Standard narratives of the Third Reich have long emphasized the concept of “subhumans” (Untermenschen) as central to National Socialist thought and policy on race. Here is a typical example from Wikipedia (as of 23 March 2016):
Untermensch . . . underman, sub-man, subhuman; plural: Untermenschen) is a term that became infamous when the Nazis used it to describe “inferior people” often referred to as “the masses from the East,” that is Jews, Roma, and Slavs (mainly ethnic Poles, Serbs, and later also Russians). The term was also applied to most Blacks, and persons of color, with some particular exceptions.
The concept of the “subhuman” clearly has a central place in the demonology of anti-Nazism, the claim that Adolf Hitler and National Socialism are uniquely evil in human history (unlike, say, communism).
Historians frequently refer to “Untermenschen” to explain the Third Reich’s racial policies, but, strikingly, almost never in the context of a quote from Hitler or some other National Socialist source. The simple reason for is that Hitler, and perhaps most other National Socialists, almost never used the term. In searching through thousands of pages of Hitler’s books, speeches, and private conversations (all now conveniently available in PDF format, typically available on websites maintained by faithful National Socialists), I have found exactly four mentions of Untermensch and its derivatives (especially Untermenschentum or subhumanity). In this article, I would like to put the Untermensch concept and its actual use by Hitler in its historical context, as free as possible from the baggage of the victors’ mythology of the Second World War. For as we know, though history is always written by the victors, that account is never disinterested.
The Underman: A Dysgenic, Not Ethnic, Concept
The very use of the word “subhuman,” with its evil connotations, as a translation for Untermensch is somewhat misleading. It was not Germans, but the American racial thinker and eugenicist Lothrop Stoddard, who perhaps made the most prominent early use of the term “Under-Man” in his 1922 book The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under-Man. Stoddard’s underman does not refer to a particular ethnic group, but rather to the gradual degeneration of populations due to dysgenics as a result of the relaxation of selective pressures enabled by civilization. He used the following definition: “The Under-Man – the man who measures under the standards of capacity and adaptability imposed by the social order in which he lives.”
According to Stoddard, civilization paradoxically creates populations too stupid to have created that civilization and, ultimately, to maintain it. The result is an expansion in the less gifted and more anti-social elements of European nations, who are then rabble-roused into promoting revolutionary chaos and tyranny in great upheavals such as the French and Bolshevik Revolutions. This use of the term “underman,” which can also be contrasted with Nietzsche’s “superman,” is not meant to denigrate or justify domination of other peoples (e.g. Slavs), but rather to describe degenerative processes within a nation, including one’s own. At least three of the four recorded uses by Hitler of the terms underman/subhumanity correspond to this meaning.
Significantly, the German National Socialists were directly influenced by Stoddard. Alfred Rosenberg, a reputed leading National Socialist theorist (though one actually not always approved by Hitler), explicitly quotes Stoddard’s definition of the underman in his best-selling The Myth of the Twentieth Century. And here there is already an awkward fact in the mainstream anti-Nazi account. National Socialist killings are claimed to be motivated by the “underman” concept. It is then asserted or insinuated that all racial and eugenic thinking must logically lead to such atrocities (even a thinker as subtle as Raymond Aron made this claim). However, in point fact there was considerable debate within the Third Reich on racial policies, with the more pro-Slav and assimilationist positions often being espoused by top ideologues and racial thinkers.
Rosenberg himself as Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern territories was a consistent, if rather ineffectual, advocate for improving treatment of the Slavs and for a grand strategy of fostering the Soviet Union’s subject nations’ independence as allies against Moscow. Another conciliatory figure was Hans Günther. He was Germany’s top racial scientist and eugenicist, to the extent that he was known as Rassengünther and Rassenpapst (“race pope”). For instance, Günther believed that four-fifths of Poles in the northern Danzig area were genetically close enough that they could be Germanized and assimilated.
There is clearly possible overlap between Stoddard’s notion of the underman stemming from dysgenic civilization and the older notion of inequality between the races (i.e. if a foreign race becomes inferior through degeneration). Some Third Reich ideology and propaganda espoused this, positing that northwest European (Nordic) and Germanic races were uniquely idealistic and had superior state-building and culture-creating abilities. Such ideas are debatable. The fact is however that despite the general postwar taboo on the examination of racial differences, geneticists have found that human beings cluster genetically along traditional racial (i.e. continental) and ethno-national lines. Furthermore, medical and psychometric studies have found average differences not only in physique and health, but also in temperament and intelligence between such groups.
