Untermensch (German for under man, sub-man, sub-human; plural: Untermenschen) is a term that became infamous when the Nazi ideology used it to describe "inferior people" such as Communists, Bolsheviks and "the masses from the East," that is Jews, Gypsies, and Slavic peoples including Poles, Serbs, Belarusians, Russians, and Rusyns. The term was also applied to black people and Mulattos. Jewish people were to resettle and when that proved impossible be exterminated in Holocaust while according to Generalplan Ost, most of the Slavs from East-Central Europe were destined to be removed from European territory under German control through murder and ethnic cleansing. While the Nazis were inconsistent in the implementation of their policy its genocidal death toll was in millions of victims.
Although usually considered to have been coined by the Nazis, the term "under man" in the above mentioned sense was also used by American author Lothrop Stoddard in the title of his 1922 pamphlet The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under-man. It was later adopted by the Nazis from that book's German version Der Kulturumsturz: Die Drohung des Untermenschen (1925). The German word "Untermensch" itself had been used earlier, but not in a racial sense, for example in the 1899 novel Der Stechlin by Theodor Fontane. Since most writers who employed the term did not address the question of when and how the word entered the German language, "Untermensch" is usually back-translated into English as "sub-human." The leading Nazi attributing the concept of the East-European "under man" to Stoddard is Alfred Rosenberg who, referring to Russian communists, wrote in his Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts (1930) that "this is the kind of human being that Lothrop Stoddard has called the 'under man.'" ["...den Lothrop Stoddard als 'Untermenschen' bezeichnete."] Quoting Stoddard: "The Under-Man – the man who measures under the standards of capacity and adaptability imposed by the social order in which he lives.
It is possible that Stoddard constructed his "under man" as an antipode to Friedrich Nietzsche's Übermensch (superman) concept. Stoddard doesn't say so explicitly, but he refers critically to the "superman" idea at the end of his book (p. 262). Wordplays with Nietzsche's term seem to have been used repeatedly as early as the 19th century and, due to the German linguistic trait of being able to combine prefixes and roots almost at will in order to create new words, this development was even somewhat logical. For instance, German author Theodor Fontane contrasts the Übermensch/Untermensch word pair in chapter 33 of his novel Der StechlinAs a matter of fact, even Nietzsche himself used "Untermensch" at least once in contrast to "Übermensch" in Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (1882), however he did so in reference to semi-human creatures in mythology, naming them alongside dwarves, fairies, centaurs and so on. Earlier examples of "Untermensch" include Romanticist Jean Paul using the term in his novel Hesperus (1795) in reference to an Orangutan (Chapter "8. Hundposttag").
Nazi propaganda and policy
In a speech in 1927 to the Bavarian regional parliament the Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher, publisher of Der Stürmer, used the term "Untermensch" referring to the communists of the German Bavarian Soviet Republic:
- It happened at the time of the [Bavarian] Soviet Republic: When the unleashed subhumans rambled murdering through the streets, the deputies hid behind a chimney in the Bavarian parliament.
The term "Untermensch" was utilized repeatedly in writings and speeches directed against the Jews, the most notorious example being a 1935 SS publication with the title "Der Untermensch" which contains an antisemitic tirade sometimes considered to be an extract from a speech held by Heinrich Himmler. In the pamphlet The SS as an Anti-Bolshevist Fighting Organization, Himmler wrote in 1936:
- We shall take care that never again in Germany, the heart of Europe, will the Jewish-Bolshevistic revolution of subhumans be able to be kindled either from within or through emissaries from without.
Another example for using the term "Untermensch," this time in connection with anti-Soviet propaganda, is another brochure, again titled "Der Untermensch", edited by Himmler and distributed by the Race and Settlement Head Office. SS-Obersturmführer Ludwig Pröscholdt, Jupp Daehler and SS-Hauptamt-Schulungsamt Koenig are associated with its production. Published in 1942 after the start of Operation Barbarossa, it is around fifty pages long and consists for the most part of photos casting an extremely negative light on the enemy (see link below for the title page). 3,860,995 copies were printed in the German language. It was also translated into Greek, French, Dutch, Danish, Bulgarian, Hungarian and Czech and seven other languages. The pamphlet states the following:
Just as the night rises against the day, the light and dark are in eternal conflict. So too, is the subhuman the greatest enemy of the dominant species on earth, mankind. The subhuman is a biological creature, crafted by nature, which has hands, legs, eyes and mouth, even the semblance of a brain. Nevertheless, this terrible creature is only a partial human being.
Although it has features similar to a human, the subhuman is lower on the spiritual and psychological scale than any animal. Inside of this creature lies wild and unrestrained passions: an incessant need to destroy, filled with the most primitive desires, chaos and coldhearted villainy.
