Some 100 years before the Nazis rose to power, German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) ominously wrote that “we owe the animals not mercy but justice, and the debt often remains unpaid in Europe, the continent that is permeated with Foeter Judaicus…it is obviously high time in Europe that Jewish views on nature were brought to an end…the unconscionable treatment of the animal world must, on account of its immorality, be expelled from Europe.”
That such words became prophetic under the umbrella of a secular religion of nature that was Nazi Germany, colored by an environmental totalitarian view during the 1930’s and 40’s, is a historical truth that has been underappreciated-and unreported-for too long.
There was in fact a convergence between early German environmentalism and Nazism that is stunning with regard to how the Nazis promoted nationalistic ecological ideas, yet also found themselves unable to match in practice the green rhetoric they were espousing for a variety of reasons.
Thus while it may be true that from the perspective of modern environmental historians, the Nazis were not nearly as green as they said they were, there was one aspect of their nationalistic environmental campaign that was accomplished with brutal efficiency -the elimination of the Jews-which in the eyes of the Nazis was the first necessary step, if not the most important.
While Schopenhauer could not have anticipated the green sacrificial offering of the Jews in the gas chambers of places like Dachau where organic farms were planted nearby to feed Himmler’s SS troops, the Nazis never asked him “how” to expel the Jews from Europe. Only the turning tide of the war prevented the Nazis from finishing the job that Schopenhauer prophetically announced 100 years earlier. While Schopenhauer would have undoubtedly been aghast at how literally the Nazis fulfilled such anti-Semitic ambitions, Hitler called Schopenhauer a genius.
Here begins the lesson of a nationalistic racism and environmentalism that got hotwired together into an explosive political ecology that eventually dug a biological-ecological hole as deep as Auschwitz.
Schopenhauer was one of a growing list of academics throughout the 1800’s who complained of the nature-hating tendencies of the Jews whose religious views and economic practices were informed by the Genesis mandate to subdue and fill the earth. Hitler himself called this particular conquest emphasis “Jewish nonsense.” However, in the creation story of Genesis, man is created to be the king of creation, and while nature was made for the glory of God, it was also made for man since he was made in the image of God.
This view on man and nature strongly implies an autonomous utilitarian ecology, which has been the most hated ideological concept by environmental thinkers for some 200 years now. It was especially the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment that emphasized this utilitarian view of nature that opened the door for the Industrial Revolution and free market capitalism, the two greatest forces of the modern world which has supposedly left the earth in ecological shambles.
Thus, while Henry David Thoreau, perhaps the first environmental hippie of America going back to the 1800’s, was blaming the immigrant Protestants and Puritans for despoiling the New England landscape, German romantics were blaming the invasive Jewish people for the same environmental degradation taking place all around their countryside as the Industrial Revolution, supposedly fueled by Jewish capital and banks, inexorably despoiled the forested landscape and sullied wildlife habitat with dirty cities and international commercial markets.
The Stage Is Set
Other Germans with such romantic leanings like Alexander Humboldt, Ernst Moritz Arndt, Heinrich Riehl, Ernst Haeckel, and others, slowly stoked the fires of this green environmental racist campaign throughout the 1800’s. With such men is seen the birth of the idea of the German volk (people’s collective community), romantically and holistically embedded into their own German landscape. However, it was especially Ernst Haeckel, a zoologist, who opened the door wide open to the path of Nazism when he propounded a holistic, racist Social Darwinism based on “science” called Monism in those days. Haeckel in fact was the very man who coined the term “ecology” in 1866. Thus Haeckel will help provide the Nazis the missing link between nationalism, socialism, ecology, race and nature protection.
Haeckel took the Darwinian evolutionary theory about the origin of the species, and mutated it into a Romantic pseudo-scientific religious quest to recover and preserve that origin. In short, the Darwinian theory of the natural selection of the species mutated into eugenics where race became fused with species, so much so that the major concern was over preserving and protecting the original or indigenous German species from the disorderly mixing of the races. Haeckel was thus advocating a crackpot volkish romantic nationalism and nature worship, all presented in contemporary scientific garb for modern intellectual consumption.
Unsurprisingly, he discovered that the racial characteristics of the Jews were harmfully reactionary to the evolutionary laws of the natural world. Their transcendent view of man over nature made them resistant to evolutionary biological change, and hence had become a lesser race. Their blood was not properly related to the evolutionary laws of nature, nor properly embedded in the German soil.
Over time this Social Darwinist emphasis on returning back to the evolutionary laws of nature further mutated into an occultic volkish belief in “blood and soil,” where the German volk assumed that they had a special mystical relationship to the German landscape through their blood. Thus well before the Nazis had even come to power, Haeckel and the Monists essentially argued for an early Nazi version of eugenics and the environment, which later became known as “blood and soil.”
