Gunnar Heinsohn

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Prof. Dr. Dr. Gunnar Heinsohn (autumn 2013)

Gunnar Heinsohn is a German sociologist and economist. He was born on November 21, 1943 in Gotenhafen (Gdynia, Poland) to Roswitha Heinsohn, née Maurer and the late Kriegsmarine Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Heinsohn, last serving on U-438. Since 1984, he has been a tenured professor at the University of Bremen, where he heads the Raphael-Lemkin Institut[1] for Comparative Genocide Research named for Raphael Lemkin. His list of publications includes almost 700 scholarly articles, conference presentations, and books.[2] His research has been focused on developing new theories regarding the history and theory of civilization.


Ancient history[edit]

Heinsohn proposed a revision of ancient chronology based upon stratigraphy.[3][4][5][6] Taking Immanuel Velikovsky´s revised chronology as a starting point, Heinsohn went on to criticize Velikovsky's chronology as Biblical fundamentalism, proposing an even more drastic revision that is being disputed in circles of chronological revisionists,[7] but is generally being rejected by mainstream historians. What seems to be unique with Heinsohn's approach is that his relative chronology is exclusively based on stratigraphy.[original research?]

His work on ancient chronology, based on an examination of the stratigraphic record, has reached some dramatic conclusions. Heinsohn opined that the currently accepted chronology was entrenched long before the scientific investigation of the past based on the chronology provided in the Old Testament. He accused 19th century archaeologists of constructing their chronology around Bible synchronisms and of, more or less, following the chronology recorded by Eusebius in the fourth century, who made use of the histories of Egypt and Mesopotamia as well as the Old Testament. According to Heinsohn, bible synchronisms led to pharaos Menes and Ramesses II being dated to the 4th millennium and the 14th century, respectively. As a result, Heinsohn concluded that they created a "phantom" history of two thousand years. In contrast, Heinsohn interpreted stratigraphic evidence to suggest that Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations arose around 1,100 BCE, not 3,200 BCE, as the textbooks say.

Heinsohn's ideas on ancient chronology were introduced to the English-speaking world in the Velikovskian journal Kronos in 1985.[8] They have found support with a small number of writers and academics, most of whom are favorably disposed towards Velikovsky; amongst whom are Professor of Philosophy Lynn E. Rose, Professor of Classics at Bard College William Mullen, Professor of Art History Lewis M. Greenberg, speech writer and long-time observer of the Velikovsky scene Clark Whelton, German independent scholar Dr. Heribert Illig, and British writer Emmet Sweeney. However, his views have been severely criticized by several students of Velikovsky-inspired ancient chronology revision: Aeon editor Dwardu Cardona,[9][10] New Zealand researcher Lester Mitcham,[11] University of New Orleans Professor of History William H. Stiebing, Jr.,[12] British researcher Anthony Rees[13] and Aeon publisher Ev Cochrane.[14] Stiebing's critique argued four points: (1) The great antiquity of civilization is based on more evidence than just the Old Testament, (2) epigraphy and philology disprove Heinsohn's revision, (3) scientific dating is more reliable than Heinsohn admits, and (4) archaeological stratigraphy is more complicated than Heinsohn's simplistic perspective would have it. Mitcham concludes ". . . [I]t is quite clear that none of Heinsohn's claimed alter-ego identifications can be regarded as valid. Claimed alter-egos have totally different reign lengths, while within a dynasty it is often necessary for Heinsohn to omit mention of kings who have no corresponding alter-egos. The ancient records themselves prove Akkad as Babylonia, that rulers who Heinsohn claims did not exist are well documented, as are many others who receive no attention at all - probably because they cannot be placed within Heinsohn's revision." Cochrane concluded his critique of Heinsohn's equating Hammurabi with Darius as follows: ". . . Heinsohn's reconstruction cannot be taken seriously for the simple reason that it is entirely at odds with the historical record it seeks to reform. . . . [I]t seems clear that his theory raises more problems than it solves and requires ad hoc suppositions galore. That Heinsohn is forever misrepresenting his sources does not inspire confidence in his methodology. . . . Heinsohn's reconstruction cannot be made to square with the historical record." These critiques have been ignored by Heinsohn. Because of the problems with his methodology almost all professional ancient historians, Egyptologists, Assyriologists, archaeologists, and specialists in scientific dating methods reject Heinsohn's claims.


