Honorary Aryan (German: Ehrenarier) is a term from Nazi Germany. It was a status granted by the Nazi Bureau of Race Research, or by other Nazi members, to certain individuals and groups of people—who were not generally considered to be biologically part of the Aryan race—which certified them as being honorarily part of the Aryan race. The prevalent explanation as to why the status of "honorary Aryan" was bestowed by the Nazis upon other non-Nordic—or even less exclusively, non-Indo-European—peoples, is that the services of those peoples were deemed valuable to the German economy or war effort, or simply for other purely political reasons.
To the Jews
The term was sometimes ascribed to certain Jews out of pragmatic considerations. For instance, Jews who had been decorated in World War I by providing military service for the German Empire were unofficially commemorated as "honorary Aryans" and left unmolested. The same was true for Jews who held government positions before the First World War.
The term was also sometimes ascribed to certain Jews for personal reasons. For instance, when Emil Maurice, an early member of the Nazi Party and founder of the SS, was later discovered to have had Jewish ancestors by Heinrich Himmler, he was almost expelled (along with other members of his family) from the SS (in accordance with the new racial purity rules for SS officers that Himmler himself had mandated after becoming Reichsführer-SS), but was pardoned after being informally declared an "honorary Aryan" by Adolf Hitler—a close associate, longtime friend, and fellow prisoner (in Landsberg) of his—who came to Maurice's defense, and compelled Himmler to make an exception for Maurice and his brothers, via a secret letter written on August 31, 1935.
Another example is Erhard Milch, who was in charge of aircraft procurement for the Luftwaffe and reported directly to Hermann Göring. In 1935, Milch's ethnicity came into question because his father, Anton Milch, was alleged to be a Jew. This prompted an investigation by the Gestapo that Göring suppressed by producing an affidavit signed by Milch's mother stating that Anton was not really the father of Erhard and his six siblings, and naming their true father as Karl Brauer, her deceased uncle. These events and Milch's subsequently being issued, at Göring's urging, a German Blood Certificate by Adolf Hitler, prompted Göring to say famously "Wer Jude ist, bestimme ich" ("I decide who is a Jew.").
Some other mischlings who received a German Blood Certificate were Bernhard Rogge, Arty Johannes Zukertort, Karl Zukertort, Walter H. Hollaender, Helmut Wilberg, and Paul Ascher. Gotthard Heinrici, who was married to a half Jewish woman, received one for his family. Also the operetta composer Franz Lehár obtained such a status for his Jewish descent wife by Hermann Göring's brother Albert.
To the Japanese
While only certain Jewish individuals were granted the status, the term was ascribed to the entire Japanese people. Adolf Hitler had bestowed the title upon the Japanese following the Anti-Comintern Pact on Communism (signed in 1936), and it seemed that they were granted the status not simply for economic, military, or political reasons, but more so because of their racial integrity. In The Political Testament of Adolf Hitler, Hitler stated,
Pride in one's own race – and that does not imply contempt for other races – is also a normal and healthy sentiment. I have never regarded the Chinese or the Japanese as being inferior to ourselves. They belong to ancient civilizations, and I admit freely that their past history is superior to our own. They have the right to be proud of their past, just as we have the right to be proud of the civilization to which we belong. Indeed, I believe the more steadfast the Chinese and the Japanese remain in their pride of race, the easier I shall find it to get on with them.
For German nationalist reasons, Hitler had supported Japan as early as 1904, when during the Russo-Japanese War it had defeated the Russians, which he considered to also be a defeat of Austrian Slavism. He made a number of other statements expressing his respect and admiration for the Japanese in his book Mein Kampf. The idea that the Japanese were, in a civilizational sense, "honorary Aryans" was widespread. American president Theodore Roosevelt said that "Japan is the only nation in Asia that understands the principles and methods of Western civilization", and approved of the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905 which ended the latter's independence.
