Master race

Master race
Arno Breker's 1939 neoclassical sculpture Die Partei (The Party), which flanked one of the entrances to the Albert Speer designed Reich Chancellery of the Third Reich, encapsulated the National Socialist ideals of the Aryan master race, with Die Partei as the physical embodiment of the spirit of the Nazi Party. By applying eugenics to the Nordic Aryan master race itself, the Nazis believed, it would be possible to create a super race.

Master race was a phrase and concept originating in the slave-holding Southern US. The later phrase Herrenvolk (German: die Herrenrasse, About this sound das Herrenvolk ), interpreted as 'master race', was a concept in Nazi ideology in which the Nordic peoples, one of the branches of what in the late-19th and early-20th century was called the Aryan race, represent an ideal and "pure race" that was the purest representation of the original racial stock of those who were then called the Proto-Aryans,[1] themselves believed by the Nazis to have prehistorically dwelt on the North German Plain and ultimately to have originated from Atlantis.[2] The Nazis declared that the Nordics (i.e., the Germanic peoples) were the true Aryans because they claimed that they were more "pure" (less racially mixed with non-native Indo-European peoples) than other people of what were then called the Aryan peoples (now generally called the Indo-European peoples), such as the Slavic peoples, the Romance peoples, the Iranian peoples, and the Indo-Aryans.[3] Claiming that the Nordic peoples were superior to all other races, the Nazis believed they were entitled to world domination.[3] This concept is known as Nordicism.

In terms of Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups, Adolf Hitler's Scandinavian Master race contains at least four distinctly different haplogroups. Males from Sweden, Norway and Denmark are members of Haplogroup I1, Haplogroup R1b, and Haplogroup R1a. In neighboring Finland the majority of Finnish males are members of Haplogroup N and Haplogroup I1.[4]

Adolf Hitler made claims that the Russians, Ukrainians, and Poles were genetically inferior. In terms of Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups the majority of Russians, Ukrainians, and Poles belong to the same race as some Scandinavians due to the fact that the majority of Russians, Ukrainians, and Poles carry the Haplogroup R1a chromosome.[4]


Historical background

The Übermensch (German) (English Overman or Superman) is a concept in the philosophy of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche--he posited the Übermensch as a goal for humanity to set for itself in his 1883 book Thus Spoke Zarathustra (German: Also Sprach Zarathustra). However, Nietzsche never developed the concept on racial grounds; the philosopher was no racist (nor an anti-semite). Instead, the Übermensch "seems to be the ideal aim of spiritual development more than a biological goal.".[5] Nazism distorted the real meaning behind the concept to fit its 'master race' view.

Mendelian genetics was rediscovered[citation needed] in 1900, providing the basis of the genetic inheritance maps used by Nazi eugenicists to identify persons of the Jewish race. In relation to models of inheritance, race is treated by Nazi eugenicists not as a single gene inherited in a mendelian fashion, and is not based upon mendelian inheritance.

By the late-19th century, scientific racism, and misinterpreted anthropology and linguistics, posited that the Indo-Europeans (primarily those of direct European ancestry, and erroneously labeled as "Aryans") made up the highest branch of humanity. This mislead reasoning simultaneously intertwined with Nordicism which proclaimed the "Nordic race" as the "pure" form of said Aryan race. As such, this was referred to as a "master race" because of its supposed innate leadership and advancements in civilization.


Eugenics came to play a prominent role in this racial thought as a way to improve and maintain the "purity" of the Aryan master race. Eugenics was a concept adhered to by many thinkers in the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s, such as Margaret Sanger,[6][7] Marie Stopes, H. G. Wells, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Emile Zola, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, John Harvey Kellogg, Linus Pauling[8] and Sidney Webb.[9][10] Aldous Huxley’s best-selling novel Brave New World, about a future society based on eugenics, was published in 1932. Human “dog and pony show” type events (organized by advocates of eugenics), where men and women appeared on stage in swimsuits in eugenic competitions (only Nordic Aryans were allowed to enter) to be evaluated for their physical and mental qualities as marriage partners were common throughout Europe and North America in the 1920s. The Nazis took this concept to the limit by establishing a program to systematically genetically enhance the Nordic Aryans themselves through a program of Nazi eugenics, based on the eugenics laws of the United States state of California,[11] to create a super race.[3]