The notion of a “master race” (Herrenvolk) is also heavily emphasized in mainstream accounts of the Third Reich. In fact, Hitler never used the term “master race” in either his books, speeches, or recorded private Table Talk. The wider idea that more culturally advanced or biologically superior peoples had a right or even duty to dominate less gifted peoples was not a National Socialist innovation. On the contrary, this idea was widely shared across the world at the time, including by British imperialists, French Freemasons, American segregationists, Japanese warlords, and Jewish commissars.
The Underman in Hitler’s Speeches
There is no mention of “subhumans” or “subhumanity” in Mein Kampf or in the unpublished Second Book. In Hitler’s numerous speeches – most comprehensively gathered for the 1932-1945 period in Max Domarus’ monumental four-volume collection – I can find no more than three mentions in over 3,000 pages. And even here “subhumanity” (Untermenschentum) is used twice and “subhumans” only once. In each case, Hitler used the term more in a Stoddardian sense of the lower elements of a society being rabble-roused and led by communists, rather than in an ethnic sense targeting Slavs and Gypsies, let alone Jews.
Hitler first used is in a January 30, 1934 speech to the Reichstag, where Hitler used the term “subhumanity” (again, perhaps better rendered as “underhumanity”) to refer to a part of Germany which had become sensitive to Marxism:
Furthermore, the fact that a number of communist ideologists believe it necessary to turn back the tide of history and, in doing so, make use of a subhumanity (Untermenschentum) which mistakes the concept of political freedom for the idea of allowing criminal instincts free rein will similarly cause us little concern. We were able to deal with these elements when they were in power and we were in the opposition. In the future we will be even more certain of being able to deal with them because they are now in the opposition and we are in power.
Hitler’s second mention of Untermenschentum is in an April 28, 1939 speech to the Reichstag attacking Franklin Roosevelt – again refers to communists’ ability to foment revolution by appealing to the lower elements of a Western European nation, this time Civil War Spain:
Entire populations of villages and cities were literally slaughtered under the silent, gracious patronage of humanitarian world apostles from the democracies of Western Europe and North America. In this victory parade, side by side with their Italian comrades, the volunteers of our German Legion will march in the rows of valiant Spanish soldiers. Shortly afterwards we hope to welcome them here in the homeland. The German Volk will then find out how, in this instance also, its valiant sons fought in the defense of the freedom of a most noble people and how, in the end, they contributed to the rescue of European civilization. For the victory of Bolshevist subhumanity (Untermenschentum) in Spain could only too easily have swept over Europe.
In the third instance, in a November 8, 1941 speech in the Munich Löwenbräukeller on the anniversary of the Putsch, there is Hitler’s only confirmed public utterance of the word “Untermenschen”:
Time meanwhile has proved what we National Socialists maintained for many years: it [the Soviet Union] is truly a state in which the whole national intelligentsia has been slaughtered, and where only spiritless, forcibly proletarianized subhumans remain. Above them, there is the gigantic organization of the Jewish commissars, that is, established slaveowners. Frequently people wondered whether, in the long run, nationalist tendencies would not be victorious there. But they completely forgot that the bearers of a conscious nationalist view no longer existed. That, in the end, the man who temporarily became the ruler of this state, is nothing other than an instrument in the hands of this almighty Jewry. If Stalin is on stage and steps in front of the curtain, then Kaganovich and all those Jews stand behind him, Jews who, in ten-thousandfold ramifications, control this mighty empire.
This use could be considered to be in line with that of the “subhumanity” appealed to by communists in Germany and Spain, the only difference being that the revolution that failed there had triumphed in Russia. Hitler could be seen as implying in a novel sense that the Soviet peoples are “subhuman,” but that is by no means explicit. Also noteworthy is that there is no suggestion that the Jews are “subhumans,” but rather than the Jews are cruelly ruling over the undermen as “slaveowners.”
