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Race and Racism in Europe

The Nazis, The Holocaust, And Others

Read in this context, the Nazis' efforts to persecute and then to exterminate European Jewry and other supposedly threatening populations did not represent a radical departure from the ideas and practices that had long been evident in European history. What made the Nazis unique was the barbaric scale and geographical reach of their policies. Perhaps Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wippermann said it best when they argued that the Nazis' uniqueness rested in their desire to create A poster titled "The Nuremberg Law for the Protection of Blood and German Honor" (c. 1935) with chart outlining which marriages were forbidden. The Nazi desire for a pure Aryan race placed many restrictions upon the German populace, as well as the citizens of the countries they invaded. In some cases, intercourse between Aryans and non-Aryans was outlawed. UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM, COURTESY OF HANS PAULI a racial state in which all facets of state policy, and the organization of society, were enacted with the promotion of racial purity in mind.

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 codified German citizenship as the product of German blood, as defined by German anthropologists, biologists, and doctors. They also outlawed sexual intercourse between "pure" Germans and German Jews, and the employment of women under forty-five by Jews. In the Nazi mind and model, as in the eugenic one, procreation was the locus of racial protection. These laws affected German and foreigner alike. In fact, the list of racial threats expanded with the German Third Reich: Pole, Czech, and Slav all became racial threats as Germany entered Poland, Bohemia, southeastern Europe, and Russia. Suspect populations also lived among people who otherwise saw themselves as German. Political deviants, in particular, were seen as threats to the race and many ultimately followed paths to the concentration camp and gas chamber along with the Nazis' Jewish victims. Socialists, communists, homosexuals, and Jehovah's Witnesses all came to represent biological threats to the pure Aryan, and their removal from society was justified along racial lines.

Yet, perhaps most importantly, the Nazis proved that race and racism were not merely products of the irrational, intemperate mind, but also dependent on a mind-set defined by respect for law and a rigidly organized view of the world. The horror of the Nazi regime arises from the fact that while the goals of German racial policies led to the Final Solution—extermination and mechanized killing in the death camps—their policies continued to be expressed in the seemingly rational language of problem-solving. In his essay "Deutschland und die Deutschen," the German writer Thomas Mann described the Nazi mind-set as "highly technological Romanticism," which encapsulates a sense of racial thought throughout Europe, a product of both passionate hatred and cold bureaucracy. Racism, in this reading, was the product of some of Europe's greatest triumphs—the Enlightenment and the reverence for science and reason—and its darkest moments—the thirst for conquest, subjugation, and murder.

This view has allowed scholars to explore racial thought in areas where it was not previously believed to have existed. Some examples include the forced migration of populations in the Soviet Union, motivated by ethnic or racial concerns, and previously viewed as anathema to socialist policy. Spanish and Italian fascists have attracted attention for supposedly eugenic practices to weed out political opponents defined not just by intellectual differences, but by a genetic predisposition to certain political attitudes. The general reliance on biological metaphors in twentieth-century Europe has also widened the scope of racial studies, placing it within a larger nexus of social categories that include class and gender. For example, the focus on women's bodies as the template for racial production has expanded scholarly notions of what makes official policies racist. In an area not normally associated with racial thought, the Spanish Fascist policy of the forced adoption of children born to the wives of political opponents during the Spanish Civil War shared the same impetus as eugenic policies elsewhere and prove that race and racism were attractive ideas in a number of times and places.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Quantum electronics to ReasoningRace and Racism in Europe - The Beginning, Making Race And Racism Modern, The French Revolution And The Nation, The Nazis, The Holocaust, And Others