Adolf Hitler’s Armed Forces: A Triumph for Diversity?

V. K. Clark | July 1, 2009; revised February 29, 2012

Full, revised second edition on Amazon: https://amazon.com/dp/1545487502/

While difficult to accept, this is an accurate description of what happened in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Though the NS Germans initiated their war with a “racist” doctrine in mind, one that sought to create a “new order” for Europe, with Germany at the center and German elites at the top of the European political and racial hierarchy (a German version of “white man’s burden”), they nevertheless swapped this doctrine for one that promoted internationalism and tolerated multicultural and interethnic cooperation and intimate relations. Many NS Germans were deeply affected by the non-Germans with whom they fought and worked. For example, Fritz Freitag ended up “throwing” Nazi doctrine “to the wind,” and instead focused on building a Ukrainian liberation army.

We read in National Socialism and Race by Dr. A. J. Gregor:

Dr. Walter Gross, head of the Rassenpolitische Amt of the National Socialist Party, said:

“We appreciate the fact that those of another race are different from us… Whether that other race is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ is not possible for us to judge. For this would demand that we transcend our own racial limitations for the duration of the verdict and take on a superhuman, even divine, attitude from which alone an ‘impersonal’ verdict could be formed on the value or lack of such of the many living forms of an inexhaustible nature.”

Less than a year later, in 1939, he defined the official position of mature National Socialist race theory:

“A serious situation arose through the fact that other people and States, because of German race laws…felt themselves attacked and defamed.

…For example the whole world of the Far East remained for a long time under the impression that the Germans…had designated them as non-Aryan, and as non-Aryans inferior rabble. That the Germans had designated them unworthy, second class humanity and that the Germans imagined themselves as the sole bearers of culture… What could we say to those who saw in German racism a fundamental defamation of men of other races? We could do nothing other than, with patience and conviction, repeat that German racism does not evaluate or deprecate other racial groups… It only recognizes, scientifically, that differences exist… We have often been disturbed by the indiscretion or even stupidity in our own land when, just after we had carefully made clear to some people or other that we respected and honored…their racial qualities, some wild fool manufactured his own ideas about race and declared that these same people were racially inferior and stood somewhere below the cow or the ass, and that their characteristics were degrading or impure and lord knows what else! By such idiotic assertions they were repelled and offended, not only alien peoples in distant parts of the world but even our own neighbors in Europe, many times even friends of National Socialist Germany bound to us historically and in destiny.”

Finally, late in the war, even under the gathering shadows of defeat, the headquarters of the Reichsführer SS [Himmler] published the work of Dr. Ludwig Eckstein. He carefully dissected the remains of the Nordicism purchased over a decade before at so high a cost, and concluded:

“While supporting our own race, and if necessary fighting against other races to protect its right to existence, we should not overlook the fact that almost all races display something in themselves that is sound and biologically resolved and therefore beautiful, natural and valuable… Each race carries first of all the measure of worth in itself. When once we understand this then we do not foster feelings of inferiority in others, a consequence that the hitherto existing race theories have too often achieved…”.

In a telephone interview with German World War II survivor Gunter Anstaett (who recently passed away), I was informed for the first time that foreigners who were working under “forced labor” contracts in Germany were essentially as free as Germans themselves. The forced labor characterization, according to Gunter, was misleading. Foreigners were paid for their work and allowed to bring their families to live in Germany with them. Gunter’s testimony is corroborated by others I have spoken with as well as various books. These people enjoyed leisure activities while ethnic Germans were slaughtered by the tens-of-thousands on the Eastern front. Theory and reality in the Third Reich differed in fundamental ways, so unless we speak directly with those who lived in Europe at the time, we will never know all of what happened between Germans and non-Germans in their day-to-day lives. This study answers this unknown as best as possible, because it has been ignored for too long.

We begin with terminology. When I use the NS terms Mischlinge, Volljude, and Halbjude, my intent is not “racist”. I use these terms because they were used by the NS Germans, so please do not mistake NS terminology as mine. Secondly, I use the term mulatto in the historical sense. I am objective towards the Third Reich and its leadership, so I ask those who have a one-sided (subjective) approach to Hitler and the Third Reich to please refrain from judging my intent or bias until they have read my book, Black Nazis! A Study of Racial Ambivalence in Nazi Germany’s Military Establishment. There is a reason why I presented my case as it is. Hopefully people will come away from this ‘war and society study’ with an understanding of:

  • racial dynamics in all Western societies before and since World War II;
  • Axis history in general;
  • Allied war criminality;
  • non-German Wehrmacht and SS service (mainly volunteerism);
  • Adolf Hitler’s ambivalent racial views;
  • racial changes that occurred in spite of the official NS race ethos (Weltanschauung) as a result of the war;
  • the unpredictable treatment of Jews, blacks, non-Germans, and mixed-race people in NS Germany and in Europe.

