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NAZI GERMANY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES AND VIEWS
The term "ecology" was invented in Germany in the nineteenth Century by the pioneering zoologist Ernst Haeckel. Via his widely influential writings and lectures, Haeckel elaborated a holistic view of man's symbiotic relationship with the natural world. To Haeckel, and those who followed his philosophy of "Monism", natural laws governed the workings of the natural world and human civilization alike. Haeckel and others of his philosophical school taught respect for nature and preached conservation.
What many people do not know about Haeckel, however, is his connection to national socialism. Haeckel placed his views about nature conservation into a world view similar to that of Social Darwinism Here, only the strong (both individually and on a national scale) and those willing to fight, survived the constant upward struggle that characterized national evolutionary development. Nations, cultures, and peoples could therefore be categorized "scientifically" into those that were superior and those that were inferior, with the latter being considered expendable and even worthy of destruction. Haeckel also had racial views similar to Hitler.
This brief collection of quotes illustrates the decisive role that a radical ecological understanding of the world played within National Socialism. Needless to say, ecology as a science and natural philosophy as a whole have not always assumed the same radical ideological shape throughout history. Since World War II, the Green movements that have sprung up all over the world are largely democratic in nature and are as concerned about the well being of humanity as they are about the health of the planet as a whole.
However, the deteriorating world environmental situation in our time could create incentives for even harsher regimes than those of Nazi Germany. Thus, it is useful to study this subject.
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"By ecology we understand the total science of the connections of the organism to the surrounding external world." -- Ernst Haeckel, Father of German Ecology
Source: Haeckel quoted in Raymond H. Dominick III, The Environmental Movement in Germany: Prophets and Pioneers, 1871-1971 (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1992), p. 38.
"Man is not distinguished from [the animals] by a special kind of soul, or by any peculiar and exclusive psychic function, but only by a higher degree of psychic activity, a superior stage of development." -- Ernst Haeckel, Father of German Ecology
Source: Ernst Haeckel, The Riddle of the Universe (New York: Harper, 1900), p. 201.
"As our mother earth is a mere speck in the sunbeam in the illimitable universe, so man himself is but a tiny grain of protoplasm in the perishable framework of organic nature. [This] clearly indicates the true place of man in nature, but it dissipates the prevalent illusion of man's supreme importance and the arrogance with which he sets himself apart from the illimitable universe and exalts himself to the position of its most valuable element." -- Ernst Haeckel, Father of German Ecology
Source: Ernst Haeckel, The Riddle of the Universe (New York: Harper, 1900), pp. 14-15.
"Man is not above nature, but in nature." -- Ernst Haeckel, Father of German Ecology
Source: Ernst Haeckel, The Evolution of Man. 2 vols. (New York: Appleton, 1903), vol. II, p. 456.
"Man must not fall into the error of thinking that he was ever meant to become lord and master of Nature. A lopsided education has helped to encourage that illusion. Man must realize that a fundamental law of necessity reigns throughout the whole realm of Nature and that his existence is subject to the law of eternal struggle and strife. He will then feel that there cannot be a separate law for mankind in a world in which planets and suns follow their orbits, where moons and planets trace their destined paths, where the strong are always the masters of the weak and where those subject to such laws must obey them or be destroyed. Man must also submit to the eternal principles of this supreme wisdom. He may try to understand them but he can never free himself from their sway." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Chapter 10.
"National Socialism is politically applied biology." -- Hans Schemm, Founder and Head of the National Socialist Teachers Association
"Civilization and the life of nations are governed by the same laws as prevail throughout nature and organic life." -- Ernst Haeckel, Father of German Ecology
Source: Ernst Haeckel, The History of Creation. 2 vols. (New York: D. Appleton, 1876), vol. I, p. 11.
"The whole of organic nature on our planet exists only by a relentless war of all against all. ... The raging war of interests in human society is only a feeble picture of an unceasing and terrible war of existence which reigns throughout the whole of the living world." -- Ernst Haeckel, Father of German Ecology
Source: Ernst Haeckel, Monism: The Confession of Faith of a Man of Science. Tr. J. Gilchrist (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1895), pp. 73-74.
