UNIVERSITY OF NIŠ
FACULTY OF PHILOSOPHY
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
THE NAZI UTOPIAN PROJECT: THE UTOPIAN ELEMENTS IN THE CREATION OF NAZI GERMANY AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR IMPLEMENTATION
Student: Ivan Stamenkovic Mentor: Milica Živkovic, PhD
Niš, March 2011
The twentieth century had been full of utopian and quasi-utopian projects and attempts at forming a perfect or near-perfect society. Many of these endeavours were doomed to failure from the very start since they were not planned in detail and were performed on a very small number of people, and thus could not withstand the pressures of the society in which they were situated, eventually crumbling and succumbing to the mainstream of the socio-economical trends of the age. On the other hand, there were those attempts which did not accept merely setting up an alternative way of living, while hoping that the example will be recognized by others and hopefully followed, but tried to get to the very roots of what constitutes a society and change it for good, thus achieving a certain creation which, in the eyes of the creators, seemed an ideal state. These attempts were usually planned up to the smallest details and demanded a lot of effort and organization, as well as certain special historical circumstances that a nation had to be going through in order for the ideas to find a fertile ground for their further proliferation. No other movement of such kind has been more characteristic of the twentieth century than the Nazi attempt at creating their ideal state.
It is my point in this seminar paper to prove that in Germany the Nazis wanted to create was just that – a utopian state for the German people. However, note that I used the words ‘for the German people’. It is exactly this aspect that will be the focal point of this research through the investigation of the double aspects of all the utopian projects we have witnessed so far – that the utopian ideals of one man is necessarily to introduce a dystopian state of affairs for another when they are put into practice. Furthermore, this study will also delve into the possible underlying ideas of this alleged Utopia and try to establish an indubitable link between the myths surrounding the ancient mythological civilization of the Aryan people and the pillars of the Third Reich’s ideology. Even though it cannot even remotely be claimed that this myth was the sole driving force behind the Nazis’ actions, I find that the connections and the implications are too obvious to be overlooked. Perhaps the idea of reclaiming the long lost state of the Aryan people and creating a pure Aryan state was not the exclusive inspiration of every single Party member during these years, but the intoxicating prospect of creating a prosperous society composed of the pure Nordic racial stock was the spawning ground for all the other practical courses of action the Nazis undertook. To put it bluntly, every high-ranking Nazi official must have been contemplating the idea of a flawlessly organized Empire which would possibly reclaim the glory of the old days, and that idea has stayed somewhere in the back of their minds guiding their future decisions and actions. This is why I feel looking into this matter is of great importance, because, of course, the plans for Germany’s ‘thousand-year-Reich’ were the cause of the greatest suffering of mankind in the twentieth century and have led to atrocities unimaginable to people of the age. However, this research is not to be understood as dealing solely with historical facts and data, but as a study of aspects of Utopian societies described in so many different works of literature and film which could be found in a real society which once existed. In other words, by examining certain social structures existent in Nazi Germany, it will be proven that Utopian ideas are not inextricably bound to works of fiction, but that they are widely present in real-life state projects. Please note that the word ‘project’ is repeated several times, the reason for that being the issue that creating such a state is a long-lasting process, which was to be undertaken in various stages. Nevertheless, the issues discussed in this paper will hopefully ascertain that this process was well under way in Hitler’s Germany and will try to sketch its possible outcomes by substantiating the claims with certain elements of Nazi ideology.
Some critics may argue that Hitler himself reject the myths of Germans being the purest offspring of the Aryan race and that he sternly opposed any mysticism or occultism to be implemented in the Nazi Party’s politics. First of all, even though this may be true, Hitler did not form the Nazi party himself and did not make all of the decisions by himself – there were other high-ranking officials for whom there is firm evidence that they liked dealing even with the occult and who strongly believed in this myth. Secondly, there is the frequent recurrence of the mentions of the Aryan race not only in Hitler’s speeches, but in records of witnesses of his private conversations. Thirdly, Hitler realized that this potentially unifying myth might even prove to be counter-productive, since he soon understood that not everyone would be willing to fight and die for such an abstract goal, and that on the other hand not all Germans fit into the ideal Nordic-Aryan standards; however, this in no way undermines the claim that the Nazi Party was formed around this ideal. Once again, this paper does not attempt to prove that this utopian Aryan Empire was the one and only goal of the Nazi Party, but that it was an idealistic image they all strived for while forging the plans for their immediate actions in and out of the battlefield. Therefore, the following part of this paper will deal with the influence of the Aryan mythological postulates on the development of the ideological assumptions of the ruling National Sozialist Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (Nazi Party or NSDAP) in creating the Third Reich, while the subsequent part explores the ways and consequences of putting these ideas into practice and the way utopian ideas easily turn into a dystopian reality.
