Master race is an idea that one group of people is better than all other people. A group of people may believe themselves to be better because of their history, race, culture or some other reason. The idea first appeared in the 19th century. It was also used at different times in the 20th century, for example by the Nazi party and during Apartheid in South Africa.
History[change | change source]
This idea mostly began in the 19th century. It is not a theory liked by any scientists today. It claims there is a hierarchy of races (or that some races are better than others). It was also claimed that at the bottom of the hierarchy were black-skinned people from Africa and Aborigines from Australia, while pale-skinned Nordic people were at the top of the hierarchy.
Writers who started this idea[change | change source]
Arthur de Gobineau (1816–1882) believed that cultures become bad when races mix. In his book Moral and Intellectual Diversity of Races (French: Essai sir l’inégalité des races humaines, 1853–55), de Gobineau states that the mix of races has a bad influence on culture. In his view, the development of culture is linked to that of race. When empires are created, this leads to a mixing of races. According to de Gobineau, this would lead to degeneration and the downfall of the respective empire.
During this time, Charles Darwin started to develop his ideas about evolution. Social Darwinism is the attempt to use these concepts to predict the development of societies. Houston Steward Chamberlain believed the Germanic race was there "to save the world".
In colonialism, the concept was helpful too. Germany and Great Britain had many colonies. They would pick an ethnic group and say that this was better than the other groups. This would then lead to an indirect rule in the respective colony. People who conducted African studies in Germany developed a whole system, to make this easier. The Hamitic theory said that the Hamitic people were superior and should rule over the other Negroid people in Sub-Saharan Africa. John Hanning Speke (1827-64) and Charles Gabriel Seligman (1873-1940) were among the most prominent people with this idea. People such Johann Ludwig Krapf, Karl Richard Lepsius, or Carl Meinhof used the study of languages in this context. They said that languages that had a grammatical genus were Hamitic, those that did not were Negroid. Using these criteria to find suitable candidates for indirect rule also led to problems: According to the theory, the Maasai were Hamitic, and should rule in German East Africa. Fortunately, they were unable to make such a system for political and economic reasons. The explanation was that "out of bad luck", the Maasai were a Hamitic people kept at a lower level of social development. In their place, the Swahili were picked, as the "next-higher" people. In German South-West Africa, there was a similar problem: The theory identified the Khoikhoi as Hamitic, but they were too few to rule the country. For this reason, the Ovambo were picked for an indirect rule.
Arthur Schopenhauer liked this idea, but had the idea of "Übermensch": He said that the White race had become what it was though hardship and bad conditions in the North. Others who liked his theory were Guido von List and Lanz von Liebenfels.
"Aryans", Hitler's "Master race"[change | change source]
Hitler and his supporters, the Nazi party, took power in Germany in 1933. They were Social Darwinists, Social Darwinists believe that human races are stronger or weaker than each other. They believed that the stronger races would prove themselves better in the long run, this concept was called "survival of the fittest". Nazis believed that their race the Aryans were stronger than all the other races, because of this, they believed the Aryans would one day rule over the weaker races. The Nazis made laws that were based on their ideas of race. They prevented marriage between races so that the Aryan race would not become mixed with other "weaker" races because they believed it would weaken the master race. They claimed that "Aryans" were the "master race". They also made propaganda that blamed Jews for many things. Jews were considered by Nazis, a weak race whose weak values would infect the better values of the Aryan race. German Jews were not allowed to own property. In many cases, they were attacked and killed because of their Race. When Germany invaded other countries in Europe, they also started putting people into concentration camps. This systematic killing is known as The Holocaust today.
To help increase the numbers of Aryans, the Nazis set up special homes called "Lebensborn". These were for unmarried pregnant woman who were likely to have children that had Nordic or Aryan qualities. This mainly meant fair skin, blond hair, blue eyes. Though slight differences could still be considered Aryan as lots of people in Germany at the time had dark hair and eyes. Heinrich Himmler believed that this would help create more members of the master race. He arranged for nine Lebensborn homes to be built in Germany, and another ten in Norway. There were also Lebensborn in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. About 20,000 children were born in these homes during the Third Reich.