Nazism subscribed to theories of racial hierarchy and Social Darwinism, identifying the Germans as a part of what the Nazis regarded as an Aryan or Nordic master race. It aimed to overcome social divisions and create a German homogeneous society based on racial purity which represented a people's community (Volksgemeinschaft). The Nazis aimed to unite all Germans living in historically German territory, as well as gain additional lands for German expansion under the doctrine of Lebensraum and exclude those who they deemed either community aliens or "inferior" races. The term "National Socialism" arose out of attempts to create a nationalist redefinition of "socialism", as an alternative to both international socialism and free market capitalism. Nazism rejected the Marxist concept of class conflict, opposed cosmopolitan internationalism and sought to convince all parts of the new German society to subordinate their personal interests to the "common good" and accept political interests as the main priority of economic organization.
The Nazi Party's precursor, the Pan-German nationalist and antisemitic German Workers' Party, was founded on 5 January 1919. By the early 1920s, Adolf Hitler assumed control of the organization and renamed it the National Socialist German Workers' Party to broaden its appeal. The National Socialist Program was adopted in 1920 and called for a united Greater Germany that would deny citizenship to Jews or those of Jewish descent, while also supporting land reform and the nationalization of some industries. In Mein Kampf (1924–1925), Hitler outlined the anti-Semitism and anti-Communism at the heart of his political philosophy, as well as his disdain for parliamentary democracy and his belief in Germany's right to territorial expansion.
In 1933, with the support of traditional conservative nationalists, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany and the Nazis gradually established a one-party state, under which Jews, political opponents and other "undesirable" elements were marginalised and eventually several million people were imprisoned and killed. The Sturmabteilung (SA) and the Schutzstaffel (SS) functioned as the paramilitary organizations of the Nazi Party. Using mainly the SS for the task, Hitler purged the party’s more socially and economically radical factions in the mid-1934 Night of the Long Knives and after the death of President Hindenburg political power was concentrated in his hands and he became Germany's head of state with the title of Führer or "leader". Following the Holocaust and Germany's defeat in World War II, Nazi ideology became universally disgraced for the acts it inspired. It is widely regarded as immoral and even evil, with only a few fringe racist groups, usually referred to as neo-Nazis, describing themselves as followers of National Socialism.
The full name of the party was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (English: National-Socialist German Workers' Party) for which they officially used the acronym NSDAP.
The term "Nazi" was in use before the rise of the NSDAP as a colloquial and derogatory word for a backwards farmer or peasant, characterizing an awkward and clumsy person. This was derived from Nazi a hypocorism of the German men's name Ignatz (itself a variation of the men's name Ignatius) – Ignatz being a common name at the time in Bavaria, the area from which the NSDAP emerged.