2. THE ARYAN MYTH AND ITS INFLUENCE ON THE CREATION OF THE THIRD REICH
2.1. The Aryan Myth
The word ‘Aryan’ has not always had such a negative connotation that it got when the Nazis started using it as a term in their ideological debates. At first it was used in linguistics trying to denote the common denominator for all Indo-European languages, labeling them as ‘Aryan languages’. The language we could call Aryan was also deemed a Proto-Indo-European language, and it was a language which is said to have been spoken long ago, out of which all the Indo-European languages of today stemmed. On the other hand, in the field of racial studies this concept was not nearly as benign in character. The Aryan race was considered one of the root races of the people of Europe, and it was a master race which built a mighty civilization dominating the world from the continent of Atlantis approximately 10,000 years ago. It then allegedly colonized the rest of the world after the destruction of Atlantis some 8,000 years ago, but it came at a cost – the superiority of the Aryan master race diminished over time with their mixing with other, ‘lower races’. It is claimed that the ancient Aryans were tall and muscular in stature, that they were blond and had blue eyes, and that their first communities in Europe were those of warrior-farmers.
Even though the theories of the origins and even of the very existence of the Aryan race and civilization may seem ridiculous when postulated today, it was a very influential hypothesis in the world of the latter half of the XIX and the first half of the XX century. Being that the colonial Empires were flourishing and that the very lifeline of the worlds mightiest economies depended on the postulate that there are inferior races fit and destined to be slaves to those which are superior in intelligence and creativity, these assumptions were accepted with open arms by the majority of Europeans. However, you might notice a certain seed of an idea that is present in the aforementioned description of the superhuman ancestors of modern European peoples, and that is the mention of Atlantis and of the civilization living on it before time as we know it even began. It was exactly that which fascinated people and which led to certain sparks of utopian dreams. If we are all descendants of a race of ideal human beings which had an ideal society on a mystical continent, then why should we not make an attempt to regain that ideal state of social relations achieved so long ago? Atlantis as an idea had forced the thinkers of the age to wonder off in utopian hallucinations, only to jolt them back into reality that was, to put it mildly, less than perfect. This utopian ideal has permeated every theory, law, and organization which had the Aryans as their perfect human beings and a perfect society. In my opinion, the NSDAP is first on this list.
2.2. The Myth of the Twentieth century
One of the most influential propagators of this theory that can directly be connected to the NSDAP is Alfred Rosenberg, whose book The Myth of the Twentieth Century (Der Mythus des XX Jahrhunderts) could be said to be the second most influential book in the Third Reich, after Mein Kampf, of course. In this work he quite clearly postulated the theory of the origins of the Aryan race, its evolution on Atlantis, the subsequent migration through Scandinavia, and their expansion further south. The race was, according to Rosenberg, the most superior branch of human kind on Earth, which was reflected in their innate leadership, entrepreneurial skills and life energy. According to his belief, this were the only people which possessed a soul; however, by mixing with other, inferior races, the Aryans lost their innate vitality and leadership energy which degenerated through time, eventually causing their superior features to remain latent and veiled. Nevertheless, this process did not happen in a short period of time, but lasted over a large span of centuries, during which the Aryans managed to establish many of the most developed civilizations of our age, including the Indo-Aryan, Persian, Greek and Roman. The fact that all of these civilizations were not constituted in the least by solely pure Aryans did not pose a problem for Rosenberg – the explanation was that even though the majority of the populations belonged to the inferior races, the ruling class and aristocracy which was responsible for the prosperity of these empires was always made up of people of Aryan descent. To use Rosenberg’s words from The Myth of the Twentieth Century:
And so today the long derived hypotheses becomes a probability, namely that from a northern centre of creation which, without postulating an actual submerged Atlantic continent, we may call Atlantis, swarms of warriors once fanned out in obedience to the ever renewed and incarnate Nordic longing for distance to conquer and space to shape.(Rosenberg, A. 1930)
Thus, this hypothetical race of people left us a legacy of reclaiming their lost homeland of Atlantis in a metaphorical sense i.e. of rebuilding a state consisting of pure Aryans and reestablishing their pure bloodline. However, this was not an easy task, since the Aryan blood and genes were so influenced by the lower races that it was nearly impossible to recognize the Aryan roots in certain races. For example, the two races that were Aryan in descent, and that lost their recognizable Aryan features were the Alpine race (consisting mostly of Slavs), and the Mediterranean race (consisting of the Greeks, the Italians, the Spanish, and the people from northern Africa), which have been too intermingled with the inferior racial stock, the Semitic (Jewish) people being, in his opinion, the most corrupt of them all. The only race that was somewhat untainted was the Nordic race, and soon the so called Nordic theory became a norm in German ideology. The Nordic race was allegedly the most direct offshoot of the Aryans and it consisted of Germans, Scandinavians, the English, the Dutch, and the Flemish. In order for the line of Aryan blood to be renewed, the intermarriages between these purebred Nordics and the lower races had to cease.
It is easy to see how all of the traits associated to the more esoteric myth of the Aryans was quickly transferred to the Nordics, and how this quasi scientific research granted the NSDAP an excuse to put into action their plan of creating a pan-Germanic pure Aryan state and legitimized their attempts at exterminating all the other people they deemed ‘unfit to live’. The Nordics were always deemed as the direct successors of the pure Aryans and as the progressive element in societies, clearly illustrated in this quote from a propaganda film from 1933 called The Eternal Jew (Der Ewige Jude):
The Aryan man [speaking of Germans] attaches a sense of worth to every activity. He wants to create something worthwhile: food, clothing, houses, machines, works of art, or anything else of value to everyone. He is ruled by feelings of responsibility for his achievements. (Hippler, F. 1940)
On the other hand, the Jews are described as a corruptive element, not achieving anything by their own labour, but by mere trade and usury. The image that the Nazi propaganda used was that of rats:
Wherever rats appear they bring ruin, by destroying mankind’s goods and foodstuffs. In this way, they (the rats) spread disease, plague, leprosy, typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and so on. They are cunning, cowardly, and cruel, and are found mostly in large packs. Among the animals, they represent the rudiment of an insidious and underground destruction – just like the Jews among human beings. (Ibid.)