White racist hierarchy

The modern concept of the master race in general derives from 19th-century racial theory, which posited a hierarchy of races based on darkness of skin color. This 19th-century concept was largely initially developed by Count Joseph Arthur De Gobineau. Gobineau's basic concept, as further refined and developed in Nazism, places the black Aboriginal Australians and "African savages" at the bottom of the hierarchy, while the white Aryans (as conceived by the Nazis) (primarily Northern and Western Europeans consisting of Germans, Swedes, Icelanders, Norwegians, Danish, British, French, Irish and Dutch) were at the top; olive-skinned Southern Europeans (Spanish, Italians, Greeks and Portuguese, i.e. those of what was then called the Mediterranean race, which was regarded as another subrace of the Caucasian race) in the upper middle ranks; Slavs (Even though the Slavs are white and of Indo-European ancestry, the Nazis placed them lower on the scale because they were regarded as primarily of the Alpine race rather than the Nordic race, and thus fit only to be peasants. Also, the Nazis wanted to conquer them and take their land so Nazi Germany could obtain Lebensraum--Nazi propaganda referred to the Slavs as the untermensch ["subhumans"].) and those of the olive-skinned Semitic race (another subrace of the Caucasian race) in the middle ranks (it was because the Jews, being Semites, were clever that they were so dangerous--they had their own plan for Jewish world domination, a conspiracy that had to be opposed by all thoughtful Aryans, declared the Nazis[3]); and those of the yellow Mongoloid race[12] (including its offshoots the brown Malayan race and the red American Indian race), the Dravidian race, the Hamitic race (regarded as another subrace of the Caucasian race), and mixed-race people such as Eurasians, the bronze Mestizos, Mulattos, Afro-Asians, and Zambos in the lower middle ranks.

'Master race' in the United States

In the United States, the concept of 'master race' arose within the context of master-slave race relations in the slavery-based society of historical America - particularly in the South in the mid-nineteenth century. It was based upon both the experience of slavery and the pseduo-scientific justifications for racial slavery, but also on the relations between whites in the South and North, particularly during the American Civil War.

The Oxford English Dictionary credits William J. Grayson with having first used the phrase master race, in his poem The Hireling and the Slave (1855):

For these great ends hath Heaven’s supreme command

Brought the black savage from his native land,

Trains for each purpose his barbarian mind,

By slavery tamed, enlightened, and refined;

Instructs him, from a master-race, to draw

Wise modes of polity and forms of law,

Imbues his soul with faith, his heart with love,

Shapes all his life by dictates from above

where the phrase denotes the relation between the white masters and negro slaves. By 1860 Virginian author George Fitzhugh was using the "challenging phrase “master race”, which soon came to mean considerably more than the ordinary master-slave relationship".[13] Fitzhugh, along with a number of southern writers, used the term to differentiate Southerners from Northerners, based on the dichotomy that Southerners were supposedly descendents of Normans / Cavaliers whereas Northerners were descendents of Anglo-Saxons / Puritans.[14]

In 1861 the Southern press bragged that Northern soldiers would "enounter a master race" and knowledge of this fact would cause Northern soldiers' "knees to tremble".[15] The Richmond Whig in 1862 proclaimed that "the master race of this continent is found in the southern states",[16] and in 1863 the Richmond Examiner stated that "there are slave races born to serve, master races born to govern"[17]

In the works of John H. Van Evrie, a Northern supporter of the Confederacy, the term was interchangeable with white supremacy, notably in White Supremacy and Negro Subordination, Or, Negroes a Subordinate Race and (so-called) slavery its normal condition (1861). In Subgeneation: the theory of the normal relations of the races; an answer to miscegenation (1864) Van Evrie created the words “subgen” to describe what he considered to be the "inferior races" and “subgeneation” to describe the ‘normal’ relation of such inferior races to whites, something which he considered to be the "very corner-stone of democracy";[18] but these words never entered the dictionary.

Following the defeat of the Confederacy the term master race immediately fell into disuse.


Meyers Blitz-Lexikon (Leipzig, 1932) shows a famous German war hero (Karl von Müller) as an example of the Nordic type.

The origins of the Nazi version of the theory of the master race were in 19th-century racial theories of Count Joseph Arthur De Gobineau, who argued that cultures degenerated when distinct races mixed. It was believed at this time that Southern European and Eastern European peoples were racially mixed with non-European Moors from across the Mediterranean Sea, while Northern Europeans and Western Europeans remained pure. Proponents of Nordic theory further argued that Nordic peoples had developed innate toughness and determination due to the harsh, challenging climate in which they evolved. The racial ideal of these theorists was the tall, blond and light eyed Nordic individual.

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was one of the earliest proponents of a theory presenting a hierarchical racial model of history, attributing civilisational primacy to the "white races" who gained their sensitivity and intelligence by refinement in the rigorous north.

