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Darwinism and the Nazi Race Holocaust
by Jerry Bergman
© 1999 Answers in Genesis
First published in Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 13(2):101111, 1999
All Rights Reserved.
eading Nazis, and early 1900 influential German biologists,
revealed in their writings that Darwin’s theory and publications had a
major influence upon Nazi race policies. Hitler believed that the human gene
pool could be improved by using selective breeding similar to how farmers breed
superior cattle strains. In the formulation of their racial policies, Hitler’s
government relied heavily upon Darwinism, especially the elaborations by Spencer
and Haeckel. As a result, a central policy of Hitler’s administration was
the development and implementation of policies designed to protect the ‘superior
race’. This required at the very least preventing the ‘inferior races’
from mixing with those judged superior, in order to reduce contamination of
the latter’s gene pool. The ‘superior race’ belief was based
on the theory of group inequality within each species, a major presumption and
requirement of Darwin’s original ‘survival of the fittest’ theory.
This philosophy culminated in the ‘final solution’, the extermination
of approximately six million Jews and four million other people who belonged
to what German scientists judged as ‘inferior races’.
Of the many factors that produced the Nazi holocaust and World
War II, one of the most important was Darwin’s notion that evolutionary
progress occurs mainly as a result of the elimination of the weak in the struggle
for survival. Although it is no easy task to assess the conflicting motives
of Hitler and his supporters, Darwinism-inspired eugenics clearly played a critical
role. Darwinism justified and encouraged the Nazi views on both race and war.
If the Nazi party had fully embraced and consistently acted on the belief that
all humans were descendants of Adam and Eve and equal before the creator God,
as taught in both the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures, the holocaust
would never have occurred.
Expunging of the Judeo-Christian doctrine of the divine origin
of humans from mainline German (liberal) theology and its schools, and replacing
it with Darwinism, openly contributed to the acceptance of Social Darwinism
that culminated in the tragedy of the holocaust.1 Darwin’s theory, as modified
by Haeckel,2,3,4,5,6 Chamberlain7 and others, clearly contributed to
the death of over nine million people in concentration camps, and about 40 million
other humans in a war that cost about six trillion dollars. Furthermore, the
primary reason that Nazism reached to the extent of the holocaust was
the widespread acceptance of Social Darwinism by the scientific and academic
The very heart of Darwinism is the belief that evolution proceeds
by the differential survival of the fittest or superior individuals. This requires
differences among a species, which in time become great enough so that those
individuals that possess advantageous features the fittest are
more apt to survive. Although the process of raciation may begin with slight
differences, differential survival rates in time produce distinct races by a
process called speciation, meaning the development of a new species.
The egalitarian ideal that ‘all people are created equal’,
which now dominates Western ideology, has not been universal among nations and
cultures.11 A major force that has argued against this view
was the Social Darwinian eugenics movement, especially its crude ‘survival
of the fittest’ worldview.10,12 As Ludmerer noted, the idea that the hereditary
quality of the race can be improved by selective breeding is as old as Plato’s
thought arose only in the nineteenth century. The emergence of interest in
eugenics during that century had multiple roots. The most important was the
theory of evolution, for Francis Galton’s ideas on eugenics and
it was he who created the term “eugenics” were
a direct logical outgrowth of the scientific
doctrine elaborated by his cousin, Charles Darwin.’ 13
Nazi governmental policy was openly influenced by Darwinism,
the Zeitgeist of both science and educated society of the time.10 This can be evaluated by an examination of extant
documents, writings, and artefacts produced by Germany’s twentieth century
Nazi movement and its many scientist supporters. Keith concluded the Nazi treatment
of Jews and other ‘races’, then believed ‘inferior’, was
largely a result of their belief that Darwinism provided profound insight that
could be used to significantly improve humankind.14
Tenenbaum noted that the political philosophy of Germany was built on the belief
that critical for evolutionary progress were:
and survival of the fittest, all notions and observations arrived at
but already in luxuriant bud in the German social philosophy
of the nineteenth century.
Thus developed the doctrine of Germany’s
inherent right to rule the world on the basis of superior strength
[of a] “hammer and anvil” relationship between the Reich and the
weaker nations.’ 14
The Importance of Race in Darwinism
The theory of evolution is based on individuals acquiring unique
traits that enable those possessing the new traits to better survive adverse
conditions compared to those who don’t possess them. Superior individuals
will be more likely to survive and pass on these traits to their offspring so
such traits will increase in number, while the ‘weaker’ individuals
will eventually die off. If every member of a species were fully equal, natural
selection would have nothing to select from, and evolution would cease for that
These differences gradually produce new groups, some of which
have an advantage in terms of survival. These new groups became the superior,
or the more evolved races. When a trait eventually spreads throughout the entire
race because of the survival advantage it confers on those that possess it,
a higher, more evolved form of animal will result. Hitler and the Nazi party
claimed that one of their major goals was to apply this accepted ‘science’
to society. And ‘the core idea of Darwinism was
not evolution, but selection. Evolution
describes the results of selection’.16 Hitler stressed that
to produce a better society ‘we [the Nazis] must
understand, and cooperate with science’.
As the one race above all others, Aryans believed that their
evolutionary superiority gave them not only the right, but the duty to
subjugate all other peoples. Race was a major plank of the Nazi philosophy;
Tenenbaum concluded that they incorporated Darwinism:
in their political
system, with nothing left out
. Their political dictionary was replete
with words like space, struggle, selection, and extinction (Ausmerzen). The
syllogism of their logic was clearly stated: The world is a jungle in which
different nations struggle for space. The stronger win, the weaker die or
In the 1933 Nuremberg party rally, Hitler proclaimed that ‘higher
race subjects to itself a lower race
a right which we see in nature and
which can be regarded as the sole conceivable right,’ because
it was founded on science.15
|Estelle Bechoefer collection, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives |
Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler review SS troops during Reich Party Day ceremonies in Nuremberg, Germany, 1938.