A subhuman and nothing more!
Not all of those, who appear human are in fact so. Woe to him who forgets it!
Mulattos and Finn-Asian barbarians, Gipsy’s and black skin savages all make up this modern underworld of subhuman’s that is always headed by the appearance of the eternal Jew.
For Nazis the sub-humans were classified into different types and while Jews were to be exterminated as priority, Slavs could be exploited as slaves.
Historian Robert Jan van Pelt writes that for the Nazis, "it was only a small step to a rhetoric pitting the European Mensch against the Soviet Untermensch, which had come to mean a Russian in the clutches of Judeo-Bolshevism."
This concept included Jews, Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), non-Europeans, and Slavic peoples such as Poles, Serbs, Russians, Czechs, and Slovaks.
The Nazi ideology defined Slavs as untermenschen barely fit for exploitation as slaves. Hitler and Goebbels compared them to "rabbit family" or "stolid animals "that were "idle" and "disorganized" and spread like "wave of filth". The view that Slavs are subhuman was widespread among the German masses and chiefly applied to the Poles, and continued to find support even after the war. Biology classes in Nazi Germany schools taught about differences between the race of Nordic German "ubermensch" and "ignoble" Jewish and Slavic "subhumans".
Nazi anthropologists attempted to scientifically prove the historical admixture of the Slavs further East. Most Slavs are brachycephalic (short skull) which proves them non-Nordic. To pragmatic means to resolve military manpower shortages, the Nazis utilized soldiers from some Slavic countries, firstly from the Reich's allies Croatia and Bulgaria and also within occupied territories. The concept of the Slavs being "Untermensch" in particular served the Nazis for their political goals, it was used as justification for their expansionist policy and especially their aggression against Poland and the Soviet Union in order to conquer Lebensraum, particularly in Ukraine. Early plans of the German Reich (summarized as Generalplan Ost) envisaged the displacement, enslavement, and elimination of no less than 50 million people who were not considered fit for Germanization from territories it wanted to conquer in Europe, Ukraine's "chornozem" (black earth) soil being a particularly desirable zone for colonization by the "herrenvolk" (master race).
- Aryan certificate
- Generalplan Ost
- Genocides in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe
- Nazi crimes against ethnic Poles
- Nuremberg Laws
- Racial hygiene
- World War II persecution of Serbs
- Hitler, Germans, and the "Jewish Question" By Sarah Ann Gordon page 100
- Revisiting the National Socialist Legacy: Coming to Terms With Forced Labor, Expropriation, Compensation, and Restitution page 84 Oliver Rathkolb
- Snyder, T (2011) Bloodlands, Europe between Hitler and Stalin, Vintage, P144-5, 188
- Rees, L (1997) The Nazis, a warning from history, BBC Books, P126
- Mazower, M (2008) Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe, Penguin Press P197
- Stoddard, Lothrop (1922). The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under Man. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
- Losurdo, Domenico; translated by Marella & Jon Morris (2004). "Toward a Critique of the Category of Totalitarianism" (PDF, 0.2 MB). Historical Materialism (Brill) 12 (2): 25–55, here p. 50. doi:10.1163/1569206041551663. ISSN 1465-4466.
- Rosenberg, Alfred (1930). Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts: Eine Wertung der seelischgeistigen Gestaltungskämpfe unserer Zeit [The Myth of the Twentieth Century] (in German). Munich: Hoheneichen-Verlag. p. 214.
- Fontane, Theodor (1898). "Der Stechlin: 33. Kapitel". Der Stechlin [The Stechlin] (in German). ISBN 978-3-86640-258-4. "Jetzt hat man statt des wirklichen Menschen den sogenannten Übermenschen etabliert; eigentlich gibt es aber bloß noch Untermenschen, und mitunter sind es gerade die, die man durchaus zu einem ›Über‹ machen will. (Now one has established instead of the real human the so-called superhuman; but actually only subhumans are left, and sometimes they are the very ones that are tried to be declared as 'super'.)"