The highest civilisation and culture, apart from the ancient Indians and Egyptians, are found exclusively among the white races; and even with many dark peoples, the ruling caste or race is fairer in colour than the rest and has, therefore, evidently immigrated, for example, the Brahmans, the Incas, and the rulers of the South Sea Islands. All this is because necessity is the mother of invention because those tribes that emigrated early to the north and there gradually became white, had to develop all their intellectual powers and invent and perfect all the arts in their struggle with need, want and misery, which in their many forms were brought about by the climate. This they had to do in order to make up for the parsimony of nature and out of it all came their high civilisation.[19]

Despite this, he was adamantly against differing treatment of races, was fervently anti-slavery, and supported the abolitionist movement in the United States. He describes the treatment of "[our] innocent black brothers whom force and injustice have delivered into [the slave-master's] devilish clutches" as "belonging to the blackest pages of mankind's criminal record".[20]

Hans Frank, Hitler's personal lawyer, stated that Hitler carried a copy of Schopenhauer's book The World as Will and Representation with him wherever he went throughout World War I.[21]

Nevertheless, such theorists usually accepted that considerable variety of hair and eye colour existed even within the racial categories they recognised. Contrary to the popular urban legend myth, the Nazis did not discriminate against "Aryans" who did not have blonde hair or light-eyes, or had only one of these features. Adolf Hitler and other Nazi officials had dark hair and were still considered to be an Aryan.

The postulated superiority of these people was said to make them born leaders, or a "master race." Other authors included Guido von List, and his associate Lanz von Liebenfels, and the British racial theorist Houston Stewart Chamberlain, all of whom felt that the white race and Germanic peoples were superior to others, and that given the purification of the white race and German people from the races who were "polluting" it, a new millennarian age of Aryan god-men would arrive.

Nazi policy stressed the superiority of the Nordic race, a sub-section of the white European population defined by anthropometric models of racial difference. The Nordic race was said to comprise only the Germanic peoples (Germans, Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, Finland-Swedes,[22] Estonia-Swedes, Faroese, Icelanders, British and Dutch people).

Aryanism and Nazism

The term Aryan derives from the Sanskrit word (ā́rya), which derived from arya, the original Indo-Iranian autonym. Also, the word Iran is the Persian word for land/place of the Aryan[23] (see also Iranian peoples).

Following the ideas of Gobineau and others, the Nazi theorist Alfred Rosenberg determined that these people, who, he claimed, were originally from Atlantis, were a dynamic warrior people who dwelt in prehistoric times in northern climates on the North German Plain, from which they migrated riding their chariots southeast, eventually reaching Ukraine, Iran, and then India. They were supposed to be the ancestors of the ancient Germanic tribes, who shared their warrior values. Rosenberg claimed that Christianity was an alien Semitic slave-morality inappropriate to the warrior Aryan master race and thus supported a melange of aspects of Hindu Vedic and Zoroastrian teachings (both of these religions having been organised by Aryans), along with pre-Christian European Odinistic paganism, which he also considered to be distinctively Aryan in character.[2]

In Nazi Germany, a so-called mixed marriage of an "Aryan" with an "Untermensch" was forbidden. To maintain the purity of the Germanic master race, eugenics was practiced. In order to eliminate "defective" citizens, the T-4 Euthanasia Program was administered by Karl Brandt to rid the country of the mentally retarded or those born with genetic deficiencies, as well as those deemed to be racially inferior. Additionally, a programme of compulsory sterilisation was undertaken which resulted in the forced operations of hundreds of thousands of individuals. Many of these policies are generally seen as being related to what eventually became known as the Holocaust.

Mediterranean race

The fact that the Mediterranean race is responsible for the most important of ancient western civilisations was a problem for the promoters of Nordic superiority. According to Giuseppe Sergi, the Mediterranean race was the "greatest race of the world" and was singularly responsible for the most accomplished civilisations of ancient times, including those of Persia, Egypt, Greece, Phoenicia, Carthage, and Rome. The Mediterranean race was also a major influence to the outside world in the modern era, the most significant being Spain and Portugal when they became global empires, influencing most of the Americas. Spain is also responsible for being one of the first nations in discovering and colonising the Americas by its conquistadors.