On the origin of sacrifice and priest kingship in Mesopotamia, Heinsohn suggested an explanatory model based upon a catastrophist view of ancient history and a psychoanalytic interpretation of sacrificial rituals.[15][16]


Heinsohn holds that the Jewish people were the first in occidental history to abolish sacrifice in the name of a general prohibition of killing, thereby providing an example to other religions still practicing sacrifice that this is unnecessary. As the Jewish prophet Hosea stated: "For kindness I desired, and not sacrifice, And a knowledge of God above burnt-offerings.".[17] According to this view that is in some respects similar to a psychoanalytic view, antisemitic hatred has its origins in the feelings of guilt towards the sacrificed human or animal; turning those feelings of self-hatred towards those who do not take part in the ritual of sacrifice allows for continuing with the sacrificial practice.[18] Heinsohn contrasts Jewish abstinence from sacrifice with the Christian belief in Jesus as someone who died for the Christians' sins, which he interprets as a regression to sacrificial practices of prehistory and as a core source of Christian-Jewish controversy.[15]

Heinsohn suggested that Hitler wished to erase—physically, intellectually and spiritually—the meaning and heritage of Judaism and Jewish ethics from Germany and its European allies by literally destroying the Jews as a people. This is how Heinsohn explained the Holocaust:[19] as an attempt by Hitler and his Nazi cohorts to wipe out the memory and the idea of Jewish ethics.[18][20] This was in order that the Germans as a people could have the "stomach" to wipe out and conquer other people and lands they wished to conquer, to make others slaves or to murder them without any pangs of what Hitler called the "Jewish invention": the conscience or ethical norms brought into Western civilization on the part of the Jews - and inherited by Christianity. According to Heinsohn, Hitler felt that it was the "Jewish conscience" he was fighting against and trying to eliminate for the Germans, so they would be able to do what Hitler thought they should do, to act with utter conscienceless brutality to get what he felt was entitled to them. According to Heinsohn, Hitler also saw in the Christian churches signs of this "Jewish conscience," so the Christian ethics he wanted to wipe out was a "Judaized" ethics and the church, insofar as they followed this "Jewish ethics," was equally endangered. For Heinsohn, it is this aspect of Hitler's thinking and his intentions and the power this form of anti-Semitism possesses that are vital as an explanation for the Holocaust.

Property and money[edit]

Heinsohn proposed the theory of property, interest and money and the role of free wage labour for the technical progress and continual process of innovation of modern European civilization that is seen as a central feature of capitalist modernization (whereas socialist modernization has been mainly imitative and not innovative).[21] In collaboration with his colleague, economist Otto Steiger, Heinsohn criticized the "barter paradigm", the idea that money was historically invented as a medium of exchange to facilitate barter. He replaced it with a property based credit theory of money that stresses the indispensable role of secure property titles, contract law and especially contract enforcement, liability and collateral to create secure, transferable debt titles that central banks will accept as collateral for issuing bank notes.[22][23][24][25] This paradigm provides institutional microfoundations for monetary theories of production developed in the Keynesian tradition. Credit theories of money have existed since mercantilism but have not become the dominating paradigm in monetary theory.[26][27] Besides promoting their paradigm as an alternative foundation for triggering economic development (much in line with the insights of Hernando de Soto,[28] Tom Bethell[29] and Richard Pipes),[30] Steiger has applied it to an analysis of the eurosystem.[31][32][33][34]

While this approach has similarities with institutional economics, its major differences are (1) a non-universalist, cross-cultural approach that is in line with results from economic anthropology (Marshall Sahlins, Karl Polanyi, Marcel Mauss and others) and strongly doubts "homo oeconomicus", providing instead a specific explanation for how strategies of economic efficiency become functional only in monetary economies based on property and enforceable contracts;[35][36] (2) a systematic reconstruction of the connection between property, enforceable contracts, interest, credit/money and the banking system as a basis of a monetary theory of production, and (3) a systematic explanation for technical progress and innovation based on this reconstruction and the phenomenon of free wage labour, which explains the differences in innovativity and progress between the monetary economics of antiquity and modern times.[37][38] Heinsohn and Steiger's model has been discussed in some post-Keynesian circles,[39][40] and it has been criticized by Nikolaus K.A. Läufer.[41]