Thus, the Nordic race was the only one with the potential for progress, and just like Rosenberg claimed of the Aryans, there was a belief that even though some of the most advanced civilizations consisted of mixed racial stock, it was because of the Nordics who consisted the upper strata of society that they prospered. It was only when the influx of inferior races was too high that the ancient Empires would crumble. The idea can even be traced back to Plato’s utopian work Republic and his ‘philosopher kings’ whose responsibility was to interbreed in order to create a capable line of rulers in his ideal state.
Hitler himself greatly respected and modeled his state according to the Roman Empire, and the best proof for that is German architecture and the rituals and banners his units had, including the Nazi salute done in a similar way to the old Roman one. The only reason why he held Rome in such high esteem was his belief that the Roman Empire was one of the greatest Aryan Empires, since its most successful emperors were Nordic Aryans by origin. Many modern day critics argue that Hitler himself abandoned such high flown ideas to face the more practical reality in his preparation for World War II and operation Final Solution of the Jews, but this quote from one of his private statements proves that his primary motivation did have a character of an Aryan utopian dream:
I shall have no peace of mind until I have planted a seed of Nordic blood wherever the population stands in need of regeneration. If at the time of the migrations, while the great racial currents were exercising their influence, our people received so varied a share of attributes, these latter blossomed to their full value only because of the presence of the Nordic racial nucleus. (Trevor-Roper, H. 1988)
By this popularization of the racial theories by the NSDAP, the two myths finally merged into one myth of the Master Race (in German Herrenrasse) which unified the myth of the Aryans leaving their legacy to the Nordics of recreating their once prosperous civilization as the purest representatives of their racial stock. It is not difficult to imagine how appealing the notion of being innately superior to other people sounded to the Germans and the other chosen ones. However, this is what brought about the denigration and dehumanization of the other races, and in a psychologically sophisticated way justified the atrocities being performed upon them.
2.3. Aryosophy – Going to the extremes of fanaticism?
Another instance that must be looked into is the notion that the so called ‘Aryosophists’ were the greatest propagators of these ideas, and that they played a very important part in the creation of the NSDAP. When we speak about Aryosophy, the best way to define this special branch of studying the Aryan myth would be to say that it was closely connected to the occult and obscure dealings within Germany’s intellectual and political belief, and that the proponents of this approach formed the most fanatical believers in the superior Aryan descent of the Germanic peoples. One of the highly influential organizations in this sphere was the Thule society, a lodge society whose members firmly believed in the lost land of Thule as the place where a superior civilization of Aryan people started their colonization of the world. This mythic land of Thule was allegedly modern-day Iceland, and it is needless to emphasize the utopian potential this very idea possessed. Again there is that supposed connection to Atlantis which always stood for an unattainable model of a perfect social organization. Alfred Rosenberg was a part of the Thule society, along with Drexler, who was one of the original founders of the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, the predecessor of the NSDAP. Although their influence in the newly-formed Nazi Party is debatable because of their fanatical support of their ideas and the unrealistic attempts at reestablishing a new religious basis for the new state they would create which would stem from a variety of neo-Pagan beliefs and rituals, what counts as a fact is that the symbol of the Nazi party, and later of the Third Reich, the Swastika, was at first the symbol of the Thule society. What the Swastika symbolized was the sun wheel, the religious symbol of the older religions for which they thought that they were closer to the religion of their Aryan ancestors.
Another instance of the influence of esoteric and occult society on the ruling party of Germany was the fact that even Heinrich Himmler himself had a wide range of obscure beliefs influenced by the Thuleans. Apart from his commitment to pan-Aryan racialism, he was a strong proponent of Germanic Neopaganism and mysticism which is best seen in his introduction of Pagan rituals in the Shutzstaffel or the infamous SS, which was supposed to be a small scale experiment for the new German utopian society. The point of introducing such obscure people and organizations into this paper is not some sort of sensationalism, but the attempt to illustrate how many different factors formed the practices of what we know as a political party symbolized by one man – Adolf Hitler. The point is that all of these movements and ideologies shared one belief – the belief in the lost state of bliss possessed by our ancestors, and I consider that the Nazi ideology was not immune to the penetration of such ideas into the milieu of their official policy. The recorded actions and beliefs of these indoctrinated individuals prove that the seed of Hitler’s pan-Germanic state was actually a utopian attempt of reclaiming something that had been lost in the past ages.
2.4. Hitler and “Mein Kampf”
Moreover, the ultimate proof of this claim comes from Hitler himself in the book that could be called ‘the Bible of the Third Reich’, namely Mein Kampf. Hitler’s political manifesto is full of reference to the Aryan race and its infinite creativity and superiority, while on the other hand urges the people of Aryan descent to join the revolutionary goal of creating a purely Aryan-Nordic state and to drive out the element that Hitler feels is the sole corruptive element in the societies of the present – the Jews. The revolution was not only to be a political and social one, but a revolution of moral principles against everything that the Jews stood for.