Hitler believed humans were animals to whom the genetics laws,
learned from livestock breeding, could be applied. The Nazis believed that instead
of permitting natural forces and chance to control evolution, they must direct
the process to advance the human race. The first step to achieve this goal was
to isolate the ‘inferior races’ in order to prevent them from further
contaminating the ‘Aryan’ gene pool. The widespread public support
for this policy was a result of the belief, common in the educated classes,
in the conclusion that certain races were genetically inferior as was scientifically
‘proven’ by Darwinism. The Nazis believed that they were simply applying
facts, proven by science, to produce a superior race of humans as part of their
plan for a better world: ‘The business of the
corporate state was eugenics or artificial selection politics
as applied biology.’ 18,19
As early as 1925, Hitler outlined his conclusion in Chapter
4 of Mein Kampf that Darwinism was the only basis for a successful
Germany and which the title of his most famous work in English
My Struggle alluded to. As Clark concluded, Adolf Hitler:
was captivated by evolutionary
teaching probably since the time he was a boy. Evolutionary
ideas quite undisguised lie at the basis
of all that is worst in Mein Kampf -and in his public speeches
. Hitler reasoned
that a higher race would always conquer a lower.’20
And Hickman adds that it is no coincidence that Hitler:
was a firm believer
and preacher of evolution. Whatever the deeper, profound, complexities of
his psychosis, it is certain that [the concept of struggle was important because]
his book, Mein Kampf, clearly set forth a number of evolutionary
ideas, particularly those emphasizing struggle, survival of the fittest and
the extermination of the weak to produce a better society.’
Furthermore, the belief that evolution can be directed by scientists
to produce a ‘superior race’ was the central leitmotif of Nazism
and many other sources existed from which Nazism drew:
its ideological fire-water.
But in that concatenation of ideas and nightmares which made up the
social policies of the Nazi state, and to a considerable extent its military
and diplomatic policies as well, can be most clearly comprehended in the light
of its vast racial program.’ 22
The Nazi view on Darwinian evolution and race was consequently
a major part of the fatal combination of ideas and events which produced the
holocaust and World War II:
‘One of the central planks
in Nazi theory and doctrine was
evolutionary theory [and]
all biology had evolved
upward, and that
less evolved types
should be actively eradicated [and]
that natural selection could
and should be actively aided, and therefore [the Nazis] instituted political
measures to eradicate
blacks, whom they considered
as “underdeveloped”.’ 23
Terms such as ‘superior race’, ‘lower human
types’, ‘pollution of the race’, and the word evolution
itself (Entwicklung) were often used by Hitler and other Nazi leaders.
His race views were not from fringe science as often claimed but rather Hitler’s
social Darwinism of a type widely known and accepted throughout Germany and
which, more importantly, was considered by most Germans, scientists included,
to be scientifically true. More recent scholarship on national socialism and
Hitler has begun to realize that
[their application of Darwin’s
theory] was the specific characteristic of Nazism. National socialist “biopolicy,”
[was] a policy based on a mystical-biological belief in radical inequality,
a monistic, antitranscendent moral nihilism based on the eternal struggle
for existence and the survival of the fittest as the law of nature, and the
consequent use of state power for a public policy of natural selection
The philosophy that humans can control and even use Darwinism
to produce a ‘higher level’ of human is repeatedly mentioned in the
writings and speeches of prominent Nazis.25 Accomplishing the Darwinian goal
for the world required ruthlessly eliminating the less fit by open barbarian
‘The basic outline of German
social Darwinism [was]
man was merely a part of nature with no special
transcendent qualities or special humanness. On the other hand, the Germans
were members of a biologically superior community
politics was merely
the straightforward application of the laws of biology. In essence, Haeckel
and his fellow social Darwinists advanced the ideas that were to become the
core assumptions of national socialism
. The business of the corporate
state was eugenics or artificial selection
Hitler once even stated that we Nazis ‘
are barbarians! We want to be barbarians. It
is an honorable title [for, by it,] we shall rejuvenate the world
.’26 Hitler, as an evolutionist, ‘consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform
to the theory of evolution’.27 Keith adds that:
‘If war be the progeny of evolution and
I am convinced that it is then evolution has “gone mad”,
reaching such a height of ferocity as must frustrate its proper role in the
world of life which is the advancement of her competing “units”,
these being tribes, nations, or races of mankind. There is no way of getting
rid of war save one, and that is to rid human nature of the sanctions imposed
on it by the law of evolution. Can man
render the law of evolution
null and void?
I have discovered no way that is at once possible and
practicable. “There is no escape from human nature.” Because Germany
has drunk the vat of evolution to its last dregs, and in her evolutionary
debauch has plunged Europe into a bath of blood, that is no proof that the
law of evolution is evil. A law which brought man out of the jungle and made
him king of beasts cannot be altogether bad.’
Jews in Germany and Darwinism
The German eugenic leadership was originally less anti-Semitic
than even the British leadership. Most early German eugenicists believed that
German Jews were Aryans, and consequently the eugenicist movement was supported
by many Jewish professors and doctors both in Germany and abroad. The Jews were
only slowly incorporated into the German eugenic theory and then laws.
