit card called Mefocard, borrow even more wildly to create weapons promising you'll pay the debt back... Then attempt to kill the lenders and subjugate their families to share the debt you have. It was simply a continent wide, all-or-nothing robbery attempt even wilder than WW1's trench-fighting Imperial duel.
Needless to say, it was the reason why the scenario of not waging war (like in Hearts of Iron or some alternate reality stories) simply wasn't a realistic option. Despite their multiple annexations of territory, the Nazis couldn't sustain their charade without the influx of riches and materiel from other conquered territories. So they soon mobilized their armies and launched a war of expansion on the rest of the world, starting with Poland. (The question is still open amongst historians as whether they annexed enough reserves with Czechoslovakia to keep the charade up "peacefully" long enough to let their Red "ally" make the opening move instead, but that's a discussion for another place and time.)
Their goal (next to getting gold and industrial materials to pay the enormous gambling debt of an empire) was to impose their militaristic Social Darwinistic ideology across Europe, outlaw any dissenting school of thought, enslave all the "sub-human" Slavs (after starving to death more than half of them in accordance to Generalplan Ost) and exterminate any "undesirables" (Jews, Roma, homosexuals, etc) on which they blamed all their problems because they felt that they were superhumans without any flaws; any problem which they suffered had to be the fault of some subversive "other" from outside who tried to cause the Master Race misery for no other reason than "teh Evulz". But due to some severe strategic fuckups from Hitler, who often overruled his military leadership, Germany ended up in a three-way war with the Soviet Union (who provided blood), Great Britain (overseas bases) & the United States (more armaments than you can possibly dream of with an extra helping on top), while their major allies such as Romania & Italy capitulated during the middle years of the war.
In the end, while Germany may have had some areas of technological advantage (at least initially and this is often overstated; the Wehrmacht for example could not field properly motorized divisions unlike its opponents and both sides used thousands of horses until the end); by the end of the war they struggled with the lack of many strategic resources and dislocation of production lines and reverted to some crude solutions) along with a chronic shortage of secure OIL there was no hope of repulsing both the Western Allies and the Soviet Union at the same time and thus the Nazi regime finally met its end when the Red Army marched into Berlin and Hitler *BLAM*med himself along with his mad-as-a-hatter common-law (and actual for 24 hour!) wife. Indeed, while their hate-wagon managed to go far and overrun Europe it simply had too much war to fight on multiple fronts, a lack of effective strategic planning in the form of Hitler and his cronies (the corpulent cross-dressing Goering for example who viewed it as his sacred duty to squander one of the world's only first-rate Air Forces) and as most powerful nations of the time opposed them either because they cherished their political freedoms (or what passed for it back then; the threat of communism made many countries lean heavily toward the right in-between the wars), saw their economies fail (all nations arrayed against the Nazis saw this, except the United States who did splendidly) or simply were in the Nazi "to-exterminate" list (a very broad and long list all by itself).
It is actually a known fact that through their actions, the Nazis did manage to kill more white people (since some concepts of white supremacy make no distinction between a white English, German, Russian or French other than their funny accents, and naturally this leads many other non-whites to view them similarly) in recorded history than any "anti-Aryan" enemy they could blame at, in fact, the war they started is one of the main reasons that none of the European countries (with the possible exception of Russia now, but the definite exception of the Soviet Union in the immediate aftermath) is the dominant power of the world after ruling much of it for almost a century. The first wave of hilariousness of the war (in hindsight) is that Stalin was already enacting antisemitic measures and similar state control over economy as Hitler and mostly lorded over millions of family conscious, conservative white people whom Hitler wanted exterminated because... reasons. In reality, life in USSR and in Nazi Germany were mostly the same, which can even be attested by Cuban migrant workers in East Germany being forbidden to breed with white German Women. Now isn't that racist, Genosse?
