THE Tory right has tried for a very long time to avoid the inconvenient truth that Adolf Hitler and his mass murdering fanatical regime was an expression of extreme right-wing nationalism.

In this sad tradition Norman Tebbit – former Tory Cabinet minister, ex-chair of the party and long-time Thatcher ally – in a Daily Telegraph column earlier this week called Hitler “extreme left” – clearly a continuation of this long and dishonourable practice.

The only supporting evidence Tebbit provides is the schoolboy debating point that the full name of the Nazi Party was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). Normally, right-wing deniers mention the scale to which Nazis expanded the state, that like Roosevelt they did public works and built autobahns, and that they brought those they regarded as “pure” Germans together in summer camps and Hitler Youth.

It is a meagre set of arguments compared to the compelling evidence that Hitler and his henchmen were unashamedly on the extreme-right. Hitler’s political agenda once in power was in hock with big business who made millions in profits from his programme of increased state spending and militarisation.

Nazis attacked and killed socialists, communists and trade unionists in street battles prior to coming to power in 1933, and systematically after taking power, arrested them and put them in concentration camps.

The Nazis waged war on democracy at home and internationally, with Spain the first country to be a victim of Nazi military aggression in the Spanish Civil War. Here Hitler and Mussolini supported Franco’s armed uprising against the democratically elected left-wing Republican Government.

The Nazi regime in its genocidal racism, antisemitism and pursuit of the Holocaust which killed six million Jews, as well as countless others such as Gypsies, Roma people, disabled people and homosexuals, pursued an extreme white supremacist nationalism.

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Historians such as Mark Mazower have noted that the Nazis bought the methods and practices of European imperialism back home to brutal effect on the European continent. The Nazis practiced systemic mass murder – similar in many respects to the European empires of Britain, France and Belgium, which the British right and the likes of Norman Tebbit long approved of when done far away, but in this case inflicted upon their fellow Europeans.

Hitler had many admirers and sympathisers in Britain on the right: Oswald Mosley, the British fascist leader, the Mitford sisters, and Lord Rothermere and his Daily Mail who penned the infamous ‘Hurray for the Blackshirts’ headline in January 1934. It is less well-known that the admiration was reciprocal with Hitler saying of Rothermere that he was “one of the greatest of all Englishmen” and of the Daily Mail that: “His paper is doing an immense amount of good.”

The National: Hitler admirer Sir Oswald MosleyHitler admirer Sir Oswald Mosley

In recent years the British right have displayed a fixation with Hitler and the Nazis seeing modern Germany through blinkered eyes, stooping to compare the European Union and its ambitions with the Nazi project of world domination.

Nicholas Ridley was a key Thatcher ally in the 1980s, Tory minister and architect of the poll tax. In 1990 he gave a now infamous interview to The Spectator where he compared plans for further European integration with the Nazis, stating “the idea that one says, ‘OK, we'll give this lot our sovereignty’, is unacceptable to me ...You might just as well give it to Adolf Hitler”. This led to huge controversy then and he had to resign as a minister, but such misguided sentiment has become commonplace on the right.

In 2016, Boris Johnson wrote, in a piece with the untactful title ‘The EU wants a superstate, just as Hitler did’, of democratic plans for European co-operation today, saying: “Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.”

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Whether Boris Johnson on Europe, or Norman Tebbit denying that Hitler is on the right, these are infantile interpretations of history. In an age where having a greater knowledge and understanding of history has come centre stage many on the right exhibit a deliberate denial of European and British history.

The aim is to give voice to British exceptionalism and a narrow, dogmatic British (and in reality, mostly English) nationalism which is xenophobic, racist, intolerant of others, and that presents a fantasyland version of history to disguise and deflect from today’s failures.

The Nazis matter in this and are a warning from history relevant to the here and now. Brunhilde Pomsel, the secretary to Nazi minister for propaganda Joseph Goebbels, gave a powerful call to arms just before her death at the age of 106 a few years ago, when she looked back on her life as a young woman working with a regime of evil. She said: “Hitler was elected democratically, and bit by bit he got his own way. Of course that could always repeat itself with Trump or Erdogan.”

We must never forget the crimes of the Nazis, or let the Tebbits away with their evasions, while standing up for democracy, the rule of law and minorities, and never ever let Nazis and fascists away with what they are: the grubby hate-filled politics of a white supremacist and nationalist ultra-right.

Dr Gerry Hassan is Senior Research Fellow in contemporary history at the University of Dundee and can be followed at @gerryhassan and contacted via

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