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Pioneer of Nazi racial doctrine

The Nazis persecuted and murdered millions of Jews, the sick and people with disabilities by degrading them to "ballast existences of the German people".

Racial Theorists: There is a ruling race

From the middle of the 19th century, researchers around the world tried to divide mankind into different races. They collected data and proposed theories. At that time, the ideas of the writer Arthur de Gobineau became well known. Between 1853 and 1855 he published four books on the subject.

Gobineau divided mankind into three races: he distinguished a white, a yellow and a black race. Gobineau considered the white to be the superior breed. He also referred to them as the Aryan primal race, which was intended to rule over the others.

At the same time he warned against racial mixing. Although this is factually given, it endangers the quality of the Aryan primal race as well as humanity as a whole. Only in Scandinavia is the original breed still pure.

Gobineau's theory was very well received at the time. Many scientists and scholars used them to write their own treatises on the subject.

One of them was Houston Stewart Chamberlain. In 1899 the Briton published a book in which he raised Gobineau's racial assumptions to a new level. He combined them with a radical anti-Semitism: Chamberlain declared the Jews to be a race of their own and - even more - the main enemy of the Aryan original race. Therefore the primordial race must destroy them.

Social Darwinists: Only the strongest survive

Other racial theorists, such as the Social Darwinists, went a step further than Gobineau and Chamberlain. They declared the race war to be a law of nature. For their thesis they cited the natural scientist Charles Darwin. Darwin had assumed that there was a constant struggle for existence in nature.

According to Darwin, only those who could best adapt to their environment survived. All others are doomed to extinction. This would automatically wipe out unfavorable characteristics and the species could develop higher in the long term. Darwin called this principle "natural selection" or "survival of the fittest".

The Social Darwinists believed that humans too were embroiled in a constant struggle for existence. Only the strongest could win this. It is therefore determined in advance by nature that sick, weak and poor people should not survive. Only in this way can humanity develop higher.

Racial Hygienist: Breeding Humanity

Social Darwinism was the starting point for an even more radical theory: that of so-called racial hygiene. It developed towards the end of the 19th century. Its representatives believed that natural selection was hindered by increasing civilization: sick, weak and poor people would reproduce unhindered. This endangers the "quality of humanity".

The racial hygienists therefore planned to intervene in the natural selection process and to support it. They proposed two approaches for this: They wanted to promote the reproduction of hereditary healthy people and prevent that of hereditary diseases. Soon there were corresponding activities.

In 1905 the physician Alfred Ploetz founded the Society for Racial Hygiene. This should scientifically justify the racial hygiene. Four years later, the lawyer Karl Binding and the psychiatrist Alfred Hoche wrote "The release of the destruction of life unworthy of life".

In this they justify the killing of certain newborns: "The incurably stupid (...) have neither the will to live nor to die. So there is no considerable consent to the killing, on the other hand it does not come up against a will to live that has to be broken . Their life is absolutely pointless (...) They form a terribly heavy burden for their relatives as well as for society. Their death does not leave the slightest void. "

In the years that followed, the acceptance of racial hygiene increased steadily not only in Germany, but throughout Europe and America. In 1923 the first chair for racial hygiene was established in Munich. Shortly thereafter, it also became a compulsory subject for medical students.