Picture:
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Keystone/Getty Images/Owen Jones and Paul Joseph Watson Twitter screengrab

A persistent myth is that Adolf Hitler, and thus the Nazi party writ large was socialist.

The Hitler party did engage in "egaliterian rhetoric", historian Richard J Evans wrote in his book The Coming of the Third Reich, but it was just that - rhetoric.

True, as some have pointed out, its rhetoric was frequently egalitarian, it stressed the need to put common needs above the needs of the individual, and it often declared itself opposed to big business and international finance capital. Famously, too, anti-Semitism was once declared to be “the socialism of fools...”

...But from the very beginning, Hitler declared himself implacably opposed to Social Democracy and, initially to a much smaller extent, Communism: after all, the “November traitors” who had signed the Armistice and later the Treaty of Versailles were not Communists at all, but the Social Democrats.

Infowars editor-at-large Paul Joseph Watson attempted to give the myth of Nazi socialism a new lease of life, by sharing a quote claiming to be from Hitler.

We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property, instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.

There’s just one problem with the above quote: these are not Hitler's words.

The quote belongs to Gregor Strasser, who Hitler had assassinated in 1934.

Him:

Picture:Picture: (Wiki Commons/German Federal Archive/Bundesarchiv )

The words were printed on a 1926 pamphlet called Thoughts about the Tasks of the Future, by Strasser, an early Nazi party official.

At the time, the Nazis existed in the political periphery, Snopesreports. The pamphlet was used as a tool to appeal to both left and right sentiments in an effort to grow the party.

In fact, though he went on to be a prominent member of the Nazi party, his opposition to Hitler’s anti-semitism, as well as his unwillingness to make social reforms, prompted Hitler to have him killed.

So...where does this idea come from?

The idea appears to originate from a biography written about Adolf Hitler by John Toland in the 1970s. He said Hitler had “paraphrased” Strasser during a 1927 speech. However, in a 1992 reprint Toland says Hitler used socialism to get him votes.

Speaking to indy100, history teacher Mike Stuchbery confirms this idea:

In the 1920s, the 'overton window' of accepted discourse was dragged to the far left. Anybody who wanted to gain the support of the German workers, who were politically aware *had* to adopt the language of the left. There was no way to electoral victory without it. We're also talking about a private event here. The speech Hitler gave was given at a time when the party was under intense scrutiny. A week after Hitler gave his speech, Berlin authorities banned the party.

He adds that it is difficult to confirm Toland’s claim, because it’s hard to find a transcript of Hitler’s speech.

Why does it keep coming up?

Mr Stuchbery says it's because:

The study of history is complex. Social media is short, brief and to the point. When they come together, nuance, context and intent are lost. Mis-attribution is all too easy, whether by intent or honest mistake, and a correction simply won't travel as far as the original.

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