(Investigator 80, 2001 September)
A central government policy of the Hitler administration was the breeding of a "superior race." This required, at the very least, preventing the "inferior races" from mixing with "superior" ones in order to reduce contamination of the latter's gene pool. The "superior race" belief is based on the theory of group inequality within each species, a major presumption and requirement of Darwin's original "survival of the fittest" theory.
A review of the writings
of Hitler and contemporary
German biologists finds that Darwin's theory and writings had a major
upon Nazi policies. Hitler believed that the human gene pool could be
by selective breeding, using the same techniques that farmers used to
a superior strain of cattle. In the formulation of his racial policies,
he relied heavily upon the Darwinian evolution model, especially the
by Spencer and Haeckel. They culminated in the "final solution," the
of approximately six million Jews and four million other people who
to what German scientists judged were "inferior races."
The concept that "all men
are created equal"
and the egalitarian ideal which has dominated American ideology for the
past thirty years, and to a lesser degree since the founding of our
has not been universal among nations and cultures (Tobach et al. 1974).
The Germans' belief that they were a superior race had many sources, a
major one being the social Darwinian eugenics movement, especially its
crude survival of the fittest
world view (Stein 1988, Clark 1953).
As Lappe noted:
Eugenics' all important impact on Nazi policy can be evaluated accurately by an examination of the extant documents, writings, and artifacts produced by Germany's twentieth century Nazi movement. Historical documents show that Nazi governmental policy was openly influenced by evolution, the zeitgeist of both science and educated society of the time (Stein 1988, Haller 1971, Keith 1946,230). The Nazi treatment of Jews and the other "races" that their science concluded were "inferior" was largely a result of their belief that the source of biological evolution was a set of proven techniques available to scientists to significantly improve humankind. As Tenenbaum noted:
Implementation of Nazi Race Theories
The means of evolution are drawn primarily from the process of mutations, which are then selected by natural selection. Favored individuals will be more likely to survive and increase in number, forming new races while the "weaker" ones will die off. This process, once called raciation but labeled speciation today, is the source of evolution which, in theory, continues forever. If every member of a species were fully equal, there would be nothing to select from, and evolution for that species would stop. Evolution is based on the acquiring of unique traits, whether through mutations or other means, that enable those possessing them to better survive adverse conditions than those who don't.
According to evolution
theory, some people
(even if it is only one
person) will inherit a mutation which will
be passed on and which will enable them to survive at a higher rate
those without that trait. These differences will always gradually
new races, some of which have an advantage in terms of survival. These
are the superior, i.e., the more evolved, races. When that trait
spreads throughout the entire race, because of the survival advantage
confers on those endowed with it, a new and "higher level" of animal
exist. Hitler and the Nazi party claimed that they were trying to apply
this accepted science to society. And "the core idea of Darwinism is
evolution, but selection. Evolution...describes the results of
(Stein 1988, 53). Hitler stressed that "we [the Nazis] must understand,
and cooperate with science":
Darwin's evolutionary ideas were exported into Germany almost immediately. The first language into which his writings were translated – donly a year after The Origin of Species was published – was German. Darwinian evolution was not only championed in Germany more than most other countries, but it was more influential on German state policy. Gasman (1971, xiii) concluded that:
This path was started at the 1863 Congress of German Naturalists. At this meeting, one of evolutions' leading proponents and writers, Ernest Haeckel, "a respected professor of zoology" at the University of Jena, first forcefully presented the views which commenced his four decade long role as "Darwin's chief apostle" (Stein 1988, 54). He was especially active in spreading "social Darwinism,"–the application of Darwinian theory to society in order to explain the historical and social development of civilizations, specifically why some were advanced and others remained primitive. But, as Gould (1977, 77-78) concluded,
Aside from Haeckel, the person most influential in helping the spread of Darwin's ideas in Germany was Houston Chamberlain, the son of a British Admiral and a German mother. In 1899 he published The Foundations of the 19th Century, which concluded that Darwinism had proved that the Germans were superior to all other races (Weindling 1989). Germans were the "foundation" of our society because they produced the industrial world. Chamberlain quoted extensively from Darwin, noting that the latter stressed that a major difference between apes and humans was brain size. The brain, he stressed, is of far more importance than any other body structure in measuring human evolution progress. The larger the brain capacity, it was then believed, the higher the intelligence. Chamberlain also was interested in phrenology, the now discredited science of determining personality traits by examining and measuring the shape and size of the bumps on one's skull (Jacquerd 1984).
