Richard Weikart kindly writes to say,
I’m happy to announce that my article, “The Role of Darwinism in Nazi Racial Thought,” has just appeared in German Studies Review (Oct. 2013 issue), one of the most important journals publishing on German history.
Here’s the Abstract:
Historians disagree about whether Nazis embraced Darwinian evolution. By examining Hitler’s ideology, the official biology curriculum, the writings of Nazi anthropologists, and Nazi periodicals, we find that Nazi racial theorists did indeed embrace human and racial evolution. They not only taught that humans had evolved from primates, but they believed the Aryan or Nordic race had evolved to a higher level than other races because of the harsh climatic conditions that influenced natural selection. They also claimed that Darwinism underpinned specific elements of Nazi racial ideology, including racial inequality, the necessity of the racial struggle for existence, and collectivism.
A bit from the Intro:
Many historians recognize that Hitler was a social Darwinist, and some even portray social Darwinism as a central element of Nazi ideology. Why, then, do some historians claim that Nazis did not believe in human evolution? George Mosse argued that human evolution was incompatible with Nazi ideology, because Nazis stressed the immutability of the German race. More recently Peter Bowler and Michael Ruse have argued that the Nazis rejected human evolution, because they upheld a fixed racial type and racial inequality.4 Nowhere is this irony more pronounced than in the work of Daniel Gasman, who claimed that Hitler built his ideology on the social Darwinist ideas of Ernst Haeckel, but simultaneously argued that Nazis rejected human evolution. How is it possible to embrace social Darwinism, while rejecting Darwinism and human evolution? Anne Harrington suggests that the Nazis liked some elements of Darwinism, especially the struggle for existence, but not human evolution. Robert Richards agrees, claiming that Nazi racial ideas “were rarely connected with specific evolutionary conceptions of the transmutation of species,” even though they bandied about the term “struggle for existence.” In another essay Richards went further, arguing that Hitler and the Nazis completely rejected biological evolution. The notion that the Nazis could embrace racial struggle without believing in evolution seems plausible at first, especially since Houston Stewart Chamberlain, a forerunner of Nazi racial ideology, embraced this position. However, the claim that the Nazis did not believe in the transmutation of species and human evolution runs aground once we examine Nazi racial ideology in detail. In this essay I examine the following evidence to demonstrate overwhelmingly that Nazi racial thinkers embraced human and racial evolution:
1) Hitler believed in human evolution.
2) The official Nazi school curriculum prominently featured biological evolution, including human evolution.
3) Nazi racial anthropologists, including SS anthropologists, uniformly endorsed human evolution and integrated evolution into their racial ideology.
4) Nazi periodicals, including those on racial ideology, embraced human evolution.
5) Nazi materials designed to inculcate the Nazi worldview among SS and military men promoted human evolution as an integral part of the Nazi worldview.
This should pretty much end the discussion but won’t because the issue isn’t about the massive evidence that Nazis were social Darwinists but about defending Darwin’s sacred name from the sacrilegious facts.
Note: Weikart explains how he first got involved with this matter here:
Actually, at first, he wasn’t interested. While living in Germany some years ago to improve his German, he was mainly interested in the nineteenth century. He doubted that he would uncover anything new about the Third Reich. For one thing, in his view, it was an overworked field. But then he discovered one neglected point:
[A]s I investigated the history of evolutionary ethics in pre-World War I Germany, I noticed—to my surprise—remarkable similarities between the ideas of those promoting evolutionary ethics and Hitler’s worldview. This discovery (which happened around 1995) led me to investigate Hitler’s worldview more closely, and this research convinced me that I had found something important to say about Hitler’s ideology.
One wonders if Weikart will ever be forgiven for documenting it all so carefully, in the faces of all those who want to explain it away.