Dehumanizing Strategies in Nazi Ideology and their Anthropological Context

In Maria Kronfeldner (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Dehumanization. London, New York: Routledge (forthcoming)
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This chapter explores the ideological dimension of dehumanization in the context of National Socialism, focusing on the connection between concepts of humanity and dehumanizing images. NS regarded itself as a political revolution, realizing a new concept of humanity. Nazi ideologues undergirded the self-understanding of NS by developing racist anthropologies. I examine two major strands of Nazi ideology, focusing on their diverging strategies of dehumanization, and arguing that they were dependent on different anthropological frameworks. Richard Walther Darré held a naturalistic concept of humanity and advanced biologistic forms of dehumanization. Alfred Rosenberg developed a dualistic anthropology that combined metaphysical and natural features. He dehumanized certain groups of people by reducing them to being human in a natural sense only. Moreover, I aim to show that the key motifs of these racist worldviews were prevalent in the scientific and philosophical debates on anthropology in early-twentieth-century Germany. I thus explore the general orientation of both the naturalistic and the anti-naturalistic strand in anthropological thought, unfold the animalizing tendencies of these views, and emphasize their conformity with the key motifs of Nazi ideology. The case of NS should thus exemplify the dehumanizing potential of anthropological theories.

Author's Profile

Johannes Steizinger
McMaster University


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