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Nazis believed in the Aryan race.
The "Aryan race" is a concept in European culture that was influential in the period of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Aryan race derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendents up to the present day constitute a distinctive race. In its best-known incarnation, under Nazism, it was argued that the earliest Aryans were identical to Nordic people. Belief in the superiority of the "Aryan race" is sometimes referred to as Aryanism. This should not be confused with the unrelated Christian religious belief known as Arianism.
Aryan race the origin and background of the concept.
In its original use, in the Indo-Iranian languages of the 3rd or 4th millennium BC, "Aryan" may or may not have had any racial meaning, certainly not in the sense that the concept of race is distorted today. In this sense an "Aryan" (Spiritual, Noble) identity is mentioned in Old Persian inscriptions and other Persian sources from c. 500 BC onwards. The word originally (and legitimately) applied to the Indo-Iranian culture, became tied in nineteenth century linguistics to Indo-European culture as a whole as ethnologists and linguists speculated that Europeans descended from an ancient people called the Aryans. The idea of the "Aryan race" also arose when linguists identified the avestan and Vedic Sanskrit (ancient languages of Persia and Northern India, respectively) as the oldest known relatives of all the major European languages. These hypothetical ancestors were given the name Aryans, from the Sanskrit and avestan word Arya, which means "noble, free, spiritual or skillful person".
In Europe new concepts were forged around it. These new ideas in Europe reached their height of popularity during the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. Inspired by the discovery of the Indo-European language family. 19th century ethnologists speculated that European peoples descended from an ancient people called the Aryans. The term Aryan thus came to exclude not only traditionally defined "non-white" groups such as Africans, and East Asians, but also Semitic peoples (Jews and Arabs). This was because the Semitic languages are unrelated to Indo-European, a fact that was used to argue that the ancestral population of Semites was completely separate from that of Aryans. Among Antisemites this led to the claim that Jews were an alien presence in Aryan societies and the Semitic peoples were often pointed to as the cause of conversion and destruction of social order and values leading to culture and civilization's downfall.
The word anti-Semitic was first used in 1860 by the Austrian Jewish scholar Moritz Steinschneider in the phrase "anti-Semitic prejudices". Steinschneider used this phrase to characterize Ernest Renan's ideas about how "Semitic races" were inferior to "Aryan races." These pseudo-scientific theories concerning race, civilization, and "progress" had become quite widespread in Europe. In its best-known incarnation, under Nazism, hostility toward or prejudice against Jews became institutionalized. Nazism portrayed their interpretation of an "Aryan race" as the only race capable of, or with an interest in, creating and maintaining culture and civilizations, while other races are merely capable of conversion, or destruction of culture.
The word Iran is a cognate of Aryan, and is derived from the word Aryanam (see Airyanem Vaejah), meaning "Land of the Aryans", a term adopted in antiquity by the Iranic-peoples meaning free, noble, spiritual. Seventy percent of those living in modern Iran are native speakers of Iranian/Aryan dialects. India was in ancient times also referred to as Aryavarta, which means "Abode of the Aryans". Indo-Aryan speaking people form the majority of the population of northern India. The term Arya (noble) appears in the ancient texts of Hinduism and Zoroastrianism, known as the Rigveda and Gathas, respectively.
Since, in the 19th century, the Indo-Iranians were the most ancient known speakers of "Indo-European" languages, the word Aryan was adopted to refer not only to the Indo-Iranian people, but also to Indo-European speakers as a whole, including the Romans, Greeks, the Germans, Balts, Celts and Slavs. It was argued that all of these languages originated from a common root - now known as Proto-Indo-European - spoken by an ancient people who must have been the original ancestors of the European, Iranian, and Indo-Aryan peoples. The ethnic group composed of the Proto-Indo Europeans and their modern descendants was termed the Aryans with the idea of distinctive behavioral and ancestral ethnicity marked by language distribution. This usage was common in the late 19th and early 20th century. An example of an influential best-selling book that reflects this usage is the 1920 book The Outline of History by H.G. Wells. In it he wrote of the accomplishments of the Aryan people, stating how they "learned methods of civilization" while "Sargon II and Sardanapalus were ruling in Assyria and fighting with Babylonia and Syria and Egypt". As such, Wells suggested that the Aryans had eventually "subjugated the whole ancient world, Semitic, Aegean and Egyptian alike".