Although of a different race, the Japanese were considered by Nazi ideologists such as Himmler as having similar enough qualities with German-Nordic blood to warrant an alliance. Himmler, who possessed a great interest in, and was influenced by, the anthropology, philosophies and pantheistic religions of East Asia, mentioned how his friend Hiroshi Ōshima, the Japanese Ambassador to Germany, believed that the noble castes in Japan, the Daimyo and the Samurai, were descended from gods of celestial origin, which was similar to Himmler's own belief that "the Nordic race did not evolve, but came directly down from heaven to settle on the Atlantic continent."
Karl Haushofer, a German general, geographer, and geopolitician, whose ideas may have influenced the development of Hitler's expansionist strategies, saw Japan as the brother nation to Germany. In 1908, he was sent by the German Army "to Tokyo to study the Japanese Army and to advise it as an artillery instructor. The assignment changed the course of his life and marked the beginning of his love affair with the orient. During the next four years he traveled extensively in East Asia, adding Korean, Japanese, and Mandarin to his repertoire of Russian, French, and English languages. Karl Haushofer had been a devout student of Schopenhauer, and during his stay in the Far East he was introduced to Oriental esoteric teachings." It was based on such teachings that he came to make similar bestowals of his own upon the Japanese people, calling them the "Aryans of the East", and even the "Herrenvolk of the Orient" (i.e. the "Master race of the Orient").
The distinction was viewed by the Japanese themselves with pride, and moreover, as corroboration of their own, independent belief that they were superior to other Asians. The approximately 10,000 Japanese nationals who resided in Germany during World War II enjoyed more privileges than any other non-Caucasian ethno-national group under their "honorary Aryan" citizenship.
They were still subject to Germany's racial laws, however, which—with the exception of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws, which specifically mentioned Jews—generally applied to all "non-Aryans". Hitler's government began enacting the laws after taking power in 1933, and the Japanese government protested several racial incidents involving Japanese or Japanese-Germans that year. Influential Nazi anti-Semite Johann von Leers favored excluding Japanese from the laws due both to the alleged Japanese-Aryan racial link and to improve diplomatic relations with Japan. The Foreign Ministry agreed with von Leers and sought several times between 1934 and 1937 to change the laws, but other government agencies, including the Racial Policy Office, opposed the change.
An October 1933 statement by Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath which falsely claimed in response to the Japanese protests that Japanese were exempt, however, was widely publicized and caused many in Germany, Japan, and elsewhere to believe that such an exemption existed. Instead of a broad exemption, an April 1935 decree stated that racial discrimination cases involving non-Aryans that might jeopardize German diplomatic relations—i.e., Japanese—would be dealt with individually. Decisions on such cases often took years, with those affected unable to obtain jobs or interracially marry, primarily because the German government preferred as much as possible to avoid giving exemptions. The German government often exempted more German-Japanese than it preferred in order to avoid a repeat of the 1933 controversies, further in 1934 it prohibited the German press from discussing the race laws when Japanese were involved.
To the Finns
A similar concept was used by the Nazis in relation to Finland. As Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Finland participated in the invasion primarily to recover the territories it was forced to cede to the USSR after the Moscow Peace Treaty which ended the Winter War between the Finns and the Soviets. Military success quickly resulted in the Finnish occupation of Eastern Karelia. Because of their Finno-Ugric heritage, the Finns were initially classified by Nazi racial experts as a people unrelated to the other Nordic countries, in spite of a long history of political unity with Sweden. As a result the Swedish-speaking minority of Finland was favoured at first over Finnish speakers for recruitment into the Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS because they were categorically considered part of the "Nordic race".
Owing to Finland's substantial military contribution on the northern flank of the Eastern Front of World War II, Hitler decreed in November 1942 that "from now on Finland and the Finnish people be treated and designated as a Nordic state and a Nordic people", which he considered one of the highest compliments that the Nazi government could bestow upon another country.
- Anti-Comintern Pact
- German–Japanese relations
- Sino-German cooperation (1911–1941)
- Honorary Whites
- Racial policy of Nazi Germany
- Tripartite Pact
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