Roots of Nazi Ideology

Nazi ideology was a worldview that claimed
to explain everything about the world and how it functions. At its core, the Nazi
worldview was racist and biological. Positing that the so-called Aryan race, primarily the
north-Europeans, was the superior race of human beings to which nearly all positive
human development in science, technology, art, architecture, and other fields
could be attributed. All other races and peoples, save the Jews,
were viewed as occupying rungs below the Aryans, in a sort of hierarchy of races. Various west-Europeans
such as the French and Italians were relatively high in the hierarchy. And others, particularly
the Slavic peoples, very low. The Aryans’ innate superiority, granted them the right
and obligation to rule over other races and peoples for the benefit of humankind. The
Jews, in complete contrast, were seen as a kind of anti-race, dangerous inhuman beings,
in seemingly human form. They were viewed alternatively as microbes and parasites,
or as devils, that is, inhuman creatures, with super-human power. A threat to the very
existence of the world. A danger of cosmic proportions. And a radical danger required
a radical, total, and irreversible solution. But from where did the Nazis derive these ideas,
and to what extent were their ideas in sync with the world at the time? We should first
note, that everything that Hitler and the Nazi believers argued had been said before.
The Nazi worldview claimed to be scientific, and indeed it based itself on and drew from
various scientific developments in the modern era. Let’s take a look at some of the various
sources, from which the Nazis drew. Christian Anti-Judaism, the development of
new fields of research in Social Sciences and Humanities, particularly Philology and
Anthropology, the development of modern racism, particularly the Theory of Evolution, Genetics
and Eugenics, and modern Antisemitism. Christian Anti-Judaism from early Christian
times onward, was essentially an attack on Jewish belief. The Jews were accused of deicide,
rejecting and then killing the messiah that god had sent. They were accused of blinding
themselves to the truth, and hence Christianity had replaced Judaism as the new Israel. Jews
were accused of being in league with the devil. And of engaging in evil practices, such as
the charge that they killed Christian children, to use their blood in rituals, the so-called,
Blood Libel. Still, at its core, this attack sought to convert the Jews to what Christians
believed was the one truth, Christianity. The treatment of the Jews was often brutal,
and at times murderous. But this Anti-Judaism left open an escape clause for Jews – conversion.
Any Jew who converted to Christianity essentially solved the problem. Yet this Anti-Judaism
also left an imprint on European society, and its view of the Jews. And the Nazis used
this imprint to good advantage, in gaining tacit or active support in Germany,
and all of Europe. Philosophical and scientific developments
in the 18th and 19th centuries, both advanced societies and justified inequality at the
same time. Whereas Christian belief and the new modern secular humanism, shared a conviction,
that all human beings are potentially equal, whether because they are created in god’s
image, or because all are born equal, some scholars in the new fields of Philology, Anthropology,
and Biology, sought to exploit these sciences in order to demonstrate the supposed inherent
inequality of peoples. Many of these scientific pioneers argued that the differences between
languages, peoples and cultures pointed to the superiority of some, over others. Charles
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution provided these scientists the missing scientific theory,
that helped explain common origins to seemingly disparate things. Many Philologists pointed
to the Indo-European languages, a new concept of a language group, as the most developed
and superior language family. While many Anthropologists pointed to some European cultures, as more developed and advanced than other cultures. Their research seemed to provide a scientific
underpinning for the racist theories that developed. And Nazi theorists and supporters
later seized on these ideas, and tried unsuccessfully, to provide scientific evidence
to support them. The important Sociologist and Physiologist,
Herbert Spencer, promoted a theory known as Social Darwinism in the 1850’s. In contrast
to Darwin’s theory of evolutionary development in the plant and animal worlds, through natural
selection over eons of time, Spencer argued for struggle, and the survival of the fittest
of the human social order, in the present tense. He believed the strong must rule, and
the weak, must submit. By the mid 1800’s, racism that claimed to be scientifically based,
had become widely accepted. But this modern racism saw not only people of dark skin as
inferior, but also divided white people into races. Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau’s
1855 book, on the inequality of the races, based itself on research in Philology and
Anthropology, to argue that the white races are superior to the black and yellow, and
that the Aryans are the superior race among white races. The field of Eugenics grew out of research
into Genetics and Heredity. By the early 1880’s, Francis Galton had developed the idea, that
society should promote the propagation of certain desirable traits. This could for example,
help eliminate certain diseases. Positive Eugenics advocated encouraging procreation
between those with desirable traits. While negative eugenics, advocated limiting, or
preventing procreation between people with undesirable traits. University genetics departments
were created in western countries, many of which employed national Eugenic policies in
the 20th century. The Nazis seized upon these ideas, as part of the basis to subjugate,
persecute, or even destroy, various kinds of people. Developments in science and other fields,
impacted on Europeans’ attitudes towards Jews. Jews continued to be generally perceived
as strangers in society, bearers of a foreign language, culture, religion, and mores. Modern
intellectuals’ animus against Jews, could no longer be based on religious belief, but
rather, on science, supposedly. Modern Antisemitism emerged. Like the new social Scientisim political
theories, Antisemitism too, claimed to be scientific. Antisemitism supposedly harked
to science as the basis for its antagonism to Jews. Antisemitism, a term coined by Wilhelm
Marr, in 1879, was ideological, racist, political and organized. The Jews were now viewed as
an evil and destructive race, an evil that was immutable. Which meant that the Jews’
increasing integration into society should be reversed.
The Nazi worldview coalesced, in an age of ideologies. From the mid 19th century to
nearly the mid 20th century, many competing, and conflicting ideologies arose, seeking
to explain the world and society, and claiming to have the formula, to make a perfect world.
Adolf Hitler and his followers also claimed to explain, and fix the world to perfection.
They drew upon scientific and other modern developments, and merged these ideas with
German Völkisch ideology, a German racial nationalistic ideology, that saw all Germans as organically,
biologically connected, to each other, and to the soil of their country. It was in his
book, Mein Kampf, published in 1925, and in subsequent talks and actions, that Hitler developed
this into a worldview, that turned society, morality and the world as we know it,
on its head. Ultimately, the Nazi worldview led to many
policies that were based on the 19th and early 20th centuries scientific and ideological
developments. Such as Lebensraum, living space, based on the false contention, that
Germany is the most overcrowded country, and Germans have the right to expand eastward,
in order to gain living space. Or operation T4, the so-called Euthanasia Program. In which
some 200,000 German and Austrian, mentally handicapped people, were murdered. And most
pronouncedly, the Nazi campaign, against the Jews. Nazi policy making in 1933 to 1945 was ideologically
based on the Nazi worldview. Yet, policies could make tactical compromises on many issues,
in order to achieve their greater aims. There was only one issue, on which there could be
no compromise – the Jews. Whatever policy was decided upon, would ultimately affect all
Jews. The Nazis innovation was not in their ideas. Which as we have seen they borrowed
from earlier thinking. Their innovation lay in molding these ideas, into a comprehensive
worldview, that was the basis for the policy making of a modern, scientifically, technologically,
and educationally advanced country. And it was from this worldview, that the
Final Solution ultimately emerged.


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