Analysis of Fascism [4]:  Nazism, Racism and Anti-Semitism

Russell Haggar

Site Owner

Analysis of Fascism [4]:  Nazism, Racism and Anti-Semitism


Notions of racism and anti-Semitism have long been prevalent in many countries and are certainly not confined solely to Nazi ideology or to Germany in the Nazi era. Racist ideology has been used to legitimize the slave trade, the colonization of much of the “Third World” by “more advanced” nations, the racial segregation laws operative in parts of the USA until the 1960s and the South African Apartheid regime. Anti-Semitism [in the sense of prejudice and discrimination against the Jews rather than the Semitic peoples as a whole] was common throughout Europe [including Britain] in the Middle Ages and it has been argued that in the late C19th and early C20th the growth of radical, vicious anti-Semitism seemed less likely to occur in Germany than, say, in France or Russia.


No systematic attempts were made to clarify the actual meaning of the term “race” until the formulation of theories of so-called “scientific racism” which developed in the course of the C18th and C19th in the work of writers such as Arthur de Gobineau and even then such theories referred to the alleged differences between the white and the non-white races and not to the distinctions between Jews and non-Jews. It was only later that writers such as especially Houston Chamberlain attempted to combine theories of scientific racism and anti-Semitism. In the Nazi era anti-Semitism would take on an unimaginable horrific form.


Broadly speaking these theories contained the following elements.


The world population could be classified into a limited number of distinct races on the basis of differences in observable physical characteristics  such as skin colour, head shape or cranial capacity, hair texture and  facial characteristics such as eye shape and lip thickness


These physical differences among the races were presented as evidence of biologically determined differences in intellectual abilities and moral and cultural tastes among the races.


These theories as mentioned were applied primarily to alleged differences between the white and the non-white races.


The Jewish people would have been seen primarily not as a separate racial category but as a separate ethnic group with their own different cultural and particularly their different religious traditions. However in the work of Houston Stewart Chamberlain and in Nazi ideology the Jews would be classified as a separate biological race.



However even before we begin to outline the significance of racism and anti-Semitism within Nazi ideology we should note that the theories of scientific racism on which they are based are now considered to be fundamentally flawed as is indicated in the following statements from the United Nations and from acknowledged UK scientist Robert Winston


1.UN Statement on Race and Racial Prejudice 1978

Any theory which involves the claim that racial or ethnic groups are inherently superior or inferior, thus implying that some would be entitled to dominate or eliminate others, or which bases value judgments on racial differentiation has no scientific foundation and is contrary to the moral and ethical principles of humanity.

  1. Robert Winston [Human Instinct]

Scientists believe that over 90% of all genetic difference can be found within a given "race" rather than between "races", so that, biologically speaking, a white Londoner is likely to be just as similar to or different from his or her white neighbour as he or she is to a neighbour from Jamaica or Kuala Lumpur.

We may therefore conclude in advance that the Nazi claim to the superiority of the German “race” and the inferiority of other “races” and of the Jewish people are scientifically invalid as well as morally sickening.

Elements of Nazi Racism and anti-Semitism

In the Nazi race schema there were three broad races:

  • The Aryans who as the master race were described by the Nazis as “the founders of the culture” and as “responsible for all creativity whether in art, music, literature, philosophy or political thought.”
  • Other races who were bearers of culture: “people who were able to utilize the ideas and initiatives of Aryans but were themselves incapable of creativity.”
  • The Jews who were described as “the destroyers of culture pitted in an unending struggle against the noble and creative Aryans.” {All quotations form Andrew Heywood.}

Notice, however, that the Nazis also assumed the Slavic peoples including the Russians to be an inferior race [which would therefore justify Nazi territorial expansion into Eastern Europe in pursuit of Lebensraum for the superior German race] as were non –white peoples.

The development of Nazi racial and anti-Semitic policies was influenced by theories of social Darwinism and Eugenics which had become increasingly significant by the late C19th and early C20th. Thus in theories of social Darwinism it was suggested that the qualities of a nation’s population stock would improve only if natural competitive processes operated through unregulated laissez faire were allowed to promote the relative expansion of the healthier, more talented, more productive elements while restricting the growth of unhealthy elements thereby promoting the survival of the fittest and the elimination of the unfit. National progress could be achieved only if the nation was organized to promote the survival of the fittest which was itself essential because international political relations were assumed also to be based upon an international struggle for resources and markets necessary to ensure national survival. These Social Darwinist ideas encouraged supporters of the Eugenics movement to support programmes of selective human breeding, possibly but not necessarily involving the compulsory sterilization of “the unfit” and limited compulsory sterilization programmes were introduced in some Scandinavian countries and in the USA but, as we shall see, Hitler and the Nazis would embark upon large scale programmes of compulsory sterilization and euthanasia , the outlawing of mixed race marriages between Germans and Nazis and ultimately on the “Final Solution” in their efforts to purify the German race. Thus in Nazi ideology nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, territorial expansion and war were all closely interconnected.