The Darwinian racists’ views also slowly entered into
many spheres of German society which they had previously not affected.9
The Pan German League, dedicated to ‘maintaining German Racial Purity’,
was originally not overtly anti-Semitic and assimilated Jews were allowed full
membership. Many German eugenicists believed that although blacks or Gypsies
were racially inferior, their racial theories did not fit Jews since many Jews
had achieved significant success in Germany. Schleunes adds that by 1903, the
influence of race ideas permeated the League’s program to the degree that
by 1912, the League declared itself based upon ‘racial principles’
and soon excluded Jews from membership.29
In spite of the scientific prominence of these racial views,
they had a limited effect upon most Jews until the 1930s. Most German Jews were
proud of being Germans and considered themselves Germans first and Jews second.
Many Jews modified the German intelligentsia’s racial views by including
themselves in it. Their assimilation into German life was to the extent that
most felt its anti-Semitism did not represent a serious threat to their security.
Most Jews also were convinced that Germany was now a safe harbour for them.30 Many still firmly held to the Genesis creation model
and rejected the views upon which racism was based, including Darwinism. What
happened in Germany later was obviously not well received by Jewish geneticists,
even Jewish eugenicists and certain other groups:
‘The eugenics movement felt
a mixture of apprehension and admiration at the progress of eugenics in Germany
but the actual details of the eugenics measures which emerged after
Hitler’s rise to power were not unequivocally welcomed. Eugenicists pointed
to the USA as a place where strict laws controlled marriage but where a strong
tradition of political freedom existed.’ 31
Hitler’s Eugenic Goals
Nazi policies resulted less from a ‘hatred’ toward
Jewish or other peoples than from the idealistic goal of preventing ‘pollution’
of the superior race. Hitler elaborated his Darwinian views by comparing the
strong killing the weak to a cat devouring a mouse, concluding that ultimately
the Jews must be eliminated because they cause:
peoples to decay
In the long run nature eliminates the noxious elements. One may be repelled
by this law of nature which demands that all living things should mutually
devour one another. The fly is snapped up by a dragon-fly, which itself is
swallowed by a bird, which itself falls victim to a larger bird
know the laws of nature
enables us to obey them.’ 32
|Courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives |
Polish children imprisoned in Auschwitz, Poland, 1944.
Hitler then argued that for this reason, governments must understand
and apply the ‘laws of Nature’, especially
the ‘survival of the fittest’
law which ‘originally produced the human races and is the source of
their improvement’. The government must therefore aid in the
elimination, or at least quarantine, of the inferior races. Hitler argued:
‘If I can accept a divine Commandment,
it’s this one: “Thou shalt preserve the species.” The life
of the individual must not be set at too high a price. If the individual were
important in the eyes of nature, nature would take care to preserve him. Amongst
the millions of eggs a fly lays, very few are hatched out and
yet the race of flies thrives.’ 33
Hitler was especially determined to prevent Aryans from breeding
with non-Aryans, a concern that eventually resulted in the ‘final solution’.
Once the inferior races were exterminated, Hitler believed that future generations
would be eternally grateful for the improvement that his programs brought to
‘The Germans were the higher
race, destined for a glorious evolutionary future. For this reason it was
essential that the Jews should be segregated, otherwise mixed marriages would
take place. Were this to happen, all nature’s efforts “to establish
an evolutionary higher stage of being may thus be rendered futile”
(Mein Kampf).’ 20
Individuals are not only far less important than the
race, but the Nazis concluded that certain races were not human, but were animals:
‘The Jews, labelled subhumans,
became nonbeings. It was both legal and right to exterminate them in the collectivist
and evolutionist viewpoint. They were not considered
persons in the
sight of the German government.’ 34
As a result, the Darwinist movement was ‘one of the most powerful forces in the nineteenthtwentieth
centuries German intellectual history [and] may be fully understood as a prelude
to the doctrine of national socialism [Nazism]’.35
Why did evolution catch hold in Germany faster, and take a firmer hold there
than any other place in the world?
Evolution used to Justify Existing German Racism
Schleunes noted, rather poignantly, that the reason the publication
of Darwin’s 1859 work had an immediate impact in Germany, and their Jewish
policy, was because:
‘Darwin’s notion of struggle
legitimized by the latest scientific views, justified
the racists’ conception of superior and inferior peoples and nations
and validated the conflict between them.’ 36
The Darwinian revolution and the works of its chief German
spokesman and most eminent scientist, Professor Haeckel, gave the racists something
that they were confident was powerful verification of their race beliefs.37
The support of the science establishment resulted in racist thought having a
much wider circulation than otherwise possible, and enormous satisfaction ‘that
one’s prejudices were actually expressions of scientific truth’.36
And what greater authority than science could racists have
for their views? Konrad Lorenz, one of the most eminent animal-behavior scientists
then, and often credited as being the founder of his field, stated that:
‘Just as in cancer the best
treatment is to eradicate the parasitic growth as quickly as possible, the
eugenic defense against the dysgenic social effects of afflicted subpopulations
is of necessity limited to equally drastic measures
. When these inferior
elements are not effectively eliminated from a [healthy] population, then just
as when the cells of a malignant tumor are allowed to proliferate throughout
the human body they destroy the host body as well as themselves.’
Lorenz’s works were important
in developing the Nazi program designed to eradicate the ‘parasitic growth’
of inferior races. The government’s programs to insure the ‘German
Volk’ maintained their superiority made racism almost unassailable. Although
King claimed that ‘the holocaust
pretended to have a scientific genetic
basis’,39 the position of the government and university elite
of the time was so entrenched that few contemporary scientists seriously questioned
it. The anti-Semitic attitudes of the German people were only partly to blame
in causing the holocaust only when Darwinism was added to the
preexisting attitudes did a lethal combination result.
