In the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, both sides call the opposite one 'Nazis'.

Many politicians or even parties in the West which are not mainstream are also often called Nazis. The most famous example could be Trump, who is definitely a very controversial person, but definitely can't be compared to the Nazis as they existed in Germany between 1933 and 1945.

After 1945, the winners of the war, which represented both the capitalist and communist parts of the world, agreed to some definition of what is a Nazi. I am wondering if that definition is still valid and how exactly it's defined?

What I am asking for is a definition of Nazi by international law or any other internationally accepted authority.

  • It might differ by country. Here you're likely to get an Western/English-centric def. (Not my DV, by the way.) Aug 8, 2022 at 5:39

5 Answers 5


Unlike fascism (where there is no widely accepted modern definition), "Nazi" has almost exclusively referred to people who believe in what the Nazi party of Germany (late 1930s through the end of World War II in 1945) espoused

Pseudoscientific racist theories were central to Nazism, expressed in the idea of a "people's community" (Volksgemeinschaft). The party aimed to unite "racially desirable" Germans as national comrades, while excluding those deemed to be either political dissidents, physically or intellectually inferior, or of a foreign race (Fremdvölkische). The Nazis sought to strengthen the Germanic people, the "Aryan master race", through racial purity and eugenics, broad social welfare programs, and a collective subordination of individual rights, which could be sacrificed for the good of the state on behalf of the people. To protect the supposed purity and strength of the Aryan race, the Nazis sought to exterminate Jews, Romani, Poles and most other Slavs, along with the physically and mentally disabled. They disenfranchised and segregated homosexuals, black people, Jehovah's Witnesses, and political opponents. The persecution reached its climax when the party-controlled German state set in motion the Final Solution—an industrial system of genocide which achieved the murder of around 6 million Jews and millions of other targeted victims, in what has become known as the Holocaust.

This term is exclusively a political one.* To break it down, the Nazis believed in

  1. White supremacy (specifically Aryan races, or those of European descent)
  2. Antisemitism, or a severe dislike for those of Jewish belief or descent (regardless of skin color)

We don't have to theorize about this because various groups (such as skinheads who espouse those ideas) still exist today (albeit in much smaller numbers). I know of no other serious usage (i.e. outside political "name calling").

*There is a sub-genre here of "nazi", where it is simply a synonym for someone with a very militant view, who openly dislikes other views/actions out of line with their own. This term has some roots in pop culture, and is not a political term at all.

  • 4
    You skip over the "political name calling". But that, surely, is what this question is all about. Nobody is seriously suggesting that any members of the Ukrainian government were members of the German ruling party 1933-45. I don't think this answers the question (but I don't think an answer is possible)
    – James K
    Aug 7, 2022 at 21:09
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    @JamesK, not skipping. This "name calling" does not attempt to use anything like a definition. The Russian definition seems to be "anybody they don't like."
    – o.m.
    Aug 8, 2022 at 5:20
  • 1
    Exactly! Nazi, in the context of the OP is "someone we don't like". Which is why I voted to close.
    – James K
    Aug 8, 2022 at 9:44
  • 1
    @JamesK it's a certain type of disliked person Aug 8, 2022 at 14:44
  • 2
    In German Nazi refers to people who were part of the NSDAP in the time frame you mentioned and then we also have the term Neo-Nazi for anyone who believes in Nazi Ideology but was not alive (or very young) during the NSDAP era
    – SirHawrk
    Aug 10, 2022 at 7:18

What I am asking for is a definition of Nazi by international law.

There is no such thing. International law defines genocide, crimes against humanity etc. Those have legal definitions in international law. "Nazi", does not, although the laws of some countries (e.g. Germany, and I guess Russia too) that ban Nazi stuff probably have more to say about this (i.e. define Nazi in some actionable way), but it won't be something coming from international law.

On the other hand, the Soviet authorities (contra to Western ones) did, at times, try to emphasize Nazi crimes against Slavs or Soviets more than against others (e.g. against Jews), but this wasn't a consistently followed approach. Typical of such happening were the opening statements at Nuremberg of General Rudenko, who while expounding on Nazi racial theories didn't mention the special attention that those theories reserved to Jews.

