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 Brahmins, 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.
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 " innocent black brothers whom force and injustice have delivered into devilish clutches" as "belonging to the blackest pages of mankind's criminal record".
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.
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 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-race of the white Caucasian race 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, Estonia-Swedes, Faroese, Icelanders, British/Irish and Dutch people).
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