Then the current situation in Europe becomes doubly hilarious now that the old continent has had a massive immigration problem after the Nazi regime, a considerable Muslim and African minority to fill the gap in labor specifically because of the clusterfuck known as the Second World War; said Muslim and African minority would never have taken root in Europe if Hitler's edgy autistic rage did not finally break the mold of xenophobia around the planet. Though some folks may not like people of black skin and different features, to put it mildly, said bigots eventually realized that Nazi murder camps and monstrous treatment worse than insects might have gone a bit too far, eventually breaking racism from an iceberg into smaller, less harmful chunks. Because humanity needed to push any excess to its' breaking point to HOPEFULLY learn restraint, preferably not destroying the planet in the process.
Nazis are portrayed as people who used vile actions towards an overtly vile end (or occasionally a "covert" one; Hitler did envision for Germany to be the greatest nation ever, but his plan to attain this was the moral equivalent of driving a bus through a busy sidewalk filled with women and children). But - and this is important - rather than just being an alien other, they represented the worst qualities of industrial Western civilization: racism, militarism, hyper-nationalism, expansionism, manifest destiny, enforced conformity, social darwinism, eugenics and so forth, all inflated and turned inward against bits of Western civilization. To modern western civilization, the Nazis have the role of the great foe; they became the mold for the magnificently horrifying evil that wrought death and misery on Europe, which needed to be stopped by all means possible. Their known track record of starting WW2, carving a bloody swath through Europe, and their infamous ethnic genocide and enslavement campaigns against undesirables have painted them as the most evil villain that the world has ever seen.
This is the common opinion that is widely accepted and well backed by historical documents. Even so you will hear plenty of other viewpoints of the Nazis from other groups. Some will say their portrayal is riddled with the allied propaganda excessively demonizing them. Some will say that while the Nazis did give Europe a good stomping, the other participants were just as, if not more evil than the Nazis, and that they're just being used as the poster boy (these people often say the Soviets had a worse track record than the Nazis in terms of people murdered by the state, or the Americans who nuked not one, but two Japanese cities. This of course, is without taking account of the Japanese Empire whose official death toll outstrips the estimates of the Holocaust 4-to-1 combined with horrific medical experiments on innocents a-la Forsaken/Sylvanas), and some people on the /pol/ side of the spectrum will say that Germany did the right thing and their enemies was actually the evil ones (remember, this is /pol/ we're talking). All in all, discussions that relate to the portrayal of Nazi Germany are bound to generate heated debates due to numerous factors.
In relation to fantasy, however, varying opinions on the perceived Nazi character allows them to be looked at from varying points of view, developing their character all the more. Take the Imperium of Man, for example. Some will say that the Imperium's a nuthouse since they're willing to allow an Inquisitor to turn an entire hive spire into a towering inferno if he so happens to find a single heretic in a spire where millions of people reside in, on the grounds of "Hey, this guy is worshiping Chaos. Those people might as well be worshiping Chaos too and this might lead to the entire world rebelling. BURN EVERYONE". Some will say that the Imperium's just being pragmatic and such an action is justifiable as the Imperium is constantly beset by merciless foes who will not think twice to bring them down, as such their method for survival is cruel, but necessary. Which, given the fact that daemons really do exist and can corrupt entire planets in a short amount of time, is pretty justifiable. Even the Imperium's xenophobia is justifiable given how nearly all the major races pretty much want to wipe everyone else out, or else enslave them. But that doesn't change the fact that these reasons are often just used as an excuse to torture and kill anyone who's even slightly unorthodox, either out of paranoia or because it amuses them.
Impact on fantasy
In terms of military logistics, the Germans had hands down one of the best armies of the time, well disciplined and well trained with experienced mid-level officers; this combined with borderline insane levels of morale at the start of the war due to years of giving the middle finger to the war wary western nations which capitulated to their demands, and turned the German into an unholy Juggernaut. The Germans were known to have some of the best armored tanks in the war, their small arms far outstripped the guns Europe had at the time, and were pioneers to many advanced technologies during their time that have become well known today, like jet engines, cruise missile systems, fully automatic rifles(even with battery-run night scopes around '44), stealth craft, and many others.
