Correcting a simple misunderstanding about Nazi race theory

Originally Published, August 17th 2019


Sometimes I come across these journal articles and or small books that have to do with an aspect of the Third Reich; I came across one recently published by Florida State University with the title ‘As Blond as Hitler”: Positive Eugenics and Fatherhood in the Third Reich.’. This small book has a section in which it discusses the famous ‘Nazi Primer'[1] and attempts to show how the Nazis were vehement Nordic racial supremacists, which really doesn’t jive with what we know about National Socialist racial thought in this period.[2]

I think it prudent to note the distinction between claims of superiority and representation in Nazi race ideology. The National Socialists as shown in pages 18-19 of ‘The Nazi Primer’ perceive the Nordic Race to best represent Germany’s population based on their demographics.

In the description of all races, we have continually drawn a comparison with the Nordic race, both as to bodily characteristics as well as to soul and mind. We do that for a definite reason. It is not because we wish to have merely some point of comparison. We draw this very comparison repeatedly because the Nordic is the race most strongly represented in Germany.

The Nazi Primer, pp. 18

this observation is made based on the work of Hans F. K. Günther[3], who has been discussed before[2] and supplied the data for the demographic breakdown in the ‘Nazi primer’ by showing us what the actual population percentages were of the German people. He estimates that the Nordic Race makes up around 50% while the other 50% is made up of the other five races. In fact the Primer states that the Nordic race is most closely related to the Phalic race which as we’ll see is the second lowest in proportion of the German Volk. The Eastern race numbers at about 20%, the Dinaric race 15%, East Baltic 8%, the Phalic race 5% and finally the Western race at 2%. The authors at Florida State University however have decided the differences pointed out by the Gunther (not necessarily the National Socialists as a whole) are intended to show the ‘superiority’ of the Nordic race. They say:

As shown in the physical and mental attributes noted above, The Nazi Primer sustains the Nazi belief in the supremacy of the Nordic race.

Amy Beth Carney, “As Blonde as Hitler”: Positive Eugenics and Fatherhood in the Third Reich”, pp. 39

but this cannot be squared with other facts. For instance, Robert Ley the head of the DAF (German Labour Front) key figure in the National Socialist state and party said in 1935:

Robert Ley, head of the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labour Front)

Who of us is racially pure? Even if somebody’s appearance is Nordic he might be a bastard inside. That somebody is blond and blue-eyed does not mean that he is racially pure. He might even be a degenerate coward. Bastardization shows in different aspects. We have to be on our guard against racial arrogance. Racial arrogance would be as devastating as hatred among classes.

– Robert Ley[4]

Another observation which should be quite obvious is that neither Gunther nor the National Socialists desert the other 50% of the German people and declare them Untermensch (Undermen). In fact the Primer clearly states that Gunther wanted to “estimate the proportion of the different races in the composition of our people[3]. He didn’t do the study to decide that 50% of Germans were in fact not German after all. They do not say this, they merely distinguish differences in the makeup of the German people and, as Gunther stated above, to estimate proportion. It’s also worth noting that Gunther was simply the most popular racial scientist at that time, among many others that didn’t necessarily agree with him. So it isn’t surprising that the National Socialists decided to use the research of a scholar who’d long been popular before the establishment of the Third Reich.

In his book ‘Race and culture of our ancestors. A methodical-school technical booklet for lessons and lectures in prehistory” (Rasse und Kultur unserer Urväter ein methodisch-schultechnisches Hilfsbuch für Unterricht und Vorträge in der Vorgeschichte., 1936) Richard Rein on page 18 said

“These six races [Nordic, Falish, Western, East-Baltic, Eastern, Dinaric] are called Aryan according to our legislation. Therefore, those people who belong to one of the six races or carry the properties of these races in a mixed form are considered Aryan in Germany. (Non-Aryans, on the other hand, are Orientals and Near Easterners, or crosses of these two with other races, as represented by the Jewish people.)”

Rasse und Kultur unserer Urväter ein methodisch-schultechnisches Hilfsbuch für Unterricht und Vorträge in der Vorgeschichte, 1936, pp. 18

This view squares perfectly with the interpretation of the reasonable person who looks at the facts and doesn’t screech hysterics about Nazi race theory.

A similar definition of Aryan has been noted in other works as well.[5]

We also know that the Third Reich particularly when it came to the war years and dealing with occupation in the east, racial classification became harder, most Germans didn’t know of this academic strife because they simply had their own ideas of what race was. As we might expect it was all rather different and depended on the scientists.