Hitler on Jews: Deadly Rivals, Not “Subhumans”
Hitler’s third use of the term highlights a misleading if not outright false claim of the anti-Nazi narrative: That Hitler and National Socialists lumped less gifted populations together with Jews under the heading “subhumans.” In fact, Hitler had long been extraordinarily impressed by the tribal prowess of the Jews. As he recounts in a largely-ignored passage of Mein Kampf on his prolonged “profound anxiety” in converting to anti-Semitism:
As I critically reviewed the activities of the Jewish people throughout long periods of history I became anxious and asked myself whether for some inscrutable reasons beyond the comprehension of poor mortals such as ourselves, Destiny may not have irrevocably decreed that the final victory must go to this small nation? May it not be that this people which has lived only for the earth has been promised the earth as a recompense? is our right to struggle for our own self-preservation based on reality, or is it a merely subjective thing? Fate answered the question for me inasmuch as it led me to make a detached and exhaustive inquiry into the Marxist teaching and the activities of the Jewish people in connection with it.
Hitler plainly did not consider Jews “subhumans” in anything like the sense he may have considered Gypsies or the lower elements of European nations, in particular Slavic ones, to be so, and his grounds for persecuting them were entirely different. Hitler did not advocate the elimination of Jewry on eugenic grounds, but on grounds of European self-defense against a corrupting and cruel alien domination.
It is interesting to think about why the mainstream narrative emphasizes the misleading idea that National Socialist anti-Semitism considered Jews “subhumans,” as opposed to being the perfidious and gifted leaders of the undermen. The effect of inaccurately lumping Jews and non-Jews who suffered under National Socialist rule together as “subhumans” is to create solidarity between the two groups, and lessening the international appeal of National Socialist anti-Semitism. It is no secret that the Poles and Russians were also among the most anti-Semitic peoples in the world at the time, having a long list of grievances against the Jews, from centuries of misanthropic business practices to a leading role in communist tyranny and mass murder.
If mainstream historiography were to acknowledge that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was based not on a concern about dysgenic “subhumans,” but about Jewish power and privilege, this could well bring people to think about Jewish privilege in the world today, most garishly visible in the United States and France. Indeed, this would highlight the possibilities of multiracial alliances of those who consider themselves to be victims of Jewish power, especially between Europeans and Muslims.
I cannot resist noting the similarity between Hitler’s assessment of Jews and communism, and that of Winston Churchill, as described in his famous 1920 newspaper article “Bolshevism versus Zionism”:
Some people like Jews and some do not; but no thoughtful man can doubt the fact that they are beyond all question the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world. [. . .] In violent opposition to all this sphere of Jewish effort [by patriotic Russian Jews] rise the schemes of the International Jews. The adherents of this sinister confederacy are mostly men reared up among the unhappy populations of countries where Jews are persecuted on account of their race. [. . .] This movement among the Jews is not new. From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx, and down to Trotsky (Russia), Bela Kun (Hungary), Rosa Luxembourg (Germany), and Emma Goldman (United States), this world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality, has been steadily growing. It played, as a modern writer, Mrs. Webster, has so ably shown, a definitely recognisable part in the tragedy of the French Revolution. It has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the Nineteenth Century; and now at last this band of extraordinary personalities from the underworld of the great cities of Europe and America have gripped the Russian people by the hair of their heads and have become practically the undisputed masters of that enormous empire.
One has the distinct impression that Hitler and Churchill were in basic agreement about dysgenics, communism, and Jews, but merely differed in the sides they chose to serve. This incidentally has enormous implications for Churchill’s ethics, given that he claimed to be fighting so that “the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years” (that’s right: Churchill fought for a thousand-year Reich) and to “keep England white!” Either Churchill was monumentally insincere or he was incredibly short-sighted in making a Faustian pact with forces in America and Russia which would inevitably work to destroy the empire and race he claimed to hold dear.
I can find only one mention of Untermenschen by Hitler that fits the mainstream narrative. In a conversation in the night of September 14–15, 1941, Hitler denounces judges for being too soft on violent German criminals, and compares the latter to Russian prisoners of wars:
Nearly two thousand people in Germany disappear every year without trace—victims, for the most part, of maniacs or sadists. It’s known that these latter are generally recidivists—but the lawyers take great care to inflict only very light penalties on them. And yet these subhuman creatures are the ferment that undermines the state! I make no distinction between them and the brutes who populate our Russian P.O.W. camps.
This is a shocking comparison, Hitler not considering his opponents in war to be honorable fellow soldiers conscripted by an evil communist tyranny, but no better than the lowest German criminals. This line of thinking can easily be tied to the German mistreatment of Soviet P.O.W.s, ranging from killing to willful neglect, which led to the deaths of over 3 million.
