"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
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 belonged 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 genocidal loons.
The Nazis' 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 among 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 Darwin 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 fuck ups 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 surrendered during the middle years of the war.
While Germany may have had some areas of technological advantage (at least initially and this is often overstated), 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; thus the Nazi regime finally met its end when the allies marched into Berlin and Hitler *BLAM*med himself along with his mad-as-a-hatter common-law wife. While their hate-wagon managed to go far and overrun most of 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 and as most powerful nations of the time opposed them either because they cherished their political freedoms, saw their economies fail, or simply were on the Nazi "to-exterminate" list.
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. Because humanity needed to push any excess to its breaking point to HOPEFULLY learn restraint, preferably not destroying the planet in the process.
Nazi Portrayals in FictionEdit
Nazis are portrayed as an over the top wacky military who like leading crusades against the jews (and other people) and build secret bases on the moon, under water, or some other silly place. Their technology was always exaggerated with laser weapons, giant robots, walking tanks, and Robo-Hitler. Some vidya portrayals even goes so far as to put it all together in a big ball of LOLWUT and add a touch of magical voodoo shit because nazis are crazy and if the name isn't obvious they aren't, we're going to make sure it does.
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*BLAM* SPEAKING ILL OF THE IMPERIUM IS EXTRA HERESY.
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 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 s*BLAM*
Impact on FantasyEdit
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. To illustrate, by 1945 the typical American INFANTRY division could expect to have as many tanks as a Nazi armored division, and an American armored division could simply zerg-rush their Nazi counterpart.
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.
Nazis are 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, 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, with comedy brought to you by Walt Disney and Warner Bros. 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.
- 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. Nazis had a hatred for what they believed was üntermenschen 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.
- 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.
- 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 evil (for the right reasons), and our modern world is the result of an Allied victory. A Nazi victory, to us, is just unthinkable.
Long ago, /tg/ realized something that most competent GMs 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 creates the understanding that these people are Completely 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. All of these lead to some pretty great storytelling, just so long as the GM knows how to play them correctly and prevent them from becoming a wackier version of an Ork.
...And then you have this bullshit, which misses the point entirely and renders us all stupider for the knowledge of its existence.
Nazi Gear, Weapons, and VehiclesEdit
If you decide to use Nazis as your bad guys at tonight's game, here is a brief run down of basic information on Nazi equipment. If you're planning to play them as protagonists, either make sure it's well written with an enemy that rivals or surpasses their evil, or you're likely playing Racial Holy War and should thoroughly reconsider your life choices.