When I use the term “racial ambivalence,” I use it in the literal sense: many NS Germans were literally “of two minds” about race. History relating to the National Socialist era is usually rife with emotion and bias and this subjectivity prevents us from seeing what actually happened in the Third Reich and why. Few historians have asked why so many ethnic minorities and foreigners supported the NS military apparatus. Likewise few have asked how so many mulattoes, Africans, Roma and Jews survived the war in spite of discrimination, and “atrocities” that were allegedly committed against them. This study focuses on those who survived the Nazi regime and why, not on those who died. (Readers should consult my latest effort, coauthored with Wilfried Heink, hitler & himmler UNCENSORED [2012] to see the revisions I have made since publishing Black Nazis in 2009.)

The Waffen SS were mostly non-German volunteers. Most historians continue to neglect the motivations of these men and women who fought for Hitler. Historians have generally described this interracial phenomenon as “inexplicable” when there is more than enough evidence of motivations. Furthermore Hitler was ambivalent about his own racial views, and so were many prominent ‘Nazis’, such as Franz Wimmer-Lamquet (who married an Arabian woman) and Alfred Rosenberg (who supported an independent Ukraine). Unless a penchant for tolerance and acceptance of the “other” is present, then no tolerance or acceptance of the “other” will occur in a genuine way. Many ‘Nazis’ became great friends with non-Germans. Hitler and Himmler both went out of their way to accommodate their Arab-Semitic volunteers, and others. Hitler met with the Grand Mufti (putting him up in Germany and paying him RM 130,000 per month), but failed to meet with the “Aryan” leader of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt (or even Winston Churchill). Hitler was willing to contradict his own Weltanschauung in order to achieve what he needed to politically and militarily. This ambivalence was not limited to the military sphere, however. It extended into the realm of NS society both before and during the war. For example, while Blacks could not act in America at the time, — only blackface was permitted — they were encouraged to act in NS Germany, and were well paid. Another example: Hitler did not have to allow Blacks to compete in the 1936 Olympics. We should ask ourselves whether the Southern US might have acted as Hitler did in this regard.

One study of the SS, entitled Hitler’s Foreign Divisions (edited by Chris Bishop), offers the following explanation for the international character of the SS.

Few people realize just how international were the German forces of World War II. It is estimated that nearly two million foreign nationals served under the Swastika. Although towards the end of the war many were transferred to the SS, large numbers served with the Army, particularly on the Eastern Front. The most committed of the foreign volunteers found a home in the SS, until parts of it were more like a German equivalent of the French Foreign Legion than the elite of the German race.

Although the SS did not welcome non-German volunteers until midway through the conflict in Russia, the idea of recruiting such men dated back to before the war. In his quest for a pan-Germanic Europe, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had decreed in 1938 that non-Germans of suitable ‘Nordic’ origin could enlist in the Allgemeine SS [emphasis added].1

Bishop’s conclusion about the character of the future German elite, as Himmler envisioned it, is nearly identical to my own. We seem to agree that the future German elite was to be selected by a combination of “physiognomy, mental and physical tests, character, and spirit.” Bishop concluded that Himmler envisioned an “aristocratic” class that would combine “charismatic authority with bureaucratic discipline.” This then typified “a new human type—warrior, administrator, scholar and leader, all in one—whose messianic mission was to repopulate Europe.”2 The “superman” notion was a result of Allied propaganda taking hold of, and exploiting, some of the radical ideas put forth by Friedrich Nietzsche, not by Hitler. Hitler discussed a similar vision as Himmler—regarding future German leadership—with Otto Wagener, an early SA leader and one of Hitler’s first economic advisors. However, in contrast to Himmler, Hitler emphasized character, honor, and merit over biology.