Heinsohn has discussed the origin of modern European demographic patterns (starting with an intense increase in population growth in early modern times, leading to sub-replacement fertility at the dawn of the 21st century), including an interpretation of the European witch-hunts of early modern times as pro-natalist re-population policy of the then dominant Catholic Church after the population losses the black death had caused.[42][43][44] This interpretation has received mixed responses. It has been criticized and rejected by German historians Walter Rummel,[45][46] Günther Jerouschek,[47] Robert Jütte[48] and Gerd Schwerhoff[49] - replies to those criticisms can be found in.[50] Prominent historian of birth control John M. Riddle has expressed agreement.[51][52]

Youth bulge[edit]

He is known most widely for his theory of the Youth Bulge. He argues that an excess in especially young adult male population predictably leads to social unrest, war and terrorism, as the "third and fourth sons" that find no prestigious positions in their existing societies rationalize their impetus to compete by religion or political ideology. Heinsohn claims that most historical periods of social unrest lacking external triggers (such as rapid climatic changes or other catastrophic changes of the environment) and most genocides can be readily explained as a result of a built up youth bulge, including European colonialism, 20th century Fascism, and ongoing conflicts such as that in Darfur, The Palestinian uprisings in 1987-1993 and 2000 to present, and terrorism.


Heinsohn's contributions to genocide research include an encyclopedia of genocides,[53] a generalized version of youth bulge theory[54][55][56] and a new theory of Hitler's motivation for the Holocaust.[57][58]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Raphael-Lemkin Institut, Bremen". 
  2. ^ "Bibliography 1969-2007". Archived from the original on October 26, 2009. 
  3. ^ Heinsohn, G. "The Restoration of Ancient History". 
  4. ^ Heinsohn, G. (1988). Die Sumerer gab es nicht (in German). Frankfurt. 
  5. ^ Eichborn, M.; Heinsohn, G. (1990). Wann lebten die Pharaonen? (in German). Frankfurt. 
  6. ^ Eichborn; Heinsohn, G. (2000). Wie alt ist das Menschengeschlecht? (in German). Gräfelfing: Mantis. 
  7. ^ "newchronology". 
  8. ^ Heinsohn, Gunnar (1985). "Catastrophism, Revisionism, and Velikovsky (Letter)". XI (1). Kronos: 110–111. no. 167 on Heinsohn's list of publications which concludes: "As long as Velikovskians run away from the strong points in Velikovsky's works to build their edifices on the weakest points of mainstream scholarship, they will end up as bastards who, for good reasons, nobody will listen to." 
  9. ^ Cardona, Dwardu (1988). "The Two Sargons and Their Successors, Part 1.". Aeon. 1 (5): 5–37. 
  10. ^ Cardona, Dwardu (1988). "The Two Sargons and Their Successors, Part 2". Aeon. 1 (6): 72–97. 
  11. ^ Mitcham, Lester J. (1988). "Support for Heinsohn's Chronology Is Misplaced". Chronology & Catastrophism Workshop. 1988 (1): 7–12. 
  12. ^ Stiebing, William H. Jr. (1991). "Heinsohn's Revised Chronology". Aeon. 2 (5): 45–54. 
  13. ^ Rees, A. H. (1992). "A Chronology for Mesopotamia (contra Heinsohn)". Chronology and Catastrophism Workshop. 1992 (2): 10–15. 
  14. ^ Cochrane, Ev (1999). "Heinsohn's Ancient "History"" (PDF). Aeon. 5 (4): 57–74. 
  15. ^ a b Heinsohn, G. (1997). Die Erfindung der Götter: Das Opfer als Ursprung der Religion (in German). Reinbek: Rowohlt. 
  16. ^ Heinsohn, Gunnar (1992). "The Rise of Blood Sacrifice and Priest Kingship in Mesopotamia: A Cosmic Decree?". Religion. 22: 309–334. doi:10.1016/0048-721X(92)90054-8. 