The usage of Aryan to mean "all Indo-Europeans" is now regarded by most scholars as "obsolete", though it is still seen occasionally and some people continue this usage. In today's English, "Aryan", if used at all, is normally synonymous to Indo-Iranian, or Proto-Indo-Iranian. The idea that the north Europeans were the "purest" of these people was later theorized by the Comte de Gobineau and by other writers, most notably his disciple Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who wrote of an "Aryan race"-those who spoke Indo-European languages and were claimed to be the "noblest" of people.
Some scientists regard race as a social construct while others maintain it has genetic basis. Modern research considers Aryan merely in connection with the Iranians, and contemporary anthropologists who believe in the existence of an ancient Aryan race, generally have the opinion that its closest descendants today are the Iranic-peoples. In Theosophy these eastern Aryans are the first subrace out of the fifth root race, and are "spiritually the highest people on earth".Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine, she states "Verily mankind is 'is of the same blood,' but not of the same essence." She regularly contrasts "Aryan" with "Semitic" culture, asserting that Semitic peoples are an offshoot of Aryans who have become "degenerate in spirituality and perfected in materiality." However because of its association with racism, the words Aryan and Aryan race may for some people carry negative connotations.
Also discoverys of the Indo-European language group in the 1790s led to a great effort by archaeologists to link the pre-history of European peoples to the ancient "Aryans" (variously referring to the Indo-Iranians or the Proto-Indo-Europeans). These discoveries, and the new popularity of the swastika symbol, led to a widespread desire to ascribe symbolic significance to every example of the motif. In Germanic countries examples of similar shapes in ancient European artifacts and in folk art were interpreted as emblems of good-luck linked to the Indo-Iranian meaning. Western use of the motif, along with the religious and cultural meanings attached to it, was subverted in the early twentieth century after it was adopted as the emblem of the Nazi Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei). This association occurred because Nazism stated that the historical Aryans were the forefathers of modern Germans and then proposed that, because of this, the subjugation of the world by Germany was desirable, and even predestined. The swastika was used as a conveniently geometrical and eye-catching symbol to emphasize the so-called Aryan-German correspondence and instill racial pride. Since World War II, many people know the swastika as solely a Nazi symbol, leading to incorrect assumptions about its pre-Nazi use in the West and confusion about its sacred religious and historical status in other cultures.
Interpretations of the term Aryan race.
During the 19th century, it was commonly believed that the Aryan race originated in the southwestern steppes of present-day Russia, and including the Caucasus Mountains. The Steppe theory of Aryan origins was not the only one circulating during the nineteenth century, however. Many British, American and German scholars argued that the Aryans originated in ancient Germany or Scandinavia, or at least that in those countries the original Aryan ethnicity had been preserved. The German origin of the Aryans was especially promoted by the archaeologist Gustaf Kossinna, who claimed that the Proto-Indo-European peoples were identical to the Corded ware culture of Neolithic Germany. This idea was widely circulated in both intellectual and popular culture by the early twentieth century.
Aryan Race and the British Raj.