Hitler was a ‘merit man’, and this cropped up in many conversations he had with subordinates and officials. Hitler exhibited ambivalence when it came to race: he made exceptions to his own ideology. He told Wagener at one point that “retainers” (non-Germans) were as common as “heroes” (racial Germans) in early German society. The context and tone of this conversation and others, as far as can be deduced from the English translation, suggests that Hitler was open to the idea of limited foreign blood in the German folk-body (Volkskörper). Even when he seemed adamantly against Jewish blood infusion, he continued to make exceptions. The military and organizational performance and dedication of various ethnic minorities, such as Erhard Milch and Bernhard Rogge (both Jewish), as well as foreigners, such as the Grand Mufti (Arab) and Ante Pavelic (Croatian), affected Hitler’s thinking. In one of Axis Europa’s military history journals Hitler praises Muslims for their reliability. He expressed admiration for many of his foreign allies, including Muslims, Croats and Cossacks. By Lawrence Dennis’s own account, Hitler sat down and spoke with him one-on-one. Dennis was half-black.3 Hitler also spoke with African American Dr. S. J. Wright in 1932, which I discuss in Black Nazis!

As many of us know, Winifred Wagner and others, like Heinrich Hoffmann, convinced Hitler on more than one occasion to treat Jews with kindness. Thousands were granted his personal “German” clemency (Deutschblütigkeitserklärung). The fact that Jews could become “German blooded” was an unprecedented display of tolerance for the time period in question. The US did not do this for blacks or Jews at that time.

No historian has done a more thorough job examining this NS-Jewish phenomenon than Bryan Mark Rigg. However, Rigg, like many others, failed to answer why Hitler granted Jewish people clemency in the first place. While he affirms that Hitler made exceptions to his own ideology for the sake of military expediency, he does not explain why Hitler granted Milch or other Jews clemency before the war. Nor does he adequately explain why clemency was granted in 1944 and 1945—a time by which Hitler knew he was losing the war. His argument does not go far enough in explaining why Hitler exempted Jews and Roma (Zigeuner) from service in 1944 and 1945, by which time Germany needed every able-bodied man. Hitler did not allow Russian collaborator Andrei Vlasov independence until 1945. If he was so desperate for manpower, then why did he hold Vlasov’s Russian volunteers back until it was too late, and why exempt Jews and Roma at all?

These are questions that Antonio J. Muñoz, Vladimir Baumgarten, and Peter Huxley-Blythe answered more adequately. However none of these historians questioned whether Russians were reliable. Himmler’s “top secret” Posen speech of October 25th suggests that Russians were not reliable. These historians all seem to agree that had Hitler and the ‘Nazis’ been more tolerant earlier on, they would have won the war. This is pure speculation. For all we know these foreigners could have caused the Germans to lose the war sooner than they did for any number of reasons—e.g., poor morale, indiscipline, etc. The Dirlewanger and Kaminski brigades were predominantly foreign, and included many Roma and Slavs, but their performance was so poor and their war crimes so atrocious that the Germans had to disband them. Kaminski was killed by the SS. Many of the “Asiatic” men in the Niedermayer Division did not perform well under pressure.

All of this was reported to Hitler. We may therefore assume that the poor performance of most Russians factored into his decision to only use the Russians under Vlasov politically as opposed to militarily. The fact that Hitler did not aim to liberate Russians also played a part in his decision not to use Vlasov’s men earlier, but his attitude changed by the end of the war. The stenographic record proves that Hitler understood that the most he could hope for was to stall the Russian advance, and nothing more. He hoped that the Americans, French, and British would “come to their senses,” helping him and his men halt and repel the Bolsheviks, which is ultimately what happened during the subsequent Cold War.

Had the ‘Nazis’ been as “racist” as most historians have said they were, they could not have obtained the level of support they did. Even after Stalingrad, Spaniards, Slavs, Frenchmen and many thousands of other non-Germans continued to fight for the Germans on a volunteer basis. French and Arab volunteers gave their lives in the final fight for the capital of Berlin in 1945. Hitler continued to allow thousands of Jewish men to serve, and many did so with tenacity and valor. One has to call into question whether all of these Jewish men and other non-Germans were as opposed to the Nazi regime as they claimed after the fact. Their tenacity and determination suggests otherwise. Bernhard Rogge, Helmuth Wilberg, Erhard Milch, and Ernst Prager come to mind. Hans Hauck, a mulatto, wanted to join the Wehrmacht to prove that he was as “German” as an ethnic German. He chose to remain in Soviet captivity even though he was given a chance to leave with his comrades. He did so to “prove that he was German.” Such behavior seems unimaginable given what we are told about NS treatment of blacks and mixed-race individuals. The truth is that relations were dynamic and more complicated than most historians have led us to believe. Hauck was even promoted to private first class.

