Was Hitler Racist?

by Jonah Goldberg

I’m not sold. Hitler was very inconsistent about lots of things, but he was certainly a consistent anti-Semite, which makes him consistently racist in at least one sub-category of racism. I don’t think anti-Semitism is necessarily racist. There’s theological and cultural anti-Semitism. But, Hitler’s anti-Semitism was certainly biological.

Still, as always, Ray is interesting.

Was Hitler a racist?

“John Ray has now gone too far. Pointing out that Nazism was simply an extreme version of prewar Leftism was fine but denying that Hitler was a racist is right off the planet”. That is the sort of reaction I expect to the above heading. But as Eddington said, the universe is not only stranger than you imagine but it is stranger than you can imagine. And the truth is that Hitler’s ideas about race were pretty similar to the thinking of Leftists today. We all know that Hitler used the Jews as a scapegoat but what have you ever read about what his conception of race was? You may be surprised.

Although in his speeches he undoubtedly appealed to the nationalism of the German people, Locke (2001) makes a strong case that Hitler was not in fact a very good nationalist in that he always emphasized that his primary loyalty was to what he called the Aryan race — and Germany was only one part of that race. Locke then goes on to point out that Hitler was not even a very consistent racist in that the Dutch, the Danes etc. were clearly Aryan even by Hitler’s own eccentric definition yet he attacked them whilst at the same time allying himself with the very non-Aryan Japanese. And the Russians and the Poles (whom Hitler also attacked) are rather more frequently blonde and blue-eyed (Hitler’s ideal) than the Germans themselves are! So what DID Hitler believe in?

In his book Der Fuehrer, prewar Leftist writer Konrad Heiden corrects the now almost universal assumption that Hitler’s idea of race was biologically-based. The Nazi conception of race traces, as is well-known, to the work of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. But what did Chamberlain say about race? It should not by now be surprising that he said something that sounds thoroughly Leftist. Anthropologist Robert Gayre summarizes Chamberlain’s ideas as follows:

“On the contrary he taught (like many “progressives” today) that racial mixture was desirable, for, according to him, it was only out of racial mixture that the gifted could be created. He considered that the evidence of this was provided by the Prussian, whom he saw as the superman, resulting from a cross between the German (or Anglo-Saxon “German”) and the Slav. From this Chamberlain went on to argue that the sum of all these talented people would then form a “race,” not of blood but of “affinity.”

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