There is then, as with all effective narratives, a grain of truth to the mainstream view. While it clearly caricatures racial thinking in the Third Reich and radically overemphasizes and misrepresents the concept of the underman, the fact is that in Hitler’s case this did underpin a callous and even murderous attitude in the Eastern territories. This is somewhat similar to the status of anti-Semitism in Third Reich cinema. Whereas films like The Eternal Jew and The Jew Süss are given enormous attention, actually out of the over 1,000 films produced in National Socialist Germany, only a half-dozen were primarily anti-Semitic. As some recent mainstream scholarship has emphasized, the German people’s support for National Socialism was not cultivated primarily by stoking jealousy and viciousness against a “powerless minority,” but by appealing to the highest idealism and sense of sacrifice in service of one’s people.
Insofar as Hitler equated the races of the Soviet Union with communist ideology (by these races’ supposed vulnerability to Jewish-led communism), he contributed to murderous policies and to alienating nations which might have been allies against communism and Jewry, and hence to the defeat of the Third Reich.
Given the disputed translations and my insufficient knowledge of German, I cannot comment firmly on a central piece of evidence in the mainstream narrative’s case, namely the notorious 1942 SS pamphlet entitled Der Untermensch. The document seems to dehumanize Soviet peoples, or at least large swathes of them, equating them as part of a wider, almost mystical world-historical process: By definition, if humanity evolves upward, some are left behind, the underman, those who would, out of spite and selfishness, drag those who have risen back into the mud. Here too, incidentally, the Jews however are not considered “subhumans” but are rather their leaders.
The mainstream narrative does not recognize that Der Untermensch certainly does not sum up National Socialist views and public discourse on race. The SS itself could be far more nuanced and ecumenical. Propaganda like Der Untermensch should also be seen in the wider context of an era of brutal revolutions and total wars. The Third Reich hardly had a monopoly in extreme propaganda meant to motivate the nation to sacrifice and to dehumanize an enemy whose defeat requires the harshest methods.
In the racial theories of Stoddard, Rosenberg, and Günther, the underman concept was not incompatible with conciliatory or assimilationist policies towards the Slavs. Hitler however, along with his influential secretary Martin Bormann, took an extremely hard-line view, including statements explicitly contradicting Rosenberg and Günther.
Hitler’s harsh policies in the eastern territories were justified on the following grounds:
- Realpolitik: Non-German nation-states are inherently unreliable or threatening, therefore their populations must not grow and their states should be destroyed. This was grounded in Hitler’s incredibly negative reaction to multiculturalism in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the unreliability of non-German units in First World War, combined with an inherently conflictual view of life and international relations, made up of perpetual competition between nation-states.
- Nordicism: Non-German populations could not be assimilated into Germany without the risk that such miscegenation would be dysgenic, leading to quasi-permanent genetic damage. This was motivated by recent racial theories on the success of the West and the haunting fear that miscegenation with lesser stock had led to the decline of Ancient Greece and Rome.
Hitler’s plans for the East are among the most chilling of his private Table Talk (the veracity of which is rarely disputed): Repeatedly demanding the razing of Moscow and Saint Petersburg so as to permanently destroy any Russian state west of the Urals, that Slavs not be provided healthcare or education (lest they multiply and self-organize), that Germans be systematically segregated from the natives, and that Crimea in particular be ethnically cleansed to make way for German settlers. Hitler absurdly claimed the borders of “Europe” end where Slavdom begins, and argues the natives should be treated like America’s Red Amerindians or the British Empire’s Indians. Hitler conceded the eventuality of assimilating some Slavs, but urged this be extremely limited and discriminating (better safe than sorry, he presumably thought). He would occasionally claim the natives would anyway be better off under German rule, but this seems anything but a superficial reassurance, and in any event his preferred humane outcome seems to have been sterilization.
There is a kind of ruthless logic to Hitler’s approach. The mainstream narrative is correct in noting that racial and eugenic thinking can lead to such conclusions, but it is false in claiming this must inevitably be so (after all, any line of thinking, such as Christianity or Marxism, can be taken to violent conclusions). But there is no getting around the fact that genetic thinking inevitably leads to valuing some life over other life (or, at least, some genes over other genes), if the human race is to improve. (Even the most well-thinking liberal would, when pressed, acknowledge that the spread of disease-causing genes is a bad thing.)