In his opening statement, Justice Jackson, Chief Prosecutor for the United States of America, dedicated an entire section to crimes against the Jews. [...]

General Rudenko’s opening statement began with a long treatise on Nazi racial theory as the key to understanding their vision of the world. He left out any mention to the place of the Jews in this theory, but he did utter this well-known, eloquent statement about Nazi occupation policy:

The population of these countries, and of Slav countries above all others – especially Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Poles, Czechs, Serbians, Slovenes, Jews – were subjected to merciless persecution and mass extermination.

But in a bunch of other trials the Soviets did prosecute such Nazi crimes against Jews, so the propaganda emphasis on Soviet suffering wasn't too consequential... then. On, the other hand, it seems more consequential nowadays as Kremlin-linked media figures like Vladimir Solovyov have rediscovered this Soviet tradition

“Nazism doesn’t necessarily mean antisemitism, as the Americans keep concocting. It can be anti-Slavic, anti-Russian,” said Solovyov

I don't know much about Soviet history writing in the meantime, but Western sources maintain that e.g. equating Czech suffering with that of the Jews at Nazi hands is fairly ridiculous. (See e.g. what the Final Solution of the Czech Question looked like.) I'm a bit pressed for time to summarize more of that (interesting) article here, but generally speaking while Nazi theories regarded the Slavs as inferior, they also "found" odd pockets or strains of Aryan blood among them. (I posted some details in the comments while the Q was closed.) As that paper puts that issue in a nutshell:

Thus in Hitler's mind small doses of German blood could dominate other sorts of blood--except in the case of Jews, where the opposite was the case.

And the Nazi conception of problems with the Soviet space was also that it had fallen under the influence of the Jews since the October revolution.

  • Based on another paper, there was hardly any anti-Russian sentiment aired in the Ukrainian press in the Nazi-controlled territories; articles consisted "mainly of anti-Bolshevism and antisemitism. The Germans needed the support of the whole population of Ukraine, of the Russian part too, and were careful to avoid any equating of Russians with Bolsheviks, as happened in the rhetoric of the OUN." Aug 8, 2022 at 21:29
  • So if Holodomor was the topic, Nazi-controlled Ukrainian press blamed the Jews. An NKVD grave was discovered? Said press ultimately blames the Jews. Simple propaganda leaflets proclaimed that ‘Stalin and the Jews are a single band of crooks’ etc. Aug 8, 2022 at 21:46


the term 'Nazi' has become a generic term for 'absolute evil' that is completely disconnected from its original historical meaning and context

as said here by Laura Jockusch, a professor of Holocaust studies. The word used to have the meaning in the past but nobody longer cares.

The position of Russian propaganda is the official position. Due that there is no longer meaning for the word that now serves for propaganda purposes only. It can be applied to any opponent, even Jews including. It is used to evoke the memory of the Soviet Union’s defense against Nazi Germany for propaganda purposes (source).

Or ... should I say a Nazi is a member of the National Socialist Party in Germany in the 1930s or 1940s (source) instead? This was actually the real meaning of this word. Denazification is the process undergone in Germany after the Second World War. Hitler wanted to turn Ukraine into a “German California” and clear the space of the Soviet Union of its indigenous inhabitants for settlement by Aryans. German plans called for hunger to be used as a weapon to kill an estimated 30 million people by 1942 (source). Anybody remembers?

A lengthy list of historians signed a letter condemning the Russian government's cynical abuse of historical terms.


In addition to other answers...

According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics and International Relations, 4ed, 2018 -

National Socialism
In Germany, the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) rose to power under its leader Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) (who was appointed Chancellor in 1933) and sought to effect a complete transformation of state and society, creating in effect a ruthless dictatorship and single‐party monopoly of power which has come to be seen as a form of totalitarianism. Ideologically National Socialism combined an extreme form of nationalism (including strongly racist and anti‐Semitic beliefs in the superiority of the Germanic‐Aryan community over all other peoples and cultures) and a distinctive concept of state‐led socialism which was far removed from both revolutionary Marxism and social democracy. The overriding aim was to inaugurate a new epoch of history embodied in a Third Reich or empire in which a territorially enlarged German nation would become the dominant force in world politics. A strongly militaristic focus drew National Socialist Germany into an acceptance of war as a necessary means of achieving national ambitions and in particular the goal of greater Lebensraum (or ‘living‐space’ for the German Volk). Only with the military defeat of Germany in 1945 and the deliberate policies of de‐Nazification which were subsequently implemented by the occupying powers was the National Socialist movement finally eradicated.