- Nietzsche, Friedrich (1882). "Kapitel 143: Größter Nutzen des Polytheismus". Die fröhliche Wissenschaft [The Gay Science] (in German). 3rd book. Chemnitz: Ernst Schmeitzner. "Die Erfindung von Göttern, Heroen und Übermenschen aller Art, sowie von Neben- und Untermenschen, von Zwergen, Feen, Zentauren, Satyrn, Dämonen und Teufeln war die unschätzbare Vorübung zur Rechtfertigung der Selbstsucht und Selbstherrlichkeit des einzelnen [...]. (The invention of gods, heroes, and overmen of all kinds, as well as near-men and undermen, of dwarfs, fairies, centaurs, satyrs, demons and devils was the inestimable preliminary exercise for the justification of the egoism and sovereignty of the individual [...]) [From the translation by Walter Kaufmann]"
- Jean Paul (1795). "8. Hundposttag". Hesperus oder 45 Hundposttage (in German). "Obgleich Leute aus der großen und größten Welt, wie der Unter-Mensch, der Urangutang, im 25sten Jahre ausgelebt und ausgestorben haben – vielleicht sind deswegen die Könige in manchen Ländern schon im 14ten Jahre mündig –, so hatte doch Jenner sein Leben nicht so weit zurückdatiert und war wirklich älter als mancher Jüngling. (Although people from the great world and the greatest have, like the sub-man, the orang-outang, lived out and died out in their twenty-fifth year, — for which reason, perhaps, in many countries kings are placed under guardianship as early as their fourteenth, — nevertheless January had not ante-dated his life so far, and was really older than many a youth.) [From the translation by Charles T. Brooks]"
- "Kampf dem Weltfeind", Stürmer publishing house, Nuremberg, 1938, 05/25/1927, speech in the Bavarian regional parliament, German: "Es war zur Zeit der Räteherrschaft. Als das losgelassene Untermenschentum mordend durch die Straßen zog, da versteckten sich Abgeordnete hinter einem Kamin im bayerischen Landtag."
- Himmler, Heinrich (1936 or 1937). Die Schutzstaffel als antibolschewistische Kampforganisation [The SS as an Anti-bolshevist Fighting Organization] (in German). Munich: Franz Eher Nachfolger. "Wir werden dafür sorgen, daß niemals mehr in Deutschland, dem Herzen Europas, von innen oder durch Emissäre von außen her die jüdisch-bolschewistische Revolution des Untermenschen entfacht werden kann."
- Office of United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality (1946). "Chapter XV: Criminality of Groups and Organizations – 5. Die Schutzstaffeln" (PDF, 46.2 MB). Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume II. Washington, D.C.: USGPO. p. 220. OCLC 315871222.
- Stein, Stuart D (8 January 1999). "The Schutzstaffeln (SS) – The Nuremberg Charges, Part I". Web Genocide Documentation Centre. University of the West of England. Retrieved 2010-07-10.
- Paul Meier-Benneckenstein, Deutsche Hochschule für Politik Titel: Dokumente der Deutschen Politik, Volume 4, Junker und Dünnhaupt Verlag, Berlin, 2. ed., 1937; speech held on 10th of September 1936; In German: "... das Untermenschentum, das in jedem Volke als Hefe vorhanden ist ...".
- Quality of Life: The New Medical Dilemma edited by James J. Walter, Thomas Anthony Shannon page 63
- Pelt, Robert-Jan van (January 1994). "Auschwitz: From Architect's Promise to Inmate's Perdition". Modernism/Modernity 1 (1): 80–120, here p. 97. doi:10.1353/mod.1994.0013. ISSN 1071-6068.
- "Hitler's Plans for Eastern Europe". Northeastern University. Archived from the original on 2012-05-27. Retrieved 2010-07-10.
- The Nazis considered any human being in the “east,” usually the Slavs, as “sub- human” only fit for slavery to the Germans. “Nazi racist ideology defined the Slavic peoples of Russia and Eastern Europe as an inferior race of Untermenschen.
Call from the Cave: Our Cruel Nature and Quest for Power - Page 278 Jon Huer.
- Sealing Their Fate (Large Print 16pt) By David Downing page 49
- Native Realm: A Search for Self Definition By Czeslaw Milosz page 132
- Hitler Youth, 1922-1945: An Illustrated History By Jean-Denis Lepage, page 91
- According to Nazi policy the Croats were classified as more "Germanic than Slavic" which was supported by the Croatia's fascist dictator Ante Pavelić, who maintained that the Croatians were descendants of the ancient Goths and "had the Panslav idea forced upon them as something artificial".
Rich, Norman (1974). Hitler's War Aims: the Establishment of the New Order, p. 276-7. W. W. Norton & Company Inc., New York.
- Norman Davies. Europe at War 1939-1945: No Simple Victory. Pp. 167, 209.
|Look up untermensch in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Der Untermensch propaganda poster published by the SS.
- Hitler's plans for Eastern Europe
- "Die Drohung des Untermenschen" This is an example of the term "Untermensch" being used in the context of the Nazi eugenics programme. The table suggests that "inferior" people (unmarried and married criminals, parents whose children have learning disabilities) have more children than "superior" people (ordinary Germans, academics). Note that the heading is the subtitle of the German version of Lothrop Stoddard's book.
- Der Untermensch: the Nazi pamphlet