In India, under the British Empire, the British rulers also used the idea of a distinct Aryan race in order to ally British power with the Indian caste system. It was widely claimed that the Aryans were white people who had invaded India in ancient times, subordinating the darker skinned native Dravidian peoples, who were pushed to the south. Thus the foundation of Hinduism was ascribed to northern invaders who had established themselves as the dominant castes, and who were supposed to have created the sophisticated Vedic texts. Much of these theories were simply conjecture fueled by European imperialism (see white man's burden). This styling of an "Aryan invasion" by British colonial fantasies of racial supremacy lies at the origin of the fact that all discussion of historical Indo-Aryan migrations or Aryan and Dravidian "races" remains highly controversial in India to this day, and does continue to affect political and religious debate. Some Dravidians, and supporters of the Dalit movement, most commonly Tamils, claim that the worship of Shiva is a distinct Dravidian religion going back to the Indus Civilization, to be distinguished from Brahminical "Aryan" Hinduism. In contrast, the Indian nationalist Hindutva movement argues that no Aryan invasion or migration ever occurred, asserting that Vedic beliefs emerged from the Indus Valley Civilisation, which pre-dated the supposed advent of the Indo-Aryans in India, and is identified as a likely candidate for a Proto-Dravidian culture.
Some Indians were also influenced by the debate about the Aryan race. The Indian nationalist V. D. Savarkar believed in the theory that an "Aryan race" migrated to India, but he didn't find much value in a racialized interpretation of the "Aryan race". Some Indian nationalists supported the theory because it gave them the prestige of common descent with the ruling British class.
Aryan Race Theosophy.
These debates were addressed within the Theosophical movement founded by Helena Blavatsky and Henry Olcott at the end of the nineteenth century. This was an early kind of New Age philosophy, that took inspiration from Indian culture, in particular from the Hindu reform movement the Arya Samaj founded by Swami Dayananda.
Blavatsky argued that humanity had descended from a series of "Root Races", naming the fifth root race (out of seven) the "Aryan" Race. She thought that the Aryans originally came from Atlantis and described the Aryan races with the following words:
Blavatsky used "Root Race" as a technical term to describe human evolution over the large time periods in her cosmology. However, she also claimed that there were modern non-Aryan peoples who were inferior to Aryans. She regularly contrasts "Aryan" with "Semitic" culture, to the detriment of the latter, asserting that Semitic peoples are an offshoot of Aryans who have become "degenerate in spirituality and perfected in materiality.". She also states that some peoples are "semi-animal creatures". These latter include "the Tasmanians, a portion of the Australians and a mountain tribe in China." There are also "considerable numbers of the mixed Lemuro-Atlantean peoples produced by various crossings with such semi-human stocks -- e.g., the wild men of Borneo, the Veddhas of Ceylon, classed by Prof. Flower among Aryans (!), most of the remaining Australians, Bushmen, Negritos, Andaman Islanders, etc.".
Despite this, Blavatsky's admirers claim that her thinking was not connected to fascist or racialist ideas, asserting that she believed in a Universal Brotherhood of humanity and wrote that "all men have spiritually and physically the same origin" and that "mankind is essentially of one and the same essence". On the other hand, in The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky states: "Verily mankind is 'of one blood,' but not of the same essence."
Blavatsky connects physical race with spiritual attributes constantly throughout her works:
According to Blavatsky, "the MONADS of the lowest specimens of humanity (the "narrow-brained" savage South-Sea Islander, the African, the Australian) had no Karma to work out when first born as men, as their more favoured brethren in intelligence had".
She also prophecies of the destruction of the racial "failures of nature" as the future "higher race" ascends:
Guido von List (and his followers such as Lanz von Liebenfels) later took up some of Blavatsky's ideas, mixing her ideology with nationalistic and fascist ideas; this system of thought became known as Ariosophy. Such views also fed into the development of Nazi ideology. However, the theosophical publications such as The Aryan Path were strongly opposed to the Nazi usage, attacking racialism.
Nazism and the Aryan Race.