Why such a controversial thesis?

When I first saw the books about all of these foreigners and ethnic minorities in NS service I was dumbstruck. Historians should not be comfortable with the fact that even many formally educated people (I was an undergraduate at the time) have no idea that over two million foreigners and ethnic minorities fought for the Axis. I examined their motives and thoughts as well as the thoughts and motives of Hitler and other NS Germans to explain this phenomenon: why and how did they serve such an “evil” and “racist” regime? I examined POWs, forced laborers, conscripts and volunteers: in order to get an honest picture of what these men and women went through and what they thought of the Axis.  What I found, and which was initially shocking, is that the NS Germans were not the “evil racists” we have been told they were.

Upon seeing part of Hitler’s Platterhof speech of May 26, 1944 in John Lukacs’ excellent biography The Hitler of History, I decided to get the speech and translate it into English myself (with Wilfried Heink). No historian had translated this speech, which is remarkable when one sees its content. It is a revealing speech, one in which Hitler admits having been wrong about race and Volk. While Hitler’s outlook remained “Völkisch nationalist,” he says that the strength of the German people was its multiraciality. He says the German Volk is a “mixed-race” Volk, but resolves to nurture the Nordic race nucleus more than the others, because he felt this nucleus was the most qualified for leadership and state organization.

In the Platterhof speech Hitler emphasizes merit above all. Naturally he equates Nordic with merit. Here is an example. General Sepp Dietrich, a former chauffeur and Kaiserine private (deridingly referred to as “a village grocer” by some historians), was likely considered a ‘Nordic German’ by Hitler in the light of his leadership talent, whether this was correct or not. Dietrich is talented so his Nordic genes are predominant; because his Nordic genes are predominant, Dietrich is talented. This view of Germans was a partial retraction of official racial doctrine, because any individual with the right kind of talent could become a leader or organizer, regardless of whether he was ‘pure’ German.

Hitler was more tolerant of non-German people than was, say, General Heinz Guderian. On at least one occasion Guderian requested “racially pure” divisions (see the stenographic record of Hitler’s military conferences, edited by David Glantz). If a “Jewish soldier” exhibited leadership and organizational talent, then that Jewish individual received Hitler’s personal clemency. In the light of this information we may speculate, as most historians do, that had Hitler won the war, he would have become even more tolerant. Some of his most talented officers were mixed-race or foreign-blooded (e.g., Admiral Bernhard Rogge, Field Marshal Erhard Milch, and Léon Degrelle of the SS Wallonie Division). The two Sabac el Cher sons, Herbert and Horst, both mulattoes, were presumably exempted by Hitler and allowed to serve in the Wehrmacht (Horst was in the Stahlhelm in 1935).

Primitive biologism

Hitler ridiculed Himmler’s and others’ “primitive biologism” early on. This suggests that Hitler was tolerant than previously thought. The Otto Wagener memoirs are filled with Hitler’s ambivalent statements on race. Likewise Hitler’s “table talks” are contradictory. Since Hitler seemed to have consistently said contradictory things, we may conclude that he was consistently ‘of two minds’ about certain things, including race. This is a more cogent explanation of his personal acceptance of so many Jewish and foreign soldiers within German ranks than that offered by most historians.

Aryan Christ

I want to digress a moment and talk about Hitler’s “Aryanization” of Jesus. Rigg provided an irrational explanation of Hitler’s “Aryanization” of Christ. If one examines what Hitler said about Christ early on, one sees that he really did believe that Christ was non-Jewish. This is obvious in the Wagener memoirs and Bormann records (Hitler’s Table-Talk, 1941-1944). Hitler was not alone. Many German theologians, who were not ‘Nazis’ or Hitler supporters, also believed that Jesus was non-Jewish. No historian to my knowledge has done a better job of exploring and analyzing this phenomenon than Richard Steigmann-Gall. His study offers a rational explanation of the “Aryanization” of Christ by so many Germans and ‘Nazis’. One would do well to read what he wrote. Rigg fell short in this respect, though his research on Jewish soldier motivations and thoughts is unparalleled.