Certain traits, the
were located in specific parts of the brain, and if one had developed
trait to an exceptional degree, a "bump" would exist in the appropriate
place. Lastly, they concluded that the configuration of the brain and
physical traits can be used to distinguish not only humans from
but also to rank the races. This idea received wide support from
Chamberlain concluded that Darwinism had proved that the Germans were superior to all other races.
The lesser races were both inferior and worthless: "woolly-haired" peoples, he concluded, are "incapable of a true inner culture or of a higher mental development...no woolly-haired nation has ever had an important history" (1876, 10). Haeckel even argued that, since "the lower races – such as the Veddahs or Australian Negroes – are psychologically nearer to the mammals – apes and dogs – than to the civilized European, we must, therefore, assign a totally different value to their lives" (1905, 390). And Stein notes that this was not a minority or an extreme view: "Haeckel was the respected scientist; the views of his followers were often more extreme" (Stein 1988, 56).
As a race above all
others, the Aryans believed
that their evolutionary superiority gave them not only the right, but
duty, to subjugate all others. And race was no minor plank of the Nazi
philosophy: Tenenbaum (1956, 211-212) concluded that they
The Nazis believed that, instead of permitting natural forces and chance to produce what it may, they must "direct evolution" to advance the human race. To achieve this, their first step was to isolate the "inferior races" to prevent them from further contaminating the "Aryan" gene pool (Poliakov 1974). The widespread public support for this policy was a result of the common belief of the educated classes that it was scientifically proven that certain races were genetically inferior. The government was simply applying, as part of their plan for a better society, what they believed was proven science to produce a superior race of humans: "The business of the corporate state was eugenics or artificial selection–politics applied to biology" (Stein 1988, 56). In Hitler's writings, humankind were biological "animals" to whom the genetics learned from livestock breeding could be applied. As early as 1925, in Chapter 4 of Mein Kampf, Hitler outlined his view that science, specifically the Darwinian natural selection struggle, was the only basis for a successful German national policy that the very title of his most famous work–in English My Struggle–alluded to. As Clark (1953, 115) concluded,
And Hickman (1983, 51-52) adds that:
And the belief that evolution cant be directed by scientists to produce a "superior race," as Tenenbaum (1956, vii) noted, was the central leitmotif of Nazism:
The Nazi view on race and Darwinian evolution was a major part of the fatal combination which produced the holocaust and World War II:
Terms such as "superior race," "lower human types," "race contamination," "pollution of the race," and evolution itself (entwicklung) were often used by Hitler and other Nazis leaders. Hitler's race views were not from fringe science, as often claimed, but rather,
The philosophy that we can control and even propel evolution to produce a "higher level" of human is repeatedly echoed in the writings and speeches of prominent Nazis (Jackel 1972). Accomplishing this goal required ruthlessly eliminating the less fit by openly barbarian behavior:
Rauschning (1939) quoted Hitler as stating that the Nazis "are barbarians! We want to be barbarians. It is an honorable title, [for by it] we shall rejuvenate the world..." By this means, as Keith (1946, 230) concluded, Hitler "consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution." As Humber (1987, ii) notes, Hitler believed that Negroes were
Many of Hitler's top aides held similar beliefs. Hoess was "particularly interested in books on ‘racial' theories, heredity and ethnological works." His race beliefs guided his management policy in the various concentration camps that he was head of, including Auschwitz. He restructured this former forced labor camp into an evolution laboratory. The inmates in Auschwitz were "no longer persons...[but] simply goods to be processed in the gigantic death-factory he had organized" (Rudorff 1969,240).