Eugenics Becomes More Extreme
The first step in an eugenic program was to determine which
groups were genetically superior; a judgment that was heavily influenced by
culture. The ideal traits were:
a human type whose
appearance had been described by the race theorist Hans F.K. Günther
as “blond, tall, long-skulled, with narrow faces, pronounced chins, narrow
noses with a high bridge, soft hair, widely spaced pale-coloured eyes, pinky-white
skin colour”‘. 40
Although superficial observations enable most people to make
a broad classification of race, when explored in depth, race status is by no
means easy to determine, as the Nazis soon found out. Many of the groups that
they felt were inferior, such as the Slovaks, Jews, Gypsies, and others, were
not easily distinguishable from the pure ‘Aryan’ race. In grouping
persons into races to select the ‘best’, the Nazis measured a wide
variety of physical traits including brain case sizes. The Nazis relied heavily
upon the work of Hans F.K. Günther, professor of ‘racial science’
at the University of Jena. Although Günther’s ‘personal
relationships with the party were stormy at times, his racial ideas were accepted’.
They received wide support throughout the German government, and were an important
influence in German policy.41 Günther recognized that,
although ‘a race may not be pure, its members
share certain dominant characteristics’, thus paving the way
Günther concluded that all Aryans share an ideal Nordic
type which contrasted with the Jews, whom he concluded were a mixture of races.
Günther stressed a person’s genealogical lineage, anthropological
measurement of skulls and evaluations of physical appearance, were all used
to determine their race. Even though physical appearance was stressed,
‘the body is the showplace of the soul’ and ‘the soul
Select females with the necessary superior race traits were even placed in special
homes and kept pregnant as long as they remained in the program. Nonetheless,
research on the offspring of the experiment concluded that, as is now known,
IQ regressed toward the population mean and the IQs of the offspring were generally
lower than that of the parents.
The Bad Blood Theory
Darwinism not only influenced the Nazi attitude toward Jews,
but other cultural and ethnic groups as well. Even mental patients were included
later, in part because it was then believed that heredity had a major influence
on mental illness (or they possibly had some Jewish or other non-Aryan blood
in them), and consequently had to be destroyed. Poliakov notes that many intellectuals
in the early 1900s accepted telegony, the idea that ‘bad blood’
would contaminate a race line forever, or that ‘bad blood drives out good, just as bad money displaces good
money’.43 Only extermination would permanently eliminate inferior
genetic lines, and thereby further evolution.
Darwin even compiled a long list of cases where he concluded
bad blood polluted a whole gene line, causing it to bear impure progeny forever.
Numerous respected biologists, including Ernst Ruedin of the University of Munich
and many of his colleagues such as Herbert Spencer, Francis Galton, and Eugene
Kahn, later a professor of psychiatry at Yale, actively advocated this hereditary
argument. These scientists were also the chief architects of the German compulsory
sterilization laws designed to prevent those with defective or ‘inferior’
genes from contaminating the Aryan gene pool. Later, when the ‘genetically
inferior’ were also judged as ‘useless dredges’, massive killings
became justified. The groups judged inferior were gradually expanded to include
a wide variety of races and national groups. Later, it even included less healthy
older people, epileptics, both severe and mild mental defectives, deaf-mutes,
and even some persons with certain terminal illnesses.1,44
The groups judged ‘inferior’ were later expanded
to include persons who had negroid or mongoloid features, Gypsies, and
those who did not pass a set of ingeniously designed overtly racist phrenology
tests now known to be worthless.45 After Jesse Owen won four gold medals at the 1936
Berlin Olympic Games, Hitler chastised the Americans for even permitting blacks
to enter the contests.46
Some evolutionists even advocated the view that women were
evolutionarily inferior to men. Dr Robert Wartenberg, later a prominent neurology
professor in California, tried to prove women’s inferiority by arguing
that they could not survive unless they were ‘protected by men’. He
concluded that because the weaker women were not eliminated as rapidly due to
this protection, a slower rate of evolution resulted and for this reason natural
selection was less operative on women than men. How the weak were to be ‘selected’
for elimination was not clear, nor were the criteria used to determine ‘weak’.
Women in Nazi Germany were openly prohibited from entering certain professions
and were required by law to conform to a traditional female role.47
Evolution and War in Nazi Germany
Darwinism not only offered the Germans a meaningful interpretation
of their recent military past, but also a justification for future aggression:
‘German military success in the Bismarkian wars fit
neatly into Darwin categories
in the struggle for survival, [demonstrating]
the fitness of Germany.’48
War was a positive force not only because it eliminated ‘weaker’ races,
but also because it weeded out the weaker members of the ‘superior’
races. Hitler not only unabashedly intended to produce a superior race, but
he openly relied heavily upon Darwinian thought in both his extermination and
war policies.25 Nazi Germany, partly for this
reason, openly glorified war because it was an important means of eliminating
the less fit of the highest race, a step necessary to ‘upgrade the race’.
Clark concludes, quoting extensively from Mein Kampf, that:
‘Hitler’s attitude to
the League of Nations and to peace and war were based upon the same principles.
“A world court
would be a joke
the whole world of Nature
is a mighty struggle between strength and weakness an eternal
victory of the strong over the weak. There would be nothing but decay in the
whole of nature if this were not so. States which [violate]
law would fall into decay.