  17. ^ Hosea 6:6
  18. ^ a b Heinsohn, G. (1988). Was ist Antisemitismus? Der Ursprung von Monotheismus und Judenhaß. Frankfurt/M.: Eichborn. 
  19. ^ Heinsohn, G. (1 November 2000). "What makes the Holocaust a uniquely unique genocide?". Journal of Genocide Research. 2 (3): 411–30. doi:10.1080/713677615. 
  20. ^ Heinsohn, Gunnar (1995). Warum Auschwitz? Hitlers Plan und die Ratlosigkeit der Nachwelt (in German). Reinbek: Rowohlt. 
  21. ^ Heinsohn, G.; Steiger, Otto (1981). "Money, Productivity and Uncertainty in Capitalism and Socialism". Metroeconomica. 33 (1-3): 41–77. doi:10.1111/j.1467-999X.1981.tb00668.x. 
  22. ^ Heinsohn, G. (1984). Privateigentum, Patriarchat, Geldwirtschaft. Eine sozialtheoretische Rekonstruktion zur Antike. (in German). Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp. 
  23. ^ Heinsohn, G.; Steiger, Otto (1996). Eigentum, Zins und Geld. Ungelöste Rätsel der Wirtschaftswissenschaft ["Property, Interest and Money", London: Routledge, forthcoming]. Reinbek: Rowohlt. 
  24. ^ Heinsohn, G.; Steiger, Otto (1983). "Private Property, Debts and Interest or: The Origin of Money and the Rise and Fall of Monetary Economies". studi economici. Napoli (21): 3–56. 
  25. ^ Heinsohn, G.; Steiger, O. (2000). "The Property Theory of Interest and Money". In Smithin, J. What is Money?. London: Routledge. pp. 67–100. 
  26. ^ Bruun, Charlotte. "Chapter 1: "The Nature of Money" and Chapter 3: "The Development of the Theory of Credit"". Logical Structures and Algorithmic Behavior in a Credit Economy (Thesis). 
  27. ^ Wray, Randall, ed. (2004). Credit and State Theories of Money: The Contribution of Mitchell Innes. London: Routledge. 
  28. ^ DeSoto, Hernando (2000). The Mystery of Capital. Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails everywhere else. New York: Basic Books. 
  29. ^ Bethell, Tom (1998). The Noblest Triumph. Property and Prosperity Through the Ages. New York: St. Martin's Press. 
  30. ^ Pipes, Richard (1999). Property and Freedom. New York: Vintage Books. 
  31. ^ Steiger, Otto (2002). "The Eurosystem and the Art of Central Banking" (PDF). Bremen. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 18, 2005. 
  32. ^ Heinsohn, Gunnar; Steiger, Otto (2003). "The European Central Bank and the Eurosystem: An Analysis of the Missing Central Monetary Institution in European Monetary Union" (PDF). Center for European Integration Studies, Working Paper B (09). 
  33. ^ Steiger, Otto (2004). "Which lender of last resort for the eurosystem?". ZEI Working Papers B. ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn. 23. 
  34. ^ Spethmann, Dieter; Steiger, Otto (2005). "The four Achilles Heels of the Eurosystem: Missing Central Monetary Institution, Different Real Rates of Interest, Non-Marketable Securities, and Missing Lender of Last Resort" (PDF). Bremen. 
  35. ^ Heinsohn, Gunnar; Steiger, Otto (2007). "Money, Markets and Property". In Giacomin, Alberto; Marcuzzo, Maria. Money and Markets. A doctrinal approach. New York: Routledge. pp. 59–79. 
  36. ^ Heinsohn, G.; Steiger, O. (2006). "Interest and Money: the Property Explanation". In Arestis, Door Philip; Sawyer, Malcolm C. A Handbook of alternative monetary Economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 490–507. 
  37. ^ Steiger, Otto (2007). Property Rights and Economic Development: Two Views. Marburg: Metropolis. 
  38. ^ Steiger, Otto (2008). Property Economics. Property Rights, Creditor's Money and the Foundations of the Economy. Marburg: Metropolis. 