The fundamental principle is that the State is not an end in itself but the means to an end. It is the preliminary condition under which alone a higher form of human civilization can be developed, but it is not the source of such a development. This is to be sought exclusively in the actual existence of a race which is endowed with the gift of cultural creativeness. There may be hundreds of excellent States on this earth, and yet if the Aryan, who is the creator and custodian of civilization, should disappear, all culture that is on an adequate level with the spiritual needs of the superior nations to-day would also disappear. We may go still further and say that the fact that States have been created by human beings does not in the least exclude the possibility that the human race may become extinct, because the superior intellectual faculties and powers of adaptation would be lost when the racial bearer of these faculties and powers disappeared. (Hitler, A. 1939)
He argues that Aryans of the age are not immutably pure due to wars and trade with the inferior races which led to the weakening of their bloodline. His main goal was to reinstate the age he named ‘antiquity’, which is one of the three ages according to his division, the age of his present and the medieval age being the other two. In antiquity, Hitler states, infanticide and the killing of racially impure enemies were justified with the preserving of the purity of the society and its race. In the medieval times, the Jews corrupted this order which he felt natural, and the weak and defective i.e. inferior people were treated with compassion, which led to the reversal of roles in society – those destined to be on the lower levels of the ladder had become superior to the ones who were supposed to rule. With the reestablishment of this order from antiquity, the strong will again rule the weak with no compromise, as was always the case in nature, and a state of affairs which would lead to the continuation of the natural evolution would be reinstated.
Such a dispensation of Nature is quite logical. Every crossing between two breeds which are not quite equal results in a product which holds an intermediate place between the levels of the two parents.[…] Such mating contradicts the will of Nature towards the selective improvements of life in general.[…]If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.[…] It (history) shows, with a startling clarity, that whenever Aryans have mingled their blood with that of an inferior race the result has been the downfall of he people who were the standard-bearers of a higher culture. (Ibid.)
Hitler’s belief in the historical superiority of the Aryans is evident, since the term Aryan is repeated numerous times throughout the book; however, the reason this is overlooked is perhaps his constant belittling of the Jewish people as the key element for the failure of the Aryan race. The statement he made in private on several occasions is repeated once again, proving that if the former Empire’s declined because the Master race formed but a ruling fraction of the populace, his new thousand-year Reich would give the status of humans solely to Nordic-Aryans:
All the great civilizations of the past became decadent because the originally creative race died out, as a result of contamination of the blood. Every manifestation of human culture, every product of art, science and technical skill, which we see before our eyes to-day, is almost exclusively the product of the Aryan creative power. This very fact fully justifies the conclusion that it was the Aryan alone who founded a superior type of humanity; therefore he represents the archetype of what we understand by the term: MAN. He is the Prometheus of mankind, from hose shining brow the divine spark of genius has at all times flashed forth, always kindling anew that fire which, in the form of knowledge, illuminated the dark night by drawing aside the veil of mystery and thus showing man how to rise and become master over all the other beings on the earth. […] The Aryan neglected to maintain his own racial stock unmixed and therewith lost the right to live in the paradise which he himself had created. In this planet of ours human culture and civilization are indissolubly bound up with the presence of the Aryan. If he should be exterminated or subjugated, then the dark shroud of a new barbarian era would enfold the earth. (Ibid.)
The entire previous section was an attempt to prove the massive influence that Aryosophy and other racial theories had on the creation of the official policy of the NSDAP, which subsequently transferred it partially into laws of the Third Reich. The influence is not, of course, absolute, and I did not try to prove that all NSDAP leaders were believers in the occult and in the esoteric practices of a small number people. But what I am trying to demonstrate is that the dream-like utopian message from mythology was a very strong motivating factor for the future racial segregation and extermination of other nations. When the severity of the crimes committed is taken into account, no factor in the creation of such legalized crime can be neglected and ignored as irrelevant. With regard to all the material gathered here, I feel it is clearer that many residents of Nazi Germany reached out to this dream to quench their internal doubts in the moral justification of the atrocities of World War II.
3. NAZI UTOPIA TURNING TO DYSTOPIA
3.1 Where the ideas came from – the most prominent ideologists of Nazism
Since the previous section was dedicated to the ideological background of the Nazi beliefs and practices, now we are going to see some practical issues which are in my opinion a typical example of turning the idealized utopia into reality. The same conclusion could be drawn from all of these examples, and that is the fact that after implementing such legislation and practices meant to create a more perfect society, the consequences were completely the opposite – what the leaders of Nazi Germany have created was a prototypical dystopian society governed by a small group of people in control of the obedient indoctrinated masses.
First of all, it is necessary to deal some more with the persons who inspired such actions. It has to be noted that the ideas and principles these persons promoted were completely compatible with the ideas explored in the previous section even though not directly influenced by them. It is therefore crucial to notice at least some of them since their vision completes the ideological basis for the creation today known as the Third Reich.
