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Hans Friedrich Karl Gunther (born February 16, 1891 in Freiburg; died September 25, 1968 also in Freiburg) was a German race researcher and eugenicist in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. He was also known as Race Gunther (Rassengunther) or Race Pope (Rassenpapst). He is considered to be a major influence on National Socialist racialist thought. He taught at the universities of Jena, Berlin and Freiburg, writing numerous books and essays on racial theory. Gunther's Short Ethnology of the German People (1929) was a popular exposition of Nordicism. In 1931 he was appointed to a new chair of racial theory at Jena. He joined the Nazi Party in the following year.
Gunther was the son of a musician. He studied comparative linguistics at Albert Ludwigs university in Freiburg, but also listened to lectures on zoology and geography. In 1911, he spent a semester at the Sorbonne, Paris. He attained his doctorate in 1914. In the same year he enlisted in the infantry at the outbreak World War I, but became sick and was hospitalised. He was declared unfit for combat, so to compensate for his inability to fight, he served with the Red Cross.
In 1919, after the end of the war, he started his writing career. He wrote a polemical work entitled "The Knight, death and the devil: the heroic idea", a reworking of the tradition of German Pagan-Nationalist Romanticism into a form of "biological nationalism". Heinrich Himmler was very impressed by this book. In 1922 Gunther studied at the University of Vienna while working in a museum in Dresden. In 1923 he moved to Scandinavia to live with his second wife, who was Norwegian. He received scientific awards from the University of Uppsala and the Swedish Institute for Race Biology, headed by Herman Lundborg. In Norway he met Vidkun Quisling. In 1935 he became the professor of the University of Berlin, teaching race science, human biology and rural ethnography. From 1940 to 1945 he was the professor at Albert Ludwig University.
He received several honors during the Third Reich, notably in 1935 he was decared "pride of the NSDAP" for his scientific work. In the same year he received the Rudolph Virchow plaque, and in 1940 the Goethe medal for arts and science from Hitler. In March 1941, he was received as an honored guest for the opening conference of Alfred Rosenberg's "Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question". At the conference the obliteration of Jewish identity, or "people death" (Volkstod) of the Jews was discussed. Various proposals were made, including the "pauperization of European Jews and hard labour in massive camps in Poland". Gunther's only recorded comment was that the meeting was boring.
After World War II, Gunther was placed in internment camps for three years until it was concluded that, though he was a part of the Nazi system, he was not an instigator of its criminal acts, making him less accountable for the consequences of his actions. The University of Freiburg came to his defence at his post-war trial. Nevertheless, even after Nazi Germany's fall, he did not revise his thinking, denying the Holocaust until his death. In 1951 he published the book "Husband's Choice" in which he listed good biological qualities to look for in marriage partners. He continued to argue that sterilization should remain a legal option, and played down the mandatory sterilization used in Nazi Germany. Another eugenics book was published in 1959 in which he argued that unintelligent people reproduce too numerously in Europe, and the only solution was state-sponsored family planning.
Gunther's theories arose from the Nordicist ideology prevalent at the time. Eugen Fischer, the professor of anthropology in Freiburg, was an influential proponent of these ideas and had lectured at Albert Ludwig University when Gunther studied there.
Gunther divided the European population into six races, the Nordic, Phalic, Eastern, Western, Dinaric and East Baltic. "Western" and "Eastern" were, in practice, alternatives for the more widely used terms "Mediterranean" and "Alpine". The "Phalic" race was a minor category dropped in many of his writings.
Of these races, the Nordic was the noblest and was the great creative force in history. Gunther claimed to have found evidence that tall, blond Nordics were the founders of influential cultures almost everywhere. Opposed to the Nordics were the Jews, who were "a thing of ferment and disturbance, a wedge driven by Asia into the European structure." Gunther argued that the Nordic peoples should unite to secure their dominance.
Among his disciples was Bruno Beger who, after an expedition to Tibet, concluded that the Tibetan peoples had characteristics that placed them between the Nordic and Mongol races, and were thus superior to other East Asians.
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