The Audio|De-Führerprinzip.ogg|"Führerprinzip", German for "leader principle" prescribes a system with a hierarchy of leaders that resembles a military structure. This principle was applied to
civil societyat large in Nazi Germany.
The "Führerprinzip" was not invented by the Nazis.
Hermann Graf Keyserling, a German philosopher, was the first to use the term "Führerprinzip". One of Keyserling's central claims was that certain 'gifted individuals' were 'born to rule' on the basis of Social Darwinism.
ideologyof the "Führerprinzip" sees each organization as a hierarchy of leaders, where every leader ("Führer", in German) has absolute responsibility in his own area, demands absolute obedience from those below him and answers only to his superiors. The supreme leader, Adolf Hitler, answered to no one. Giorgio Agambenhas argued that Hitler saw himself as an incarnation of " auctoritas", and as the living law itself. The "Führerprinzip" paralleled the functionality of military organizations, which continue to use a similar authority structure today. The justification for the civil use of the "Führerprinzip" was that unquestioning obedience to superiors supposedly produced order and prosperity in which those deemed 'worthy' would share.
This principle became the law of the
Nazi Partyand the SSand was later transferred onto the whole German totalitarian society. Appointed mayors replaced elected local governments. The Nazis suppressed associations and unions with elected leaders, putting in their place mandatory associations with appointed leaders. The authorities allowed private corporations to keep their internal organization, but with a simple renaming from hierarchyto "Führerprinzip". In practice, the selection of unsuitable candidates often led to micromanagementand commonly to an inability to formulate coherent policy. Albert Speernoted that many Nazi officials dreaded making decisions in Hitler's absence. Rules tended to become oral rather than written; leaders with initiative who flouted regulations and carved out their own spheres of influence might receive praise and promotion rather than censure.
During the post-war
Nuremberg Trials, Nazi war criminalsndash and, later, Adolf Eichmannduring his trial in Israelndash attempted to use the "Führerprinzip" as a means to evade responsibility for war crimes: "I only did what I was told". Eichmann explicitly declared having abandoned his conscience in order to "do his job" and follow the orders. In " Eichmann in Jerusalem", Hannah Arendtconcluded that, aside from a desire for improving his career, Eichmann showed no trace of anti-Semitismor psychological damage. She called him the embodiment of the " banality of evil", as he appeared at his trial to have an ordinary and common personality, displaying neither guilt nor hatred, denying any form of responsibility. Eichmann argued he was simply "doing his job", which was supposed to be in accordance with Kant's categorical imperative. (See also Kant's " What is Enlightenment?", where the argument for obedience against consciousness is made explicit.) Arendt suggested that these statements most strikingly discredit the idea that the Nazi criminals were manifestly psychopathic and different from common people. that even the most ordinary of people can commit horrendous crimes if placed in the catalyzing situation, and given the correct incentives, but Arendt disagreed with this interpretationndash as Eichmann justified himself with the "Führerprinzip". Arendt argued that children obey, while adults adhere to an ideology.)
World War II
Functionalism versus intentionalismhistorian debate
* Obedience to Authority Study
Cult of personality
Unitary executive theory
* [http://www.shoaheducation.com/befehl.html Blind Obedience: "Befehlsnotstand" and "Führerprinzip"]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/wwtwo/hitler_commander_01.shtml BBC historical article]
* [http://www.wernercohn.com/Paulus.html Bearers of a Common Fate?]
* [http://mars.wnec.edu/~grempel/courses/germany/lectures/29nazipolitics.html The Political System of the Third Reich]
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