He who would live must fight. He who does
not wish to fight in this world where permanent struggle is the law of life,
has not the right to exist.” To think otherwise is to “insult”
nature. “Distress, misery and disease are her rejoinders”.’ 49
German greatness, Hitler stressed, came about primarily because
they were jingoists, and thereby had been eliminating their weaker members for
centuries.50 Although Germans were no stranger to war, this new
justification gave powerful support to their policies. The view that eradication
of the weaker races was a major source of evolution was well expressed by Wiggam:
at one time man had
scarcely more brains than his anthropoid cousins, the apes. But, by kicking,
and outwitting his enemies and by the fact that the
ones who had not sense and strength enough to do this were killed off, man’s
brain became enormous and he waxed both in wisdom and agility if not in size
In other words, war is positive in the long run because only
by lethal conflicts can humans evolve. Hitler even claimed as truth the contradiction
that human civilization as we know it would not exist if it were not for constant
war. And many of the leading scientists of his day openly advocated this view:
Haeckel was especially fond of praising the ancient Spartans, whom he saw as
a successful and superior people as a consequence of their socially approved
biological selection. By killing all but the ‘perfectly
healthy and strong children’ the Spartans were ‘continually in excellent strength and vigor’.52
Germany should follow this Spartan custom, as infanticide of the deformed and
sickly was ‘a practice of advantage to both the
infants destroyed and to the community’.
It was, after all, only ‘traditional dogma’ and hardly scientific
truth that all lives were of equal worth or should be preserved.18,53
However, the common assumption that European civilization evolved
far more than others, primarily because of its constant warmongering in contrast
to other nations, is false. War is actually typical of virtually all peoples,
except certain small island groups who have abundant food, or peoples in very
cold areas.54 Historically, many tribes in Africa were continually
involved in wars, as were most countries in Asia and America.
Nazism and Religion
Much of the opposition to the eugenic movement came from German
Christians. Although Hitler was baptized a Catholic, he was never excommunicated,
and evidently ‘considered himself a good Roman Catholic’
as a young man, and at times used religious language. He clearly had strong,
even vociferous, anti-Christian feelings as an adult, as did probably most Nazi
party leaders. As a consummate politician, though, he openly tried to exploit
the church.55 Hitler once revealed
his attitude toward Christianity when he bluntly stated that religion is an:
organized lie [that]
must be smashed. The State must remain the absolute master. When I was younger,
I thought it was necessary to set about [destroying religion]
dynamite. I’ve since realized there’s room for a little subtlety
. The final state must be
in St. Peter’s Chair, a senile
officiant; facing him a few sinister old women
The young and healthy
are on our side
it’s impossible to eternally hold humanity
in bondage and lies
. [It] was only between the sixth and eighth centuries
that Christianity was imposed upon our peoples
. Our peoples had previously
succeeded in living all right without this religion. I have six divisions
of SS men absolutely indifferent in matters of religion. It doesn’t prevent
them from going to their death with serenity in their souls.’ 56
His beliefs as revealed in this quote are abundantly clear:
the younger people who were the hope of Germany were ‘absolutely indifferent in matters of religion’. As Keith noted, the Nazi party viewed Darwinism and Christianity
as polar opposites. Milner said of Germany’s father of evolution, Ernst
Haeckel, that in his Natural History of Creation he argued that ‘the
church with its morality of love and charity is an effete fraud, a perversion
of the natural order’.57
A major reason why Haeckel concluded this was because Christianity:
makes no distinction
of race or of color; it seeks to break down all racial barriers. In this respect
the hand of Christianity is against that of Nature, for are not the races
of mankind the evolutionary harvest which Nature has toiled through long ages
to produce? May we not say, then, that Christianity is anti-evolutionary in
its aim?’ 58
|Marvin Springer Collection, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives |
Prisoners’ bodies laid out in a mass grave.
The opposition to religion was a prominent feature of German
science, and thus later German political theory, from its very beginning. As
Stein summarized Haeckel in a lecture titled On evolution: Darwin’s
that Darwin was correct
humankind had unquestionably evolved from the
animal kingdom. Thus, and here the fatal step was taken in Haeckel’s
first major exposition of Darwinism in Germany, humankind’s social and
political existence is governed by the laws of evolution, natural selection,
and biology, as clearly shown by Darwin. To argue otherwise was backward superstition.
And, of course, it was organized religion which did this and thus stood in
the way of scientific and social progress.’ 59
Martin Bormann, Hitler’s closest associate for years and
one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany, was equally blunt: the church
was opposed to evolution and for this reason must be condemned, but the Nazis
were on the side of science and evolution. Furthermore, Nazi and Christian concepts
are incompatible because Christianity is built:
upon the ignorance
of men and strive[s] to keep large portions of the people in ignorance
On the other hand, National Socialism is based on scientific foundations.
Christianity’s immutable principles, which were laid down almost two
thousands years ago, have increasingly stiffened into life-alien dogmas. National
Socialism, however, if it wants to fulfil its task further, must always guide
itself according to the newest data of scientific researches.’
Bormann also claimed that the Christian churches have long
been aware that:
poses a threat to their existence. Therefore, by means of such pseudo-sciences
as theology, they take great pains to suppress or falsify scientific research.
Our National Socialist world view stands on a much higher level than the concepts
of Christianity, which in their essentials were taken over from Judaism. For
this reason, too, we can do without Christianity.’ 60
As Humber notes, Hitler believed that Blacks were ‘monstrosities
halfway between man and ape’ and therefore he disapproved of German
going to “Central
Africa” to set up “Negro missions,” resulting in the turning
human beings into a rotten brood of bastards.”
In his chapter entitled “Nation and Race,” he said, “The stronger
must dominate and not blend with the weaker, thus sacrificing his own greatness.