A clearer and relatively more concise definition is given in The Routledge Dictionary of Politics, 3ed, 2004 -

National Socialism
National socialism was the doctrine of the German Nazi party (the full title of which was the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), a blend of intense nationalist, even xenophobic, policy with some pretences to be socialist, in at least the sense of representing the workers (hence the Arbeit in the full German title). It could never in fact be socialist, because it denied the reality of classes and class conflict, arguing instead that there was one true German nation, whose natural unity was threatened only by ‘non-German’ elements inside the country, and by external enemies. National socialism was closely allied with the wave of fascism which swept much of Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, although it had its roots in ideas already circulating in 19th century Germany, and its racism, and particularly anti-Semitism, was far more pronounced than other fascist parties. However, as is usually true in fascist movements, opportunism was rampant, and any symbol that could be invoked to get support was used.

The latter can be generalized/adapted in the case of other similar far-right ideologies in any country. For example, in the case of, say, India, this would read like the following:

... It argues that there was one true Indian nation whose natural unity was threatened only by ‘non-Indian’ elements inside the country by external enemies. ...

The fact of the matter is that there are several political parties in India that believe in such an ideology. These parties are called Hindu Nationalist parties, and their ideology is called Hindutva. By non-Hindu these parties implicitly mean the Muslim population in India. However, this can also include Christians and other religious minorities whose religion was not originated in ancient India.

Historically, Hindu nationalism originated with the establishment of Arya Samaj (Aryan Society) in 1875. Then came the Hindu Mahasabha (The Hindu Assembly) in 1915. Finally, by far, the most widely known organization is Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS (National Volunteer Corps), established in 1925. The current PM of India is a life member of RSS. However, he became PM from the platform of The Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP (Indian People’s Party), widely considered an offshoot of the RSS.

  • Sorry, Modi's Hindu nationalism is negative and dangerous, but it's not neo-Nazism. There's not any evidence that he takes any inspiration from the Third Reich, and it lacks not just some major tenets of the Nazi party (e.g., superiority of Europeans, a focus on anti-Semitism) but almost all of them. Modi might be racist and (neo)fascist, but not a neo-Nazi. There are tons of racist, (neo)fascist people, some of whom even predated the Nazis (Leopold of Belgium might be considered such a case, at least as he governed in the Congo; Mussolini is obvious).
    – Obie 2.0
    Aug 9, 2022 at 5:13
  • Yes, really. Note that most of the citations in that section (and all the modern ones) only describe Hindu nationalism as potentially fascist, not neo-Nazi, with the sociologists cited pointing out difficulties in equating it with neo-Nazism based on its ideology. Nor does the existence of certain historical associations between RSS and the Nazi Party render the former neo-Nazis: the other Axis Powers, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, were closely associated with Nazi Germany without themselves adhering to Nazism.
    – Obie 2.0
    Aug 9, 2022 at 7:11

There is no official definition besides the one in your favourite dictionary, be it German, German-English, or English. Still, you can roughly characterize a "Nazi" as “a follower of the nationalistic ideology stated in Mein Kampf and/or a member of NSDAP”.

This characterization, however, exposes the following problem: today, most folks talking about Nazis have never read this book and are not a member of NSDAP. Even most folks perceiving themselves as Nazis haven't read the book. They have no idea. In the modern times, this book is difficult to understand: though you'd understand (almost) every single word, you'd find it difficult to grasp the meaning of certain sentences and have more difficulties with certain paragraphs or even sections. The world has changed so much since Mein Kampf that the book simply does not apply any longer. There are very few true Nazis these days.

The word meaning has changed. Nazi nowadays seldom refers to the actual ideology of Mein Kampf; it sometimes characterizes the folks on the right political wing beyond legality. The word is used much more as a swearing word, a curse word, or, on the contrary, a word of pride regardless of the actual political position or actuals beliefs, let alone the original meaning.

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