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Social darwinism racism and nazi germany essay

Print this page Idea of 'Lebensraum' Between 1921 and 1925 Adolf Hitler developed the belief that Germany required Lebensraum 'living space' in order to survive.

The conviction that this living space could be gained only in the east, and specifically from Russia, formed the core of this idea, and shaped his policy after his take-over of power in Germany in 1933. So where did he get this idea from? And why did he envisage his country's future living space lying in the east?

  1. What happened in Germany later was obviously not well received by Jewish geneticists, even Jewish eugenists, and certain other groups. 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.
  2. Ernst Haeckel taught that "the morphological differences between two generally recognized species — for example sheep and goats—are much less important than those...
  3. 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. 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.
  4. Translated by Edmund Howard New York.

The term Lebensraum was coined by the German geographer, Friedrich Ratzel 1844-1904. During the last two decades of the 19th century, Ratzel developed a theory according to which the development of all species, including humans, is primarily determined by their adaptation to geographic circumstances.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. The Nazi rise to power I n the aftermath of World War I, Germany remained in turmoil throughout the 1920s, providing an ideal setting for the rise of extremist ideologies and firebrand political leaders.
  3. The Nuremberg Laws; race laws with the purpose of legally and administratively isolating and impoverish the Jews.

Above all, Ratzel considered species migration as the crucial factor in social adaptation and cultural change. Species that successfully adapted to one location, he thought, would spread naturally to others. Indeed, he went on to argue that, in order to remain healthy, species must continually expand the amount of space they occupy, for migration is a natural feature of all species, an expression of their need for living space.

However, according to Ratzel, such expansion could be successful only if the conquering nation 'colonised' the new territory, and by 'colonisation' he meant the establishment of peasant farms by the new occupiers. Top Pre-war intellectual fashion Ratzel's ideas very much accorded with intellectual fashions in late 19th- and early 20th-century Germany, where various forms of 'Social Darwinism' were prevalent, and where there was a growing concern about the allegedly negative effects of industrialisation and urbanisation.

There was also a belief in the virtues of agrarian society and, specifically, of the peasantry. Ratzel's ideas also fitted into the general debate about German imperialism. The idea of increasing Germany's strength by encouraging migration to Germany's colonies had developed during the 1880s and 1890s. It was thought that sending settlers to colonies could be an attractive alternative to simply trading in their raw materials. Whereas economic imperialism was particularly popular with industry, migrationist colonialism became associated with agrarianism.

Moreover, during the years immediately preceding World War One, the focus of this colonialism shifted from the settlement of overseas colonies to the idea of conquering territory in eastern Europe, and of settling it with German peasants.

The leading advocate of this notion was the influential chauvinist pressure group, the Pan-German League, and its associated propagandists. Of these perhaps the most notable was the retired general and radical-conservative publicist, Friedrich von Bernhardi.

  • During the last two decades of the 19th century, Ratzel developed a theory according to which the development of all species, including humans, is primarily determined by their adaptation to geographic circumstances;
  • Sympathy with the Jews would have been tantamount to doubting the policies of Hitler and the regime;
  • Historically, many tribes in Africa were continually involved in wars, as were most countries in Asia and America;
  • The Evolution of Adan.

In his notorious book Germany and the Next War, published in 1912, Bernhardi used many of Ratzel's ideas to advocate using a victorious war to gain space in eastern Europe for the settlement of peasant farmers. Following the outbreak of the war, the Pan-Germans seized the opportunity to present a programme of war aims advocating the seizure of large areas of western Russia.

The idea was that after most of the indigenous population had been cleared, German farmers would settle the land. The settlers were to consist mainly of war veterans and urban workers, who were meant to be the key to ensuring the 'physical and ethical health' of the German nation. The crucial turning-point in the development of the Lebensraum programme occurred when German armies conquered Poland and western Russia after 1914.

The situation became formalised with the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed by the new Soviet regime in March 1918.