“Blood And Soil”
By the time of the Nazi period, “blood and soil” had become hardened into a romantic nationalistic green ideology where the German master race would purify itself by returning back to the simplicity of the German landscape away from the alienating asphalt culture of the big cities and free market capitalism. Nazi ideologues used the slogan for many practical purposes, everything from getting Germans back to the farm, to calls for environmental sustainability and nature preservation, to emphasizing a buy-local self-sufficient agricultural economics scheme, and including the upholding of traditional German values. Not to be outdone, but the slogan was also used to complain about capitalism, industrialization, internationalism, Judaism and Christianity as well.
Borrowing from ancient Germanic mysticism that posited that German racial identity was essentially tied literally and metaphorically to the German landscape and then cleansed by Monist scientism, the slogan “blood and soil” had thus become a rallying cry for a dangerous politicized ecology that would spell disaster for the Jewish people in particular, and millions of Slavs as well.
The Nazi Party was widely represented by a whole host of differing aspects of the early German environmental movement. The most powerful of them was Hermann Göring, the Nazi Reich Forest Minister, a hunter, hiker, animal and forest lover.
Next in line was the mystic homeopath Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s secretary and Deputy Führer. Dr. Alwin Siefurt was perhaps the most thoroughgoing ecologically minded Nazi environmentalist, followed by Nazi biologist Walther Schoenichen. The highly praised Nazi civil engineer, Dr. Fritz Todt, appointed Inspector General for the German Roadways by Hitler, was not only a friend of Siefurt’s but also was sympathetic to ecological ideas and early environmental engineering experiments.
Hans Schwenkel was a conservationist professor, and Wiepking-Jürgensmann was a Nazi landscape planner who had the best laid plans designed for the occupied East during the height of the war. For the newly reclaimed land in the Eastern territories, he and Konrad Meyer essentially proposed all kinds of environmental schemes where a shaping of nature was respectfully pursued so that man, wildlife and plants could all live harmoniously together. Wilhelm Linenkamper represented the preservationist camp in helping to set aside nature preserves.
Heinrich Himmler, the infamous SS leader, though allegedly showing only a sporadic interest in conservationism per se, was still an animal lover and a strong nature mystic all the same, and became increasingly attracted to organic farming through the influence of Hess, Siefurt and Darre. Darre was the very man who was instrumental in providing Hitler with a solid green front based on romantic agrarian ideals in the early 30’s. These “green” peasant farmers were not happy with Jewish capitalists and banks. The “boy scouts” of the Nazi Party, the Hitler Youth, cannot be ignored either. They grew out of the romantic naturist youth movement of the early 1900’s based largely on Ludwig Klages Anti-Semitic volkish environmental diatribes.
Even the Nazi Party itself had a highly proportional slice of environmental conservationists within its own ranks. Whereas only 10% of the German population belonged to the Nazi Party, between 60 and 70% of the environmentalists in various conservationist groups were Nazi Party members. This is not to say that every German conservationist was a Nazi Party member or a Nazi sympathizer, or that every conservationist joined the Nazi party because of ideological convictions, but it certainly does show that there was a convergence between Nazis and environmentalists.
The Green Nazis
Moreover, this was largely accomplished by the fact that Rudolf Hess and Walther Schoenichen managed to get the various conservation groups placed under the auspices of the German Labor Front in 1933. The greens were thus adopted into the Nazi Party, and the present cozy relationship that exists between modern environmentalism and labor may in fact have been born in Nazi Germany.
As such, when the Nazis seized power, environmentalism was surprisingly given a premier role in 1933-35. In fact, the Nazis passed the most progressive environmental laws found anywhere in the world at the time. The first was a law for the protection of animals called Tierschutzrecht, which forbid cruel experiments on animals, not to mention Jewish ritual slaughter. That Hitler, Hess and Himmler were all vegetarians also fits in perfectly with their animal loving tendencies. The second was a law for limiting hunting called the Das Reichsjagdgesetz which forbade hunting with painful traps. However, the high water mark for nature conservationism in Nazi Germany came in June-July of 1935 with the passing of the RNG, the Reich Nature Protection Law called the Reichnaturschutzgesetz, chock full of social-engineering ecological holistic schemes, called organic in those days. The RNG required comprehensive land use planning called “environmental effects reports” before new construction projects could be built. This of course created a huge bureaucratic paper chase since the Nazi environmental slogan on this was all-encompassing, “it shall be the whole landscape!”
Here the thrust of environmental totalitarianism cannot be missed. As a necessary part of this environmental scheming, the RNG allowed the expropriation of land without compensation. The RNG is thus a footnote in environmental history, the first of its kind at the federal level, precisely because of its landscape planning provisions over already developed areas that went way beyond the typical conservationist and preservationist models of environmental thinking.
