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View all notes The Nazi concentration camps are often used as an example of such a perfidious strategy. On the other hand, there are authors who question whether psychological dehumanization is a necessary condition for mass violence. View all notes The social psychologist Johannes Lang has recently argued that the emphasis on dehumanization obscures the true horror of these atrocities. View all notes.

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This debate has long suffered from the one-sided emphasis on psychological accounts of dehumanization. Although many authors mention the political and ideological embeddedness of social situations which involve psychological dehumanization, this broader context has not been considered sufficiently. For the earlier debate see, e. Kelman, op. View all notes Only some social-psychological studies on mass violence have recently followed the re- turn to ideology in the historical research on National Socialism. Fischer, ; Alan P. Fiske and Tage S. For the re- turn of ideology in the historical research on National Socialism see, e.

Frank-Lothar Kroll, Utopie als Ideologie. View all notes I embrace the rediscovery of the role of ideology in the context of National Socialism and argue that the significance of dehumanization can be understood only if its ideological dimension is taken into account. See, e. View all notes I will develop a complex picture of the racist core of Nazi ideology and derive a new understanding of the involved strategy of dehumanization. Note that a racist anthropology was at the core of Nazi ideology.


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National Socialism regarded itself as a political revolution which realized a new image of the human. This claim was accompanied by a massive ideological dehumanization of other groups of people. The devaluation of these groups often was expressed by identifying them with animal life forms. View all notes However, political propaganda was only one way in which the racist anthropology of National Socialism was systematically disseminated. It is striking as well that a number of philosophers welcomed National Socialism because of its political break with the humanist tradition.

Philosophers including Alfred Baeumler, Ernst Krieck, Erich Rothacker and Arnold Gehlen defined their own task as establishing a new conception of humanity in the realm of theory. Oldenbourg, , p. Philosophische Schriften II Frankfurt a. View all notes Thus, anthropology became a paradigmatic way to understand National Socialism philosophically. This strand of Nazi ideology had an important representative in the inner circle of Nazi leadership: Alfred Rosenberg and his main work Der Mythus des Jahrhunderts The Myth of the 20th Century , which will be the main subject of my critical analysis.

The examination of Rosenberg's doctrine will show a complex strategy of dehumanization that rests on a separation within humanity itself. Rosenberg develops a dualistic anthropology that combines metaphysical and naturalistic aspects. He regards a spiritual disposition as the metaphysical essence of humanity. Especially the Jews are portrayed as mere human animals whose life lacks any metaphysical and cultural dimension. Note that this kind of dehumanization is not considered in the current debate about the psychological prerequisites of the Nazi mass murder.

I examine a version of Nazi ideology that combines motifs of different strands of modern anthropological thinking and hence cannot be reduced to biologism.


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I do not deny that there is a biologistic strand in Nazi ideology. However, I examine a political strand that presupposes both the naturalization of humanity and the philosophical critique of biological anthropology.

The examination of the historical context of this strand of Nazi ideology is beyond the scope of this paper. View all notes Rather, the critical analysis of this Nazi concept of humanity and the respective forms of ideological dehumanization has to consider the complex connection between biological, cultural and metaphysical motifs in a primarily political doctrine. Recent historical research shows the significance of ideology for the broad success of the Nazi movement, including the establishment of its political power and the continuing execution of its policies.

New approaches to the history of Nazi ideas confirm the self-understanding and contemporary perception of National Socialism as an ideological movement on different levels: Detailed accounts of the basic convictions of party leaders like Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels or Rosenberg reveal rather comprehensive, more or less consistent and divergent doctrines which guided the political decision-making and were part of the well-known power struggles within the inner circle of the NSDAP. Kroll, op. View all notes New studies on the young leadership of the SS show the significance of ideological commitment to the core group of Nazi perpetrators who organized mass murder.

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Ulrich Herbert, Best. Although few were willing and committed ideologues from the beginning, their radicalization in the course of events included an increasing adoption of ideological convictions. View all notes Broader orientated studies analyse the intellectual, cultural and scientific context in which Nazi ideology could spread and, moreover, was affirmed as a sensible response to actual societal, economic and political problems. View all notes These insights into the political, psychological and historical significance of Nazi ideology also suggest a new understanding of its structure.

Nazi ideology has to be seen as set of basic beliefs and convictions which offered much scope for interpretation. View all notes Although key concepts like race had to be accepted as guidelines of thinking and acting, different interpretations of such ideological core elements coexisted and competed even in the inner circle of Nazi leadership.

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Briefly speaking, since there was no unified and mandatory ideological system, the well-known policracy of Nazi government was accompanied by the polycentrism of Nazi ideology. Nevertheless, it does not follow from this lack of a dogmatic version that Nazi ideology was nothing but a chimera.

Per Leo claims. See Leo, op. View all notes While demanding a general appeal and specific direction, the Nazi worldview remained open to individual and contextualized interpretations.

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Take the example of the concept of race: once you had accepted its key role for understanding whatever phenomenon interests you, you could engage in the heated debate on its meaning and significance. View all notes The range which was developed in the ideological writings of political leaders reached from bluntly biological conceptions e. Such obvious tensions were never removed and created the impression that National Socialism was always in need for further explication. This crudity of Nazi ideology was a key reason for the intensive collaborations of scholars.

Philosophers, e. In the following, I shall examine a specific interpretation of National Socialism and its claim to realize a new concept of humanity. I concentrate on this political anthropology because, in contrast to bluntly biological conceptions, it can explain the dehumanization of others groups of people, especially Jews. This strand of Nazi ideology was in particular developed by the ideologue and politician Alfred Rosenberg. My reading of his doctrine differs from other interpretations: I argue that Rosenberg develops a political anthropology that connects metaphysical and naturalistic aspects.

He does not consider his political anthropology and the respective dehumanization of Jews. Kroll mentions the different dimensions of Rosenberg's doctrine, but regards the combination of metaphysical and biological arguments as an immanent tension. See Kroll, op. From this perspective, he examines the metaphysical dimension of Rosenberg's racism, but does not consider its naturalistic aspect. Piper's encompassing biography traces Rosenberg's career as ideologue and politician, but does not present new insights about his worldview.

Christian Strub examines important features of Rosenberg's racism, but his analysis concentrates on his ethical claims and does not consider the connection of anthropology and dehumanization. Ethik und nationalsozialistische Verbrechen Frankfurt a. Main and New York: Campus, , pp.

View all notes There were also influential Nazi philosophers like, e. Baeumler or his rival Krieck who held similar views regarding the significance and meaning of National Socialism. I shall give a detailed account of this kind of Nazi worldview in the next sections. He argues that the murderous policies against the Jews were motivated by the vision of a German renewal of Christianity. Rosenberg's racist anthropology is clearly anti-Christian and offers thus an imaginative horizon that is different from Confino's depiction.