Only the born weakling can view this as cruel, but he, after all, is only
a weak and limited man; for if this law did not prevail, any conceivable higher
development (Hoherentwicklung) of organic living beings would be unthinkable.”
A few pages later, he said, “Those who want to live, let them fight,
and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not
deserve to live”.’ 61
|National Archives, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives |
Former prisoners of the ‘little camp’ in Buchenwald, Germany, stare out from the wooden bunks in which they slept three to a ‘bed’.
A literature review shows that German racism would have had
a difficult time existing if the historical creation position, void of race
curse theories, had been widely accepted. One of these biblical theories was
the claim that Genesis teaches that ‘two types of men’ were originally
created; Adam and Eve, the superior race line, and the ‘beasts of the earth’,
the inferior black race line.62,63 Few people, though, accepted
Relatively few scientific studies exist which directly deal
with Darwinism and Nazism and many evolutionists avoid the
subject because evolution is inescapably selectionist. One of the best reviews
of Darwinism and Nazism documents clearly that Nazism felt confident that their
programs of extermination was firmly based on evolution science.64
Recently, a number of popular articles have covered this topic in a surprisingly
candid and honest way.65 The
source of the worst of Nazism was in Darwinism and we must first understand
history to prevent its repeat. Paraphrasing the words of Hitler, those who ignore
the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it.66 Admittedly, some persons who did
not accept evolution espoused non-evolution theories which accommodated or even
espoused racism. Nonetheless, these persons were few and the theories that were
developed seem to be mostly in response to preconceived ideas or to justify
existing social systems.
From our modern perspective, many persons have concluded that
World War II and its results ensued from the ideology of an evil madman and
his equally evil administration. Hitler, though, did not see himself as evil,
but as humanity’s benefactor. He felt that many years hence, the world
would be extremely grateful to him and his programs which lifted the human race
to genetically higher levels of evolution by stopping race pollution by preventing
mixed marriages with inferior races.
‘Hitler was influenced above
all by the theories of the nineteenth-century social Darwinist school, whose
conception of man as biological material was bound up with impulses towards
a planned society. He was convinced that the race was disintegrating, deteriorating
through faulty breeding as a result of a liberally tinged promiscuity that
was vitiating the nation’s blood. And this led to the establishment of
a catalogue of ‘positive’ curative measures: racial hygiene, eugenic
choice of marriage partners, the breeding of human beings by the methods of
selection on the one hand and extirpation on the other.’
Hitler’s efforts to put members of these inferior races
in concentration camps was not so much an effort to punish but, as his apologists
repeatedly stated, was a protective safeguard similar to quarantining sick people
to prevent contamination of the rest of the community. In Haas’s words,
the Nazis believed that ‘killing Jews and others was in fact a scientific and rational
way of serving an objectively greater good’.68 Or, as Rudolf Hoess,
the commandant of Auschwitz, adds, ‘such a struggle, legitimized by the latest scientific views,
justifies the racists’ conceptions of superior and inferior people and
nations and validated the conflict between them’.69 Many in Germany recognized
the harm of Darwinism, and Nordenskiöld claimed the Prussian Minister of
Education, even for a time in 1875 banned, its teaching:
the Prussian Minister
of Education sent round a circular strictly forbidding the schoolmasters in
the country to have anything to do with Darwinism
with a view to protecting
schoolchildren from the dangers of the new doctrines.’
An interesting question is, would the Nazi holocaust have occurred
if this ban had remained in effect? Haeckel was at the center of this fight
and garnered much support from:
it is easy to realize the eagerness with which the friends of the freedom
of thought and word must have gathered around him in spite of his many delusions,
when such measures as the school regulations mentioned above were adopted
All the more so as the outcome proved Haeckel’s justification;
Darwinism might be prohibited in the schools, but the idea of evolution and
its method penetrated everywhere
And to this result Haeckel has undeniably
contributed more than most; everything of value in his utterances has become
permanent, while his blunders have been forgotten, as they deserve.’70
A biologist writing the above today would certainly drop ‘as
they deserve’ because Haeckel is today acknowledged as an unscrupulous
forger who played no small role in the horrible events that occurred in the
1930s and 1940s.
The well documented influence of Darwinism on the Holocaust
has been greatly downplayed by the mass media. Current writers often gloss over,
totally ignore, or even distort the close connection between Darwinism and the
Nazi race theory and the policies it produced, but as Stein admonishes:
‘There is little doubt that
the history of ethnocentrism, racism, nationalism, and xenophobia has been
also a history of the use of science and the actions of scientists in support
of these ideas and social movements. In many cases it is clear that science
was used merely as raw material or evidence by ideologically interested political
actors as proof of preconceived notions. Most contemporary sociobiologists
and students of biopolitics would argue that all attempts to use science in
this manner are, in fact, mere pseudoscience
He adds that there is also little doubt that this contemporary
self-protecting attitude is based on a:
somewhat wilful misreading
of history. The history of ethnocentrism and the like has also been the history
of many well-respected scientists of the day being quite active in using their
own authority as scientists to advance and support racist and xenophobic political
and social doctrines in the name of science. Thus, if the scientists of the
day used the science of the day to advance racism, it is simply a form of
Kuhnian amnesia or historical whitewash to dismiss concern with a possible
contemporary abuse of science by a claim that the past abuse was mere pseudoscience.’
Darwin was not just responding to his culture as often alleged.
In Hull’s words ‘we have all heard, time
and time again, that the reason Darwin’s theory was so
racist is that Darwin’s society exhibited these same characteristics’.