Caring for the weak, the
sick, lame, old,
or poor was all directly counter to the chief driving force of
survival of the fittest, and death of the unfit. This meant that the
must be eradicated for the benefit of the race as a whole. The Nazi
did not view these policies as wrong or even inhumane. It openly
itself on its scientific ideology and modern view of the world" (Gasman
1971). Given their wholesale acceptance of evolution, their "ideas of
and race...and determinism, may well [be]...inescapable" (Barzum 1958,
The Nazis were not superficial in their application of what became known as "racial hygiene." Prior to 1933, the German scientists published thirteen scientific journals devoted to racial hygiene and there were over thirty institutions, many connected with universities or research centers, devoted to "racial science" (Proctor 1988). When the Nazis were in power, something like 150 scientific journals, many of which are still highly respected, dealt with racial hygiene and allied fields (Weindling 1989). Enormous files of data were kept on the races, much of which was analyzed and used for research papers published in various German and other journals. In 1927, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics, and Eugenics was established. Although much of the research there was related to the field of eugenics, researchers also studied a wide variety of topics including venereal disease and alcohol.
The German eugenists relied heavily upon the work done in Britain and America. Franz Bumm, the President of the Reich Health Office, "noted that the value of eugenics research had been convincingly demonstrated in the United States, where anthropological statistics had been gathered from two million men recruited for the American Armed Forces" (Proctor 1988, 40). The various institutes began to research the persistence of various "primitive racial traits" in various races in and outside of Germany.
They found much evidence
of "Cro magnon racial
type in certain populations, and presumably also Neanderthal." Like the
American and British counterparts, the German Racial Hygiene Institutes
and the professors at various universities began to discover genetic
for virtually every malady of humankind from criminality to hernias,
even divorce, with researchers adding a few original problems of their
own, such as "loving to sail on water." They saw their work as a noble
effort to continue "Darwin's attempts to elucidate the origin of
(Proctor 1988, 291).
The core concept of the survival of the fittest philosophy, the observation that all animals and plants contain a tremendous amount of genetic variety, and that in certain environmental situations some of these differences may have an advantage in survival, and others may be at a disadvantage, has been well documented. The best example is artificial selection, where breeders select the male and the female with the maximum trait that they are concerned with and then, from the offspring, again select the members which maximize that trait. Breeders using these techniques have been able to breed a wide variety of plants and animals. Breeding for certain traits, though, invariably causes the loss of other traits.
Consequently, in plant and animal breeding a trade-off occurs: some traits are gained, but others are lost. Thus cows are bred either for dairy use or else for meat. The theory that the German eugenists had developed was thus poorly conceived, and inadequately considered enormous amounts of data and the implications of the tremendous amounts of biological diversity which we now know exist.
Some members of the
do not want to share the blame for what happened and try to justify
Nazi Germany did. The most common claim is that the German academics
coerced into accepting racist ideas. Several recent studies, including
Weindling (1989) and Proctor (1988), persuasively argue that this was
the case. The limited coercion that occurred was often from the
community, rather than the German political force "imposing its will on
an apolitical scientific community" (Proctor 1988, 5; see also Wertharn
1966). The Nazis forced the dismissal of many German academics from
posts, but many were Jews, and most were dismissed for reasons not
to their opposition to eugenics. Proctor's important study eloquently
that Nazis are
As Gould (1977, 127) concluded, "Biological arguments for racism ... increased by order of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory" by scientists in most nations. Chamberlain (1899) was one of the first popular German writers to use evolution to argue for the claim that the Germans were innately biologically superior to all other races and peoples, including the Persians, Greeks, and especially the "parasitic semites" whom he branded as a "race of inferior peoples." Darwin interpreted evolution of homo sapiens as principally due to brain improvements, as shown by the much larger brain case in higher primates, and especially by the apex brain found in humans. Chamberlain picked up on this, concluding that human evolutionary differences were thus reflected in skull differences, primarily its shape and size, but also all of those traits which have historically identified human races (skin color, nose, lip and eye shape among others). He utilized as evidence for his theory not only physical anthropology and Darwinian evolution, but also, the then fashionable "science" of phrenology, and
Social Darwinism was thus extremely influential in the development of the racism based on physical traits that flourished in the late 19th century Germany and elsewhere. These racist theories closely followed the spread of Darwinian evolution, which had a wide following in Germany almost immediately after the publication of the German edition of The Origin of Species (Schleunes 1970, Cohn 1981).
Although racists also relied on phrenologists for support, both phrenology and social Darwinism obtained their rational, if not their primary, basis from evolution (Davies 1955). Also used for support were comparisons of various cultures which were assumed to be a product of racial superiority (not the reverse). They concluded that inferior races produced inferior cultures, and only superior races produced superior cultures (Hooton 1941). Hence, Schleunes; (1970) notes that racism came into scientific repute through its solid link with the "third great synthesis of the Nineteenth Century," the Darwinian theory of evolution and the survival of the fittest world view.
