“You know, Nazis were the National Socialist Party. Just like the Democrats are now a national socialist party.”

— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), speaking at an “America First” rally, May 27

Those who apparently do not know history are doomed to make basic mistakes.

It seems so simple. The official name of the Adolf Hitler’s political party — the Nazis — had the word “socialist” in it. Ergo, it must have been a socialist party. And that means that Democrats, some of whom call themselves socialists, must be Nazis. Or something like that.

Greene is not the first Republican lawmaker to make this facile observation. So here’s a quick history lesson. (The video above also provides a useful primer on socialism.)

The Facts

The full name of Hitler’s party was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. In English, that translates to National Socialist German Workers’ Party. But it was not a socialist party; it was a right-wing, ultranationalist party dedicated to racial purity, territorial expansion and anti-Semitism — and total political control.

Let’s take a look at the first eight of the “25 points” in the 1920 Nazi party platform.

1. We demand the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany on the basis of the right of self-determination of peoples.
2. We demand equality of rights for the German people in respect to the other nations; abrogation of the peace treaties of Versailles and St. Germain.
3. We demand land and territory (colonies) for the sustenance of our people, and colonization for our surplus population.
4. Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently no Jew can be a member of the race.
5. Whoever has no citizenship is to be able to live in Germany only as a guest, and must be under the authority of legislation for foreigners.
6. The right to determine matters concerning administration and law belongs only to the citizen. Therefore we demand that every public office, of any sort whatsoever, whether in the Reich, the county or municipality, be filled only by citizens. We combat the corrupting parliamentary economy, office-holding only according to party inclinations without consideration of character or abilities.
7. We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens. If it is impossible to sustain the total population of the State, then the members of foreign nations (non-citizens) are to be expelled from the Reich.
8. Any further immigration of non-citizens is to be prevented. [Note: this was aimed at Jews fleeing pogroms.] We demand that all non-Germans, who have immigrated to Germany since the 2 August 1914, be forced immediately to leave the Reich.

As Ronald Granieri of the Foreign Policy Research Institute has noted, in that platform there are also passages denouncing banks, department stores and “interest slavery.” That could be seen as “a quasi-Marxist rejection of free markets. But these were also typical criticisms in the anti-Semitic playbook, which provided a clue that the party’s overriding ideological goal wasn’t a fundamental challenge to private property.”

The Nazi party was largely supported by small-business men and conservative industrialists, not the proletariat. Still, left-wing parties such as the Communists and Social Democrats were major parties in 1920s Germany so the inclusion of “socialist” in the party’s name was attractive to working-class voters who might also be anti-Semitic. Hitler adamantly rejected socialist ideas, dismantled or banned left-leaning parties and disapproved of trade unions. In many countries, trade unions played important roles in socialist movements or helped launch political movements that eventually adopted socialist platforms.

In fact, one of the most famous quotes of that era, enshrined on a wall at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, is by Martin Niemöller, a prominent Lutheran pastor who spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps. His words provide a flavor of what the Nazis thought about socialists.

  • First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist.
  • Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.
  • Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.
  • Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

[Update: Some readers pointed out there are different versions of Niemöller’s quote, as he said it at various times after the war. The New England Holocaust Memorial, for instance, substitutes communists for socialists and adds Catholics. This history — critical of the version on the wall in Washington — says that Niemöller generally mentioned communists and Jews and then in the middle rotated socialists, Social Democrats or trade unionists.]

We sought comment from a Taylor spokesman but did not get a response.

The Pinocchio Test

We suggest Greene brush up on her history of the Nazi party. It was not a “socialist” party and cannot be compared, either in the United States or in Europe, to today’s socialists. She earns Four Pinocchios.

Four Pinocchios

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