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Friday, June 23, 2006

Book Study Quote #3

Our third quote is taken from the same edition of Mein Kampf as below. This time the quote is taken from pp. xix-xxi of the Introduction, which was written by Abraham Foxman.


Hitler’s contribution to the history of ideas can be found in his clear and forceful articulation of numerous theories already in circulation during the early twentieth century rather than in any original thoughts of his own. Many of the ideological themes of Mein Kampf were embraced to varying degrees by groups in Germany, Europe, and even the United States before Hitler wove them together to form the foundations of National Socialism…

The glue that Hitler used to hold these disparate themes together was an extreme form of race-oriented social Darwinism, but even this idea was not limited to the German fringes. The modern “science” of race had evolved with the Enlightenment, when the Aristotelian distinctions between the “cultured” and the “barbaric” races were revived, this time using terms like “civilized” and “primitive.” By positing that certain races were inherently “primitive,” white men of the Enlightenment were able to justify both their continued toleration of black slavery and their imperialist designs on places such as Africa. Differences between races were scientifically “proven” with techniques such as anthropometry (the collection and study of precise measurements of the human body); the races were then ranked on some arbitrary scale, with modern European man always holding the highest spot.

Racial theories became increasingly radical as they incorporated aspects of Darwinism, which swept the Western world in the mid- to late 1800s. Applied to race, the ideas of evolution and “survival of the fittest” turned the history of humanity, as well as the contemporary world, into a story of racial conflict. When coupled with nationalism, racial (social) Darwinism led to the development of national archetypes; thus educated people at the end of the nineteenth century could seriously claim that the distinctive cultural characteristics of the English, French, Americans, and Germans were biological. Eugenics movements with the goal of improving national or racial “stock” through selective breeding (which later became inextricably linked with the Nazi regime in popular perception) arose in England, Scandinavia, and the United States.

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