Saturday, September 23, 1978

Race and Nazi Racism, and the Latter's Impact on Anthropology

by R. Gayre of Gayre

It would be avoiding the difficulties which have beset the growth of anthropology in the last few years if we did not treat briefly, but at sufficient length, the effect of the impact of Nazi race propaganda and anti-racialist doctrines against it.

One reason why it has been necessary to devote a complete chapter to the subject of the reality of race (which would not have been called in question a few decades ago, and which is fundamental to ethnological studies) is due to a wide misconception which has developed in people’s minds. This was largely due to the growth in Germany of certain pseudo-ethnological theories, and the reactionary counter-blast against them which they provoked, and what, in our opinion, was, unfortunately, in many quarters, no less pseudo-science, which reaction, in trying to destroy Nazi ideas of race, confounded the study of race and heredity with Nazism, sometimes, it has seemed to us, willfully, and called in question the basic principles of anthropology.

This was, perhaps, largely because the attack upon what were conceived to be Nazi ideas came principally from that small but vocal influential section of philosophers, who, in a greater or lesser degree, accepted or leaned towards principles of Lamarckism, and for whom any ideas of an absolutely fixed hereditary character of race was repugnant. By their confounding the basic and orthodox conceptions of anthropology with racism, the very foundations of this science have been called in question.

This was entirely unjustified and unscientific. But it has left for us the imperative necessity to correct what is in fact a distorted conception, namely that the fixity of race and heredity gave rise to Nazi racial philosophy, and that, as that was false, so is the concept of heredity and race.

The naiveté of this conclusion is obvious. It is based on an erroneous over-simplification, which runs something like this: the Nazis taught that there was a Herrenfolk race—this was the “Aryan” or Nordic—the Nazis were wrong. Therefore, there is no such thing as race, let alone a Nordic race, and under no circumstances must the term Aryan be used from now onwards. To talk of race, Nordics and Aryans, is to be a Nazi. Anthropology inherently demands the study of race—therefore it is either a bogus science or else it must be reformed and the racial basis of it expunged.

Here in India, where these words are written, one forms the impression this confounding of race and racism has hardly, if at all, seriously affected its philosophers or reacted on ethnological work. But this cannot be said to be the case in the Western world where, in some quarters, from publicists to some anthropologists themselves, there has been a competition to out-vie each other in denying these foundations, which up to 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, had been the basis of anthropological work, except among the relatively unimportant school of neo-Lamarckism.


Yet nothing new has come to light to change the classical concepts of race fundamentally. The synthesis of biological anthropology must still, if it is to remain a science, continue to be based on heredity, and its inspirations do not lie in Lamarck, but rather in Darwin, and in Mendel, whose work teaches the importance of heredity.

In order to restore the perspective in this matter, and to see anthropology, and the knowledge it provides for us, as it has developed from its classical foundations, it is essential to repudiate both the suggestion that the concept of race does not exist and that the distortions of truth do not lie with anthropology itself. As far as the permanence of heredity is concerned we believe the facts speak for themselves, if anyone will but study them. In order, however, to clear away the distortions, both those created by the Nazi propagandists, and those reactions to Nazism which have arisen and which we believe to be equally, if not so culpably, in error, it is therefore necessary to go to the root of this matter and to trace the growth of those travesties of anthropology which ultimately came to be called racism.


One of the significant things which, curiously enough, will be found to arise from such an examination is that it will become evident that Nazi racism had its roots, not from anthropology as is so often alleged, and not in Mendel and Darwin, but actually in a form of Lamarckism, in those very conceptions and philosophies on which the doctrines of modern neo-Lamarckist anti-racialists are based.

This somewhat surprising fact will become apparent as we proceed.


The beginnings of this distortion of anthropology in modern times at the instance of a political philosophy can be traced, as most anti-racialists are not slow to point out, to Count Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain. This point is so important that it is absolutely essential to follow the development of the Nazi racial doctrines from those of Chamberlain, when it will be seen that there is a world of difference between their views and those of orthodox ethnological scientific investigation and teaching. Furthermore, and as a consequence, it will become apparent that it is a mischievous distortion of truth to allege that any work which, or researcher who, starts from the assumption of a biological basis to race is treading in the footsteps of the philosophies of Nazi racialism.


Great credit is due to the socialistic writer, Konrad Heiden, in his work Der Fuehrer for being one of the few who has realized that a completely distorted conception of anthropology is to be found in the early writings that gave rise to Nazi racial thought.


Indeed, so little did the father of Nazi racialism believe in a biological entity called race that we find him saying, as Konrad Heiden (pp. 189-190) points out:—

Race is made by man—this is Chamberlain’s key to the secrets of history.