The context of the time period

While there was racial discrimination in NS Germany, there was racial discrimination in America, Britain, France, Poland, Russia, Japan, China, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and Italy. Gerald Horne (author of Race War!) said that the British, in spite of their propaganda stating otherwise, regularly and secretly discriminated against Black soldiers. The English concealed their “racism” while the Germans were open about their views. Blacks were not promoted by the British because they were Black. According to Madhusree Mukerjee, British leaders also fooled Indians with the ‘equality facade’: Lord Irwin told Amery that the Indians could be appeased via “[…] some facade which will leave the essential mechanism of power still in our hands.” According to Horne the British used conscripted Indian soldiers as cannon fodder in China. White British blood was apparently too precious to be spilled fighting against “inferior” Chinese, who the British despised, abused, wantonly murdered and regularly degraded. As mentioned, Sabac el Cher’s two sons, both of whom were ‘mulatto’, served in Hitler’s Wehrmacht, as did Mandenga Ngando (in 1940),4 a Cameroonian German. Article VII of the First Supplementary Decree made this possible. Numerous Blacks served during the Battle for Moscow, and at least one fell there (this was likely Horst). According to Rigg’s book Lives of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers, 2,000 full Jews, 60,000 half-Jews and 90,000 quarter-Jews served in Hitler’s Wehrmacht and SS. This may even be an underestimate.

Allied apologists are quick to point out how the Germans wanted to keep control in German hands once they had successfully wooed or subdued the populations of Eastern Europe and West Russia, all the while avoiding the fact that the Allies did this. Hitler was apparently “ueber-racist” and “evil” because he subjugated white peoples (unacceptable), while the British and Americans subjugated nonwhite peoples (acceptable). Churchill arrogantly said, “We are, therefore, fighting not for the cause of India alone but for humanity as well.” For all of humanity, eh? It is clear from this quote, and countless others, that “humanity” was synonymous with white skin in Churchill’s eyes. British leaders at that time were ueber-racists whose raison d’etre was to “weld” nonwhites together, by force and fraud, with their superior “knowledge,” “law,” and “higher civilization.” It was, in Elder Churchill’s words, “[their] title to India,” as noted by Mukerjee.

Non-Germans in Hitler’s service: asset or liability?

At least two million non-German foreigners and ethnic minorities served in Hitler’s armed forces at one point or another. Without foreign and non-German help, the Germans would not have had their Western defenses prepared in time for the Allied invasion. And the partisans would have been much more of a problem. Now, Hitler’s military was the most culturally, ethnically, and religiously diverse in Western history, but we are supposed to believe that Hitler was an ueber-racist?

Numerous ‘Nazis’ were not adamant “racists.” Some ‘played the role’ simply to advance politically and personally. Himmler may have been one of these types since he was so excited about, and accommodating of, Arab-Semites, Slavic Eastern volunteers, and Roma early on. Unlike one of the members of Winston Churchill’s cabinet, Himmler did not experience “physical revulsion” upon seeing a Black person (see Mukerjee’s Churchill’s Secret War). Himmler’s tolerance causes one to ask whether he was really as racist as he made himself out to be. His Posen speech suggests that he wasn’t. Antonio Muñoz’s findings as well as photographic evidence featured in Borsarello and Palinckx’s Wehrmacht and SS indicate that he was open to recruiting Senegalese and Afro-British POWs to serve Germany in some capacity as well (not necessarily in combat). Richard Steigmann-Gall exposed Bormann’s anti-Christianity in The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945 as disingenuous just as several historians exposed Himmler’s ueber-racism as disingenuous (as did Himmler himself), though likely inadvertently.

We should ask those who believe that Hitler and the ‘Nazis’ were “white supremacists”: how should we account for the incredible degree of non-German and ethnic minority collaboration during World War II? If Antonio Munoz’s figures are accurate, then at least 1.5 million of these volunteers and conscripts were Russians. Can Zionist Jews, as members of a modern ethnostate, boast of such high levels of foreign and ethnic minority collaboration and volunteerism? How about former Rhodesia? Hundreds of thousands of NS collaborators were volunteers. How many Palestinians, Persians, Jordanians, or Syrians volunteer to fight for the IDF and the Israeli ethnostate? Some have, of course, but not two million or more. Foreigners and non-Germans even volunteered for Schuma (security police), SS, and Gestapo service during the Third Reich. Can Israel’s Mossad boast the same? These are comparative questions we should ask ourselves, without emotion, to understand what happened in NS Germany and why. The ‘Nazis’ were not the ueber-racists historians claimed they were. This is an important admission when we consider the historical context vs. apartheid ethnostates today, which are expected to abide by liberal-democratic principles.