“Prewar Germany funded racial science well – as it did the sciences in general – and the Third Reich was a particularly generous sponsor. After 1939, the Third Reich’s racial experts were no longer consulted merely on the health of Germany’s own population but helped to make decisions affecting the continent as a whole. Men in white coats ran classification panels and training programmes to decide which of the Slavs of ethnic Germans they stripped and measured were ‘re-Germanizable”. –The discipline of racial science itself was in turmoil, and many German scholars had already become aware of the difficulties. Old -Fashioned racial determinism seemed hard to square with new findings in genetics, and it was not particularly helpful either when explaining the characteristics of a people or Volk. — But knowing how to distinguish a German from a non-German the key concern for those running the new empire was not something upon which it was possible to get expert consensus. ‘Every German had his own idea of race,’ comments a recent historian. The subject was certainly in flux. The breslau school believed in tracking blue eyes and blond hair, but Otto Reche and Fritz Lenz – two luminaries of academic racism – thought physical characteristics were crude markers since most individuals were themselves mixed racially. For Hans Gunther, a popularizer of Nazi science, even Germany contained strains of all the major European races – the Nordic, East Baltic, Alpine and Dinaric as well as fortunately small quantities of Mediterranean and Inner Asian blood. A few heretics solved the problem of matching up the categories of race and Volk by talking about a ‘German Race’, but this simple solution was criticized by most of the academics as unscientific. There were similar doubts about the usefulness of talking about ‘Slavs’, whom experts thought were made up of a variety of much smaller sub-groups of differing racial ‘value’. The value question itself was divisive – some believing in racial hierarchies, others insisting that difference carries no connotation of worth

 – Hitler’s Empire by Mark Mazower Pages 182-183 

Another point which certainly doesn’t jive with the idea put forth by Florida University would be the fact that the Western Race, which according to ‘The Nazi primer’ makes up the smallest percentage of the German people[6] is in fact the race which according to page 15 makes up the races of England and France. So does this mean we’re to claim that the National Socialists considered the English and French to be racially inferior? Surely not considering Hitler’s well known love for the English, and the admiration he’d held for them up until the war began and long after[7]. Who could forget his utterances to ally with them in Mein Kampf?[8] Or the fact that Hitler told Frau Troost “The blood of every single Englishman is too valuable to be shed. Our two people belong together, racially and traditionally—this is and always has been my aim even if our generals can’t grasp it.”[9]. Perhaps Hitler didn’t know of the racial machinations other National Socialists had put into books and pamphlets? Perhaps Hitler was unaware of this advancement? Or, more likely this interpretation pushed by historians is simply another obfuscation and distortion of the truth.

Finally, we can see what the National Socialists intended to convey with this demographic breakdown:

All of the aforementioned races, in fact, appear in mixtures in all parts of our fatherland. The circumstance, however, that the great part of our people is of Nordic descent justifies us in taking a Nordic standpoint when evaluating character and spirit, bodily structure and physical beauty. It also gives us the right to shape our legislation and to fashion our state according to the outlook on the life of the Nordic man.

The Nazi Primer, pp. 19

As you just read the Primer in-fact implies the very opposite compared to what the University claimed, when it read: “All of the aforementioned races, in fact, appear in mixtures in all parts of our fatherland.” there is clear insinuation of commonality and unity, not disparagement and otherness in this sentence. The clear objective is thus denoting the circumstances of the racial reality in Germany not hatred, inferiority or otherness. If there was an utterance of racial inferiority directed at the other five races I must have missed it because this last paragraph makes perfect sense, as it should for any one of us who is an Ethnic-Nationalist.

Nevertheless the German National Socialists were correct to shape their legislation and to fashion their state according to the outlook of life of the ‘Nordic’ man which represented today what might be called an ethnicity. This is not calling anyone else racially inferior.

To put this into terms modern day Nationalists can understand, think of it as such: France must take the outlook of the French ethnic group and of their unique historical past and experience as the French people to determine the legislative and cultural character of France, so even if France has a smattering of other European ethnicities, whether it be German, English, Spanish or what have you; the French who should be the majority are represented as such. This doesn’t mean the French suddenly see the former ethnic groups as ‘inferior’ it simply means that France belongs to the French, as Germany does the Germans.

Although, perhaps this analogy would work best with a country like Australia? Australia who most embodies the ethnic mix up the early National Socialists are referencing here.

