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Racial Science in Hitler's New Europe, 1938-1945

Rory Yeomans

Publication Year: 2013

In Racial Science in Hitler’s New Europe, 1938–1945, international scholars examine the theories of race that informed the legal, political, and social policies aimed against ethnic minorities in Nazi-dominated Europe. The essays explicate how racial science, preexisting racist sentiments, and pseudoscientific theories of race that were preeminent in interwar Europe ultimately facilitated Nazi racial designs for a “New Europe.”

The volume examines racial theories in a number of European nation-states in order to understand racial thinking at large, the origins of the Holocaust, and the history of ethnic discrimination in each of those countries. The essays, by uncovering neglected layers of complexity, diversity, and nuance, demonstrate how local discourse on race paralleled Nazi racial theory but had unique nationalist intellectual traditions of racial thought.

 Written by rising scholars who are new to English-language audiences, this work examines the scientific foundations that central, eastern, northern, and southern European countries laid for ethnic discrimination, the attempted annihilation of Jews, and the elimination of other so-called inferior peoples.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. C-ii

Title Page

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p. iii-iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Series Editors’ Introduction

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pp. ix-x

Anton Weiss-Wendt, Rory Yeomans, and the contributors to this collection of essays explore the complex story of how eugenics and race as opposed to culture and class became the touchstones of German anthropological science during the Second World War (1939–45 in Europe). Nazi science placed remarkable value on anthropological justifi cation for its policies of genocide, and the discipline, ...


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pp. xi-xii

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-xvi

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Introduction: The Holocaust and Historiographical Debates on Racial Science

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pp. 1-34

It is now thirty years since the publication of Bernt Hagtvet, Jan Pett er Myklebust, and Stein Ugelvik Larsen’s Who Were the Fascists?1 As stated in their introduction, one of the objectives of the book was the creation of an international network of scholars interested in the social history of fascism. Much has changed during the past three decades, both in scholarship and in the wider world. Th e dominant...

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1. Defining “(Un)Wanted Population Addition”

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pp. 35-59

Reichsführer-ss Heinrich Himmler used his wartime speeches to outline his specific idea to transform Eastern Europe into a “greater Germanic settlement space.” According to Himmler, following military conquest, German authorities— the Schutzstaffel (ss) in particular—were to exploit the land to the benefi t of the Reich and German citizens. The indigenous population would be...

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2. Preserving the “Master Race”

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pp. 60-82

On October 28, 1939, Reichsführer-ss Heinrich Himmler issued an order to the entire Schutzstaff el (the ss) and police in which he proclaimed, “Every war is a bloodlett ing of the best blood.”1 What he referred to was not just the loss of the men who had and would perish on the batt lefi eld but also the absence of their unborn children. Having spent the past decade molding the ss into a racial elite...

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3. Germanic Brothers

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pp. 83-107

In the summer of 1942, less than three years aft er the outbreak of the Second World War, German rule was established in a substantial part of Europe. Nazi Germany had considerably enlarged its territory by incorporating Austria and large border areas. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Caucasus, Germans governed occupied Europe. Leading German planners regarded the occupied regions in ...

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4. Pure-Blooded Vikings and Peasants

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pp. 108-128

Th is chapter examines perceptions of Norwegians within the racial ideology of the Schutzstaffel (ss), as shaped by the “Nordic idea” of Hans Friedrich Karl Günther and Richard Walther Darré. The collective image of the “Norwegian tribe” as purebred, primeval farmers and fierce, bellicose Vikings, it argues, influenced ss policies vis-à-vis Norwegians, both before and during the German...

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5. “Nordic-Germanic” Dreams and National Realities

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pp. 129-149

When on 9 April 1940, German troops marched into Denmark they were enthusiastically greeted by members of south Denmark’s German minority, many of whom sympathized with the Nazi regime in Germany. Local Germans believed that the long-awaited revision of the Danish-German border was at hand. They hoped that the border, which had been shifted after the First World War, would...

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6. Eugenics into Science

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pp. 150-174

The annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany on 12 March 1938, the so-called Anschluss, brought, along with Nazi political and racial persecution, massive changes in administration, especially in science policy. Prior to 1938 eugenics, human heredity, and experimental genetics were not on the curricula of Austrian ...

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7. Biological Racism and Antisemitism as Intellectual Constructions in Italian Fascism

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pp. 175-199

The promulgation of antisemitic and racial laws in Italy in 1938 prompted no discernible public reaction. Almost unanimously, with the exception of Benedetto Croce, silence followed the expulsion of Jewish academics from Italian universities. Even more striking, though, was the fact that Italian antisemitism, Fascist racial laws, and racial discourse were totally expunged from public consciousness...

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8. Eradicating “Undesired Elements”

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pp. 200-236

In April 1942, on the first anniversary of the founding of the Independent State of Croatia, a group of train passengers took a journey into the heart of Bosnia. Th is was no ordinary party of travelers. It comprised leading offi cials from the Ustasha regime—the Fascist movement that had come to power the previous year—and included Foreign Minister Mladen Lorković, the head of the secret ...

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9. “If Our Race Did Not Exist, It Would Have to Be Created”

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pp. 237-258

The development of racial science in Hungary during the Second World War remains a largely unexplored subject.1 This is evident when one attempts to understand the expansion of racial ideas into the public and political spheres and the formalization of race as a normative category of Hungarian national identity. That race was a fluid concept at the time has long been acknowledged,...

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10. In the Shadow of Ethnic Nationalism

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pp. 259-286

In Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Hannah Arendt called Romania “the most anti-Semitic country in pre-war Europe.”1 Recent scholarship has amply demonstrated the extent of antisemitism in Romanian culture, both popular and intellectual.2 Antisemitism of the most virulent kind was ...

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11. Building Hitler’s “New Europe”

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pp. 287-319

Racial discourse was commonplace in wartime Europe. What makes Estonia stand apart from the rest of the Nazi-occupied countries of East Central Europe is that many Estonian academics and scientists not only talked racial science but also acted it out, without subscribing to Nazi ideology. In retrospect, Estonians proved simultaneously the object and the subject of Nazi racial grand designs....

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12. In Pursuit of Biological Purity

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pp. 320-346

In December 1941, six months aft er Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet-occupied Baltic States, Latvian anthropologist Lūcija Jeruma-Krastiņa wrote an article in the largest Latvian newspaper, Tēvija, under the heading “Par latviešu rasisko būtību” (On the racial fundamentals of the Latvians): “Our forefathers were fi ghting as Nordic people did in the past. . . . It is the Nordic blood that had...

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13. Th e Eternal Voice of the Blood

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pp. 347-372

Walter Gross, from 1934 onward director of the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei, or National Socialist German Workers’ Party) Offi ce of Racial Policy (Rassenpolitisches Amt der NSDAP), spelled out the new Nazi ethic at a party rally in 1933: “Compassion for the hereditarily ill contradicts the laws of nature and life, laws that are apathetic to the trivial fate of single individuals,...


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pp. 373-376


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pp. 377-396

E-ISBN-13: 9780803246058
E-ISBN-10: 0803246056
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803245075

Page Count: 448
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Physical anthropology -- Europe -- History -- 20th century.
  • Racism in anthropology -- Europe -- History -- 20th century.
  • National socialism and medicine -- Europe -- History -- 20th century.
  • National socialism and science -- Europe -- History -- 20th century.
  • Racism in medicine -- Europe -- History -- 20th century.
  • Eugenics -- Europe -- History -- 20th century.
  • Race -- Research -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • Germany -- Politics and government -- 1933-1945.
  • Germany -- Race relations.
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