"[It is] useful to know the laws of nature - for that enables us to obey them. To act otherwise would be to rise in revolt against heaven." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Secret Conversations, 1941-1945 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1953), p. 116.
"As in everything, nature is the best instructor." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Secret Conversations, 1941-1945 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1953), p. 321.
"Christianity [is] a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Secret Conversations, 1941-1945 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1953), p. 43.
"Deep and understanding feeling for nature is the foundation of every culture." -- Hermann Goering
Source: Goering quoted in Blätter für Naturschutz 18, 2 (1935).
Source: Schemm quoted in Die Biologe 5 (1926), p. 281.
"If ... the garden (i.e., society) is to remain the breeding ground for the plants, if, in other words, it is to lift itself above the harsh rule of natural forces, then the forming wheel of a gardener is necessary, of a gardener who, by providing suitable conditions for growing, or by keeping harmful influences away, or by both together, carefully tends what needs tending, and ruthlessly eliminates the weeds which would deprive the better plants of nutrition, the air, light, sun." -- R. Walther Darré
Source: Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (New York: NYU Press, 1992), pp 113f.
"We are compelled by reflection to recognize that God is not to be placed against the material world [as in Christianity], but must be placed as a 'divine power' or 'moving spirit' within the cosmos itself ... All the wonderful phenomena of nature around us, organic as well as inorganic, are only various products of one and the same original force." -- Ernst Haeckel, Father of German Ecology
Source: Ernst Haeckel, Monism: The Confession of Faith of a Man of Science. Tr. J. Gilchrist (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1895), p. 15.
"Man has discovered in nature the wonderful notion of that all-mighty being whose law he worships. Fundamentally in everyone there is the feeling for this all-mighty, which we call god (that is to say, the dominion of natural laws throughout the whole universe)." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Secret Conversations, 1941-1945 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1953), p. 5.
"The man who contemplates the universe with his eyes wide open is the man with the greatest amount of natural piety; not in the religious sense, but in the sense of an intimate harmony with things." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Secret Conversations, 1941-1945 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1953), p. 5.
"When we National Socialists speak of a belief in God, we do not mean what naive Christians and their clerical exploiters have in mind. ...The power of nature's law is what we call the omnipotent force or God. ...We National Socialists demand of ourselves that we live as naturally as possible, that is to say in accord with the laws of life. The more precisely we understand and observe the laws of nature and of life and the more we keep to them, the more we correspond to the will of this omnipotent force." -- Martin Bormann, NSDAP Party Secretary
Source: Boria Sax, Animals in the Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoats, and the Holocaust (New York: Continuum, 2000), p. 106.
"Every healthy Völk sees the right to expansion of its living space as something natural." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Hitler Speech, Völkischer Beobachter, 11 November 1931
"Nations whose feeling for nature dissipates because they destroy their homeland, carry the seeds of death in them; they only continue as a nation artificially. Nations with a strongly defined feeling for nature, like the Germans and the Slavs, overcome even the hardest blows and have an unlimited capacity for regeneration. Therefore a government that seeks to maintain the feeling for nature of its people is smart, and to that end no sacrifice is too large, no means too small, and everyone who helps with that serves his Völk." -- Hermann Löns, Popular Writer in Second Empire Germany
Source: Zeitschrift für Vogelschutz und andere Gebiete des Naturschutzes 1, 1 (1920), p. 44.
"The German countryside must be preserved under all circumstances, for it is and has forever been the source of strength and greatness of our people." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Hitler quoted in Raymond H. Dominick III, The Environmental Movement in Germany: Prophets and Pioneers, 1871-1971 (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1992), p. 81.
"Man should organize his existence meaningfully in the natural sphere of his living space, should make everything that nature offers him useful for himself while being conscious of his responsibility, should be the master of nature but at the same time its protector and conserver." --Julius Wagner, German educator
Source: Julius Wagner, Die Biologie im Dienste heimatlicher Landschaftskunde (1934).
Lands protected included:
"Remaining portions of landscape in free nature whose preservation on account of rarity, beauty, distinctiveness or on account of scientific, ethnic, forest, or hunting significance lies in the general interest."