Uncle lynch

Franklin Roosevelt opposed anti-lynching laws against African Americans for the sake of political expediency. In an incredible admission to Walter White, head of the NAACP, he said, “If I come out for the anti-lynching bill now, they will block every bill I ask Congress to pass to keep America from collapsing. I just can’t take that risk.” Furthermore,  according to the New World Encyclopedia,  “After 1942, when Roosevelt was made aware of the Nazi extermination of the Jews by Rabbi Stephen Wise, the Polish envoy Jan Karski and others, he refused to allow any systematic attempt to rescue European Jewish refugees and bring them to the US.”5 To this day the US public is mostly unaware of these incredible examples of Roosevelt’s racism and arrogance.

Some Blacks were literally incinerated to death by hostile white mobs eager to unleash their aggression against an easy target.6 While many Africans and Afro-Germans were discriminated against in NS Germany, the NS government never advocated or endorsed lynching of blacks, nor was racism against Africans institutionalized. Independent researcher Friedrich Berg, a man born during World War II, said that German children admired Jesse Owens, and looked up to him in spite of his race.7 This was relayed to Mr. Berg by a man who lived in NS Germany at the time. There is no reason to doubt the veracity of this man’s claim: Germans cheered Owens and repeatedly chanted his name – “Jess-ah O-vens, Jess-ah O-vens” – at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Owens told the press that he was not forced to sit at the back of German buses, nor was he disallowed to stay at the nicest hotels. This was not the case in Britain: prominent Black visitors to Britain were barred from high end hotels. Mr. Berg’s acquaintance also mentioned that Owens could have walked into any bar in Germany and been treated as well as a German patron. Contrast this with the fact that in Britain and the US, even prominent Blacks were forced to stand in buses and were never allowed to stay in classy areas designated “whites only”. African American journalist and author Roi Ottley recounted many of the every day horrors of British and US treatment of Blacks in his book No Green Pastures. Ottley reported that British boys lit Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “frizzly hair” on fire “to see if it would burn.”8 Such crass racism amongst the youth of Britain at the time is largely neglected by today’s historians, because it does not fit today’s whitewashed image of the Allies. Perhaps this is one reason why few historians mention that Cameroonian Louis Brody wrestled for the German Circus Crown throughout the NS years, or that he was the most famous Afro-German actor from the 1920s through 1940s.9

Martin Bormann issued a circular to all Gauleiters (regional leaders) in March 1936 calling for employment protection of Africans and Afro-Germans living and working in Germany. This order flew in the face of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws.10 We may presume that Hitler had something to do with this protective measure, as it is doubtful that Bormann himself was concerned about the welfare of Blacks. Jochen von Lang argued that Bormann did everything in his personal power to keep Jewish letters of appeal and clemency applications as well as disturbing war information from Hitler. One need not guess how this man’s actions may have adversely affected Afro-Germans and other Blacks living and working in Germany, especially in the light of Hitler’s declining health and political activity in the latter years.

Ueber-racists do not discard their “master race” doctrine because of military setbacks. Israelis have not discarded their racial supremacist doctrines, including apartheid, in spite of antagonistic world opinion and military setbacks. Lebanon 2006 was a PR and military disaster for Israel, but this setback has not halted the apartheid wall, Israeli settlement, agitation for war against Iran, or Zionist Senator Rick Santorum from espousing anti-Arab racism. Santorum stated that the Palestinian state does not exist. According to the Jewish Week, January 2, 2012, he told a questioner at a campaign event in Iowa,

“There are no Palestinians…All the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis. There are no Palestinians. This is Israeli land.”

“The West Bank is part of Israel,” which won it as “part of an aggressive attack by Jordan and others” in 1967. Israel doesn’t have to give it back any more than the United States has to give New Mexico and Texas to Mexico, which were gotten “through a war.”

Hitler never even said such a thing about Jews in an era in which “racism” and imperialism were the ‘order of the day’. Israel has yet to allow Palestinians into its highest levels of government and military. The US and Britain have yet to allocate top-level military and governmental command to non-whites. Whether or not any of these modern states qualify as ueber-racist is up to readers to decide. But they must do it without the hysteria normally associated with such controversial inquiries. If historians cannot get past the hysteria so typical of Third Reich historiography, then how are they going to explain phenomena like the Jüdische Ordnungsdienst (Jewish Order Police), which assisted the Germans with policing the main ghettos of Poland? An estimated 2,500 Jewish men served in Warsaw and half that number in the Lodz ghetto during the Nazi occupation.11

The ‘Nazis’ were neither ueber-racists nor uniquely racist. We do not get to decide who was racist based on who won World War II.

