The Holocaust: Why Did It Happen?
On April 22, 1993 the Holocaust Memorial Museum was dedicated in Washington, D.C. The museum is supposed to be a reminder of the six million Jews (and others) who were exterminated at the behest of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi henchmen during World War II.
Civilized men lament the Holocaust (1933-45) as one of the darkest eras of modern history. There is, however, almost a conspiracy of historical silence—few journalists care to reflect upon just why Hitler and his associates perpetrated that infamous evil.
What was the motive that fired the lunacy of the Fuhrer’s (the word means “leader”) ambitions? The grim truth is, there is a direct connection between the Holocaust and the teachings of Charles Darwin and his dogma of biological evolution.
In 1859, Charles Darwin published his revolutionary book, The Origin of Species. Actually, the full title of the work is The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: or, The Preservation Of Favored Races In The Struggle For Life. In this book, the author contended that higher levels of biological existence are attained as the strong eliminate the weak in the struggle for survival.
Subsequently, Darwin produced yet another work, The Descent of Man (1871), in which he wrote even more explicitly:
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigourous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man (Darwin 1872, 13; emphasis added).
Darwin’s influence was tremendous and his ideas were applied to many areas of life. One of his admirers was Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), a German philosopher. Nietzsche took the famous naturalist’s reasoning to what he felt was its logical conclusion—he longed to see the development of a “super-race,” and he felt that such could only be achieved by the extinction of inferior races and individuals.
Nietzsche was a vigorous opponent of Christian morality, which he knew fostered support for the weak. One historian has written that Nietzsche’s cardinal idea was “the notion that natural selection should be permitted to operate unhindered in the case of human beings as it does with plants and animals.”
However, he believed that “before any such process of natural selection could operate, religious obstacles would have to be removed. Nietzsche therefore demanded that the moral supremacy of Christianity and Judaism should be overthrown” (Burns 1963, 809). He argued that the preservation of sick and suffering people contributed to the deterioration of the race (Flewelling 1946, 423).
In 1888, the German philosopher lapsed into a state of complete insanity which continued until his death in 1900. Had his views been practically applied to him, he would have been eliminated at that point.
His ideas did not die with him. Nietzsche’s views, coupled with the earlier notions of Johann Fichte (1762-1814)—who argued that the Germans were a superior race destined to assume leadership of the civilized world—provided the philosophical basis for Hitler’s policy which was implemented in the Holocaust.
Adolf Hitler was born in 1889. His childhood was an unhappy one and, early on, he was undisciplined and rebellious. Hitler fought in the German army during World War I (1914-1918) and was twice decorated. In 1920, he joined the German Workers’ party which eventually evolved into the Nazi party.
Adolf Hitler was a skillful manipulator of men and he gradually began to gain power. In 1923, he attempted to incite a revolution. The rebellion was foiled and he was sentenced to five years in prison. While there, Hitler began the composition of his famous book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle). In this wretched volume, the mad ruler set forth his views regarding the future of Germany.
He believed that the German people were the highest species on earth. Germans must be kept pure, he argued, so that German children would be “images of the Lord and not monstrosities halfway between man and ape” (Jenks 1979, 238). He felt that if the Jews were allowed to mingle with the superior species, it would render futile “an evolutionary higher stage of being” (Clark 1967, 115). When Hitler came into full power in the early 1930s, his beliefs were politically and militarily set in motion.
A key plan for the implementation of Hitler’s policies was the practice of eugenics. Eugenics has to do with the systematic elimination of biologically unfit individuals from society. In Mein Kampf, Hitler declared:
The mixing of the higher and lower races is clearly against the intent of nature and involves the extinction of the Aryan race. . . . Where Aryan blood has mixed with that of lower peoples the result has been the end of the bearers of culture (Howard and Rifkin 1977, 72).
Every student of history is familiar with how Hitler attempted to eliminate the “unfit” from German society. The deformed, the mentally ill, the Jews, etc.—none of those whom he deemed unworthy were spared. Again, though, the question is: what ideology was motivating this madman?
Though one hears precious little about it these days, careful scholars have not altogether ignored the connection between Hitler’s holocaustic policies and the evolutionary philosophy which the Fuhrer had adopted. In his monumental work, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer asked:
[W]here did Hitler get his ideas? . . . [H]e had somehow absorbed, as had so many Germans, a weird mixture of the irresponsible, megalomanical ideas which erupted from German thinkers during the nineteenth century.
Shirer goes on to mention by name such men as Fichte, Hegel (who inspired Marx and Lenin), Treitschke, Nietzsche and Richard Wagner, the composer (1960, 97).
Hitler almost idolized Nietzsche. He frequently visited the Nietzsche museum in Weimar “and publicized his veneration for the philosopher by posing for photographs of himself staring in rapture at the bust of the great man” (Shirer, 100). It has also been shown that Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), an evolutionary biologist contemporary with Darwin, was the man who introduced evolutionary concepts into German intellectual life, and thus he significantly helped to shape Hitler’s twisted thinking (Morris 1989, 72-74).
Sir Arthur Keith was one of Great Britain’s leading evolutionary anthropologists in the mid-1900s. In one of his popular books he conceded:
The German Fuhrer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practices of Germany conform to the theory of evolution (1947, 230).
Dr. Robert E. D. Clark has noted:
Adolf Hitler’s mind was captivated by evolutionary teaching—probably since the time he was a boy. Evolutionary ideas—quite undisguised—lie at the basis of all that is worst in Mein Kampf—and in his public speeches (115).
Dr. Edward Simpson, an evolutionary professor of biology at Purdue University, while attempting to weaken the association between Darwinism and the Holocaust, nonetheless confessed:
I don’t claim that Darwin and his theory of evolution brought on the holocaust; but I cannot deny that the theory of evolution, and the atheism it engendered, led to the moral climate that made a holocaust possible (1983, 24B).
In all the media attention that has been given to the Holocaust over the past several decades, this writer has not seen a solitary line from the popular press addressing the philosophical foundation upon which Nazism was based.
Why has no consideration been given to the ideological factors that spawned the horrible tragedy of the Holocaust? The answer is simple: modern journalists are intimidated by or enamored with the Darwinean hypothesis. They thus refuse to acknowledge the connection between the seed and the fruit.
But the association is historically undeniable. We might do well to reflect upon the words of George Santayana: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.”
We would urge our readers to carefully review these articles:
- Burns, Edward McNall. 1963. Western Civilizations – Their History and Their Culture. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co.
- Clark, Robert E. D. 1967. Darwin: Before and After. Chicago, IL: Moody.
- Darwin, Charles. 1872. The Descent of Man. New York, NY: Rand, McNally & Co.
- Flewelling, Ralph Tyler. 1946. The Things That Matter Most. New York, NY: The Ronald Press Co.
- Howard, Ted and Jeremy Rifkin. 1977. Who Should Play God? New York, NY: Dell.
- Jenks, William A. 1979. Adolf Hitler. World Book Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. Chicago, IL: World Book-Childcraft, International, Inc.
- Keith, Arthur. 1947. Evolution and Ethics. New York, NY: Putnam.
- Morris, Henry M. 1989. The Long War Against God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
- Shirer, William L. 1960. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
- Simpson, Edward. 1983. Another Side to the Evolution Problem. Jewish Press, January 7.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.