The Holocaust was a form of genocide, which refers to the intentional, systematic extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945. The Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Europe did not happen suddenly. It was the end of a long process of anti-Semitism and the belief in the pseudo-science of eugenics. The Nazis used propaganda and terror to enforce their anti-Semitic policies. By 1938, the lives of Jews living in Germany had become intolerable.
A policy of annihilation called ‘The Final Solution’ was planned and put into practice in Nazi-occupied parts of Europe after the Second World War broke out in 1939. The Nazi racist ideology of a Herrenvolk (‘master race’) was used to justify their eugenics program aimed at weeding ‘undesirable’ genes from the population. The Holocaust was the consequence of this racism. At the time the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, there were 500 000 Jews living in Germany. They saw themselves as Germans, who differed from other Germans only in religion.
Hostility towards Jews had existed for hundreds of years in Europe. Jews were often used as scapegoats when things went wrong and were blamed for no reason. Anti-Semitism was therefore not unique to Nazi Germany. The Nazis extended the ideas of Anti-Semitism and Social Darwinism that were popular in Europe at the time. Anti-Semitism was a major part of Nazi Party ideology. The false Social Darwinist theory of a hierarchy of human beings claimed that some groups of people were born with superior talent, ability and worth.
In his book Mein Kampf Hitler argued that the German ‘race’ was superior to all others. He wrongly described gentile (ie non-Jewish) Germans as the ‘Aryan race’ or ‘Herrenvolk’ (‘master race’) and believed they had a duty to control the world. Jews were blamed for all Germany’s troubles and were demonised by Nazi propaganda, even though Jews made up less than 1% of the German population. The popular stereotype and Nazi propaganda created the myth that Jews were rich, when in fact Jews were not particularly wealthy.
In Poland, for example, 3 million out of 3. million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, more than 50% of them lived in poverty. Jews were the main targets of genocide. But the following people were also considered ‘inferior’ and ‘undesirable’, and were sterilized, sent to concentration camps or killed: The Final Solution In 1941 the Nazis changed their Anti-Semitic policy to systematic annihilation, which they called the ‘final solution to the Jewish question. ‘ They decided to murder every Jewish man, woman and child in Europe. A group of policemen called Einsatzgruppen became special mobile killing squads.
Men, women and children were rounded up and shot by firing squads into mass graves. But shooting by firing squads was inefficient and too personal for the killers. Mass ‘extermination’ by gas was planned as it was an efficient and cost effective method of murdering large numbers of Jews, and the construction of special killing centres began in the second half of 1941. Six ‘Death Camps’ were established – all were situated in Poland. Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, were constructed for the purpose of killing.
Reinhard Heydrich (second in command to Himmler in the SS) co-ordinated the activities of all Nazi government structures to implement the ‘Final Solution’. Gas vans and gas chambers were constructed at the death camps. Zyklon B gas was used. The Nazis kept meticulous records of their plans and activities associated with the annihilation of the Jews. The implementation of the ‘Final Solution’ required Jews from all over Nazi-occupied Europe to be transported by rail to the death camps in Poland. Jews were told that they would be ‘resettled’. In reality, they were taken to one of the six death camps.
Hundreds of thousands of people were crammed into sealed cattle trucks or open wagons, sometimes spending days without food, water or sanitation. People arrived sick, dehydrated and starving. Many died-en-route. By 1945 two out of every three European Jews had been killed. eading Nazis, and early 1900 influential German biologists, revealed in their writings that Darwin’s theory and publications had a major influence upon Nazi race policies. Hitler believed that the human gene pool could be improved by using selective breeding similar to how farmers breed superior cattle strains.
In the formulation of their racial policies, Hitler’s government relied heavily upon Darwinism, especially the elaborations by Spencer and Haeckel. As a result, a central policy of Hitler’s administration was the development and implementation of policies designed to protect the ‘superior race’. This required at the very least preventing the ‘inferior races’ from mixing with those judged superior, in order to reduce contamination of the latter’s gene pool. The ‘superior race’ belief was based on the theory of group inequality within each species, a major presumption and requirement of Darwin’s riginal ‘survival of the fittest’ theory.
This philosophy culminated in the ‘final solution’, the extermination of approximately six million Jews and four million other people who belonged to what German scientists judged as ‘inferior races’. Of the many factors that produced the Nazi holocaust and World War II, one of the most important was Darwin’s notion that evolutionary progress occurs mainly as a result of the elimination of the weak in the struggle for survival. Although it is no easy task to assess the conflicting motives of Hitler and his supporters, Darwinism-inspired eugenics clearly played a critical role.
Darwinism justified and encouraged the Nazi views on both race and war. If the Nazi party had fully embraced and consistently acted on the belief that all humans were descendants of Adam and Eve and equal before the creator God, as taught in both the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures, the holocaust would never have occurred. Hitler believed humans were animals to whom the genetics laws, learned from livestock breeding, could be applied. The Nazis believed that instead of permitting natural forces and chance to control evolution, they must direct the process to advance the human race.
The first step to achieve this goal was to isolate the ‘inferior races’ in order to prevent them from further contaminating the ‘Aryan’ gene pool. The widespread public support for this policy was a result of the belief, common in the educated classes, in the conclusion that certain races were genetically inferior as was scientifically ‘proven’ by Darwinism.
The Nazis believed that they were simply applying facts, proven by science, to produce a superior race of humans as part of their plan for a better world: ‘The business of the corporate state was eugenics or artificial selection — politics as applied biology. 18,19 Nazi policies resulted less from a ‘hatred’ toward Jewish or other peoples than from the idealistic goal of preventing ‘pollution’ of the superior race. Hitler elaborated his Darwinian views by comparing the strong killing the weak to a cat devouring a mouse Hitler was especially determined to prevent Aryans from breeding with non-Aryans, a concern that eventually resulted in the ‘final solution’.
Once the inferior races were exterminated, Hitler believed that future generations would be eternally grateful for the improvement that his programs brought to humanity Firmly convinced that Darwinian evolution was true, Hitler saw himself as the modern saviour of mankind. Society, he felt, would some day regard him as a great ‘scientific socialist’, the benefactor of all humankind. By breeding a superior race, the world would look upon him as the man who pulled humanity up to a higher level of evolutionary development. If Darwinism is true, Hitler was our saviour and we have crucified him.
As a result, the human race will grievously suffer. If Darwinism is not true, what Hitler attempted to do must be ranked with the most heinous crimes of history and Darwin as the father of one of the most destructive philosophies of history. An assessment by Youngson concluded that the application of Darwinism to society, called eugenics, produced one of the most tragic scientific blunders of all time: ‘The culmination of this darker side of eugenics was, of course, Adolf Hitler’s attempt to produce a “‘master race’ by encouraging mating between pure ‘Aryans’” and by the murder of six million people whom he claimed to have inferior genes.
It is hardly fair to Galton to blame him for the Holocaust or even for his failure to anticipate the consequences of his advocacy of the matter. But he was certainly the principal architect of eugenics, and Hitler was certainly obsessed with the idea. So, in terms of its consequences, this must qualify as one of the greatest scientific blunders of all time. ’