Racism as an Ideological Foundation

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A central element of the Nazi’s weltanschauung was “racial ideology”. It was the point of departure and basis for the “Third Reich’s” racial policy. So-called “racial theory” involved researching “racial hygiene” (eugenics) according to supposedly scientific standards and making it teachable as theory.

The theoretical foundations of this “racial theory” went back to the 19th century (Arthur de Gobineau 1816–1882 and Houston Stewart Chamberlain 1855–1927). They were picked up early on by Hitler (“Mein Kampf”) and developed into pseudoscientific theories by Nazi ideologues such Alfred Rosenberg and Hans F. K. Günther.

Nazi ideologues postulated a fundamental differentiation of humankind into superior and inferior races. Accordingly, three racial groups existed: the “culture-creating race” (“master race”), the “culture-sustaining races” (chiefly the “African” and “Asian races”) and the “culture-destroying”, “Semitic races”.

The Nazis put this racial ideology into political practice, paving the way for the Holocaust, the extermination of supposedly “inferior races”. Nazis did everything possible to cultivate the superior “Aryan”, whom they glorified as the exemplar of the “master race”. To this end, supposedly inferior elements were eliminated from the German “national body” for the purpose of “racial hygiene”.

This radicalization first resulted in the marginalization and later in the systematic killing of people with incurable illnesses and disabilities (“euthanasia”) who were deemed “inferior”. The theory classified Jews as well as Sinti and Roma on the lowest levels of the “destructive races”. They were defamed, persecuted, deported and finally killed in huge numbers in numerous extermination camps as if in a factory.

Sexual contact between people of “superior” and “inferior” races was proscribed (“racial shame”) for reasons of “racial purity”, even legally with the “Nuremberg Racial Laws” of 1935. Family data (births and baptisms) compiled in parish registers provided an important resource for “certificates of Aryan descent”, which were an integral part of the racial and anti-Semitic measures aimed at cultural segregation and followed by extermination.

Source / title

  • Jens Liebenau, public domain

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