The party emerged from the German nationalist, racist and populist Freikorps paramilitary culture, which fought against the communist uprisings in post-World War I Germany. The party was created as a means to draw workers away from communism and into völkisch nationalism.Initially, Nazi political strategy focused on anti-big business, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist rhetoric, although such aspects were later downplayed in order to gain the support of industrial entities, and in the 1930s the party's focus shifted to anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist themes.
Racism was central to Nazism. The Nazis propagated the idea of a "people's community" (Volksgemeinschaft). Their aim being one to unite "racially desirable" Germans as national comrades, whilst excluding those deemed either to be political dissidents, physically or intellectually inferior, or of a foreign race (Fremdvölkische). The Nazis sought to improve the stock of the Germanic people 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 Nazi state and the "Aryan master race". To maintain the supposed purity and strength of the Aryan race, the Nazis sought to exterminate Jews, Romani, and the physically and mentally handicapped. They imposed exclusionary segregation on homosexuals, Africans, Jehovah's Witnesses, and political opponents. The persecution reached its climax when the party-controlled German state organized the systematic murder of approximately six million Jews and five million people from the other targeted groups, in what has become known as the Holocaust.
The party's leader since 1921, Adolf Hitler, was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg in 1933. Hitler rapidly established a totalitarian regime known as the Third Reich. Following the defeat of the Third Reich at the conclusion of World War II in Europe, the party was "declared to be illegal" by the Allied powers, who performed denazification in the years after the war.