C. G. Seligman also stated that "it must, I think, be recognised that the Mediterranean race has actually more achievements to its credit than any other race, since it is responsible for by far the greater part of Mediterranean civilisation, certainly before 1000 BC (and probably much later), and so shaped not only the Aegean cultures, but those of Western as well as the greater part of Eastern Mediterranean lands, while the culture of their near relatives, the Hamitic pre-dynastic Egyptians, formed the basis of that of Egypt."[24]

The Nazis explained this away by claiming that the elite warriors of the aristocracy of Ancient Greece, of Ancient Rome, and of the Spanish Empire were Nordic Aryans who had migrated south. However, they did admit that those of the Mediterranean race in general and notably such geniuses of the Mediterranean race as Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci tended to be more creative than Nordics.[2]

Master race in fiction

Aryan master race ideology was common throughout the educated and literate strata of the Western world until after World War II. Such theories were commonplace in early-20th century fantasy literature.

While the phrase "master race" itself is seldom used, the inhumane and barbaric treatment of those not belonging to the "master race" in the fictional fascisms seems to imply that such an ideology is present. S.M. Stirling's Domination of the Draka is a fictional empire which is explicitly based on the "master race" concept.[citation needed] After World War I in the Draka universe, the Draka citizens adopt an ideology which calls for all non-Drakan humanity to be reduced to chattel slavery. The Chosen, from Stirling's previous General series portrays perhaps a more realistic look at the "master race" concept, including the consequences of such a policy on a society. The Chosen, who treat other peoples with contempt, calling them "animals," are eventually destroyed by their own slaves, the lowest of the low, despite the Chosen's superior weapons, training, and centuries of eugenic breeding. The fictional fascist "Freedom Party" that rules the Confederate States of America in Harry Turtledove's American Empire series of novels also echoes the concept.

The James Bond film Moonraker is another fictionalised account of a master race in which the Adolf Hitler-like megalomanic villain, Sir Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), has pre-selected a diverse group of astronaut trainees to become the progenitors of a master race that he intends to repopulate Earth after the planet has been nerve-gassed.[citation needed]

Similar ideas are explored in science fiction.[citation needed] An episode of The X-Files is titled "Paper Clip". It presents the story of Nazi scientists saved by Americans after the war, during Operation Paperclip, and their connections with aliens, which led them to successfully create a superior race of alien/human hybrids. Another episode is titled "Herrenvolk", and it presumably refers to the same hybridization program. Likewise, in "The Other Side", an episode of Stargate SG-1, the Eurondans are portrayed as white supremacists who have created a purified Nordic-like population, planning to annihilate other peoples, who they refer to as "Breeders" because of their indiscriminate breeding, in rejection of eugenics.

In the original 1920s and 1930s Buck Rogers stories and newspaper cartoons, Buck Rogers, in his adventures in the 25th century that take place on Earth, fights for Aryan-Americans from the liberated zone around Niagara, New York, against the Red Mongol Empire, a Chinese empire of the future which rules most of North America.[25]

In the 1930s, both educational and storybooks for children in Germany taught their readers about the master race. In the Sun Koh science fiction series where Koh says things like "My forefathers were Aryan". In a story about Atlantis, Koh says, "If our Atlantis once again rises out of the sea, then we will get from there the blond, steel-hard men with the pure blood and will create with them the master race, which will finally rule the earth."[26] The German writer Michael Ende, who was born in 1929 and grew up such books, in the 1950s, wrote his classic novel Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver as a way of opposing the Nazi propaganda he was taught. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writer Julia Voss wrote a book[note 1] on Jim Button, uncovering the Ende's many references to Nazi symbols.[27] Voss shows how Ende upends the Nazi belief that Atlantis was the original home of the Aryan race by creating his own submerged city and making it rise, but not restore Aryan master-race rule over the earth, rather it becomes a multi-racial paradise with Jim Button, who is black, as its king.[26]

In Doctor Who, the Doctor's frequent enemies, the Daleks, consider themselves a master race who must purge the universe of all others; Terry Nation explicitly modeled them on the Nazis.[28] In the 2009 special The End of Time, when the Master transforms the entire human race into copies of himself, he claims that there is no human race, but only "the Master race".

In the Resident Evil video game series the antagonist Ozwell E. Spencer became obsessed with the idea of creating a race of superhumans from the Progenitor Virus. This influence eventually corrupted the mind of his pupil and experimental super soldier Albert Wesker, leading him to murder Spencer in order to obtain his own ascension into godhood by using a virus known as Ouroboros (an offspring of the progenitor virus) to create his own race of superhumans.

In Frostbiten, the main villain tries to create a master race of vampires.

In the 2009 remake of the V television series, the "Visitors" to which the title refers are an alien species harvesting human DNA to enhance their own evolution, as they have done to many other civilizations in their pursuit of genetically perfect ideal.