Churchill incidentally made arguments similar to Hitler’s: Concerning the need for eugenics in England, the good that was the replacement of the Australian Aborigines by “the stronger race” that was the Anglo-Saxon Australians, and the refusal to provide food to starving Bengalis that had been “breeding like rabbits.” He once said during the war: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”
It is also a fact that the European peoples have seen a staggering relative decline in numbers and power in the world, precisely due to the policies Hitler criticized: Of providing healthcare and development to Afro-Asiatic populations who were incapable of indigenously producing them, and thus enabling massive demographic explosions in the absence of any population control policy. Ethnic Europeans have declined from making up over a third of the world population 1900 to perhaps 10 percent today. Africans, especially sub-Saharans, are expected to quadruple in number to over 4 billion this century. Muslims, with which there is some overlap with Africans, are expected to almost double in population by mid-century to over 2.75 billion. Meanwhile the sons of Europe, who in 1900 controlled virtually the entire world, will before 2100 be reduced to minorities in their own former homelands in both North America and Western Europe. These facts both highlight Hitler’s failings – hairsplitting between Germanics and Slavs appears uniquely petty in the wider context of European collapse – but also helps us understand his contempt for do-gooder colonialists (whom he even threatened to have put in concentration camps).
Hitler’s eastern policies were supremely blame-worthy, ultimately criminally irresponsible and mad. Here is a classic story of hubris and nemesis. One can ask: Why not even attempt to make Poland into an anti-communist buffer state? Why this unwillingness, in this war to the death, to maximize chances of victory by granting even the non-Russian peoples their own nation-states, given their obvious interest in the destruction of the Soviet “prison of nations”? At the risk of understating the human and moral catastrophe: C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute.
But asking such questions can miss the point. Hindsight is always 20/20 and comfortable armchair-generals always know best, don’t they? We must learn from suffering. A world-historical figure like Hitler – who must be ranked in terms of impact with the likes of Alexander the Great, Jesus Christ, or Napoleon – does not achieve the successes that he does (astonishing up to 1941) by being “reasonable” and compromising with one’s ideals and goals. Rosenberg blamed Hitler’s tragic mistakes in this regard on his artistic penchant for the passions, caught up in the intoxication of spectacular mass rallies and his stunning early triumphs. Hitler for his part could well have been speaking of himself in the following general statement: “I have long realized that actors and artists often have such fantastic ideas that one is compelled from time to time to shake an admonitory finger at them and bring them back to earth.”
1. Lothrop Stoddard, The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under-Man (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1923, republished by Forgotten Books, 2012), 23. Compare also with the McGruderian concept of “nigger tech”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTzO-_Yl4d0
2. I am following the mainstream view here. This could well also be fabrication or caricature.
3, Martin Bormann, Hitler’s Table Talk (Ostara Publications, 2012), 202.
4. Guillaume Durocher, “Nordicism Today,” North American New Right, March 2, 2016, https://www.counter-currents.com/2016/03/nordicism-today/
5. Guillaume Durocher, “Some Recent Genetic Studies . . . & Hitler,” North American New Right, November 11, 2015, https://www.counter-currents.com/2015/11/some-recent-genetic-studies-hitler/
6. Indeed, one could argue that many influential Jewish oligarchs such as George Soros, Sheldon Adelson, and Bernard-Henri Lévy have yet to abandon such claims to ethnic superiority and supremacy.
7. Max Domarus, Hitler: Speeches and Proclamations, 1932-1945 (Wauconda, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 1990), 420
8. Domarus, Hitler, 1580.
9. Domarus, Hitler, 2505.
10. Adolf Hitler (Murphy translation), Mein Kampf, 59.
11. To cite only some of the most visible markers: Complete ownership of Hollywood, ownership of much of television, ownership of elite print media, ownership of the two most culturally influential Internet companies (Google and Facebook), massive over-representation and sometimes even outnumbering of white gentiles in the Ivy League universities both as professors and students, circa 500% over-representation in the Senate, circa 2000% over-representation in Supreme Court, and providing between a one and two thirds of Democratic Party financing (including all seven of Hillary Clinton’s top contributors). Such preponderance is simply astonishing. What is truly insufferable is that not only are white gentiles often under-represented in key institutions but are portrayed by “anti-racist” Jews as the most privileged group in the country, responsible for the ills of blacks and other minorities. What’s more, white gentiles are not allowed to organize to defend their group interests, while the powerful Israel lobby in Washington ensures that U.S. foreign policy systematically supports the existing the Jewish ethno-state Israel, with its racist immigration policies, through murderous wars, billions in subsidies, and systematic vetoes at the United Nations. If one believes in karma, one can understand Jewish organizations’ perpetual and characteristic nervousness.