Source: Raymond H. Dominick III, The Environmental Movement in Germany: Prophets and Pioneers, 1871-1971 (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1992), p. 108. (Introduction to law can be read here (PDF File).
"The morality and customs of Germans are derived entirely from the organizational unity of blood and soil." -- R. Walther Darré, 1931
Source: R. Walther Darré, Um Blut und Boden: Reden und Aufsätze (München: Zentralverlag der NSDAP, Franz Eher Nachführung, 1942), p. 57.
"The leadership of our National Socialist state and our conception of a people [Volk] is penetrated and inspired by foundations in biology. Legal provisions are derived from the laws of life. Their worth proceeds from the degree to which they are thought through in biological terms and on biological foundations." -- Walter Greit, Chief of Reichsbund für Biologie
Source: Klaus Fischer, Nazi Germany: A New History (New York, Continuum, 1995), p. 233.
"The domestication (the culture) of man does not go deep--where it does go deep it at once becomes degeneration (type: the Christian). The 'savage' (or, in moral terms, the evil man) is a return to nature--and in a certain sense his recovery, his cure from 'culture'." -- Friedrich Nietzsche
Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, Fragment 684
"Even in those days [in Vienna] I already saw that there was a two-fold method by which alone it would be possible to bring about an amelioration of these [social] conditions. This method is: first, to create better fundamental conditions of social development by establishing a profound feeling for social responsibilities among the public; second, to combine this feeling for social responsibilities with a ruthless determination to prune away all excrescences which are incapable of being improved.
Just as Nature concentrates its greatest attention, not to the maintenance of what already exists but on the selective breeding of offspring in order to carry on the species, so in human life also it is less a matter of artificially improving the existing generation – which, owing to human characteristics, is impossible in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred – and more a matter of securing from the very start a better road for future development." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Chapter 2.
"I desire a violent, domineering, fearless, and ferocious upcoming generation. It must be able to bear pain. It must show no signs whatsoever of weakness or tenderness. The free and magnificent predator must once again glint from their eyes." -- Adolf Hitler
Source Hitler quoted in Hermann Rauschning, Gespräche mit Hitler (New York, 1940), p. 237.
"At the end of the last century the progress of science and technique led liberalism astray into proclaiming man's mastery of nature, and announcing he would soon have dominion over space ... In any case, we shall learn to become familiar with the laws by which life is governed, and acquaintance with the laws of nature will guide us on the path of progress." -- Adolf Hitler, 11 July 1941
Source: Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Table Talk, 1941-1944. tr. N. Cameron & R.H. Stevens (New York: Enigma Books, 2000), pp. 5-6.
"The parliamentary principle of vesting legislative power in the decision of the majority rejects the authority of the individual and puts a numerical quota of anonymous heads in its place. In doing so it contradicts the aristocratic principle, which is a fundamental law of nature." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Chapter 3.
"Among the Spartans all newly born children were subject to a careful examination or selection. All those that were weak, sickly, or affected with any bodily infirmity, were killed. Only the perfectly healthy and strong children were allowed to live, and they alone afterwards propagated the race." -- Ernst Haeckel, Father of German Ecology
Source: Ernst Haeckel, The History of Creation. 2 vols. (New York: D. Appleton, 1876), vol. I, p. 170.
"Sparta must be regarded as the first völkisch state. The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more human than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Secret Book (New York: Grove Press, 1961, p. 18.
"For as soon as the procreative faculty is thwarted and the number of births diminished, the natural struggle for existence which allows only healthy and strong individuals to survive is replaced by a sheer craze to ‘save’ feeble and even diseased creatures at any cost. And thus the seeds are sown for a human progeny which will become more and more miserable from one generation to another, as long as Nature’s will is scorned." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Chapter 4.
"The völkisch concept of the world recognizes that the primordial racial elements are of the greatest significance for mankind. In principle, the State is looked upon only as a means to an end and this end is the conservation of the racial characteristics of mankind. Therefore on the völkisch principle we cannot admit that one race is equal to another. By recognizing that they are different, the völkisch concept separates mankind into races of superior and inferior quality. On the basis of this recognition it feels bound in conformity with the eternal Will that dominates the universe, to postulate the victory of the better and stronger and the subordination of the inferior and weaker. And so it pays homage to the truth that the principle underlying all Nature’s operations is the aristocratic principle and it believes that this law holds good even down to the last individual organism." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Chapter 13.