A man who gained infamy simply because his theoretical constructs were so appealing to the NSDAP the members of which managed to use them as an excuse for many gruesome deeds is the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. His major influence on the Nazis came through the key term of Übermensch, a concept her developed in his play Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also Sprach Zarathustra).. The term, which does not have a definite translation to English (roughly translated as overman or superman), designated for Nietzsche a goal that humanity can set for itself, a new advanced generation of humans that would give meaning to human life, since he would be a creator of new values in the void and nihilism that was left with the death of God and all the moral values it stood for, motivated by a love of this world and of life itself. To use Nietzsche’s own words:
I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. … All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is ape to man? A laughing stock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to overman: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. […] Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape…. The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth. […] Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman-a rope over an abyss […] what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end. (Nietzsche, F. 1976)
It is easy to grasp how this concept tied in perfectly with the Nazi goal of creating a master race and a pure Aryan population that would be the nation of Übermenschen, of perfected individuals, which would be achieved by the expulsion of Untermenschen, all of those corrupted and corrupting races that had been putting a halt on human evolution for so long. It is crucial to note that the concept of Untermensch was purely a Nazi construct and that it appears nowhere in Nietzsche’s work, used only to reinforce the duality and the gap between the ‘Aryans’ and other ‘inferior’ races.
Another philosophical construct which seemed to fit Nazi ideology perfectly was Nietzsche’s will to power (der Wille zur Macht) – a philosophical construct denoting a basis for comprehending human behaviour in the sense that he regarded that people and animals essentially wanted power, and not like the thinkers of the age postulated to adapt or survive i.e. the drive for conservation. Even though he intended this concept to denote a matter of humanistic self-perfection, the version that was preferred by the Nazis was that of a quest for self-perfection as well as an urge for elitist, political and aristocratic domination. This, as well as Nietzsche’s criticism of the attempts to achieve an egalitarian society, were causes to deem this man the most powerful ideologue of the NSDAP; however, in reality he was a great opponent of anti-Semitism and it is a fact that Nazi scholars such as Alfred Bäumler read his works selectively in order to find terms they deemed fit to justify their ends.
However, this notion of ‘overmen’ and ‘superhumans’ was not new in the age, since many other thinkers dealt with the issues of the need for heroic leadership, most prominent of them being Robert Carlyle and his work On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. In this work he celebrated the concept of a heroic man similar to Aristotle’s ‘magnanimous’ man in the sense that it was a person who flourished in the fullest sense, and defined the hero as a person who had to deal with many obstacles and contradictions in his lifetime. Heroes are, according to Carlyle, not flawless, and they proved their worth exactly by showing their creative energy in the face of such difficulties, and which does not have to mean they were morally perfect and possessed no flaws. With his open sneering at democracy and hereditary monarchies, Carlyle argued that the society was best run by those exceptional examples of humanity, the heroes (Carlyle, T. 2009). This ideology was a very appealing construct for the fascists and was generally adopted by the Nazis as a justification for the inhumanities they ‘had’ to commit while in power.
The final ideologue of the politicians of the third Reich found his place in this work because he illustrates that the ideas of the NSDAP were not limited merely to the territory of Germany and to the Germans. The man who was allegedly a great inspiration to Hitler was Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau, whose essay An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines) Hitler had read before writing Mein Kampf. In this essay, Gobineau argues that the only race that could be deemed a part of the human species is the white race, since Adam, as our progenitor was white. This was one of the first attempts at scientifically justifying racism and proving that the white race is responsible for all great achievements in the course of history. In addition he gives a detailed account that the Aryan race was a portion of the white race which reached the highest level of development (Gobineau, A. 1966). Joachim C. Fest, a biographer of Adolf Hitler claimed that this book had a very deep influence on Hitler, but that, of course, the main ideas were disregarded in order for those that suited the immediate demagogical purpose to be emphasized.
3.2. Reclaiming the Aryan lands
All of the attempts to be discussed in the following few pages are attempts at primarily creating a utopian German state; however, the utopian dream hardly ended there, since the NSDAP viewed the world as their playing ground and their ways of experimenting with new models of government. The Nazi New Order was an all-encompassing master plan for reclaiming the lost pure Aryan state, and later reestablishing Aryan domination over the world as the most advanced race of humanity. The pan-Germanic racial state was supposed to be in the centre, running the world as the Aryans of old had run the greatest empires of our time. It also included eliminating all the impure elements in this new, perfect state-like creation, which included getting rid of the Jewish population and all lower races and those unfit to live. Like the utopian concepts of old, it included slavery and expansionism, with the concept of Lebensraum being the central in these attempts. As one of the most important goals of Hitler’s foreign policy, and roughly translated as ‘living space’ or ‘habitat’ into English, it posed a desire of the Germans to reclaim the lands of their alleged Aryan ancestors. As a superior nation, the Germans and Nordic-Aryans needed to take the land from the Untermenschen in order for it to be used properly. The key issue in accomplishing Hitler’s utopia was therefore acquiring the necessary land for the Aryan population to grow in the newly formed Aryan Greater Germany. It is argued that perhaps acquiring Lebensraum was one of the strongest motivating goals to have led Germany to war, since there new Reich required substantially more living space which could only be attained by force i.e. going into war. The idea of Lebensraum can not be considered as an original German creation, but can be found in many utopian creations, one of them being the work of Thomas More, Utopia, which gave the whole idea of a perfect society its name. Namely, the citizens of the fictional state called Utopia were also allowed to have colonies in the surrounding lands, and were encouraged to inhabit it in case of overpopulation, driven by the belief that the indigenous inhabitants were unable to make good use of it. It is needles to mention that this idea had a great influence on all of the colonial projects throughout the world, where the colonizers proclaimed it was their duty to help the ‘poor’ indigenous people and bring technology to their aid in order to exploit their resources in a better way, while were actually driven by the urge to exploit both the land and the people. The Germans too had this quasi-utopian idea, but were at least honest in their gruesome attempt to obliterate those who according to their belief were not entitled to the land due to their inferior skills in harvesting its full potential. The racial, Aryan-based ideal society was starting to show its true, dystopian features.