In the Harry Potter series, while the parallels were not originally intentional, there is much similarity between Voldemort's Pureblood ideology and the Master Race ideology of the Nazis, with wizards being "pure" and anyone with Muggle (non-wizard) blood being considered "half-blood" or "mudblood", a word treated the way a racial slur would be treated in the real world. [29]

In Ben 10 Alien Force the Highbreed, a race of alien, believe themselves to be the purest and most powerful of all species, and intend to cleanse the galaxy of impure lower life forms.


  1. ^ Voss' book was written as a doctoral dissertation.


  1. ^ Widney, Joseph P. Race Life of the Aryan Peoples New York: Funk & Wagnalls. 1907 In Two Volumes: Volume One--The Old World Volume Two--The New World ISBN B000859S6O See Chapter II—"Original Homeland of the Aryan Peoples" Pages 9-25—the term “Proto-Aryan” is used to describe the people today called Proto-Indo-Europeans
  2. ^ a b c Rosenberg, Alfred Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts, 1930 ("The Myth of the 20th Century")
  3. ^ a b c d Hitler, Adolf Mein Kampf 1925
  4. ^ a b [1]
  5. ^ Solomon, Robert C.; Higgins, Kathleen C. (2000). What Nietzsche Really Said. Schocken Books, a division fo Random House, Inc.. p. 47. ISBN 0805241574. 
  6. ^ Margaret Sanger, quoted in Katz, Esther; Engelman, Peter (2002). The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press. p. 319. ISBN 9780252027376. "Our...campaign for Birth Control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical in ideal with the final aims of Eugenics" 
  7. ^ Franks, Angela (2005). Margaret Sanger's eugenic legacy. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-7864-2011-7. "...her commitment to eugenics was constant...until her death" 
  8. ^ Everett Mendelsohn, Ph.D. Pauling's Eugenics, The Eugenic Temptation, Harvard Magazine, March–April 2000
  9. ^ Gordon, Linda (2002). The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America. University of Illinois Press. p. 196. ISBN 0252027647. 
  10. ^ Keynes, John Maynard (1946). "Opening remarks: The Galton Lecture, 1946. The Eugenics Review, vol 38, no. 1, pp. 39-40". The Eugenics Review 38 (1): 39–40. 
  11. ^ San Francisco Chronicle Sunday, November 9, 2003--"Eugenics and the Nazis – the California connection" by Edwin Black:
  12. ^ However, in 1936, Adolf Hitler declared that the Chinese and Japanese were honorary Aryans.
  13. ^ Wish, Harvey George Fitzhugh: propagandist of the Old South Louisian State University Press (1943) p270
  14. ^ see Watson jr, Ritchie Devon Normans and Saxons: Southern Race Mythology and the Intellectual History of the American Civil War Louisiana State University Press (2008)
  15. ^ quoted in Grant and Lee: victorious American and vanquished Virginian Praeger (2008) p15
  16. ^ quoted in Conkling, Henry An Inside View of the Rebellion: An American Citizen's Textbook (1864) p7
  17. ^ quoted in Senate documents, otherwise publ. as Public documents and Executive documents: 14th Congress, 1st session-48th congress, 2nd session and special session (1869) p670
  18. ^ Subgeneation p42
  19. ^ Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, Volume II, Section 92
  20. ^ Parerga and Paralipomena, "On Ethics," Sec. 5
  21. ^ Myths About Adolf Hitler:
  22. ^ | Finns were not originally considered to be of Nordic race. Therefore the goal of the SS recruitment office was to recruit Swedish-speaking Finns (preferably National Socialists), whom they regarded as Nordic.
  23. ^ Wiesehofer, Joseph Ancient Persia New York:1996 I.B. Tauris
  24. ^ The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 54. (Jan. - Jun., 1924), p. 30.
  25. ^ The Collected Works of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century 1969 Chelsea House--Introduction by Ray Bradbury—Reprints of the original Buck Rogers comic strips
  26. ^ a b Julia Voss, "Jim Knopf rettet die Evolutionstheorie" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (December 16, 2008). Retrieved July 31, 2011 (German)
  27. ^ Book review of Darwins Jim Knopf by Julia Voss "Im Zickzack durch Lummerland" (2009). Retrieved August 4, 2011 (German)
  28. ^ | Terry Nation - Writing For The Screen, By Paul Scoones
  29. ^ Johnston, Ian. "Author ‘chilled’ to learn Harry’s half-blood status has Nazi parallels". Retrieved June 30, 2011. 

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