These "scientific" views
about race that
then existed in the western world, especially Nazi Germany, were
evident even in America, as is apparent from surveys of textbooks
from 1880 to 1940. Princeton Professor Edwin Conklin (1921, 34) said in
one of his texts that
Soon after the American Supreme Court ruled that sterilization of minorities was legal, Adolf Hitler's cabinet, using the American work as an example, passed a eugenic sterilization law in 1933. The German law was compulsory to all people,
Ironically, the German laws were used to inspire even harsher laws back in the States – in Virginia, Dr. Joseph DeJarnette argued that Americans who were progressive and scientific minded should be shamed by the "enlightened" progressive German legislation, and that we should be taking the lead in this area instead of Germany.
The next step in Germany
was for the government
to provide "loans" to those couples that it concluded were "racially
biologically desirable" and therefore should have more babies. The
of each child reduced the "loan" indebtedness by another 25%. Then came
sterilization and, in 1939, euthanasia for certain classes of the
or physically disabled. Up until this time, many American and British
held up the German program as a model because "it was without nefarious
racial content" (Kevles 1985, 188). The German eugenists, on the other
hand, repeatedly acknowledged their enormous debt to the American and
researchers and periodically honored eugenists from their universities
with various awards.
The Jews in Germany
The German eugenic leadership was originally less anti-semitic than the British. Most German eugenists had originally believed that German Jews were Aryan, and consequently the movement was supported by many Jewish professors and doctors. The Jews were only slowly incorporated into the German eugenic laws which, up to this time, were supported by a large number of persons, both in Germany and abroad.
The Darwinian racists'
views also slowly
entered into many spheres of German society which they had previously
infected (Beyerchen 1977). The Pan German League, dedicated to
German Racial Purity" and helping Germans throughout the world resist
tendency to assimilate, was at first not overtly anti-Semitic. Jews who
were fully assimilated into German culture were allowed full
Many German eugenists would have accepted blacks or gypsies as being
inferior, but their racial theories did not seem to fit Jews, since
had achieved no small level of success in Germany. Schleunes (1970)
that by 1903 the influence of racists' ideas permeated the League's
to the degree that its policy changed, and by 1912 the League declared
itself based upon "racial principles."
In spite of the scientific prominence of these racial views, until World War II they had a limited effect upon most Jews. German Jews considered themselves Germans first – and were proud of being such – and Jews second. Many modified the German intelligentsia's racial views by including themselves in it. Their assimilation into German life was to the extent that most were convinced that Germany was now a safe harbor for them (Schleunes 1970, 33). Most felt its anti-Semitic actions did not represent a serious threat to their security. Many still firmly held to the Genesis creation model and rejected the views upon which racism was based, including macro-evolution, and thus, did not see these ideas as a real threat. What happened in Germany later was obviously not well received by Jewish geneticists, even Jewish eugenists, and certain other groups:
While in much American and British eugenic literature the Jewish race was still held up as an example of educational and professional achievement, the Germans soon began placing them near the bottom of the list. Further, many American and British eugenists were appalled that the Germans included "many foreign races" as inferior - including many groups such as the Southern and Eastern Europeans, which were respected groups in Britain and America.
Evolution and War in Nazi Germany
Darwinism not only offered
the German nation
a meaningful interpretation of their recent past, but also a
for future aggression:
Hitler not only unabashedly intended to produce a superior race, but he openly relied heavily upon Darwinian thought in both his extermination and war policies (Jackel 1972). Nazi Germany thus openly glorified war for the reason that it was an important means of eliminating the less fit of the highest race, a step necessary to "upgrade the race." Clark (1953, 115-116) concludes, quoting extensively from Mein Kampf, that
War therefore was a positive force, not only because it eliminated the weaker races, but also because it weeded out the weaker members of the superior races. German greatness, Hitler stressed, came about primarily because they were jingoists, and thereby had been eliminating their weaker members for centuries (Rich 1973). Although Germans were no strangers to war, this new justification was powerful. The view that the process of eradication of the weaker races was a major source of evolution was well expressed by Wiggam 1922, 102):
In the long run war is
for only by "...kicking, fighting, biting," etc., can humans evolve.
even claimed as truth the contradiction that human civilization as we
it would not exist if it were not for constant war. And many of the
scientists of the day openly advocated this view:
The commonly believed assumption that European civilization evolved far more than others primarily because of its constant warmongering is not true. Historically, many tribes in Africa were continually involved in wars, as were most countries in Asia and America. War is actually typical of virtually all peoples except certain small island groups who have abundant food, or peoples in very cold areas (Posner and Ware 1986).