3.3. Ideal citizens for an ideal state
The concept of the profile of inhabitants that would settle in the newly acquired Lebensraum was also peculiar for a society striving for a utopian organization. The concept of Wehrbauer was Hitler’s vision for an army of warrior-peasants which would form an ideal community in the new lands Germany would acquire, a community based on the values of agricultural production, whose people would be ready to become soldiers as soon as the need for that would appear. Hitler and the high ranking officials wanted to reinforce the cult of the Aryan origin of the Germans by promoting physical labour as the most honest line of work which should not be looked down upon in any case. The Aryans of antiquity were all soldier-peasants and prospered by the fruits of their creative work; however, the enemy of the Aryans, the Jews, had been using this honesty to get rich by trade, a field of work with absolutely no creativity involved. Another doctrine which was tightly connected to this issue was the doctrine of Blood and Soil (Blut und Boden) which stated that the German land was mystically and inextricably bound to German blood and valued the rural way of life, cherishing the bond of the farmer to the land he tilled. Something that at first comes as a surprise, but will, as shall be discussed, prove to be quite in tune with the idea of a future Reich, is the fact that there would be no churches in these newly formed communities, thus reconfirming Nazism’s status of a political religion. The farmland was supposed to be the blood source of the German nation, and deemed peasants the cultural heroes of Germany, as the ones in charge of German racial stock. Rosenberg was the first in line to promote this ideology, promoting the idea that the territories once occupied by the Aryans had to be regained in order for the unity of blood and soil to be reestablished.
The Wehrbauer as a prototypical German citizen in the new state was merely one of the colonization experiments, since the quest to form a sample of the ideal community in the future state had begun in the a few years earlier with the creation of the Shutzstaffel or the infamous SS. The SS was primarily a paramilitary organization and its members were soldiers before anything else, but a few characteristic traits in the forming of this organization gave us the insight into the future requirements for an ideal German society according to Hitler and their leader, Heinrich Himmler. First of all, we already spoke of Himmler’s great interest in the occult and his firm belief in the myth of the Aryans, which was best mirrored in the emblems and the racial content of the SS forces. The SS could only consist of pure Aryans, blond, blue-eyed, muscular men, who had to provide proof of their Aryan descent ranging several generations into the past. This was to be the racial elite, formed to be the basis for the racial renewal of the Aryan race. As Himmler said in one of his speeches:
The ultimate aim for those 11 years during which I have been the Reichsführer SS has been invariably the same: to create an order of good blood which is able to serve Germany; […] to create an order which will spread the idea of Nordic blood so far that we will attract all Nordic blood in the world, take away the blood from our adversaries, absorb it so that never again, looking at it from the viewpoint of grand policy, Nordic blood, in great quantities and to an extent worth mentioning, will fight against us.(Himmler’s Address, Document 1918-PS. 1946)
The second and even more important characteristic was the egalitarian organization of the SS, where the ranks were deserved by merit and not by descent as was often the case in the regular army. There were even officer schools giving those of lower social opportunities to reach a high position in the hierarchy of the SS; however, no matter how high in rank one reached, the relationship towards those under him was not as formal, and a sense of brotherhood permeated the ranks. The military prefix Herr was not used, and the members which were off-duty paid no attention to ranks and addressed each other as Comrade (Kamerad). This egalitarianism and brotherhood is best exemplified in Leni Riefenstahl’s movie, Triumph des Willens (Triumph of Will) which was made for the 1935 NSDAP rally in Nuremberg. The scenes depicting the SS members depict them all sleeping in identical tents, helping each other shave, doing morning recreation together, all of them refusing to wear their shirts as a sign that their ranks were not important and they were all brothers in arms. This egalitarian society was to be the reality of the new racially pure Aryan Third Reich, where everyone would share their responsibilities, and have the same chances for social advancement depending on their own capabilities (Riefenstahl, L. 1935). This, of course, was a propaganda construct and ideological indoctrination on a large scale – even though equality was promoted, it applied only to Party members and those politically suitable. Even though a society was to be that of all people being equal, you had an all-powerful godlike image of the Führer to follow.