Hull answers this change by noting that Darwin was not ‘so
callow that he simply read the characteristics of his society into nature’.72
Nazism is often used as a warning example of the danger of
religious zeal, yet only occasionally is the key role of the eugenics of Francis
Galton, based on the theory of natural selection espoused by his cousin, Charles
Darwin, mentioned. Eugenics is still alive in the world today. As late as 1955,
a Canadian professor of zoology, notes that ‘possibly
the most significant fact is that he [Darwin] finally freed humanity from a
great measure of
church proscription and won his fellow men a freedom
of thought that had been unknown for centuries’.73 He then argues that reducing the churches’
influence in society allowed the discovery of, not only the means of
evolution, but the knowledge that man had the means and that we can either direct
evolution or let it take place on its own or, worse, stop it by counteracting
the forces which propel it, causing devolution.
Rowan argued that man has, tragically, chosen the latter ‘selection
is still as vital to human progress as it has ever been. The great Darwinian
’. Then he added, ‘When
man acquired intellect, he started on an entirely new path without precedent
in the animal world, the course of which now depends, not on further physical
changes, but on intellectual and equally
intellectual selection.’74 Unfortunately, he concludes, humans are ‘saving’
the intellectually inferior and have failed to order their affairs according
to the laws of biology.74 This discussion, although tactful, is clear: those
whom evolutionists judge as less fit need to be eliminated, or at the least
our efforts in saving them, should be limited and we should let nature do its
work. Not to do so will result in the eventual doom of the human race.
Firmly convinced that Darwinian evolution was true, Hitler
saw himself as the modern saviour of mankind. Society, he felt, would some day
regard him as a great ‘scientific socialist’, the benefactor of all
humankind. By breeding a superior race, the world would look upon him as the
man who pulled humanity up to a higher level of evolutionary development. If
Darwinism is true, Hitler was our saviour and we have crucified him. As a result,
the human race will grievously suffer. If Darwinism is not true, what Hitler
attempted to do must be ranked with the most heinous crimes of history and Darwin
as the father of one of the most destructive philosophies of history. An assessment
by Youngson concluded that the application of Darwinism to society, called eugenics,
produced one of the most tragic scientific blunders of all time:
‘The culmination of this darker
side of eugenics was, of course, Adolf Hitler’s attempt to produce a
“‘master race’ by encouraging mating between pure ‘Aryans’”
and by the murder of six million people whom he claimed to have inferior genes.
It is hardly fair to Galton to blame him for the Holocaust or even for his
failure to anticipate the consequences of his advocacy of the matter. But
he was certainly the principal architect of eugenics, and Hitler was certainly
obsessed with the idea. So, in terms of its consequences, this must qualify
as one of the greatest scientific blunders of all time.’
I wish to thank Wayne Frair, Ph.D., John Woodmorappe,
M.A. and Paul Humber, M.A. for their insight and comments on an earlier draft
of this paper.
has seven degrees, including in biology, psychology, and evaluation and research,
from Wayne State University, in Detroit, Bowling Green State University in Ohio,
and Medical College of Ohio in Toledo. He has taught at Bowling Green State
University, the University of Toledo, Medical College of Ohio and at other colleges
and universities. He currently teaches biology, microbiology, biochemistry,
and human anatomy at the college level and is a research associate involved
in research in the area of cancer genetics. He has published widely in both
popular and scientific journals. Return to Text.
Chase, A., The Legacy of Malthus; The
Social Costs of the New Scientific Racism, Alfred Knopf, New York, 1980.
Return to text.
Haeckel, E., The History of Creation:
Or the Development of the Earth and Its Inhabitants by the Action of Natural
Causes, Appleton, New York, 1876. Return to text.
Haeckel, E., The Riddle of the Universe,
Harper, New York, 1900. Return to text.
Haeckel, E., The Wonders of Life; A
Popular Study of Biological Philosophy, Harper, New York, 1905. Return to text.
Haeckel, E., Eternity: World War Thoughts
on Life and Death, Religion, and the Theory of Evolution, Truth Seeker,
New York, 1916. Return to text.
Haeckel, E., The Evolution of Man,
Appleton, New York, 1920. Return to text.
Chamberlain, H., The Foundations of
the Nineteenth Century, 2nd Vol., (1st Vol. 1899), Lane, London, 1911.
Return to text.
Aycoberry, P., The Nazi Question: An
Essay on the Interpretations of National Socialism, 19221975, Pantheon,
New York. 1981. Return to text.
Beyerchen, A.D., Scientists Under Hitler,
Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1977. Return to text.
Stein, G., Biological science and the
roots of Nazism, American Scientist 76(1):5058, 1988.
Return to text.
Tobach, E., Gianusos, J., Topoff, H.
and Gross, C.G., The Four Horsemen; Racism, Sexism, Militarism, and Social
Darwinism, Behavioral Publications, New York, 1974. Return to text.
Clark, Robert, Darwin: Before and
After, Grand Rapids International Press, Grand Rapids, MI, 1958. Return to text.
Ludmerer, K., Eugenics, In:
Encyclopedia of Bioethics, Edited by Mark Lappe, The Free Press,
New York, p. 457, 1978. Return to text.
Keith, A., Evolution and Ethics,
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, p. 230, 1946. Return to text.
Tenenbaum, J., Race and Reich,
Twayne Pub., New York, p. 211, 1956. Return to text.
Stein, Ref. 10, p. 53. Return to text.
The Nuremberg Trials, Vol. 14,
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., p. 279. Return to text.
Stein, Ref. 10, p. 56. Return to text.
Poliakov, L., The Aryan Myth,
Basic Books, New York, 1974. Return to text.