  39. ^ Betz, Karl; Roy, Tobias (1999). Privateigentum und Geld. Kontroversen um den Ansatz von Heinsohn und Steiger (in German). Marburg: Metropolis. 
  40. ^ Smith, John, ed. (2000). What is Money?. London: Routledge. 
  41. ^ Läufer, Nikolaus K.A. "The Heinsohn-Steiger confusion on interest, money and property" (PDF). Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  42. ^ Heinsohn, G.; Steiger, Otto; Knieper, Rolf (1979). Menschenproduktion. Allgemeine Bevölkerungstheorie der Neuzeit (in German). Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp. 
  43. ^ Heinsohn, Gunnar; Steiger, Otto (1989). Die Vernichtung der weisen Frauen. Hexenverfolgung, Kinderwelten, Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Menschenproduktion (in German). München: Heyne. 
  44. ^ Heinsohn, Gunnar; Steiger, Otto (2004). "Witchcraft, Population Catastrophe and Economic Crisis in Renaissance Europe: An Alternative Macroeconomic Explanation.". University of Bremen. Archived from the original on October 26, 2009. 
  45. ^ Walter Rummel: 'Weise' Frauen und 'weise' Männer im Kampf gegen Hexerei. Die Widerlegung einer modernen Fabel. In: Christof Dipper, Lutz Klinkhammer und Alexander Nützenadel: Europäische Sozialgeschichte. Festschrift für Wolfgang Schieder (= Historische Forschungen 68), Berlin 2000, S. 353-375, [1]
  46. ^ Rummel, Walter: Weise Frauen als Opfer?. Aus: Lexikon zur Geschichte der Hexenverfolgung, hrsg. v. Gudrun Gersmann, Katrin Moeller u. Jürgen-Michael Schmidt, in:, URL:
  47. ^ Günther Jerouschek, Des Rätsels Lösung? Zur Deutung der Hexenprozesses als staatsterroristische Bevölkerungspolitik, in: Kritische Justiz 19, 1986, S. 443-459.
  48. ^ Robert Jütte, Die Persistenz des Verhütungswissens in der Volkskultur. Sozial- und medizinhistorische Anmerkungen zur These von der 'Vernichtung der weisen Frauen', in: Medizinhistorisches Journal 24, 1989,8.214-231
  49. ^ Gerd Schwerhoff, Hexerei, Geschlecht und Regionalgeschichte, in: Gisela Wilbertz / Gerd Schwerhoff/Jürgen Scheffler (Hrsg.), Hexenverfolgung und Regionalgeschichte. Die Grafschaft Lippe im Vergleich, Bielefeld 1994, S. 325-353
  50. ^ Gunnar Heinsohn, Otto Steiger: Die Vernichtung der weisen Frauen. Hexenverfolgung, Kinderwelten, Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Menschenproduktion. München: Heyne 1989, p. 369-415
  51. ^ John M. Riddle: "The Great Witch-Hunt and the Suppression of Birth Control: Heinsohn and Steiger's Theory from the Perspective of an Historian", Appendix to: Gunnar Heinsohn/Otto Steiger: "Witchcraft, Population Catastrophe and Economic Crisis in Renaissance Europe: An Alternative Macroeconomic Explanation.", University of Bremen 2004 (download)
  52. ^ John M. Riddle: "Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West", Princeton: Harvard University Press 1999, ISBN 0-674-27026-6, esp. Chapters 5-7
  53. ^ G. Heinsohn (1999): Lexikon der Völkermorde. Reinbek: Rowohlt
  54. ^ G. Heinsohn (2003): Söhne und Weltmacht. Terror im Aufstieg und Fall der Nationen. Bern: Orell Füssli, available as a free downloadable e-book here
  55. ^ Gunnar Heinsohn: Demography and War (brief outline of Heinsohn's Youth Bulge Theory of social unrest)
  56. ^ Gunnar Heinsohn: Population, Conquest and Terror in the 21st Century (applies Youth Bulge Theory of social unrest to European imperialism as well as today's islamist terror)
  57. ^ G. Heinsohn (1994): Warum Auschwitz? Hitlers Plan und die Ratlosigkeit der Nachwelt. Reinbek: Rowohlt
  58. ^ G. Heinsohn: What Makes the Holocaust a Uniquely Unique Genocide?, in: Journal of Genocide Research, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 411-430

External links[edit]