This, combined with their infamous cruelty, have spawned the Nazi-esque villain template where the villains are both powerful and gigantic dicks to everyone else, making them completely despicable. This is because if the villain is significantly weaker than the protagonist of the setting, most people will still feel a few grains of sympathy towards the former or make them a laughing stock. But, when you make the villain both an enormous asshole and just as or more powerful than the protagonist, all bets are off and he's fair game.
Of course, the weaknesses of Nazism also need to be taken into account, in that a lot of their supposedly superior technology turned out to be highly unstable and would frequently be outclassed and definitely outnumbered by Allied designs once the latter got their shit together. This was even true at the start of the war; British Matilda II's were all but immune to German tank fire, and a column of them almost stopped Rommel at the Battle of Arras. Add poorly managed industry and the fact that supplies at times were delivered by horse (which was not actually that atypical, since only America and early war Britain were that ridiculously mechanized), and you have a faction that is the epitome of style over substance. This really bit them in the ass later when the Allies, focusing on production and strategy over science fiction and tactics, managed to leg up the Third Reich and battle-hardened Allied soldiers became the top dogs without question. In fiction, expect the Nazi villains to have eventually have their technology outclassed or at least made irrelevant and the hardened heroes turn Nazi soldiers into cannon fodder.
On the political side of things, the batshit insane racial policies of the Nazis will be explored in fiction as being founded as junk science, or at least hypocritical, when the fantasy faction's leaders turn out to not even come close to their own idea of racial purity (seriously, Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and etc. are the antithesis to any common definition of "ubermensch", with Hitler in particular being a meth-addicted flatulent junkie with several damaged organs who was told to avoid meat). Not to mention Nazi poltics have a tendency to make enemies of everyone, preventing even an 'enemy of my enemy' situation working out in their favor.
Nazis are also the progenitors of all acceptable targets where human bad guys are concerned. Be it in vidya games or movies, nobody has a problem with Nazis getting gunned down by the hundreds by the heroes (well, the Nazis might, but screw those guys), and they don't even have to resort to the dehumanizing full helmets that most other villain goons have to wear to make slaughtering them okay.
A more comedic take on Nazis in fiction owes to wartime cartoons, where the soldiers and Nazi command are all bumbling idiots, because only an idiot would seriously consider becoming one. Hitler today has essentially been turned into a punchline with all the gags centered around him, which is kinda awesome when you think about it, as dictators that wish to be feared would never want to be remembered as a joke.
- Many soldiers in the Imperium of Mankind, such as the Thunder warriors and Steel legion, bear Lightning imagery. While not Nazi, the symbology shows great resemblance that of the British Union of Fascists. This is also interesting as their Leader, Oswald Mosley, was still politically active around the time of the formation of Games Workshop. Note also the symbol of the Schutzstaffel, which is a pair of twin lighting bolts.
- Furthermore, the Imperium will often draw from Nazi Germany either indirectly (hatred, bigotry, willingness to use torture, repression, and terror to their ends) to overt (The Death Korps of Krieg). Though given their love for trench warfare, the Death Korps are closer to the Germans of the First World War rather than the second. That said, he Imperium also draws from Stalinist Russia, North Korea, and even Jihadism with the Imperium's martyrdom obsession: basically, it's a grab bag of the worst of humanity's civilizations...Against entities even more evil than them...
- While the Imperium has adopted many Nazi aesthetics, ideologically the closest 40k has to Nazis (or, rather, fascists in general) are the Tau, minus the xenophobia. One important aspect of fascism was a corporatist economy, where society would be subdivided into several large corporations (based on fields of economy, e.g. agriculture, mining, engineering, etc), each with its own hierarchy, but all answerable to the party so that they would work together for the good of the state as a whole. Tau policy on conquering new species, where they would be indoctrinated into Tau culture and assimilated, is also reminiscent of what the Italians and the Japanese did during WW2, and Spain did until the 1970s.