Chamberlain ridicules the legendary “pure race.” It is a mystical concept, an “airy phantasm”!

In fact Chamberlain never taught the conception that there were pure races, which by remaining pure-bred, have as a consequence, made any valuable contribution to mankind.


On the contrary he taught (like many “progressives” today) that racial mixture was desirable, for, according to him, it was only out of racial mixture that the gifted could be created. He considered that the evidence of this was provided by the Prussian, whom he saw as the superman, resulting from a cross between the German (or Anglo-Saxon “German”) and the Slav. From this Chamberlain went on to argue that the sum of all these talented people would then form a “race,” not of blood but of “affinity.”

Of course, his notion was fantastic, and a travesty of terms, because it reduces the term race to meaning at one time something quite different from what it does at another. But in this Chamberlain was only just a little ahead in time of those writers who boggle at the word race, and do their best to use it loosely, denying to it the more precise definition which earlier scientific workers established.

From these impossible premises Chamberlain was prepared to argue, in answer to questions of whether men were related by blood ties, that he did not know and did not care! “No relationship creates a closer bond than elective affinity.”

Here we have the doctrine of “election,” in a travestied form, of some of the older theologians, but the latter never dared to preach more than an election of those who would enter the earth, earthy, and he taught an ideological election for rulership in this world.


It was this fantastic election of the ideologies who were, for Chamberlain, the so-called “Aryans.” As Heiden points out in answer to the question: “What is an Aryan?” Chamberlain gave the startling answer:—

One must know nothing of ethnography to venture a definite [my Italics] answer to this question. . . . The peoples we learned to combine under the name of Aryan vary greatly from one another; they show the most varied cranial structure, and different colours of skin, eyes and hair; and supposing there had been a common Indo-European mother race, what argument can we offer against the accumulating evidence to the effect that other, totally unrelated, types have from time immemorial been represented in our present so-called Aryan nations? At most we might call individuals, but never a whole people, Aryan.

It is needless to say that no reputable ethnologist has ever denied that the cultural and linguistic term Aryan can be equated with race, on the other hand, every anthropologist realizes, if he has given any thought to the matter, that the earliest speaker of an Indo-European or Aryan language must have had some sort of ethnic foundation, and that evidence of this persisted for a long time.

Above all things, an ethnologist would have to insist that even if Aryan and the Nordic race are not equivalent terms, no satisfactory discussion of the origins of the Aryan peoples, cultures and languages can take place without reference to ethnology and race.

If therefore, we want to find parallels to these expressions of the father of Nazi race philosophy, we will find their echo in the writings of those allegedly democratic philosophers who have made it their preoccupation in this last generation to attempt to destroy and otherwise minimize the fundamental biological and racial conceptions upon which the scientific study of man must rest. For it is in their works that we read that the study of heredity, and of race. is unnecessary, indeed undesirable, to understanding human behavior.


The intense nationalism of the German in the past, being as it was, clipped the wings of Chamberlain’s flights of fancy. He had to maneuver within the limitations placed on him by that nationalism.

This is the essential departure between Chamberlain and Marxism. Whereas the latter enunciates its political “biology” on a world-wide scale, Chamberlain had to cast his doctrine within narrower limits. As a consequence, it had to be propounded that, in a quite inexplicable and mystical manner, the supermen (who are the same as Nazis’ “Aryans”) were greater in number among the Germans, and as a consequence it followed that it was Germany’s duty to breed and inbreed these supermen (of mixed race ancestry), until all the Germans became as the Prussian Junkers—supermen or “Aryans.”


While Chamberlain had to have the bulk of his supermen located within a nation state, the German philosopher Marx, thought more internationally and was not so restricted. Despite this divergence of views, as we have just seen, Chamberlain ignored race as we understand it, just as much as any Marxist anti-racist does.


It is from Chamberlain that the whole structure of Nazi racialism was developed. It is true that the beliefs of Chamberlain are so devoid of any consistent or logical factual content that they presented difficulties to his followers, and part of the confused utterances of the Nazi propagandists on racial questions was due to the attempts of others, such as Rosenberg, to bring his “race” and “Aryan” doctrine back to some semblance of reality. As a consequence, for example, sometimes the Nazis really meant Nordic when they said Nordic, but they also confused the term with Chamberlain’s “Aryans” (the elected supermen) to refer to the German nation and all the assumed descendants of the earliest speakers of the Aryan or Indo-European languages. The same confusion existed throughout the whole of their racial pronouncements.


However, no matter how great the confusion of thought, the contradictions, the mixtures of scientific truths and facts with untruths and fiction in the doctrine of Chamberlain and the Nazis who built on his foundations, of one thing one may always be sure, and that is that at the core of these teachings there was always the mystical doctrine of Chamberlain. It seems incomprehensible that in an age when facts are demanded in all branches of reasoning that a whole philosophy could be erected that rejected the factual methods of physical anthropology, in favor of something entirely without foundations.