Australia as is commonly known is made up of all the ethnicities of the British isles; English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh. For the vast majority of our history this has been the case, and today what is dubbed the ‘Anglo-Celtic’ Australian is the majority. Like the National Socialists saw different ethnicities in Germany we Australians have multiple ethnicities which make up Australia, and as an Australian nationalist I don’t think i’d be straying too far off the beaten track to state our aim of Australia should be to foster a unique Australian identity and gear it towards those with British heritage, whether that be in attracting immigrants or simply representing our character as a nation. In this way we should represent our British roots so they become uniquely Australian. This doesn’t mean other Europeans like Germans, Swedes, Italians, French or whoever aren’t or cannot be Australians, they of course can since we’re all European brothers. But the aim of Australians should be to cater to our majority and history as a British descended people. There is no hostility let alone sense of inferiority directed at these other groups but merely a maintenance of who we are and where we came from which defines our character.

Notes and References

[1] The Nazi Primer

[2] To read in depth about National Socialist race theories and their three stages, read this paper by A. James Gregor, originally published in ‘The European’ 1958.

[3] “Gunther in his study of German races attempts to estimate the proportion of the different races in the composition of our people.” – The Nazi Primer, pp. 18

[4] Tatsachen – Die Leipziger DAF-Tagung 2.-6 Dez. 1935, Published by the German Labour Front, Printed by Buch- und Tiefdruck DmbH, 1935 Dr. Robert Ley: Fatherland, Race, Discipline and Love of Life.

[5] “Providing an affirmative definition of Aryan posed additional theoretical and political problems, both of which could also be construed as undermining the asserted scientific basis for racial policy. In July 1933, for example, Hans Seel, an Interior Ministry official, asked Achim Gercke (1902–1997), then the ministry’s racial expert, how he would reconcile the “Aryan paragraph” in the Civil Service Law with the following definition of Aryan by Albert Gorter, another prominent ministry official:“The Aryans (also Indo-Germans, Japhetiten) are one of the three branches of the Caucasian (white race); they are divided into the western (European), that is the German, Roman, Greek, Slav, Lett, Celt [and] Albanesen, and the eastern (Asiatic) Aryans, that is the Indian (Hindu) and Iranian (Persian, Afghan, Armenian, Georgian, Kurd). Non-Aryans are therefore: 1. the members of the two other races, namely the Mongolian (yellow) and the Negroid (black) races; 2. the members of the other two branches of the Caucasian race, namely the Semites (Jews, Arabs) and Hamites (Berbers). The Finns and Hungarians belong to the Mongolian race; but it is hardly the intention of the law to treat them as non-Aryans. Thus . . . the non-Jewish members of all European Volk are Aryans. . . .“This definition of Aryan was clearly unacceptable. Not only did it include large numbers of non-European peoples such as Kurds and Afghans, but it also made the racial laws seem to be based on political expedience rather than science. Gercke replied that he would use the definition of Aryan established by the Expert Advisor for Population and Racial Policy (Sachverständigenbeirats für Bevölkerungs- und Rassenpolitik): “An Aryan is one who is tribally related (stammverwandte) to German blood. An Aryan is the descendant of a Volk domiciled in Europe in a closed tribal settlement (Volkstumssiedlung) since recorded history.” This definition managed to include Finns and Hungarians, and exclude Kurds and Afghans. —– In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws established a new term for racially acceptable origin: German or related blood. This remained the standard wording in legal documents until the end of World War II. Nevertheless, even experts continued to use the term Aryan well after 1935. – The Nazi Ancestral Proof: Genealogy, Racial Science, and the Final Solution, Eric Ehrenreich, 2007 Indiana University Press, pp. 209-210″ Also see ‘Race and the Third Reich by Christopher M. Hutton’ in which he destroys the idea of ‘Aryan’ being used as a racial category in the Third Reich. We can nevertheless see that those who were ‘Aryan’ went far beyond those six races which made up the German people, it went as far as Finns and Hungarians even other Slavic populations. Seeing as this is the case it’s curious why the authors of this paper are trying to tell us that members of the German people itself were considered inferior when that would mean other Europeans, particularly Slavs as far off as Finland are somehow more related? This I do not buy.

[6] The Nazi Primer, pp. 19

[7] Helmut Heiber & David Glantz, Hitler and his Generals: Military Conferences 1942-1945, pp. 466 and 985 n. 1298

[8] Adolf Hitler, My Struggle (ZENTRALVERLAG DER NSDAP. FRANZ EHER NACHF. GMBH), Volume 2, Chapter 13 / Hitler says on page 663 ‘two states remain to us as possible allies in Europe, namely, Britain and Italy.’

[9] Hart, B. H. Liddell, The Other Side of the Hill, pp. 200-201 and Chamberlain, William Henry, America’s Second Crusade, pp. 76

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