Nazi policies, therefore,
resulted less from
a "hatred" toward Jewish or other peoples, than the idealistic goal of
preventing "pollution of the race." Hitler (1953, 115-116) elaborated
We thus must understand and apply the "laws of Nature," such as the survival of the fittest law, which originally produced the human races and is the source of their improvement. We as a race, therefore, must aid in the elimination, or at least the quarantine, of the less fit. In Hitler's words, (1953, 116):
Individuals are not only far less important than the race, but the Nazis concluded that certain races, as Whitehead (1983, 115) notes, were not humans, but animals:
Hitler was especially determined to prevent Aryans from breeding with any and all non-Aryans, a concern eventually resulting in the "final solution." Once the inferior races were exterminated, Hitler believed that future generations would thank him profusely for the improvement that his work brought to the world:
Thus, the Darwinist movement was "one of the most powerful forces in the nineteenth-twentieth centuries' German intellectual history [and] may be fully understood as a prelude to the doctrine of national socialism [Nazism]" (Gasman 1971, xiv). Why did the concepts of evolution catch hold in Germany faster, and take a firmer hold there than any other place in the world?
Evolution Used to Justify Existing German Racism
Schleunes (1970, 30-32),
in his discussion
of the Nazi policy towards the Jews, noted rather poignantly that the
the publication of Darwin's 1859 work had an immediate impact in
The Darwinian revolution gave the racists what they thought was powerful verification that their race suspicions were "correct." The works of its chief German spokesman and most eminent scientist Haeckel especially provided support (Poliakov, 1974). The support of the science establishment was such that Schleunes (1970, 30-52) notes:
And what greater authority than science could the racists have for their views? Konrad Lorenz, one of the most eminent animal behavior scientists, often credited with being the founder of the field, stated:
Lorenz's works were important in developing the Nazi program which was designed to eradicate the parasitic growth. The government's programs about the ways that "German Volk" (people) can maintain their superiority made racism almost unassailable. Although King (1981, 156) claimed that "the holocaust of Nazi persecution...pretended to have a scientific genetic basis," in the minds of those in the government and the universities of the time, its scientific basis was so strong that few contemporary scientists seriously questioned it. The attitudes of the German people were only partly to blame in causing the holocaust – only when Darwinism was added to the preexisting attitudes did a lethal combination result.
Most of the early eugenists, especially in America and Britain, stressed that it was best to rely upon volunteerism to implement their programs. Galton, though, concluded that the situation in his day "was so clear cut and so dire, as to warrant state intervention of a coercive nature in human reproduction" (Kevles 1985, 91). Later, more and more eugenists supported direct government action in applying eugenics laws – if natural selection yielded the Darwinian fit, only artificial selection enforced by the government could insure that only the eugenically superior multiplied. Many social workers and psychiatrists in Britain, the United States, and Germany were convinced of the heredity origin of social deficiencies, and, in more and more countries, they felt compelled to force the government to intervene.
In no country was this
intervention as successful
as in Germany. Discouraged by the lack of effectiveness of their
and fully convinced that it had adequately been empirically supported
the brilliant work of Charles Darwin, Karl Pearson, Francis Galton and
many others, Western scientists felt envy that only Germany was able to
implement the programs which many scientists of America and Europe were
then strongly advocating (Chase 1980).
Nazi Germany was certainly
in applying science to government. As Kevles (1985, 101) states, "In
United States during the opening decades of the century, it came to be
a hallmark of good reform to shape government with the aid of
experts...eugenics experts aplentywere to be found in the biology,
and sociology departments of universities or colleges..." And the
eugenics programs elicited in little opposition from the United States.
