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Race and the Third Reich: Linguistics, Racial Anthropology and Genetics in the Dialectic of Volk



Race and the Third Reich: Linguistics, Racial Anthropology and Genetics in the Dialectic of Volk

Christopher M. Hutton

ISBN: 978-0-745-63177-6 December 2005 Polity 256 Pages



Race and the Third Reich aims to set out the key concepts, debates and controversies that marked the academic study of race in Nazi Germany. It looks in particular at the discipline of racial anthropology and its relationship to linguistics and human biology.

Christopher Hutton identifies the central figures involved in the study of race during the Nazi regime, and traces continuities and discontinuities between Nazism and the study of human diversity in the Western tradition. Whilst Nazi race theory is commonly associated with the idea of a superior "Aryan race" and with the idealization of the Nordic ideal of blond hair, blue eyes and a "long-skull", Nazi race theorists, in common with their colleagues outside Germany, without exception denied the existence of an Aryan race. After 1935 official publications were at pains to stress that the term "Aryan" belonged to linguistics and was not a racial category at all. Under the influence of Mendelian genetics, racial anthropologists concluded that there was no necessary link between ideal physical appearance and ideal racial character. In the course of the Third Reich, racial anthropology was marginalized in favour of the rising science of human genetics. However, racial anthropologists played a key role in the crimes of the Nazi state by defining Jews and others as racial outsiders to be excluded at all costs from the body of the German Volk.

Anyone studying the Third Reich or who is interested in race theory will find this a fascinating, informative and accessible study.


1. Introduction.

2. Nazi Ideology: An Attack on Difference.

3. Peoples, Race, Genes.

4. Hans Günther and Racial Anthropology.

5. Racial Mixing or ‘Bastardization’.

6. The Myth of an Aryan Race.

7. Aryan, Nordic and Jew.

8. The Nordic Race and the German Volk.

9. Germany as Nordic Colony? Confusion and Anxiety Post-1933.

10. The Neutralization of Intellectual Diversity.

11. Dynamics of Nazi Science.

12. Nazism Beyond race.

Appendix I: Bibliographic names.

Appendix II: Biographical Sketches.

Appendix III: Nazi Legislation (Selected Examples).



"Hutton’s goal, which he achieves in a highly accessible manner, is to inform the discussion on the link between race theory, National Socialist ideology and broader trends in European thought."
Political Studies Review

"Christopher Hutton’s new book is a masterful in-depth study of the intricate connection between ideas, ideology, and politics; a connection which in the case of German National Socialism resulted in the most horrific crimes against humanity."
Dov-Ber Kerler, Indiana University

"Race and the Third Reich shows all the marks of intellectual distinction that we have now come to associate with the work of Chris Hutton. He gives us a comprehensive coverage of the subject, with a sharp eye for significant detail, debunking notions about political control over ideological matters and exposing the confusion which surrounded such key concepts as 'Aryan' and the 'Nordic ideal'. Readers who take Hutton as their guide through this political, academic and linguistic maze will learn a great deal about figures whom they have heard of only vaguely as 'names', in the context of nineteenth- and twentieth-century European history."
Roy Harris, University of Oxford

"Hutton’s book takes a fresh perspective on race and Nazism. It probes into and presents a more sophisticated understanding of the complex and partly contradictory intellectual roots of Nazi ideology and its relationship to science, racial anthropology and biology than its predecessors. Most importantly Hutton shows convincingly and in fascinating detail how ideology and science were separate and intellectual discourse much more in line with international developments than commonly realized."
Peter Weingart, University of Bielefeld

  • Offers for the first time an accessible survey of the main debates, tensions and contradictions within Nazi race theory.
  • Nazism is central to discussions of race and identity within anthropology, sociology, history, linguistics and cultural studies.
  • The general reader and the student have hitherto lacked a general introduction to Nazi race theory and its place within wider trends of European thought and this book fills that gap.
  • Examines how and why Nazi race theorists without exception denied the existence of a “superior Aryan race” and the relation of their theories to the realities of social exclusion for Jews and others.