Racial policy of Nazi Germany
The racial policy of Nazi Germany was a set of policies and laws implemented in Nazi Germany (1933–45) based on a specific racist doctrine asserting the superiority of the Aryan race, which claimed scientific legitimacy. This was combined with a eugenics programme that aimed for racial hygiene by compulsory sterilization and extermination of those who they saw as Untermenschen (“sub-humans”), which culminated in the Holocaust.
Nazi policies labeled centuries-long residents in German territory who were not ethnic Germans such as Jews (understood in Nazi racial theory as a “Semitic” people of Levantine origins), Romanis (also known as Gypsies, an “Indo-Aryan” people of Indian Subcontinent origins), along with the vast majority of Slavs (mainly ethnic Poles, Serbs, Russians etc.), and most non-Europeans as inferior non-Aryan subhumans (i.e. non-Nordics, under the Nazi appropriation of the term “Aryan“) in a racial hierarchy that placed the Herrenvolk (“master race“) of the Volksgemeinschaft (“people’s community”) at the top.
Basis of Nazi policies and constitution of the Aryan Master Race
The Aryan Master Race conceived by the Nazis graded humans on a scale of pure Aryans to non-Aryans (who were viewed as subhumans). At the top of the scale of pure Aryans were Germans and other Germanic peoples, including the Dutch, Scandinavians, and the English. Latins were held to be somewhat inferior, but were tolerated; the Italians and the French were thought to have a suitable admixture of Germanic blood.
The feeling that Germans were the Aryan Herrenvolk (Aryan master race) was widely spread among the German public through Nazi propaganda and among Nazi officials throughout the ranks, in particular when Reichskommissariat Ukraine Erich Koch said:
We are a master race, which must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here.— Erich Koch, 5 March 1943
The Nazis considered the Slavs as Non-Aryan Untermenschen (“sub-humans”) who were to be enslaved and exterminated by Germans. Slavic nations such as the Ukrainians, Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgarians and Croats who collaborated with Nazi Germany were still being perceived as not racially “pure” enough to reach the status of Germanic peoples, yet they were eventually considered ethnically better than the rest of the Slavs, mostly due to pseudoscientific theories about these nations having a considerable admixture of Germanic blood. In countries where these people lived, there were according to Nazis small groups of non-Slavic German descendants. These people underwent a “racial selection” process to determine whether or not they were “racially valuable”, if the individual passed they would be re-Germanised and forcefully taken from their families in order to be raised as Germans. This secret plan Generalplan Ost (“Master Plan East”) aimed at expulsion, enslavement and extermination of most Slavic people. Nazi policy towards them changed during World War II as a pragmatic means to resolve military manpower shortages: they were allowed, with certain restrictions, to serve in the Waffen-SS, in spite of being considered subhumans. Nazi propaganda portrayed people in Eastern Europe with an Asiatic appearance to be the result of intermingling between the native Slavic populations and Asiatic or Mongolian races as sub-humans dominated by the Jews with the help of Bolshevism. At the bottom of the racial scale of non-Aryans were Jews, ethnic Poles, ethnic Serbs and other Slavic people, Romani, and black people. The Nazis originally sought to rid the German state of Jews and Romani by means of deportation (and later extermination), while blacks were to be segregated and eventually eliminated through compulsory sterilization.
Volkisch theorists believed that Germany’s Teutonic ancestors had spread out from Germany throughout Europe. Of the Germanic tribes that spread through Europe, the theorists identified that the Burgundians, Franks, and Western Goths joined with the Gauls to make France; the Lombards moved south and joined with the Italians; the Jutes made Denmark; the Angles and Saxons made England; the Flemings made Belgium; and other tribes made the Netherlands.
Nazi racial beliefs of the superiority of an Aryan master race arose from earlier proponents of a supremacist conception of race such as the French novelist and diplomat Arthur de Gobineau, who published a four-volume work titled An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (translated into German in 1897). Gobineau proposed that the Aryan race was superior, and urged the preservation of its cultural and racial purity. Gobineau later came to use and reserve the term Aryan only for the “German race” and described the Aryans as ‘la race germanique’. By doing so he presented a racist theory in which Aryans–that is Germans–were all that was positive. Houston Stewart Chamberlain‘s work The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1900), one of the first to combine Social Darwinism with antisemitism, describes history as a struggle for survival between the Germanic peoples and the Jews, whom he characterized as an inferior and dangerous group. The two-volume book Foundations of Human Hereditary Teaching and Racial Hygiene (1920–21) by Eugen Fischer, Erwin Baur, and Fritz Lenz, used pseudoscientific studies to conclude that the Germans were superior to the Jews intellectually and physically, and recommended eugenics as a solution. Madison Grant‘s work The Passing of the Great Race (1916) advocated Nordicism and proposed using a eugenic program to preserve the Nordic race. After reading the book, Hitler called it “my Bible”.
Racist author and Nordic supremacist Hans F. K. Günther, who influenced Nazi ideology, wrote in his “Race Lore of German People” (Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes) about the danger of “Slavic blood of Eastern race” mixing with the German and combined virulent nationalism with anti-semitism. Günther became an epitome of corrupt and politicized pseudo-science in post-war Germany. Among the topics of his research were attempts to prove that Jewish people had an unpleasant “hereditary smell”. While one of the most prominent Nazi writers, Günther still wasn’t considered the most “cutting edge” by Nazis.
Propaganda for Nazi Germany’s T-4 Euthanasia Program: “This person suffering from hereditary defects costs the community 60,000 Reichsmark during his lifetime. Fellow German, that is your money, too.” from the Office of Racial Policy‘s Neues Volk.
The July 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring – written by Ernst Rüdin and other theorists of “racial hygiene” – established “Genetic Health Courts” which decided on compulsory sterilization of “any person suffering from a hereditary disease.” These included, for the Nazis, those suffering from “Congenital Mental Deficiency“, schizophrenia, “Manic-Depressive Insanity“, “Hereditary Epilepsy“, “Hereditary Chorea” (Huntington’s), Hereditary Blindness, Hereditary Deafness, “any severe hereditary deformity”, as well as “any person suffering from severe alcoholism“. Further modifications of the law enforced sterilization of the “Rhineland bastards” (children of mixed German and African parentage).
The Nazi Party wanted to increase birthrates of those who were classified as racially elite. When the Party gained power in 1933, one of their first actions was to pass the Law for the Encouragement of Marriage. This law stated that all newly married couples of the Aryan race could receive a government loan. This loan was not simply paid back, rather a portion of it would be forgiven after the birth of each child. The purpose of this law was very clear and simple: to encourage newlyweds to have as many children as they could, so that the Aryan population would grow.