What's all this then?

My name is Victoria Stiles and I'm an Early Career Historian currently doing whatever odd research / consulting / outreach / tutoring jobs come my way. I blog here about some of the interesting texts I've found.
My research focusses on books about Britain and the British Empire which were in circulation in Nazi Germany but you'll also find a smattering of school textbooks, witchcraft beliefs, bog drainage, bemused travellers and weird illustrations that caught my eye.
Translations from German are my own. Comments are currently unmoderated and are mostly spam for leather jackets anyway.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Hitler wasn't racist either, but...

Having written a bit about the problems of "trivialising" the Nazis last time, I hope I'm not going to come across as too flippant here. On the other hand, I didn't want to shy away from quoting Adolf Hitler directly*, as it's important to know what he said and what effect this might have had on his audience, rather than treating his words as though they'll conjure up demons. I'm not particularly satisfied with this translation, and have included the original at the end of this post for easy reference.

Although I found in difficult to render the crucial sentence (here in bold) in English, I was struck by how similar it is to sentiments expressed quite freely in Britain today; that there is nothing wrong with other races and cultures, but that they should exist seperately and the culture and rules of one should not be forced upon another. In this case, parallels are being drawn between British rule in India and Jewish "imperialism" in Germany. Nowadays, the fact that the European way of doing things was being exported long before the (alleged) attempted introduction of, for example, Sharia Law to European countries, tends to be ignored.
Our attitude towards other races is that of objective disinterest. Just as with the Indian people, the German people is made up of several races and tribes. The Indian people, with its four-thousand-year-old culture, has developed its own racial laws, which cannot easily be translated into a European context. Dr. Goebbels is quite right to say that it is incorrect to speak of races of lesser value. No race is inherently inferior to another; at most, the different races which populate the earth are of differing value. This applies also to the Jewish race. The Jew is not inherently inferior within his own environment, but his outlook is not a good fit for the German people, and can in fact be damaging. For that reason, the Jews must endeavour to live as a separate people. Each race must find within themselves their own world and this is why we are quite right to defend ourselves against another race's attempts to force their peculiarities upon us, as the Jews have done in Germany.
What I want to get across here is that fact that almost nobody wants to admit to being racist. Everyone knows that racism is unacceptable. However, there are many ways to twist the definition of racism so that it happens to exclude the views that you hold and the policies you are advocating. This goes for people even as unashamedly racist as the leaders of the Nazi party, if they were called upon to account for their views: they had nothing against other races, you understand, they merely recognised that different races have different strengths and weaknesses, and will thrive better in their own habitat. They were worried that combining more than one in the same place would inevitably cause damage. Every race has the right to an area which belongs only to them and not to have alien laws and habits forced upon them. If a race such as the Jews have no place where they belong then one can be found for them but really this is their responsibility. And, partly for their own good, they can't be allowed to take up space which belongs to another race. Of course they have nothing but our good wishes, so long as they conform to this natural order, but due to the difficulties involved and their unwillingness to cooperate then if they were to... disappear from this scheme it would greatly benefit the world in years to come. But none of this is "racist"; it's just recognising the nature of things. See?

There are very few self-confessed racists in the world, BUT... people still die purely because they are considered to belong to the wrong race for the bit of earth they're standing on. That fact should be what we reach for, when getting lost among the excuses.

*These words are from official notes taken of an interview between Hitler and Indian journalist Dr. Sinha, 6th December 1935. They are quoted in an article by Johannes H. Voigt: 'Hitler und Indien' in Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, vol. 19/1 (Jan. 1971) pp.33-63. It is not clear how accurately they record Hitler's specific phrasing.

"Unsere Einstellung zu anderen Rassen sei die einer objektiven Desinteressiertheit. Genau wie das indische setze sich auch das deutsche Volk aus mehreren Rassen und Stammen zusammen. Das indische Volk mit seiner vieltausendjährigen Kultur habe sich eigene Rassengesetze gegeben, die auch nicht ohne weiteres auf europäsche Verhältnisse zu übertragen seien. Dr. Goebbels habe ganz recht, wenn er es als unrichtig bezeichne, von minderwertigen Rassen zu sprechen. Keine Rasse sei an sich minderwertig; die verschiedenen Rassen, die die Erde bevölkern, seien höchstens untereinander anderswertig. Das gelte auch für die jüdische Rasse. Der Jude sei an sich nicht minderwertig in seinen Anlagen, aber seine Auffassungen paßten nicht für das deutsche Volk, sie seien vielmehr geradezu schadlich, und deswegen müsse der Jude dafür sorgen, daß er für sich allein als Volk leben könne. Jede Rasse müsse ihre Welt in sich finden, und darum wehrten wir uns mit Recht dagegen, daß uns eine andere Rasse ihre Eigentümlichkeiten aufzuzwingen suche, wie es die Juden in Deutschland getan hatten."


  1. I'm not sure if it's a good idea to treat Nazis as too consistent. Maybe there's no hierarchy among the races when he's talking to Indian journalists whose readers he wants to win over, but maybe if he was courting Maoris or Swedish eugenicists then he'd be clearer about which races were his favourites.

  2. Actually the above quote does suggest that Hitler was racist. The above quote could have been said almost word-for-word (substitute "Jew" for "native") by the architects of apartheid in South Africa (who were Nazi supporters during WW2).

  3. I'm not at all suggesting that Hitler was less racist than is typically assumed, only that even someone as confident in their supposed racial superiority as he was can also formulate an "I'm not racist, but..." style of argument. Obviously this interview was intended to heal some of the damage done to Indo-German relations by restrictions faced by visiting Indian students in Germany, but that doesn't make the way that he justified his views in this case any less interesting.