This history ignored
A problem that Shields and Dunn note is this history of the
influence of academia on Nazism is often ignored, trivialized
or, worse, denied by academia and Western society in general.
To remedy this problem requires
“… an outcry against any attempt to trivialize,
relativize, or hide the history of the Third Reich.
Anthropology is a profession that has had every
opportunity to know, understand, and value diversity
in human life and its cultures, peoples, and habits; yet,
in the case of the Nazi anthropologists, it turned against
that opportunity. Instead, it measured the value of
human beings by fictitious standards of pseudonatural
science and pseudosocial science, causing the
obliteration of rich cultural traditions as well as death,
and destruction to unfathomable numbers of human
beings [emphasis in original].” 68
This effort not only was designed to legitimize social
Darwinism, but also to “draw attention away from the annihil-
ation of Jews” to the group of prolific and tireless writers
“… who have worked over the last twenty years to
expose the Nazi past … as they, in the process, expose
the continuing careers of many perpetrators. There is
a suspicion that the attempts to tie the Nazi period
to activities of former Nazis in the post-war period
could be used to promote a left-leaning agenda by
implying that nothing has changed in Germany from
the Nazi era.” 69
Furthermore, because many of the Nazi scientists
retained their positions after the war, probing their role during
the Nazi era was difficult and “the reluctance persisted long
after the first investigations”. 70 One research professor, Dr
Roelcke, “encountered resistance several years ago when he
attempted to document that Ernst Rüdin, the Nazi-era Director
of the Institute for Psychiatry in Munich, and the University
of Heidelberg in Germany were involved in research on child
euthanasia victims.” 71
The fact is, the many “scientists associated with the
Kaiser-Wilhelm Society enhanced the credibility of the
Nazi state’s program of scientific terror and murder”. 72 If it
were not for Darwinism, and the application of his theory
called social Darwinism, the Holocaust would likely never
have occurred in Germany. Darwinism is the idea that all
living species, including humans, are “subject to, and are a
result of, natural selection, that is the survival of the fittest
and the strongest”. 73
In short, Darwin’s influence on anthropology, and
academia as a whole, was summarized by one historian
by noting that “Anthropologists began to link pre-hominid
remains with evidence of current human variation, trying to
establish lines of heredity … . In looking at human heredity
and culture in an evolutionary framework, anthropology
became a strong force in secularizing society against the
power of the church.” 74 Furthermore, the anthropologists
“… had collected remains of human varieties
throughout the world, and … such artifacts became
a central measure of a museum’s or a university’s
prestige, and efforts to systematize racial history …
[that] became a dominant theme in the anthropological
literature. Ethnographic museums sprang up throughout
Germany and were the envy of museum people
throughout the world.” 75
In addition, the
“German university was the intellectual fatherland
of eugenics and racial science. The universities of
Germany and Austria and their constituent faculty
played critical roles in the development and
advancement of eugenics and racial selection: they
enforced sterilization, euthanasia and inhuman
experimentation on the living, as well as on the
exploitation of the bodies of victims of state terror
for the teaching of human anatomy and pathology.” 76
This event is also one of the worst world horror events
ever in terms of number, extent and the level of suffering, an
evil close to unparalleled in the entirety of human history. 77
I thank Richard Weikart, Bryce Gaudian, and MaryAnn
Stuart for their help with this article.
1. Schafft, G.E., From Racism to Genocide: Anthropology in the Third Reich,
University of Illinois Press, Champaign, IL, 2004.
2. Shields, J. A. and Dunn Sr, J.M., Passing on the Right: Conservative professors
in the progressive university, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 176, 2016.
3. Shields and Dunn, ref. 2, pp. 176, 221.
4. Shields and Dunn, ref. 2, pp. 176, 179.
5. Shields and Dunn, ref. 2, pp. 175–176.
6 See Gassert, P., The Hitler Library, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 2001. A
550-page bibliography that alphabetically lists each book in Hitler’s library with
its author, page count, and call number.
7. Dietrich, O., The Hitler I Knew. Skyhorse Publishing, New York, pp. 8, 61,
8. Davidson, E., The Making of Adolf Hitler: The birth and rise of Nazism,
University of Missouri Press, Columbia, MO, p. 31, 1977.
9. Ryback, T., Hitler’s Forgotten Library, The Atlantic, May 2003.
10. Baur, E., Fisher, E., and Lenz, F., Human Heredity, Paul, E. And Paul, C. (transl.),
Macmillan, New York, 1931; quoted in Samaan, A.E., From a Race of Masters
to a Master Race: 1948 to 1848, A.E. Samaan, New York, p. 539, 2013.
11. Cornwell, J., Hitler’s Scientists: Science, war, and the devil’s pact, Viking,
New York, pp. 28–31, 2003.
12. Quoted in Weikart, R., From Darwin to Hitler, Palgrave Macmillan, New York,
p. 215, 2004.