Harry Truman, not Adolf Hitler, said the following: “I think one man is as good as another so long as he’s honest and decent and not a nigger or a Chinaman. Uncle Will…says that the Lord made a white man out of dust, a nigger from mud, then threw up what was left and it came down a Chinaman.” Had Hitler said this historians would scream “ueber-racism!” Even though no such statements ever came out of Hitler’s mouth, not even about Jews in private, historians still argue that he was an ueber-racist, all the while ignoring or obfuscating the racism of both Allied and non-German Axis leaders. The British conducted “bizarre tests of racial purity,” but only Berlin’s ‘racial purity’ tests were subjected to international scrutiny and attack.12 Gerald Horne relayed that “[e]ven as the Empire seemed on the verge of being overrun by predatory Japanese troops, London was unwilling to accept offers of aid by people not of ‘pure European descent’— particularly for posts beyond simple soldiering.” He went on to say, “This applied to ‘Dartmouth Cadetships and direct entry cadetships’ where the ‘practice of the interview committee’ was to ‘reject boys who evidently have a colour stain’.”13 The British left racial references like this out of official memoranda, just in case these memoranda ended up in anti-British hands. To cite another example: Croatians were intolerant of Serbs during World War II, yet we never read about this in most history books. Is it because Croats and Serbs do not deserve our attention? Are they somehow ‘less important’ than other ethnic groups of the era? Is their racism nonexistent?

Hitler’s ueber-racism is an ahistorical construct. Historians decided who was “racist” and who was not on the basis of who won World War II. But historians cannot have it both ways: either all Western leaders are portrayed as the “racists” they were, or none of them are. We do not get to “cherry pick” our racists. If we do so, then we need to research ever further back in history and condemn Emperor Hadrian as a “genocidal anti-Semite,” Napoleon as an “anti-black racist” and “genocidal madman” (in the light of his actions against Roma and blacks), and the Romans as “racist” towards Greeks and Gauls. Some historians have actually started doing this.

Master racists?

The Germans never had a “master race” doctrine. Herrenvolk does not mean “master race.” That definition was the result of a combination of Allied misunderstanding of the German Führerprinzip and anti-German war propaganda. It meant ‘elite leadership corps’, and that was in reference to continental Europe, not the world. Hitler did not have world aims. Further the German terms folk (Volk) and race (Rasse) are not synonymous. Herrenvolk (“Volk or nation of leaders”) is not akin to Herrenrasse, and as a matter of fact, the ‘Nazis’ never used the term Herrenrasse (“race of leaders”). Even Hitler differentiated the two terms. He said, “Volk und Rasse ist nicht dasselbe.” (“Folk / nation and race is not the same thing.”) It appears that historians influenced by wartime Allied propaganda, and not the ‘Nazis’ themselves, invented this term and its subsequent racist connotation. The term is in fact English and was first used in America. Perhaps this reckless translation and usage of Herrenvolk explains why so many Western Allied leaders were shocked to see Russians fighting for ‘Nazis’ on the Western Front, Indo-Chinese in the Ostlegionen (Eastern legions), and why historians have been reluctant to describe NS racial dynamics, even today.

Gerald Horne described Japanese racial ideology as “sufficiently flexible to allow for…special appeal […].”14 This description applies to NS racial ideology too. Antonio J. Muñoz called into question the rationality of the Spanish volunteers after Franco’s official withdrawal. The Axis did not see itself as evil or racist, nor did it see itself as unjustified. Countless Spaniards who witnessed Communism in their civil war were more than willing to help Germany in her fight against that philosophy. Yes, they were “true believers” in continued European independence from Soviet imperialism. The majority of Axis soldiers, including those who were conscripted by the ‘Nazis’, were anti-Communist or anti-Bolshevik. Still others, like the French, were anti-British. Many were “racists” in their own right, but they did not see themselves this way. The Croats were exterminating ethnic minorities long before the Germans established the state of Croatia. Vichy French loyalists continued to defy British and American efforts to “liberate” France into 1943:

The final phase of this war within a war was the invasion of North Africa, where Vichy forces numbered 100,000. Despite a twin assault by US, British and Free French forces on Morocco and Algeria, Vichy garrisons, but especially ships and submarines, proved more determined in their resistance than expected. A French squadron was sunk by the US off the coast of Morocco, with 500 French sailors killed and 1,000 wounded.15

Numerous Frenchmen resisted the Allies until the very end of the war, whereupon they fought and died in the streets of the German capital.