The Nazis also developed totalitarian forestry practices called Dauerwald, which means ‘eternal forest.’ The main thrust of Dauerwald was a pioneering sustainable forestry plan that required the forest to be kept consistent with its local Aryan natural healthy environment.
Indeed, Nazi environmentalist Hans Schwenkel pointed out that the Mosaic Law contained no provisions for nature protection, “since the first book of Moses, the Jews do not know nature protection, since God has given to the children of Israel all plants and animals for their enjoyment.” In other words, the Nazis claimed that the Jews do not protect nature but exploit it as a divine right of personal selfish enjoyment.
At this juncture, environ-mental historians quickly point out that the environmental blitzkrieg of 1933-35 petered out by the later 30’s in a great disappointment as the Nazi hierarchy began to sacrifice their own environmental laws to get ready for an all out war effort.
In the later 30’s, Martin Boorman and many others like him strongly opposed the more radical green Nazis like Hess and Siefurt. The great eco-theorist philosopher Martin Heidegger, who emphasized an anti-humanistic “let it be” authentic approach to nature, lost his enthusiasm for the Nazi Party by the mid to late 30’s. Siefurt himself was placed under suspicion by the Gestapo after the mysterious departure of Hess to England. The sudden death of Dr. Todt on the Russian front also isolated him further.
The Green Agenda
While it is certainly true that Nazi environmentalism was not nearly as far reaching as its own laws trumpeted, this should not be surprising since the Nazis were undoubtedly far more interested in using environmental laws to restrict Jews, capitalism and private property, not their own national socialist agenda.
As the war in the East blazed through Poland, the Baltics, western Russia, and the Ukraine, wide open eco-imperial opportunities often replaced German environmental efforts at home.
In the East, environmental landscape planners were given what they called total “planning freedom” where entire landscapes were to be Germanized. Here is seen the complete fusion between their ecological views and their nationalistic racial pride. They were one in the same.
In the eyes of the Nazis, to Germanize the landscape was to properly take care of it by creating nature reserves, national parks and green landscape development plans for its inhabitants, all with the help of a depopulation program of Jews and Slavs to help really bring it along.
Nazi biologist Walther Schoenichen had dreams of getting rid of both Jews and Poles out of the Bialowieza Forest in order to turn it into a giant national park in the East, much bigger than what the Poles had already designated for the area. Hermann Göring wanted to use much of the same area for a giant hunting reserve for German elk and bison. Hans Klose wanted to set aside nature reserves as far east as the Caucasus Mountains looming above the vast Russian steppe. Even Polish cities would be redone with beautiful gardens. Beautiful pastoral farms would replace the huts that were scattered across the eastern landscape. Small Polish farms with many families were even converted into much larger farms for just one German family.
As such, landscape cleansing reached an explosive climax under National Socialism. Cleaning out Jews and Slavs for the Aryan preservation of nature shows that the great campaign in Poland and Russia was also fought for ecological reasons as well, where a depopulated East could help rebuild the natural rural health of the German people. Thus by cleansing the land from both Jews and Slavs in the East, Lebensraum (living space) could be enlarged greatly in order to get the Germans back to more natural romantic surroundings. Nature reserves, green landscape plans, organic farms and concentration camps- it’s all here in the most grisly set of circumstances imaginable.
In Poland and Russia, millions of people were sacrificed by the naturism of the Nazis because they did not fit in with their Social Darwinian get-back-to-nature scheme, and environmentalism played a crucial role in this nationalistic eco-cide.
Landscape Planner Heinrich Friedrich Wiepking Jürgensmann handily summarized this Jewish-Slavic conundrum quite well, all with pictures in hand and full of commentary: “the landscape is always a form, an expression, and a characteristic of the Volk living within it. It can be gentle countenance of its spirit and soul, just as it can be the grimace of its soullessness and of human and spiritual depravity. In any case, it is the infallible, distinctive mark of what a people feels, thinks, creates, and does. It shows divine creative power, or part of a destructive force. The German landscape-like the German people- differs in every way from those of the Poles and the Russians. The murders and atrocities of the Eastern peoples are engraved in a razor-sharp manner, in the grimaces of their native landscapes.”
In short, the Slavs were not properly related to nature and thus should be liquidated.
Even much later in 1944, when the war was all but lost, the Nazis published for the Wehrmacht a special edition of Wilhelm Riehl’s Natural History of the German People. The Wehrmacht needed to be reminded why they were there in the first place.
The quest for Lebensraum was far more than just an imperialistic form of colonialism, it was also a mystical-ecological extension of “blood and soil” outside of Germany’s borders.
Such was the dark shade of green that characterized the holocaust, so dark in fact that the green nature of it all has been camouflaged and overlooked for many years now. Or as one German physicist acutely observed, “If you mix green with red, you will get brown.”