It is because this is so, that we find a man like Kossinna, the distinguished German anthropologist, talking nonsense about a “German soul” in a non-German body.


The Nazi propagandist/philosopher Rosenberg, faced by the overwhelming facts of anthropology, attempted in his The Myth of the Twentieth Century to try to swing the Nazi racial doctrine towards a more orthodox use of racial terms, but he failed to get away from this mystical elective conception of the “Race.” Therefore, it follows that we find him talking in the same kind of language: “Racial history is thus at the same time natural history and soul mystique” (my italics). Thus, speaking of the Dinaric racial type, which is distinct from the Nordic, but constitutes a very important strain in much of southeastern Germany, Rosenberg pompously intoned the “dinarisch has often been inwardly formed in a Nordic mode.”

Elsewhere, Rosenberg made it clear that the foundation of what he envisaged as a future Nazi aristocracy lay in men who had stood, in a spiritual, political and military sense (my italics) in the front of the battle for the coming Reich; and, while he thought 80 per cent of them would be of the Nordic type, nevertheless, he made it clear that lack of Nordic characters would not be a bar to joining the new aristocracy (which Chamberlain had called “Aryan”) and he said “With the others (i.e. the non-Nordics) the inheritance, which exhibits itself in action, outweighs the personal appearance” (my italics).

Gottfried Neese similarly reflected Chamberlain’s nebulous conceptions of “race”—for he talked of the uniformity of “blood” resulting in a similarity of nature, which manifests itself in a common language and a feeling of community “and is further molded by land and by history.”

We should not lose sight of the fact that in the pre-Chamberlain era, German nationalists had tried to explain away the frequent occurrence of their broad, non-Nordic, types of skulls as a result of their environment. The land or soil (Boden) has always had a mystical influence with the Germans, and so we get the Nazi cry of “Blood and Soil.” Whatever shortcomings there might be in this mixed racial ancestry, the Nazi relied on the mystical influence of the Holy German soil to put that right.


It is not our purpose to go further in discussing the Nazi conceptions of “race.” It is sufficient to say, in conclusion of this matter, that as expounded by one or another of the Nazi philosophers and hierarchs and were often contradictory, depending on whether their expositor attempted to root himself in some semblance of factual anthropology or in the ideas of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the Chamberlain foundation is there all the same.

It was this which led the Nazis to ally themselves, in expediency, with racially different non-European Japanese, and the non-Aryan Finns and Hungarians, while at the same time excluding even the near-Nordic Sephardim Jews and Poles (of whom there were many).


This Chamberlain basis is the antithesis of any belief in the biological basis of society, and it springs from the same fountain head as all those philosophies which believe that man is above biology, and that by changing his environment he can create Utopian society.even if, as in Russia, he has to wade through blood to do it.

In these respects, therefore, Nazi ideas of race lay close to Lamarckism and the strange notions of Chamberlain,which are a denial of the force of heredity and a crying up of the influence of environment, which was expected either to develop acquired characters, or at any rate nullify the force of inheritance.


It is hoped that enough has been said to indicate that an exponent of the role of race and heredity in the study of man and culture is not a Nazi racial philosopher because his interest lies in the manifold differences between human populations and in a biological conception of race and of humanity.

From what we have said it is self-evident that far from the idea of biological race being at the basis of a foundation for Nazi racial philosophy, the reverse is actually true. Nazi racial philosophy was fundamentally the same as the views of so many of its opponents, namely, a belief in Lamarckism. While many German scientists knew better, the Nazi philosophy effectively ignored the importance of race in its biological or racial sense.

This brief review has been sufficient, we hope, to establish the point which we made at the beginning namely, that the Nazi doctrines were rooted, as are those of the Communists, in the very same beliefs as those who, while attacking Nazism, have made it their business to attempt to undermine the classical teachings—teachings which rest upon the reality that race exists, and the need to study and analyze it as scientifically as we can.

In countering Nazism, by attacking the role of heredity in shaping human potentials and human behavior, we believe that these protagonists have laid themselves gravely open to criticism.

It is important that the social sciences must steer between these two pseudo-philosophies, that of the Nazi philosophy of race, and the arguments of those who seek to deny the reality of race and the importance of genetic differences in man.

As already pointed out, space has only been devoted to these pseudo-ethnological views, in order to repudiate, once and for all, the allegations that the biological approach to the study of man is the root and the cause of race problems. Indeed it can be well argued that, on the contrary, it was the disregard of biological anthropology and not the belief in it, which made the Nazi “racial” ideology possible.