The implications of its eugenic immigration acts, especially the
Johannson act quotas of 1924, a law not repealed in 1941, had enormous
consequences for human lives
The first step was to determine which groups were genetically superior, a judgment that was heavily influenced by one's culture. Many Germans believed that the American and British choices for the inferior races were incorrect; thus, they instituted their own program to determine who were the superior races. This meant that they must first determine which are superior, and then specifically what traits would place a person in a superior and/or in an inferior race.
In trying to group persons into races to select the "best" Germans to serve as "official" child breeders, the Nazis measured a wide variety of physical traits, such as brain case sizes. Although superficial observations enable most people to make a rough classification based on white, black and oriental, when the race question is explored in depth, such divisions are by no means easy, as the Nazis soon found out. It was further made difficult in that, with many of the groups that they felt inferior, such as the Slovaks, Jews, Gypsies, and other groups, it was not easy to distinguish them from the pure "Aryan" race. In general, the Nazis relied heavily upon the work of Hans F.K. Gunther, who was a professor of racial science at the University of Gena. As Mosse (1981:57) acknowledged, although Gunther's "personal relationships with the party were stormy at times, his racial ideas were accepted" and received wide support throughout German government and were an important influence in German policy. Gunther recognized that, while a race may not be pure, its members share certain dominant characteristics, thus paving the way for stereotyping (Mosse 1981:57). The goal was to find the racial "ideal type."
He concluded that all Aryans share an ideal Nordic type which contrasted with the Jews, who, he concluded, were a mixture of races. Gunther stressed both anthropological measurement of skulls, as well as an evaluation of a person's physical appearance. The predominance of such characteristics and a person's genealogical lineage were used as criteria. Even though physical appearance was stressed, the key was that "the body is the showplace of the soul" and "the soul is primary" (Mosse 1981:58). Select females were placed in special homes and kept pregnant as long as they were in the program. Even though the researchers tried to choose persons with the ideal traits, the I.Q.'s of the resulting offspring were generally lower than that of the parents. Research on the offspring of this experiment has concluded, as is now known, that I.Q. regresses toward the population mean.
The evolutionary views not only influenced the Nazi attitude toward Jews, but other cultural and ethnic groups as well. Even mental patients were massacred, in part because it was believed at the time that heredity had a major influence on mental illness. Mental patients were not the products of a sick environment, but a sick gene line (or perhaps they had some Jewishor other non-Aryan blood in them). Consequently, they had to be destroyed. Poliakov (1974, 282) notes that many intellectuals in the early 1900s accepted telegony, the idea that bad blood would contaminate a race line forever, or that "bad blood drives out good, just as bad money displaces good money." Only extermination would permanently eliminate "weak" and inferior genetic lines and, thereby, further evolution.
biologists supported this
position – Darwin even compiled a long list of cases where "bad blood"
a whole gene line, causing it to bear impure progeny forever. Ernst
of the University of Munich, and many of his colleagues (such as
Spencer, Francis Galton, Calaude Bermand and Eugene Kahn, later a
of psychiatry at Yale) actively advocated this "hereditary argument."
were also the chief architects of the compulsory German sterilization
which were designed to prevent those with defective or "inferior" genes
from "contaminating" the Aryan gene pool. Later, when the "genetically
inferior" were also judged to be "useless dredges," massive killings
justified. The groups judged "inferior" were gradually expanded to
a wide variety of races and national groups. Later, they even included
less healthy older people, epileptics, mental defectives (both severe
mild), deaf-mutes, and those with terminal illnesses (Wertham 1966,
The justification for this killing, repeated over and over again, was that the "leading biologists and medical professors" advocated the program. Dr. Carl Brandt, according to Wertham (1966, 160), felt that since the learned professors were in support of it, the program must be valid, and "who could there be who was better qualified [to judge it] than they?" The scientist who presided over the race program at Auschwitz, Dr. Josef Mengele, was a highly respected and published researcher who held a Ph.D. from the prestigious University of Munich, and an M.D. from the University of Frankfurt (Astor 1985). His zeal was based on highly accepted mainline science theory, not on alleged sadistic or psychopathic impulsives (Posner and Ware, 1986). His biographer (Astor 1985, 21) concluded that
And Posner and Ware (1986, 23) add:
The groups included as "inferior" were later expanded to include persons who had only Negroid or mongoloid features, gypsies, and those who did not "pass" a set of ingeniously designed overtly racist phrenology tests now known to be worthless (Davies 1955). After Jessie Owen won several gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Hitler stated that "the Americans ought to be ashamed of themselves" for even permitting blacks to enter the contests (Stanton 1972). Some even advocated the view that women were evolutionarily inferior to men. Dr. Robert Wartenberg, who later became a prominent neurology professor in California, tried in one monograph to "prove" women's inferiority, stressing that they could not survive unless they were "protected by men," and females evolved "weak" because of historically being protected by males. For this reason, he concluded that natural selection had not been as operative on women to the extent it had been on men. Thus, the weaker women were not eliminated as rapidly, resulting in a slower rate of evolution. How the weak were to be "selected" for elimination was not clear, nor were the criteria used to determine "weak." Women in Nazi Germany were openly prohibited from entering certain professions and were required by law to conform to a traditional female role (Weindling 1989).