"Mental differences between the lowest men and the animals are less than those between the lowest and the highest man." -- Ernst Haeckel, Father of German Ecology
Source: Ernst Haeckel, The History of Creation, vol. 2, p. 366.
"Difference which exists between the lowest, so-called men, and the other higher races is greater than between the lowest men and the highest apes." -- Adolf Hitler
Source: Hitler quoted in Heinz Bruecher, Ernst Haeckels Bluts- und Geisteserbe (München: Lehmann, 1936), p. 91.
"The German people have always shown their great love of animals and the question of animal protection was always near their hearts. For thousands of years the German people have always looked upon their household and farmyard animals as their companions, in the case of horses as their fighting companions, and as God's creatures. To the German, animals are not merely creatures in the organic sense, but creatures who lead their own lives and who are endowed with perceptive facilities, who feel pain and experience joy and prove to be faithful and attached. ...Under the influence of foreign conceptions of justice and a strange comprehension of law, through the unhappy fact that the exercise of justice was in the hands of people alien to the nation (i.e., Jews) -- because of all these conditions, until now, the animal was considered a dead thing under the law." -- Hermann Goering, August 1933
Source: Hermann Goering, The Political Testament of Hermann Goering. Tr. H.W. Blood Hermann (London: John Lang, 1939), pp. 70f.
"The external appearance of any construction projects that are created during the time of the National Socialist Reich must take on the sensibility of our time. Factories are the workplaces of our National Socialist racial comrades. Streets and highways carry the name of the Führer. Settlements today are not isolated communities, but rather parts of greater city-construction plans. Every work site must be properly located within its neighborhood and surrounding setting (i.e., the natural world)." -- Fritz Todt
Source: Deutsche Technik, May 1938, p. 209.
"We do not build speedways, but roads which correspond to the character of the German landscape." -- Fritz Todt
Source: Fritz Todt, "Vortrag in der Leipzig-Hochschule am 6.2.1934" in Die Autobahn, 4/1934, p. 125.
"For decades engineers have stood accused that their buildings do not have any cultural value. We have attempted to liberate engineering of this accusation. As National Socialists we are dedicated to working with boldness, but also with love of the Volk and our landscape in mind. These roads do not serve transportation alone, they also bind our Fatherland. In these highways our engineering will reflect the National Socialist movement." -- Fritz Todt
Source: Deutsche Technik, June 1935, p. 270.
"The German landscape is something unique that we cannot disturb and have no right to destroy. The more densely populated our 'living space' becomes with settlements, the greater our hunger will grow for unspoilt nature. The ever increasing spiritual damage caused by life within the big city will make this hunger practically uncontrollable ... when we build here on this the landscape of our homeland we must be clear that we will protect its beauty; and in places where this beauty has already disappeared, we will reconstruct it." -- Fritz Todt
Source: Franz W. Seidler, Fritz Todt: Baumeister des Dritten Reiches (München: F.A. Herbig, 1986), p. 113.
"War has returned to its primitive form ... Today war is nothing but a struggle for the riches of nature. By virtue of an inherent law, these riches belong to he who conquers them." -- Adolf Hitler, 10 October 1941
Source: Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Table Talk, 1941-1944. tr. N. Cameron & R.H. Stevens (New York: Enigma Books, 2000), p. 51.
"Despite all its efforts, the side [in war] that hasn't got the natural riches must end by going under. The world's wealth is boundless, and only a quarter of the surface of the globe is at present at humanity's disposal. It is for this quarter that everyone is fighting. And its all in the natural order or things -- for it makes for the survival of the fittest." -- Adolf Hitler, 13 October 1941
Source: Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Table Talk, 1941-1944. tr. N. Cameron & R.H. Stevens (New York: Enigma Books, 2000), pp. 53f.
"From now on, one may consider that there is no gap between the organic and inorganic worlds." -- Adolf Hitler, 24 October 1941
Source: Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Table Talk, 1941-1944. tr. N. Cameron & R.H. Stevens (New York: Enigma Books, 2000), p. 84f.