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burleigh.the racial state

burleigh.the racial state - RE THE RACIAL STATE GERMANY...

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Unformatted text preview: RE THE RACIAL STATE: GERMANY 1933—1945 —\ MICHAEL BURLEIGH London School of Economics and Political Science and WOLFGANG WIPPERMANN Freie Universitiit, Berlin The right of the Univnfily 0/ Cambridge to prinl and Jill all manner of bank: we: gunned by Henry VIII in I534. The Univerxily ha: primed and published continuoust .rince I584. CAMB RIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS Cambridge New York Port Cnexter Melbourne Sydney {€353} Conclusion 305 The essential elements of the resulting barbaric utopia had been con—’ sidered long before Hitler achieved political power. Racial ideologies were not solely concerned with a return to some imagined past social order. 9 They also reflected the desire to create a future society based upon the l alleged verities of race. Hitler took over existing ideas and converted them CONCLUSION: NATIONAL SOCIALIST RACIAL AND SOCIAL POLICY r; g: i reactionary policies? This question is among the most important posed by recent research. If the Third Reich was a modern and modernising regime, then it can hardly be said to have been the culmi— nation of a German separate road of historical development, but rather is to be compared to other modern regimes, whether Communist, Fascist, or democratic. Questions concerning whether Hitler or other agencies and individuals were responsible for particular policies pale into insignificance beside the implications of this thesis. If the modernising theory is correct, then not only do the crimes of Nazi Germany cease to be singular, but they become comparable with the crimes of other regimes, or indeed part of the ‘pathology’ of advanced societies in general. Just as the highly dubious Milgram psychological tests apparently ‘prove’ that we are all capable of torture, so the modernisation theorists would like us to believe that all our societies are latently like Nazi Germany. Of course this is not so. Vacuous notions like ‘body fascism’ and the indiscriminately inflationary use of the term ‘fascist’ to describe anyone who happens to disagree with a particular point of View compound this (discomforting) delusion. Although in our opinion the question of the modern or anti—modern character of the Nazi regime is of central importance, it has received rela— tively little attention in the existing secondary literature, firstly because there has been no comprehensive treatment of Nazi racial and social policy, and secondly because the inner relationships between the diflerent areas of policy have been neglected. Finally, it is often overlooked that social policy was designed to achieve a global remodelling of society in accordance with racial criteria. DID the Third Reich pursue modern rather than profoundly into a comprehensive programme for a racial new order. Without doubt, racial anti—Semitism was the key element in a programme designed to achieve the ‘recovery’ of the ‘Aryan Germanic race’. Various racial— hygienic measures were designed to achieve this goal. These ranged from compulsory sterilisation to murdering the sick, the ‘asocial’, and those designated as being of ‘alien race’. The extermination of the Jews was crucial to these policies. In Hitler’s mind they were not only ‘racial aliens’, but also a threat to his plans for the ‘racial recovery’ of the German people. They were both a ‘lesser race’ and one bent upon destroying the ‘racial properties’ of Hitler’s ‘Aryans’. Under the Third Reich, this racial—ideological programme became the official dogma and policy of the State. Racism replaced the Weimar Repub- lic’s imperfect experiment in political pluralism. Along with the political parties and trade unions, the Nazis also endeavoured to destroy the exist— ing social structure. Although there were undoubtedly social classes ink Nazi Germany, it was a society organised increasingly upon racial rather] than class lines. The regime’s racial policies struck at people whether they were rich or poor, bourgeois, peasants, or workers. As we have seen, this racial new order was based upon the ‘puriflcation of the body of the nation’ of all those categorised as being ‘alien’, ‘hereditarily ill’, or ‘asocial’. That meant Jews, Sinti and Roma, the mentally and physically handicapped, ‘community aliens’, and homo— sexuals. Obviously there were major quantitative and qualitative differ— ences in the degree of persecution to which these groups were subjected. Jews, as the racial group whom the Nazis regarded as the greatest threat, undoubtedly constituted the largest single group of victims and were persecuted in the most intensive and brutal manner. Persecution undoubt— edly had different specificities. This should not result in attempts either to relativise or to overlook the sufferings of others, let alone a ghoulish and profoundly inhuman competition to claim the right to having been most persecuted. All of these people were persecuted for the same reasons, although the degree of persecution was bound up with how threatening the regime perceived them to be. The regime’s ‘national community’ was based upon the exclusion and extermination of all those deemed to be ‘alien’, ‘hereditarily ill’, or r! O? 306 Conclusion ‘asocial’. These ‘elements’ were subject to constant and escalating forms of selection. The ‘national community’ itself was categorised in accordance with racial criteria. The criteria included not merely ‘racial purity’ but also biological health and socio—economic performance. Members of the ‘national community’ were also compelled to reproduce through a series of measures ranging from financial inducements to criminal sanctions. The inducements contained in the regime’s social legislation were also con— ditional upon an individual’s racial ‘value’, health, and performance. For biological reasons, women were particularly affected by the regime’s attempts at racial selective breeding. Women’s worth was assessed in terms of their ability to produce as many Aryan, healthy, and capable children as possible. Women were therefore reduced to the status of mere ‘repro— ductive machines’. Racially—motivated anti—feminism represented a significant departure from traditional Christian—Conservative anti— feminism. The Nazis’ hierarchically organisedyracist society, with healthy, ‘Aryan’ German man at the apex, began to rival the existing social order. However, it failed to supersede it for a variety of reasons. The first is that changes on this scale required longer than twelve years to be realised, a fact which makes any generalisations concerning the impact of the regime on German society difficult. Secondly, there were disagreements within the ruling cartel about the forms, radicalism, and tempo with which a consen- sually approved racial programme should be implemented. Finally, political and military considerations forced the regime to establish priorities and to postpone some of its plans until the post—war period. In other words, social policy was heavily influenced by military, economic, and domestic—political considerations, not least by the desire to integrate and pacify the population in a wartime crisis. The main object of social policy remained the creation of a hierarchical racial new order. Everything else was subordinate to this goal, including the regime’s conduct of foreign affairs and the war. In the eyes of the regime’s racial politicians, the Second World War was above all a racial war, to be pursued with immense brutality until the end, that is until the con— centration camps were liberated by invading Allied armies. All of these points draw attention to the specific and singular character of the Third Reich. It' was not a form of regression to past times, although the regime frequently instrumentalised various ahistorical myths to convey the idea of 8“ historical normalcy. Its objects were novel and mi generic to realise an ideal future world, without ‘lesser races’, without the sick, and without those who they decreed had no place in the ‘national community’. The Third Reich was intended to be a racial rather than a class society. This fact M... WWMM. was/MW”“my.”aMMWWWW/wmwo W, , , Conclusion 3 07 in itself makes existing theories, whether based upon modernisation, totalitarianism, or global theories of Fascism, poor heuristic devices for a greater understanding of what was a singular regime without precedent or parallel. ...
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