The practical implications of Nazi racism and anti-Semitism involved the following elements:

the compulsory sterilization between 1933 and 1945 of approximately 350,000 individuals who according to the Nazis were hereditarily either mentally or physically deficient and who should therefore be prevented from reproducing so as to protect the purity of the German race. In reality several of the conditions described by the Nazis may not have been so and some mental conditions such as “hereditary feeble mindedness” were defined so broadly that decisions in individual cases of sterilization were essentially arbitrary. In relation to the sterilization programme here is an extract from a Nazi public information film. “ Sterilisation is a simple surgical operation. In the last 70 years our people have increased by 50% while in the same period the number of hereditarily ill has risen by 450%. If this were to continue there would be 1 hereditarily ill person for 4 healthy people. An endless column of horror would march in the nation”;

 the secret murder between 1939 and1941 of approximately 200,000 mentally handicapped children and adults under the terms of the so-called T4 Programme [Tiergartenstrasse 4 Berlin was the address of the Nazi Chancellery which organized the programme]. Despite official attempts to  present these deaths as due to” natural causes” the publication of relatives’ suspicions and of Catholic leaders’ [especially the opposition of Bishop Galen] resulted in the ending of the T4 Programme in 1941. However gassing techniques first used in the T4 Programme would later be used on a massive scale in the death camps of the Holocaust; 

the prejudicial treatment of political opponents[ most notably but not only Communists and Social Democrats]  and groups such as criminals, homosexuals, prostitutes, Jehovah’s Witnesses, vagrants and the long-term unemployed who were considered as unsuitable for inclusion in the Nazi Volksgemeinschaft whose members could be expected to contribute positively to the rebirth of German greatness;

the systematic and increasingly brutal persecution of the Jews which ultimately resulted in the Holocaust in which 6000,000 were exterminated in concentration camps;

the military invasion of Eastern Europe and the USSR.  

In Nazi ideology the Jews were presented both as the most biologically inferior race but also as the race which represented the greatest threat to the survival of the German race: that is the Jews were both loathed and feared.

The Nazis made several inaccurate claims about the Jews.  According to the Nazis German Jews alongside Communists, Social Democrats and Liberals had been implicated in the so-called Dolchstoss according to which Germany’s defeat in the First World War had occurred as a result of domestic political subversion and defeatism. This was a view that was widely accepted in conservative nationalist circles and among defeated German soldiers as they returned from the war. American and Western European Jews, including German Jews were presented as part of the international capitalist class which inhibited the development of German –owned industrial capitalist firms and by their exploitative practices restricted the prosperity of smaller scale German farmers and business owners as well as the living standards of the German working classes.

At the same time however the Nazis claimed that Jews were heavily over –represented among both the leadership and the members of the Russian Bolsheviks and the German Communist and Social Democratic Parties whose policies of class polarization and revolution threatened the interests of the German people and the unity of the German nation. And also once the Second World War was underway The Nazis claimed that the Jews clandestinely controlled the liberal democratic governments of both Britain and the USA so that a war against these countries was a necessary part of the struggle against international Jewish conspiracy.

In fact German Jews represented only around 1% of the German population and they were indeed over-represented among the professional and commercial classes. Many had given up their religious beliefs, married non-Jewish spouses and sought to integrate as fully as possible into German society. However in the years before 1914 violent pogroms were directed against Jews, who were made scapegoats for the problems of the Russian Empire. The flight of Jews from the east, first to escape the violent prejudices unleashed periodically in Tsarist Russia and then to escape the upheavals in the aftermath of World War I, sharpened the anti-Semitism especially against so-called Ostjuden who did appear as culturally different from German people.

Hitler and the core leadership of the Nazi Party espoused profoundly anti-Semitic beliefs but also recognized that radical anti-Semitism would not be popular with all sections of the German electorate and so sometimes downplayed their anti-Semitic views for electoral reasons.

The last section of these notes is a little thin on the precise anti-Semitic measures undertaken by the Nazi regime. I can fill in these details later.

 However immediately following the Nazis’ attainment of power in 1933 Nazi storm troopers embarked on a campaign of violence against Communists, Social Democrats and Jews. Hitler, however, was concerned that such randomized violence would undermine his image as a guardian of law and order but in order to appease his storm trooper members he did also announce an official boycott of Jewish shops and businesses on the 1st of April which was nevertheless relatively unpopular in some areas and called off after one day. Nevertheless the stage had been set for the increasing persecution of the Jews which would lead ultimately to the Holocaust in which 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated.

 German Jews were subjected to increasingly repressive discrimination. They were increasingly encouraged to emigrate although once the war began emigration became increasingly difficult. They lost their jobs, they were forbidden from sexual relationships and marriage with Aryans; they lost their German citizenship; their businesses and synagogues were attacked.

Hitler’s grand strategic design involved the creation of a Greater Germany via the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia and the military conquest of Eastern Europe and Russia as a means of providing “Lebensraum” [= living space] and economic resources for the master race. As a terrible consequence millions of Jews were rounded up especially in Eastern Europe and sent to concentration camps in Germany and In Poland where 6 million met their deaths in appalling circumstances.

There is some historical controversy surrounding the extent to which the German people were aware of what was occurring in the concentration camps. Although the Nazis had made their prejudices against the Jews very clear they did not publicise what was actually occurring in the camps several of which were located in Poland rather than Germany. However it is estimated that approximately 100,000 Germans may have participated in the Holocaust although many claimed that they were forced to do so.

Another issue surrounds the extent to which it was the nature of the German State which made the Holocaust possible. One could not imagine it occurring in a liberal democracy because of the safeguards which exist to limit the power of the state