Operating under the slogan of 'German Work', Oberost aimed to introduce a modern form of bureaucratic, technocratic, rationalised government in an area which the German occupiers regarded as semi-barbaric.

In the process this region came to be seen not as a complex mix of ethnic groups located in specific territories, each with its own distinct history and culture, but simply as 'space' Raum.

Many of the large numbers of people involved in this massive programme came to acquire a sense of fulfilling a German mission in the east and, through propaganda, this perception was transferred to the German homeland, where it achieved some resonance. Popular journalists wrote articles with titles such as 'To the East! Even after the end of the war, German irregular troops, the so-called Free Corps, continued to operate in the Baltic states in a guerrilla war against the Bolsheviks, fought with exceptional brutality on both sides.

The post-war German government, hoping to dominate the new Baltic republics, encouraged this process and promised land to the troops. Eventually, however, at the end of 1919, the Allies forced their disbandment and the Free Corps returned to Germany, embittered and frustrated. Some of their members found a home in Hitler's Nazi party. But he was not yet clear about where the expansion should take place, nor about what alliances he would need in order to achieve it.

To begin with he was not hostile towards Russia, and saw Britain and France as Germany's main enemies.

Indeed, during 1919, he blamed Germany's pre-war politicians for supporting Austria-Hungary against Russia. But by 1920 he was arguing that 'an alliance between Russia and Germany can come about only when Jewry is removed', and, by 1924, when he came to write Mein Kampf, he had concluded that Russia would be the target for Germany's drive to acquire Lebensraum.

So how did this change of approach come about?

Hitler and 'Lebensraum' in the East

Thus he had experienced the Bolshevik revolution at first hand and became convinced that it was the work of the Jews. Hitler considered Rosenberg an expert on Russia and became equally persuaded of the link between Bolshevism and the Jews.

By 1922, it was becoming apparent that the Bolshevik regime in Russia was there to stay. Indeed, it is clear from an interview Hitler gave in December 1922 that by then he had decided that an alliance with a Bolshevik Russia was out of the question. Germany would be better off working with Britain and Italy, which appeared to be resisting French hegemony in Europe, against Russia, which could in turn provide Germany's necessary Lebensraum.

Hitler's views on Russia had been further hardened by his contacts with Baltic German exiles in Munich. Top Mein Kampf 'Mein Kampf': Essentially, this involved his study of 'geopolitics', that is, the impact of the environment on politics, which provided him with a quasi-scientific justification for the plans he had already worked out. During his period in Landsberg prison where he had been incarcerated following the failure of his notorious Munich beer hall coup in November 1923he read and discussed Ratzel's work and other geopolitical literature provided by a Munich Professor of Geography, Karl Haushofer, and fellow-prisoner Rudolf Hess.

Haushofer emphasised the 'extremely unfavourable situation of the Reich from the viewpoint of military geography' and Germany's limited social darwinism racism and nazi germany essay of food and raw materials, and no doubt thus provided Hitler with an intellectual justification for his views.

These were expressed in Mein Kampf, and remained fundamentally the same through the following years.

  • It was thought that sending settlers to colonies could be an attractive alternative to simply trading in their raw materials;
  • Many die from disease, hunger and random executions;
  • Maybe I am being overly harsh here; Richards is a good writer, and in and of themselves the essays here all have merit;
  • When Mengele began his college studies at the University of Munich, anti-Semitism had already sprouted in the sciences....

Indeed, an important reason for his decision to invade the Soviet Union in June 1941 was his desire to acquire the Lebensraum that he had been seeking for Germany since 1925. He envisaged settling Germans as a master race in western Russia, while deporting most of the Russians to Siberia and using the remainder as slave labour.

He was not of course the only Nazi committed to acquiring Lebensraum in the east, as is demonstrated by a note in the diary of Heinrich Himmler, future leader of the SS, in 1919: