In his book, “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning”, Timothy Synder has laid bare his diagnosis of Hitler’s worldview. This book has quickly found its way to the top of my to-read list after reading an interview Synder gave to an editorial fellow at The Atlantic, titled “Understanding Hitler’s Anti-Semitism“. Any explanation I attempt of that interview will fail to do justice, so therefore I choose to share some excerpts from it:
Hitler is often depicted as the prototypical totalitarian—a man who believed in the superiority of the German state, a German nationalist to the extreme. But according to Snyder, this depiction is deeply flawed. Rather, Hitler was a “racial anarchist”—a man for whom states were transitory, laws meaningless, ethics a facade. “There is in fact no way of thinking about the world, says Hitler, which allows us to see human beings as human beings. Any idea which allows us to see each other as human beings … come[s] from Jews,” Snyder told me in an interview. As Snyder sees it, Hitler believed the only way for the world to revert to its natural order—that of brutal racial competition—was to eradicate the Jews.
I have read assorted novels that touch The Holocaust and Hitler’s Nazi Germany to varying degrees, yet I had not thought of Hitler’s worldview in this way until now. To think that what Hitler instigated and then unleashed upon one half of the world was not simply a result of his nationalistic desires and pure hatred towards the Jews is mind-boggling. Far from it. For example:
So what Hitler does is he inverts; he reverses the whole way we think about ethics, and for that matter the whole way we think about science. What Hitler says is that abstract thought—whether it’s normative or whether it’s scientific—is inherently Jewish. There is in fact no way of thinking about the world, says Hitler, which allows us to see human beings as human beings. Any idea which allows us to see each other as human beings—whether it’s a social contract; whether it’s a legal contract; whether it’s working-class solidarity; whether it’s Christianity—all these ideas come from Jews. And so for people to be people, for people to return to their essence, for them to represent their race, as Hitler sees things, you have to strip away all those ideas. And the only way to strip away all those ideas is to eradicate the Jews. And if you eradicate the Jews, then the world snaps back into what Hitler sees as its primeval, correct state: Races struggles against each other, kill each other, starve each other to death, and try and take land.
He believed so furiously in the natural order the world must take that he risked his Germany and his German people to the brink of defeat before edging them off. How do so few of us concoct such beliefs and grand ideas, unthinkable to the lot of us? Where do they develop such thought process?
It is a riveting read. I am hoping that the book will prove no less.
On a very related note, I came across the Generalplan Ost. The ferocity with which Nazi Germans believed in the Lebensraum is mind-numbing. To my tiny brain, the very idea of Lebensraum is inspired heavily from the works of Darwin, particularly Hitler’s view of the world that portrayed it as ring in which races contest each other aggressively for the right of survival.