- The Skaven from Warhammer Fantasy and later Age of Sigmar borrow many Nazi-esque elements, which in turn makes them the most vile and evil race in the World That Was... Only it's taken to its logical extreme, as with many things Warhammer. For example, Nazis had a hatred for what they believed was ündermenschen and believed the "Aryan" race was most pure, while the Skaven hate all other living things, including their own race, with each individual believing only themselves to be worth anything. Pack in some advanced Wunderwaffen, magical nuclear power in the form of Warpstone and chemical weapons as well and you have a solid, if over-the-top Nazi fantasy faction for you.
- In Star Wars, the forces of the Galactic Empire have many design elements (like Darth Vader's Stahlhelm-like helmet) cribbed from the Nazi military, so that the audience knows it's okay to shoot them. Also, many of the weapons used (as they were all older real-world guns with window dressing) were German in origin, namely the StG44 (A295, DLT-20A), C96 (DL-44), and MG34 (DLT-19, DC-15A). They are also noticeably all human (with notable exceptions like Thrawn) in a series with a diverse list of aliens. Also the title "Moff" is equivalent to Gauleiter in Nazi Germany.
- In the Sequel Trilogy comes a "new" faction- the First Order, which COULD be described as modern day Neo-Nazis, but in actuality are based on the actual Nazis like Adolph Eichmann who fled Germany for various Latin American nations who sympathized with the fallen Third Reich, such as Argentina. The concept was that these fanatics would gather and form the nucleus of a new, Fourth Reich that would retake the Fatherland and eventually all of Europe for the Aryan race. Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for them, most of them were hunted down by various intelligence agencies from the US, Soviet Union, and Israel.
- In Doctor Who, the Daleks are defined for their fanatical hatred of anything that is not a Dalek (this was intentional and for fun the creator of the daleks had their original enemy look just like the nazis wanted to look like).
- In anime, there is the Principality of Zeon from Mobile Suit Gundam, which also has elements borrowed from the WWII Empire of Japan.
- The most extensive take on the theme of Space Nazis would be the Helghast from Killzone, where the people of Helgan see the ISA as Imperialist gits who forced them out of their planet for refusing their rule. Although by Shadow Fall, they become akin to Communist East Germans, being filled with political radicals and separated by a wall and all.
- The aptly named "Fourth Reich" from the Metro series, who, ironically being Russian and therefore the only race the Nazis hated more than Jews (this is made substantially more odd by the fact that they're based both on the original Nazis and a large number of real-life Russian Neo-Nazi groups), still hold fast to their National Socialist ideology, however they speak little German outside of common movie lines. At constant war with the Red Line, a post-apocalyptic Communist revival. Thinks that Slavs are the superior race and all others must be destroyed. Their racial policies also extended to "mutant" humans infected with radiation.
- The Norsefire from V for Vendetta count.
- If you have a fantasy/sci-fi world, it will almost certainly have some sort of Nazi analogue floating around. At the same time, Nazis also figure into a lot of alternate history fiction; Nazis invading England, Nazis invading America, Nazis successfully conquering the USSR, Nazis getting the Bomb first, Nazis creating an army of mutant uber-troopers, Nazis on the Moon, Nazis using occult powers to summon demons to aid them, all of these have been done. The Nazi obsession in alternate history is largely due to the fact that we consider them (for right reasons) evil and our modern world is the result of an Allied victory. A Nazi victory to us is just unthinkable. Hell, this page itself is pretty long.
- Wolfenstein is a perfect example of just how cemented the Nazis have become into pop culture as the closest thing to zombies in terms of guilt-free punching bags.
- Nazi ideologues may even show up in children's shows if one pays close attention (not counting war time cartoons).
- The Fire Nation from Avatar: The Last Airbender considers the element of fire to be superior to the other three (water, earth, and air) and wages a war of expansion and genocide against the other three nations, succeeding with a genocide against the air nomads. The Fire Nation's broader culture and technology also has many connections to the Nazi's allies of Imperial Japan.
