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Nazis and Race.

Caption reads: They belong to the church, she belongs to Satan
"Unfruitful." Caption reads: "They belong to the church, she belongs to Satan. Both are lost to the German race." Published in Der Stürmer, July 1936.

Nazis developed several theories concerning races. They claimed to scientifically measure a strict hierarchy among "human races"; at the top was the "Nordic race", then lesser races. At the bottom of this hierarchy were "parasitic" races, or "Untermenschen" ("sub-humans"), which were perceived to be dangerous to society. Lowest of all in the Nazi racial policy were Africans, Gypsies and Jews. The latters were considered to be "Lebensunwertes Leben" ("Life unworthy of life") and were subjected as second-class citizens, expelled from Nazi Germany before being interned in concentration camps, then exterminated during the Holocaust (see Raul Hilberg's description of the various phases of the Holocaust). R. Walther Darré, Reich Minister of Food and Agriculture from 1933 to 1942, popularized the expression "Blut und Boden" ("Blood and Soil"), one of the many terms of the Nazi glossary ideologically used to enforce popular racism in the German population.

Nazi ideology said that because the nation was the expression of the race, the greatness of a race could be evaluated according to a "race"'s ability and desire to acquire a large homeland. German accomplishments in science, technology, philosophy and culture were interpreted as scientific evidence to support Nazi racist ideology. "Racial purity" was seen as needed protection, while "Lebensborn" clinics attempted to breed a "purer Aryan race," including by taking war children from Norwegian mothers and raising them in the Third Reich. Art itself was considered to foster "racial degeneration," and was labeled "Degenerate art" ("Entartete Kunst"), accused of being un-German or "Judeo-Bolshevist".

This set of claims grew out of a larger movement of Scientific Racism that developed conjointly with social darwinism theories and unilineal evolutionism which classified the European culture as the leading one in the world. Scientific racism was taught at major universities in Europe and the United States through the 1930s. Nazism combined it with pan-Germanism theories and anti-Semitism, which inspired their racial policies, in particular with the 1935 Nuremberg Laws. Furthermore, it developed claims for the "Heimatvertriebene" ("German expellees"), that is members of the German people residing out of the Reich.

Such scientific racism theories were also mixed by some Nazi currents with "Ariosophy", part of Nazi mysticism which created a myth around the so-called "Aryan race." Relations between Nazi mysticism and pseudo-scientifical racist theories were continued post-war by some theorists of the esoteric Hitlerism movement. Thus, Alfred Rosenberg, one of the main Nazi race theorists, imagined a "blood religion" which would turn Christianism into a ' "Positive Christianity" which saw in the Christ a member of the so-called "Nordic race" to which the German people were purported to belong. These ideas concerning a "racial religion" were popularized in Der Stürmer review, headed by Julius Streicher, and in the NSDAP's weekly, the Völkischer Beobachter, edited by Rosenberg.

Philosophers and others theoreticians also participated to the elaboration of the Nazi ideology. The relationship between Heidegger and Nazism has remained a controversial subject in the history of philosophy, and remain so today. According to the philosopher Emmanuel Faye, Heidegger said of Spinoza that he was "ein Fremdkörper in der Philosophie", a "foreign body in philosophy" - Faye notes that Fremdkörper was a term which belonged to the Nazi glossary, and not to classical German . The jurist Carl Schmitt elaborated a philosophy of law praising the Führerprinzip and the German people, while Alfred Baeumler instrumentalized Nietzsche's thought, in particular his concept of the "Will to Power", in an attempt to justify Nazism.

Four books belonging to the scientific racism ideology, which claimed perceived racial difference was hierarchical and central to social order, had a major influence on the trajectory of Nazi racial theories:

  • Count Arthur de Gobineau’s 1853 The Inequality of Human Races (Tucker 1994; Poliakov 1974; Biddiss 1970);
  • Francis Galton’s 1870 Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry into Its Laws and Consequences (Tucker 1994);
  • Madison Grant’s 1916/1924 The Passing of the Great Race (Tucker 1994; Mintz 1985);
  • Lothrop T. Stoddard’s 1920 The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy (Kühl 1994; Tucker 1994).

American eugenicists traded ideas with their counterparts in Nazi Germany (Lombardo 2002; Kühl 1994).

Propaganda and implementation of racial theories

Nazis developed an elaborate system of propaganda to diffuse these theories, which has led various theorists to qualify it as a totalitarian state. Thus, Nazi architecture was used to created the "new order" and improve the "Aryan race." Sports were also instrumentalized by the Nazis, as in Italian Fascism, in order to "regenerate the race." The Hitler Youth, founded in 1922, had the basic motivation of training future "Aryan supermen" and future soldiers who would fight for the Third Reich faithfully. Cinema was also used as propaganda for racist theories, under the direction of Joseph Goebbels' Propagandaministerium. The Hygiene Museum, in Dresden, diffused such theories. A 1934 poster of the museum shows a man with distinctly African features and reads, "If this man had been sterilized there would not have been born ... 12 hereditarily diseased." (sic) According to the current director Klaus Voegel, "The Hygiene Museum was not a criminal institute in the sense that people were killed here," but "it helped to shape the idea of which lives were worthy and which were worthless."

These theories were implemented very early, most notably with the 1935 Nuremberg Laws and the July 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring. The Action T4 euthanasia program, in which the Kraft durch Freude (KdF, literally "Strength Through Joy") youth organization participated, targeted people accused of representing a danger of "degeneration" towards the "Deutsche Volk."

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