Hopefully this study encourages more historians to stop looking at the Third Reich and Axis in rigid formulae, instead examining it with dynamism and transformation in mind. The war deeply affected many NS Germans. Many of them cast off their racism as a result of the camaraderie they developed with fellow non-German equals and subordinates. As White Russian exile Grigori von Lambsdorff confirmed, most non-Germans saw themselves as equals, not as ‘racial inferiors’. This calls into question how the ‘Nazis’ treated their non-German comrades-in-arms, in spite of official propaganda. If Lambsdorff and others saw themselves as equals, then NS racial degradation was either nonexistent or less pervasive than historians have claimed it was.

I conclude with a news article that examined the increasing number of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the US Armed Forces (to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan).16 In spite of America’s official commitment to non-racism and ethnic and social equality, it is knowingly and willingly recruiting racists and thereby tolerating racism in the military. The exigencies of war have caused this to happen, just as the exigencies of war caused the NS Germans to renege on their official racism. War often causes revolutionary changes in societies: those who used to be shunned by society become accepted. Oftentimes these newcomers swing the balance of power into their favor, because the exigencies of war favor those who are “needed” in the light of the declining military situation. In the light of this assessment we can say that the ‘Nazis’ became less racist at a faster rate than did the Allies, because they were forced to speed up the process of interracial cooperation as a result of the war. War became, to use Tina Campt’s phrase, a “vehicle of change” in the Third Reich. The ‘Nazis’ never segregated their troops. Blacks, Slavs, Asians, and Arabs fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Germans.

Concluding thoughts

If we look at America today, a fractured society with a racially disaparate military, we may confidently assume that the “racists” in the armed forces will be the ones to gain the upper hand, since they are ‘needed’. The balance of power has swung into their favor due to the exigencies of war. This could result in increased racialization, or racial awareness, in the US military and by extension US society, both of which are controlled by whites in spite of America’s official doctrine of non-racism and equality. Facades only last so long. America’s war is a “vehicle of change” in this respect. The point: we must not examine history or modern developments as though they are static. The Third Reich changed and America will too.

Works cited

  1. Hitler’s Foreign Divisions: Foreign Volunteers in the Waffen-SS 1940-1945, ed. Chris Bishop (London, UK: Amber Books, 2005), 8-9.
  2. Ibid., 10.
  3. Gerald Horne, The Color of Fascism: Lawrence Dennis, Racial Passing, and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in the United States (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2006), xv.
  4. Marianne Bechhaus-Gerst, Treu bis in den Tod: Von Deutsch-Afrika nach Sachsenhausen—Ein Lebengeschichte (Berlin, DE: Ch. Links Verlag, 2007), 154.
  5. New World Encyclopedia, “Roosevelt, Franklin Delano,” http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Franklin_Delano_Roosevelt (accessed August 29, 2009).
  6. Friedrich Berg, interview by author, August 27, 2009.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Roi Ottley, No Green Pastures: The Negro in Europe Today (London: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952), 27.
  9. Bechhaus-Gerst, 76.
  10. Ibid.
  11. David Littlejohn, Foreign Legions of the Third Reich Vol. 4: Poland, the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Free India, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Russia (San Jose, CA: R. James Bender Publishing, 1987), 27.
  12. Gerald Horne, Race War! White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2004), 237.
  13. Ibid., 236.
  14. Ibid., 147.
  15. Christopher Silvester, “England’s Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy, 1940-1942,” The Telegraph on the Web, September 1, 2009, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/6121052/Englands-Last-War-Against-France-Fighting-Vichy-1940-1942.html (accessed September 3, 2009).
  16. Matt Kennard, “Neo-Nazis are in the Army Now,” Salon on the Web, June 15, 2009, http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/06/15/neo_nazis_army/index.html (accessed July 1, 2009).

This essay in unrevised form is the actual preface to Veronica Clark’s book, Black Nazis! A Study of Racial Ambivalence in Nazi Germany’s Military Establishment. It is featured in Triumph of Diversity: A New Look at Hitler’s Armed Forces. Both of these titles went out of print in 2009.

Copyright©2009-2017. V. K. Clark. All Rights Reserved. None of this text may be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium without prior permission from the author.

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