- The Gem Empire in Steven Universe hates organic life and constantly exploit planet resources to create more gems (Lebensraum). They also have a strict hierarchy and devotion to their fascist leaders, the Great Diamond Authority, and have a weird salute.
- Marvel's X-Men frequently encounter fanatical (and often fundamentalist-expy factions) that want to wipe out all mutants, even if these exterminators may be mutants themselves. Oh, and Magneto in most incarnations goes "Nazi" in the opposite direction by wanting to kill all the humans, this being the result of his own experience with the Holocaust and losing the lives of his family to the unmatched cruelty of humankind.
TSR had the ™ and © symbols next to the word 'Nazi' where it appeared in their Indiana Jones RPG. This was probably for the sake of the artwork reproduced from the movie, but it's been a source of teasing and flames about TSR trying to claim exclusive ownership of the term 'Nazi.' Same shit happened with Marvel and their WW2 villains, and probably with Fawcett Comics since 'Captain Nazi' was a villain fighting Captain "Shazam" Marvel.
Long ago, /tg/ realized something that most competent people have: Nazis represent a great liberating force for any GM, for they represent a force that any player need not feel any remorse over resorting to violence against, because Nazis are the textbook template for villains in most settings. They desire world domination, see themselves as the apex species and view most others with utter contempt, wanton disregard for common life, have an industry primarily geared towards war, are the most powerful warmongers, and they have that evil-yet-sublime aesthetic to their armies. Nazis are a modern setting variant of using slavers as your enemy in a fantasy game: they have little to no redeeming values, so they're great enemy fodder.
The association gives the players a motivation and to understand that these people are evil, allowing the GM to focus on other aspects of the story. Indeed, one can get similar results by simply providing details that lead us to conclude that any group you are facing off against are this universe's version of Nazis. That said, that same context makes using Nazis a double-edged sword and a lazy GM (or author, script writer, or whatever; this is hardly unique to roleplaying) can royally screw up if one uses them incorrectly. Used incorrectly, Nazis become a kitten-eating one-dimensional caricature of villains descended into self parody, which can work if the world is built for it. Kitten-eating Nazis work best in "goofy" settings where it's fully possible, and indeed expected for the final boss to be Hitler himself riding a cyborg dinosaur, but in a setting trying to take itself seriously, such flat villains do just that, fall flat and fail to incite the proper emotional reaction. Remember that the key to successful Nazi use is that emotional reaction. That exportation of real world baggage is the point, perhaps the sole point to use Nazis over some other villain. Nazis have the additional problem of not even needing to be exaggerated that much to make the worst of them into something like this. So care must be taken when one plays the Nazi card, or it will come off as trite.
Entire stretches of d20 Past are shown various ways to implement, Indiana Jones style, Nazis into any campaign during the early 1900s, and Savage Worlds has an entire supplement devoted to thwarting Nazi super-soldier plans during WWII. More clever GMs can do even more interesting things with it, such as backing up the savagery of the Nazis with a humanizing element to make them more understandable, even if antagonists, whilst another interesting setting, proposed for GURPS, starts the players off as Nazis and has them turn against their former comrades as the movement becomes harder and harder to justify. It's also worth remembering that Nazis can be used for comedy as well; any one here heard of Hogan's Heroes? All of these lead to some pretty great storytelling, just so long as the GM is aware of the real world baggage Nazis will bring to the game and is able to use that to deepen the experience, otherwise he'll have just created Orks in fancy uniforms.
...And then you have this bullshit, which misses the point entirely and renders us all stupider for the knowledge of its existence.
Unfortunately, since /pol/ rose to prominence, neo-Nazism is actually considered "hip and cool" on 4chan, and as such any mention of Nazis as villains may cause that cesspit to spill onto the thread, turning it to shit.
Nazi Gear, Weapons, and Vehicles
For reasons given above, if you decide want to use Nazis as your bad guys at tonight's game (or protagonists if you roll that way. Just don't use RaHoWa as a basis unless you want to end up with a trainwreck of a game), here is a brief run down of basic information on Nazi equipment.