“Even the most wicked men sometimes tell the truth or reason correctly.”[1]

If you are about to lose a debate, call your opponent a Nazi! Such a charge brings all subsequent argumentation to a screeching halt. Calling someone a racist is almost as effective. The reductio ad Hitlerum, as University of Chicago Professor Leo Strauss named the fallacy, takes the following form: “Adolf Hitler, or Nazis in general, supported X; therefore X must be evil.” The fallacy is a form of the Genetic Fallacy which is an attempt to endorse or disqualify a claim because of its genesis, its origin.

Example: Adolf Hitler conceptualized the development of a “people’s car” which was later manufactured as the “Volkswagen.” Because the car’s origin is related to Adolf Hitler, who was an evil person, we should not purchase or drive a Volkswagen today.

Following this logic, dog lovers should reject German Shepherds since the breed was Hitler’s favorite. He also opposed Communism, labor unions, and feminism. Labor unions and feminism are foundational planks in the liberal political platform along with abortion and homosexuality. Germany’s anti-smoking campaign is reminiscent of the movement as it is expressed and formulated in the United States today:

Germany had the world’s strongest anti-smoking movement in the 1930s and early 1940s, encompassing bans on smoking in public spaces, bans on advertising, restrictions on tobacco rations for women, and the world’s most refined tobacco epidemiology, linking tobacco use with the already evident epidemic of lung cancer.[2]

The United States is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Interstate Highway System. It was created in 1956 when Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act. The Interstate system covers 46,876 miles. “As commander of the Allied Forces in World War II, he admired Germany’s countrywide autobahn highway system.”[3] Hitler was a big supporter of the autobahn.

Steven Conn, a writer for the History News Service and an associate professor of history at Ohio State University, pulls out the Reductio ad Hitlerum card in the abortion debate.

During the 20th century, the control of women’s reproductive lives marked the most despicable regimes. Among the first things the Nazis did upon seizing power in 1933 was to outlaw abortion. Family planning centers were closed, access to contraception made increasingly difficult and abortion criminalized. By 1943, the Nazis made abortion a capital offense punishable by the death penalty.”[4]

Adolf Hitler liked dogs, supported animal rights, promoted gun control, ate food, wore clothes, drove an automobile, liked sports, and didn’t smoke. Let’s send Mr. Conn an email and ask if he has ever driven on an Interstate Highway or admired a Volkswagen Beetle. He might be a Nazi!


[1] Henry A. Virkler, A Christian’s Guide to Critical Thinking (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993), 188. [2] Robert N Proctor, “The anti-tobacco campaign of the Nazis: a little known aspect of public health in Germany, 1933–45”
[3] Al Neuharth, “Traveling interstates is our sixth freedom, USA Today (June 23, 2006), 13A.
[4] Steven Conn, “Rights too personal to limit,” USA Today (June 23, 2006), A9.