Clark, Ref. 12, p. 115. Return to text.
Hickman, R., Biocreation, Science
Press, Worthington, OH, pp. 5152, 1983. Return to text.
Tenenbaum, Ref. 15, p. vii. Return to text.
Wilder-Smith, B., The Day Nazi
Germany Died, Master Books, San Diego, CA, p. 27, 1982. Return to text.
Stein, Ref. 10, p. 51. Return to text.
Jackel, E., Hitler’s Weltanschauung,
Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, 1972. Return to text.
Rauschning, H., The Revolution of
Nihilism, Alliance Book Corp., New York, 1939. Return
Keith, Ref. 14, p. 230. Return to text.
Keith, Ref. 14, p. 105. Return to text.
Schleunes, K., The Twisted Road to
Auschwitz, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL, 1970. Return to text.
Schleunes, Ref. 29, p. 33. Return to text.
Jones, G., Social Darwinism and English
Thought; The Interaction Between Biological and Social Theory, The Humanities
Press, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, p. 168, 1980. Return to text.
Hitler, A., Hitler’s Secret Conversations
19411944, With an introductory essay on The Mind of Adolf Hitler by
H.R. Trevor-Roper, Farrar, Straus and Young, New York, p. 116, 1953.
Return to text.
Hitler, A., Ref. 32, p. 116. Return to text.
Whitehead, J, The Stealing of America,
Crossway Books, Westchester, IL, p. 15, 1983. Return to text.
Gasman, D., The Scientific Origin
of National Socialism, American Elsevier, New York, p. xiv, 1971. Return
Schluenes, Ref. 29, p. 3032. Return
Poliakov, L., The Aryan Myth (translated
by E Howard), Basic Books, New York, 1974. Return to text.
Chase, Ref. 1, p. 349. Return to text.
King, J., The Biology of Race,
University of California Press, 2nd ed., Berkeley, CA, p. 156, 1981. Return
Fest, J.C., The Face of the Third
Reich, Pantheon, NY, pp. 99100, 1970. Return to
Mosse, G.L., Nazi Culture; Intellectual,
Cultural, and Social Life in the Third Reich, Schocken Books, New York,
p. 57, 1981. Return to text.
Mosse, Ref. 41, p. 58. Return to text.
Paliakov, Ref. 37, p. 282. Return to text.
Wertham, F., A Sign for Cain,
The Macmillan Co., New York, 1966. Return to text.
Davies, J.D., Phrenology: Fad and
Science, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1955. Return to text.
Stanton, W., The Leopard’s Spots;
Scientific Attitudes Towards Race in America, 18151859, University
of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1960. Return to text.
Weindling, P., Health, Race and German
Politics Between National Unification and Nazism 18701945, Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1989. Return to text.
Schleunes, Ref. 29, p. 31. Return to text.
Clark, Ref. 12, pp. 115116. Return
Rich, N., Hitler’s War Aim,
Norton, New York, 1973. Return to text.
Wiggam, A. E., The New Dialogue of
Science, Garden Publishing Co., Garden City, NY, p. 102, 1922. Return to text.
Haeckel, Ref. 2, p. 170. Return to text.
Haeckel, Ref. 4, p. 116. Return to text.
Posner, G.L. and Ware, J., Mengele,
McGraw Hill Book Company, New York, 1986. Return to text.
Phillips, K., Post-Conservative America:
People, Politics, and Ideology in a Time of Crisis, Random House, New
York, p. 164, 1981. Return to text.
Hitler, A., Ref. 32, p. 117. Return to text.
Milner, R., The Encyclopedia of Evolution,
Facts on File, New York, p. 206, 1990. Return to text.
Keith, Ref. 14, p. 72. Return to text.
Stein, Ref. 10, p. 54. Return to text.
Mosse, Ref. 41, p. 244. Return to text.
Humber, P., The Ascent of Racism,
Impact, February, p. 2, 1987. Return to text.
Hawtin, G., The Living Creature; The
Origin of the Negro, Geo. R. Hawtin, Battleford, Sask. 1980. Return to text.
Magne, C.L., The Negro and the World
Crisis, New Christian Crusade Church, Holywood, CA, 1972. Return to text.
Mueller-Hill, B., Murderous Science:
Elimination by Scientific Selection of Jews, Gypsies, and others, Germany
19331945, Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 23, 1988. Return to text.
Gray, P., Cursed by Eugenics, Time,
January 11, pp. 8485, 1999. Return to text.
Jones, E.M. (ed.), Darwin and the Vampire:
Evolution’s contribution to the Holocaust, Culture Wars 17:11,
1998. Return to text.
Fest, Ref. 40, p. 99. Return to text.
Haas, P.J., Nineteenth century science
and the formation of Nazi policy, Journal of Theology, 1995. Return
Hoess, R., Commandment of Auschwitz,
World Publishing Company, Cleveland, IL, p. 110, 1960. Return to text.
Nordenskiöld, E., The History
of Biology, Tudor Publishing Company, New York, p. 522, 1935. Return to text.
Stein, Ref. 10, p. 50. Return to text.
Hull, D., Uncle Sam Wants You; a review
of the book Mystery of Mysteries: Is Evolution a Social Construction?
by Michael Ruse. Science 284:11311132, 1999. Return
Rowan, W., ‘Charles Darwin’,
in Architects of Modern Thought, Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Toronto,
p. 12, 1955. Return to text.
Rowan, Ref. 73, p. 13. Return to text.
Youngson, R., Scientific Blunders;
A Brief History of How Wrong Scientists Can Sometimes Be, Carroll and
Graf Pub., New York, 1998. Return to text.
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