To ensure that this doctrine was reinforced, organizations such as the Hitler Jugend were formed for young boys so that the ideology of the SS would be fed to the children from an early age and they would all be good, obedient members of the Party. It is needless to state that only children of Aryan descent were accepted, even though later on they even accepted children of doubtful racial origin, but only if the recognized a potential for ‘Germanization’ in them. Through games and recreation the children were steadily led to believe the propaganda and were becoming the citizens which would be the bearers of the new Germany,
As far as the position of women was concerned, the Blood and Soil doctrine promote strong peasant women as the ideal model for all women in the Reich. This ideal was closely associated to the fact that a woman was primarily thought of as a housekeeper and even more importantly, a mother, who would give birth to as many children possible in order for the Nordic Aryan populace to be increased and for Germany to have as many soldiers for the future conflicts. The policy probably stems back to Nietzsche’s teachings about the Übermensch when he stated that the aspiration of every woman would have to be to give birth to as many Übermenschen possible. Not only would they have to raise new warriors, they would also need to be model wives to their husbands and in case of emergency help the war industry to serve their country and Volk. One of the most characteristic projects related to women in Germany was the Lebensborn project, which was a chain of maternity homes present all over the Reich. Translated into English as ‘the fountain of life’, this organization helped wives of SS members and unmarried pregnant women and young mothers give birth to and take care of their children. The women had to be biologically fit and of appropriate racial descent. These children were thus introduced into the NSDAP machinery from the very beginning of their lives. However, rumours were heard that the Lebensborn facilities were abused by the Germany government to be made into actual breeding grounds for the members of the SS. The women there would be available to any SS officer and having children would be encouraged since the racial background of the child was secure, and the state would then raise the child in the ideologically appropriate environment, thus creating faithful servants of the Reich. This was actually planned reproduction of racially fit soldiers and an early form of eugenics. However, it was not the only aspect of the society which was under direct jurisdiction of the state.
3.4. Creating a purely Aryan race
The science of eugenics had never before been under such strict control of the state than it was in Nazi Germany. The utopian goals that the officials set before them required strict laws to be introduced quickly, thus creating the double standards we often apply to Nazi Germany – the higher goals that the government promoted were very desirable for those of Aryan descent since they lulled them in a utopian dream; on the other hand, for the others it created a dystopian hell. The Nuremberg Laws were introduced in 1935 to ensure that all lower races would not have any influence in the creating of German racial stock of the future. The Law of German Blood and Honour decreed that all marriages between Germans and Jews were forbidden and punishable, thus excluding the people deemed the most corruptive element in the German gene pool. As an illustration a section of the full text of the law is quoted:
Moved by the understanding that the purity of German blood is essential to the further existence of the German people, and inspired by the uncompromising determination to safeguard the future of the German nation, the Reichstag has unanimously resolved upon the following law, which is promulgated herewith:
Marriages between Jews and citizens of German or kindred blood are forbidden. Marriages concluded in defiance of this law are void, even if, for the purpose of evading this law, they were concluded abroad. […] (Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, 1935)
The laws also included a strict and rather complex regulation of who was to be considered a Jew and who is not, judging by the number of ancestors of Jewish origin, which proved to be very important later on during World War II because a simple mathematical calculation decided whether you lived or died.
However, Jews were not the only ones for which the access to the Aryan gene pool was forbidden. The Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring which was enacted in 1933 stated a strict policy of forced sterilization for those who had hereditary diseases and handicaps (mental or physical) and were likely to produce children which were also suffering from similar deficiencies. The Law included all those which suffered from: congenital mental deficiency, schizophrenia, Manic-Depressive Insanity, hereditary epilepsy, hereditary blindness, hereditary deafness, and any other severe hereditary deformity. The Law introduced a real witch-hunt for people with some form of physical or mental deficiency when the Genetic Health Courts were formed and unjust trials denied many people of the right to have children. Furthermore, the eugenic practices were become more and more severe until the T4 Euthanasia project was introduced as the culmination between 1939 and 1941 when doctors were allowed to order the killing of anyone deemed ‘unworthy of life’. Those who were the primary targets of these ‘preventive killings’ were the mentally ill, and the methods used in their extermination served as a training ground for the future mass killings of the Jews.
3.5. Nazism as the new religion
The religious aspects of Nazi Germany are a subject of heated debate even today, and no one can say with certainty which religion was prevalent under Nazi rule because of the discrepancy between the reality in Germany, and it was that the population was mainly Christian, and the ideology of the NSDAP which strived for the reinstatement of the older, Pagan-based religions in accordance with the idea of recreating the Aryan state. The issue was that for the new society to be created, a new religion was required which would serve the purposes of the new order which was promoted.
The fact that cannot be disputed is that Nazism had pretence to become a religion by itself, thus uniting the secular ad religious power under one single organization. The description of a political religion fits perfectly into the practices of the Nazi Party – it was a strong ideological movement attaining power equivalent to that of a religion, trying to replace or eradicate the existing religions. One of the greatest theorists of political religions, Eric Voegelin wrote in his The Political Religion:
Men can allow the contents of the world to grow to such an extent that the world [i .e., as a whole] and God disappear from view, but they cannot eliminate the problems of human existence. These problems live on in the individual soul and when God has dropped out of sight behind [the contents of] the world, then the contents of the world become the new gods; when the symbols of the transmundane religiosity are prohibited, there appear in their place new symbols that have been developed out of the innerworldly language of science. […]The innerworldly religiosity which experiences the social collective – be it humanity, the people, the class, the race, or the state – as realissimum [ultimate reality] is to be seen as a falling away from God (Voegelin, E. 1986)
The issue of the ‘sacralization’ of politics is more than evident in the Third Reich – the huge mass gatherings, sacred flames, preaching, memorials, processions and funeral marches all had a dose of the religious in them and certainly perform a religious function for the disillusioned people of post World War I Germany. Hitler and his high-ranking officials always strived to deepen this connection between Nazism as a political system, and as a new religion of the future purely Aryan state. Hitler’s own project of Welthaupstadt Germania, which included the architectural reorganization of Berlin as the capital of the new Reich, was a clear instance of megalomaniac utopian dreams of the architectural perfection and grandeur of the new capital performing the function of a New Jerusalem, mirroring the purity of the and organization of the country. The objects that were planned there were to be ‘the essential props for the cult of the race and nation, the mission of Aryan Germany and victory over her enemies’ (Goodrick-Clarke, N. 1985). Moreover, a very prominent motif in the aforementioned propaganda documentary by Leni Riefenstahl was the Blutfahne, the Nazi flag used in the unsuccessful Munich coup, allegedly soaked with blood of those who had died for the Nazi cause, which is used to consecrate the other flags, as if making them ‘holy’. If we add to this the fact that it was used during the funerals of high Nazi officials, it is needless to emphasize the religious status that a mere political symbol received, mirroring the goal of National Socialism to ascend to a status of religion, thus securing its place not merely as a political construct of ideas, but as a God-given order.