The theory of the Northern origins of the Aryans was particularly influential in Germany. It was widely believed that the Vedic Aryans were ethnically identical to the Goths, Vandals and other ancient Germanic peoples of the Völkerwanderung. This idea was often intertwined with anti-Semitic ideas. The distinctions between the "Aryan" and "Semitic" peoples were based on the linguistic and ethnic history described above. In this way Semitic peoples came to be seen as a foreign presence within "Aryan" societies, and the Semitic peoples were often pointed to as the cause of conversion and destruction of social order and values leading to culture and civilization's downfall by proto-Nazi and Nazi theorists such as Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Alfred Rosenberg.
According to the adherents to Ariosophy, the Aryan was a master race that built a civilization that dominated the world from Atlantis about ten thousand years ago. This alleged civilization declined when other parts of the world were colonized after the 8,000 BC destruction of Atlantis because the inferior races mixed with the Aryans but it left traces of their civilization in Tibet (via Buddhism), and even in Central America, South America, and ancient Egypt. (The date of 8,000 BC for the destruction of Atlantis in Ariosophy is 2,000 years later than the date of 10,000 BC given for this event in Theosophy.) These theories affected the more esotericist strand of Nazism.
A complete, highly speculative and racist theory of Aryan and anti-Semitic history can be found in Alfred Rosenberg's publication, Race and Race History. Rosenberg's account of ancient history is very well researched, but his conclusions require great leaps in logic. But the seemingly scholarly nature of such works was very effective in spreading Aryan supremacist theories among German intellectuals in the early 20th century, especially after the first World War.
These and other ideas evolved into the Nazi use of the term "Aryan race" to refer to what they saw as being a "master race" of people of northern European descent, going to extreme and violent lengths to "maintain the purity" of this race through a far-reaching eugenics program (including anti-miscegenation legislation, compulsory sterilization of the mentally ill and the mentally deficient, the execution of the institutionalized mentally ill as part of a euthanasia program, and eventually the systematic targeting of "die Untermenschen," or lesser races, of Jews and Roma people in the Holocaust). This usage now has nearly no meaning outside of Nazi ideology.
It is noteworthy that Heinrich Himmler, the person ordered by Adolf Hitler to implement the Final Solution (Holocaust), told his personal masseur Kersten that he always carried with him a copy of the ancient Aryan scripture, the Bhagavad Gita because it relieved him of guilt about what he was doing--he felt that like the warrior Arjuna, he was simply doing his duty without attachment to his actions.
Aryan Race and Neo-Nazism.
Since the military defeat of Nazi Germany by the Allies in 1945, Neo-Nazi ideologues have expanded their concept of the "Aryan Race" from the Nazi concept that the purest Aryans were the Teutonics or Nordics of Northern Europe to the idea that the true Aryans are everyone descended from the Western or European branch of the Indo-European peoples. This is sometimes referred to as "pan-Aryanism". The degree of inclusivity varies between factions. This usage totally inverts the meaning of "Aryan" from the way it is used by most non-Neo-Nazis today, i.e., to refer to the Eastern or Asian (Indo-Iranian) branch of the Indo-European peoples. However, as noted above and below in the references, some people still use the term Aryan in its earlier sense as denoting all Indo-Europeans.
Many Neo-Nazis view their political work as being directed towards the establishment of an autocratic state to be called "The Western Imperium". This proposed autocratic state would be led by a Führer-like figure and include all areas inhabited by the "Aryan Race" (defined as non-Jews of European ancestry) i.e. Europe, Russia, Anglo-America, Australia and New Zealand, and southern South America. This concept is based on a 1947 book called Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics by Francis Parker Yockey. It is envisioned that after the "Western Imperium" is established, all Jews and non-white illegal immigrants would be expelled from its territory. Only those of the "Aryan Race" would be full citizens of the State. Miscegenation would be outlawed. Television would be used extensively for propaganda. There would be strict environmental protection and animal rights laws (see Ecofascism). It is usually envisioned that the flag of the "Western Imperium" would be like the red Nazi flag, except within the white disc would be a black-colored nationalistic stylized Celtic cross rather than a black swastika.
Quotations about the Aryan Race.
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