12. Such a strategy has achieved limited success in some cases (namely with Alain Soral’s organization Égalité et Réconciliation and the popular appeal of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala). This strategy, regardless of its ultimate success or failure, causes extreme alarm and agitation among Jewish groups. The strategy also embodies a rather poetic dialectic: These same Jewish groups have promoted non-European immigration and multiculturalism explicitly citing the idea that a multiethnic society is one in which a united Judeo-critical popular political movement would no longer be possible. What irony if the strategy were to succeed!
13. Churchill’s hope of a thousand-year British Empire was prominently mentioned in his iconic “This was their finest hour” speech of June 18, 1940. Of course, the British Empire would very rapidly unravel in the following years, under the debilitating cost of the Second World War and the postwar pressure and hegemony of the American Empire. While Churchill’s vain millennial imperialist ambitions are rarely mentioned, Hitler’s failure to create a “thousand-year Reich” is endlessly repeated.
14. The immigration policy Churchill advocated to his cabinet as postwar prime minister.
15. Borman, Table Talk, 13.
16. Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience (2005): “Challenging conventional assumptions about Hitler, Koonz locates the source of his charisma not in his summons to hate, but in his appeal to the collective virtue of his people, the Volk.” There could be an element of projection in liberal-leftist propaganda against the Third Reich. Consider a show like Last Week Tonight, a non-stop stream of completely unselfconscious snobbery and intellectual intolerance against all whites who think a little differently or are considered “low-class,” an exercise meant only to flatter the young viewer and comfort him in the liberal-egalitarian world-view which has been ceaselessly pumped into his brain since childbirth. George Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate” comes to mind. And the whole thing executed as a series of interruptions of more-or-less obscene non-sequiturs and mental flatulence.
17. For example, the SS Race Theory and Mate Selection Guidelines, a remarkable document, states:
If one examines the individual countries of Europe according to their racial composition, one initially notices that in almost all states the same races are represented. We find the Nordic race represented outside of Germany, in the Scandinavian lands, England and Holland and even in Russia, Italy, France, Spain and so on. We also find, however, East Baltic man in the various European countries. The overall racial evaluation of a folk does not come down to that. It is a matter of the STRENGTH OF THE PORTIONS OF THE INDIVIDUAL RACES in the respective folk. And there we determine: already just numerically the Reich marches far ahead of all other folks in respect to the Nordic portion. With natural right Germany can claim the leadership of the predominantly Nordic-Germanic folks.
18. Allied propaganda and media not only often spread absurd falsehoods – e.g. Germany’s supposed ambitions to conquer North America or ban Christianity – but frequently equated “Nazism,” “Prussian militarism,” and the German people as one and the same, which no doubt morally legitimized the extremely escalatory demand of unconditional surrender, and mass violence by firebombing, mass rape, and ethnic cleansing. Even a historian as serious as A. J. P. Taylor, for instance, wrote in a book near the end of the war on the Germans: “no other people has pursued extermination as a permanent policy from generation to generation for a thousand years,” really a shocking statement coming from an Anglo-Saxon (in fact, besides the Baltic Prussians, one struggles to know what Taylor is even referring to). A. J. P. Taylor, The Course of German History (New York: Capricorn Books, 1962), 16. Taylor’s work more generally claims National Socialism is a natural or even inevitable growth of German history, a thesis worth pondering, but which had the effect of legitimizing the end-of-war mass violence against the German people. One wonders if Taylor’s later work to “normalize” Hitler’s foreign policy was partly motivated by a bad conscience.
19. Recall that the dissident émigré Thomas Mann could write of Hitler in 1939: “Ah, the artist! I spoke of moral self-flagellation. For must I not, however much it hurts, regard the man as an artist-phenomenon?”
20. Conversation on April 26, 1942. Bormann, Table Talk, 189.