However, the reality was quite different, since putting these ideas into practice was quite difficult due to the existing predominantly Christian nature of the state. To create a nation that would be fully under their control, the NSDAP needed to grab hold of the sphere of religion as well, a feat almost impossible in such a short period of time without causing public unrest. Therefore, the officials had to move in steps, gradually changing the nature of the religions of the age in order to form a unified church which would then be susceptible to further modification leading to a doctrine compatible to National Socialism. This was achieved in 1933 when 28 regional churches merged into a unified Reichskirche. Nevertheless, this was not enough, since Christianity itself needed to be modified to suit Nazi purposes. Alfred Rosenberg devised a doctrine of Positive Christianity, which would reject all the Jewish influences on Christianity (mainly the Old Testament) and put an emphasis on the Aryan descent of Christ. The national religion would bring unity through a National-Socialist church whose foundations were explored in Rosenberg’s The Myth of the Twentieth Century. He argued that traditional Christianity distorted the heroic, active aspect of Christ’s struggle against the Jews and that Jesus led a traditionally ‘Germanic’ kind of life. The key issue in this whole reform was made clear only later on – Positive Christianity was merely a transitional religion which would prepare the nation for the reinstatement and revival of truly Aryan religions. So, the unity of the church was only a stepping stone towards the radical change in a religion which would be an amalgamation of the Party ethics and purely Aryan values as another of the cornerstones of a new National-Socialist culture.
The state that the Nazis tried to create may not be the best attempt at creating a perfect state; however, it is both the most recent and the most prominent, due to the severity of the consequences it had on the whole of mankind since humanity had never before witnessed such a systematic implementation of expansionist plans mixed with such a blatant disregard for human life. The aspects of this utopian project that have been discussed were certainly not the only ones, but could be considered the most prominent ones which are the most likely to illustrate the Utopian sides of the state which once threatened to conquer whole Europe. By examining the ideological influences on official Nazi policy which were inextricably mixed with notions from mythology and literature, followed by the exploration of putting those dreams into practice, I have attempted to prove that Utopia is not something existing solely in the world of fiction, but that it is something that can easily be imported into the real world. By this it can clearly be seen that Utopian dreams are not a matter to be dealt with lightly, since creating a Utopia for one portion of the population immediately entails a dystopian reality for the rest.
The issues that were examined in this paper were selected not only to their prominence and shocking aspects, but also due to their recurrence in many Utopian works of fiction. The primary feature of society discussed is first and foremost the population and the way it is organized, which is, of course, closely connected to the problem of population planning and eugenics, which, on the other hand, closely relates to the position women have in the newly formed order. Another inextricable part of every state is creating a strong ideology that would control the masses and hold them in obedience, which is mirrored in the desire to merge the ideology with religion, creating a product which is sure to perpetuate the system as one of its strongest pillars. The high ranking Nazis moved beyond just contemplating these ideas in their manuscripts, and attempted to implement them in their official state policies, which is exactly why this work first examined the ideological background of the ideal Nazi state, while the second part tried to establish a connection between those postulates and their actual application.
The Nazi state remains as one of the many failed attempts to make not only a perfect state, but a perfect society as well. This claim is supported by the severe measures that the NSDAP ideologists implemented on a large scale, thus proving that their goal was to make deep changes in the very roots of the organization of society and culture in general. The failure of this attempt is perhaps the consequence of the fact that its goals had to be achieved by means of warfare, but we cannot omit the fact that it went against everything that was considered human and civilized, thus creating a severe reaction of the rest of the world. The question stands whether the scales of history could have tipped on the side of the Nazis, and whether we could have witnessed the product of these Utopian dreams in our own reality. Such notions were already contemplated in the works of modern fiction, which are by far the best window into this hypothetical situation we might have a chance to get. The truth is no one can with certainty say what would have happened, which is an obvious consequence of the issue that Utopias are perhaps something unattainable and that perhaps it is best to leave them to the world of fiction. The fictitious world shows a Utopian society which is already created; however, the majority of these stories do not depict the making of these societies. Perhaps that is the reason why we have not witnessed a true utopian society in known history, since the very act of its creation entails many practical solutions which are not as glorious as the goals which they aim to achieve. The bottom line of the whole situation is that a true utopian society cannot be disassociated from a dystopian means of achieving it, which was best proven through the situation the world found itself in at the period of the twentieth century when humanity should have been united in its attempts to achieve certain higher goals for the well-being of all the people of the world.
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