Current writers often
gloss over, totally
ignore, or even distort the close connection between Darwinian
and the Nazi race theory and the policies that it produced, but, as
(1988, 50) admonishes,
The literature contains only a few studies which directly deal with this issue – and many avoid it because evolution is inescapably selectionist. The very heart of the theory of evolution is survival of the fittest and this requires differences among a species which in time will become great enough go that those individuals that possess them – the fittest – are more apt to survive, manifesting differential survival rates. Although the process of raciation may begin with slight differences, evolution in time produces distinct races which results from speciation, or the development of a new species.
Nazism and Religion
Much of the opposition to
the eugenic movement
came from the German Christians. Although Hitler was once an altar boy
and then "considered himself a good Roman Catholic," (Zindler 1985,
as an adult, he clearly had strong anti-religious feelings, as did many
of the Nazi party leaders. As would any good politician, though, he
tried to exploit the church's influence (Phillips 1981, 164). His
on religion were once bluntly stated:
His beliefs are abundantly
younger people who were the hope of Germany were "absolutely
in the matters of religion." As Keith (1946, 72) noted, the Nazi party
viewed evolution and Christianity as polar opposites because
The opposition to religion was a prominent feature of German science, and thus later German political theory, from its very beginning. As Stein (1988, 54) summarized:
Borman was equally blunt, stressing that the church's opposition to the forces of evolution must be condemned. In his words:
Borman also concluded that:
From our modern perspective, WW II and its results ensued from the ideology of an evil madman and his administration. Hitler, though, did not see himself as evil, but as mankind's benefactor. He felt that many years hence the world would be extremely grateful to him and his programs, which lifted the human race to genetically higher levels of evolution by preventing mixed marriages with inferior races. His efforts to put members of these inferior races in concentration camps was not so much an effort to punish but, as his apologists repeatedly stated, was a protective safeguard similar to quarantining sick people to prevent contamination of the community. Or, as Hoess (1960, 110) adds, "such a struggle, legitimized by the latest scientific views, justifies the racists' conceptions of superior and inferior people and nations and validated the conflict between them."
Although many factors produced the fatal blend which produced the Nazi movement, Darwin's notion of struggle for survival was appropriated to justify the movement's views, not only on race, but also war. One contributing reason, if not a major reason, that matters reached the extent of the holocaust was the acceptance of Social Darwinism by the scientific and academic community (Aycoberry 1981, Beyerchen 1977, Stein 1988).
Misuse of Darwin's theory,
as modified by
Haeckel (1876,1900, 1903; 1905, 1916), Chamberlain (1911), and others
contributed to the death of a total of over nine million persons in
camps, and approximately forty million other human beings in a war that
cost about six trillion dollars. Although it is no easy task to fully
the conflicting motives of Hitler and his party, eugenics clearly
an important part. If the Nazi party had fully embraced and
acted on the belief that all humans are brothers, equal before God, it
can be argued that the holocaust probably never would have occurred.
the Judeo-Christian-Moslem doctrine of divine human origins from
German theology and its schools openly contributed to the acceptance of
Social Darwinian theory, resulting in the tragedy of World War II
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IMPROVED WORK FROM JERRY BERGMAN
(Letter to the Editor–Investigator 81 2001 November)
Jerry Bergman and I have
exchanged some bits
and pieces. His essay on
Eugenics and Nazi Race Policy (Investigator
No. 80) is one of his better pieces of work (although he remains
unable to ever use a single primary source!), but the one or two
are trivial in the extreme…